Religion News in Brief for July 26

Published 11:18 am Friday, July 25, 2008

Dobson beats Stern for Hall of Fame induction

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Conservative Christian broadcaster James Dobson beat out shock-jock Howard Stern and others in national online balloting for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program is the first religious program to receive the honor, started in 1992 by the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications.

He joins a class of eight also headlined by Art Bell, host of a paranormal-themed AM radio show. Those who did not make the cut included Stern, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Bob Costas.

Dobson was chosen in the “national active” category, which required a national broadcast contribution of at least 10 years. Orson Welles, Jack Benny, Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh are among the past honorees.

“Our radio program has not been a solo effort,” Dobson said in a statement. “It has been a symphony performed by more than 10,000 people over the past 32 years. I am indebted to them all.”

The program airs on more than 3,000 North American stations and in 27 languages in 160 countries.

A gay rights organization,, opposed Dobson’s nomination and has vowed to stage a protest at the induction, which is set for Nov. 8.



Messianic Jews complain about Ohio prisons

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The inmates say they’re Jewish, but the prison considers them Protestant.

A long-running debate over defining the term “Messianic Jew” has spilled into a dispute over self-described Messianic Jews at an Ohio prison claiming discrimination in their attempts to keep kosher.

Messianic Jews say they can be Jewish while believing that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in Jewish scriptures – an idea contrary to traditional Judaism.

At least four Messianic Jewish prisoners at Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield have filed grievances, alleging discrimination. Federal law says the government cannot impede the religious exercise of an inmate unless those restrictions support a compelling governmental interest.

The Rev. Gary Sims, religious-services administrator for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said he revoked kosher privileges for Messianic Jews in 2004 after consulting with Messianic Jewish rabbis who told him the meals weren’t essential. The meals also are prohibitively expensive, he said.

Another complaint stems from the fact that the Messianic Jews have to meet on Sundays because there’s no volunteer to serve them on the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. Regular chaplains are off during that time, Sims said.

He said the prison system is re-evaluating its religious-accommodation policies.


Cross bent during tornado to stay atop church

PARKERBURG, Iowa (AP) – A cross that was bent when a deadly tornado swept through town will remain that way atop Parkersburg United Methodist Church, a symbol of the town’s strength.

Church members show the gesture shows the town may bend, but it won’t break.

The cross is one of three atop the church. Two point skyward. The third is bent eastward at an angle – the same direction as the path of the tornado that hit two months ago.

Eight people in the area died and nearly half of Parkersburg was leveled by the twister.

Twenty-two members of the church lost their homes, but their church was spared. Except for the bent cross, the church was missing just one stained glass window.



Edmond leaders delay statue ruling

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) – After shying away from helping fund a Moses statue, Edmond city leaders now are taking a wait-and-see approach on helping pay for a sculpture of Jesus Christ.

The Edmond Visual Arts Commission decided to delay a decision on a businesswoman’s request for taxpayer money to pay for half of the $7,800 sculpture. Commissioners deferred a decision for two months to wait for guidelines to be drawn up on acceptable public art.

Karen Morton said she wants a statue in front of her downtown Edmond store. The proposed sculpture is of Jesus Christ surrounded by three children.

Morton was disappointed with the commission’s decision.

“I wish they would look at it and treat it like other pieces of art,” she said. “We have a big, fat frog in front of the city building. Not all of them are everyone’s taste.”

The commission gets $200,000 annually from the city to fund half the cost of approved pieces of public art.

In December, the Edmond commission considered joining with First Christian Church of Edmond to purchase a statue titled “Moses,” to be installed at the church. If approved, the church and the city government commission would have each paid $8,750.

After public outcry over preserving separation of church and state, the commission unanimously agreed in May to let private donors buy the city’s stake in the Moses statue.



Religious freedom group files brief for Wis. Amish

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) – A national group dedicated to religious freedom is joining a fight between Amish farmers and some Wisconsin towns.

The National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom has filed a brief asking for permission to intervene in a Jackson County court case involving Albion farmer Samuel Stolzfus.

Stolzfus and other Amish have been fined thousands of dollars for failing to get building permits.

New York attorney Robert Greene, who is helping the religious freedom group with the case, said the Amish won’t sign applications for building permits because it is against their religion to lie and they might not be able to keep a promise to comply with building codes.

Attorney Paul Millis, who represents the town of Albion, said failure to comply with building codes creates safety problems.