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Judge Blocks New Orleans Law that Prevents Preaching in French Quarter
A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a city law that was recently used to arrest Christian evangelists who were preaching on Bourbon Street during Southern Decadence, the annual celebration of gay culture in the French Quarter.
Part of the city's recently enacted "aggressive solicitation" ordinance orders people not to "loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."
"That's no longer in effect," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Justin Harrison said.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon granted a temporary restraining order on Sept. 21 and set a hearing for a preliminary injunction for Oct. 1.
Nine Christian preachers and activists were arrested in one well-publicized incident during the gay-themed celebration. One reportedly held a sign reading "God Hates Homos," and others shouted what witnesses characterized as slurs.
Charities Struggle with Hurricane Isaac Cleanup
NEW ORLEANS — Faith-based ministries and local charities that are ramping up relief efforts after Hurricane Isaac say it's already clear that recovery will proceed without the national outpouring of money and volunteers triggered by Hurricane Katrina.
"From our point of view, the biggest challenge with this disaster will be getting attention and money," said Gordon Wadge, president of the New Orleans chapter of Catholic Charities.
"This is going to be on the local community — with a few national folks who follow us closely and who will rally to us."
That's a stark contrast to the conditions relief directors saw in 2005, after nationally televised images of human misery from Katrina burned themselves into the national psyche. Within weeks, faith-based ministries and secular relief groups promised to funnel millions of dollars into New Orleans over five years.
New Orleans Synagogue Reopens 7 Years After Katrina
Seven years after Hurricane Katrina toppled a nearby floodwall and drowned their synagogue, and after a seven-year journey praying in hotel meeting rooms, then in rooms borrowed and rented from another congregation, the 100 or so families of Congregation Beth Israel are finally home.
The wandering congregation moved into their new synagogue in suburban Metairie on Aug. 26, three days before the Katrina anniversary and two days before Hurricane Isaac hit landfall in Louisiana.
With a short parade that included a New Orleans brass band, clergy and friends ceremonially carried their five sacred Torahs to their home in Beth Israel’s new ark.
There’s a passage from Hebrew Scripture from the Song of Solomon carved into the ark’s face: “Mighty waters cannot extinguish our love.”
Group House Gives Women a Place to Discern Their Calling as Nuns
In what is being described as the first of its kind in the U.S., the Archdiocese of New Orleans has transformed a vacant church rectory into a group house where single women will live together while deciding whether to undertake lives as nuns.
The center, dedicated on Aug. 15, occupies the second and third floors of the St. Rita rectory. Within a few days, two women, then perhaps three more, will move into the spotless rectory, their collective lives to be superintended by two veteran nuns who will show the younger women the dynamics of shared community life.
“How we live in community. How to communicate. How to share,” said Sister Carmen Bertrand, for 48 years a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family.
Beyond orienting them to the rhythms of community life, Bertrand and her colleague, Sister Diane Roche, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, will teach the tenants various modes of prayer, organize occasional retreats, and bring in representatives of other religious orders to present themselves and their ways of life.
Pastor Poised to Be First African-American to Lead Southern Baptists
After months of urging from other Baptists around the country, the Rev. Fred Luter told his African-American congregation that he will seek to become the first black man to lead the predominantly white Southern Baptist Convention.
Several Baptist leaders said Luter becomes the prohibitive favorite for the post, to be filled in a potentially historic election at the Southern Baptists' annual meeting in New Orleans in June.
SBC Today, a Baptist-focused news website, carried the announcement on earlier this week. Youth pastor Fred "Chip" Luter III separately confirmed Luter's announcement to his church last Sunday.
Luter appears to be the first candidate to declare for the post, which will become vacant this summer when the Rev. Bryant Wright of Marietta, Ga., finishes his second one-year term.
Many began openly promoting Luter for the top job last summer, moments after he was elected the convention's first African-American first vice president.
Yes, Mormons Tithe, But Most Others Don't
When Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released his federal tax returns for the past two years, he disclosed that he and his wife, Ann, gave about 10 percent of their income to their church, a well-known religious practice called tithing.
In that way, the Romneys are typical Mormons, members of a church that is exceptionally serious about the Old Testament mandate to give away one-tenth of one's income.
But compared to other religious Americans, the Romneys and other Mormons are fairly atypical when it comes to passing the plate. Across the rest of the religious landscape, tithing is often preached but rarely realized.
Research into church donations shows a wide range of giving, with Mormons among the most generous relative to income, followed by conservative Christians, mainline Protestants and Catholics last.
Over the past 34 years, Americans' generosity to all churches has been in steady decline, in good times and in bad, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, whose Illinois-based Empty Tomb Inc. tracks donations to Protestant churches.
Ronsvalle's research shows that since 1968, contributions have slowly slumped from 3.11 percent of income to 2.38 percent, despite gains in prosperity.
In her view, churches have failed "to call people to invest in a much larger vision." She believes that explains why giving to missions, distant anti-poverty programs or faraway ministries has sunk faster than giving for the needs of local congregations.