CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING
Obama: Christmas is about Christ's birth and message
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says Americans of all
faiths can unite around Christ's message of love and service.
At Thursday evening's ceremonial lighting of the National
Christmas Tree in Washington, Obama said, "Christ's birth made the
angels rejoice" and was "a manifestation of God's love for us."
The president said that as a Christian, he takes to heart
Christ's admonition to love God and neighbor, and believes it can
unite people regardless of how they worship.
Obama urged the crowd to honor Christ's words by being generous
during the Christmas season and helping others in need, including
"the homeless, the hungry, the sick and shut in."
BILLY GRAHAM HOSPITALIZED
Hospital says evangelist Graham has pneumonia
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The Rev. Billy Graham has been diagnosed
with pneumonia but remains in good spirits at a North Carolina
Dr. Mark Hellreich, a pulmonologist treating Graham at Mission
Hospitals in Asheville, said Thursday that the 93-year-old
evangelist is responding well to antibiotic treatment and is in
Graham was visited Thursday by his pastor, the Rev. Don Wilton,
who prayed with him and read from the Bible's book of Ephesians.
Graham is alert and talking with hospital workers, and has also
been visited by his daughter, Gigi.
In May, Graham spent five days in the hospital during a bout
Graham rarely appears in public. The Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association is run by his son, Franklin.
TAIT-THE STORY TOUR
Newsboys singer is part of Christmas concert tour
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Former dcTalk singer Michael Tait can sound
a lot like the late Nat King Cole this time of year.
Tait, who's now lead singer for the Newsboys, sings "Chestnuts
roasting on an open fire" and other Christmas songs on "The
Story" tour, which kicked off Thursday night in Wichita, Kan., and
continues tonight in Dallas.
Joining the Newsboys on "The Story" Christmas tour are Steven
Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant and Francesca Battistelli.
Tait says the three-hour show mixes Christmas songs with
dramatic musical depictions of major characters from the Bible.
When he's off-stage and home for the holidays, Tait says he's
always asked to sing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and the
rest of the classic whose actual title is "The Christmas Song."
ATHEISTS IN CHURCH
Study: Some atheist scientists take their children to church
HOUSTON (AP) - A new study suggests that a surprising number of
atheists are taking their children to church.
Research published in the December issue of the Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion found that 17 percent of atheist
professors with children reported attending more than one religious
service in the past year.
The study's principal investigator, Rice University sociologist
Elaine Howard Ecklund, says that while some atheist academics
attended religious services to please their spouses, others were
seeking the company of fellow parents or wanted to expose their
children to a moral environment. She says some atheist scientists
simply wanted their children to learn about religion so they could
make up their own minds.
The researchers from Rice University and the State University of
New York at Buffalo surveyed a scientifically selected sample of
275 university faculty members.
Breakaway group to return church after court loss
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - A congregation that split from the
Episcopal Church four years ago will give back the church building
and property in downtown Savannah after a recent legal loss in the
Georgia Supreme Court.
David Reeves, senior warden for the breakaway group at Christ
Church, said Thursday evening that the congregation is working with
the Episcopal Church to transfer the $3 million church property by
Dec. 12. He says his group decided it would be "a longshot" to
ask the high court to reconsider its 6-1 ruling issued Nov. 21.
Founded in 1733, Christ Church was the first church established
in Georgia. The congregation split from the Episcopal Church in
2007 in a dispute over the consecration of the denomination's first
gay bishop. Both sides sought rights to the property in court.
Chicago church objects to new Pride Parade route
CHICAGO (AP) - Leaders of one of Chicago's oldest Roman Catholic
churches are objecting to a newly-proposed route for the city's
annual gay pride parade, saying the event will draw large crowds
outside the church and block access to Sunday Masses.
The parade through parts of Chicago's North Side attracted
800,000 people last year, according to organizers.
The revised route would now go by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church,
where officials say the event on the last Sunday in June could
prevent them from having morning Mass for the first time in nearly
The parish priest, Father Robert Srenn, says his church hosts a
weekly service geared toward gay parishioners and doesn't oppose
the parade on religious grounds. Church officials have asked
parishioners to contact Chicago Alderman Tom Tunney, an openly-gay
leader who attends the church. Tunney said he has spoken to Srenn
and they're working on a solution.
Committee backing gay marriage ban in NC formed
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A campaign committee has been formed to
raise money and work for approval of an amendment to North
Carolina's constitution that would ban gay marriage.
The "Vote FOR Marriage NC" organization has filed paperwork
with the State Board of Elections.
Initial coalition members include the Baptist State Convention
of North Carolina, the North Carolina Values Coalition, a group of
black pastors and the National Organization for Marriage.
The Legislature agreed in September to put the proposed
amendment on the ballot next May.
A referendum committee opposing the amendment called the
Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families formed in early
North Carolina state law already limits marriage to a man and a
woman, and the amendment would make such a marriage the only
domestic legal union recognized in the state.
ACLU: FBI used outreach to collect info on Muslims
WASHINGTON (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union says the
FBI has been using community outreach programs, which are intended
to build partnerships, to collect information on Muslims.
Documents obtained by the ACLU show that some FBI agents were
documenting names, emails, phone numbers, physical descriptions and
opinions of people they met at Muslim-related events in Northern
The FBI says some of these documents are from actual
investigations and are not part of the community outreach program
reporting. The documents are so heavily blacked out that it's not
immediately clear what they are.
The bureau's community outreach program is designed to improve
the public's trust in the bureau. The FBI says it's standard for
agents to record basic information about people they meet with at
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)