Religion in the News

HEAT WAVE MAKES PAT ROBERTSON A GLOBAL WARMING 'CONVERT'

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) -- The Reverend Pat Robertson says he hasn't been a believer in global warming in the past, but this summer's record-breaking heat is, quote: "making a convert out of me." On his "700 Club" broadcast, Robertson said, "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."

Switching sides on an issue that divides evangelical Christians, Robertson said, "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels." The religious broadcaster told viewers, "If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."

BILL WOULD STRIP LEGAL FEES FROM CHURCH-STATE LAWSUITS

CAPITOL HILL (AP) -- Senator Sam Brownback says public officials who fear costly litigation often cave in to the mere threat of lawsuits alleging violation of the separation of church and state. Brownback is sponsoring a Senate bill that would block plaintiffs from collecting attorneys fees for lawsuits alleging "establishment of religion."

The House is considering similar legislation. At a Senate hearing, Wake Forest University Religion Professor Melissa Rogers defended the fees and argued that "promoting the cross and gospel" is "not the government's job."

But American Legion lawyer Rees Lloyd charged that lucrative lawsuits like the one challenging San Diego's Mount Soledad cross "have made the A-C-L-U the Taliban of American liberal secularism." Congress has passed a bill that would save the 29-foot cross by making it federal property.

JUDGE DISMISSES CHRISTIAN BAND'S LAWSUIT

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed a Christian rock band's lawsuit against an Ohio school district that wouldn't let them play at an anti-drug assembly. The judge said officials at Rossford High School in suburban Toledo had a right to cancel the performance because the district could have been perceived as endorsing a particular religion.

Members of the band "Pawn" argued that they were discriminated against and that their free speech rights were violated. School board members said they feared a lawsuit if they allowed a religious performance in a public school.

The Reverend Mark Montgomery, whose two sons are members of Pawn, says they'll appeal.

EVANGELICAL LUTHERANS REPORT MEMBERSHIP DECLINE

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says its membership dropped 1.6%, to 4,850,000 last year. The denomination blames the membership decline on the disbanding of 31 of its congregations, an update of membership lists in many churches and a decrease in new members.

Over the past 15 years, the baptized membership of the denomination has fallen by about 390,000 with half of that decline occurring between 2002 and 2005. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is among many mainline Protestant denominations that have seen their membership plummet in recent years amid divisions over homosexuality.

POPE APPEALS AGAIN FOR MIDEAST CEASE-FIRE

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Benedict has issued another impassioned call for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, saying "nothing can justify the spilling of innocent blood." Clenching his fist and his voice filled with emotion, Benedict said: "Our eyes are filled with the chilling images of torn bodies of so many people, especially children."

He told the crowd of 50-thousand pilgrims in St. Peter's Square that he was referring in particular to the Israeli attack Sunday in southern Lebanon. It was the latest in a half-dozen peace appeals by the pope that have consistently included calls for an immediate cease-fire. He has spoken out on every public occasion since the fighting began three weeks ago.