By Stacey Samuel, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It made for an incongruous sight on Wednesday morning, as volunteer actors playing Mary and Joseph walked in procession in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with Baby Jesus (a 4-month-old).
Following them - wearing crowns and robes that didn't fully conceal jeans and sneakers underneath, - were volunteers dressed as two Wise Men and a Wise Woman, trailed by a two-humped camel and a 6-month-old donkey (also named Mary). The people weren't guided by a star, but by their religious conviction.
"First [we're] proclaiming the powerful message of Christmas: peace on Earth and good will toward men," said Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, who helped organize the Supreme Court Nativity. "And, then also embracing and celebrating religious freedom and our First Amendment right."
(CNN)–The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in DC barred a Muslim employee from serving an Israeli delegation, claiming it had no choice but to comply with a national security mandate from the U.S. government. CNN’s Barbara Starr reports.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Joel Osteen, who leads the largest church in the United States and reaches millions of Americans through his televised Sunday sermons, is developing a reality show with the producer of “Survivor,” the televangelist said Tuesday.
Osteen has signed a deal with famed reality TV producer Mark Burnett to develop the show, a spokeswoman for Joel Osteen Ministries said.
"Victoria (Osteen's wife) and I are looking forward to working with Mark Burnett on this project,” Osteen said in a statement Tuesday.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
CNN: Gingrich meets with pastors in South Carolina
The first stop on Newt Gingrich’s three-day swing through South Carolina was a town hall-style event at a church in Summerville, where the rising GOP presidential hopeful answered questions from area pastors on a range of issues.
Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN)–In 1966, John Lennon famously claimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Today that title may belong to Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback more famous for praising Jesus than for throwing touchdowns.
As anyone who has visited Dallas or Atlanta on any recent weekend can attest, America’s two great religions are Christianity and football. In recent weeks, these two great faiths have come together in Tim Tebow, the new starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and America’s latest merger of faith in Jesus and faith in the Almighty Touchdown.
When viewed from the perspective of “the world,” Tebow is, at best, a mediocre NFL quarterback. When viewed through the eyes of faith, however, he is something like the Second Coming of Joe Montana. And maybe Something More.
By Dan Merica, CNN
From the Blog:
CNN: Pastor fights HIV stigma in Southern town
Only three people had shown up for this month's HIV/AIDS awareness meeting. Usually, there are 10 to 12 - a surprisingly good turnout for a congregation of 25, which just goes to show how many people the disease affects in this small Southern town.
CNN: Want cheaper tuition? Find religion
With church membership dwindling and more families struggling to afford the cost of college, many private religiously-affiliated colleges and universities are slashing tuition and offering incentives to attract new students – and to stay afloat.
Editor's Note: Khurram Dara is the author of "The Crescent Directive: An essay on improving the image of Islam in America," coming this winter (Tensile). He tweets @KhurramDara.
By Khurram Dara, Special to CNN.com
For the last decade, Islam has been under a lot of scrutiny, and understandably so. When you’ve got terrorists all over the world declaring war on America and the West in the name of Islam, it’s only natural that people will have questions.
But this reasonable concern has rapidly turned into irrational suspicion, with anti-Muslim groups seizing on the opportunity to paint all Muslims in America as radical-loving, violence-approving foreigners.
The problem is that the response from American Muslims has been about as effective as Herman Cain’s PR strategy in the face of sexual harassment allegations. Instead of pooling our resources to combat radicalism, or taking a more active role in our communities so that other Americans better understand us, we’ve resorted to defense tactics.
By Jacque Wilson, CNN
Dorchester, South Carolina (CNN) – The fan by the window pushed humid air uselessly against the church pews.
Diana Martinez made small talk as Tommy Terry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The man sitting next to Martinez cracked a joke. Nobody laughed.
A clock on the back wall ticked minutes away in a mocking cliché.
By Blake Ellis, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) – With church membership dwindling and more families struggling to afford the cost of college, many private religiously-affiliated colleges and universities are slashing tuition and offering incentives to attract new students - and to stay afloat.
By John Blake, CNN
Blue Ridge, Georgia (CNN) – Fred Craddock was a young preacher trying to find his voice when he received a call from his mother one day.
"You need to go see your father," she said. "He may not live longer."
Craddock found his father in a VA hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Fred Craddock Sr. had whittled down to 73 pounds. Radiation treatments had burned him to pieces. He couldn't eat or speak.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.