By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.
Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.
But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.
An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.
“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”
By Dan Merica and Kevin Bohn, CNN
(CNN) - The Obama administration finalized rules on Friday that allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of a federal mandate requiring that they provide employees with insurance coverage for birth control.
The mandates give women at nonprofit, religious-based organizations, like certain hospitals and universities, the ability to receive contraception through separate health policies at no charge.
The rules, which were first proposed in February and then open for comment through April, have undergone only minor changes.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director for policy and regulations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the rules were "very similar" to the administration's original proposal.
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – Christians tweet from the heart, atheists from the head, according to a new study.
The study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tapped Twitter as a research tool and compared the messages of Christians and atheists.
The conclusion: When they are limited to 140 characters or less, these researchers say, believers are happier than their counterparts. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com
By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN) – There’s a misconception among many faithful folks that religious convictions, by their very nature, are set in stone.
People who change their minds are called flip-floppers or backsliders, accused of capitulating to culture and “conforming to the world.”
But some of the most recognizable names in the Christian story experienced changes of heart: Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle.
By Father Edward L. Beck, CNN Faith and Religion Commentator
(CNN) - The only time I met James Gandolfini, we talked about God.
It was a chance meeting at the Broadway play “God of Carnage,” in which he was acting. I went backstage to see someone else but was introduced to James.
When he heard that I was a priest he laughed and said, “Gee, Father, I hope you didn’t think this was a play about God.”
“No, I didn’t,” I said, “but I was surprised to find out that it actually was.”
He looked perplexed by my answer, hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Well, we’ll have to talk about that sometime.”
By Daniel Burke, CNN
(CNN) As news broke of the big Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, religious leaders took to Twitter to express joyous praise or strong condemnation.
View the story "`Jesus wept' or tears of joy? Faithful respond to SCOTUS" on Storify
By Mark I. Pinsky, special to CNN
Sanford, Florida (CNN) – As opening arguments begin, courtroom seats are at a premium at the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
But in an unusual arrangement, four seats in the second row, just steps from the jury box, have been assigned to a group called “Sanford Pastors Connecting.”
The multi-racial ministerial association has pledged to bear witness to the high-profile proceedings during the trial and to keep the peace afterward.
All of the clergy in the courtroom project have agreed to support the jury’s verdict in the racially-charged case, which sparked large rallies and marches led by civil rights figures like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Boston (CNN)-– It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.
A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.
Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.
If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.
SAVANNAH, Georgia (CNN) - The Food Network announced Friday that it will not renew the contract of Paula Deen after she admitted using a racial epithet – but a black pastor who is friends with the celebrity chef said she "can't be a racist."
Deen apologized Friday for "the wrong that I've done," a move that follows revelations this week that she admitted saying the N-word.
But Pastor Gregory A. Tyson Sr. from First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, defended Deen to WTOC, a CNN affiliate.
"I know her," Tyson said. "My children have been to her house. I've been to her house, I've sat on her furniture. I've been all through her house. What racist would let a black man walk all through her house?"
(CNN) Kanye West wants his listeners to know that he is “a close high” to God.
His latest album, “Yeezus,” released Tuesday, offered several controversial track titles, including “New Slaves,” “Black Skinhead” and the most audacious, “I Am a God.” The track’s credit says “featuring God,” as if He’s just another artist – a Rick Ross or Pharrell Williams – stepping into the studio to spit a couple of verses.
The song closes with the verses, “I just talked to Jesus/he said, ‘What up, Yeezus?’/I said “S*** I’m chilling/trying to stack these millions'/I know he’s the most high, but I am a close high.”
So, does Kanye really think he's God's match?
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.