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Supreme Court skeptical of abortion clinic buffer zones
January 16th, 2014
11:29 AM ET

Supreme Court skeptical of abortion clinic buffer zones

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN) - The Supreme Court waded cautiously back into the larger debate over abortion on Wednesday.

A number of justices raised concerns about a Massachusetts state law preventing activists from crossing a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.

During an intense hour of oral arguments, Massachusetts officials said the issue was more about public safety and pedestrian access on local sidewalks. Anti-abortion supporters countered their free speech rights were being violated.

What the high court decides in coming months could affect a broader range of free speech arenas - over issues such as war, taxes, corporate bailouts and elections - where the location of the message is often key.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • gender issues • Health • Protest • Women

Supreme Court to hear abortion clinic case
The Supreme Court hears a contentious case about abortion clinics on Wednesday.
January 15th, 2014
09:50 AM ET

Supreme Court to hear abortion clinic case

By Bill Mears, CNN

Boston (CNN) - Outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Boston on a recent winter day are the regulars - a small, devoted team of anti-abortion activists, handing out fliers and urging patrons to hear their message: "Save that child." "Every life is precious, protect that life within you." "Please change your mind." Several people pray silently nearby.

Clearly marked on the sidewalk, nearly 12 yards from the front doors, is a painted boundary, a line the protesters cannot cross. By state law, their First Amendment rights stop there.

A metaphoric line - testing the competing limits of what has become a constitutional fight between free speech and public safety - will now be surveyed by the nation's highest court.

The justices on Wednesday will step back into the larger national debate on abortion, when it holds oral arguments on a challenge to a Massachusetts law that established tighter buffer zones around facilities that perform the procedure.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • Culture wars • Ethics • Women

Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?
Ryan Bell's "year without God" experiment has drawn a wealth of comments, from scornful to supportive.
January 14th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Ryan Bell, a one-time Christian pastor, says he didn't expect his yearlong experiment with atheism to get much attention.

"This wasn't intended to be an international journey that was done in public," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin last Wednesday.

But what began as Bell's personal project has now been covered by NPR, the BBC, Religion News Service, and, of course, here at CNN.

READ MORE: Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

It's not just the mainstream media that are along for the ride, either. Dozens of blogs and columnists have weighed in on Bell's "Year Without God," with responses ranging from support to skepticism to scorn.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality

Kerry: Obama to meet with the Pope
January 14th, 2014
01:17 PM ET

Kerry: Obama to meet with the Pope

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN)– President Barack Obama plans to soon meet with Pope Francis for the first time.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the President was “looking forward” to visiting the popular new leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican.

Kerry did not say when the trip would take place.

The White House said it had no specific travel announcements to make, but that Obama “very much looks forward to meeting Pope Francis at some point in the near future.”

Kerry, a Roman Catholic, met with Vatican leaders on Tuesday to discuss foreign policy and economic issues, including Francis’ outspoken stance on income inequality worldwide.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Obama • Pope • Pope Francis

January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

Breastfeeding in church? Pope says yes

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.

Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.

"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."

The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.

The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church • Ethics • Faith & Health • Food • gender issues • Health • Houses of worship • Mass • Pope Francis • Sacred Spaces • Women

What the Pope's choice of new cardinals means
Pope Francis has named 19 new cardinals and shifted the balance of power in the church.
January 13th, 2014
09:19 AM ET

What the Pope's choice of new cardinals means

Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, special to CNN

(CNN) - Pope Francis' selection on Sunday of 19 new cardinals, the men who will select the next pope, seems aimed to help rebalance the church in important ways, passing over at least three influential American archbishops and naming several from the Southern Hemisphere.

First, there is a decided emphasis on Africa and Latin America, including poorer countries like Haiti and Burkina Faso.

Remember that the cardinals' most important duty is to elect the next pope. Francis is making sure that all parts of the world are adequately represented - and today the majority of Catholics are in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sixteen of the 19 new cardinals named by Francis on Sunday are younger than 80, which means they would be eligible to vote to the next pope. Of those 16, four are from the curia, or Vatican bureaucracy; two are from Europe; three are from North and Central America; three are from South America, including the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis' position before his papal election; two are from Africa and two from Asia.

The Pope's picks show that he wants the voice of the poor represented in the next conclave. Archbishop Chibly Langlois, 55, for example, will be the first-ever cardinal from Haiti. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, echoed this: “The choice of Cardinals of Burkina Faso and Haiti shows concern for people struck by poverty.”

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

January 8th, 2014
01:38 PM ET

Holy Hitchhiker: Pope gives pal a ride on the Popemobile

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - In yet another breach of normal papal protocol, Pope Francis on Wednesday gave a pal a lift on the world's most exclusive ride: the Popemobile.

According to Catholic News Service, the holy hitchhiker was the Rev. Fabian Baez, a priest from Francis' former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, whom the pope spotted in the crowd at St. Peter's Square.

As he helped the priest onto the Popemobile, Francis told Baez, "The picture will go around the world,” CNS reports. The beaming priest rode around St. Peter's Square and was given a special seat at the Pope's speech to the crowd.

During the Pope's speech, he urged the crowd to remember their baptism.

"Many of us do not have the slightest memory of the celebration of this Sacrament, obviously, if we were baptized shortly after birth," Francis said. "It is important! It is important to know what day you were immersed in that current of salvation of Jesus!"

Baez later tweeted in Spanish, “I’m going to change my biography. The poor priest who got on the popemobile today with #PopeFrancis”.

Mark another point for the "Pope of the people."

Pope Francis' greatest hits of 2013

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

January 8th, 2014
08:39 AM ET

Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - In the past, at times like these, when his life foundered and frayed around the edges, Ryan Bell often prayed for help. But this year, at least, the pastor has resolved not to.

For the next 12 months, Bell says he will live as if there is no God.

He will not pray, go to church, read the Bible for inspiration, trust in divine providence or hope in things unseen. He’s taking the opposite of a leap of faith: a free fall into the depths of religious doubt.

Bell’s “intellectual experiment,” which began January 1, has already borne dramatic consequences.

In less than a week, he lost two jobs teaching at Christian schools near his home in Los Angeles. He’s 42 and has been a pastor or in seminary for most of his adult life. Now he faces the prospect of poverty and taking odd jobs to feed his two daughters, 10 and 13.

“There have been times, usually late at night and early in the morning, when I think: What have I done? It really undermines the whole structure of your life, your career, your family,” Bell said.

But just as the man of God began to despair, he found help from an unlikely source: atheists.

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • evangelicals • Faith • Lost faith

'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex
We're heading to Rishikesh in India, which is considered the yoga capital of the world.
January 7th, 2014
12:37 PM ET

'Eat, Pray, Love' ... minus the pizza and sex

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, sits a magical place ripe for exploration. It’s called Rishikesh, and for the next two weeks it will be our spiritual playground.

I am going there thanks to a religion reporting fellowship, and I’d like to take you with me.

A holy spot for Hindus, Rishikesh is also a destination for Westerners hungering for a different and deeper kind of sustenance. Among the most renowned Rishikesh searchers: The Beatles, who came here in 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

It’s dotted with ashrams. Painted holy men roam the streets and sit in nearby caves. There are sunset ceremonies along the sacred Ganges River, and yoga classes flow as consistently as the hallowed waters. Pilgrims flock to temples. Visitors can surrender to ancient forms of medicine, find healing and be cleansed. Some are said to arrive in Rishikesh and never leave, losing themselves forever in the quest for enlightenment.
FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Journeys • Meditation • Yoga

January 7th, 2014
10:00 AM ET

Satanists unveil design for OK statehouse statue

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Satanists have unveiled their design for a proposed statue at the Oklahoma state Capitol, including a place for people to sit on the devil's lap "for inspiration and contemplation."

The New York-based Satanic Temple submitted its proposal to Oklahoma officials this month after applying for a spot on Capitol grounds late last year. The Satanists say their statue would "complement and contrast" with a Ten Commandments monument placed at the Capitol in Oklahoma City in 2012.

The Satanists' proposed monument depicts Baphomet, a goat-headed pagan idol sitting on a 7-foot-tall throne inscribed with an inverted pentagram. In an artist's rendering provided by the Satanic Temple, smiling children look adoringly at the devilish figure.

"The statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures," Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, said in a prepared statement. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

FULL POST

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Satanism

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About this blog

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.

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