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Religious Conservatives Claim Victory
After NBC Shuts `The Book of Daniel'
 
BY KEVIN ECKSTROM                                                                                   © 2006 Religion News Service

Conservative critics are claiming victory after NBC pulled "The Book of Daniel," a racy primetime drama about an Episcopal priest struggling to hold his dysfunctional family together.

NBC officials in New York would not confirm or deny that the show has been cancelled, but the broadcaster's Web site lists "Law and Order" during the Friday 10 p.m. time slot that had been occupied by "The Book of Daniel."

A blog on NBC's home page contained an entry from Jack Kenny, the show's creator, who said the show will "no longer be aired on NBC on Friday nights" for "many reasons."

"Whatever the outcome, I feel that I accomplished what I set out to do: a solid family drama, with lots of humor, that honestly explored the lives of the Webster family," Kenny wrote, adding that he was "proud of our product."

The show, which debuted on Jan. 6, had only aired four of its eight scheduled episodes. Conservatives criticized the show's sex, drugs and alcohol and said its depiction of Jesus was disrespectful.

Complaints from the Mississippi-based American Family Association-- to the tune of 678,000 angry e-mails to NBC--prompted advertisers to pull out. At least 11 NBC stations in six states declined to broadcast the show.

"This shows the average American that he doesn't have to simply sit back and take the trash being offered on TV, but he can get involved and fight back with his pocketbook," said AFA Chairman Donald Wildmon.

Kenny had hoped the show would survive at least until Feb. 10, when the Olympics will take over for most NBC programming. Kenny had called the "bullies" who sought to kill his show "un-Christian and un-American."

For its part, the Episcopal Church declined to comment on the show since it was not consulted as the show was created.

 
Man Who Shot Pope John Paul II Goes Back to Jail
 
BY STACY MEICHTRY                                                                                                   © 2006 Religion News Service
 
Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who shot John Paul II in 1981, was back in custody Friday after a Turkish appeals court ruled that his controversial release from prison for the murder of a journalist had "no legal basis."

The decision to return Agca came amid a torrent of public outrage that followed his Jan. 12 release from prison for the slaying of a well-known Turkish journalist in 1979.

Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after serving nearly 20 years in an Italian prison for repeatedly shooting John Paul as he rode through St. Peter's Square in an open-air jeep.

Upon his arrival in Turkey, Agca was initially sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for the Ipekci slaying. But a November 2004 court ruling drastically reduced Agca's term by taking into account the time he served in Italy and a national amnesty passed in 2000.

According to the Friday ruling, Agca only qualified for the amnesty.

Turkish media reported that Agca was arrested after the ruling without incident in Istanbul. Turkish broadcaster NTV quoted Agca's lawyer Mustafa Demirbag as saying he was "respectful of all decisions by Turkish courts."

The public outcry that followed Agca's release a week ago prompted Turkey's Justice Minister Cemil Cicek to immediately call for further judicial review of the controversial court ruling.

On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to endorse the move, saying the Justice Ministry had "fulfilled its responsibility."

Agca has been linked to the Gray Wolves, an ultra-nationalist group that clashed with leftist groups during the 1970s violence that roiled Turkey.

He killed Abdi Ipekci, the liberal editor-in-chief of Turkey's Milliyet daily newspaper, for writing editorials that criticized rightist groups.

Agca's motives for attacking John Paul have never been clear. But media speculation has alleged he was acting on behalf of the Bulgarian secret services and the Soviet KGB, which considered the Polish pontiff antagonistic to communism.

 
Retired Anglican Bishop Pleads for Help
to Stop `Genocide' in Uganda
 
BY ENETTE NGOEI                                                                                     © 2006 Religion News Service

Macleord Baker Ochola II, a retired Anglican bishop from Uganda, has called on the world to stop the "genocide" of women and children in his home country.

In a Monday (Jan. 23) event sponsored by the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom and the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, Ochola said the world has remained silent about the atrocities committed by rebel forces on women and children in Northern Uganda. If the violence does not end, "the whole Acholi population is headed toward extinction," said Ochola, who lost his wife and daughter in the conflict.

Since 1986, a rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, has been raiding villages, terrorizing locals and turning kidnapped children into soldiers or sex slaves. More than 30,000 children have been kidnapped, according to some estimates. Many children now spend their night-time hours walking in city streets or in public buildings to avoid being abducted during attacks on their homes.

An estimated 1.7 million people have been driven from their homes into Internally Displaced Persons Camps, where inadequate supplies of food, water and sanitation have caused thousands to die.

Despite repeated efforts, the three factions in conflict, including Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and profiteering army officers, have not reached a peaceful agreement.

Speaking at the Capitol, Ochola said his people "are now aware they have been abandoned by the world but not by God." He said the international community had a moral responsibility to stop the war, as 50 percent of the country's national budget was from external aid.

Ochola also called for the church in Northern Uganda to "identify itself with the suffering and not keep silent."

Faith McDonnell, representative for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said her organization was encouraging U.S. churches to show a documentary, "Invisible Children," about the abductions in Northern Uganda.

Evan Baehr, congressional fellow at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said his group is organizing at least two events in March to discuss practical solutions for the crisis.

 
Evangelical Leaders Cold About Global Warming Position
 
BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                                         © 2006 Religion News Service
 
  Some prominent evangelical leaders have signed an open letter to the National Association of Evangelicals, asking it not to take an official position on global warming.

"Global warming is not a consensus issue, and our love for the Creator and respect for his creation does not require us to take a position," reads the letter signed by Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and 20 others.

The letter was circulated by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a new Washington-based coalition that in November issued a report that challenged the idea that there is a scientific consensus on climate change.

"We are evangelicals and we care about God's creation," the letter reads. "However, we believe that there should be room for Bible-believing evangelicals to disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue."

The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the NAE is not planning to take a position on the issue.

"The NAE was never going to adopt a policy on climate change," he said. "Like on a lot of issues, evangelical leaders are across the board on this subject and have a variety of views."

Other signatories on the open letter, which was released Jan. 6, included Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition; and the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The signatories signed as individuals, not as representatives of their churches or organizations.


 
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