You can’t expect to find nuanced discussion of the role of religion in the lefty Nation, but occasionally you will find facts that’ll help you understand the big religion stories of the day. One of the biggest in recent years — mostly overlooked by the secular press — has been the mobilization of Christian evangelicals who now see fighting AIDS as an important corollary to the Great Commission. There’s nothing cynical about saying that the Bush administration’s commitment to the cause is a direct result of pressure applied by his evangelical base — indeed, some evangelical activists boast of their accomplishment in elevating AIDS onto the president’s priority list. But there’s been some trouble on the follow through, as Esther Kaplan reports: “Though Bush trumpets his commitment to the global AIDS fight, the delegation he sent to [the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok] was rather anemic… Read more.

Meanwhile, Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, notes the negative impact of evangelical anti-AIDS activism — a disinclination to deploy the full range of scientific responses — and its mirror image on the Left: “this tendency to demonize medical technology — i.e., the use of medicine to protect the body from the consequences of human behavior — is hardly a preserve of Bible-thumping conservatives. Authoritarian attitudes about the body — especially the female body — can also stem from ardent, well-meaning worship of Nature…” Read more.

“‘I’m alarmed by any suggestion of providing the names of church members to any particular political group,'” writes Bishop Leo Frade, head of 82 Episcopalian churches in south Florida.”‘I saw this request made by Fidel Castro at the beginning of his regime, and his persecution of churches that refused.'” Alexandra Alter, of The Miami Herald, reports on some of the fallout from the Bush campaign’s 22-point strategy to win the support of church-goers.

God may not play dice after all: celebrated cosmologist Dr. Stephen Hawking has recanted on his theory that information can never be retrieved from black holes, an argument that violates quantum theory–the foundation of all modern physics–which says that information is preserved. Read more of Dennis Overbye’s report in The New York Times.

Dozens of dissident Orthodox Christian priests were evicted from their churches in Bulgaria yesterday, the BBC reports, in a move which a local human rights group, the Helsinki Committee, calls church “‘unification by government decree.'” The priests had illegally occupied the churches since 2001, when the property was ruled to belong to the traditional church. The dissidents had broken away from the mainstream church after the fall of communism, accusing the Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church of having been illegitimately appointed by the country’s late dictator. Read more

S.A. Miller in The Washington Times reports on a new twist to the church v. state debate–one neither about removing existing references to God in state language, nor about installing new references, such as the display of biblical comandments in public buildings. Rather it’s one religious group’s contention that the absence of religious references on the new WWII memorial was a “‘reprehensible'” example of the “‘ongoing movement to secularize American culture.'” Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, argues that the designers of the monument deliberately left out quotes that mention God, religion, faith or Old Testament scripture. Betsy Glick, spokeswoman for the memorial, maintained that the exclusion of religious language was never an issue, and all inscriptions were chosen for the quality of their content alone.