U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has ruled that the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps must stop financing programs that place volunteers in Catholic schools, saying it unconstitutionally crosses the line between church and state. The AP’s Hope Yen reports that while the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps, argued that funding was based on programs’ secular merits, Judge Kessler disagreed, ruling that “the line between the secular and nonsecular activities had become ‘completely blurred.’”

“For [Flannery] O’Connor—whose characters are some of the most memorable grotesqueries in American literature—the grotesque makes visible hidden ‘discrepancies’ between character and belief.” David Griffith wonders what the great Catholic writer would have to say about Abu Ghraib and the war in Iraq, in an essay Godspy publisher Angelo Matera describes as the latest entry in the “orthodox but anti-war” genre.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, the Lebanese-born U.S. Marine taken hostage by the Islamic Response group, has been released according to his brother, Sami Hassoun. Mr. Hassoun told reporters he’d received a “clear ‘sign’ that his brother is ‘alive.’” CNN reports that Islamic Response, the security wing of the Islamic Resistance of Iraq, faxed a statement to Al-Jazeera saying Hassoun “‘has been sent to a safe place after he had announced his forgiveness and his determination not to go back to the U.S. forces.’”

“Where we Mennonites once reacted (and probably over-reacted) to the encroachment of ‘worldliness,’ our ethical instincts seem to have been lulled to sleep by the mantras of economic growth and the promise of cheap stuff, even though the cultural consequence of Wal-Mart is probably far greater than the worldly forces we used to flee…” Will Braun, of Canada’s progressive rabble.ca is disappointed in Manitoba’s Bible Belt.

“‘My feet. I walk on bare feet. Do they think of that when they schedule? They better look at my feet. If they cared, if they had any compassion, they would see my bare feet.’” Jimmy Breslinpities Jesus in Newsday, but has little empathy for the “Low IQ states” Bush walks Him through.

“‘If you’re talking to God, you’re talking to God,’ he said. ‘But if you’re talking to your lady over here across the table from me, you’re talking to your lady over here across the table from me.’” And it’s always good to talk about Al Green and Ray Charles.

Pew has published the transcript of its late June conference on “The Body Politic and the Body of Christ: Candidates, Communion and the Catholic Church.” Speakers included Thomas J. Reese, editor-in-chief of The National Catholic Weekly and George Weigel, from the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Luis Lugo, Director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, moderated the discussion.

Bush “is the first president not to meet with the leadership of mainline Christian traditions since George Washington,” says the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. Salon‘s Mary Jacoby offers a solid — if Dem-biased — guide to Karl Rove’s strategy for dumping mainline Christianity in the dustbin. Read more…