“‘In a sense we’ve been having Sukkot the last two weeks!’” Florida Jews experience a more literal celebration of Sukkot, a holiday that traditionally calls on them to dwell in temporary structures that expose them to the elements. Amy Sherman, of The Miami Herald, reports on congregations that are rebuilding homes instead of constructing sukkahs, or otherwise altering their plans to take hurricane effects into account.

John Walker Lindh’s attorney has requested a reduced sentence for his client in light of the release, this week, of Yasser Esam Hamdi — another American citizen (who grew up in Saudi Arabia) held on suspicion of fighting for the Taliban. Hamdi is slated to be sent back to Saudi Arabia after being held for three years without charges, while Lindh has been sentenced to twenty years in prison after arranging a plea-deal. “‘He was a young man at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was there for genuine religious reasons,’” said Lindh’s lawyer.

“What you won’t find on the net are figures of how much the [LDS] Church has spent in its campaign against the legalization of gay marriages. Clearly the Church sees this institution as one force that will unravel the family structure of society, and therefore directly relevant to the lives of church members who live in that society. It’s an interesting twist considering the heavy persecution the government made against polygamy in the 19th century — you’d think the LDS Church would want the government to leave moral issues totally alone, but the Church doesn’t see it that way at all: polygamy strengthened families; gay relationships don’t.” Brooke Shaffner meets some Mormons in New York on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.

“Moral thunder” exits the stem-cell debate. Or maybe just goes under cover. Greg Johnson ofThe Los Angeles Times notes the shift of stem-cell opponents’ argument in California from abortion-tinged “life” issues to concerns about cost. If that strikes research supporters as disingenuous (or just silly, “akin to opposing capital punishment on the grounds that a state can’t afford the electricity bills”), rest assured that the old thunder-n’-brimstone will still be heard from the pulpit. Just not necessarily in the public square, where California Catholics have been “‘instructed to be wise like serpents.’”

Do you believe George W. Bush has been born again? 38% say yes; 43% say no; 19% of the gentle souls responding to MSNBC’s insta-poll demur that there’s no way to know for sure. Based solely on MSNBC’s adjacent story, “Bush — born again or not?” (which offers little more than Alan Cooperman’s substantial, though frustrated, report on failing to nail down the specifics of Bush’s faith), we’d have to go with the 19%. But grudgingly. We wonder why it is that some candidates are held to doctrinal litmus tests, while others get to bask in feel-good and good-for-the-polls ambiguity, and then call that ecumencism?

No peace for the wicked: FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) issues an action alert tochastise NBC’s Tom Brokaw for his rationalizing report on the GOP campaign claiming that “‘liberals want to ban the bible.’” “It’s clear how one should describe the claim,” writes FAIR. “It’s a lie, and a blatant and incendiary one. But not only does Brokaw not tell his viewers that the RNC smear isn’t true, he gives ‘Christian commentators’ a chance to justify that deceit with another, that gay marriage could lead to censorship of sermons. Why does such an unsubstantiated and frankly bizarre claim deserve space on a national newscast? Meanwhile, the victims of the lie don’t get any chance to speak in Brokaw’s report; the entire item is sourced either to Republicans or to the religious right.”