Forget about Bob Jones University. Republicans know what’s best for Catholics.

Are Bush’s religious beliefs “‘as American as apple pie,'” as Father Richard John Neuhaus, arch-conservative editor of the Catholic journal First Things told The Washington Post’s Alan Cooperman? You may never know, as Cooperman seems to have found out, and explains in his impressively thorough article on not figuring out the specifics of the President’s Christianity. Though not for lack of trying: Cooperman documents the numerous failed attempts of reporters, documenarians and biographers to understand the nuances of Bush’s religion — and why so many voters seem convinced that Bush shares their beliefs without ever really knowing what those beliefs are. Cooperman’s analysis is more charitable than we’re feeling after reading the article: “Some political analysts think there is a shrewd calculation behind these ambiguities.” Ya think?

Another entry on the State Department’s “blacklist” of countries violating religious freedom,North Korea, has been accused of severe repression and abuse of believers, particularly Christians, who have allegedly been imprisoned and tortured for reading the Bible, and even subjected to biological warfare experiments.

Saudi Arabia has been placed on a U.S. “blacklist,” reserved for countries whose record for religious freedom is deemed of “‘particular concern.'” As in previous years, the State Department found that “‘freedom of religion does not exist'” in Saudi Arabia, but the country’s inclusion on the list — alongside Vietnam, Eritrea, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea — is a first. Some Saudis have dismissed the report as politically timed to influence the elections, while U.S. Democrats have accused Bush of disregarding Saudi Arabia’s broader human rights violations until now.

Lord Carey, the traditionalist former Archbishop of Canterbury, presided over the confirmation of 300 Virginian parishioners who were boycotting their own bishop over his support for gay cleric Gene Robinson. With Californian churches at war with their leadership, American parishes following the leadership of African bishops and 11 other parishes in Virginia shunning Bishop Lee, the BBC’s Jane Little reports that the Church in America seems to be splitting already, a month before a major report on the homosexuality crisis in the Church is released.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily has pledged his efforts to prevent a controversial Islamic conference, “The First Arab Islamic Congress in Europe,” from being held next month in Berlin. Jewish critics claim that the congress’s website promotes terrorism against Israel and the U.S. Gabriel Daher, a conference organizer, argued that the congress was meant to show solidarity with the people of Palestine and Iraq and highlight discrimination against Muslims in Europe.

The Daily News reports that the mother of Michael Jackson’s accuser has claimed that she and her kids were “handpicked” by God to take on the superstar and put him away for child molestation.

A San Diego court case begins today, involving a high school student’s attempt to wear a T-shirt that read, “Homosexuality Is Shameful,” and “Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned,” on last year’s national “Day of Silence” — an annual event sponsored by gay-rights groups and approved by the school. The Alliance Defense Fund filed the suit against the school.Read more.