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Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly - March 5

Thu, Mar. 05, 2009 Posted: 02:36 PM

MARCH 5, 2009

This Week on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

Following is a brief outline of the stories Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly will be covering this week. SPECIAL NOTE: Because the show may be pre-empted in several markets due to special PBS Pledge programming scheduled through March 15, the following reports listed are being rebroadcast and are already available on our Web site.


Familial DNA Testing

Using new technology, police can now take DNA collected from a crime scene and compare it to millions of DNA samples in a government database. If there is even a partial match, it could lead to the criminal by way of a family member if that relative's DNA is in the database - even though that person could be completely innocent. While this kind of testing offers a whole new realm of possibilities for authorities and may ultimately help bring more criminals to justice, should the practice be legal? Or, as some critics claim, is it a violation of the fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures?

Lucky Severson explores this debate. "Our data suggest that it could increase the yield of investigative leads by 40 percent," observes medical ethicist Frederick Bieber. "So it could substantially increase the number of cases that can be resolved through added investigative leads. Why? Because the sad reality is that crime or habits of crime are often found more commonly in family members than unrelated individuals." But attorney Stephen Mercer, who specializes in DNA issues, warns: "For minority populations who are already disproportionately in the database, you're approaching a scenario where nearly a majority of some populations - minority-based populations - are going to find themselves under genetic surveillance by the government." (Rebroadcast from May 16, 2008)

Lourdes 150th Anniversary

In 1848, a 14-year-old French peasant girl claimed to have seen an apparition who identified herself as "the Immaculate Conception" while gathering firewood near a grotto in the southwestern village of Lourdes. After being told by the apparition, "Go to the spring, drink of the water and wash there," the girl discovered an underground spring, and ever since then, belief in the healing powers of its water has attracted people from around the world. Over the last 150 years, more than 200 million have journeyed to Lourdes in search of miracles.

Don Kladstrup travels to France to explore the spiritual significance and religious phenomenon of this holy place and how it provides hope to millions of pilgrims every year. According to Father James Martin, author of Lourdes Diary, "People are drawn here for many reasons - for physical healings, but also just to get closer to God, in a place with a great community of believers." (Rebroadcast from July 11, 2008)




Purim begins at sundown on March 9 and ends the following evening. It celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from a plot to destroy them, as recounted in the Book of Esther. On Purim, Jews listen to the Megillah, the story of Queen Esther, who worked with her adopted father Mordecai to save her people from the oppressive ruler Haman, an adviser to the Persian king. Revisit R & E's exclusive online look at photographs by Yankl Conzen of Purim in Jerusalem and view a gallery of his pictures. And read a Web-only excerpt from the novel "The Ladies Auxiliary" by Tova Mirvis.

Conscience Clause

The Obama administration plans to reverse a regulation allowing healthcare workers to refuse to provide services based on moral objections. Revisit Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly's 2005 story about pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives.


This week the International Criminal Court in the Hague indicted Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Watch the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly story on black churches and Darfur activism. And see the report on the humanitarian disaster in Darfur.

Military Chaplains

Last month, the Justice Department got an extension to file its response in federal court to a lawsuit that accuses the military of ignoring laws and policies banning mandatory religious practices. Revisit Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly's 2008 report on Army chaplain boot camp.



March 13: "Barefoot College in India" - Fred de Sam Lazaro visits India's Barefoot College in for a look at one man's effort to bring sustainable development to rural areas of the developing world by training hundreds of village women how to become solar technicians. (Rebroadcast from September 19, 2008)

"Interracial Churches" - Lucky Severson explores efforts by churches - and the challenges they face - to establish more racially integrated congregations. (Rebroadcast from December 19, 2008)



Watch Sister Eileen Campbell of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and Bishop Minerva CarcaƱo of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church talk about their support of immigration reform; and hear from religion reporter David Gibson about relations between the U.S. Catholic Church and the new Obama Administration and what political role New York's new archbishop, Timothy Dolan, may play.



The companion book to Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, now available in paperback in bookstores nationwide, can also be ordered through Shop Thirteen. "The Life of Meaning," edited by the program's executive editor and host Bob Abernethy and longtime journalist William Bole, features a collection of insightful, moving and eloquent observations on life and how to live it by some of the most thoughtful men and women in America, and beyond. Among them are Desmond Tutu, Francis Collins, Marianne Williamson, Irving Greenberg, Barbara Brown Taylor, Harold Kushner, Madeleine L'Engle, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Jimmy Carter and the late William Sloane Coffin.



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