Harry Potter Lessons

A church in Carlisle, Pa., has doubled the enrollment of its vacation Bible school since it began using J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter tales.

St. John's Episcopal Church uses the theme "Wizards and Wonders: The Journey With Harry Potter," and preschoolers take flying lessons on miniature broomsticks at a makeshift Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft.

Older students play a game of Quidditch, and more than 100 youngsters get Bible verses in their daily owl mail. A minister at St. John's says the Bible and the Harry Potter stories have "a slew of parallel lessons."

-- Associated Press

Wiccan Parent Ruling

The Indiana Court of Appeals has voided a judge's ruling that two Wiccan believers must shield their son from their "non-mainstream" faith.

The appeals court in Indianapolis said state law gives a custodial parent the authority to determine a child's religious training, though a judge could intervene to prevent physical or emotional harm.

Judge Cale Bradford had added the religion language to a divorce decree he granted last year to Thomas Jones and Tammy Bristol of Indianapolis. Jones is a Wiccan activist who has coordinated Pagan Pride Day in the city. A court report found that the parents are pagans who send their now-10-year-old son to a Catholic school.

-- Associated Press

Sirius Radio Protest

A decision by Sirius Satellite Radio to cancel the Word Network, a station broadcasting African American religious programming and gospel music, has prompted more than 15,000 listeners to sign letters of protest.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and several network executives delivered the letters to Jay Clark, vice president of programming for Sirius. They noted that Sirius is preparing to add shock jock Howard Stern to its lineup.

Lewis Gibbs, vice president of operations for the Word Network, said the decision reflects a lack of moral consideration on the part of Sirius.

"Our request is simple: If Sirius can make room for the values Howard Stern represents, we'd also like them to make room for the values we represent," Gibbs said.

U.S. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrats and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, urged Sirius to reconsider its decision.

"We view the availability of family-oriented programming such as the Word Network as consistent with the promotion of the FCC's public policy objectives," they said in a letter. "The Word Network is truly unique in this respect, as it is the only network providing family value programming specifically oriented toward urban ministries and the African-American communities."

Patrick Reilly, spokesman for Sirius Satellite Radio, said Sirius constantly evaluates its programming. "We had a two-year programming agreement with the Word Network, and that agreement expires next month," he said. "We have elected not to renew the agreement."

-- Religion News Service

Saving the Shakers

An agreement between Maine's Shaker community in New Gloucester and a coalition of preservation and conservation groups will help protect the unique village and 1,700 acres surrounding it from being carved into subdivisions.

It is the last active Shaker community in the world and has only four members.

The $3.7 million plan will help to simplify the finances of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, where life has been rooted in faith and farming since the village was founded in 1783.

Under the agreement, the Shakers will sell their rights to develop the village and land for about $2.5 million to the coalition. The additional $1.2 million is earmarked for endowments for maintenance of historic buildings and other costs.

-- Associated Press