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While Sunday school in Protestant churches remains popular, classes are less likely to be available to the youngest and oldest students, according to a recent study by the Barna Group.

The study found that 95 percent of Protestant pastors polled in December 2004 said their churches offer Sunday school classes, while 97 percent said they did in 1997.

Although the percentage of churches offering Sunday school has remained virtually constant, the availability of programs for children ages 2 to 5 declined from 94 percent to 88 percent. Classes for high school students showed a similar drop, from 86 percent to 80 percent.

Vacation Bible School, which made religiously-themed arts and crafts projects summer staples for generations of children, is also less common than before. According to the study, the percentage of Protestant churches offering summer camps has declined by 15 percent since 1997, with 69 percent of pastors saying their churches still offer Vacation Bible School.

Pastors most frequently cited a lack of teachers as the main reason they chose not to offer camps.

- Religion News Service

Observant Jews are expressing concerns over legislation extending daylight-saving time by two months, saying that the late sunrises would impact their ability to pray in the morning and still reach work by 9 a.m.

The provision, which set daylight-savings time between March and November instead of April and October, was approved Tuesday by a joint House-Senate conference committee. The committee met to finalize the energy legislation package Congress will present to the president by Aug. 1.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) had written a letter to the members of the committee, explaining that an extension of daylight-saving time would place a hardship on observant Jews.

According to Jewish law, certain prayers, including the prayer recited each day by people in mourning, cannot be recited without a minyan, or a quorum of 10 members, present. Further, those prayers, which last between 30 and 40 minutes, cannot be recited before sunrise.

- Religion News Service

An Indian Christian health forum says it is alarmed over the results of a study done in New Delhi that found widespread selective abortions aimed at preventing women from giving birth to girls. The Christian Medical Association of India found that in families that had a third child after two girls, there were only 219 girls for 1,000 boys. Similarly, if the first child was a girl, there were only 558 girls for 1,000 boys, noted the study after scrutinising 370,000 birth records in Delhi's eight leading hospitals over a decade.

- Ecumenical News Intl.

Apparently you don't have to be Jewish (or even an Israeli Arab) to win at the Maccabiah, the "Jewish Olympics." Even natives of countries at war with Israel can win the gold almost.

Mohammad Babulfath went undefeated on his way to taking first place in the 84 kg. weight class of the Maccabiah's Greco-Roman wrestling competition at Hadar Yosef on Sunday. But nobody seems to know how he got into the competition in the first place.

The Iranian-born Muslim, who represents Sweden at international competitions came to the Maccabiah with his teammate Jimmy Samuellson and coach Richard Swierad, neither of whom are Jewish either. The three had no idea that the Maccabiah is only open to Jews and Israelis.

- Jerusalem Post

Complaints of shoe theft from mosques rising

More and more of Dubai's well-heeled Muslim men are removing their shoes outside mosques before they pray, according to custom, and when they exit are discovering that their shoes have been stolen, police say. "The police have posted officers at the gates of mosques during prayer times, especially on Fridays, to arrest the thieves red-handed," Saif al-Jabri, head of the Islamic Guidance at Dubai Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities told the English-language Khaleej Times. The problem has spread to the nearby affluent Gulf emirate of Sharja, according to a police source. "More than 40 complaints of shoe theft from mosques are received every month by various police stations" in Sharja, he said. Police have learned that the stolen shoes are being copied and sold on foreign markets. "The thieves confessed to the police that they were stealing only expensive shoes with unique designs not available in the United Arab Emirates markets," said the police source. "They said that the stolen shoes are sold to shoe manufacturers in Oman who duplicate them and offer them on sale cheaper than the original prices. These manufacturers pay them 50 dirhams (13.5 dollars) per pair of shoes." Police in both emirates have instructed imams to arrange closets with locks at mosque entrances and to advise worshippers not to wear expensive shoes when coming to pray. - Agence France Presse Protestant churches feel pinch from teacher shortage Daylight-saving time plan a concern for observant Jews Indian Christians alarmed over abortion study results Mix-up puts non-Jews in Israel's 'Jewish Olympics'