Former National Association of Evangelicals president and megachurch pastor Ted Haggard returned to the pulpit June 6 just days after he revealed he was launching a new church in Colorado Springs. More than 150 people congregated in Haggard's barn for the first service of St. James Church. Haggard, who faced a gay-sex and methamphetamine scandal in 2006, said the church is "for sinners-for people who have hit rock bottom and people who want to help people who have hit rock bottom."
Taliban militants reportedly abducted and then publicly hanged a 7-year-old boy June 8 on grounds that he was spying for the Afghan government. The murder may have been an act of revenge after the boy's grandfather, a tribal elder, spoke out against the Taliban in their southern Afghanistan village. Officials said three years ago militants executed a 70-year-old woman and a child on similar charges.
An Iranian court has sentenced journalist Jila Baniyaghoob, 39, to one year of prison and banned her from writing for 30 years. Last year authorities arrested Baniyaghoob, who wrote for several reformist newspapers that have since closed, on charges she spread antigovernment propaganda while reporting on the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Ohio teen Anamika Veeramani emerged victorious at the Scripps National Spelling Bee June 4 by correctly spelling the medical term stromuhr. The 14-year-old, who receives more than $40,000 in cash and prizes, is the third consecutive Indian-American to win the bee.
President Obama named an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position that sat vacant for over a year. Suzan Johnson Cook-a former professor at New York Theological Seminary, pastor, and police chaplain-has no background on international religious freedom or foreign policy issues.
French fishermen plucked teen adventurer Abby Sunderland, 16, from the Indian Ocean June 12 after storms crippled her boat and left her stranded. Sunderland, whose dreams of becoming the youngest person to sail nonstop around the world alone ended after she had to pull into harbor to repair faulty navigation equipment, said that despite criticism about undertaking the failed voyage, she is "definitely going to sail around the world again or really give it another try." She may write a book about her adventures.
Raymond Franz, a former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses who broke with the sect after questioning its teachings and advocating for reform, died June 2 at age 88. Franz's books, Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom, are often credited with helping expose the inner workings of the secretive group.
Jacob Milgrom, a rabbi considered the world's leading Jewish expert on the book of Leviticus, died June 6 at age 87. His three-volume Leviticus series interpreted Jewish dietary and purification rituals as well as the Bible's ban on homosexuality, which he concluded only applied to Jewish men.