SANTA FE, N.M.—No project in modern times has brought science and religion into closer contact than efforts to assess the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. And the debate about the role of scientists in the project has been every bit as heated as the religious discussions.

At the center of the controversy is a group of scientists that make up the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). Formed here in 1976, the 30 or so volunteers rely on private donations to conduct their work.

Robert Dinegar, a retired physical chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is one of the organizers of STURP. He is also an ordained Episcopal priest. Although Dinegar says that STURP members come from a diverse religious background that includes Catholics, Protestants, Jews and agnostics, outsiders say that the group's religious bias is strong enough to warrant its exclusion from the upcoming trials.

Last fall Vatican...

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