NEWS STORY: Abortion foes call for more debate

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Leading figures in the anti-abortion movement have issued a statement outlining their opposition to abortion and challenging Americans to further debate on the divisive issue.”The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern”appears in the March 25 issue of National Review, a conservative opinion journal.”Our goal is simply stated: we seek an America in which every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life,”the statement reads. It calls the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion”an almost completely unrestricted private license to judge who will live and who will die”and goes on to describe abortion as a major contributor to a moral decline in the United States.”Abortion contributes to the marginalization of fatherhood in America, which many agree is a primary cause of the alarming breakdown of American family life,”it reads. The five-page statement was signed by 45 educators, religious leaders, policy experts and others.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Jewish groups, Clinton criticize anti-terrorism bill as too weak (RNS)-President Clinton and a host of Jewish groups are sharply criticizing a House-passed measure aimed at countering terrorism in the United States and abroad because most of the central features of the bill were removed.”If we’re going to have a bill, we need a real bill,”Clinton said in a statement issued Thursday (March 14) as he returned home from the Middle East after attending a meeting of world leaders called to condemn terrorism. Clinton expressed the hope that when the bill goes to a conference committee with the Senate it”will be made much stronger.”The Senate has passed a different version of the bill. Before adopting the legislation, the House accepted an amendment proposed by Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr., R-Ga., deleting key provisions of the bill allowing prosecutors to use evidence gathered through improper wiretaps as long as law enforcement officials acted in good faith, and permitting the government to bar foreigners from the United States for belonging to a suspected or known terrorist group. It also deleted provisions letting the government deport foreigners involved in terrorist activities without publicly revealing the evidence against them, and banning fund-raising in the United States by terrorist groups.

COMMENTARY: A pope should be chosen without secrecy

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at http://www.greeley.com. Or contact him at his e-mail address: agreel(at sign)aol.com. Check RNS Online for a photo of Andrew Greeley.) (RNS)-Pope John Paul II has recently modified the rules for papal elections.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND CULTURE: Religion scholar Huston Smith graces PBS series

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Scholar Huston Smith literally wrote the book on world religions. It can also be said that his life story reads as if it was lifted from the pages of his most enduring work. Smith’s”The Religions of Man”-first published in 1958 when he was just 38, and since reissued as”The World’s Religions”-is used in more introduction-to-religion courses than any other text. Translated into 14 languages, it’s sold more than 1.5 million copies and is also available in a lushly illustrated coffee table format.

Basketball flap: One man’s understanding of Islam

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED)-Basketball player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s reluctance to stand for the national anthem says more about his experiences as an African-American than it does Islam, according to a leading scholar of the African-American Muslim scene.”There is an attitude that exists among African-American Muslims that uses Islam as a battering ram against the racism that exists in American society,”said Sulyman Nyang, a professor of African studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C.”I encounter it all the time. I suspect that is what we had in this case as well,”said Nyang, who was born in the West African nation of Gambia. Abdul-Rauf’s dispute with the National Basketball Association was resolved Thursday (March 14), two days after the league suspended him for refusing on religious grounds to stand during the pre-game playing of the”Star-Spangled Banner.”Abdul-Rauf said he was now willing to stand-but would pray silently while doing so. The NBA immediately lifted his suspension, allowing Abdul-Rauf to return to the basketball court, where the 6-foot 1-inch Denver Nuggets guard is earning $2.6 million this NBA season.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Evangelical leader optimistic about New Era settlement (RNS)-A spokesman for evangelical ministries hit last year by a scandal involving the now-bankrupt Foundation for New Era Philanthropy is optimistic that a settlement can be reached that will prevent years of litigation.”We believe we have an agreement in principle which must now be approved by all of the clients,”said Paul Nelson, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in Herndon, Va. Evangelical ministries were among the non-profit groups who bought into a New Era”matching grant”program that promised to double their money. Federal investigators say the program was a Ponzi scheme, which created the illusion of financial success by using contributions from new investors to pay previous ones. The essence of the proposed settlement-first suggested by the evangelical ministries-is that those who benefited positively from investments with New Era would return money to help those who lost funds.

At First United, black and white Baptists share a spiritual home

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS-It has been 30 years since that memorably dreadful day when Doris Viverito watched in shamed silence as the white deacons evicted a black woman who’d come to worship at Central Baptist Church. She was in her 20s then and Central Baptist, all-white and Southern Baptist, stood at the peak of material security, self-confidence and racial solidarity. The memory lies close to the surface, too ironic to bury away given the extraordinary changes of the last year. For after Sunday services these days, worshipers still chat on the same church steps.

Churches raise a stink about too-fragrant worshipers

c. 1996 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO (RNS)-On bended knee and with folded hands, Christians traditionally worship their God. Many also come to church bearing unwelcome gifts of overpowering personal fragrance-Chanel No.5, Obsession, White Shoulders or Brut. Now, in the dawning age of”multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS),”a Sunday-morning ablution in after-shave or cologne could become a thing of the past. MCS is not an affliction recognized by medical authorities, but growing numbers of Americans claim exposure to pungent perfumes, cosmetics or cleaning products can make them them sneeze, wheeze, sniffle, faint or suffer seizures.

COMMENTARY: Try a V-chip on the Bible

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Installing V-chips in televisions to filter out objectionable programming is the latest idea to protect youngsters from programs containing violence and sex. Politicians-including President Clinton-may favor installing the device, but the V-chip won’t work because it’s another futile attempt to use technology to solve moral problems, something we can only do together with our children. I recently heard a candidate for public office declare (on TV, of course) that we must replace today’s television fare with more stories from the Bible. A ludicrous idea, because the Bible is filled with sex and violence.

NEWS FEATURE: Author says `integrity’ key to good citizenship

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Stephen Carter is looking for a presidential candidate who will give the same speech to the business-oriented U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor advocate AFL-CIO. That, says the Yale University law professor and intellectual provocateur, would be a sign of integrity. Integrity is what’s missing from the current political scene, as well as from much of America’s public and private lives, according to Carter, whose best-selling book on religion and public policy,”The Culture of Disbelief,”drew praise in religious and political circles. In short, Carter says,”American politics is a mess.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Muslim leaders protest upcoming film depicting Islamic terrorists (RNS)-U.S. Muslim leaders said this week that”Executive Decision,”an upcoming film from Warner Bros., is likely to inflame anti-Muslim sentiments by depicting terrorists who use the Koran, Islam’s holy book, to justify their violent acts. The film depicts terrorists of Islamic heritage from the breakaway Chechnya area of the former Soviet Union hijacking an airliner bound for Washington, D.C. The movie is scheduled to open Friday (March 15).”There is no positive Muslim character who speaks against the whole concept of violence being linked with Islam,”said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.”The norm in the movie is for a Muslim to be a terrorist,”he added. Awad made his comments at a news conference with other Muslim leaders after previewing the film on Monday (March 11). The Muslim leaders were especially critical of the movie’s use of the Koran.

COMMENTARY: Signs of spring in Sarajevo

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is publisher of Religion News Service and a member of the board of World Vision. She recently returned to the former Yugoslavia to see how life has changed since the Dayton Peace Accord.) SARAJEVO (RNS)-Snow lies like a soft blanket over the ruins of this battle-scarred city. The twisted remains of a car poke out of a snowdrift. A crumbling building wears a shiny white crown.

TOP STORY: JUDAISM: Jewish outreach joins the Exodus as a Passover topic this year

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-This Passover, Susan V. Gelmis-the daughter of a Catholic father and a Jewish mother who raised her as a Christian-will again host a Seder at her home in Berkeley, Calif. As always, she will make it a point to invite Jewish friends who have little connection to their religious roots. Her hope is that the Seder experience will spark a desire in them to move from the periphery of Jewish life to its core, a path she herself has taken in recent years.”Jewish heritage is a valuable treasure that should be made available to all,”Gelmis said. A 34-year-old attorney, Gelmis was aided in her exploration of Jewish religious life by community-sponsored introduction-to-Judaism courses designed for Jews seeking to reconnect with the faith.

TOP STORY: TERROR IN ISRAEL: U.S. Jews harden their stand in wake of bombings

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-The recent wave of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel has considerably hardened American Jewish attitudes toward the Middle East peace process. Frustration has replaced optimism, and anger has replaced whatever sympathy there was for Palestinian concerns. American Jewish leaders said Israel should retaliate against Hamas terrorists, even if that means putting the peace process further at risk and giving the militants an excuse for sending more human bombs into downtown Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. “There’s a qualitatively different attitude prevailing today compared to what was felt prior to these attacks,” said Sidney Clearfield, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, a Washington-based agency that aids Jews worldwide.