TOP STORY: RELIGION AND POLITICS—ANALYSIS: Myth of `Catholic vote’ survives all reason

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-They now are often identified with religious conservatives, but once they were a key segment of the liberal New Deal coalition. They were well represented among the Reagan Democrats 10 years ago, yet many still count themselves among social activists battling to preserve programs for the poor. And they are the biggest bloc in the emerging Hispanic-American electorate. American Catholics are a diverse lot.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Vatican, other religious groups condemn Israeli attacks in Lebanon (RNS)-The Vatican on Friday (April 19) joined other religious groups condemning Israel’s missile assault on a United Nations peacekeeping compound in southern Lebanon Thursday in which at least 75 were killed, and urged the warring parties to seek a political solution to the recent border incursions. Israeli officials said they were unaware that refugees had taken shelter at the U.N. base that Israeli gunners hit in response to a Hezbollah guerilla rocket attack from the area. While not mentioning Israel by name, the Vatican statement was clearly aimed at the Jewish state, which has launched fierce retaliatory strikes at Hezbollah strongholds in response to the Katyusha rocket attacks lobbed into northern Israel.”There is no political or military reason that can possibly justify these dramatic consequences,”Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement. Saying Pope John Paul II had expressed”profound concern”about the volley of assaults between Israel and Hezbollah, the statement added,”the spiral of violence has not stopped and every attempt to end it has been in vain.

NEWS STORY: Report: Women prime target of anti-Muslim bias

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-On the first anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, an Islamic watchdog group reported an”alarming”pattern of anti-Muslim incidents-many involving women-in the year since initial speculation blamed Muslim militants for the blast. Almost 300 incidents of anti-Muslim bias, harassment, violence and threats of violence were noted in the report released Friday (April 19) by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. About 10 percent of the reported incidents involved violence, including beatings, vandalism and other property damage. Most involved Muslim women, who are often easily identified by their distinctive head coverings, known in Arabic as an hijab.

NEWS STORY: Vatican enters fray over late-term abortions

c. 1996 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY (RNS)-The Vatican stepped into the politically charged debate over late-term abortions Friday (April 19), saying President Clinton’s veto last week of a bill that would have barred the rare procedure was”shameful”and a”brutal act of aggression against innocent life.” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls denied that the Roman Catholic Church was attempting to influence the upcoming presidential election in which abortion foes, including the presumptive Republican nominee Sen. Bob Dole, are seeking to capitalize on Clinton’s decision.”I can dismiss that clearly,”Navarro-Valls said in an interview.”Any time we express a view it is always on moral grounds, not political ones.” He said the Vatican decided to enter the fray”because we wanted to express our support for the (U.S.) bishops and cardinals and also to express our support for many other people that are clearly against the veto. But the main reason is that this is an issue that has strong moral implications.”

NEWS STORY: Methodist bishops break ranks on ordaining gays

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Declaring that it is”time to break the silence,”15 United Methodist bishops have called on their 8.6 million-member denomination to allow the church to ordain homosexuals to the ministry. But the dissenting bishops pledged they would not commit ecclesiastical disobedience by ordaining gays to the clergy and affirmed they would uphold current church law. That law declares active homosexuality”incompatible with Christian teaching”and bars self-avowed, practicing gays from the ranks of the clergy. It also bans the giving of church money to any”gay caucus or group”and forbids church money to be used to”promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”

COMMENTARY: Ordinary people, extraordinary hatred

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 send him e-mail at agreel(AT)aol.com.) (RNS)-Is nativism-hatred of immigrants-taking America where hatred of the Jews took the German people? The specter of what the Nazis did to European Jews hovers over the recent beating of Mexican immigrants by police officers in Orange County, Calif.

NEWS STORY: Methodist meeting takes up agenda of conscience

c. 1996 Religion News Service DENVER (RNS)-Delegates and visitors to a 10-day meeting of the United Methodist Church’s top decision-making body held a two-hour worship service Thursday (April 18) that promoted greater openness to people of diverse backgrounds and denounced sexism and racism. The service was aimed at uniting the church, which is seeking to heal divisions over abortion, homosexuality and feminism. The General Conference, as the quadrennial meeting is called, began Tuesday (April 16) and ends April 26. Nearly 1,000 official delegates will consider some 3,000 petitions on a host of church and secular issues, including a statement on baptism, rules on the Methodist ministry, and resolutions on gambling, abortion, the death penalty and tobacco.

TOP STORY: DEATH IN LEBANON: Measuring the morality of the Israeli-Arab conflict

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-On Thursday at least 75 Lebanese refugees were killed when Israeli gunfire hit a U.N. peacekeepers’ base manned by a battalion of soldiers from Fiji. In February and March, more than 60 Israelis died in Palestinian suicide attacks. Do the actions equally violate accepted moral norms? Like everything else about the violence-wracked Middle East, the answer depends upon the loyalties of those who are speaking.

NEWS FEATURE: Timothy Leary may be planning public suicide on the Internet

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Timothy Leary may be about to kill himself-live on the Internet-and his old friend Ken Kesey, for one, says he’s planning to watch. “It will be stimulating,” says Kesey, the author whose association with Leary goes back 30 years to his days as leader of the footloose Merry Pranksters. “It will be about something. So much of this Internet stuff is kids playing with paper cups and string.” A former Harvard professor who advised ’60s students to “turn on, tune in and drop out” with the help of LSD, Leary appears close to dying of prostate cancer.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Maine’s Episcopal bishop takes leave after admitting extra-marital affair (RNS)-Bishop Edward C. Chalfant of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine will take a voluntary year’s leave of absence in the wake of the revelation that he was involved in an extra-marital relationship.”I have made grievous errors in judgment and behavior,”Chalfant said in a statement dated April 10 and made public Tuesday (April 16). Chalfant, who is married, said that”a number of years ago”he began an extra-marital affair with an unmarried, adult woman.”That relationship ended a few years ago, but the matter has been brought to the attention”of Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning, Chalfant’s statement said. The other person in the affair has requested anonymity and was identified by the diocese only as an unmarried, adult woman who is not employed by the church. On Tuesday, the diocese’s Standing Committee-three lay people and three clergy who constitute a chief advisory body to the bishop and the ecclesiastical authority in the absence of a bishop-told a meeting of diocesan priests that Chalfant had caused”grave damage to the bishop’s relationship with the diocese.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service American Jewish Committee finds little anti-Semitism in Russia (RNS)-Anti-Semitism in Russia is relatively low compared to hostility toward other groups, according to a survey released Tuesday (April 16) by the American Jewish Committee. The study, entitled”Current Russian Attitudes Toward Jews and the Holocaust,”measured respondents’ attitudes toward Jews and knowledge and remembrance of the Holocaust. Of the 1,581 people questioned during January and February, 67 percent said it”wouldn’t matter”if they had Jews as neighbors, while 17 percent said they would”prefer not”to have them as neighbors. When asked if they would vote for an anti-Semitic political candidate, 76 percent said they would not while 5 percent said they would.

NEWS FEATURE: Christian music industry sounds note of disappointment

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-Three years ago, leaders in the growing Christian music industry boldly predicted that gospel would follow in the bootsteps of country, emerging from the shadows to become a major pop genre. But today, gospel still accounts for only 3 percent of America’s $12 billion music industry, just slightly ahead of classical music. Next Thursday’s 27th annual Dove Awards broadcast is the Gospel Music Association’s yearly chance to parade contemporary Christian recording artists like Michael W. Smith, dc Talk and BeBe and CeCe Winans before a nationwide television audience. The event (April 25), staged at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House, airs at 8 p.m. Central Time on the Family Channel, Faith & Values Channel and the Family Net TV networks.

TOP STORY: RELIGION AND POLITICS: Liberals look to spirit to invigorate their movement

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON (RNS)-Torie Osborn, former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Janet Winter, a member of the Bruderhof sect, a theologically conservative communal Christian group, lead lives that appear galaxies apart. Yet there they both were, Osborn in jeans and Winter wearing an ankle-length skirt and head scarf, agreeing on the need for a new political ethos based on love and respect-and above all, an openness to the religious dimension of public-policy decisions.”I believe in one man, one woman for life,”said Winter, who lives in a 400-member Bruderhof community in Rifton, N.Y.”But I don’t go around bashing or condemning those who don’t. We need to look beyond our differences to find common ground if we are to build a society based on love.” Osborn and Winter were among more than 1,500 people who met for three days in Washington this week to forge a”progressive”religious organization they hope will ultimately counter the political influence of the Religious Right.

COMMENTARY: Wisdom means learning to number our days

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) (RNS)-They buried my friend Andrea the other day, and part of my youth went with her. Hers is the first death of a high school classmate that I have experienced. Actually, it is inappropriate to speak of myself as her friend.

NEWS STORY: Catholic prelates rip `shameful’ Clinton abortion-bill veto

c. 1996 Religion News Service (RNS)-In a strongly worded letter, American cardinals and the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned President Clinton’s recent veto of a proposed law banning a controversial late-term abortion procedure. “Your veto of this bill is beyond comprehension for those who hold human life sacred,” they said. The Catholic leaders, who said their writing in unison was “virtually unprecedented,” vowed to continue to educate people about the procedure and to urge Congress to override Clinton’s “shameful veto.” The two-page letter was sent to the White House today (April 16). House Republicans have delayed a vote on overriding the veto, which had been expected on Thursday (April 18).