TOP STORY: RELIGION IN AMERICA: Mormon families follow in the footsteps of their forebears

c. 1996 Religion News Service NAUVOO, Ill. (RNS)-Tom and Linda Whitaker of Midway, Utah, and five of their six children have set forth on the same journey their beleaguered Mormon ancestors took 150 years ago, as they fled religious persecution and went searching for a promised land. At the break of dawn Monday (June 17), they harnessed two horses to a covered wagon, ferried across the Mississippi, and began a three-week trek across Iowa to a place the Mormons called Winter Quarters. The Whitaker family hopes to learn teamwork, sacrifice and creative problem-solving while forgoing 20th-century pleasures.

NEWS STORY: Euthanasia becoming key policy item for U.S. Catholic bishops

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are stepping up their campaign against euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow states to ban the practice and urging Congress to take action. Meeting this week in Portland, Ore., the first state to pass legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the bishops underscored their opposition to euthanasia and the significance of their campaign against the efforts to legalize it.”The initiative held in this state of Oregon, which by a narrow margin legalized physician-assisted suicide, is a clear instance in which a democratic process failed to respect fundamental values, for which reason we continue vigorously to oppose its implementation,”Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the National Conference of Bishops, said Thursday (June 20) in his opening address to the group’s three-day spring meeting. On Wednesday (June 19), the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) announced it had filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to hear and reverse a 2nd Circuit Court ruling on assisted suicide.

NEWS STORY: Euthanasia becoming key policy item for U.S. Catholic bishops

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are stepping up their campaign against euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow states to ban the practice and urging Congress to take action. Meeting this week in Portland, Ore., the first state to pass legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the bishops underscored their opposition to euthanasia and the significance of their campaign against the efforts to legalize it.”The initiative held in this state of Oregon, which by a narrow margin legalized physician-assisted suicide, is a clear instance in which a democratic process failed to respect fundamental values, for which reason we continue vigorously to oppose its implementation,”Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the National Conference of Bishops, said Thursday (June 20) in his opening address to the group’s three-day spring meeting. On Wednesday (June 19), the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) announced it had filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to hear and reverse a 2nd Circuit Court ruling on assisted suicide.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Australian court declines to stop euthanasia law, but will hold hearings (UNDATED) _ An Australian court has denied a request from opponents of the Northern Territory’s euthanasia law to prevent the legislation from taking effect on July 1, but has agreed to hear their case challenging the measure. A clergyman and a physician, representing groups opposing the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, had requested the law be set aside until the conclusion of their legal challenge. The Northern Territory Supreme Court on Friday (June 21) declined to grant a temporary injunction, but decided to begin a hearing prior to the time people could put the new law into practice, Reuters reported. Although the hearing is scheduled to begin on the day the law goes into effect, the legislation includes a seven-day”cooling-off”period for assisted suicide requests.

NEWS STORY: Bishops criticize `punitive’ immigration bills

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops Friday denounced proposed immigration legislation as”punitive,”saying it would target the poor and return refugees seeking political asylum back to their oppressors and possible death. In a statement adopted Friday (June 21) on the second day of the three-day spring meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), the bishops said the legislation”runs counter both to Christian teaching and the proud tradition of this nation of immigrants.” The statement, approved unanimously by the approximately 250 bishops attending the meeting, was issued by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the NCCB and its social policy arm, the U.S. Catholic Conference.

NEWS STORY: Bishops criticize `punitive’ immigration bills

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops Friday denounced proposed immigration legislation as”punitive,”saying it would target the poor and return refugees seeking political asylum back to their oppressors and possible death. In a statement adopted Friday (June 21) on the second day of the three-day spring meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), the bishops said the legislation”runs counter both to Christian teaching and the proud tradition of this nation of immigrants.” The statement, approved unanimously by the approximately 250 bishops attending the meeting, was issued by Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland, president of the NCCB and its social policy arm, the U.S. Catholic Conference.

NEWS STORY: Cult Awareness Network files under Chapter 7 of bankruptcy code

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) _ Plagued by numerous lawsuits from religious groups, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) filed under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code Thursday (June 21) after the organization’s attempts to reorganize were denied by a federal bankruptcy judge, its executive director said. Cynthia Kisser, who runs the network from its offices in the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., said she was not sure if the network would shut down.”I won’t know until I get instruction from the Chapter 7 trustee’s office,”she said.”How we will operate or if we will continue to operate in the short term, I don’t know.” Since it was established in 1974, the Cult Awareness Network has become known for its campaigns against groups it considers to be harmful cults; has provided information to families concerned about loved ones who have joined such groups; and operated support networks for former cult members. Critics have often questioned the network’s tactics, particularly its relationship to professional”deprogrammers,”who use forceful methods to persuade an individual to leave a cult. The Cult Awareness Network has locked horns with such groups as the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology and followers of fringe political leader Lyndon LaRouche.

NEWS STORY: Cult Awareness Network files under Chapter 7 of bankruptcy code

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) _ Plagued by numerous lawsuits from religious groups, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) filed under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code Thursday (June 21) after the organization’s attempts to reorganize were denied by a federal bankruptcy judge, its executive director said. Cynthia Kisser, who runs the network from its offices in the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Ill., said she was not sure if the network would shut down.”I won’t know until I get instruction from the Chapter 7 trustee’s office,”she said.”How we will operate or if we will continue to operate in the short term, I don’t know.” Since it was established in 1974, the Cult Awareness Network has become known for its campaigns against groups it considers to be harmful cults; has provided information to families concerned about loved ones who have joined such groups; and operated support networks for former cult members. Critics have often questioned the network’s tactics, particularly its relationship to professional”deprogrammers,”who use forceful methods to persuade an individual to leave a cult. The Cult Awareness Network has locked horns with such groups as the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology and followers of fringe political leader Lyndon LaRouche.

NEWS STORY: Catholic bishops vote to ask Vatican to loosen rules on cremation

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Responding to the growing American funeral practice of cremation, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops Friday (June 21) voted to ask the Vatican to allow Roman Catholic parishes to bring cremated remains into a church for the funeral Mass. The vote was 179-20 with one abstention. The bishops’ action does not change church policy in the United States.

NEWS STORY: Catholic bishops vote to ask Vatican to loosen rules on cremation

c. 1996 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Responding to the growing American funeral practice of cremation, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops Friday (June 21) voted to ask the Vatican to allow Roman Catholic parishes to bring cremated remains into a church for the funeral Mass. The vote was 179-20 with one abstention. The bishops’ action does not change church policy in the United States.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Foundations offer aid to help rebuild burned black churches (RNS)-More than $3 million in grants and pledges has been donated to a National Council of Churches fund designed to aid the more than 40 predominantly black churches that have been damaged or destroyed in the recent rash of suspicious fires. At a New York news conference Thursday (June 20), the NCC’s Burned Churches Fund announced it had received $1.7 million in grants from seven foundations working together, The seven foundations are the Annenberg, Ford, W.K. Kellogg, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur, Charles Stewart Mott and Rockefeller foundations and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Another $1 million was received from the Andreas Foundation, as well as $500,000 from NCC member denominations. In addition, the Enterprise Foundation, acting separately, said it would provide $2 million in pre-construction loans, plus construction technical assistance and financial planning.”We’re sensing a real outpouring of support from peoples’ hearts all across the nation,”said NCC spokeswoman Carol J. Fouke.

NEWS STORY: Catholic bishops’ meeting opens with defense of political process

c. 1996 Religion News Service (PORTLAND, Ore.)-Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, opened the bishops’ annual spring meeting Thursday defending the church’s role in the political process and warning groups seeking to mobilize the Catholic vote that they must have respect for the social-justice principles of the church.”Any individual or groups seeking to organize our Catholic people for political activity must respect the fundamental criteria for organizations of the faithful”as described in papal teaching, Pilla said.”The most pertinent of these criteria to our discussion call for such organizations to have a commitment to a society, which in light of the church’s social doctrine, places it at the service of the total dignity of the person,”Pilla said.”Therefore, associations of lay faithful must be become fruitful outlets for participation and solidarity in bringing about conditions that are more just and loving within society.” Pilla did not name any specific groups but the conservative Christian Coalition has been the most prominent political organization trying to organize Catholics. It has formed the Catholic Alliance, a subsidiary of the political action group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson in an effort to organize conservative Catholics. The coalition is closely aligned with the Republican party.

NEWS STORY: Catholic bishops’ meeting opens with defense of political process

c. 1996 Religion News Service (PORTLAND, Ore.)-Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, opened the bishops’ annual spring meeting Thursday defending the church’s role in the political process and warning groups seeking to mobilize the Catholic vote that they must have respect for the social-justice principles of the church.”Any individual or groups seeking to organize our Catholic people for political activity must respect the fundamental criteria for organizations of the faithful”as described in papal teaching, Pilla said.”The most pertinent of these criteria to our discussion call for such organizations to have a commitment to a society, which in light of the church’s social doctrine, places it at the service of the total dignity of the person,”Pilla said.”Therefore, associations of lay faithful must be become fruitful outlets for participation and solidarity in bringing about conditions that are more just and loving within society.” Pilla did not name any specific groups but the conservative Christian Coalition has been the most prominent political organization trying to organize Catholics. It has formed the Catholic Alliance, a subsidiary of the political action group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson in an effort to organize conservative Catholics. The coalition is closely aligned with the Republican party.

NEWS STORY: Group faces uphill fight over Clinton abortion veto

c. 1996 Religion News Service ALEXANDRIA, Va.-National Right to Life Committee officials say they face an uphill educational battle in seeking to reverse President Clinton’s recent veto of a bill banning a controversial late-term abortion procedure. According to a poll announced at the group’s annual meeting Thursday (June 20), more than 70 percent of U.S. residents surveyed did not know Congress had passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act or that Clinton had vetoed the measure. The issue has been a galvanizing point for conservative leaders seeking Clinton’s ouster in this year’s presidential race. Speaking at the Right to Life convention’s opening session, Douglas Johnson, federal legislative director for the group, said 65 percent of those polled knew nothing of the abortion procedure, which is called”partial-birth abortion”by its critics because the fetus is partially delivered before the abortion is completed.”This is a formidable challenge for us,”Johnson said of the expected vote this summer by the House of Representatives on whether to override Clinton’s veto.

NEWS STORY: Group faces uphill fight over Clinton abortion veto

c. 1996 Religion News Service ALEXANDRIA, Va.-National Right to Life Committee officials say they face an uphill educational battle in seeking to reverse President Clinton’s recent veto of a bill banning a controversial late-term abortion procedure. According to a poll announced at the group’s annual meeting Thursday (June 20), more than 70 percent of U.S. residents surveyed did not know Congress had passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act or that Clinton had vetoed the measure. The issue has been a galvanizing point for conservative leaders seeking Clinton’s ouster in this year’s presidential race. Speaking at the Right to Life convention’s opening session, Douglas Johnson, federal legislative director for the group, said 65 percent of those polled knew nothing of the abortion procedure, which is called”partial-birth abortion”by its critics because the fetus is partially delivered before the abortion is completed.”This is a formidable challenge for us,”Johnson said of the expected vote this summer by the House of Representatives on whether to override Clinton’s veto.