POLITICAL STORY: MUSLIM VOTERS: For Muslim voters in presidential race, party lines are nothing sacr

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Ask Earl El-Amin about his choice for president and he’s quick to say that party labels have little to do with his selection process.”I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a Muslim. That means if the candidate is aligned with my religious beliefs, I vote for them,”said El-Amin, a Baltimore resident who works on juvenile justice issues for Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat. Because his Muslim religious beliefs cut across party lines and the liberal-conservative divide, El-Amin said choosing a candidate can be tough.

Best-selling religion books

(Editor’s note: This list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers within the month of June. Copyright 1996 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service. Check RNS Online for the list in a graphic format.) HARDCOVER 1. The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris.

FEC sues Christian Coalition for election law violations

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Federal Election Commission (FEC) filed suit Tuesday (July 30) against the Christian Coalition, accusing the political organization of breaking the law by giving improper aid to Republican candidates for office. Citing examples of the coalition’s work with prominent Republican candidates such as former President George Bush, former U.S. Senate candidate Oliver North and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the commission alleged that the coalition spent money on voter guides and other get-out-the-vote efforts in conjunction with particular candidates’ campaigns.”During the campaign periods prior to the 1990, 1992 and 1994 federal elections, Christian Coalition made expenditures, directly from its corporate treasury and/or through its subordinate state affiliates to influence the election of candidates for federal office,”according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The FEC is an independent agency, made up of three Republican and three Democratic commissioners, which oversees compliance with federal election laws. In order for the complaint to be filed, at least one Republican would have had to have voted with the Democrats.

TOP STORY:An American-born archbishop signals new era for Orthodox church

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In an historic move Tuesday (July 30) that signals a new era for Orthodox Christians in the West, leaders of the Orthodox Church reached into the ranks of American-born prelates and elected an Ohio native, Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy, to head the newly created Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The 51-year-old Spyridon succeeds Archbishop Iakovos, who had ruled the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America for 37 years. Iakovos’ reluctant resignation, submitted on orders from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, took effect Monday (July 29) on his 85th birthday. Almost simultaneously in Istanbul, a 12-member Holy Synod, headed by Bartholomew, the pre-eminent leader of the Orthodox Church, chose Spyridon as Archbishop of America.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Praise for broadcasters’ pledge on children’s television (RNS) Advocates of better television programming for children Tuesday (July 30) generally voiced support for the agreement President Clinton wrung from broadcasters to provide three hours a week of children’s educational broadcasting. The compromise pact, which came out of a White House meeting Monday (July 29) between Clinton, broadcast executives and media experts, is likely to be made a part of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules governing the broadcast industry.”Common sense tells us kids imitate what they see around them in the adult world,”said Roman Catholic nun Elizabeth Thoman, executive director of the Center for Media Literacy, a non-profit educational group in Los Angeles, at the beginning of the meeting.”Kids see a lot of television. It’s not enough to have a `V’ chip to tune out the negative. What about turning on the positive?”

BODY & SOUL: Winning isn’t necessarily good for the soul

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Body & Soul is a regular column exploring the interplay between spirituality and psychology. Pythia Peay is the author of”Putting America on the Couch,”to be published by Riverhead Books in 1997.) (UNDATED) Athletic excellence never fails to inspire awe. Everyone loves a winner, whether it’s the image of an ancient Olympic runner racing to victory, or U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug’s recent vault to victory in Atlanta. Only a privileged few ever are able to go for Olympic gold.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Catholic bishops call for welfare veto (RNS) U.S. Roman Catholic bishops Friday (July 26) called on President Clinton to veto welfare overhaul legislation, saying that, “Sadly, this legislation falls far short of the U.S. bishops’ criteria for reform.” On Tuesday (July 23), the Senate passed its version of welfare reform. The bill, the most sweeping effort to change the nation’s social welfare system since the New Deal, would end the 60-year federal guarantee of cash assistance for the nation’s poorest children and gives states wide power over shaping their own programs of aid to the poor and needy. Last week, the House passed an even more stringent measure. Roman Catholic, Jewish and mainline Protestant groups, while insisting they support “true” welfare reform, have fought the current Republican-crafted measure every inch of the way, arguing that fallout from the bill would cast more people into poverty.

NEWS FEATURE: AME ZION CHURCH: AME Zion bishops address `forces of good and evil’

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, one of the nation’s oldest African-American denominations, meeting here for its quadrennial conference, weighed in on issues from Congress’ conservative political agenda to same-sex marriages and the role of women in their church. The bishops’ message, read Thursday (July 25) to about 1,000 conference delegates and visitors, is the definitive statement of policy and direction for the denomination, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. “The cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil continue in life-and-death combat and the church is affected by it,” the bishops stated. Challenges to the church, they said, include recent moves in Congress to overhaul the welfare system, attempts to dismantle affirmative action programs and the rash of burnings of black churches.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Buddhist monk urges end to `land mines of the heart’ (RNS) A Cambodian Buddhist monk and a prominent Lutheran pastor joined Monday (July 29) in calling for a total ban on the production, export and use of anti-personnel land mines.”We come here to pray for peace and a world free of land mines,”the Ven. Maha Ghosananda, a 79-year-old Buddhist monk known as the”Gandhi of Cambodia,”told a rally at Washington’s Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. But first, he told the demonstration of about 100 people,”the land mines in the heart”_ hatred, greed and ignorance _”must be removed before peacemaking can begin in the world.” Ghosananda was joined by the Rev. Paul Wee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who served as a United Nations elections monitor in South Africa and is an expert in conflict resolution.

TOP STORY: PASTORS WHO PREY: A new breed of predatory preachers in Zaire

c. 1996 Religion News Service KINTAMBO, Zaire _ A hymn-singing crowd of some 3,000 spills into the dusty streets around a former brothel that is now an Assemblies of God church in this suburb of Zaire’s capital city of Kinshasa. Across the main highway, another Pentecostal congregation packs the abandoned auditorium of an agricultural college; a few streets away, a cluster of Baptists meet in someone’s backyard. In Kinshasa, the faithful attend services held everywhere from storefront churches to sports stadiums. In Zaire, a free-form brand of Christianity is booming. Religious revival here is enthusiastic and varied, but critics say many of the nation’s newest preachers are opportunists who prey on the spiritually hungry.”It is almost unbelievable the growth the church is experiencing here,”said the Rev. Diafwila Mbwangi, of the Church of Christ of Zaire, the government-recognized organization to which all Protestant churches in the country belong.”We have something like 100,000 new people coming to evangelical churches alone every month in Zaire, while every week we have a new church opening up in Kinshasa,”said Mbwangi.”We have far too many people becoming evangelists these days because it is about the best business in Zaire to be involved in.”

COMMENTARY: Striking a balance between security and freedom

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Charles W. Colson, former special counsel to Richard Nixon, served a prison term for his role in the Watergate scandal. He now heads Prison Fellowship International, an evangelical Christian ministry to the imprisoned and their families. Contact Colson via e-mail at 71421.1551(AT)compuserve.com.) (UNDATED) President Clinton is fighting crime by calling for curfews and an unprecedented use of wiretaps. Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole wants to build more prisons, appoint tougher judges, and, it appears, drop his promise to lift the ban on assault weapons.

NEWS STORY: Hillary urges AME Zion delegates to see Jesus in every child

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday (July 29) urged members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to see the face of Jesus in every child. Mrs. Clinton addressed a packed hotel ballroom, where about 1,500 delegates and visitors were attending the 1.7 million-member denomination’s quadrennial meeting, which ends Aug. 2. In a speech focused on the importance of supporting children and families, she referred to the Gospel account of Jesus embracing a child and saying that anyone who welcomes a child welcomes him.”That was an admonition to all of us to think of every single child as though that child has the face of Jesus,”she said.”If we could just transpose that picture and ask ourselves, `How could I deny Jesus health care or education?

Orthodox Christians say goodbye to a man for all seasons

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ The memorial service had just concluded for the Rev. James Reeb, a Boston minister beaten to death in 1965 by white toughs in Selma, Ala., who could not abide the idea of a white man defending a black man’s cause. Standing beside Martin Luther King, Jr. and other religious leaders, the bearded, black-veiled Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos seemed like a visitor from another world, another time. Around his neck Iakovos wore an enameled icon of Jesus, as if to ward off all the evil of that crucial moment in American history. An immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1950, Iakovos took his place in the tense procession to the Selma courthouse.

COMMENTARY: Rather than rage, crash victims’ kin should strive to forgive

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and a sociologist at the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center. His home page on the World Wide Web is at http://www.agreeley.com. Or contact him via e-mail at agreel(AT)aol.com.) (UNDATED) Whenever something terrible happens, media vultures descend on the families of the victims to record their grief and anger. And in the aftermath of the recent crash of the TWA jetliner, many of the bereaved have directed their rage not only at presumed terrorists, but also at the government, which is somehow made responsible for everything.

TOP STORY: REMEMBERING MERTON: A gathering of mystics remembers Merton

c. 1996 Religion News Service TRAPPIST, Ky. _ Twenty eight years ago, Thomas Merton set out from his monastery to explore the world of Asian spirituality. This week, part of that world came here to honor the late author for his pioneering work in religious reconciliation.”Thomas Merton is someone we can look up to,”said the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, at a memorial service Thursday (July 25) at the Abbey of Gethsemani.”He had the qualities of being learned, disciplined and having a good heart.” The Dalai Lama, who met Merton during the Trappist monk’s fateful 1968 trip to Asia, came here to attend the Gethsemani Encounter, a week-long conference on Buddhist and Catholic traditions of monastic prayer and meditation.