c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ President Clinton’s decision to again deny clemency to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard surprised and angered American Jewish leaders Friday (July 26), who were meeting with Clinton even as spokesman Mike McCurry was announcing the decision to reporters elsewhere on the White House grounds. Clinton never mentioned his decision to the Jewish leaders _ despite the fact that the case of the former civilian Naval intelligence officer is close to the hearts of many in the Jewish community. Pollard is serving a life sentence for providing U.S. military secrets to Israel.”He should have told us,”said a tight-lipped Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and one of three dozen Jewish leaders who met with Clinton at the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House.”I’m very disappointed by this,”added Tommy Baer, president of B’nai B’rith International.”The timing is very strange.” Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to spying for Israel and received a life sentence, of which he has served almost ten years.
c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) (UNDATED) For far too long, college and university courses about Jews, blacks, women, Hispanics and American Indians were systemically excluded from the academic scene. While members of these communities have often been a visible presence as students, courses about their unique histories, religions, cultures, and languages were virtually nonexistent. Critics complained that too much academic attention was given to the writings and exploits of dead white men, most of whom were Christian. What about the other groups and peoples who have contributed so much to our civilization?
c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Republicans seem sure to emerge from the upcoming San Diego convention with their party’s tough anti-abortion stand intact, including the call for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw virtually all abortions. That’s because Bob Dole _ no matter how much he may want to broaden his support among pro-abortion rights Republican voters _ cannot afford to alienate his party’s core constituency of anti-abortion, religious conservatives and still have any hope of capturing the White House in November. Religious right activists have already warned they might dampen their support for the presumptive GOP presidential candidate if he tampers with the amendment language. Some have threatened to storm out of the convention hall before a nationwide TV audience.
c. 1996 Religion News Service World Council of Churches urges international action on Burundi (RNS) A top World Council of Churches official Thursday (July 25) called on the United Nations, the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to”speed up their efforts to provide the protection for the most vulnerable people”in Burundi and Rwanda and to enforce a cease-fire and negotiated solution to the ethnic warfare in the region.”The failure to take effective steps against the perpetrators of horrendous crimes in the Great Lakes region (of Africa) contributes to the violence,”said the Rev. Michael Davies, speaking on behalf of the Rev. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the 330-denomination organization. The statement, issued in response to the massacre of an estimated 300 persons in the Bugendana refugee camp in the Gitega region of Burundi, came just hours before reports that the Tutsi-led army overthrew Burundi’s government and named former Tutsi military leader Pierre Buyoya to replace President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, a Hutu. On Wednesday (July 24), Ntibantunganya, apparently fearing the coup attempt, took refuge in the home of U.S. Ambassador Morris Hughes. Although spared the large-scale genocide that enveloped neighboring Rwanda in 1994 following the downing of an airplane carrying the presidents of both Burundi and Rwanda, on-going violence has claimed an estimated 30 lives a day over the past two years.
c. 1996 Religion News Service POTSDAM, Germany _ High school students beginning a new academic year here this fall will be studying ethics and philosophy in a controversial course that has become a battleground between secularists and the nation’s established churches. The Evangelical Church of Germany and the Roman Catholic Church have joined forces with the Christian Democratic Union, the nation’s ruling conservative party, to take the state of Brandenburg _ once part of the former German Democratic Republic _ to the country’s highest court for its plan to make mandatory a nondenominational course in values, ethics and religion for high-school students between the ages of 12 and 16. The German federal constitutional court will review the case in September. A 1949 German federal law requires all children to attend religion classes until the age of 15, at which point they can opt out freely.
c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Olympic competitions have always been a platform to display the pride and ambitions of a nation. As the games continue this week in Atlanta, a photo exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum looks back to the Olympic games of 60 years ago in Berlin, when the international sports competition put the ambitions of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich on display. Long before Hitler rose to power in Germany, the International Olympic Committee designated Berlin as the site of the 1936 games. In”The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936,”the museum explores the drama that unfolded between 1933 and 1936, as the world slowly became aware of the Third Reich’s racist and anti-Semitic policies.
c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The race had been won and the radiant runner, at the peak of his power and prowess, sprinted into the sacred space before an ancient altar of Zeus to claim his prize _ not gold, but a crown of olive branches freshly gathered from a holy grove believed to be the garden of the gods. Legend has it that this Greek, known as Koroibos, was the original hero of the first Olympic games held in 776 B.C., the beginning of a tradition of athleticism and piety that endured for 1,000 years. Now, a century after the ancient games were revived, this homage to human perfection, deity and the state once again dominates the days of summer. The modern take on the ancient Olympic games is that they represented a time when the warring Greek city-states put down their arms to engage in friendly competition, a time when the highest ideals of peace, brotherhood and fair play prevailed.
c. 1996 Religion News Service Vatican suggests”prenatal adoption”as way to save frozen embryos (RNS) A top Vatican ethicist suggested Tuesday (July 23) that married women could volunteer to bring to term some 2,500 frozen embryos in Britain that are slated to be destroyed. The suggestion, in an article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, is the latest salvo in a campaign being waged by the church against the destruction of the British embryos that began earlier this month when British newspapers reported that fertility clinics were planning to destroy 2,500 embryos unclaimed by the parents who created them. Under British law, clinics may not preserve the embryos for more than five years. The embryos are the result of in vitro fertilization, in which several eggs are fertilized in a test tube for implantation in a woman’s uterus one to four days later.
c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Depending on their point of view, people regard the idea of amending the Constitution to promote and protect religious freedom as either absolutely necessary or utter nonsense; a saving grace for a godless nation or a constitutional nightmare. But in the House of Representatives, the sudden reappearance of the”religious freedom”amendment and its legislative”fast track”status is more about politics than piety. The measure languished in legislative limbo for more than seven months, stalled by intra-mural bickering among legislators over the wording of the amendment and by the jockeying of conservative religious groups favoring one legislator’s version over another. But House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) finally brought forward his own version of how to improve the Constitution to ensure”religious freedom.”
c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The National Council of Churches will distribute nearly $1 million of the $8.3 million it has collected so far to nine congregations in its first round of grants to help predominantly African-American congregations that have been damaged by fires.”It’s a joy to be able to provide resources that churches, foundations and donors have given,”said the Rev. Albert Pennybacker, the council’s associate general secretary for public policy.”The response of the (burned) churches is one of great appreciation and a great determination to move forward in ministry strengthened by these gifts.” The ecumenical group, with 33 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations, has been working to raise awareness about racial issues and offer support to congregations they believe have been the victims of racial violence. Four churches will be able to begin rebuilding with grants totaling $600,000. They are Butler Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Orangeburg, S.C.; New Hope Baptist Church, Seattle; Gays Hill Baptist Church, Millen, Ga.; and St.
c. 1996 Religion News Service TRAPPIST, Ky. _ In search of common ground between the Buddhist and Catholic traditions of prayer and meditation, monks, nuns and religious scholars have come together at a monastery here in the rolling hills of rural Kentucky. The spiritual terrain they are exploring is fertile indeed, seeded with everything from the Dalai Lama’s ideas about balancing prayer and social action to a Japanese Buddhist’s likening of the crucifix to a”koan,”the mystical riddle used in Zen training.”It is so important to see people can come to the same insights from different traditions,”said Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who is moderating the week-long conference.”It was so refreshing to see the Buddhists push through to insights we would never credit them with. The ground we share gets wider and wider and wider.”
c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Eli Hecht is vice president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He is the director of Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, Calif., and has been involved in counseling and outreach programs for more than 25 years.) (UNDATED) With all the uproar on abortion in the political arena, Americans may wonder what the Jewish stand is on this issue. Are rabbis for abortion rights or against them? With so much being debated, it’s hard to take a side.
c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) American jazz musician Chick Corea has been the subject of bans and boycotts in Germany because of his membership in the Church of Scientology, the controversial group that is currently an object of public scorn in Germany. Corea, an internationally acclaimed musician who has won several Grammy awards, has been blacklisted in the state of Bavaria and has been the target of a politician-led boycott. The musician said promoters are refusing to book him and newspapers are refusing to interview him. Corea said he does not proselytize at concerts or imbue his melodies with secret messages, as some German politicians have charged.”All I know is it feels nuts,”Corea said Saturday (July 20) in an interview from Marseille, France, where he was touring.”It’s just basically a kind of scene that the German government seems to have with minority groups and especially Scientology.”
c. 1996 Religion News Service Former Episcopal treasurer Ellen F. Cooke to appeal prison sentence (RNS) Ellen F. Cooke, the former national treasurer of the Episcopal Church, will appeal her five year prison sentence for embezzling more than $2 million from the denomination, her attorney said Monday (July 22). On July 10, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry of the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., sentenced Cooke, 52, to five years in prison on charges of tax evasion and transporting stolen money across state lines.”This defendant deliberately and meticulously, with knowledge then and now, looted the national church over a period of years for one reason and one reason only: to live the life of someone she was not,”Barry said during sentencing. Cooke earlier had pleaded guilty to stealing $1.2 million from the denomination during the eight years she served as national treasurer. Church officials put the sum at $2.2 million.
c. 1996 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO _ A federal appeals court has ruled that the City of Beverly Hills violated the Constitution by allowing a Hasidic Jewish group to erect a Hanukkah display in a public park while also preventing two other groups from setting up their religious displays. The ruling could force local governments to enact formal guidelines for religious displays, rather than dealing with them on an ad hoc basis, as is now generally the case. In Beverly Hills, the display at issue was a menorah _ a candelabra associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Ever since 1986, a menorah 27-feet tall, 24-feet wide and weighing nearly three tons has been erected in a park across from Beverly Hills City Hall during the Hanukkah holiday _ which generally coincides with the Christmas season.