TOP STORY: PBS GETS RELIGION: Public TV’s fall lineup is heavy on God and virtue

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Children’s cartoons about virtue. A 10-part series on the Book of Genesis, complete with a companion book and discussions of the subject in communities across America. A documentary on the historic roots of the religious right. These three series to air in Public Broadcasting Service markets this fall continue a trend that began earlier this year with two major PBS series on the world’s religions and the search for spirituality in America.

TOP STORY: Common ground for Buddhists and Catholics abloom with new ideas

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.”

COMMENTARY: Violence and vulnerability remain our constant companions

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.) FRUITLAND, Tenn. _ I recently visited the Salem Baptist Church in rural Fruitland, Tenn., as part of an interreligious delegation that was assembled by the National Council of Churches. Salem Baptist is one of the many black churches burned to the ground this year. We were there to present Salem’s minister with checks totaling $125,000 to be used for the church’s reconstruction.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Blockbuster Music forms partnership to promote Christian music (RNS) Blockbuster Music has formed a partnership with McSpadden-Smith Music, a Nashville-based entertainment company, to promote contemporary Christian music in Blockbuster’s stores nationwide.”This is a new and exciting opportunity for contemporary Christian music record labels,”Ron Smith, a partner in McSpadden-Smith, told The CCM Update, a weekly trade publication about the genre.”Blockbuster Music will definitely become a competitive force in boosting sales in the mainstream market.” Marketing efforts will include organizing contemporary Christian music sections in Blockbuster’s more than 500 stores across the country. There also will be promotional campaigns and artist performances at retail outlets. Blockbuster Music, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently started selling CCM Magazine, a monthly trade publication, in its stores.

What do American Jews believe in? Often, it’s not Judaism

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Participating in a panel discussion in Cleveland on the ethical and legal implications of new genetic tests to predict breast cancer in Jewish women, Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff fielded a rude question. A law professor in the audience stood up and announced that she was confused. She bluntly said she failed to see what Dorff could contribute to the scholarly conversations. The rabbi, a professor of philosophy in Los Angeles, gently observed that when it comes to life-and-death matters, even Jews with the most tenuous connection to their faith become interested in its teachings.

COMMENTARY: Religious extremists threaten archaeology in Israel

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Hershel Shanks is founder and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and author, most recently, of”Jerusalem, An Archaeological Biography,”published by Random House.) (UNDATED) A little-noticed result of the recent elections in Israel, which significantly strengthened the religious parties’ representation in the Israeli parliament, involves a serious threat to archaeology in a country where archaeology is often said to be the national pastime. A clause in the coalition agreement that brought the religious parties into Benjamin Netanyahu’s government provides that archaeological excavations will be effectively stopped when graves are encountered. The drive to prevent the excavation of graves is spearheaded by an ultra-Orthodox group known as Atra Kadisha, the Committee for the Preservation of Gravesites. Its leaders are Satmar Hasidim, who do not recognize the legitimacy of the secular state of Israel.

MEDIA STORY: HOLLYWOOD AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT: A cinematic battle between the reprehensible and the

c. 1996 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It’s been a thrilling, chilling blockbuster movie season this summer, as films like “Twister,” “The Rock,” and “Independence Day” played to packed theaters and toyed with Americans’ fears about attacks from the violence of nature, well-armed terrorists, and space aliens. But the latest high-octane action-adventure film exposes a threat some might see as even more sinister: the religious right. “Escape from L.A.” is a klunky, campy cross between “Blade Runner” and “A Fistful of Dollars.” Kurt Russell stars as Snake Plissken, an amoral renegade who’s the only man brave enough to venture into an earthquake-ravaged City of Angels. The year is 2013, and Los Angeles has become a dumping ground for citizens found guilty of committing moral crimes against a new, theocratic and totalitarian America.

TOP STORY: CLINTON AND THE RELIGIOUS LEFT: Welfare bill may lead many on `religious left’ to s

c. 1996 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ For Hillary Clinton, it takes a village to raise a child. But for some religious advocates of the poor, it takes a president to protect the most vulnerable among them _ and Bill Clinton has failed the test. As the Democrats gather in Chicago Monday (Aug. 26) to nominate Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for a second term, much of the liberal religious community, which lobbied Clinton hard on the welfare bill, is still seething with anger and a sense of betrayal over the president’s decision to sign the Republican-crafted measure that will end a 60-year-old national commitment to a cash safety net for poor children.

COMMENTARY: Religious extremists threaten archaeology in Israel

c. 1996 Religion News Service (Hershel Shanks is founder and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and author, most recently, of”Jerusalem, An Archaeological Biography,”published by Random House.) (UNDATED) A little-noticed result of the recent elections in Israel, which significantly strengthened the religious parties’ representation in the Israeli parliament, involves a serious threat to archaeology in a country where archaeology is often said to be the national pastime. A clause in the coalition agreement that brought the religious parties into Benjamin Netanyahu’s government provides that archaeological excavations will be effectively stopped when graves are encountered. The drive to prevent the excavation of graves is spearheaded by an ultra-Orthodox group known as Atra Kadisha, the Committee for the Preservation of Gravesites. Its leaders are Satmar Hasidim, who do not recognize the legitimacy of the secular state of Israel.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Kuwaiti Christian convicted of apostasy flees to U.S. (RNS) Hussein Qambar Ali, a Christian convert from Islam who was convicted of apostasy in Kuwait earlier this year, fled to the United States Saturday (Aug. 17) and is deciding whether to seek religious asylum here. Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Solidarity International-USA (CSI), a human-rights group based in Front Royal, Va., confirmed that his group helped Hussein obtain the necessary visa and make arrangements to leave Kuwait. CSI representatives took Hussein, who has taken the Christian name Robert, to an undisclosed location after his arrival Saturday.”My organization basically responded to a plea for help,”Jacobson said.”Our organization helps persecuted Christians, and we helped get Robert out of harm’s way.”

COMMENTARY: A word in favor of friendship _ and against gay marriage

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) Friendships come in many forms. Some people consider their teachers, partners or spouses to be their best friends. In the Bible, there is the friendship of Ruth and Naomi (“Wither thou goest, I will go,”Ruth told her mother-in-law.”If aught but death part thee and me.”) In friendship there is trust, altruism and the sharing and caring for one another. These qualities also are found in marriage.

TOP STORY: A POLITICAL NUN: Sole nun in South Africa’s Parliament fights to vote her conscienc

c. 1996 Religion News Service EDENVALE, South Africa _ The mere mention of the year she spent in solitary confinement in an apartheid-era prison makes Sister Bernard Ncube’s lively eyes go blank and sends her gazing into a spiritual and psychological wilderness. The memory of that 1987 experience, she tells a visitor, always launches her into the abyss. Ncube, 61, who today holds the distinction of being the only Roman Catholic nun serving in the South African Parliament, can only liken its effect to what an animal must feel when confined in a cage.”You see that animal behind the bars but his eyes do not really have life,”she said in an interview in her offices in this Johannesburg suburb.”You may think the animal sees you but he is looking past you to another time and place, he has a hollow spirit and a mind that is somewhere else. That was how I was in that cell.

Born-again baseball star battles cancer with strong will

c. 1996 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ The transaction notice moved May 10 on the news wire: “Los Angeles Dodgers CF Brett Butler will miss the remainder of the season.” A possibility, perhaps. But Brett Butler has spent most of his life proving people wrong, and he loves this kind of stuff. So it’s dangerous to hint he might not play again this season. Butler, who underwent surgery for throat cancer May 21 followed by radiation therapy, is straining at the end of a green elastic contraption while Mackie Shilstone, the director of the Sports Performance Program at Kenner Regional Medical Center here, tosses tennis balls at him.

TOP STORY: THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH Assignment Africa: AME bishops travel far from hom

c. 1996 Religion News Service (WASHINGTON) On his last Sunday as pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop William P. DeVeaux baptized a baby, showed off his church’s basement expansion and preached a poignant sermon of farewell.”If God loves you and you understand that, it will be all right,”he assured his congregation.”It’s love that takes you through a transition. It’s love that takes you through new bishops and new pastors.” DeVeaux, 55, delivered that advice, it seemed, not only to his congregants but also to himself. He was preaching about his own turning point from serving as pastor of an influential congregation in the nation’s capital to being elected a bishop of his denomination.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service NCC workers protest layoffs, subcontracting work (RNS) Concerned about staff layoffs and the subcontracting of work to outside firms, the employees’ union at the National Council of Churches, the ecumenical agency of 33 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, has asked for outside arbitration. On Aug. 8, the NCC, headquartered in New York City, announced it was eliminating 11 jobs in its administrative and financial services department, the first in a set of reductions it said would save more than $500,000 a year in administrative costs.”The money saved will be used by the council’s program units for their mission budgets,”said the Rev. Clifford Droke, the NCC’s chief financial officer.”The result is better stewardship of the resources entrusted to us by our donors.” Eight of the positions slated to be eliminated are”appointed,”or hourly workers covered by the union and three are”elected,”or non-union jobs.