RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Controversial Islamic school gets OK from Virginia county board (RNS) Leaders of a suburban Washington, D.C., county have, over sharp objections from some residents, approved plans to build a private Islamic school for 3,500 students that would be financed by the Saudi Arabian government. The $50 million Muslim school was approved by a vote of 7 to 2 Wednesday (March 4) by the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County, Virginia. Board members said their decision was based on the fact that plans for the school meet land-use rules, The Washington Post reported. They did not heed the concerns of opponents, who thought the plan should be rejected because the Saudi Arabian government has a poor human rights record and the school might be a target for terrorists.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Cuban cardinal makes unprecedented TV appearance promoting papal visit (RNS) Cardinal Jaime Ortega has made an unprecedented appearance on Cuban television to advertise the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II. Ortega’s half-hour, prime-time appearance Tuesday (Jan. 13) fulfilled a government promise to give the Cuban Catholic Church access to state-run television to promote the papal visit, which begins Jan. 21.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service D.C. commission hears case about Boy Scouts’ anti-gay stance (RNS) The District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights has begun hearing the case of two gay men who were banned from the Boy Scouts of America, adding to the list of several cases across the country aimed at forcing the Scouts to drop its anti-gay policies. A hearing on the case opened Tuesday (Jan. 20), The Washington Post reported. The case focuses on whether the 5.6 million-member organization is a private club protected by the constitutional right to freedom of association or whether the Scouting group must adhere to the city’s Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Crowd of 100,000 gather for woman’s message from Virgin Mary (RNS) A crowd of 100,000 people gathered in Conyers, Ga., Tuesday to hear a message from the Virgin Mary given by a woman who claims to have had visits from Mary since 1990.”If you are worried about the future, put not your attention to these matters,”homemaker Nancy Fowler read from handwritten notes to a rapt audience.”The future holds no concern to those who truly seek God and love him and remain in his favor.” The woman claimed that Mary visited her earlier that day inside her small farmhouse about 30 miles east of Atlanta, the Associated Press reported. Fowler delivered messages from Mary on the 13th of each month from October 1990 to May 1994. After that date, she announced that there would be a public message from the Virgin Mary just once a year _ on Oct.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Debt-ridden University of Mobile gets accreditation reprieve (RNS) The debt-ridden University of Mobile has received a one-year extension on its accreditation probation while it works to balance its budget. The Southern Baptist-affiliated school in Alabama has been dealing with a debt of almost $4 million. Jack Allen, associate executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, said the school’s proposed plan for a balanced budget demonstrates”good cause”for an extension. Originally, the agency said in June the school had six months to prove it could improve its debt situation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton, pope top lists of makers of 1998 religion news (RNS) President Clinton and Pope John Paul II tied for the designation of Religion Newsmaker of 1998 in a survey by the Religion Newswriters Association. The two newsworthy men also ranked at the top of a list of news events by”Religion & Ethics Newsweekly,”the religion news program that airs on PBS stations nationwide. In the RNA poll, reporters who cover religion for secular media chose Clinton because he”forced us to reflect on sin, broken promises and forgiveness”and because he contributed to an exposure of national fault lines on questions of repentance and morality. An equal number of reporters chose the pope, citing his Cuban trip in January, the 20th anniversary of his pontificate, the Vatican’s statement on the Holocaust, his encyclical on”Faith and Reason”and the canonization of Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism who was killed by the Nazis.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton, others attack school prayer amendment as vote nears (RNS) With a congressional showdown nearing, President Clinton and other opponents of a controversial school prayer measure have stepped up efforts to defeat the proposed Religious Freedom Amendment pushed by Christian conservatives. The House of Representatives is expected to hold a floor vote on the amendment as soon as Thursday (June 4). The measure would guarantee individuals the right to pray or display religious objects on public property and would allow public funds to go to religious schools. Hot-button issues that would be impacted by the measure include school prayer and the display of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms. Proponents say the amendment is needed to offset decades of Supreme Court decisions they say have hampered religious expression in the public sphere and are a misapplication of the First Amendment’s church-state separation guarantees.

RNS DAILY Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton says clashes between West, Islam are not inevitable (RNS) In a United Nations address on terrorism Monday (Sept. 21), President Clinton declared it is”terribly wrong”to believe there is an”inevitable clash”between Western and Islamic values.”When it comes to terrorism, there should be no dividing line between Muslims and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, Serbs and Albanians, developed societies and emerging countries,”Clinton said at the opening of the 53rd session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.”The only dividing line is between those who practice, support or tolerate terror and those who understand that it is murder, plain and simple.” Clinton contrasted his view of Islam with that of others.”False prophets may use and abuse any religion to justify whatever political objectives they have, even cold-blooded murder,”he said.”Some may have the world believe that almighty God himself, the merciful, grants a license to kill, but that is not our understanding of Islam.” The president cited statistics about Islam, calling it”one of our fastest-growing faiths”with more than 1,200 mosques and Islamic centers and 6 million worshippers in the United States.”Even as we struggle here in America, like the United Nations, to reconcile all Americans to each other and to find greater unity in our increasing diversity, we will remain on a course of friendship and respect for the Muslim world,”Clinton said.”I agree very much with the spirit expressed by these words of Muhammad, `Rewards for prayers by people assembled together are twice those said at home.'” Clinton’s remarks were praised by officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clergy gets OK to bring concealed weapons to Kentucky churches (RNS) Ministers and church officers in Kentucky are now allowed to carry concealed weapons inside their churches thanks to a new provision in a state law. The 1996 law allows residents to carry concealed weapons with the proper permit, but had banned them from schools, government buildings and houses of worship. Exceptions were made originally for judges in their courtrooms and legislators at work. Some Kentucky pastors petitioned _ and won _ the right to be included in the exemptions.”It’s a matter of equal rights and equal protection under this gun law,”Willie Ramsey, a preacher at the Somerset Church of Christ told the Associated Press.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service CWS seeks funds to aid Iraqis with medicine (RNS) Church World Service, the relief and humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches, said Monday (Feb. 9) it is seeking $150,000 from U.S. churches and other supporters to provide Iraq with critically needed medicine and medical supplies. The effort is part of a $2 million international effort by Action by Churches Together, the joint relief agency of the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, intended to aid 120,000 Iraqi civilians over the next 10 months. The request comes as the United States is considering taking unilateral military action against Iraq and the government of President Saddam Hussein.”The humanitarian situation in Iraq is alarming and deteriorating despite the `food for oil’ agreement (Iraq has) with the United Nations,”said Stein Vilumstad, acting director of international programs for Norwegian Church Aid, who recently visited Iraq as part of a World Council of Churches delegation.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton asks prayers over”difficult”Iraq decision (RNS) President Clinton, in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, asked Thursday (Feb. 5) for the prayers of the nation as he faces”a difficult decision”in risking the lives of young Americans in the showdown with Iraq. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, joined vice President Al Gore, evangelist Billy Graham and scores of members of Congress at a downtown hotel for the 46th annual breakfast session that brings together evangelical Protestant leaders and Washington power brokers. In his brief remarks, Clinton made no mention of the controversy that has enveloped him in allegations of sexual misconduct, but did thank those in the audience and throughout the country who”in recent weeks, and, indeed, in the last five years”have kept him in their prayers or sent him letters and scriptural instruction.”And I ask that they continue,”Clinton said.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton spokesman: Lott’s views on homosexuality `backward’ (RNS) White House spokesman Mike McCurry, who Tuesday (June 16) criticized as”backward”Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s description of homosexuality as a disease, has himself drawn fire from Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, who said the Clinton administrations is taking”marching orders from the radical homosexual activists.” Lott, in remarks on”The Armstrong Williams Show,”said Monday (June 15) he believes homosexuality is a sin.”You should still love that person,”said Lott, R-Miss.”You should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol … or sex addiction …

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Denver church service features bell tolling for Oklahoma victims (RNS) A Denver church bell tolled 168 times Wednesday (Jan. 7) during a memorial service for the victims of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. The interfaith service was attended by relatives and friends who had traveled to Colorado for the trials of the men convicted for their roles in the 1995 explosion. The service was held after a jury deadlocked on the sentence for Terry Nichols, who was convicted of conspiracy and manslaughter.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Clinton presses for religious freedom in China (RNS) President Clinton worshipped Sunday (June 28) in Beijing’s oldest and largest Protestant church, a gesture his aides indicated was intended to remind China’s leaders about the importance the United States places on religious freedom. In brief comments at Chongwenmen Church, Clinton expressed pleasure in the reported growth of Christianity in China and said,”I believe our faith calls upon us to seek unity with people across the world of different races and backgrounds and creeds.” While Clinton’s comments there were low-key, aides indicated his mere presence at the church, filled to overflowing with more than 2,000 worshippers, underscored U.S. concern over Beijing’s policy toward Christianity and other faiths in China. The Chinese government rigidly controls religious expression, and the church Clinton attended was an officially sanctioned, nondenominational”patriotic”congregation.

RNS News Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Court rules graduation prayers may be allowed (RNS) Student-led high school graduation prayers may be allowed when they are conducted without school district control, a San Francisco federal appeals court said Wednesday (May 27). The ruling, which affects nine Western states, was issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and upholds a rural Idaho school district’s policy permitting top students to include prayer in their graduation speeches. The ruling stressed the policy of Madison School District No. 321 allowed prayer but neither required nor controlled it, the Associated Press reported.