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c. 1998 Religion News Service Judge dismisses final plaintiff in suit against Catholic weekly (RNS) A federal judge has dismissed the last remaining plaintiff in a $30 million defamation lawsuit initially filed by Briggs & Stratton over reports in the National Catholic Reporter that questioned the morality of the company moving jobs to cheaper labor markets. The ruling was hailed as a victory for freedom of the press by the publisher of NCR, a progressive, independent newsweekly based in Kansas City, Mo. “From the start, this suit appeared to be an effort by Briggs & Stratton to dissuade the media from doing its job from printing the sometimes painful stories of victims of corporate decision-making,” publisher Thomas C. Fox said in a statement. “This was a groundless lawsuit from the start.

NEWS FEATURE: Interfaith group will re-trace slavery’s Middle Passage

c. 1998 Religion News Service LEVERETT, Mass. _ It was known as the Middle Passage _ the harrowing and often deadly leg of the trade triangle that brought millions of Africans to the Americas as slaves, an ugly legacy that one Buddhist nun calls”a lot of spiritual illness.” But in an effort to address _ and redress _ that spiritual illness, an interfaith group of pilgrims plans to step out in a yearlong march that will reverse the Middle Passage, as well as mark stops along the Underground Railroad, the loosely organized network that helped fugitive slaves escape to free states and Canada. The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage has been organized by an unlikely duo connected to a Buddhist temple in this western Massachusetts town: Sister Clare R. Carter, 48, an ordained nun in the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order, and Ingrid C. Askew, 51, an African-American community activist.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service U.S. church delegation to deliver $100,000 in medical aid to Iraq (RNS) A U.S. church delegation departed Wednesday (April 8) for Baghdad to deliver $100,000 in medical supplies to aid the people of Iraq.”The main purpose of our mission is to bring humanitarian aid to ease the suffering of the people of Iraq,”said the Rev. Rodney Page, executive director of Church World Service, the relief arm of the National Council of Churches. The group plans to”express our Christian compassion and solidarity for the churches and the people of Iraq at Easter time,”Page told the Associated Press.” The seven-member delegation includes three other Church World Service staffers and representatives of the American Friends Service Committee, Lutheran World Relief and the Middle East Council of Churches. Page said the group will visit Baghdad hospitals to donate $100,000 in antibiotics and surgical supplies.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Good Friday, Passover beer ban muddles Boston Red Sox opener (RNS) Citing the desire for a”family atmosphere,”the Boston Red Sox have instituted a one-time”beer ban”because their Opening Day game falls on Good Friday and the first night of Passover (April 10). The policy requires heightened security, the Boston Herald reported Tuesday (April 7), because police fear baseball fans will get intoxicated at nearby pubs and then try to enter Fenway Park for the game. In addition to the ban on alcohol, which applies to private boxes as well as to the rest of the stadium, team officials pushed back the start of the game to 3 p.m. and have dispensed with traditional Opening Day ceremonies.”We were trying to do things we thought would show our sensitivity to this double religious observance,”said Richard L. Bresciani, vice president of communications for the Red Sox. However, even the new starting time poses problems for baseball fans among the city’s 2.2 million Roman Catholics and 300,000 Jews.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Update: Clinton doesn’t regret taking Holy Communion (RNS) White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Monday (April 6) President Clinton does not regret taking Holy Communion at a South African Catholic church, despite continuing criticism.”The president was happy to receive the invitation to participate and was glad he did,”McCurry said at a White House briefing. Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York criticized the actions of a South African priest and Clinton, a Southern Baptist, during his sermon on Palm Sunday.”The action taken by the priest in South Africa, however well intentioned, was legally and doctrinally wrong in the eyes of church law and church doctrine,”O’Connor said. McCurry, asked at the regular White House briefing about O’Connor’s comments, said he believed there was a difference among Catholics in the United States and Catholics in South Africa regarding who could take communion. “I think the cardinal is reflecting church theology as it’s interpreted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,”he said.”I think the cardinal has to do that for all of those who practice Catholicism both within his jurisdiction and within the United States, but that apparently is not necessarily the way it’s viewed by other bishops in another conference elsewhere in the world.”

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c. 1998 Religion News Service Lyons forced to move location of speech in Philadelphia (RNS) The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the denominational president facing charges of grand theft and racketeering, was blocked Saturday (April 4) from speaking at a church of his National Baptist Convention, USA, and had to borrow another denomination’s facility.”For my misguided judgment and errors I did make, I ask your forgiveness,”Lyons told a crowd of about 50 people at the headquarters of the African Methodist Episcopal Church First Episcopal District. Without elaborating further on the charges against him, Lyons asked the audience to refrain from judging him until his side is heard, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Lyons has been charged by Florida authorities with defrauding the Anti-Defamation League of money intended for the rebuilding of burned black churches. Prosecutors also alleged he inflated membership numbers for his denomination to entice companies to contribute to the church in exchange for product endorsements.