RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Religious Groups Praise Signing of Religious Freedom Bill (RNS) Religious and civil liberties groups, in a rare display of agreement, praised a bill signed by President Clinton on Friday (Sept. 22) that gives religious groups and prisoners more protection when practicing their beliefs. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which received wide bipartisan support, will give religious groups greater flexibility in dealing with local government zoning laws. “This act recognizes the importance the free exercise of religion plays in our democratic society,” Clinton said in a statement.

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c. 2000 Religion News Service Family Research Council Condemns Hindu Prayer in Congress (RNS) The Family Research Council has condemned the inclusion of a Hindu priest among guests giving the invocation in the House of Representatives. “Alas, in our day, when `tolerance’ and `diversity’ have replaced the 10 Commandments as the only remaining absolute dictums, it has become necessary to `celebrate’ non-Christian religions _ even in the halls of Congress,” the conservative Christian public policy group said in a “CultureFacts” weekly publication that was e-mailed Thursday (Sept. 21) to subscribers. “And while it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, this liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage.” Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala, a Hindu priest from Ohio, on Sept.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Family Research Council Condemns Hindu Prayer in Congress (RNS) The Family Research Council has condemned the inclusion of a Hindu priest among guests giving the invocation in the House of Representatives. “Alas, in our day, when `tolerance’ and `diversity’ have replaced the 10 Commandments as the only remaining absolute dictums, it has become necessary to `celebrate’ non-Christian religions _ even in the halls of Congress,” the conservative Christian public policy group said in a “CultureFacts” weekly publication that was e-mailed Thursday (Sept. 21) to subscribers. “And while it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, this liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage.” Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala, a Hindu priest from Ohio, on Sept.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service National Council of Churches Lays Off Three More Employees (RNS) The National Council of Churches, still reeling from the worse fiscal and management crisis in its 51-year-history, has laid off three more employees, bringing the total number of downsized staffers to 13. The Rev. Bob Edgar, the NCC’s general secretary, said the additional lay-offs, all from middle management positions, were “not unexpected” and are part of an overall fiscal restructuring that requires the ecumenical council to stay within its budget. “For a long time we lived outside our budget and now we’re living inside our budget,” Edgar told Religion News Service. “These are some of the choices you have to make when you’re leading a fiscally challenged institution.” The NCC, which represents 35 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches, has been grappling with a staggering debt as it tries to determine how it would be most effective in the future.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service National Council of Churches Lays Off Three More Employees (RNS) The National Council of Churches, still reeling from the worse fiscal and management crisis in its 51-year-history, has laid off three more employees, bringing the total number of downsized staffers to 13. The Rev. Bob Edgar, the NCC’s general secretary, said the additional lay-offs, all from middle management positions, were “not unexpected” and are part of an overall fiscal restructuring that requires the ecumenical council to stay within its budget. “For a long time we lived outside our budget and now we’re living inside our budget,” Edgar told Religion News Service. “These are some of the choices you have to make when you’re leading a fiscally challenged institution.” The NCC, which represents 35 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches, has been grappling with a staggering debt as it tries to determine how it would be most effective in the future.

NEWS FEATURE: Jesus 2000 Stops Near St. Louis for Its Biggest Exhibit Yet

c. 2000 Religion News Service BELLEVILLE, Ill. _ Painter Janet McKenzie’s quiet, hermitlike life has been turned upside down since winning the Jesus 2000 art competition sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter at the end of last year. Her artistic vision of Jesus, “Jesus of the People,” is dark-skinned. That alone was apparently enough to warrant hate mail, nasty e-mail and phone threats; one group even threatened to picket her Vermont home.

NEWS STORY: Top Religion Writers Named by Religion Newswriters Association

c. 2000 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO _ The religion writer at The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., was named Religion Reporter of the Year and a national correspondent for Religion News Service took home top honors for religion writing at a small newspaper in awards presented Saturday (Sept. 16) by the Religion Newswriters Association. Three newspapers and 12 writers were honored at the Religion Newswriters Association conference. The RNA awards are the only contest to single out excellence in religion reporting in the secular press.

NEWS STORY: Top Religion Writers Named by Religion Newswriters Association

c. 2000 Religion News Service SAN FRANCISCO _ The religion writer at The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., was named Religion Reporter of the Year and a national correspondent for Religion News Service took home top honors for religion writing at a small newspaper in awards presented Saturday (Sept. 16) by the Religion Newswriters Association. Three newspapers and 12 writers were honored at the Religion Newswriters Association conference. The RNA awards are the only contest to single out excellence in religion reporting in the secular press.

NEWS FEATURE: Nuns, `Knights’ Live Simple Lifestyle at Angelica Shrine

c. 2000 Religion News Service HANCEVILLE, Ala. _ Mother Angelica, the popular but controversial nun of the Eternal Word Television Network, rarely travels anywhere these days except to Birmingham to do her twice-a-week television program, “Mother Angelica Live.” When she does travel, Mother Angelica is usually accompanied by Brother Angelo, who serves as her official spokesman both on the road and at the shrine, where she is usually in cloistered quarters with the other Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. Brother Angelo is one of six lay brothers of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, which is affiliated with the Franciscan order of brothers. They live in an apartment in the loft of a nearby barn and take care of chores around the monastery, which is part of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

NEWS FEATURE: Nuns, `Knights’ Live Simple Lifestyle at Angelica Shrine

c. 2000 Religion News Service HANCEVILLE, Ala. _ Mother Angelica, the popular but controversial nun of the Eternal Word Television Network, rarely travels anywhere these days except to Birmingham to do her twice-a-week television program, “Mother Angelica Live.” When she does travel, Mother Angelica is usually accompanied by Brother Angelo, who serves as her official spokesman both on the road and at the shrine, where she is usually in cloistered quarters with the other Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. Brother Angelo is one of six lay brothers of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, which is affiliated with the Franciscan order of brothers. They live in an apartment in the loft of a nearby barn and take care of chores around the monastery, which is part of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

NEWS FEATURE:

c. 2000 Religion News Service STENYATIN, Ukraine _ Fifteen years ago, Myroslav Medvid jumped off a Soviet grain ship near Belle Chasse, La., capturing headlines and provoking an anxious standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union during the tense days of the Cold War. Medvid was returned to his ship and enjoyed about two weeks of fame as the Elian Gonzalez of the 1980s, with Ukrainian human rights groups claiming he was trying to defect and the U.S. government, concerned about relations with the Soviets, insisting that he fell off the ship and wanted to return to the U.S.S.R. Today, wearing a white priest’s collar, Medvid picks apples in a village churchyard and presides over a parish of 200. With the Soviet Union dissolved, Medvid is free to answer the question that was the central mystery of his case when he was at his apex of fame: Was he coerced when he told U.S. officials that he wanted to return to the U.S.S.R. after the Reagan administration insisted on removing him from the ship and conducting a private interview? He now says he was drugged and forced to say he wanted to go back.

NEWS FEATURE:

c. 2000 Religion News Service STENYATIN, Ukraine _ Fifteen years ago, Myroslav Medvid jumped off a Soviet grain ship near Belle Chasse, La., capturing headlines and provoking an anxious standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union during the tense days of the Cold War. Medvid was returned to his ship and enjoyed about two weeks of fame as the Elian Gonzalez of the 1980s, with Ukrainian human rights groups claiming he was trying to defect and the U.S. government, concerned about relations with the Soviets, insisting that he fell off the ship and wanted to return to the U.S.S.R. Today, wearing a white priest’s collar, Medvid picks apples in a village churchyard and presides over a parish of 200. With the Soviet Union dissolved, Medvid is free to answer the question that was the central mystery of his case when he was at his apex of fame: Was he coerced when he told U.S. officials that he wanted to return to the U.S.S.R. after the Reagan administration insisted on removing him from the ship and conducting a private interview? He now says he was drugged and forced to say he wanted to go back.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Vatican Salvation Document Poses Tricky Questions for Future of Ecumenism

c. 2000 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ The Vatican last week (Sept. 5) issued a highly technical document written by theologians for theologians and containing nothing new in Roman Catholic doctrine. Yet it has caused widespread disappointment and dismay and cast doubt on the Vatican’s commitment to dialogue with other faiths. Some critics see the document as the latest in a series of moves by forces within the Vatican trying to close the door on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and set strictly conservative parameters for the next papacy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Poll Finds Surprising Support for Medicinal Marijuana Among Pastors (RNS) Forty-four percent of Protestant pastors support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, while only about 20 percent support decriminalizing the non-medicinal use of marijuana, according to a new survey. The study of 518 Protestant ministers, commissioned by Phoenix-based Ellison Research, found surprisingly strong support for the use of marijuana to relieve pain for patients with cancer and other medical ailments. Similar to a recent Ellison survey on the death penalty, the study found stronger support for medicinal marijuana use from pastors affiliated with the National Council of Churches as opposed to the more conservative National Association of Evangelicals. Among NCC-affiliated pastors, 66 percent supported medicinal marijuana use while 33 percent opposed it.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2000 Religion News Service Poll Finds Surprising Support for Medicinal Marijuana Among Pastors (RNS) Forty-four percent of Protestant pastors support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, while only about 20 percent support decriminalizing the non-medicinal use of marijuana, according to a new survey. The study of 518 Protestant ministers, commissioned by Phoenix-based Ellison Research, found surprisingly strong support for the use of marijuana to relieve pain for patients with cancer and other medical ailments. Similar to a recent Ellison survey on the death penalty, the study found stronger support for medicinal marijuana use from pastors affiliated with the National Council of Churches as opposed to the more conservative National Association of Evangelicals. Among NCC-affiliated pastors, 66 percent supported medicinal marijuana use while 33 percent opposed it.