NEWS STORY: Tibetan Rights Group: China Seeking to Repress Buddhism

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Chinese government is waging an organized war on Buddhism in Tibet, says a U.S.-based Tibetan interest group. A report released earlier this month by the nonprofit International Campaign for Tibet contains translated documents the group said prove Chinese policy is aimed at undermining the free practice of Buddhism, a central cultural underpinning of the mountainous region controlled since 1959 by China. China sharply disputes the report’s contention. John Ackerly, president of the pro-Tibet group, said the report, “When the Sky Fell to Earth,” shows Chinese laws that pertain to religion primarily are concerned with restraining the activities of monks, nuns and monasteries.

COMMENTARY: Leave Awe Unexplained

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Marc Howard Wilson is a rabbi, columnist and organizational design consultant in Greenville, S.C. Collections of his essays may be found at http://www.marcmusing.com and http://www.eGullet.com. He may be reached at marcwilson1216(at)aol.com.) (UNDATED) Someplace between sainthood and damnation lies the legacy of Ronald Reagan. I have my own opinions. I am already tired of hearing and talking about them, and I bet you are, too.

Christian Comic: We Depend on God Because We Have No Idea What We’re Doing

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When comedian and performer Bob Stromberg started out, he had two goals in mind. First, he wanted to make people laugh. And second, he says, “I was hoping to be able to pay the bills.” Since 1977, whether he’s been performing at elementary school assemblies, in church basements or at Promise Keepers stadium events, Stromberg’s been getting paid for doing the thing he loves best. Over the last seven years, that’s included more 2,500 performances in the role of Bobby Bean in the hit comedy “Triple Espresso.” The play, co-written by Stromberg, magician Bill Arnold and musician Michael Pearce Donley, has drawn more than 1 million theatergoers in 20 cities for what the Los Angeles Times called “a triple jolt of inspired craziness.” Like most of Stromberg’s career, “Triple Espresso” was a result of what he calls a “small break.” Another such break, he said, was the chance to perform at Promise Keepers events, which came after he was a last-minute fill-in at a Christmas party for the organization’s staff.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Watchdog Group Charges Falwell With Politicking for Bush WASHINGTON (RNS) A church-state watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service after the Rev. Jerry Falwell told supporters to “get serious about re-electing President Bush” and solicited funds for a political action committee that supports Bush. Falwell, in a July 1 “Falwell Confidential” e-mail, said: “For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush. The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. “To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart.

NEWS STORY: A Papal Vacation: Mountain Views, Prayer, Books and Picnic Lunches

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) He is the leader of the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics and lives in Renaissance splendor in a city-state of his own. But for his summer vacation, Pope John Paul II prefers a simple, two-story chalet in the Italian Alps. For the 10th summer, the 84-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff flew to the Val d’Aosta in northwestern Italy near the French and Swiss borders to spend 12 days of almost complete rest at Les Combes in the town of Introd, population 568, altitude 4,000 feet. The pope’s Alpine holiday ends Saturday (July 17) when he will return, tanned and rested, to Rome and take up residence until late September in his hilltop palace at Castelgandolfo, about 25 miles south of the Eternal City.

GOP Leaders Court Clergy to Make Inroads With Black Voters

c. 2004 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ The Rev. Marvin McMickle was among prominent black clergy taking notice of which party in a tumultuous campaign week went into the community to seek a dialogue with black leaders. On July 7, the new Democratic presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards held a big rally downtown here. On July 8, the head of the Republican National Committee visited a black Baptist church in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. “I’m paying attention to the folks who are paying attention to me,” McMickle, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and a former Democratic congressional candidate, said in an interview.

NEWS STORY: Controversial Ten Commandments Monument Hitting the Road

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A controversial Ten Commandments monument will be moved out of Alabama’s judicial building Monday by a veterans group that plans to tour the country with it on a flatbed truck. Roy Moore, the owner of the 5,280-pound block of inscribed granite, agreed to let the American Veterans Standing for God and Country carry it through several states over the next few months for what is being billed as a series of God Bless America rallies. A federal judge in 2002 ruled the monument was an affront to separation of church and state and ordered it removed from display in the judicial building in Montgomery. Moore, then Alabama’s chief justice, refused and was removed from office.

NEWS STORY: Giving Church Rolls to Campaigns Raises `Red Flags,’ IRS Says

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ On the same day the Bush-Cheney campaign had designated for churches to host a “coffee/pot luck dinner,” Internal Revenue Service officials said handing over a congregation’s membership list could violate federal regulations. In Thursday (July 15) interviews, IRS officials said if church lists are repeatedly given to only one campaign free of charge, the congregation risks losing its tax-exempt status. What’s more, churches or individuals who give away lists worth more than $1,000 could be required to register with the Federal Election Commission. IRS regulations forbid nonprofit organizations _ such as churches _ from giving a mailing list to a partisan political campaign unless the campaign pays for it.

NEWS FEATURE: Review: `Bishop’ Breslin’s Catechism Class

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) God has been good to Jimmy Breslin. After a legendary tenure in journalism, this Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe was facing the latter stages of his career with hardly a target worthy of his inimitable ire. Sure, as Newsday’s longtime columnist he could count on any number of New York pols to shoot themselves in the foot on any given day. Presto, an opinion is born.

COMMENTARY: The Pressure to Move On

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) “It’s time to put it behind us and move on” is an overworked phrase in contemporary American life. Those words are increasingly being heard as we near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Because Americans love to be optimistic, we constantly invoke that phrase as an escape clause whenever we face major calamities like Watergate, the Vietnam War, a presidential impeachment, or corporate scandals.

COMMENTARY: Structure Doesn’t Work but Church Still Does

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a longtime observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago and author of “Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross,” published by St. Martin’s Press.) (UNDATED) Do not mistake the dire headline stories about the Catholic Church for an obituary: “The Catholic Church died today after a long illness.” The vital signs in Catholicism vastly outnumber the woeful symptoms that refer to what philosophers used to call the accidents, rather than the essence, of the church. This flood of stories flows from the same headwaters. They are all concerned with, and arise from, accidental rather than essential aspects of Catholicism.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service NCC Head Arrested in Protest Outside Sudanese Embassy WASHINGTON (RNS) The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, was arrested Wednesday (July 14) by the U.S. Secret Service outside the Embassy of Sudan while protesting alleged genocide in the African nation. “Getting arrested today for this cause is the very least one could do to bring attention to the urgency of now,” Edgar, a former Democratic congressman and United Methodist pastor, told the crowd of protesters. “The solution rests at the door of the government of Sudan and also at the feet of the international community who must act now.” After his statement, Edgar kneeled in prayer on the front steps of the embassy, where uniformed Secret Service agents waited to take him away. An agent warned Edgar three times that he would be arrested, then led him away to a waiting police van.

NEWS STORY: Senate Defeats Gay Marriage Amendment

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Senate defeated a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday (July 14) that would have banned gay marriage, killing _ at least for now _ attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Senators defeated the amendment in a 50-48 procedural vote; 60 votes were needed to keep it alive, and 67 votes were needed for it to pass. “The battle has just begun,” said Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., the amendment’s chief sponsor. “As John Paul Jones once said in one of his battles, `I have just begun to fight.”’ Allard and other proponents said they were heartened to get nearly half the Senate, mostly Republicans, to support the amendment, even though they fell far short of the two-thirds “super-majority” needed for final passage.

NEWS FEATURE: A New Spirit Moves Once Feuding Biblical Scholars

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Elie Wiesel heard the words “biblical criticism” uttered with disdain in the small Jewish village where he grew up in Romania. “Biblical criticism _ how dare you?” was the mantra. So when an elderly man discovered the 11-year-old reading a critical biblical commentary the boy had found hidden behind other books in the synagogue library, “he gave me a slap on my face,” Wiesel remembered. Christine Schenk of Cleveland went to Georgetown University in the 1960s, a time when “science was everything,” and she, like many of her peers, would ask the questions raised by the famous Time magazine cover: Is God dead, and if God was not, did it matter?

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service `Godless Americans’ Endorse Kerry-Edwards Ticket (RNS) The Godless Americans Political Action Committee has endorsed Sen. John Kerry for president and Sen. John Edwards for vice president in the upcoming 2004 election. Ellen Johnson, executive director of the committee, called the Kerry-Edwards ticket “the clear choice over President Bush, who has spent the last four years eroding the separation of church and state, `packing the courts’ with judges who ignore the First Amendment, and imposing a de facto religion tax through the federal faith-based initiative.” She called the team of the two Democratic senators “the best alternative to four more years of George Bush and Pat Robertson running the country,” referring to the Virginia-based religious broadcaster who ran for president himself in 1988. The political action committee has taken shape since the Godless Americans March on Washington in November 2002. Johnson, who also is president of American Atheists, said in a statement that the people the committee represents _ atheists, secular humanists and other freethinkers _ have been neglected by the major political parties.