NEWS STORY: Sunni Clerics Ramp Up Calls for Armed Opposition

c. 2004 Religion News Service BAGHDAD, Iraq _ For Sheik Mohammad Ali Mohammad al-Ghereri, a Sunni Muslim cleric, the question is no longer whether to tell his followers to fight the Americans, but how to assure they wage war properly. “The holy warriors should have a clerical leader with them to advise them on all points, such as how to properly treat the Americans they capture,” he said in his austere mosque in the capital’s Zafarenieh district. For fellow Sunni cleric Abdul Sattar Abdul-Jabbar, the issue is no longer whether his followers should kidnap foreigners, but which ones. “Isn’t the trucker who brings supplies for the Americans and helps the occupation also part of the occupation?” said Abdul-Jabbar, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, the country’s largest Sunni religious grouping.

COMMENTARY: Presbyterians Have a Double Standard When It Comes to Israel

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, is Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.) (UNDATED) The Presbyterian Church (USA) is currently facing a self-inflicted firestorm of criticism, much of it coming from the denomination’s own clergy and lay leaders. This past summer the PCUSA’s national policy-making body, the General Assembly, adopted a sweeping resolution calling for the “phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel in accordance” with church “policy on social investing.” But the PCUSA’s top executive, the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, placed his own interpretation on the loosely worded General Assembly statement. He maintained that phased divestment is aimed only at “those companies … found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people.” He did not explain how his church would make such determinations.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service House Approves Bill Preventing Court `Under God’ Rulings Editors: Jayd Henricks is cq (both first and last name) in the 8th graph below. (RNS) U.S. House approval Thursday (Sept. 23) of a bill that would prevent courts from ruling on whether “under God” belongs in the Pledge of Allegiance has prompted a quick response from groups concerned about religious freedom. By a vote of 247-173, the House passed the legislation that could affect the Supreme Court as well as lower federal courts, the Associated Press reported.

COMMENTARY: Finding the Eternal in the Constraints of Time

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) Perhaps the world adorns itself with the superficial things of time _ the Emmy Awards, box office receipts, Brittany marries again _ to distract it from the deep within it, vast and rich as the sea, whose currents are eternal. Our lives are an interplay between our consciousness of, and constraint by, time and our awareness of, and longing for, the eternal. We experience both every day but they are often so intermingled that we cannot, or do not, identify those moments when we get a glimpse of, or ride on, the urge of the eternal in the quotidian.

NEWS FEATURE: Ashland, the Left Coast’s Secular Yet Spiritual Haven

c. 2004 Religion News Service ASHLAND, Ore. _ In North America’s newest spiritual mecca, the well-off, highly educated residents who fill the coffee bars, boutiques and healing centers do not see themselves as mere Americans. They see themselves as citizens of a sacred cosmos. In this idyllic town of 20,000 in the isolated south of Oregon _ where it seems almost more difficult to find someone who hasn’t written a book on spirituality than someone who has _ residents have turned upside down the patriotic Pledge of Allegiance to “one nation, indivisible.” This new wave of Oregon seekers are adamant critics of their federal government.

NEWS FEATURE: Madonna, Other Celebrities Promote `Jewish’ Kabbalah

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Singing icon Madonna, who lately refers to herself by the Hebrew name Esther, publicly touts her devotion to Kabbalah, a mystical Jewish philosophy. But traditional Orthodox Jewish leaders say this popular spirituality is a religious imposter. With fashionable “red string” bracelets said to ward off evil, a book that claims you can become like God and the high-profile support of celebrities like Madonna, Demi Moore and Donald Trump’s former wife, Marla Maples, Kabbalah has broken through the spiritual milieu into the marketplace of trendy ideas. Devotees say it has given their lives new meaning, but traditional Jewish scholars say the phenomenon blurs the line between popular culture and authentic religious devotion practiced by truly knowledgeable mystics.

NEWS FEATURE: Alternative Jewish Minyans Promote Equality but Keep Tradition

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When Jill Levy, 28, stepped off the plane three years ago after studying in Israel, the first place she went was Central Park for a Friday evening service at Kehilat Hadar, a vibrant alternative prayer community in New York City. Hadar, as it is known, is one of a growing number of traditional but alternative Jewish “minyans” across the country. Unlike Orthodox minyans, which require a quorum of 10 men for certain Jewish prayers to be recited, these minyans include women. Another difference is that in alternative minyans, women don’t have to sit separately.

COMMENTARY: The Ethereal Girl’s Cheap Grace

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As Madonna soared out of Israel on her private jet earlier this week, she left behind her trademark trail of controversy and chaos. Secular Israelis were intoxicated by her five-day trip to the Holy Land; Orthodox Jews were repulsed. Palestinians protested. And Israeli police arrested two of her brawling bodyguards who had assaulted photographers outside her hotel.

NEWS FEATURE: Ministries Care for Hurricane Caregivers

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In the wake of Hurricane Ivan, Pastor Lloyd Stilley of Gulf Shores, Ala., helps members of his congregation pick through rubble and voices thanks that felled trees landed in his yard instead of on his house. What he has not done is tend to his emotional health. “To be honest, I had not thought about that,” said the 43-year-old pastor at First Baptist Church. “I had not had time to stop and think about those things.” Fortunately for clergy like Stilley, several organizations are providing care for caregivers during one of the most challenging hurricane seasons in recent memory.

NEWS STORY: Jewish and Muslim Voters Motivated by More Than Middle East

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If the Nov. 2 presidential election is as close as the 2000 election was, Jewish and Muslim groups could determine the outcome in some states. So it’s no surprise that the campaigns are courting these religious groups seemingly at odds with each other. What may be a surprise is that the issue that many suspected would be the most contentious _ the candidates’ positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict _ does not appear to be a decisive factor for either group.

COMMENTARY: Sukkot, a Weeklong Jewish Holiday, Teaches Joy in the Darkness

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Judy Gruen is a feature writer and humorist. Read more of her columns on (UNDATED) One evening three years ago, I sat alone at my mother’s dining room table, ushering in the Sabbath by singing a traditional hymn. Meanwhile, my mother slept in the next room, terminal cancer ravaging her body. It was surreal to feel such enormous grief over my mother’s impending death while also tapping into the spiritual joy that I felt because the Sabbath had arrived.

NEWS STORY: Powell Adds Saudi Arabia to Religious Freedom Watchlist

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The U.S. State Department on Wednesday (Sept. 15) for the first time included Saudi Arabia on a list of eight “countries of particular concern” for not allowing religious freedom, a potential stumbling block for relations between the United States and its Persian Gulf ally. The department’s sixth annual report on international religious freedom also added Eritrea and Vietnam to the roster of those countries guilty or tolerant of “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Countries that remained on the list were Burma, China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan. Iraq, which had been on the list under Saddam Hussein’s regime, was removed.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Poll: Teens More Likely to Ask Friends Than Clergy for Ethics Advice (RNS) Teens are far more likely to seek out their friends for help with ethical decisions than to ask a member of the clergy, a poll shows. Eighty-three percent of teens said they would turn to their friends for help in making such choices, followed by their parents (68 percent), teachers (27 percent), the Internet (24 percent) and clergy (14 percent). Harris Interactive conducted the poll for Junior Achievement, an organization focused on educating young people about business, and Deloitte & Touche, a major accounting firm. The poll also showed that almost one-third of teens surveyed think they have to “bend the rules to succeed.” A smaller percentage _ 20 percent _ gave that answer in a similar poll last year.

NEWS STORY: Slavery Lingers in Mauritania

c. 2004 Religion News Service NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania _ In the rigid caste system of her Kunta tribe, Ghoive Mint Sabahr knew her place. From dawn to dusk, she tended cattle and goats on the sandy plains of central Mauritania. School was a luxury for privileged children. Once a year, her owners _ nomadic Moors belonging to the upper echelons of the tribe _ gave Sabahr a new veil or dress.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Imam of Ohio’s Largest Mosque Sentenced for Lying About Jihadist Group AKRON, Ohio (RNS) Fawaz Damra, called an interfaith peacemaker by some and a fund-raiser for terrorists by others, has been sentenced by a federal judge for lying on his immigration papers. The leader of Ohio’s largest mosque was sentenced Monday (Sept. 20) to two months in a federal prison and four months under home confinement for lying on his immigration papers about raising funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Damra, a Cleveland imam known for his work promoting harmony with non-Muslim religious leaders, also must pay a $5,000 fine.