RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Vatican Warns of New Forms of Religious Intolerance VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has warned that new forms of religious intolerance are arising in the age of globalization as the right of religious communities to take part in democratic debate is being challenged. Archbishop Celestino Migliore delivered the warning in an address to the Third Commission of the United Nations General Assembly on “Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance.” The Vatican issued the text Wednesday (Oct. 27). The Vatican diplomat spoke at a time of renewed debate in the United States over the separation of church and state as laid down by the U.S. Constitution.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Muslim Political Action Committee Gives Kerry `Qualified Endorsement’ (RNS) A political action committee representing major U.S. Muslim advocacy groups has given a “qualified endorsement” to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. The American Muslim Taskforce-Political Action Committee (AMT-PAC), which is affiliated with an umbrella organization representing the American Muslim Alliance, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America and other groups, made its long-awaited announcement at a press conference Thursday (Oct. 21). Earlier, the group had reportedly been leaning toward making no endorsement in the hotly contested election, but AMT-PAC chairman Agha Saeed called those reports “fallacious” and “rumors.” After much internal debate and discussion, the group announced a “qualified endorsement” of Kerry’s campaign, but also said that it is urging Muslims to make a “protest vote,” in which they vote not necessarily in favor of Kerry, but against President George W. Bush.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Study Links College Students’ Religious Involvement to Emotional Health (RNS) College students with significant religious involvement report better emotional health than those with no involvement, new research from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute shows. The results, drawn from a national study of 3,680 college students, indicate that students who are not churchgoers are more than twice as likely to say they have felt depressed or had poorer emotional health than students who frequently attend religious services. The findings, released Monday (Oct. 25), show that religious activity has positive links to emotional health.

NEWS STORY: Bush’s Religiosity Turns Off Some Voters in All-Important Pennyslvania

c. 2004 Religion News Service MACUNGIE, Pa. _ President Bush’s public profession of his faith as a born-again Christian plays well with his conservative base, but it troubles some voters here in the Lehigh Valley, a critical section of this critical state. With a heavy Democratic vote likely to come out of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and their surrounding suburbs, most analysts believe Bush cannot afford to lose the Lehigh Valley if he is to hold Pennsylvania, one of the few states still deemed competitive in the Nov. 2 election.

NEWS STORY: Christian Tourists Overcome Fear, Return to Israel

c. 2004 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ After a nearly four-year hiatus sparked by the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Christian tourists are coming back to the Holy Land. Their presence can be felt on the streets of downtown Jerusalem, where tour buses are again making an appearance; in large restaurants that can accommodate tour groups; and in local hotels, virtually all of which were forced to lay off staff after the September 2000 uprising. Many hotels, particularly in Bethlehem in the West Bank and Nazareth in northern Israel, were forced to close their doors completely. With the return of tourism, a few have reopened.

COMMENTARY: We’re All Losers if Lies Prevail on Election Day

c. 2004 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C. Visit his Web site at http://www.onajourney.org.) (UNDATED) Throughout this ugly election year, bullies have been out in force, sowing fear and distrust among the people. Next Tuesday, they will try to intimidate voters into staying home. It is a shabby and critical moment for American democracy.

NEWS STORY: Kerry Campaign Says Talk of Faith Key to Increasing Support Among Catholics

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Sen. John Kerry’s increasing comfort with talking about faith on the stump has helped solidify his support among Catholics and undecided voters, top campaign advisers said Monday (Oct. 25). Kerry, a Massachusetts Catholic who in recent weeks has shed his reluctance to speak publicly about his faith, has overtaken President Bush with a 50 percent to 43 percent lead among white Catholics, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In early October, Bush led Kerry 49 percent to 33 percent, according to Pew.

NEWS STORY: Members of Congress Accept Religious Trips

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Over the past 41/2 years, private organizations spent nearly $570,000 flying members of Congress and their families around the globe on religion-related trips, putting them up in hotels and feeding them, a study of congressional records shows. An analysis of congressional trips by Medill News Service in partnership with American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program and American RadioWorks found that private interests spent about $14.4 million since Jan. 1, 2000, to send House and Senate members on more than 4,800 trips of all sorts. The study identified at least 185 congressional trips sponsored by churches, religious groups and nonprofit organizations seeking to educate or influence members of Congress on religious issues.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Editors: Check the RNS photo Web site at http://religionnews.com for photos to accompany this digest item. Former Washington Cardinal James Hickey Dies at 84 WASHINGTON (RNS) Cardinal James Hickey, the soft-spoken former archbishop of Washington and one of only 14 U.S. cardinals, died Sunday (Oct. 24) after a lengthy illness. He was 84.

NEWS STORY: Vatican Denounces Wars of Aggression, Terrorist `Martyrs’

c. 2004 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ In an authoritative new collection of pronouncements on social issues, the Vatican on Monday (Oct. 25) condemned wars of aggression as “immoral” and said it is “a profanation and a blasphemy” for terrorists to call themselves martyrs. The 525-page “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” offers moral and ethical judgments concerning the family, labor, economics, politics, international relations, the environment, war and peace. It labels abortion “a horrendous crime” and rules out same-sex marriages.

NEWS FEATURE: GOP Employing Texas Advocate of `Christian Nation’

c. 2004 Beliefnet (UNDATED) The Republican National Committee is employing the services of a Texas-based activist who believes the United States is a “Christian nation” and that the separation of church and state is “a myth.” David Barton, the founder of an organization called Wallbuilders, was hired by the RNC as a political consultant and has been traveling the country for a year _ speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors. During the lunches, he presents a slide show of American monuments, discusses his view of America’s Christian heritage _ and tells pastors that they are allowed to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Barton, who is also the vice chairman of the Texas GOP, told Beliefnet this week that the pastors’ meetings have been kept “below the radar … We work our tails off to stay out of the news.” But at this point, he says, with voter registration ended in most states and early voting already under way, staying quiet about the activity “doesn’t matter.” Barton’s main contention is that the separation of church and state was never intended by the nation’s founders; he says it was created by the Supreme Court in the 20th century.

NEWS STORY: Thousands Rally for `America for Jesus’

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Standing on a stage in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Bishop John Gimenez told the crowd gathered for the “America for Jesus” rally Friday (Oct. 22) that the nation is like the prodigal son. “He ended up in a pigpen,” Gimenez said of the biblical character described in the Gospel of Luke. “It seems to me that America has done just that.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Presbyterians Say Comments In Hezbollah Meeting Were `Reprehensible’ (RNS) Top officials of the Presbyterian Church (USA) now say comments made by members of a church delegation meeting with Hezbollah leaders were “reprehensible” and the controversial visit was “misguided at best.” Church leaders, reeling from stinging criticism by Jewish groups, said they did not authorize Sunday’s (Oct. 17) visit to a Southern Lebanon refugee camp controlled by Hezbollah, listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. During the visit, Ronald Stone, a retired professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, told Hezbollah officials that, “relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.” “As a church, and as individuals, we know at the core of our souls that terrorism, especially terrorism against civilians, is one clear source of the lack of peace in the Middle East,” said the Thursday (Oct. 21) letter to top Jewish leaders.

COMMENTARY: Religion Can’t Be Suppressed This Election Season

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) The more the American Civil Liberties Union try to keep God out of American life and religion out of American politics, the more He and faith assert themselves. Religion is part of our human inheritance and will claim our attention, in aspiration or declaration, despite every effort to quarantine it. Nothing exemplifies this more than the presidential campaign into which it has been introduced, for good or for ill, by, for example, the Catholic bishops, the media, the candidates and their questioners at their town hall-style debate, and, of course, by those who mention it loudly as they try to exclude it.