RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Spokane, Wash., Diocese Plans Bankruptcy Filing (RNS) The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Wash., has announced that his diocese plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being unable to settle claims against it relating to sexual abuse. Diocesan officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to settle 28 pending claims, Bishop William S. Skylstad wrote in his diocesan newspaper. He said those claims related to the actions of one former diocesan priest, Patrick O’Donnell. But Skylstad said another 30 claims are pending in other cases, bringing the total of sought damages to “tens of millions of dollars.” He hopes the move toward reorganization will permit fair treatment of the victims and the continuation of the diocese’s ministries.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Defense Department, ACLU Settle Suit Over Scouting Practices (RNS) The Department of Defense and the American Civil Liberties Union have reached a settlement regarding sponsorships on military property of Boy Scout troops with religious practices. The ACLU objected to military units sponsoring Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs that required that participating youth believe in God and take an oath swearing duty to God. Under the agreement announced Monday (Nov. 15), the Defense Department will inform its bases and other facilities in the next 60 days that they cannot serve as sponsors of the Boy Scout units.

NEWS STORY: Southern Baptists Battle for Soul of Louisiana College

c. 2004 Religion News Service PINEVILLE, La. _ With its neat red-brick buildings and green, impeccably groomed campus, Louisiana College, a small liberal arts institution owned by Louisiana’s Southern Baptists, does not look like a tense, unhappy battleground. But it is. For months, the college has been gripped by conflict between faculty and trustees over whether it has slowly drifted from its Southern Baptist identity.

FILM REVIEW: Prophet Muhammad Subject of Animated Film

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) To critical nonbelievers, the Quran may seem a blueprint for holy war. But as brought to the screen in the new animated film “Muhammad: The Last Prophet,” it’s honored as a path to enlightenment. Sometimes the message we hear depends on the messenger delivering it. “Muhammad: The Last Prophet” has a harder task than Christian films because Islam prohibits the depiction of religious figures, which means this film about Muhammad isn’t allowed to show him.

NEWS STORY: Kerry Advisers Say Campaign Fell Short On Religion, Urge Greater Party Effort

c. 2004 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly WASHINGTON _ Operatives hired to give Sen. John Kerry guidance on religious issues say the campaign fell short in linking the presidential candidate’s political vision to deeply held religious values and in mobilizing faith-based voters. “You don’t get what you don’t work for,” Mara Vanderslice, the Kerry campaign’s director of religious outreach, said in an exclusive interview with the PBS television program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly” airing across the country this weekend. At the same time, she said was excited about the positive results of bringing people of faith into the campaign. “I think we’ve pioneered a new direction for the Democrats,” she said, adding that there is a “whole flood of …

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Presbyterians Outline Criteria for Israeli Divestment (RNS) The Presbyterian Church (USA) has set six criteria to consider in its controversial plan to pursue “phased selective” financial divestment for companies doing business in Israel. A church panel that oversees “socially responsible” investments met Nov. 4-6 in New York to establish a framework for church action against companies that are involved in Israeli settlements, construction of Israel’s “separation barrier” or that assist Palestinians in violence against Israelis. The divestment plan, adopted by Presbyterian delegates in July, has met fierce opposition from Jewish groups who call it unfair.

NEWS STORY: Catholic Bishops Elect Embattled Wash. Bishop as President

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A soft-spoken bishop from Washington state whose diocese is poised to declare bankruptcy was elected Monday (Nov. 15) as leader of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops. Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane was elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a vote of confidence for a top bishop whose diocese is now tainted by the national sex abuse scandal. Skylstad, 70, said last week that his diocese cannot afford to pay “tens of millions” to settle abuse-related lawsuits, and expects to follow bishops in Portland, Ore., and Tucson, Ariz., as the third U.S. diocese to seek bankruptcy protection this year.

NEWS ANALYSIS: In Sudan, `Between the Idea and the Reality … Falls the Shadow’

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The government of Sudan and rebel groups in the nation’s troubled Darfur region, under political pressure from a looming United Nations Security Council meeting in Kenya this week (Nov. 18-19), have signed something of a peace agreement. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warmly welcomed the Nov. 10 accords as a “significant achievement.” “He (Annan) is hopeful that these measures, combined with the deployment and strengthening of the expanded African Union mission, will re-establish security and stability in the region, and facilitate the safe return of the displaced and refugees to their home areas,” the United Nations said in a statement.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service National Council of Churches Appeals for Post-Election Unity (RNS) The National Council of Churches appealed for post-election national unity, bemoaning the “painful spectacle of Christians demonizing one another.” The NCC, which represents 36 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches, said both conservatives and liberals need to abandon “caricatures” of each other after an election in which religion played an unprecedented and often controversial role. “We do not view the Christian community in our country as being divided into red and blue,” said a statement adopted during the NCC’s General Assembly meeting in St. Louis. “Our view is that we are a mosaic of God’s grace and presence.” But the NCC, which tried to mobilize progressive people of faith in the election, stressed that the “values” that were decisive for one in five voters should include “the work of eliminating poverty, preserving the environment, and promoting peace.” In other business, the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC, said the council and its humanitarian arm, Church World Service, are both “robustly healthy” after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy four years ago.

NEWS STORY: Kerry Advisers Say Campaign Fell Short On Religion, Urge Greater Party Effort

c. 2004 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly WASHINGTON _ Operatives hired to give Sen. John Kerry guidance on religious issues say the campaign fell short in linking the presidential candidate’s political vision to deeply held religious values and in mobilizing faith-based voters. “You don’t get what you don’t work for,” Mara Vanderslice, the Kerry campaign’s director of religious outreach, said in an exclusive interview with the PBS television program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly” airing across the country this weekend. At the same time, she said was excited about the positive results of bringing people of faith into the campaign. “I think we’ve pioneered a new direction for the Democrats,” she said, adding that there is a “whole flood of …

NEWS STORY: Christian Conservatives Mobilize Against Specter

c. 2004 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Christian anti-abortion groups are planning a Tuesday (Nov. 16) “pray-in” on Capitol Hill to try to prevent Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., from chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will play an important role in determining the next member of the Supreme Court. The Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, one of the protest sponsors, said he is urging people to pray and to contact Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist insisting that a chairman be chosen who is loyal to President Bush and opposes abortion. “That man is not Sen. Specter,” said Mahoney.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2004 Religion News Service Spokane, Wash., Diocese Plans Bankruptcy Filing (RNS) The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Wash., has announced that his diocese plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being unable to settle claims against it relating to sexual abuse. Diocesan officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to settle 28 pending claims, Bishop William S. Skylstad wrote in his diocesan newspaper. He said those claims related to the actions of one former diocesan priest, Patrick O’Donnell. But Skylstad said another 30 claims are pending in other cases, bringing the total of sought damages to “tens of millions of dollars.” He hopes the move toward reorganization will permit fair treatment of the victims and the continuation of the diocese’s ministries.

COMMENTARY: Loss, in Its Many Forms, Is Part of Life’s Mystery

c. 2004 Religion News Service (UNDATED) November, a season of loss in its own right, has become a deeper one for millions of people for whom the presidential election was a daunting experience of loss. As at an old-fashioned wake out of James Joyce, the loss is being mourned as poignantly and as variously as that of innocent youth swallowed up by the howling but unknowing Irish Sea. Loss is the black border on our humanity identity cards, at the edge but nonetheless part of the whole of every one of our days. It is ironic that, as so many people grapple with this sudden loss, others are arguing passionately about what, in view of the supposed influence of evangelical Christians on the outcome of the election, religion is all about.

COMMENTARY: What if Lindbergh, Not FDR, Had Been President?

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 only thing we have to fear is fear itself. …” When Franklin D. Roosevelt took his presidential oath of office in March 1933, he electrified a nation reeling from four years of the Great Depression that began with the 1929 stock market crash. FDR’s 10 words removed the sense of fear from suffering Americans and replaced it with hope. The phrase quickly became a permanent part of the American lexicon.