NEWS STORY: Bush Budget Would Fund Private, Religious Schools

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Early in his first term, President Bush proposed a plan to provide federally financed vouchers to give low-income parents across the nation the option of sending their children to private schools, including religious ones. Faced with strong opposition from Democrats and teachers unions, Bush settled for a $13 million pilot program limited to families in Washington, D.C. That move seemed to sidetrack the issue as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, war in Iraq and political battles took center stage. But in a little-noticed section of his 2006 budget proposal, Bush is resurrecting his request for a nationwide $50 million “Choice Incentive Fund.” The idea, aides said, is to give private groups across the United States the chance to compete for federal money for programs that give parents more educational choices.

COMMENTARY: Secret Tapes Suggest Young Bush Was No Saint

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The evidence would seem to suggest that President Bush tried reefer as a young man. Well, there goes his chance for a third term. We refer of course to the secret tapes of Gov. Bush, made by an old pal, Doug Wead _ who, by some odd turn of events, has a book to sell. Bush comes off quite well on the tapes _ tart, straightforward, politically canny, and given to handing out frat-boy nicknames.

COMMENTARY: Best-selling `God’s Politics’ Creates Opportunity for Evangelical Center

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Evangelical left leader Jim Wallis has hit The New York Times best-seller list and the national talk shows with his new book, “God’s Politics.” All this has triggered even more conversation about the role of religious values in American politics. I met Wallis in the early 1990s when I worked at Evangelicals for Social Action, a progressive evangelical organization based in Philadelphia. Wallis, who heads the Sojourners community in Washington, often could be found at events where my boss, Ron Sider, also was present. Together with Tony Campolo and a handful of others, Wallis and Sider were the main leaders of the evangelical left as it struggled to find its voice in an era dominated by conservative Christian groups such as the Christian Coalition.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Ailing Pope Conducts General Audience by Video-Conference for First Time VATICAN CITY (RNS) For the first time ever, an ailing Pope John Paul II has conducted his weekly general audience by video-conference. The 84-year-old pontiff had been scheduled to greet pilgrims from his open study window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday (Feb. 23), but rain, hail and strong wind forced Vatican officials to make a last-minute change in plans.

NEWS STORY: World Council of Churches Endorses Divestment From Israel

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) The World Council of Churches has urged its 347 member denominations to give “serious consideration” to pulling investments out of Israel in protest of what it sees as mistreatment of Palestinians. In calling for church-sponsored “economic pressure,” the WCC on Monday (Feb. 21) gave strong support for last year’s controversial decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to seek “phased selective divestment” from Israel. “This (Presbyterian) action is commendable in both method and manner, uses criteria rooted in faith and calls members to do the things that make for peace,” the WCC’s 150-member Central Committee said in its resolution.

NEWS STORY: Reversing Historic Model, Missionary From Global South Evangelizes West

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For centuries, Western missionaries have tried to spread the gospel abroad. The Rev. George Kovoor could be called a reverse missionary, because he is an Indian citizen evangelizing Western countries. His style of mission also reverses traditional mission work. Instead of fiery preaching and mass conversions, Kovoor, 47, shares his message through his roles as a priest, educator, leader in the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion and chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.

Pope Releases New Book, Jewish Groups Protest Holocaust Reference

c. 2005 Religion News Service ROME _ In a new book, Pope John Paul II reflects on the “ideologies of evil” in the forms of Nazism, Communism and abortion and reveals that he believed he was dying when he was rushed to a hospital after an attempt on his life in 1981. The pope also cites homosexual unions and the right for same-sex couples to adopt children as “other grave forms of violation of the laws of God.” Even before its publication the book stirred controversy. Jewish groups protested reports that the pope compared abortion to the Holocaust, but the Vatican’s highest authority on doctrine said Tuesday (Feb. 22) that this was a misinterpretation.

NEWS FEATURE: College Class on U2 Explores Religious Influence of a Rock Band

c. 2005 Religion News Service GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. _ Dwarfed by a giant bank of TV monitors, the rock star Bono gyrates across the arena stage _ a dancing shaman channeling the ecstasy of thousands of U2 fans. “In waves of regret, in waves of joy, I reached for the one I tried to destroy,” he sings passionately. “You said you’d wait till the end of the world.” Hands reach out to him as he walks among the faithful.

COMMENTARY: God’s Chorus Has Many Diverse Voices

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Standing discreetly in back, I watch the last 20 minutes of my 13-year-old son’s orchestra rehearsal. Here is what I see: I see boys and girls ranging in age from 8 to 16, several different ethnic backgrounds, different schools, different levels of talent and concentration _ all bending their efforts to a single piece of music. The difference that counts involves violins, violas, cellos and basses. They make different sounds, and their sounds together can make beautiful music.

RNS Religion Research Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Survey Indicates Support for Stem Cell Research (RNS) Three out of four Americans say they support or might be able to support embryonic stem cell research, according to a recent survey. “The issue of stem cell research isn’t going to go away,” said Pam Solo, president of the Civil Society Institute, a nonpartisan public policy think tank in Newton, Mass. “Everyone has someone in their family with a disease who might be helped by stem cell research.” The survey, released Tuesday (Feb. 15), was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for the Institute’s Results for America Project.

NEWS STORY: Catholic Bishops Report 1,092 New Abuse Allegations in 2004

c. 2005 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ More than 1,000 people alleged abuse at the hands of 756 Catholic clergy in 2004, the nation’s Catholic bishops said Friday (Feb. 18), a sign that the three-year abuse scandal continues to rock the church. In addition, officials said various dioceses paid $157.8 million for abuse settlements, therapy and legal fees last year. Since 1950, the Catholic Church in the United States has paid at least $840 million to settle abuse cases.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service `Black Contract’ On Moral Values Aims At Wide Swath of Christians WASHINGTON (RNS) An African-American pastor who recently unveiled the “Black Contract With America on Moral Values” said Friday (Feb. 18) that he hopes to collect a million signatures of Christians from a variety of backgrounds by the end of the year. Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md., expanded upon the plans of his new High Impact Leadership Coalition at a news conference at a Washington hotel. The coalition was first introduced at a Los Angeles summit on Feb.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Churches Welcome Easing of Violence, Remain Cautious About Middle East Peace

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) U.S. religious leaders are cautiously optimistic about chances for what a Catholic bishop called “a just peace” in the Middle East following the recent summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Bishop John H. Ricard said actions taken at the summit to “end the violence and foster conditions for renewed negotiations are encouraging.” Ricard is chairman of the international policy committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He made his comments in a Feb. 11 statement.

NEWS FEATURE: Professor Traces Gospel Singing Style of African-Americans to Scotland

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) When 10 members of the all-black choir at Mount Zion Church in Killen, Ala., flew to Scotland in January on their first overseas trip, they were treated like long-lost family members. “They really, really loved us,” recalled the Rev. Docary Ingram, pastor of the Presbyterian congregation in northwest Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley. “Everything we did, they paid for. We did more kissing in one day than I did in the U.S. in my whole life.

COMMENTARY: No Child Left Unethical

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) President Bush is pushing not one but two values agendas. The first, creating a morally self-confident electorate, was evident in his successful re-election campaign. The president presented himself as the candidate most committed to traditional families, faith and personal responsibility. He urged us to vote our values proudly.