COMMENTARY: Thou Shalt Not Assassinate Foreign Leaders

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pat Robertson spoke to TV viewers Monday (Aug. 22) on his “700 Club,” publicly calling for the assassination of the three-time elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Calling Chavez a “terrific danger” in the Americas, Robertson said: “We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator.” Robertson has said some outrageous and appalling things in recent years.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Muslim Group Praises Station for Firing Host, Who Then Lands New Job WASHINGTON (RNS) The Council on American-Islamic Relations has thanked Washington radio station WMAL for firing a conservative talk show host for anti-Islamic statements during a broadcast. But on Wednesday (Aug. 24), Michael Graham announced that he will have a new show, broadcast on the Internet, where there will be “no liberal network execs, no advertisers, not even the FCC” to stifle expression of his views. In a broadcast July 25 on his Washington morning show, Graham made several comments that prompted criticism, including “The problem is not extremism; the problem is Islam.” He also said, “We are at war with a terrorist organization named Islam.” CAIR, a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, complained to WMAL and its advertisers.

As Criticism Spreads, Robertson Claims Assassination Comments Misinterpreted

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Criticism of Pat Robertson’s statements about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has spread across the religious spectrum, with fellow conservative Christian leaders joining what has become a chorus of denunciation. One prominent Southern Baptist leader has gone so far as to say Robertson has brought “shame to the cause of Christ” and needs to repent. On Wednesday (Aug. 24), Robertson, a 75-year-old religious broadcaster, tried to explain himself.

COMMENTARY: No New Monuments to the Ten Commandments

c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like most Americans, I like monuments. They’re big, they’re solid and they last. Mount Rushmore is ridiculously massive, but it is spectacularly American and looks great on a postcard. But do I really want to see a monument of the Ten Commandments springing up on every courthouse and state Capitol lawn in the country?

Responding to the call

Quote of the Day: Kim Clark, new president of Brigham Young University-Idaho “You have to appreciate what this is like. We behold him to be a prophet. Imagine yourself getting a call from Moses.” -Kim Clark, who left his position as dean of Harvard Business School in response to the call of Gordon Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for him to become the president of Brigham Young University-Idaho. He was quoted by the Associated Press.

Pat Robertson’s critics; and interpretations of sharia

Adelle M. Banks reports Wednesday on Pat Robertson’s controversial statements about assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Criticism of his comments has spread across the religious spectrum, and today Robertson says that when he said the U.S. should “take him out” he wasn’t referring to assassination. With the current debate over the new Iraqi constitution, and the role of Islam in it, Andrea Useem considers the disagreements over different interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law: Muslims around the world are divided themselves over exactly what Islamic law, or sharia as it is known in Arabic, is and how it should be applied. In its broadest sense, sharia is a system of laws based on the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Like other legal systems, it has been elaborated on and debated by centuries of trained scholars.

NEWS SIDEBAR: World Youth Day to Go Down Under in 2008

c. 2005 Religion News Service COLOGNE, Germany _ The World Youth Day festivities are going down under in 2008, Catholic leaders announced on Sunday (Aug. 21), thanks mostly to lobbying by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney. Hours before the highly anticipated announcement was made, Pell said in an interview that he hoped the event would help re-energize the church in Australia. “There are many reports in the news about the decline of the church and where it might lead, but to be part of an event like this one does nothing but strengthen a person’s faith,” Pell said.

NEWS STORY: Pope Urges Youths to Discard `Do-it-Yourself’ Religion

c. 2005 Religion News Service COLOGNE, Germany _ Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday (Aug. 21) ended his first foreign trip and closed the World Youth Day festivities by urging more than 1 million young Catholics to reject “do-it-yourself” religion. Benedict closed World Youth Day with a huge open-air Mass at a former mine called Marienfeld. Many in the crowd had camped overnight under damp and cool conditions, and organizers said the crowd surpassed their most optimistic estimates to top more than 1 million.

NEWS STORY: Pope Vows Better Ties in Meeting with Muslim, Jewish Leaders

c. 2005 Religion News Service COLOGNE, Germany _ Capping off two days of interfaith meetings filled with political importance and religious symbolism, Pope Benedict XVI met with the leadership of Germany’s fast-growing Muslim community Saturday (Aug. 20), a day after a poignant visit to Cologne’s synagogue. Even the late John Paul II, who made interfaith outreach a hallmark of his papacy, never attempted two such highly symbolic events focusing on other faiths in as many days. The two visits were part of the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to reach out to other faiths, initiatives that are a natural fit in Germany, where the Protestant Reformation was sparked nearly 500 years ago, where the Nazi Holocaust slaughtered 6 million Jews, and now home to the fastest-growing Muslim population within the European Union.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Boycott Over, Southern Baptists Offers Tips on Disney Movies (RNS) In a sign that its boycott against the Walt Disney Co. is history, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention has published a review of Disney movies that Baptists might have missed during their eight-year separation from the entertainment giant. “During the boycott of Disney, Southern Baptists missed a whole lot of films worth passing up, but there were a few worthy efforts by Disney that are now on DVD/video,” wrote Phil Boatwright, a movie reviewer who regularly writes for Baptist Press, in a Wednesday (Aug. 17) article.

Gathering the tools

Quote of the Day: Promise Keepers President and CEO Tom Fortson Jr. “The church is not the four walls. The church is like Home Depot. You go there to get what you need to return home and fix what’s in disrepair.” -Promise Keepers President and CEO Tom Fortson Jr., speaking in Nashville, Tenn., where his evangelical men’s ministry sponsored an August gathering. He was quoted by the Tennessean of Nashville.

A new American mosque; and Muslim singles looking for love

Tuesday’s RNS report features two stories on Islam: Frank Bentayou reports on America’s largest mosque, the $14 million Islamic Center of America, that recently opened in Dearborn, Mich.: “It’s our statement of peace and understanding to the world” from one of America’s capitals of Muslim life, Ed Bedoun, a member of the mosque board, said. Jeff Diamant’s piece on Muslim dating looks at how young, unmarried Muslims have combined the modern “speed-dating”technique with old religious practices: Islam forbids unsupervised dating, so the recent gathering of young, unmarried Muslims in the banquet hall of an Edison, N.J., restaurant was billed not as a singles party but as a weightier Muslim Matrimonial EventâÂ?¦Chaperones would roam while the 100 unmarried “candidates” got to know each other through small group talks. The singles-56 women, 44 men-would take notes to keep track of the candidates each would meet. And there would be little subtlety about the reason they were there.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2005 Religion News Service Vatican Review of Chastity in U.S. Seminaries to Start Next Month (RNS) A Vatican review of U.S. Catholic seminaries will begin in September, with a special focus on how the schools prepare priests to “faithfully live chastely” under the shadow of the sexual abuse scandal. On-site visits will be made to all 229 U.S. seminaries by three- and four-member teams appointed by the Vatican, Catholic News Service reported on Monday (Aug. 22). Most visits will be made this academic year, while smaller schools will be reviewed next year.

Single Muslims Look for Love at `Matrimonial Event’

c. 2005 Religion News Service EDISON, N.J. _ Islam forbids unsupervised dating, so the recent gathering of young, unmarried Muslims in the banquet hall of an Edison restaurant was billed not as a singles party but as a weightier Muslim Matrimonial Event. The modern “speed-dating” technique was blended with old religious practices, giving it an Islamic twist with clear rules: Chaperones would roam while the 100 unmarried “candidates” got to know each other through small group talks. An imam would lecture on how the prophet Muhammad valued marriage. There would be a break for evening prayer.

New, $14 Million Mosque Source of Pride for American Muslims

c. 2005 Religion News Service DEARBORN, Mich. _ Suddenly in late spring, Fridays brought a new feeling along the strip this Detroit suburb calls Altar Alley. Dearborn’s big, older churches cluster on an access street that parallels teeming Ford Road, west of the tinted-glass forest of automotive corporate towers. A striking new institution joined them in May, after seven years of planning, fundraising and construction.