RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service North American Muslims Call for Release of Israeli Soldiers (RNS) Muslim advocacy groups in the United States and Canada are urging the militant group Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers captured in a cross-border raid July 12 _ but added that the release should be preceded by a cease-fire and lead to the release of thousands of Arab prisoners in Israeli jails. “All prisoners should be released by all parties, and that includes the two Israeli soldiers being held by Hezbollah, but also the many Palestinians and Lebanese who are being held in Israeli jails without charge,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, Israel held 794 Palestinian prisoners without charge at the start of this year. “It appears that an Israeli life and Israeli freedom is much more valuable than Palestinian life.

Investors Hail Fraud Convictions of Arizona Baptist Foundation Execs

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) With the fraud convictions of two executives of the bankrupt Baptist Foundation of Arizona, investors are expressing relief that a sad chapter in their lives has ended. Verdicts announced Monday (July 24) after a 10-month trial found William Crotts, the foundation’s former president, and Thomas Grabinski, its former general counsel, each guilty of three counts of fraud in what was the largest nonprofit bankruptcy in U.S. history when it occurred in 1999. The two men were also each charged with one count of illegally conducting an enterprise. While investors believed their money would aid Baptist causes _ such as building churches _ state investigators found the two men had created a Ponzi scheme, in which new investors’ money was used to pay off old ones.

Christian Groups Press for Middle East Ceasefire

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) As the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon entered its 13th day Tuesday (July 25), mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders around the world continued to press the combatants _ and the Bush administration _ for an immediate cease-fire. But as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to beleaguered Beirut on Monday, neither Israel nor the United States appeared willing to begin the bargaining that could bring an end to the hostilities. Many Christian groups have been pressing for a cease-fire since the crisis began on July 12, when Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas entered Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. Most recently, on Monday (July 24), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches called for “an immediate cessation of violent acts by all parties,” and said the first step “is for all acts of violence to end immediately.” In a July 21 letter to Bush, signed by more than a dozen Roman Catholic and Protestant groups _ including the National Council of Churches _ Churches for Middle East Peace told the president his leadership “and the full weight of the Untied States, acting in concert with the international community, must be applied now to achieve an immediate cease-fire and to launch an intensive diplomatic initiative for the cessation of hostilities.

Muslim Professor Displays Islam’s Diversity

c. 2006 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is a Muslim. He has a doctorate in Islamic studies from Harvard University and teaches at Reed College here. He has one book to his credit and is halfway through writing his second, a history of Islam in the United States since Colonial times.

COMMENTARY: Talking to Each Other Instead of Letting Others Speak For Us

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I stood at the ticket counter and felt baffled. I didn’t want to pay first-run prices for sequels whose originals were dull, or for one last gasp of the Sandra-meets-Keanu franchise, or for a comedy ridiculing short people. The one film I wanted to see, “The Devil Wears Prada,” had already started. So we found an outdoor table, ordered seafood, and just talked.

Documentary Explores Evangelicals’ Missionary Work

c. 2006 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES _ A new documentary film on the strategies behind one evangelical Christian missionary group shows the power of mass media and marketing to reach even the world’s most remote outposts. “The Tailenders,” which debuts July 25 on PBS, is a portrait of Global Recordings Network (GRN), an organization committed to recording Bible stories in every one of the world’s 8,000-plus languages and dialects and to evangelizing with those recordings around the world. “I think the film is about media and how powerful of a tool it can be in changing whole belief systems,” the film’s director, Adele Horne, said in an interview. GRN, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1939 by Joy Ridderhoff, has a vault of recordings with Bible stories in more than 5,400 languages and dialects, including some that are seldom spoken or nearly extinct.

New Exhibit Traces John Paul II’s Connections with Jews

c. 2006 Religion News Service PITTSBURGH _ Look through the bedroom window, as Karol Wojtyla did as a young boy in the small Polish town of Wadowice, at an inscription on the side of the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Time flies, eternity waits.” Walk under a replica of the gate leading into the Krakow Ghetto, where many of the young man’s Jewish friends and neighbors would be forced to relocate during World War II. Most would be murdered in concentration camps. Listen as the man who became Pope John Paul II declares, at age 79 during an emotional 2000 visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel: “No one can forget or ignore” the terrible tragedy of the Shoah. Fit the pieces together in a major exhibit at Duquesne University, and one can understand the odyssey of John Paul from a Catholic growing up in southern Poland during the horrors of World War II to the man some interfaith leaders call perhaps the greatest pope the Jewish people have known.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service American Muslims and Arab-Americans Rip Rice and Rumsfeld (RNS) The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee filed a federal lawsuit Monday (July 24) against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, claiming that the two officials failed to protect American citizens in Lebanon. According to an ADC press release, the lawsuit alleges that Rice and Rumsfeld “placed U.S. citizens in peril by not taking all possible steps to secure the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Lebanon.” Several Americans who recently escaped from Lebanon added their name to the suit, which also asks the federal court to order Rice and Rumsfeld to request a cease-fire and stop shipments of military equipment to Israel while the remaining U.S citizens are evacuated. The White House has thus far avoided calls from the Lebanese government, several European governments and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a cease-fire. According to the State Department, as many as 25,000 American citizens were in Lebanon when Israel launched jet and artillery assaults that have killed more than 300 Lebanese civilians and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, according to news reports.

Gay Parents Voice Concerns About Rights

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like any other parent, Karen Bellavance-Grace cherishes the moments big and small: a walk with her sons, a visit with grandparents, a review of a stellar report card. But as a gay mother who adopted her children through the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, the Northampton, Mass., resident has also watched with dismay as Gov. W. Mitt Romney has maneuvered to allow the Roman Catholic Church to wiggle around anti-discrimination laws that protect gay adoptions. Romney filed legislation in May to allow Catholic adoption agencies in three Massachusetts cities to refuse to consider gays on religious grounds. The move followed a decision by Catholic Charities of Boston to halt its adoption services after learning that it had to accept gay applicants to comply with state law.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Editors: Care Net is cq in 6th graf Study: `Pregnancy Resource Centers’ Link Abortion With Breast Cancer (RNS) A study of two dozen federally funded “pregnancy resource centers” that was requested by a Democratic congressman has concluded that the majority of them provide questionable information about the consequences of abortion. The study, sought by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., involved female investigators who telephoned 25 centers that have received funding from the Compassion Capital Fund, a program of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Twenty-three centers were successfully contacted by investigators who posed as pregnant 17-year-olds trying to determine if they should have an abortion. Investigators said 20 of the 23 centers gave “false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion.” They were told about links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.

Gay parents’ rights

In Friday’s RNS report Mary Ellen Lowney reports on gay parents concerned about their rights: Like any other parent, Karen Bellavance-Grace cherishes the moments big and small: a walk with her sons, a visit with grandparents, a review of a stellar report card. But as a gay mother who adopted her children through the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, she also watches with dismay as Gov. W. Mitt Romney maneuvers to allow the Roman Catholic Church to wiggle around anti-discrimination laws that protect gay adoptions. Romney filed legislation recently to allow Catholic adoption agencies to refuse to consider gays on religious grounds. The move followed a decision by Catholic Charities of Boston to halt its adoption services after learning that it had to accept gay applicants to comply with state law.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Report: Church-State Lines Not Always Drawn With Faith-Based Groups (RNS) An examination of the White House’s faith-based initiative has found that some organizations are not separating religious activities from federally funded services. At the request of two members of Congress, the U.S. General Accountability Office spent more than a year conducting a review of federal and state agencies related to the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. The GAO also investigated religious groups that have received government grants. The report, released Tuesday (July 18), said officials at 26 faith-based organizations that were visited by investigators said they understood that government funds could not pay for religious activities.

Amid Conflict in Middle East, Tense Times for Interfaith Groups Here

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein received a phone call this week (July 18) he’s not sure he would have received a few years ago. A Syrian-American friend called to say how sorry he was about the violent conflict now roiling the Middle East. Not sorry for any particular group, stressed Stein, a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. “He was sorry for it all.

Many in Harm’s Way Question Government

c. 2006 Religion News Service MAJD AL-KRUM, Israel _ When the shriek pierced the tranquillity of this mountainside Israeli Arab village a week ago (July 9-15), Hanza Farhat mistook it for the sound of a distressed airplane. Then the Hezbollah rocket crashed into the roof opposite the balcony where she was minding her young daughters. Now, Farhat says, her 4-year-old, Haya, won’t leave her side. “I’m taking relaxation pills,” Farhat said.

Relocating to Israel, War or Not

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Ideally, they said, they would have picked another week for the biggest move of their lives. Still, 220 Jews with one-way tickets to Israel boarded an El Al plane Wednesday (July 19), and those interviewed said the past eight days of hostilities between Lebanon and Israel never made them doubt their years-old decision to move to the Jewish nation. “Am I nervous? I don’t know if nervous is the word.