RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News ServiceNew report says global hunger crisis worseningWASHINGTON (RNS) The number of people living in extreme poverty has grown by 100 million, and the number of hungry people has increased by 75 million in the last two years, according to a report issued Monday (Nov. 24) by the Bread for the World Institute.The report by the Christian anti-hunger group calls on Congress and President-elect Barack Obama to strengthen U.S. foreign assistance programs, making them more effective in fighting global hunger and poverty.“As we grapple with the economic crisis, we need to pay attention to the damage it’s doing to the world’s poorest people,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of the institute.The organization’s 19th annual report examines progress that has been made in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide and risks to the poor posed by rising food and fuel prices. It also analyzes successes and failures of U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs across the government _ from 12 departments, 25 agencies and close to 60 different government offices.“It’s imperative that the U.S. government provide, even in these tough times, adequate funding for immediate hunger needs,” said Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services.Hackett said the government’s foreign assistance goals tended to focus too much on the short-term. Instead, he said, the root causes of poverty must be addressed with reforms.“The interests of the poor and vulnerable must lie at the door of foreign assistance,” Hackett said.The report calls for a series of reforms, including elevating global development as a specific goal of U.S. foreign policy, strengthening civilian leadership in U.S. development assistance and partnering with recipient countries to meet their long-term development goals.It also suggests increasing agricultural productivity and raising the earning potential of poor people to gain long-term food security._ Brittney BainBob Jones University apologizes for racist policies(RNS) Bob Jones University, the conservative Christian school in Greenville, S.C., that did not admit African-American students until 1971 and banned interracial dating until 2000, has apologized for its past racial policies.The school posted a “Statement about Race at Bob Jones University” on its Web site on Thursday (Nov.

Jews, Muslims seek better ties in `Twinning’ program

c. 2008 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ The mistrust and misconceptions between North America’s Jews and Muslims may run thick and deep, but leaders of a new nationwide interfaith initiative say the two sides have more to learn than fear from each other. That was the message issued this weekend (Nov. 21-23) in more than 100 mosques and synagogues that signed up for a “Weekend of Twinning” in hopes of forming relationships to confront the dual threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. “For generations, there has been a series of misunderstandings by Jews and Muslims on what the other religious community believes and practices,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which organized the events.

Third Day scores high note at American Music Awards

The Christian rock band Third Day, was named favorite artist in the contemporary inspirational category at the annual American Music Awards on Sunday (Nov. 23). The band is listed among the winners on the awards’ Web site, which also included more details about them here. Third Day is currently on tour so they missed being at the Los Angeles ceremony that aired live on ABC, but lead singer Mac Powell, said: “What an unbelievable honor to win an award in a category with such great friends. This is our first AMA win and it means so much to us because it’s voted on by fans and we’re certain we have the best fans anyone could ever ask for.

Bob Jones U. apologizes for its racist past

Bob Jones University, the conservative Christian school in Greenville, S.C., has apologized for its racist past, the Associated Press reported. Posted on the school’s Web site is a “Statement about Race at Bob Jones University,” which says its policies were shaped “for far too long” by “the segregationist ethos of American culture” rather than by scriptural principles. “In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves,” the statement reads. “For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.”

Mormon-Evangelical Entente?

Peggy Stack has, as usual, the best take on matters Mormon, this time (notwithstanding comments from me) concerning the fallout from Prop. 8. A possible silver lining for the LDS Church is enhanced street cred with evangelicals, as in the following quote from the Rev. Jim Garlow, one of its pro-Prop. 8 partners in California:Last week, Garlow, of Skyline Church in San Diego, was so outraged by the protests against Mormons that he e-mailed 7,200 California pastors urging them to “speak boldly” in defense of the LDS role in passing Proposition 8. “We were not going to stand by and be silent while there was anti-Mormonism in the streets,” Garlow said Friday.

Piety at 1600 Pennsylvania

Uh-oh. Politico’s Martin and Lee have been tracking President-elect Obama’s post-election church attendance record and found it wanting. It seems that since the election, BO has been more attentive to his body than his soul Sunday mornings. Could it be that, like the majority of the people who voted for him, he is a bit, ah, episodic in his churchgoing? Meanwhile, Time’s Amy Sullivan and WaPo’s Salmon and Boorstein have been canvassing the territory for a good church for the Obamas to attend.

Report suggests CIA covered up role in missionary death

MUSKEGON, Mich. _ A top-ranking Republican said he will call for a new federal inquiry into an alleged CIA cover-up in the 2001 military attack on a small plane in Peru that killed an American missionary and her infant child. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said the attack that killed Veronica and Charity Bowers can be traced to a reckless CIA-sponsored drug interception program that had already downed numerous other planes. Hoekstra also said the CIA may be responsible for a widespread cover-up designed to hide embarrassing details about the Bowers’ deaths and similar incidents in the skies over Peru between 1995 and 2001. A new report from CIA Inspector General John Helgerson accuses the agency of running a reckless air interception program for illegal drugs and ignoring regulations and procedures designed to protect innocent air travelers.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Nepal’s Supreme Court OKs same-sex marriage CHENNAI, India (RNS) Nepal’s Supreme Court has given its consent to same-sex marriages, ordering the country’s Maoist-led government to craft laws to guarantee full rights to gays and lesbians, including the right to marriage. “This is a landmark decision for the sexual minorities and we welcome it,” said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first publicly gay lawmaker and a leading gay rights activist in South Asia. The Supreme Court ordered the government to set up a seven-member committee to study same-sex partnership/marriage laws in other countries and recommend similar legislation for enactment by Nepal, where Hindus are the dominant religious group in a population of 27 million The court also asked the government to ensure that the language of the new law does not discriminate against sexual minorities. It ruled that c

Muslim civil group blasts NYPD `terrorism’ report

NEW YORK-A New York City Police Department report that characterizes young Muslim men as susceptible to Islamic extremism and “jihadization” is biased and unfair, a Muslim civil rights group said Thursday (Nov. 20).

Nepal’s Supreme Court OKs same-sex marriage

CHENNAI, India -Nepal’s Supreme Court has given its consent to same-sex marriages, ordering the country’s Maoist-led government to craft laws to guarantee full rights to gays and lesbians, including the right to marriage.

Farewell to a mensch

As religion reporters, we get the chance to meet all sorts of interesting people on this beat-and occassionally, a few especially nice ones. Such was the case with Evan Silverstein, the reporter for Presbyterian News Service who was found dead at home on Nov. 9. He was just 42. The cause of death, apparently, was a massive heart attack.

Oral Roberts University: settlement, cutbacks

It’s a continuing time of transition at Oral Roberts University since its president Richard Roberts resigned last November amid allegations of unchecked spending and illegal activities by him and members of his family. Last Friday (Nov. 14), the Tulsa, Okla., school announced it had finalized a separation agreement with Roberts, son of university founder and evangelist Oral Roberts. The university will pay Roberts his $223,600 annual salary for the remainder of his appointment term through November 2009. Morey Villareal of Villareal & Associates, the consulting firm aiding the university, said the agreement was “reasonable, consistent with competitive practices and will allow ORU to have a smooth leadership transition.” But, in a cost-cutting move announced Monday, Board Chair Mart Green and Interim President Ralph Fagin said the school will reduce its staff by 100 positions in early 2009.

Let it be

Tomorrow’s edition of the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano marks the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ “White Album” (released November 22, 1968) with this informal absolution: “‘The Beatles are more famous than Jesus Christ’: the sentence pronounced by John Lennon, which provoked profound indignation above all in the United States, after so many years sounds merely like the boasting of a big youngster from the English working class grappling with unexpected success, after being raised on the myth of Elvis and rock’n’roll. And yet, to the talent of Lennon and the other three Beatles are owed some of the finest pages in modern pop music.” Somewhere (though presumably not heaven) Lennon is smiling, his satisfaction marred only by the fact that the pope’s newspaper got his words slightly wrong. The actual quotation, an intensive 30-second Google search reveals, was: “We’re more popular than Jesus now.”

Throwing a little gas on the holy fire

Well, I guess someone had to say it. Kathleen Parker over at The Washington Post says she’s bathing herself in holy water as she diagoses the problem ailing the GOP: G-O-D. Money quote: “Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth-as long as we’re setting ourselves free-is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.” Parker, you’ll remember, is a thoughtful conservative columnist whose head was nearly lopped off by the GOP establishment when she concluded that Sarah Palin was not only a bad choice for John McCain, but a fatal one.