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c. 1998 Religion News Service

Arkansas clergy criticize Starr, Congress for releasing testimony

(RNS) A dozen Christian and Jewish leaders have called on Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and Congress to admit that it was wrong to release President Clinton’s grand jury testimony.

The Rev. Jeanie Burton, senior pastor of the Arkansas Methodist church where first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea are members, said it was not proper to embarrass the Clinton family over the Monica Lewinsky matter.”Wounded people and conditions deserve compassionate and healing treatment, not sadistic torture, abuse of their dignity and exploitation,”said Burton of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

She and other clergy spoke at a news conference Tuesday (Sept. 29), the Associated Press reported. Their remarks came two weeks after Starr released his report to Congress and the public and a week after the four-hour videotape of Clinton’s grand jury appearance was aired across the globe.

The Rev. Wendell Griffen, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, called for the”hypocritical cruelty”of the report’s release to be acknowledged and condemned.”The sexually explicit details were exposed to torture the president and Ms. Lewinsky, torment their families and titillate the public for personal, political and financial profit,”he said.

Griffen, an Arkansas Court of Appeals judge, also criticized Clinton’s conduct. The group declined to comment on whether the president’s actions warranted impeachment or other sanctions.

He did harshly criticize Starr, saying the independent counsel is abusing his office and is involved”in what is plainly an effort to poison public opinion.” The House Judiciary Committee is expected to consider a resolution to seek an impeachment inquiry of the president. The full House could vote on the issue by the end of the first full week of October.”Congress needs to follow the law,”said the Rev. Howard Gordon of First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock.”It’s not up to the American people to decide whether it’s impeachment or censure. The House of Representatives and the independent counsel, with compassion, should do their jobs. But they’re not doing it with compassion.”

Child with”What Would Jesus Do”necklace gets lead poisoning

(RNS) Tennessee health officials have issued a warning about certain imported jewelry after finding that a 2-year-old boy who had worn a”What Would Jesus Do”got lead poisoning.

The alert by the state Department of Health came after the Knoxville boy was found with extremely high lead levels in his blood. He had worn one of the trendy necklaces for several weeks, the Associated Press reported.

Dr. Fredia Wadley, the state health officer, said tests on”WWJD”and other inexpensive imported necklaces from Korea, Taiwan and China showed they had dangerous levels of lead and nickel.

Health officials suggested that people stop wearing the imported jewelry until further testing is complete. Similar jewelry made in the United States was found to have no problems.

A variety of stores sell the necklaces, which include crosses and hearts as well as”WWJD”designs, for between $1 and $7.

Kmart Corp. has removed the necklaces from all its stores, Wadley said.

One in every six children younger than 6 are affected by lead poisoning. It can slow the development of a child, but in extremely high doses, it can cause brain damage and death.

Wadley said young children are at a greater risk because they put things, including necklaces, in their mouths.

The mother of the Knoxville boy who took ill sought a doctor’s attention last summer because he was fussy and listless. Tests found his lead count was four times greater than the level considered elevated.

The boy’s lead level has since dropped but continues to be elevated. It is too soon to know if he will suffer any long-term health problems.

Christian Coalition defended by ACLU, AFL-CIO

(RNS) The Christian Coalition has gained the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO in its defense against a Federal Election Commission lawsuit.

The labor federation, which is known for its ties to Democrats, filed a friends-of-the-court brief Tuesday (Sept. 29) that argues that the suit against the conservative Christian Coalition is a threat to free speech.”Citizens and labor organizations of every political stripe will be severely constrained in their ability to speak out on policy issues of concern to their members and to the public,”the brief states.

The coalition distributed brief excerpts, the Associated Press reported. AFL-CIO officials did not immediately return phone calls for comment and an ACLU spokesman was not immediately able to confirm that group’s involvement.

The FEC charges in its suit that the coalition violated campaign laws by spending thousands of dollars to promote Republican candidacies of such politicians as former President Bush, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Virginia Senate candidate Oliver North and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

The coalition has argued that it did not break the law because its campaign materials did not specifically advocate the defeat or election of individual candidates.

The FEC alleges that the coalition broke the law by coordinating its activities with Republicans in an improper manner.

In their brief, the ACLU and the AFL-CIO concurred with the coalition that the FEC shouldn’t be allowed to make that judgment.

Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition, said the views of the two groups shore up the coalition’s arguments.”That these two groups, which are usually on the opposite side of the policy issues from (the) Christian Coalition, are willing to come forward demonstrates that this case is not about partisan politics but about free speech,”he said.

The action of the AFL-CIO and the ACLU follows a recent request by coalition critics for the Internal Revenue Service to rule on the coalition’s tax-exempt status. Americans United for Separation of Church and State made the request Sept. 14, seeking a rejection of the status because it believes the coalition is primarily partisan.

Christians in India call protest rally over rape of nuns

(RNS) Christians activists in India have called for followers to rally in New Delhi on Oct. 3 to protest an influential Hindu organization the Christians say is trying to justify the rape of four nuns last week.

The controversy erupted over the weekend when a senior official of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council, was reported as describing the rape incident in the remote Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh state as the consequence of Hindu anger over conversions to Christianity.

Christians and the VHP frequently clash over the conversion issue.

But VHP General Secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore told Reuters on Wednesday that the remarks of Baikunth Lal Sharma were distorted by the media.”It was purely a criminal case,”he said of the incident.”We totally condemn these things.” But Roman Catholic Bishop Vincent Concessao, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Delhi, said it was not just the rapes that were angering Christians.”There have been a series of incidents,”he said.

Kishore, however, said his group opposed efforts by the Christians to convert Hindus, especially conversion based on such incentives as financial help, education, social work or interreligious marriages.”We don’t want Hindus converted against their wishes,”he said.

Life Chain ’98 to be held first Sunday in October

(RNS) Life Chain ’98, the continuation of an annual event sponsored by anti-abortion activists, will be held across North America on Sunday (Oct. 4).

Organizers say the event will take place in 850 cities and towns in the United States and Canada from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. local time. Participants are expected to pray and hold up signs with sayings such as”Abortion Kills Children”and”Jesus Forgives and Heals.” The Life Chain, which began in 1987, also will draw attention to local abortion clinics.”On October 4, it is urgent that we pray earnestly for repentance to come to our nation and for the wrath of our just and grieving God to be lifted,”said Royce Dunn, director of National Life Chain, which is based in Yuba City, Calif.

Quote of the day: Jerusalem tour guide Shmaryahi Yahav

(RNS)”It’s the time to confess your sins right out loud. You try to improve your communication with God, and with other people, too.” Sharyahi Yahav, a Jerusalem tour guide, explaining the meaning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as quoted by the Associated Press on Tuesday, Sept. 29.


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