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c. 2004 Religion News Service

Both Sides Claim Victory in House Vote on Gay Marriage

WASHINGTON (RNS) Both supporters and opponents claimed victory after a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage failed a second congressional vote Thursday (Sept. 30).

The Marriage Protection Amendment, which would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman, fell 49 votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass the House. The vote was 227-186.

The Senate rejected the same bill, 50-48, in July. House Republicans knew the measure could not pass but forced the vote as part of a series of election-year showdowns with Democrats on hot-button issues.

Supporters said they never intended to win in the first round and vowed to bring the legislation back next year. “We may not have won by two-thirds, but momentum in on our side,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

President Bush, too, vowed to maintain his support of the amendment. “Because activist judges and local officials in some parts of the country are seeking to redefine marriage for the rest of the country, we must remain vigilant in defending traditional marriage,” he said.

Opponents, led by the Human Rights Campaign’s Cheryl Jacques, said the vote was a “pathetic” attempt to distract attention from more important issues.

“They’re blasting the radio as they pass the gas station on an empty tank,” she said.

Jacques said the measure would never garner the two-thirds vote necessary to win, or be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Last month, voters in Louisiana and Missouri approved statewide constitutional bans against gay marriage. Voters in 11 other states will vote on similar measures Nov. 2. Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow gay couples to marry.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Thousands of Christians Come to Israel for Feast

JERUSALEM (RNS) More than 4,000 evangelical Christians from 80 nations arrived in Israel this week to celebrate the 25th annual Feast of the Tabernacles and give a struggling economy a multi-million dollar boost.

Organized by the Jerusalem-based International Christian Embassy, the festival, which began Wednesday (Sept. 29) will continue through the eight-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

During the past quarter century, the Christian Embassy, an international Christian Zionist organization, has brought more than 100,000 pro-Israel Christians to the Holy Land. As in previous years, the feast’s participants will have the opportunity to visit Jewish settlers, Israeli soldiers at army bases and victims of Palestinian terror attacks, and to tour Christian sites around the country.

On Sunday (Oct. 3), the Christian Embassy is scheduled to co-host a “Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem,” which will be led by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, the former chairman of the Christian Coalition, as well as prominent evangelical leaders from around the world. An estimated 50,000 churches and millions of Christians worldwide are expected to participate.

The organizers of the day of prayer, which include the Jerusalem Summit and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus _ a consortium of Israeli legislators and Christian churches _ say they hope the event will be held the first Sunday of every October for years to come.

On Monday (Oct. 4), participants are scheduled to march through the streets of downtown Jerusalem dressed in national costumes to show their support for Jerusalemites, who have experienced numerous bus bombings and the economic fallout of terrorism during four years of ongoing violence.

Israeli tourism officials have said that the conference will pump an estimated $10 million into the country’s flagging economy.

Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in which he quoted from what Christians consider the Old Testament of the Bible to explain evangelical support for Israel.

“For 25 years we have discharged our mandate to comfort your nation, as it is said in Isaiah 40:1, and in this very difficult time through which your nation is passing, we wish to affirm that our support is genuine.”

_ Michele Chabin

Krueger Steps Down as Leader of Voice of the Faithful

(RNS) Steve Krueger, who helped shape the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful movement into a powerful mouthpiece for reform-minded lay Catholics, announced his immediate resignation on Thursday (Sept. 30).

Krueger, 52, has served as executive director of the group since it emerged after the clergy sex-abuse scandal erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston in early 2002. He did not give a reason for his resignation other than to “pursue other interests.”

“In an institution that measures change in centuries, there is no doubt that we have already made a difference in our young life as an organization and that we continue to make one today,” Krueger said in a letter to supporters.

Voice of the Faithful started as a group of concerned Catholics who met in a church basement. As it grew, it called for greater lay involvement in decision-making and financial transparency.

It has also tussled with about a dozen bishops who refused to allow the group to meet in their dioceses. Former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in December 2002, had a frosty relationship with the group.

James Post, president of Voice of the Faithful, credited Krueger with building the organization from the ground up, including a $1.5 million fund-raising campaign. The group now claims 30,000 members in 200 parish affiliates.

“Throughout this difficult period of the church crisis, Steve has remained steadfastly optimistic in the work we have been called to do and has brought inspiration to building a national office that can serve the movement,” Post said.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

`West Wing’ President Signs on to Statement on Catholic Voting Values

(RNS) Actor Martin Sheen, who plays a left-leaning Catholic president on NBC’s “The West Wing,” has signed on to a campaign to tell Catholics that abortion should not be the only factor weighed in supporting a political candidate.

Pax Christi USA, the Catholic peace movement, has spearheaded a statement that “Life Does Not End at Birth: Catholics Called to Vote for the Common Good.” So far, 200 Catholic organizations have signed on, Pax Christi said.

“Contrary to words used in political speeches, a politician’s commitment to the sanctity of life must be judged by the actions taken to defend and promote life in all its forms,” said Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, a Pax Christi supporter.

The statement comes one month before the presidential election in which Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic, has come under scrutiny for his support of abortion rights. A handful of Catholic bishops have told him he would be barred from Communion in their dioceses because of his position.

Several Catholic organizations have rejected the bishops’ Communion ban, and said Catholics must also consider other issues _ such as poverty, war and peace and immigration _ that are central to the church’s social justice teaching.

The statement quotes the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who said, “Our moral, political and economic responsibilities do not stop at the moment of birth.”

Other supporters include outspoken Sisters Joan Chittister and Christine Vladimiroff. “We will not let a few well-funded groups narrow the profound breadth of Catholic teaching to a partisan agenda,” Vladimiroff said.

_ Kevin Eckstrom

Quote of the Day: Russian President Vladimir Putin

(RNS) “The fight against terrorism is also _ or perhaps first and foremost _ a fight for people’s minds. In the current situation, when one of the criminals’ goals is to direct anger of people of a different faith or nationality toward people of other religions and nationalities, it is our task to build a moral barrier in their way.”

_ Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging religious leaders to help combat terrorism. He was quoted by Radio Free Europe.

MO/LF END RNS

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