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c. 2007 Religion News Service

Robertson endorses Giuliani for president

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for president Wednesday (Nov. 7), lauding Giuliani’s leadership of New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“In all the crises which confront our nation and the world, we need a leader with a bold vision who is not afraid to tackle the challenges ahead,” said Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“It is my pleasure to announce my support for a mayor, America’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and a proven leader, who is not afraid of what lies ahead and who will cast a hopeful vision for all Americans.”

Robertson cited other issues that impacted his endorsement, including the appointment of future Supreme Court justices, the war in Iraq, violence against Israel and the state of Pakistan’s government.

He did not, however, mention Giuliani’s support for abortion rights, which has been a major obstacle as his campaign seeks to win over religious conservatives who consider abortion a paramount issue.

“To me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists,” Robertson said.

Robertson, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, said “it is my hope and prayer that he will lead the Republican Party to victory in November of 2008.”

In a statement, Giuliani said he was encouraged by Robertson’s support.

“His confidence in me means a lot,” Giuliani said. “His experience and advice will be a great asset to me and my campaign.”

_ Adelle M. Banks

N.J. voters reject stem cell spending

NEWARK, N.J. (RNS) New Jersey voters Tuesday rejected a $450 million ballot initiative on stem cell research that had the support of state Democrats but was strongly opposed by Catholic bishops.

The proposal to borrow money to pioneer home-grown stem cell research, as well as a move to create a property tax relief fund, lost by wide margins in what appeared to be a stern rebuke of the state’s fiscal management.

Although the two issues seem unrelated at first blush, opponents turned the debate on their merits into a referendum on the state’s financial health.

“People are saying enough is enough with the borrowing, and that we shouldn’t be venturing into highly risky business ventures,” said Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, who campaigned against both proposals.

Lilo Stainton, a spokeswoman for stem cell research supporter Gov. Jon Corzine, said: “`Walk first, then run’ … that seems to be the theme of this election. The public understands the state has serious financial problems that must be dealt with first.”

_ Robert Schwaneberg and Joe Donohue

Holy Land religious leaders lobby Washington

WASHINGTON (RNS) Leaders of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths in the Holy Land on Wednesday (Nov. 7) announced a series of practical steps toward achieving unity and curbing violence in the region.

The group, which came together in 2005 as the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, made its first visit to the U.S. in advance of a Middle East peace summit that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning in Annapolis, Md.

While the religious leaders do not intend to be at the Annapolis meeting, they said their efforts to protect places of worship and stem derogatory depictions of faith parallel the policy changes being hashed out by the politicians.

While the Holy Land council is not political, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Jerusalem said a political solution cannot be achieved unless the religious dimension of the conflict in Israel and Palestine is addressed.

The council represents major religious organizations in both Israel and Palestine, including Israel’s chief rabbis, Palestinian Islamic law clerics, Lutheran and Anglican bishops, and patriarchs from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

“We are here to say that we are not the problem _ we are a part of the solution,” said Patriarch Michel Sabah, Israel’s top Catholic archbishop, at the news conference.

The council was formed in response to the Alexandria Declaration of 2002, in which religious leaders pledged to help end violence in the Holy Land.

The council’s U.S. trip is funded by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as support from U.S. religious organizations.

_ Beckie Supiano

Canadian Anglicans continue ban on gay weddings

TORONTO (RNS) Canada’s Anglican bishops have decided to continue a moratorium on same-sex marriages that was first imposed in 2005.

Meeting in London, Ontario, for their regular autumn session, the 40 bishops agreed to leave in place the two-year-old moratorium. The Anglican Journal reports they also expressed serious concern about Canadian participation in activities that widen the schism in the Anglican Communion.

Last month, the Anglican dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal voted to approve the blessing of same-sex marriages, should the priest and parish approve. It is unclear what effect the bishops’ decision will have in those dioceses.

“We need to open a conversation to see where we are,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishops in Ottawa and Montreal “would appreciate some input from us,” he added.

The bishops of Ottawa and Montreal said they have not yet decided how they will act on the votes of their synods.

“It was useful to have a conversation with dioceses in the same position,” said Ottawa Bishop John Chapman, who added he would wait for the decision of the diocese of Niagara, which is scheduled to vote on the blessings issue Nov. 16-17.

In 2004, the Niagara diocese voted in favor of conducting same-sex blessings, but its bishop withheld his required endorsement for the measure to take effect.

“I don’t want to act alone, but I don’t think I’ll need to,” said Chapman. “There is movement in the church (toward further acceptance of gay people). There is no going back.”

Bishop Michael Ingham approved same-sex blessings in the British Columbia diocese of New Westminster in 2002, causing an international uproar. Ingham responded to the 2005 moratorium by limiting blessings to eight parishes that had requested permission earlier.

_ Ron Csillag

Clergy lobby for changes in farm bill

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders refused Tuesday (Nov. 6) to endorse subsidies for wealthy farmers and demanded that senators pass an agriculture bill that supports small farmers as well as the nation’s poor.

“It used to be the religious community saying, `Let’s do the best we can for food stamps,”’ said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a national anti-hunger group. “But after the 2002 Farm Bill, African people kept telling us, `This is causing real problems for our hungriest people,’ and we realized it doesn’t help (our) rural people either.”

The $288 billion farm bill, reauthorized every five years, has come under attack this year from an array of advocacy groups for its large commodity payments, subsidizing almost exclusively production of wheat, rice, corn, cotton and soybeans.

Beckmann, who was joined by the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal and high-ranking clergy from other churches, said commodity payments often go to the wealthiest farmers, leaving the majority of the nation’s farmers without that income support.

According to the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, $164.7 billion in commodity payments were made between 1995 and 2005 _ and 10 percent of subsidy recipients received 73 percent of the money.

The clergy said the money would be better used to support small farmers and families struggling to put food on their tables.

The farm bill also authorizes the Food Stamp Program, an income support crucial to many working poor. In 2007, food stamp families receive only about $1 per person, per meal.

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Kabore of Burkina Faso joined Beckmann and Wallis on Capitol Hill, and said the commodity subsidies disrupt international development and leave poor countries struggling to become self-sufficient.

“Burkina Faso loses more money in exports for cotton than it receives in subsidies,” he said of the West African country. Commodity subsidies given to wealthy U.S. cotton farmers promote the overproduction of cotton in the U.S., which drives down the price of cotton worldwide, he said.

The group voiced support for several proposed amendments: one seeking a $250,000 yearly cap on commodity payments to farmers; the other cutting commodity payments and offering free revenue insurance for all farmers, with savings redirected to nutritional support programs.

Washington Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane said if positive steps are not taken, his flock will demand answers. “If this bill goes down, my people will ask, `What is wrong with the Congress of the United States?”’

_ Sarah McCann

Quote of the Day: Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.

(RNS) “While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies.”

_ Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., to Yahoo Inc.’s co-founder and chief executive Jerry Yang and general counsel Michael Callahan. The company heads were on Capitol Hill to explain their role in helping China locate and imprison pro-democracy dissidents. Lantos was quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

KRE/PH END RNS

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