Religion Today Summaries, January 31, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, January 31, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Despite Religious Chill, Vatican Envoy Greeted Warmly by Putin
  • Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Human Cloning Ban
  • Catholic Politicians, Lieberman Confronted on Support for Abortion
  • Christian Station Owner Sued for 'Religious Hostility'

Despite Religious Chill, Vatican Envoy Greeted Warmly by Putin
Frank Brown

(RNS) Russian President Vladimir Putin had warm words Thursday (Jan. 30) for Roman Catholics at a time when the faith is experiencing its worst persecution since the end of the Soviet Union.  "Russia is in favor of developing a political dialogue with the Vatican," Putin told Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the pope's new envoy to Russia, according to the Moscow-based ITAR-TASS news agency.  Putin's comments are especially noteworthy because the Russian government last year expelled four Catholic priests and a bishop – all foreigners.  Despite a personal appeal from Pope John Paul II, the Kremlin refused to explain the expulsions or allow the clergy to return.  In December, a leaked Russian government report identified the Roman Catholic Church as the No. 1 religious threat to Russia's national security.  At least one observer of Russia's religious scene said Thursday that Putin's words had little significance for Russia's estimated 600,000 people with Catholic roots.  "I don't see anything new in this," said Anatoly Krasikov, head of the Russian branch of the U.S.-based International Association for Freedom of Religion.  "When Putin met with the pope, his words were very warm then, too."

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Human Cloning Ban

(FRC) Sen. Sam Brownback convened a hearing Wednesday on the bill to ban all cloning of human beings.  Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida, a physician, produced dozens of peer-reviewed medical studies on the current therapeutic benefits of treatments derived from adult stem cells and umbilical cord cells.  Dr. Weldon also pointed out that not a single patient is currently being treated with stem cells from destroyed human embryos, and the promises of future miracle cures from cloned embryos are grossly inflated.  The only other physician in the Senate, Bill Frist, also opposes cloning human embryos for medical experimentation.  Rep. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania also testified powerfully against what Sen. Brownback terms destructive cloning: "To describe the process of destructive human cloning as 'therapeutic,' when the intent is to create new human life that is destined for virtually immediate destruction, is misleading.  However one would like to describe the process of destructive human cloning, it is certainly not therapeutic for the clone who has been created and then disemboweled  . . ."  The Bush administration continues to push the issue, too, with Vice President Dick Cheney repeating President Bush's call for a ban on cloning human beings.

Catholic Politicians, Lieberman Confronted on Support for Abortion

(Baptist Press) A Roman Catholic bishop has called on California Gov. Gray Davis to choose between supporting abortion and taking communion.  A similar challenge has been posed to Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who is a Connecticut senator and announced presidential candidate.  The American Life League called for all bishops and priests to refuse communion to public officials "whose unrepentant support for the killing of babies in the womb defiles the [Mass] and the body of Christ."  In a full-page ad in the Jan. 22 issue of The Washington Times, ALL placed the names and photos of what it called "The Deadly Dozen" in the U.S. Senate, telling the senators they could not be both Catholic and pro-abortion.  The 12 senators consisted of 11 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. The Democrats were Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader, and Sens. John Kerry, an announced presidential candidate, and fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy; Joseph Biden of Delaware; Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Tom Harkin of Iowa; Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Patty Murray of Washington; and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Christian Station Owner Sued for 'Religious Hostility'

(Charisma News) A Florida TV producer sued her former employer yesterday, claiming that Bible study sessions in the office and Scripture stuffed into pay envelopes created a religiously hostile workplace.  Rozanne Sonneborn says she lost her job after asking WJMK Television Productions of Boca Raton to stop putting the Bible verses with her paychecks, the "Palm Beach Post" reported.  However, an attorney for WJMK maintained that Sonneborn was laid off last year because of a downturn in the economy.  "Her claims do not have any merit," Joe Curley said.  "That will be proven in court."  Sonneborn, who describes herself in the lawsuit as Jewish and nonreligious, said that while the Bible studies were not mandatory, employees felt attendance would help their career.  Her lawsuit says WJMK President Mark Kielar is a "fundamentalist or Born Again Christian" who also owns a Christian TV station.  WJMK produces secular programs for cable TV.  Kielar "is a religious person with a strong faith and convictions, but there are a number of people who are Jewish who work there, as well as other religions," said Curley, who noted that the paycheck inserts were Old Testament proverbs meant to be inspirational.