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9:03 AM PDT, September 20, 2001

Bush Names Baptist Leader to Panel

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has named Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, to a panel on religious liberty.

The prominent evangelical thinker was appointed Monday to the nine-member U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which Congress created in 1998.

Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist's public policy arm, and has organized Washington summits on religious persecution. That effort led to the creation of a coalition of religious and public policy leaders, focusing on the issue.

Land has spoken on religious freedom in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and other countries, and has testified on the issue before Congress.

The Southern Baptist Convention has 15.9 million members and is the nation's largest Protestant denomination.


Bishops to publicize hot line, Web site to help travelers find Mass<

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Roman Catholics don't have to miss Mass while they're traveling.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has formed a partnership with "1-800-Mass Times" to help publicize the hot line and Web site -- -- that lists church services nationwide.

Nearly 22,500 Mass sites are on the database. In 1999, the phone line received more than 100,000 calls, while the Internet site got 120,000 hits.

The database lists Mass times by city and language, and indicates whether the worship site is accessible for people with disabilities.

The service was created by Robert Hummel and is supported by his Perpetual Help Foundation. The bishops' communications arm will help publicize the free service.


Church groups push to make voting easier for felons<

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) -- Virginia churches are lobbying the state to make it easier for felons to regain their voting rights.

Thirty-seven states automatically restore voting rights to felons once they've served their time or completed a waiting period. Virginia requires case-by-case approval by the governor.

Richmond's Roman Catholic diocese believes the state's policy violates Christian principles of forgiveness and redemption.

"From a human perspective, if they've done their time, they ought to be reinstated fully. They ought to be able to get to vote," Bishop Walter Sullivan said.

This summer, the 340,000-member Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church endorsed restoration of voting rights to felons after they complete their sentences.

Representatives from several South Hampton Roads churches gathered at Chesapeake's Bethany Baptist Church last month and started a petition drive urging legislators to relax the requirements for restoring rights.

State Sen. Yvonne Miller, who favors changing the system, thinks greater church involvement might influence lawmakers who have opposed the change.

Sen. Kenneth Stolle, who chairs the Virginia State Crime Commission, has opposed restoring voting rights. But this summer he appointed a task force to study current procedures.

Any changes would have to be approved by state lawmakers and through a statewide referendum amending the Virginia Constitution.


Arizona's growing Asian population prompts building boom in mosques, temples<

MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- There's a construction boom for temples and mosques in Arizona, as more people of Asian descent make their homes here.

A mosque that will be the state's largest is scheduled to be built in Scottsdale. Another mosque is planned for Chandler. Four other mosques have already been built in the area.

In Scottsdale, a former Church of God has become Arizona's first Hindu temple.

About 5,000 Hindus live in the metropolitan Phoenix area, drawn in part by the technology boom, temple member Ninmala Chhibber said.

Until now, local Hindus have worshipped in private homes.

The census does not track religious affiliation. However, the 2000 census found the Asian population has grown significantly since 1990.

In the eastern Phoenix suburbs alone, the Asian population more than doubled, from 14,716 to 29,481 people.


Lubavitch, Bahais among groups chosen for Hawaii City Lights<

HONOLULU (AP) -- Jewish and Bahai groups are among five private organizations chosen to display lights on City Hall grounds during the holidays in December.

The National Spiritual Assembly of Bahais of the Hawaiian Islands and Chabad Lubavitch of Hawaii each won a space in the Honolulu City Lights celebration.

The groups were selected this month through a lottery established in 1997, after the American Atheists accused the city of giving a Christian group a preferred site.

The other groups selected this year were the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an advocacy group; Goodwill Industries of Hawaii, a workshop for disabled employees; and Kamaaina Care, an affiliate of Kamaaina Kids, operators of preschools.


Unity School names first president from outside founding family<

UNITY VILLAGE, Mo. (AP) -- The new president and chief executive officer of the Unity School of Christianity is the first leader of the 112-year-old religious movement from outside its founders' family.

Tom Zender was appointed Monday, succeeding Connie Fillmore Bazzy, great-granddaughter of founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.

Bazzy, who had served as president since 1987, has no heirs. She becomes chairman of the board, replacing her father, Charles R. Fillmore, who becomes chairman emeritus. Bazzy announced her succession plan in March.

Zender, 62, will move to Unity Village, a self-incorporated suburb of Kansas City, from Irvine, Calif. He has held management positions at General Electric, Honeywell and ITT.

As Unity School of Christianity's president and CEO, Zender will preside over the headquarters of an organization that operates in 175 countries. The Unity movement has churches and full-time ministers, but keeps no official membership list.

©Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Times

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