Originally created 11/28/98

Religion briefs: ACLU block Bible Week



PHOENIX -- The American Civil Liberties Union has won round one of a court fight protesting the declaration of National Bible Week in Arizona.

An Arizona judge issued a temporary restraining order Nov. 20 blocking a proclamation of National Bible Week, calling it unconstitutional. The ACLU has protested such proclamations informally for years, claiming that they violate separation of church and state and discriminate against non-Christians.

The National Bible Association, which has sponsored Bible Week since 1941, says proclamations do not violate the First Amendment because they do not call for organized religious activity or the establishment of a particular religion.

"The request is simply that the citizens of our communities be reminded to read the Bible," the group says.

Harvard divinity dean to step down

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Rev. Ronald F. Thiemann, dean of the Divinity School at Harvard University plans to step down after leading the school for 12 years.

Thiemann, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, says he plans to return to the divinity school faculty after taking a sabbatical in 1999.

He came to Harvard in July 1986 after serving as professor and chairman of the religion department at Haverford College. He holds a bachelor's degree from Concordia Senior College and earned his doctorate at Yale.

His scholarly works include "Revelation and Theology" (1985), "Constructing a Public Theology" (1991), and "Religion in Public Life" (1996).

Methodists honor U.N. chief

NEW YORK -- The World Methodist Council, representing believers in 108 nations, presented its 1998 World Peace Award to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Previous winners included Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1978, U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1985 and Mikhail Gorbachev of the former Soviet Union in 1990.

The Methodist award is presented to individuals or groups that display "courage, creativity and consistency" in the pursuit of world peace. Prior to his appointment as secretary general in 1996, Annan was a U.N. staff member active in negotiation and conflict resolution.

Annan received his primary education at Mfantsipim School, a Methodist campus in Ghana. "There I was privileged to have teachers who understood the value of knowledge infused with a purpose," he said at the award ceremony. "They taught me, in the spirit of faith, that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere."

Farm labor organizer wins Bernardin award

WASHINGTON -- Lucas Benitez, a 22-year-old farmworker organizer, is the first winner of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.

Benitez, a community organizer at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Immokalee, Florida, immigrated from Mexico as a teenager to help support his parents and siblings by picking fruit for growers throughout the South and along the East Coast. He became active in the Southwest Florida Farmworker Project, funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

He helped lead a local campaign to raise the federal minimum a wage, he was one of the leaders of the first general strike in Immokalee to protest a planned wage cut.

The campaign, founded by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1979, is a leading supporter of grassroots antipoverty projects.

World Council of Churches reworks Web site

GENEVA -- The World Council of Churches has redesigned of its World Wide Web site to inform 332 member denominations in 120 countries during an international assembly, Dec. 3 to 14 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The site (www.wcc-coe.org) will carry news releases, assembly documents, details on worship services and information from hearings. The site will also provide reports from more than 400 unofficial open forum events where international Christians will be sharing information and opinion. The site contains material in English, French and German.