While religious leaders offered studiously nonpartisan prayers for peace from the Geneva summit talks, Madalyn Murray O'Hair's American Atheists organization cabled Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that he represented the only hope for peace.

"Ronald Reagan does not represent millions of Americans who want nuclear disarmament, peace and friendship with all other nations in the world," O'Hair and her son, Jon G. Murray, cabled Gorbachev.

The cable to the Soviet leader said, "Our aspirations for a nonbelligerent relationship between our two nations rests on your rational outreach to our irrational president in your meetings at the summit."

In a statement explaining the message to Gorbachev, the Texas-based American Atheists linked their mistrust of President Reagan to his Christian faith, which, they said, leads him to believe that "as atheists, the Soviets are inherently dishonest and cannot be trusted." They said that Reagan's Christian perspective and belief in life after death made him "more likely to provoke or engage in deadly hostilities than atheist leader Gorbachev, who knows there is no god, heaven or afterlife."

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith is planning a nationwide campaign in Israel to combat what it calls the racist ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

The reason, said ADL's Israeli representative, Harry Wall, is that Kahane's drive to expel all Arabs from Israel is a serious threat to American Jewish support of Israel.

Wall explained that Kahane, who recently lost his American citizenship, "threatens Israel as a democracy." American Jews like to think of Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East. If Kahanism spreads, we won't be able to say that anymore," Wall said.

He warned that if Kahane's influence spreads in Israel, "it would surely lead to a rift between American Jewry and Israel."

The ADL will work with Israel's Education Ministry to produce one-minute spots for Israeli television featuring Israeli celebrities speaking out against bigotry against Arabs. The antiprejudice campaign will include educational programs for Israeli schools.

Southern California Methodists will be among the losers from NBC's cancellation of the Robert Blake TV series, "Hell Town."

Producers of the series about a tough-guy, heart-of-gold Roman Catholic priest in the inner city had rented the Asbury United Methodist Church in Los Angeles for the setting. The church had been condemned by the city for not meeting earthquake standards.

A United Methodist official said the rent helped pay the salary of real-life pastors in ethnic minority churches and for community service programs in those churches.

Pope John Paul II will visit 14 cities and towns in India from Feb. 1 to 10. It will be his longest trip to a predominantly non-Christian country. Planning for the visit has already stirred controversy in India, as a conference of Hindu religious leaders urged the government last month to cancel the invitation to the pontiff. They criticized the invitation to "a foreign religious head . . . to placate a particular religious community," as an "insult to Hindu society."

Hinduism is the dominant religion in India. About 14 million of India's 700 million people are Christian, of which fewer than 3 million are Roman Catholic.

A Tennessee court has upheld a state law that says a church or any organization that spends $250 in support of a political referendum or candidate can be classified as a "political action committee" and required to register as such.

A group of 13 churches in the Jackson area challenged the 1980 law as the result of involvement with a group called Citizens Against Drug Abuse, formed to defeat a liquor-by-the-drink referendum in 1984.

The churches filed a suit for declaratory judgment, contending that the law violated First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and separation of church and state.

The Madison County Chancery Court ruled otherwise. The churches plan to challenge the ruling in the state Court of Appeals.

The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the new executive director of the Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ, succeeding the Rev. Charles Cobb, who has retired. Chavis, a former community organizer, was the focus of a prolonged civil rights controversy and legal battle in Wilmington, N.C., when he and nine others were imprisoned for alleged involvement in a firebombing during racial disturbances in 1970. The convictions were overturned in 1973.

The Rev. John Stuart Fortt, who has been pastor of churches in New York, will be installed at 4 p.m. Sunday as senior minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 5301 North Capitol St. Chavis will preach the installation sermon.

The Rev. Jack Woodard resigned last Sunday as pastor of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church because of "differing interpretations" of the vestry's definition of the pastor's role, according to Ginger Hooven, senior warden.

Robert Barker, a senior partner in the Washington law firm of Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer and Quinn, has been named president of the Washington Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington. His wife, Amy Thomas Barker, will serve as temple matron.

The Rev. James E. Wagner, one of the first presidents of the United Church of Christ, died at his home in Wincote, Pa. He was 85. A pastor of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, he was elected president of that body in 1953 and led his denomination through the prolonged negotiations that led to its merger with the Congregational Christian Churches in 1957 to form the United Church of Christ.