Falwell to Meet Gays

In what organizers say is the first gathering of its kind, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and 200 of his evangelical Christian followers will meet with the Rev. Mel White, an outspoken supporter of gay rights, and 200 gay men and lesbians.

The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23 at Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. "The purpose is to discuss the increase in violence aimed at both homosexuals and at Christians who may believe homosexuality is wrong," said Falwell spokesman Marc DeMoss. "It's not a debate on homosexuality."

White said his expectation is that "we send one message loud and clear: that the hate language has to stop from both sides."

Falwell and White have known each other for 15 years and have coauthored two books, including Falwell's autobiography. In 1993, White announced he was gay and is now chairman of Soulforce Inc., an ecumenical group seeking to promote nonviolence in the gay rights movement.

Islam and Democracy

A group of American scholars has formed a Washington-based organization to promote study of the relationship between Islam and democracy.

The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy is a nonprofit organization open to persons of all faiths, said Executive Director Radwan A. Masmoudi.

It is meant to serve as a think tank for those interested in melding traditional Islamic concepts with the political experiences of modern Muslims, widen an understanding of democracy in the Muslim world and foster dialogue between secular and Islamist scholars.

The center is looking for office space, Masmoudi said.

Ali A. Mazrui of Britain's Binghamton University is chairman of the center, and John L. Esposito, director of Georgetown University's Center of Muslim-Christian Understanding, is vice chairman. Its Web site is www.islam-democracy.org