Effort to Save Church Expands

Preservationists trying to save a historic Roman Catholic parish in Harlem have recruited new allies in their fight, including a descendant of the German artist who made the church's stained-glass windows.

Efforts to save St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church are focused on the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is considering a $7 million grant proposal by the Archdiocese of New York to build a 57-unit housing complex for senior citizens on the site.

The archdiocese has said that there is a shortage of affordable housing and that there is little it can do to preserve the building. Church officials say that the building would cost $5 million to repair and that the archdiocese and the parish don't have the money.

After a series of demonstrations last month to save the church, HUD has received letters and appeals from local and national historic-preservation groups, a petition signed by more than 400 people and a statement from the descendant of Mayer of Munich, famed maker of the stained-glass windows.

"The demolition of St. Thomas the Apostle Church would be a barbaric act, and no economic interest could excuse such wrongdoing," wrote Gabriel Mayer of Munich.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, defended the decision to demolish the 1907 Gothic-style church, citing repair costs, the congregation's dwindling membership and the need for affordable housing for the community's senior citizens.

"We're seeking to continue our ministry to the people of Harlem in a new way," he said.

-- Religion News Service

Couple Warned on Peyote Use

A Utah couple who offer peyote at religious ceremonies may be immune from state prosecution, but federal authorities warn that they may step in to file charges.

Richard Lambert, chief of the U.S. attorney's criminal division for Utah, told James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney and his wife, Linda, that they could be liable under federal drug laws if they continued using peyote or offering it to others, even though the Utah Supreme Court ruled in June that such use is permissible under state law.

As a result of the Utah Supreme Court ruling involving the Oklevueha Earthwalks Native American Church, state drug charges were dropped against James Mooney, who calls himself a medicine man and part American Indian.

Federal prosecutors may challenge Mooney's assertion that he is one-quarter Seminole because he belongs to no tribe. He founded Oklevueha church in rural Benjamin, Utah, in 1997.

-- Associated Press

Pakistan Honors GU Professor

John L. Esposito, a Georgetown University professor who has tried to build bridges between Christians and Muslims, has been awarded the highest civil award given by the Pakistani government.

Esposito was one of 14 foreigners among the 130 people awarded the Hilal-I-Quaid-I-Azam Award announced by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Aug. 13. The awards, given for excellence in cultural, academic and government professions, will be presented March 23, 2005.

Esposito is founding director of Georgetown's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and the author or co-author of more than 30 books, including "What Everyone Should Know About Islam: Questions and Answers," "Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam" and "The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?"

-- Religion News Service

Shoah Testimonies to Be Shared

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg's 10-year-old Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation has agreed to give copies of its 52,000 survivor testimonies to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.

"We want people to have the best access to the most material," said Douglas Greenberg, the Shoah foundation's president and chief executive.

All the testimonies are to be sent to Israel by 2008. Yad Vashem will have one set o f high-quality digital copies of what the survivors said, and the Shoah foundation's office in Los Angeles will have another set.

The original recordings of the video testimonies, Greenberg said, "are stored under a mountain in Pennsylvania, in a pristine environment. They're in a very, very safe place."

-- Religion News Service