To Address U.S. Jews
In a rare appearance of a Muslim head of state before a Jewish group, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, will address an invitation-only crowd of U.S. Jewish leaders in New York this month.
More than 250 leaders of national Jewish organizations, rabbinical schools and the major streams of Judaism are expected to attend the Sept. 17 event, said David Twersky, director of the Council for World Jewry.
Musharraf will be in New York to attend the 2005 World Summit at the United Nations.
Jack Rosen, chairman of the Council for World Jewry, said he and two other council representatives extended the invitation to Musharraf this spring in Islamabad.
Rosen said he was drawn to Musharraf's philosophy of "enlightened moderation," which emphasizes Islamic principles of tolerance and reconciliation.
"The Jewish community has been demonized by the Muslim world," he said. "We hope this event will encourage other moderate leaders to speak out."
Rosen called Musharraf's willingness to address a Jewish audience "a bold move" at a time when the president is under attack by extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere.
A Musharraf spokesman, Gen. Shaukat Sultan, told Agence France-Presse that Musharraf's address will be "a good opportunity to bridge the gap."
-- Religion News Service
Clergy Abuse Payments
In a decision with potentially major implications for Roman Catholic dioceses fighting sex-abuse lawsuits, a Spokane bankruptcy judge made 32 eastern Washington parishes available to pay off clergy abuse claims against the Diocese of Spokane.
If the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., is faced with a similar ruling, Catholic churchgoers in 124 Oregon parishes could have more than $500 million in parish assets opened up to claims from sex-abuse plaintiffs seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Spokane's bishop, William Skylstad, said last week that the diocese would appeal the decision.
The Spokane diocese lost its argument that the property, worth about $40 million, belonged to the parishes and thus was immune from creditors.
The archdiocese of Portland is fighting a virtually identical battle in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Portland. Last August, sex-abuse claimants asked a judge to declare that more than $500 million in parish real estate, churches, schools, bank accounts, investments and other property belongs to the archdiocese.
If the plaintiffs prevail, as they did in Spokane, those parish assets will become available to pay claims. If the archdiocese and the parishes prevail, the claimants will be limited to the $19 million the archdiocese says it's worth.
-- Religion News Service
Baptist Bishop Accused
Bishop Eddie Long, whose 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., is said to be the state's largest congregation, used money from a charity he started to fund a grand lifestyle, according to a published report.
Tax records detailed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution show Bishop Eddie Long Ministries Inc. gave Long $3.07 million in salary and benefits from 1997 to 2000, compared with $3.1 million in donations to others.
Benefits he received included a $1.4 million, 20-acre home and use of a $350,000 Bentley. Long said the money came from royalties, speaking fees and several large donations -- not from members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where he became pastor in 1987.
Long's tax attorney, J. David Epstein, said the charity's compensation committee used some of the charity's assets to pay Long for his work at New Birth to make up for years when he was underpaid.
The charity, separate from the congregation, stopped operating in 2000. Long and his wife, Vanessa, made up two of its four board members.
Long said that he represents a "paradigm shift" in the black church and that complaints stem from expectations that pastors should be poor. "I'm not going to apologize for anything," he said.
Nonprofit organizations are exempt from state and federal income taxes if they meet certain criteria, but federal law states that executives' benefits may not be excessive.
-- Associated Press