The Voice of America is getting religion.
Actually, it's had religion for some time, but, as it told its listeners worldwide yesterday in a broadcast editorial, it plans to beef up its religious programming, especially to people living under regimes "actively trying to prevent them from pursuing their faith."
As part of the expansion, last year the VOA for the first time broadcast a religious service worldwide--Christmas Eve services at the National Presbyterian Church here.
The VOA is mapping plans to increase its religious programming into the Soviet Union from the current 45 minutes a week to one hour, with each segment to be repeated six times a week.
One fourth of the programming will be devoted to Jewish culture and social events and the rest will be for other religions, a VOA spokesman said yesterday.
Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who took over in December as VOA director, said details have yet to be worked out, but that the increased programming would convey "the importance of religion and freedom of worship in American life . . . . We will be very careful to be ecumenical."
Tomlinson said more of the programming will consist of broadcasts of various services; until now, the staple of the religious programming has been a roundup of religious news.
In the past few years, conservatives have pushed the VOA to be more vigorously pro-American and anti-communist in its programming, and liberals have argued that it must not endanger its claim of objectivity.
Tomlinson, a former editor for Reader's Digest, said that to his knowledge the plans to increase VOA's religious programming have stirred no such controversy. He added that the programming will be nonpolitical.