Bible College Is Relieved

To Ditch a Devilish Exchange

The people at Kentucky Mountain Bible College never had it easy. A big flood swept across their Appalachian backcountry campus in the late 1930s and almost wiped them out.

But, as they say at KMBC, "the school belonged to God" and a newly built campus emerged a few months afterward, positioned not far from the original site and safely above the flood line.

A trickier torment arrived years later: the telephone.

The telephone prefix given to the region was 666. Any Bible scholar knew what those numbers meant: the mark of the beast, a sign of Satan.

In the 40 or so years since those first phones were installed, the staff at the college, which now has 85 students, has spent a lot of time talking about the mark of the beast. Callers quiz them. Colleagues at Bible college conventions tease them.

"We had to explain it wasn't really a number from Satan," said Rob Roy MacGregor, the college's vice president for business affairs. "It was a number from BellSouth."

All these years, the college's administrators have thought they were stuck with their unholy number. But a few months ago, they noticed a new prefix popping up in their county. They figured that maybe -- finally -- it was time for a change. After months of negotiation, an e-mail arrived a few days ago telling them they would get a new prefix -- 693 -- in a matter of days.

MacGregor is happy, but patient.

The school waited 40 years, he knows. It can hold on for a few more days.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Boston Residency Rule Ruffles

Advocates for City's Psychics

Attention, fortune-tellers: Setting up a psychic shop in Massachusetts may be longer on hassles than prognostication.

Psychics say the state is discriminating against their farsighted profession by demanding that they provide proof of residency on their applications. It amounts, the fortune-tellers told the Boston Globe, to discrimination by the Boston Licensing Board.

Alfred Farese Jr., a Boston-based lawyer representing 45 psychics, says it's a conspiracy. "Once anyone applies for a license, they are immediately asked if they have been a resident for 12 months," Farese said. "There is no other license requirement in . . . Massachusetts that requires a residency period."

In Boston, he added, "most of them by nature object to fortune telling."

Boston Licensing Board Chairman Daniel Pokaski replies that while the application still may include the residency requirement, board members do not factor it into decisions. But he adds -- gasp! -- that not all psychics are the real deal.

"At least once a year, we've had some complaints from the Boston community and the psychics themselves," he said.

Pokaski denies any suggestion of an anti-psychic conspiracy. "We don't get into whether you're a good psychic or a bad psychic. We're into whether you're following the rules of the board."

-- Christine Haughney

Lunch With the Governor

Becomes a Fight Over Abortion

It was supposed to be an innocent lunch, a favor by Michigan's new governor to help a high school raise money.

But in the back and forth over the past two weeks, it became a fight over reproductive choice. First Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) was invited. Then she was uninvited to participate in a charity auction to benefit Mercy High School in Farmington Hills that also included donations of a 14-karat diamond, golf at an exclusive resort and Detroit Pistons tickets.

Some parents and alumni of the Catholic school and an antiabortion group, however, objected to Granholm's participation in "A Night With the Stars!" because they disagree with the governor's views on abortion.

A Catholic, Granholm said she personally opposes abortion but supports a woman's right to choose.

"Apparently, the liberals have taken over," Rosemarie Denton, a 1975 Mercy graduate, told the Detroit Free Press. "When you say you're a Catholic school, you should abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church."

A board of trustees member, Agnes Mansour, resigned in protest when Granholm was booted. A few days later, the invitation was reinstated. "The topic has provoked much discussion and debate," school officials said. "Critical thinking is at the core of our curriculum as a Catholic school. We believe that providing Mercy students and mothers with the chance to meet with Governor Granholm is a valuable educational opportunity."

But even up to the last minute, a group called Stop Granholm Church and Truth Project was trying to persuade the school to remove the invitation to lunch with Granholm from Saturday's auction.

-- Kari Lydersen