WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States Postal Service has announced plans to issue a postage stamp next year to recognize the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, or ''feast of fast breaking,'' that ends the annual fasting month of Ramadan.
U.S. Muslim groups have been urging such a stamp for years.
''This is one sign that the Muslim presence in America is being recognized,'' said Omar Ahmad, board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Eid, which occurs this year on or about Dec. 27, ends the month when Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from daybreak to sunset and concentrate on God's commandments.
Fast observance is one of the ''five pillars'' of the Muslim faith.
Louisiana school board tangles with ACLU over prayer
DERIDDER, La. (AP) -- The Louisiana affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union plans a federal lawsuit against the Beauregard Parish school board for allowing certain types of student-led prayers.
The district sent letters to parents asking permission for their children to participate in the disputed ''Partners in Prayer for Schools'' program, in which churches adopt classrooms and pray for their students. The ACLU responded when a parent objected.
The school board has also voted unanimously to allow ''nonsectarian, no-proselytizing, student-initiated voluntary prayer'' at school-related events. Many residents support public school prayer and opposed previous ACLU efforts.
School superintendent Myrna Cooley said the policy is based on an October decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed students of DeKalb County, Ala., to lead prayers at school functions, as long as school officials did not participate.
Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU, said that ruling was ''not settled law'' and in any case applies only to schools within the 11th circuit.
Lutherans review ordination under Episcopal pact; reject gay rule
CHICAGO (AP) -- Clergy ordination rules that are part of a new unity pact between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be reconsidered, following questions by the national council of the 5.2 million-member Lutheran denomination.
The Lutheran-Episcopal pact requires that clergy be ordained in Episcopal fashion, by bishops in a line of ''apostolic succession'' traced back to the early church. Current Lutheran practice allows fellow pastors to ordain, and some Lutherans insist that this exception continue.
The Lutheran news service said the council directed officials to consult Lutheran bishops and the Episcopalians about a new bylaw allowing such exceptions, for action at the Lutheran convention next August.
The Lutheran national council also rejected a proposal to loosen its ban on clergy living in committed homosexual relationships.
The proposal, from the Lutherans' regional body in St. Paul, Minn., would have allowed exceptions to a 1990 policy against same-sex activity. While rejecting the request 23-5, the council endorsed ongoing ''prayerful conversations'' on the issue.
On the Net:
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: www.elca.org
World Orthodox patriarch on U.S. visit
PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) -- Compuware Ice Arena became the Detroit area's largest Eastern Orthodox sanctuary as eight U.S. bishops joined 4,000 worshippers for a three-hour liturgy led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The 120,000 Orthodox in Michigan are among 200 million worldwide for whom the Istanbul-based Bartholomew is spiritual leader.
Many of the Sunday worshippers had never seen the patriarch before and called the liturgy a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Detroit Free Press reported believers drove from as far as Kentucky and Tennessee to participate.
''It's a spiritual opportunity that we may never see again,'' said Alexandra Serdiuk, who came with her husband and daughter. ''He is the equivalent to the pope.''
''These people are simply elated and overjoyed,'' said Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Robed Byzantine-style chanters and a large choir sang out as the heavy smell of incense hung in the air. The patriarch gave a sermon, in Greek.
Bartholomew, often referred to as the ''Green Patriarch'' because of his commitment to the environment, also helped plant trees near Detroit's Children's Hospital.
His U.S. itinerary included visits to New York City and Salt Lake City.
On the Net:
Ecumenical Patriarchate: www.patriarchate.org
Clergy urge Bush and Gore to shun self-interest
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thirty-five religious leaders have endorsed an Interfaith Alliance call for George W. Bush and Al Gore ''to put aside partisan self-interest to preserve the integrity and trustworthiness of our electoral process.''
The one-page statement offered no specific guidance on solving the disputes over the presidential election.
The group said the situation requires ''a commitment to the democratic principle that every vote counts. ... Justice must not be circumvented. Patience for due process that guarantees a just resolution is as important as impatience with tactics that seek to delay or divert due process because of a dislike of voting results.''
Signers included leaders of the Interfaith Alliance, which describes itself as nonpartisan though the group opposes the religious right.
On the Net:
Interfaith Alliance: www.interfaithalliance.org
Armenian patriarch and pope pray together
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II and the patriarch of Armenian Orthodox believers prayed together as part of efforts to move their churches closer, and agreed on a possible papal visit to the Caucasus mountain nation. The service in St. Peter's Basilica also included a call for peace in the Middle East.
Garegin II, leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, made a four-day visit. The pope had hoped to visit Armenia last year but the trip was postponed due to the death of the previous patriarch, Garegin I.
A joint communique said the two leaders ''continue to pray for full and visible communion between us.''
The statement mentioned the ''Armenian genocide,'' a reference to 1915 killings of Armenians in Turkey.
Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were killed to force them out of eastern Turkey. Turkey says the death toll is inflated and that Armenians were killed or displaced to quell civil unrest.
There are about 10 million Armenians worldwide, most of them believed to be followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
End Adv for Friday, Nov. 17
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