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Published: Monday, 8/16/2004

White House official seeks end to bullying of faith groups

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

FALMOUTH, Me. The head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives says he ll fight local governments that block federal funding of religious groups.

Sometimes you see local governments that bully faith-based organizations and basically tell them that they have to compromise their religious beliefs and tenets if they want to partner with government, said Jim Towey, who met last week with Catholic Charities of Maine.

That may be their prerogative when it s state and local money, Mr. Towey said, but when it s federal money that raises a whole different set of issues.

Portland s domestic partnership ordinance restricts federal funding to the Roman Catholic nonprofit because it provides no benefits to same-sex partners of employees or unmarried heterosexual partners of staff members.

The charity responded by suing the city in March, 2003.

Mr. Towey said ordinances such as the one in Portland discriminate against faith-based organizations.

Some objected to Mr. Towey s characterization of the law.

It is not bullying to tell a group that it has to obey the same laws as everyone else, said the Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, based in Washington, D.C.

The Ohio Pastors Policy Briefing, addressing social and moral issues in the upcoming national elections, will be presented twice in the Toledo area on Aug. 24.

Speakers will include Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell; former U.N. ambassador Alan Keyes, and the Rev. Laurence White, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Tex.

A reception is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. followed by breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn French Quarter, 10630 Fremont Pike, Perrysburg, and then an 11:30 a.m. reception followed by lunch at the Findlay Inn, 200 East Main Cross, Findlay, Ohio.

The briefing, hosted by the Christian Coalition of Ohio, is free for pastors, their spouses, and families. Reservations are available by calling 330-887-1922.

The Little Sisters of the Poor of the Sacred Heart Home in Oregon will host a three-day Jubilee celebration next week for nuns from New Orleans, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis.

Seven sisters will be celebrating anniversaries ranging from 25 to 70 years of service to the elderly poor.

Among the many events will be a Mass at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a luncheon at the new facility, 930 South Wynn Rd., Oregon.

There are 30 homes of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States and 220 worldwide.

The religious order has been serving northwest Ohio since 1879.

In Sylvania, meanwhile, 10 Sisters of St. Therese (of Lisieux), based in Tanzania, Africa, are attending a retreat at the Sisters of St. Francis motherhouse under the direction of Sister Brigid O Shea Merriman.

Toledo-based Central American Ministries is taking reservations for a November mission trip to Guatemala and El Salvador.

The trip, scheduled for Nov. 11-15, will include assistance to the poor who live in a garbage dump in Guatemala City and a commemorative prayer vigil of the Jesuit martyrs in San Salvador.

Deadline for registration is Sept. 15 and the cost is $600 plus airfare, for an approximate total of $1,100.

For information, contact Beth Laux, 419-865-5743, ext. 270.

Nominations are being accepted for the national Sunday School Teacher of the Year honors, to be awarded on Oct. 17.

The awards program, sponsored by Gospel Light in Ventura, Calif., seeks to pay tribute to the more than 15 million Sunday School teachers of all denominations.

The deadline for nominations is Aug. 31. Forms and information are available online at www.mysundayschoolteachers.com or by phone, toll-free, at 1-800-235-3415 ext. 1236.



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