Pope's visit will be multireligious
WASHINGTON » Representatives of five non-Christian faiths will meet with Pope Benedict XVI during his first U.S. visit as pontiff next month.
The 45-minute event on April 17 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington will include a papal address, greetings from the faith leaders and a presentation of gifts symbolic of each tradition by young members of the respective communities.
There will be no formal dialogue among participants because of time constraints on the pope's schedule, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Benedict's April 15-20 visit to New York and Washington includes an address to the United Nations, a visit to Ground Zero, two outdoor masses at baseball stadiums and a meeting with President Bush.
The interfaith gathering includes 200 invited guests, and Benedict is scheduled to meet personally with three Jewish leaders, three Muslim leaders, two Buddhist leaders, a Hindu leader and a Jain leader.
That group includes Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal of the National Council of Synagogues, Rabbi Joel Myers of the New York-based Rabbinical Assembly, Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America and Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, a large mosque in Dearborn, Mich.
Bishop Richard Sklba, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said the theme of the meeting is "Religions Working for Peace."
"This meeting denotes the Holy Father's belief in the need for religious bodies to stress the goal for peace which lies at the heart of all religions," Sklba said.
Rev. King's group will file taxes
ATLANTA » The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has caught up on its late tax returns and says it plans to file its 2007 taxes on time.
Last month, the civil rights group co-founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged that it had not filed a report with the IRS since February 2005, for the tax period ending in June 2004. Nonprofits like the SCLC are required to file reports annually to account for donations.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the returns show the SCLC had nearly $1.5 million in assets in 2006 -- a tenfold increase from 2004. Despite receiving more donations, the SCLC still operated at a deficit of about $145,000 in 2006. Revenue of about $368,000 from an affiliated magazine covered the loss.
The returns from 2005 and 2006 also show a sharp rise in salaries at the SCLC. In 2006, the group reported $881,797 in salaries and benefits, up from $327,872 in 2004.
The travel budget also increased, from $11,600 in 2004, to $64,000 in 2006. SCLC President Charles Steele has traveled internationally attempting to open SCLC peace and reconciliation centers, which he said will raise the group's global profile and add to its coffers.
Most of the organization's assets -- collected to build a new headquarters and fund programs -- were placed with a newly formed foundation.
Last fall the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of a $3.3 million new headquarters. In the years since King's death, the SCLC has lost influence, funding and membership, and infighting led the group to stagnate.
Muslim ordered to remove scarf
NEW ORLEANS » A Muslim homemaker says her civil rights were violated by a security guard who she said forced her to leave a suburban shopping mall when she refused to remove her religious head scarf.
Muntaha Sarsour, 54, and her daughter-in-law, Sajedeh Judeh, 23, had just bought Chick-Fil-A takeout at the mall food court when an Oakwood Shopping Center security guard allegedly stopped Sarsour and told her to remove her head scarf.
"He told her she had two options: Either she take off her head scarf or leave the mall," said Judeh, speaking on behalf of her mother-in-law, who does not speak English well.
Judeh said she then confronted the guard and told him that a Muslim in a head scarf "shouldn't be new to you."
When the guard did not answer, Judeh said, "I then told him that was the most ignorant thing I had heard," and he said, "I was acting ignorant."
The mall's senior general manager, Lynn Walters, said steps are being made to make sure "this type of occurrence never happens again."
"That action goes against everything we believe in and who we are," Walters said. The mall is run by General Growth Properties Inc., one of the nation's largest shopping mall developers.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group in Washington, has asked the FBI and Louisiana officials to investigate the Feb. 22 incident. The FBI is looking into the case, said FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne.