Weekly religion news with items on efforts to broaden Rep. King's congressional hearings aimed at Muslim-Americans and terrorism, "Hungers of the Heart" by Richard G. Watts and more. 

Over 80 people of faith from Long Island, N.Y., including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and interfaith leaders, sent a letter recently to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., urging him to cancel his planned congressional hearings to investigate claims of “radicalization” in the Muslim-American community. 

King, who said the hearings may start March 7, is chairman of the House on Homeland Security Committee and wants to focus these hearings on homegrown terrorism and incidents involving American-born Muslims, such as the Fort Hood shooting and the attempted Times Square bombing.

The diverse group of faith leaders say the singling out of the Muslim community undermines fundamental American values and is counterproductive to improving national security.

King says over 80 percent of mosques are run by extremists, which Muslim leaders dispute. He also says Muslim-American leaders don’t cooperate with law enforcement officials, though some law enforcement officials dispute this.

The signers urge Rep. King to “convene a dialogue among faith leaders, law enforcement and elected officials” rather than hold hearings that “will only further divide our community and undermine our nation’s highest ideals.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., have urged Rep. King to broaden the scope of the hearings.

King has recently tapped a respected New York Daily News reporter on the terrorism beat, James Gordon Meek, to serve as a senior investigator on the committee.

A poll released this week by Public Religion Research Institute shows that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans agree that Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists and not single out Muslim-Americans.

The survey also says only about 34 percent of Americans report having heard a lot (7 percent) or a little (28 percent) about the upcoming congressional hearings to investigate alleged extremism in the American-Muslim community, while a majority 65 percent report having heard nothing at all.

-- FaithinPublicLife.org

Week in Religion

- Feb. 22, 1906, black Evangelist William J. Seymour arrives in Los Angeles and begins holding revival meetings. The Azusa Street Revival later breaks out under his leadership, one of the pioneering events of 20th century American Pentecostalism.

- Feb. 23, 1970, the Holy Eucharist was distributed by women for the first time in a Roman Catholic service.

- Feb. 24, 1782, pioneer American Methodist bishop Francis Asbury wrote in his journal, “It is my constitutional weakness to be gloomy and dejected; the work of God puts life into me.”

-- William D. Blake, Almanac of the Christian Church

Survey Says

The Muslim population in the U.S. is projected to grow from .8 percent in 2010 to 1.7 percent in 2030, equaling the population of Jews and Episcopalians.

-- Public Religion Research Institute

Good Book?

 “Hungers of the Heart” by Richard G. Watts

This book is for those who are turned off by organized religion but want to deepen personal spirituality. It deals with the search for meaning, satisfying relationships, a more just society and connection with the Sacred. In a conversational style free of religious jargon, the author maps a spirituality that is rooted in reason and contemporary knowledge, as well as being grounded in the authentic core of the great world religious traditions.

-- Booklocker.com Inc.

Quote of the week

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.” – Anais Nin

The Word

Besom: A broom often used by Wiccans or other Neopagans to purify a circle or other sacred area before a ritual is conducted.

-- religioustolerance.org

Religion Around the World

Religious makeup of Australia

Catholic: 25.8 percent

Anglican: 18.7 percent

Uniting Church: 5.7 percent

Presbyterian: and reformed 3 percent

Eastern Orthodox: 2.7 percent

Other Christian: 7.9 percent

Buddhis:t 2.1 percent

Muslim: 1.7 percent

Other: 2.4 percent

Unspecified: 11.3 percent

None: 18.7 percent

- CIA Factbook

GateHouse News Service