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Religion breifs for Aug. 30

Pastor: IRS investigation is politically motivated

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. – The pastor of one of Minnesota’s largest churches said an IRS investigation into his ministry’s finances is “politically motivated.”

The Rev. Mac Hammond is recognizable to a wide audience through Sunday morning TV broadcasts of his services at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park.

Hammond wrote in a letter to congregants that “enemies of the gospel” are behind the inquiry. He preaches the prosperity gospel, which says that God wants his faithful followers to be rewarded spiritually and financially.

First woman in No. 2 post for Reform Jewish movement

NEW YORK – The Union for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue movement in North America, has named its first female vice president.

The appointment of Rabbi Stacy Offner, the longtime leader of Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minnesota, was announced last week. The liberal Union for Reform Judaism, led by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, represents more than 900 congregations in the United States and Canada.

Offner is the founding rabbi emeritus of Shir Tikvah Congregation, which was established in 1988 in St. Paul and Minneapolis. She taught Jewish ethics at Hamline University in St. Paul and was the first rabbi to serve as chaplain of the Minnesota State Senate.

New executive director for federal panel on religious freedom

WASHINGTON – James Standish, a former legislative affairs official with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been named executive director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Standish, whose appointment was announced Aug. 20, succeeds Joseph R. Crapa, who died last fall. The commission is an independent, bipartisan federal agency that advises the president and Congress on religious freedom issues worldwide.

Standish worked for seven years as director of legislative affairs at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters, representing the denomination on Capitol Hill and on country visits around the world.

Falun Gong barred from Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO – Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement won’t be allowed to participate in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year parade and street fair.

The state Supreme Court last week rejected the group’s challenge to the parade sponsor’s decision to exclude them from the annual festival.

Falun Gong members sued the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 2006 after the chamber barred them because of the group’s ongoing opposition to the Chinese government.