TBN's Paul Crouch jumps into Zambian political quagmire
It's bad enough when religious leaders endorse candidates in their own country. But according to The Post of Zambia, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) president Paul Crouch is getting involved in the messy world of Zambian politics. Even more shocking, he's apparently backing a third term for Zambia president Frederick Chiluba. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, the Christian Council of Zambia, the Zambia (Roman Catholic) Episcopal Conference, and other religious leaders and organizations, and churches are organizing to oppose Chiluba's bid—which would require a change to the country's fledgling constitution. No matter to Crouch, who reportedly mentioned none of the concerns of Zambia's church leadership when he told his viewers around the world to pray for Chiluba's success. According to The Post of Zambia, here's how it happened: President Chiluba himself contacted televangelist Benny Hinn for prayer, saying he "had great forces of opposition against his bid." Hinn contacted Crouch, who also enlisted John Hagee in the prayers for Chiluba's success over the citizens of Zambia. Nobody, apparently, thought to pick up a newspaper.

In related news, the Evangelical Bishops for Peace in Africa (EBPA) is telling church leaders in Zambia that they're being too active in their opposition to a Chiluba third term. Secretary-general Lesego Kebonyemodisa led a delegation of bishops on a fact-finding mission through the country, and found that some churches were so zeaous in their protection of the Zambian Constitution that they were actively partnering with opposition parties. "Allow the true and genuine democratic process in Zambia take its course," Kebonyemodisa said. "There is no need to insult and call each other names." Moreover, he said, if the churches are too play the role of nonpartisan mediators, they must remain neutral on political questions.

Even stranger than the Oscar-night Britney Spears/Bob Dole ad …
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is on a major campaign to recruit new priests. The $125,000 campaign includes billboards, ads in college and metropolitan newspapers, and radio and TV spots. But exactly what kind of priest are they looking for? The Philadelphia Daily News reports that one of the latest "Philadelphia Priest Call" ads aired on none other than The Howard Stern Show. "If a spot ran during 'Howard Stern,' it was in error, not anything we purchased," archdiocese director of communications Cathy Rossi assures the paper. "We do not think Howard Stern is appropriate programming for the priest-call ad." In fact, she said, the radio station was under strict instruction not to play the ad during the shock radio show.

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