WASHINGTON, D.C., August 4 (RNS)--Three religious leaders--the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, and Monsignor George G. Higgins--will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 9.

The White House announced the recipients of the nation's highest civilian honor on Thursday. President Clinton will award the medals at a White House ceremony.

Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition based in Chicago, has worked to expand opportunities for minorities and was a Democratic presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988. He has negotiated the release of several hostages, including three U.S. prisoners of war held in the former Yugoslavia.

Taylor, recognized by Time magazine as the "dean of the nation's black preachers," is pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church of Christ, a prominent congregation in Brooklyn. Under his leadership, the church grew to 14,000 members.

Higgins, who has been described as "the labor movement's parish priest," has devoted more than five decades to promoting worker justice. Currently an adjunct lecturer at Catholic University of America in Washington, he has been honored by major labor groups several times.

In addition to the three religious leaders, Simon Wiesenthal, a concentration camp survivor who has devoted his life to gathering evidence about Nazi war criminals, will be among the 15 honorees. He founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles in 1977 to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry.

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