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Mutual Funds

Two Funds Get Religion

They have a different take on socially screened investing.

The presence of a couple of unusual mutual funds among the top performers over the past three years explodes two myths about socially screened investing. The first is that such funds are destined to lag. The second is that they always approach their mission from the left side of the political spectrum -- avoiding, for instance, arms makers and companies that are hostile to unions. Amana Income and Timothy Plan Large/Mid-Cap Value look at the world differently.

The Timothy funds marry investing with fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Like many left-leaning funds, Timothy's eight funds shun firms that deal with alcohol, tobacco, gambling or pornography. But Timothy also avoids companies with products that facilitate abortions, as well as firms that promote gay marriage or sponsor racy or violent TV shows. A healthy dose of energy stocks helped boost results at Timothy Plan Large/Mid-Cap Value in recent years.

The Amana funds invest according to Islamic principles. Out are firms involved in gambling, pornography and liquor, as well as those that sell pork. Plus, the funds don't invest in companies that charge interest. Avoiding debt-saddled companies and favoring established dividend payers helped catapult Amana Income to the top of the heap.