Update on the latest religion news


Associated Press

Posted on December 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 27 at 6:00 AM


Obama signs defense bill with expanded religious protection

HONOLULU (AP) — The defense bill that President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday includes expanded protection for service members' religious expression.

Section 532 of the new law replaces language requiring the armed forces to "accommodate the beliefs" of service members with instruction that the military "shall accommodate individual expressions of belief."

Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says he believes that should allow troops with a religious belief that marriage is only the union of a man and woman to say so instead of being subject to what he calls "a reverse don't ask don't tell policy."

But the law says expressions of belief needn't be accommodated if they hurt "military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline."

The law also calls for a survey to determine if restrictions placed on the prayers of military chaplains outside of religious services are hindering their ministry.

Crews says some chaplains have been told not to pray in Jesus' name at military ceremonies. Chaplains are required to serve troops of all faiths.


176-a-10-(Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-"of the week"-Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the defense bill President Obama signed into law protects not only the beliefs of service members but also their expressions of belief. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *176 (12/26/13)££ 00:10 "of the week"

177-a-09-(Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-"don't tell policy"-Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says service members with a religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman should be able to say so. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *177 (12/26/13)££ 00:09 "don't tell policy"

175-a-08-(Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-"military are serving"-Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says religious protections for service members have been strengthened in the defense bill that President Obama signed Thursday. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *175 (12/26/13)££ 00:08 "military are serving"

178-a-06-(Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-"guidance on that"-Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says service members' expressions of belief are protected unless it could hurt military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *178 (12/26/13)££ 00:06 "guidance on that"

179-a-08-(Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-"in Jesus' name"-Chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the defense bill President Obama signed calls for a survey to determine if military chaplains' prayers are being restricted. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *179 (12/26/13)££ 00:08 "in Jesus' name"


Pope prays for Christians persecuted for faith

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is urging people to speak out against persecution of Christians, whom he likens to the church's first martyrs.

His denunciation of discrimination suffered by Christians came a day after three Christmas day bombings targeted Christians in Iraq.

Francis didn't cite any countries in his remarks to tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square as the church Thursday recalled its first martyr, St. Stephen. He said unfortunately more Christians are suffering discrimination and violence now than in Christianity's early times. The pope said some countries guarantee human rights "on paper" but not in practice, leaving Christians subject to "limitations and discrimination."

Francis said "injustice must be denounced and eliminated."

Christians have been attacked in parts of Africa and the Middle East, and in some places cannot worship openly.


099-c-20-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"the early Church"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports Pope Francis is urging people to speak out against persecution of Christians, whom he compared to the Church's first martyrs. (26 Dec 2013)

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100-c-21-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"others in society"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports Pope Francis has urged civilian authorities to protect Christians in lands where they're persecuted. (26 Dec 2013)

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101-c-18-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"any other country"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports Pope Francis condemns persecution of Christians amid many reports of violence. (26 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *101 (12/26/13)££ 00:18 "any other country"

102-r-31-(Sound of Pope Francis, speaking in Italian, addressing tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square)--Sound of Pope Francis speaking in Italian as he addressed tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, said he prays for Christians who suffer discrimination because of their faith. COURTESY: CTV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (26 Dec 2013)

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Pa. court reverses church official's conviction

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that a Roman Catholic church official was wrongly convicted for his handling of priest sex-abuse complaints.

The unanimous decision released Thursday by the state Superior Court also dismisses the criminal case against Monsignor William Lynn.

Lynn has been serving three to six years in prison after his child-endangerment conviction last year. Prosecutors had argued that Lynn reassigned predators to new parishes in Philadelphia when he was secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004.

Lynn's conviction stems from the case of one priest, Edward Avery, found to have abused a child after such a transfer. But Lynn's attorneys contended the state's child-endangerment law at the time applied only to parents and caregivers, not supervisors like Lynn.


127-c-12-(Maryclaire Dale, AP correspondent)-"his church career"-AP correspondent Maryclaire Dale reports that last year's conviction of Roman Catholic Monsignor William Lynn has been overturned. (26 Dec 2013)

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128-c-09-(Maryclaire Dale, AP correspondent)-"hopes to appeal"-AP correspondent Maryclaire Dale reports that the former Church official who assigned priests in Philadelphia's Roman Catholic archdiocese has had his conviction reversed. (26 Dec 2013)

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129-c-12-(Maryclaire Dale, AP correspondent)-"of abuse complaints"-AP correspondent Maryclaire Dale reports Monsignor William Lynn was accused of mishandling abusive priests, but not of being one himself. (26 Dec 2013)

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Canadian church to be rebuilt in rural Louisiana

ABITA SPRINGS, La. (AP) — For the Louisiana Church of Abita Springs, a Christmas present rolled into town last week on a flatbed trailer — albeit, in pieces.

The Times-Picayune reports that massive beams, clapboard walls, stained glass windows and hand-crafted wood artifacts were unloaded onto an empty lot on Main Street. That material will rise to become a house of worship for the Baptist congregation and one of the oldest churches on Lake Pontchartrain's north shore.

What was once the All Saints Anglican Church in Granville Centre, Nova Scotia, where it was built 200 years ago, was disassembled board-by-board in 2009 after the Abita Springs church purchased the structure.

It was stored in Canada for nearly four years before being trucked 2,200 miles to the small western St. Tammany Parish town one week before Christmas.

The Rev. Jerel Keene says his congregation's goal is to begin the reassembly process in February and hold the first service on Easter Sunday.


Marine City church closing after 162 years

MARINE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A church in Marine City, Mich., has celebrated its final Christmas and will close for good next month.

Marine City United Methodist Church, which has been a presence in the area's spiritual community for 162 years, will hold a final service on Jan. 26, and the doors will be shut for good five days later.

The church's membership has declined from a high of almost 700 in the 1950s to the current roster of a few dozen mostly elderly members.

The church doesn't have a full-time minister. The Rev. Carol Floyd, a retired Methodist minister, works 10 hours per week, split between Sundays and Tuesday mornings.

According to a history of the church, the first Methodist Episcopal Society in Marine City was organized in 1851.

The current building was constructed in 1905.


Fire that leveled Ind. church also melted its bell

PRAIRIE CREEK, Ind. (AP) — Members of an Indiana congregation that was recently gutted by fire also lost their sanctuary's historic bell to the intense flames.

The Dec. 5 fire that left the Prairie Creek First Baptist Church in ruins also melted its bell, which was found in the church's basement after the steeple that once held it collapsed during the fire.

Pastor Kevin Dobson told the Tribune-Star that the bell was a big part of the rural church, in part because many children had pulled on a rope to ring the bell over the decades.

The bell was cast in 1855, more than 20 years before the church was built in 1876. The church's insurance will replace the sanctuary but won't pay for much of the interior work or to replace he bell.

When the fire took place, construction was underway to add on to the 137-year-old church. The congregation of about 80 people now gathers at the community center in Prairie Creek. Despite an offer from another church to use its building, they've decided to rebuild the church and replace the bell.


Ohio Amish argue against guardian in chemo case

MEDINA, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio Amish couple who fled with their 11-year-old daughter so she wouldn't be forced to get chemotherapy say a court was wrong to appoint a guardian to make medical decisions for her.

The lawyer for Sarah Hershberger's family argues for a reversal of that decision in a new filing in their state court appeal. He says Ohio's guardianship statutes appear to let courts substitute their judgment for that of suitable parents, and that the court should limit such second-guessing by the state.

The guardian wants to stop trying to force Sarah to resume chemotherapy and has asked to resign. A Medina (meh-DY'-nuh) County judge hasn't decided whether to accept the request, which could end the family's fight against a hospital.

The Hershbergers shun many facets of modern life and are deeply religious. They have said they stopped chemotherapy not for religious reasons but because it was making Sarah too sick and they feared it could end up killing her.


Israeli parliament speaker: Christmas tree offends

JERUSALEM (AP) — The speaker of Israel's parliament says he refused to display a Christmas tree in the building because of the "painful memories" it evokes among Jews.

Yuli Edelstein told Israel Radio Thursday that publicly displaying a Christian symbol could be offensive, since Jews suffered centuries of persecution by Christians.

Earlier this week, Edelstein rejected the request of a Christian-Arab lawmaker, but said the parliamentarian could display a tree in his office and party's conference room.

Edelstein says the request was part of an Arab campaign to chip away at Israel's Jewish nature. He warned that if he had agreed he would then likely face further requests to display a cross or crescent in parliament.


108-c-20-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-"crosses and crescents"-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports the Israeli Parliament speaker who banned the Christmas tree says displaying such symbols of other religions could chip away at Israel's identity as a Jewish state. (26 Dec 2013)

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107-c-20-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-"the general building"-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports an Israeli parliament speaker has refused to display a Christmas tree in the building because of what he describes as the painful memories it evokes among Jews. (26 Dec 2013)

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109-c-14-(Aron Heller, AP correspondent)-"bit more touchy"-AP correspondent Aron Heller reports some see the ban on a Christmas tree as somewheat out of sync with modern-day Israel. (26 Dec 2013)

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Court orders new election in divided Israeli city

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court has ordered new municipal elections to be held in a deeply divided city, citing irregularities in the initial vote.

Beit Shemesh's 100,000 residents are split almost equally between ultra-Orthodox and other Jewish groups, including the secular, the modern Orthodox, Russian and American immigrants and Jews of Middle Eastern descent.

Official results of the October vote showed voters lining up almost entirely along religious lines. Incumbent ultra-Orthodox mayor Moshe Abutbul won by less than 1,000 votes, but dozens of witnesses alleged fraud. They claimed ballots were damaged and disqualified while residents with questionable identification tried to vote multiple times.

On Thursday, a Jerusalem district court accepted the appeal, saying a "heavy shadow" was cast over the vote.

Secular challenger Eli Cohen praised the decision saying "the truth came out."