Update on the latest religion news

MILITARY-RELIGION

House hearing weighs religious expression in military

WASHINGTON (AP) — Should military officers be free to express their religious beliefs to troops under their command?

That issue was discussed at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

Mikey Weinstein (WYN’-steen), president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said officers who proselytize or share their faith with subordinates should be disciplined. He told the House Armed Services Committee that troops may feel coerced to endure unwanted religious speech from their superiors.

But the Rev. Ron Crews, who heads the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said Americans don’t lose their free speech and religious rights when they join the military. He said members of the armed forces, regardless of rank, should be free to talk about their faith.

The Family Research Council’s Travis Weber agreed that no one should be coerced into religious practice, “but religious freedom, including the freedom to speak of one’s religion, must be protected.”

Sound:

246-w-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Freedom)–Should military officers be free to express their religious beliefs to troops under their command? AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman says that issue was discussed at a congressional hearing Wednesday. (19 Nov 2014)

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213-a-15-(Mikey Weinstein (WYN’-steen), president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, at House hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services)-“and aggressively disciplined”-Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says some military officers impose their religion on subordinates. (19 Nov 2014)

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214-a-10-(Mikey Weinstein (WYN’-steen), president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, at House hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services)-“to their subordinates”-Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says his organization represents troops who don’t want religion imposed on them. (19 Nov 2014)

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216-a-05-(Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, at House hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services)-“our nation’s military”-Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, says the troops who defend our rights don’t lose theirs. (19 Nov 2014)

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212-a-09-(The Reverend Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, at House hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services)-“wearing the uniform”-The Reverend Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says Americans don’t lose their religious rights when they join the military. (19 Nov 2014)

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215-a-08-(Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, at House hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services)-“must be protected”-Travis Weber, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, says troops of any rank should be free to express their religious beliefs. (19 Nov 2014)

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UNDER GOD-LAWSUIT

Judge reserves ruling on ‘under God’ pledge suit

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — A judge has heard arguments in a family’s lawsuit against a New Jersey school district over the Pledge of Allegiance.

Attorneys argued Wednesday on the Aberdeen Matawan school district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The unidentified family sued this year claiming the pledge discriminates against children with atheist beliefs because it contains the phrase “under God.”

The school district says the lawsuit should be dismissed because students aren’t required to say the pledge and therefore are not treated unequally. The family’s attorney argued that the phrase is offensive to his clients’ beliefs.

State Superior Court Judge David Bauman didn’t issue a ruling immediately but said he expected to issue one shortly.

The phrase “under God” was written into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

Sound:

228-w-32-(Shirley Smith, AP correspondent, with Samantha Jones, who wants “under God” to stay in the Pledge of Allegiance)–Attorneys offered contrasting interpretations of the Pledge of Allegiance during oral arguments Wednesday in a New Jersey lawsuit. AP correspondent Shirley Smith reports. (19 Nov 2014)

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218-a-09-(Samantha Jones, senior at Highland Regional High School, at Monmouth County Superior Court, at news conference)-“our country great”-Highland Regional High School senior Samantha Jones says she got involved to protect her freedoms as an American. COURTESY: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (19 Nov 2014)

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217-a-03-(Samantha Jones, senior at Highland Regional High School, at Monmouth County Superior Court, at news conference)-“freedom as Americans”-Highland Regional High School senior Samantha Jones says she’s asking a judge to dismiss the American Humanist Association’s attempt to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. COURTESY: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (19 Nov 2014)

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219-a-07-(Samantha Jones, senior at Highland Regional High School, at Monmouth County Superior Court, at news conference)-“did not create”-Highland Regional High School senior Samantha Jones says her attorneys argue that this is a freedom of religion issue. COURTESY: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (19 Nov 2014)

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HOLIDAY DISPLAYS-CAPITOL

Nativity scene proposed for Michigan Capitol lawn

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan officials are considering whether a Christian Nativity scene and a counter-display from a secular group should join the state Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn this holiday season.

The State Capitol Commission on Monday agreed to contract with the Michigan attorney general’s office for a part-time staff attorney over six months for $37,000. The attorney would advise the commission on various issues, including the request to place a representation of the birth of Jesus at the state Capitol.

Commission member John Truscott says he expects the office to approve the Nativity with the same conditions as other demonstrations that are held on the grounds.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation said Tuesday it would request a counter-display if the Nativity is approved.

Sound:

303-a-18-(Rebecca Markert, staff attorney, Freedom from Religion Foundation, in AP interviview)-“winter solstice sign”-Freedom from Religion Foundation staff attorney Rebecca Markert says her group believes that if Michigan officials OK a Christian Nativity scene on the state Capitol lawn, then other groups have to be given the same right. (19 Nov 2014)

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304-a-10-(Rebecca Markert, staff attorney, Freedom from Religion Foundation, in AP interviview)-“something like that”-Freedom from Religion Foundation staff attorney Rebecca Markert says her group is concerned about the request to put up the Nativity scene. (19 Nov 2014)

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305-a-11-(Rebecca Markert, staff attorney, Freedom from Religion Foundation, in AP interviview)-“from religious displays”-Freedom from Religion Foundation staff attorney Rebecca Markert says even though her her group believes all groups should be accorded the same rights to put up displays, the best idea is for nobody to do it. (19 Nov 2014)

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ISRAEL-JERUSALEM TOLERANCE

Clergy plead for interfaith tolerance in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) — Clergy representing Christians, Jews and Muslims have met near the Jerusalem synagogue where five people died in a grisly Palestinian attack to plead for tolerance amid spiking regional tensions.

The group gathered Wednesday in a courtyard outside the synagogue where two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers, knives and a pistol killed four worshippers and a policeman Tuesday. After a brief gun battle, security forces shot the assailants dead.

Absent from the meeting were Muslim authorities from Jerusalem and senior Israeli rabbis.

Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former Israeli legislator, said residents of the Holy Land have political and religious differences, “but this is not the way.”

In recent weeks, 11 people have died at the hands of Palestinian attackers — most in Jerusalem, but also in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

Sound:

243-a-10-(Rabbi Michael Melchior, in AP interview)-“not the way”-Rabbi Michael Melchior says the synagogue attack is “a crime against God in all our beliefs.” (19 Nov 2014)

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244-a-09-(Rabbi Michael Melchior, in AP interview)-“every red line”-Rabbi Michael Melchior says people of all religions agree that the attack was not the way to air differences. (19 Nov 2014)

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245-a-07-(Rabbi Michael Melchior, in AP interview)-“all our beliefs”-Rabbi Michael Melchior says the attack was “over every red line.” (19 Nov 2014)

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VATICAN-ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

Pope condemns ‘unacceptable’ synagogue attack

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is condemning what he calls an “unacceptable” attack on a Jerusalem synagogue and is calling for Israel and the Palestinians to take “courageous” steps to forge peace.

Francis told his weekly General Audience on Wednesday that he was greatly concerned by the “alarming increase in tensions” in the Holy Land. Two Palestinian cousins carried out the attack Tuesday, killing five people. Israel has vowed retaliation.

Francis, who hosted the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a daylong peace prayer in the Vatican gardens last summer, said he was praying for all victims.

He urged both sides to end the “spiral of hatred and violence and take courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace.” He said: “To build peace is difficult, but to live without peace is a torment.”

ISLAMIC STATE-AID WORKER-SERVICES

3 services set for slain Indiana aid worker

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three public services including a community-wide celebration on Sunday have been announced for an Indiana aid worker who was beheaded by Islamic State militants.

The family of Abdul-Rahman Kassig (AHB’-duhl RAHK’-muhn KAS’-ihg) says the Sunday event will be led by Christian and Muslim clerics and will include tributes by his friends and mentors. It will be held on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis.

The family says Muslim prayers also will be held for Kassig Friday afternoon at a mosque in Fishers, Indiana, and Saturday at the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Kassig was captured Oct. 1, 2013, while delivering aid in Syria. The White House confirmed his death Sunday.

PRAYER COMPLAINT

Prayer at school assembly prompts complaint

MORGAN CITY, La. (AP) — A humanist group has written a letter to public school officials in Louisiana’s St. Mary Parish demanding that they omit prayer from school-sponsored events.

The letter says a Morgan City High School student complained about a school-led Christian prayer during a Veterans Day assembly.

If the district does not take corrective action within seven days, the American Humanist Association threatens in the letter to file a federal lawsuit against the school district.

Monica Miller, the attorney who wrote the letter, told The Advocate newspaper that the complaint came from an 11th-grade student who felt compelled to stay at the assembly despite her sincere objection to school-sponsored prayers.

AMISH BUILDING PERMITS

Another try set to settle Amish permit dispute

PRESTON, Minn. (AP) — An Amish couple from Minnesota will try next month to settle their zoning law dispute with Fillmore County.

Ammon and Sarah Swartzentruber of Harmony have been cited for failing to get a permit for the home they’re building. The couple refused because they say it meant they would have to install a septic system, a modern convenience not permitted by their religious beliefs.

The couple appeared at a hearing Wednesday to answer to three misdemeanor charges. Both have pleaded not guilty.

They were initially cited in late June, and picked up another citation Friday because the family has continued to build its home.

The Post-Bulletin newspaper reports that a settlement conference is set for Dec. 17. If no agreement is reached, the case goes to trial in January.

CHICAGO ARCHBISHOP-JENKINS

Jenkins attends Mass for new Chicago archbishop

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The president of the University of Notre Dame says he attended the Mass where Chicago’s new Archbishop Blase Cupich (BLAYZ’ SOO’-pihch) was officially installed on Tuesday.

The Rev. John Jenkins was an 18-year-old hitchhiking through Europe when he first met Cupich in Rome, where the future archbishop was a seminarian studying for the priesthood. Both are natives of Omaha, Nebraska, and Cupich gave Jenkins his first cup of cappuccino.

Jenkins offered the 65-year-old Cupich his best wishes, saying he brings “to one of the hemisphere’s most important dioceses a caring pastoral approach with rigorous theological thought and visionary leadership” in line with what Pope Francis is doing.

The selection of Cupich as the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics is Pope Francis’ first major mark on American Catholic leadership.

NUNS ASSAULTED-TRIAL

February trial set, man charged with beating nuns

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A February trial has been set for a man charged with two home invasions in which three elderly women, including two nuns, were assaulted.

The Billings Gazette reports that the trial for 33-year-old Christopher Samuel Pine had been scheduled to start on Oct. 29, but court records indicated his attorney withdrew from the case. Pine has a new attorney.

Pine faces eight charges in the case, including three counts of robbery, three counts of deceptive practices and intimidation.

Prosecutors allege Pine broke into a woman’s house and robbed her on Aug. 13, 2013, and the next night broke into a home where two retired nuns were living and stomped and beat them. Both nuns were treated for serious injuries. Credit cards were taken in both robberies.

CHURCH ABUSE-MINNESOTA

Extradited priest accused of assaulting 2nd person

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge has set a $1 million cash bond for a Roman Catholic priest who was extradited from his native India on accusations of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota.

The Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul was arraigned on criminal sexual conduct charges in Roseau County District Court Wednesday. Prosecutors also charged the 59-year-old priest with assaulting a second victim.

Prosecutors say he raped a girl multiple times in 2004 and 2005, starting when she was 14. Jeyapaul has denied the allegations.

Jeyapaul came to Minnesota in 2004 and served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush at the time of the alleged abuse.

He returned to India in 2005 and while he was overseas, the Diocese of Crookston received allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl.