Update on the latest religion news

FERGUSON-NIXON

Missouri governor reaches out to St. Louis clergy

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says he asked St. Louis-area clergy to help cope with reaction to the grand jury decision regarding a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old.

As tensions mounted before the grand jury announcement, Nixon held a conference call with local faith leaders, who he said “offered their prayers for peace and safety.”

The governor said several churches also had offered sanctuary for residents who feel threatened, providing them with “food, shelter and medical care.”

Nixon said the goal was to protect the public as well as the free speech rights of protesters.

The grand jury decided not to indict the officer, touching off violence in the town.

Sound:

247-a-08-(Charlie Dooley, county executive, St. Louis County, at news conference)-“a orderly fashion”-St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says violence and vandalism won’t be tolerated after the grand jury verdict is announced. ((watch for dating)) (24 Nov 2014)

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244-a-14-(Governor Jay Nixon, D-Mo., at news conference)-“respect and restraint”-Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says officials are hoping for calm after the grand jury decision is announced. ((watch for dating)) (24 Nov 2014)

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245-a-11-(Governor Jay Nixon, D-Mo., at news conference)-“protect free speach”-Missouri Governor Jay Nixon officials hope any response to the grand jury decision will be one of restraint. ((watch for dating)) (24 Nov 2014)

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246-a-09-(Charlie Dooley, county executive, St. Louis County, at news conference)-“not with emotion”-St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley says he hopes people will not react with violence after the grand jury verdict is announced. ((watch for dating)) (24 Nov 2014)

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248-w-23-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Governor Jay Nixon, D-Mo.)–Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says he asked St. Louis-area clergy to help cope with reaction to the grand jury decision regarding a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (24 Nov 2014)

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DAY OF PRAYER CHALLENGE

Colorado court upholds Day of Prayer proclamations

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Supreme Court is upholding the governor’s right to issue Day of Prayer proclamations.

Monday’s ruling reverses a 2012 appeals court decision that found that the proclamations unconstitutionally favored the religious over the non-religious.

The Colorado Supreme Court found that opponents of the proclamations don’t have the right to sue because they weren’t forced to participate in the day of prayer and didn’t suffer any negative consequences from the government.

The court also said the plaintiffs didn’t suffer significant “psychic harm” from media coverage of the prayer proclamations.

Congress established a National Day of Prayer in 1952, and most states hold statewide days of prayers to coincide with the national event.

Sound:

229-a-06-(Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in AP interview)-“Establishment Clause law”-Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that her organization and its plaintiffs don’t have standing to sue. (24 Nov 2014)

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227-a-09-(Michael J. Norton, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“got it right”-Michael J. Norton, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, says Colorado’s highest court was right to reject the Day of Prayer challenge. (24 Nov 2014)

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226-a-08-(John Bornschein (BORN’-sheen), vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, in AP interview)-“advantage of that”-John Bornschein, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, says Colorado’s Supreme Court properly upheld the governor’s right to proclaim a Day of Prayer. (24 Nov 2014)

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228-a-14-(Michael J. Norton, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in AP interview)-“in the newspaper”-Michael J. Norton, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, says Colorado’s Supreme Court was right to reject the Day of Prayer challenge. (24 Nov 2014)

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234-v-29-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–The Colorado Supreme Court is upholding the governor’s right to issue Day of Prayer proclamations. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (24 Nov 2014)

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230-a-09-(Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, in AP interview)-“from, government-established religion”-Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says Colorado’s governor shouldn’t be allowed to proclaim Day of Prayer. (24 Nov 2014)

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MISSOURI-RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES

Missouri students want religious policy change

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A student group has asked the University of Missouri to strengthen a classroom policy to ensure that professors accommodate students who have to miss class for a religious holiday.

The Missouri Student Association, after meeting with Thalia Sass, president of the Jewish Student Organization at MU, presented the faculty council with a proposed change that would obligate faculty to make religious allowances.

The current rules only encourage professors to excuse students from classes, tests or activities because of religious obligations.

Student leaders say the change is needed because some students have problems with their professors without a mandate in place.

The student association proposal also recommends students provide notice to professors about possible absences toward the beginning of each semester.

EUROPE-POPE

Pope to take on hot EU topics in Strasbourg visit

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Pope Francis is set to deliver his first major speech on Europe, focusing on complex continental issues such as joblessness and immigration.

The pontiff’s whirlwind, four-hour visit Tuesday to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Europe’s main human rights body, in Strasbourg, is shaping up as more a secular stop than a liturgical layover.

Aides say the pontiff will address topics including unemployment and immigration, two hot-button issues in Europe.

To the disgruntlement of some locals, he won’t visit Strasbourg’s famed cathedral.

Some left-leaning lawmakers argue he has no place visiting secular European institutions.

Francis’s trip is the first by a pope to Strasbourg since John Paul II visited in 1988. That was a very different Europe — before the Berlin Wall fell.

SRI LANKA-POPE’S VISIT

Church: Papal visit not part of Sri Lanka politics

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic church says Pope Francis’s visit in January should not be politicized and that papal images should not be used in the Asian country’s presidential election campaign.

Rev. Cyril Gamini Fernando urged that election billboards with Francis’s image be removed. His statement did not name the candidate, but some billboards have appeared that show the pope posing with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa is seeking a third term in the Jan. 8 poll, which comes just before Francis arrives in Sri Lanka on a three-day visit on Jan. 13.

After a revolt in the ruling party, the president’s main challenger will be his former health minister.

CHICAGO ARCHBISHOP-APOLOGY

Chicago archbishop apologizes for priest sex abuse

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s new archbishop has apologized to parishioners at a West Side church for the sexual abuse of children there by a former priest.

Archbishop Blase Cupich (blayz SOO’-pich) offered the apology on Sunday during the homily at the predominantly black St. Agatha Catholic Church. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Cupich said his heart breaks for those injured by the “horrible things” done by ex-priest Daniel McCormack.

McCormack pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children at St. Agatha. He was sentenced to five years in prison and remains in custody at a state mental health facility.

Cupich was installed as archbishop last Tuesday, replacing the retired and ailing Cardinal Francis George.

He told reporters after Mass that the church “can always do more” to help abuse victims.

PRIESTS ARRESTED

Spanish police arrest 4 priests in pedophile case

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s interior minister says four priests have been arrested on suspicion of child sex abuse.

Jorge Fernandez Diaz says police made the arrests Monday in the southern city of Granada.

Police have been investigating possible cases of pedophilia involving priests since an alleged victim wrote to Pope Francis recently.

Spanish newspapers have reported that the pope contacted the victim by phone. But Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi refused to confirm or deny that the pope made the call, citing Vatican policy not to comment on the pope’s “personal and pastoral” initiatives.

The office of bishops in Granada said last week that it suspended several priests from service at their parishes after the complaint was sent to the Vatican. The abuses are suspected to have taken place about 10 years ago.

TURKEY-ERDOGAN-WOMEN

Erdogan: women are not equal to men

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) has set off a new controversy, declaring that women are not equal to men and accusing feminists of not understanding the special status that Islam attributes to mothers.

Addressing a meeting Monday in Istanbul on women and justice, Erdogan said men and women are created differently, that women cannot be expected to undertake the same work as men, and that mothers enjoy a high position that only they can reach.

He said: “You cannot explain this to feminists. They don’t accept motherhood. They have no such concern.”

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, often makes controversial comments. He recently declared that Muslims had discovered the Americas before Christopher Columbus.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS

Israeli police say Arab stabs Jew in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say an Arab assailant has stabbed a Jewish man in Jerusalem.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the victim was stabbed Monday night outside the old city of Jerusalem and was hospitalized in moderate to serious condition. One suspect was arrested. Rosenfeld said the incident was considered a terrorist attack.

Israel is in the midst of its worst sustained bout of violence in nearly a decade. Eleven Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks over the past month, including five people who were killed in an assault on a Jerusalem synagogue last week.

Attacks have been mostly in Jerusalem but also in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

ATLANTA FIRE CHIEF-SUSPENSION

Ga. fire chief in trouble over homosexuality book

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s fire chief has been suspended after city officials say he violated policy by self-publishing a book that describes homosexuality as a “perversion.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says in a statement Monday that Kelvin Cochran will be suspended for a month without pay and will be required to complete sensitivity training.

Reed says he was “deeply disturbed” after learning about the book on Friday and will not tolerate discrimination within his administration.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the book titled “Who Told You That You Are Naked?” identifies Cochran as a devout Christian and as the city’s fire chief. City councilmember Alex Wan, who is openly gay, says Reed should investigate whether Cochran’s views have affected LGBT employees.

Reed’s office says Cochran was not made available for comment.