Update on the latest religion news

GAY MARRIAGE-ALABAMA

Gay marriages on hold in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Gay rights advocates in Alabama say they can’t find a single county still granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying a previous federal ruling that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude them from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Alabama court ruled that state bans on gay marriage aren’t discriminatory since they ban both men and women from marrying people of the same sex, and it said the laws have a rational basis because they are meant to recognize and encourage ties between children and their biological parents.

The court’s ruling came in response to a request from the Southern Baptist-affiliated Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, which asked the justices to halt same-sex unions.

Sound:

320-a-11-(Ben Cooper, chairman, Equality Alabama, in interview)-“Alabama state Constitution”-Ben Cooper, the chairman of Equality Alabama, says it’s disappointing that Alabama’s Supreme Court has stopped probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. COURTESY: WBMA TV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (4 Mar 2015)

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319-a-06-(Eric Johnston, attorney, Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program, in interview)-“the law is”-Eric Johnston, an attorney for the Alabama Citizens Action Program, says he’s pleased that the Alabama Supreme Court sided with his group’s arguments, and ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. COURTESY: WBMA TV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (4 Mar 2015)

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318-a-09-(Eric Johnston, attorney, Alabama Policy Institute and Alabama Citizens Action Program, in interview)-“the traditional licenses”-Eric Johnston, an attorney for the Alabama Citizens Action Program, says his group continues working to block same-sex marriages, and says they are seeking “consistency” across the state. COURTESY: WBMA TV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (4 Mar 2015)

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075-c-13-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“wanted to happen”-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports two conservative groups that filed the motion upon which the Alabama Supreme Court ruled, are pleased with the order. (4 Mar 2015)

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074-c-18-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“being ‘purported licenses”’-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports the Alabama Supreme Court’s order does not for now affect gay marriages that have already taken place in the state. (4 Mar 2015)

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073-c-19-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“should still stand”-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. (4 Mar 2015)

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076-c-10-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“overstepped its authority”-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports gay marriage proponents are disappointed with the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling. (4 Mar 2015)

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297-c-13-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“wanted to happen”-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports two conservative groups that filed the motion upon which the Alabama Supreme Court ruled, are pleased with the order. (3 Mar 2015)

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296-c-18-(Jay Reeves, AP correspondent)-“being ‘purported licenses”’-AP correspondent Jay Reeves reports the Alabama Supreme Court’s order does not for now affect gay marriages that have already taken place in the state. (3 Mar 2015)

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GAY MARRIAGE-NORTH CAROLINA

Civil, sacred marriage considered by NC House panel

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Clergy and advocates have expressed differing views about whether judicial officials are required to carry out civil same-sex marriages in North Carolina if they have religious objections to gay marriage.

Several people Wednesday addressed a House judiciary panel considering a Senate bill approved last week that would allow a magistrate or assistant or deputy register of deeds to refuse to carry out marriage duties.

Episcopal Church rector the Rev. Lorraine Ljunggren says government officials take an oath to impartially and faithfully carry out the law and protect the rights of individuals.

But the Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League of North Carolina says the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to practice their religious beliefs without fear of state reprisal.

No vote was taken Wednesday on the bill, which was filed after a magistrate quit rather than violate his faith by endorsing same-sex marriages.

GAY RIGHTS-RELIGIOUS RIGHTS

Mormon church backs Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers have introduced a landmark anti-discrimination bill that would protect LGBT individuals while also carving out protections for the Boy Scouts of America and religious groups.

The proposal unveiled in the heavily Mormon state on Wednesday would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to housing or employment.

Religious groups and organizations would be exempt from the requirement, as would the Boy Scouts of America, which has a ban on gay adult Scout leaders and has close ties to the Mormon church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based in Utah, is the Boy Scouts’ largest sponsor.

The church said it is fully behind the legislation, although it still believes that sex is against the law of God unless it’s within a marriage between a man and a woman.

METS-MURPHY COMMENTS

Report: Mets’ Murphy says he disagrees with gay ‘lifestyle’

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy says that as a Christian he disagrees with the “lifestyle” of people who are gay.

The Mets hosted Billy Bean, a former major leaguer who came out as gay after retiring and is MLB’s first ambassador for inclusion, to talk at spring training. Murphy spoke to NJ Advance Media afterward.

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” he told NJ.com, and added, “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual.” Murphy said he feels that way because he is “trying to surrender to Christ in my own life.”

Murphy said Christians may not have been articulate enough in describing their stance on homosexuality. He said: “We love the people. We disagree (with) the lifestyle.”

A Mets spokesman said on Wednesday that Murphy would no longer be discussing the issue with reporters.

NYC MAYOR-ISRAEL

NYC mayor plans summer trip to Israel

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning a trip to Israel.

Aides said Wednesday that de Blasio will make his first trip as mayor this summer.

De Blasio has championed Jewish causes. He denounced anti-Semitic violence in Europe at a major New York synagogue and in a recent trip to Paris. He also loosened restrictions last week on an ultra-Orthodox circumcision ritual.

Courting the Jewish vote has long been a staple of New York politics due to its large and politically active Jewish population.

NYC SCHOOLS-MUSLIM HOLIDAYS

Mayor: NYC public schools to close on 2 Muslim holidays

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City public school system is set to observe two Muslim holidays for the first time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the system will close for Eid al-Adha (eed al-AHD’-hah) for the first time next September. Summer school will also close for Eid al-Fitr (eed ahl-FIH’-tur) in 2016.

Eid al-Fitr comes at the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha comes at the end of the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

They are the first Muslim holidays to be recognized by the nation’s largest school system, which educates 1.1 million kids.

De Blasio says the change means “hundreds of thousands” of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between sending their kids to school or observing the holidays.

The mayor made the announcement at a Brooklyn school where more than one-third of students were absent last Eid al-Adha.

De Blasio has made other international trips since taking office, including a political conference in England and a vacation in Italy

Sound:

281-a-11-(Mayor Bill deBlasio (BLAH’-zee-oh), D-NYC, at announcement)-“will be recognized”-New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio says city schools will be closed on a Muslim holiday for the first time. (4 Mar 2015)

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282-a-12-(Mayor Bill deBlasio (BLAH’-zee-oh), D-NYC, at announcement)-“as school holidays (applause fades)”-New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio announces that two Muslim holidays have been added to the school calendar. (4 Mar 2015)

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280-w-34-(Warren Levinson, AP correspondent, with Mayor Bill deBlasio (BLAH’-zee-oh), D-NYC)–New York City schools are going to start closing for two major Muslim holidays. AP correspondent Warren Levinson reports. (4 Mar 2015)

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283-a-16-(Mayor Bill deBlasio (BLAH’-zee-oh), D-NYC, at announcement)-“in this city”-New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio says the move shows respect for families. (4 Mar 2015)

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TEACHERS-CATHOLIC MORALITY MANUAL

Teachers urge archbishop to remove handbook morality clauses

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Teachers and staff from four Catholic High Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area are urging their archbishop to remove clauses from the faculty handbook that would prohibit them from opposing church teachings.

Teacher Jim Jordan said Tuesday a petition with 355 signatures of teachers and staff collected in the past two days would be delivered to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone by union representatives.

The clauses proposed by Cordileone outline the church’s teaching that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, abortion, masturbation and the viewing of pornography are “gravely evil.”

State lawmakers have criticized the addition to the faculty handbook and have asked for a probe of working conditions at the archdiocese’s four San Francisco Bay Area Catholic high schools.

CATHOLIC DIOCESE-LAWSUIT

Judge kills religious bias suit against church school system

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Sioux City, Iowa’s, Bishop Heelan Catholic school system has been dismissed.

The Sioux City Journal reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles said David Newbrough couldn’t proceed on his claim that the system fired him because he wasn’t Roman Catholic. Newbrough was the system’s chief financial officer.

The lawsuit also said he was relieved of his duties as a volunteer basketball scorekeeper at Heelan High School in retaliation for filing a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

The judge says the system’s actions were protected under a federal exemption that lets religious organizations discriminate on religious grounds in their employment practices.

HOMELESS SHELTER-LAWSUIT

St. Louis shelter sues in effort to keep operating

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Rev. Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis has filed suit against the city in an effort to keep its occupancy permit to operate a shelter for homeless people.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The city has said it will shut down the downtown shelter unless it abides by the permit, which allows no more than 32 people to be housed there overnight. The shelter often accommodates more than 200 homeless people.

The shelter has drawn complaints about crime and nuisance activities from people who work and live nearby, but Rice says that without New Life, many people will have no place to turn.

ATHEISTS-REASON STATION

Mayor unhappy with order allowing counter-religious booth

WARREN, Mich. (AP) — The mayor of Warren, Michigan, says he’s unhappy with a federal judge’s order that the Detroit suburb permit an atheist man to set up an informational booth similar to a church-run “prayer station” at City Hall and that it pay $100,000 to opposing lawyers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Hluchaniuk (loo-CHAN’-ik) ruled Feb. 23 that religious and anti-religious groups have the same rights. Since City Hall permits prayer stations, he said it must allow the proposed “reason station” on the same terms.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented Warren resident Douglas Marshall, who was denied permission for the station last summer.

Mayor Jim Fouts told The Detroit News he doesn’t like the order but says it’s a “victory of freedom of religion” along with an earlier ruling allowing a City Hall Nativity scene.

PRAYING MAN BURNED

Court: Man burned by fajitas while praying can’t sue eatery

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey appellate court says a man cannot seek damages for burns he suffered while bowing his head in prayer over a sizzling steak fajita skillet at a restaurant.

The ruling made public Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed his lawsuit. The man claimed a waitress didn’t warn him the dish was hot, but the lower court found the food posed an “open and obvious” danger.

It happened in 2010 at an Applebee’s in Burlington County.

The man said he bowed his head, then heard a loud sizzle followed by a grease pop. He then felt a burning sensation in his left eye and on his face.

The man said he panicked and knocked the food on his lap, causing more burns. The burns didn’t cause scarring.

CHURCH ABUSE-MONTANA

Judge confirms plan settling Montana clergy sex-abuse claims

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has confirmed a bankruptcy reorganization plan for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena that calls for almost $20 million in payments to hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse.

Abuse claims from the more than 360 victims will now go through an adjudication process to determine final payment amounts. Each will receive a minimum of $2,500, and a trust will be established for victims who come forward in the future.

The majority of allegations were against Jesuit priests at the Ursuline Academy and the St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius, Montana. The abuse ranged from rape and fondling, to perpetrators taking sexual photographs of children. It began in the 1930s and continued through the 1970s, according to court documents.

The average age of the victims at the time of abuse was 10 years old.

PRIEST-CHILD PORN

Bail denied for suspended priest on child porn charges

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge has denied bail for a suspended Philadelphia-area priest who was accused of having posted and exchanged child pornography images on a photo-sharing site.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel on Wednesday reversed a lower court’s decision that freed the Rev. Mark Haynes.

Stengel said the allegations, if proven, would establish a “consistent pattern of predatory conduct toward minor children.”

Defense attorney Alan Taubert, said his 55-year-old client “emphatically denied” the allegations and cited his client’s cooperation. Prosecutors said they are examining other allegations against the defendant.

Haynes has been vicar of Saints Simon & Jude parish in Chester County’s Westtown Township since 2013. He was ordained in 1985 and has also served in seven other suburban Philadelphia parishes.