Update on the latest religion news


Advocacy group defending chaplain facing discipline for faith views in private counseling sessions

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A Christian legal advocacy group is defending a Navy chaplain it says faces punishment for expressing faith-based views during private counseling sessions with sailors.

The Liberty Institute says Chaplain Wes Modder (MAH’-der), an ordained Assemblies of God minister, has received decorations and was called “the best of the best” by the commander now seeking to administer discipline. Modder is based at South Carolina’s U.S. Navy Joint Base Charleston Goose Creek.

Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says the range of punishment Modder faces could be career ending. Modder is eligible for a 20-year retirement in September.

According to Berry, the Navy has requested that Modder be barred from promotion, fired from his job as chaplain, and brought before a military Board of Inquiry, where he could be forced out of the Navy.

Berry says a “handful” of complaints were filed in connection with private, confidential counseling sessions. Berry says Modder was careful to point out at the beginning of each session that his views were those of an Assembly of God minister.

Berry says to treat a hero like this “at this point in his career is outrageous.”


289-a-10-(Mike Berry, counsel and Military Affairs director, Liberty Institute, in AP interview)-“special warfare command”-Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says Navy Chaplain Wes Modder is a hero. (9 Mar 2015)


290-a-08-(Mike Berry, counsel and Military Affairs director, Liberty Institute, in AP interview)-“career is outrageous”-Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says the chaplain has had an outstanding career. (9 Mar 2015)


288-a-14-(Mike Berry, counsel and Military Affairs director, Liberty Institute, in AP interview)-“pastoral counseling sessions”-Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says his organization has filed a response denying the allegations and defending his client’s religious freedoms. (9 Mar 2015)


291-a-13-(Mike Berry, counsel and Military Affairs director, Liberty Institute, in AP interview)-“best-of-the-best”-Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says Navy Chaplain Wes Modder had recently received outstanding reviews. (9 Mar 2015)



Pakistan court upholds death sentence for governor’s killer in blasphemy case

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court has upheld the death sentence for a former police commando convicted of killing a provincial governor he had accused of blasphemy but threw out terrorism charges against him.

As a member of the Elite Police Force, Mumtaz Qadri was supposed to be protecting Gov. Salman Taseer in 2011 when he shot and killed him in an upscale neighborhood in the capital, Islamabad.

Qadri’s defense was that Taseer opposed Pakistan’s so-called “blasphemy laws” by supporting a Christian woman charged with allegedly desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran. Qadri was convicted and sentenced later that year.

Even though the court upheld the death sentence, it is unclear whether it will ever be carried out.

Pakistan has thousands of people on death row but also has a moratorium on carrying out executions.


Maine state senator apologizes for Facebook post about Obama

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A Maine state senator has apologized for a Facebook post that suggests that President Barack Obama’s family members are part of the Islamic State group.

Republican Sen. Michael Willette shared a photo of Obama that pretended to use the president’s words, saying of the Islamic State group, “I’ll deal with them at the family reunion.”

Willette apologized and called it an “error in judgment.” He said in a statement that he “fell into the trap” of posting something before thinking about it.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said the offensive post reflects poorly on the Maine Republican Party. He says it perpetuates a “false racial, religious and ethnic slur.” Since Obama first ran for president in 2008 detractors have falsely claimed he’s a Muslim.


Kansas lawmaker says abortion is ‘holocaust against fetuses’

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A freshman Kansas Republican legislator says abortion-rights supporters are committing “a holocaust against fetuses.

Republican Rep. Dick Jones of Topeka made the comments during and after a hearing on a bill that would prohibit using clamps, forceps or similar instruments on a fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. The measure would ban what doctors call the dilation and evacuation procedure, which is commonly used nationwide in second trimester abortions.

Asked to clarify his comments after the hearing, Jones compared abortion-rights supporters to totalitarian leaders who kill thousands of people deemed to be “a drain” on state resources.

Abortion-rights groups testified that the measure would increase women’s health risks and would open up doctors to malpractice suits if they avoided using the procedure in cases when it would be the safest option for terminating a pregnancy.


New Yorkers pay respects to Cardinal Egan at public viewing

NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers have paid their respects to Cardinal Edward Egan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A public viewing was held Monday for Egan, who died Thursday at 82.

He lay in an open casket that rested on the altar steps. To the side, a huge bouquet of red roses had a gold ribbon that read “Beloved Uncle.”

Egan’s funeral Mass will be Tuesday at St. Patrick’s, where he will be buried beneath the high altar. Egan retired in 2009.


219-a-15-(Gerard Guarino (gwah-REE’-noh), parishioner, in AP interview)-“the people’s priest”-Parishioner Gerard Guarino says he experienced Cardinal Edward Egan as a humble priest. (9 Mar 2015)


220-a-11-(Victor Ziminsky, parishioner, in AP interview)-“fellow he was”-Parishioner Victor Ziminsky says Cardinal Egan was always kind to him. (9 Mar 2015)


218-w-34-(Warren Levinson, AP correspondent, with Gerard Guarino (gwah-REE’-noh), parishioner)–Catholics are stopping by St. Patrick’s Cathedral to pay their respects to New York’s late cardinal. AP correspondent Warren Levinson reports. (9 Mar 2015)


221-a-13-(John Berenzy (buh-REN’-zee), parishioner, in AP interview)-“of God strong”-Parishioner John Berenzy say Cardinal Edward Egan did the necessary but thankless work of putting the archdiocese on a firm financial footing. (9 Mar 2015)


074-v-30-(Julie Walker, AP correspondent)–Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, will be laid to rest this week. He died Thursday at the age of 82. AP correspondent Julie Walker reports. (9 Mar 2015)



Court: Judge erred on Milwaukee archdiocese fund

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal appeals court says a lower court judge made a mistake when he ruled a $55 million cemetery trust fund off-limits in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s bankruptcy case.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects religious organizations from government interference, doesn’t protect the money because creditors seeking a share of the fund aren’t the government.

Attorneys for clergy sexual abuse victims have accused New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan when he was archbishop of Milwaukee of creating the trust fund to hide money from their clients. Their lawsuit has potentially far-reaching consequences because many Roman Catholic dioceses hold money in trust, and the victory for victims in Milwaukee could pave the way for others elsewhere. The appeals court decision is likely to be appealed.

The Milwaukee archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in 2011, saying it wouldn’t have the money to pay if the lawsuits it was facing from abuse victims went against it. Hundreds of victims have since filed claims against the archdiocese in bankruptcy court.


New York Catholic shrine’s repair estimate climbs to $5M

AURIESVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — A New York state shrine built on the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Church’s first Native American saint needs millions of dollars more in repairs than what was originally estimated.

Officials at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville (AW-reez-vihl) told the Daily Gazette of Schenectady that the repairs needed for the 85-year-old coliseum will cost an estimated $5 million. That’s five times the original estimate made in 2013.

The Jesuit order, which owns the site, has launched an international fundraising campaign that has brought in $2.35 million, so far.

The shrine was built in 1930 on a hilltop overlooking the Mohawk River in Montgomery County, 35 miles northwest of Albany. The site was home to a Mohawk Indian village where Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the mid-17th century. The Vatican canonized her in 2012.


Shortbread milkshake picked for pope visit fundraiser

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Vatican has given its blessing to a shortbread milkshake.

Part of the proceeds from sales of “#PopeinPhilly” milkshakes will benefit a world gathering of Catholic families and the pope’s visit to Philadelphia in the fall.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia picked the winning flavor from three choices during a visit Monday to a Potbelly Sandwich Shop. The president of the Vatican department that organizes the world meetings, Paglia got help from a dozen Catholic school students. The shake features a blend of vanilla ice cream and shortbread cookies. Fifty cents from every shake sold at three locations in Philadelphia will benefit planning for the events.

Pope Francis will attend the closing event of the world meeting on Sept. 26. The next day he’ll celebrate an outdoor Mass. The pope also will visit New York and Washington, D.C.