Update on the latest religion news

NAVY CHAPLAIN REASSIGNED

Navy chaplain in SC reassigned after complaints about views

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (AP) — A Navy chaplain has been reassigned after his commanding officer received complaints about the minister’s counseling on sexual morality.

The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, reports that Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder has been reassigned from the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command pending a hearing on whether the Assemblies of God minister should be removed.

Capt. Jon Fahs, the commander of the training command located in Goose Creek just outside of Charleston, says Modder disregarded his inclusive duty as a chaplain.

But Modder’s attorney says the chaplain merely expressed views against premarital sex and homosexuality that are consistent with his church and biblical teaching.

Former military chaplain Ron Crews, who heads the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says Modder was responding to direct questions by the individual who then brought the accusations against him.

Modder’s resume includes service overseas, endorsement letters and work as a spiritual counselor to Navy SEALS. He is eligible to retire in September after 20 years of service.

Sound:

202-a-15-(Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-“their faith traditions”-Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the Navy should exonerate Chaplain Wes Modder. (15 Mar 2015)

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198-v-28-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–A Navy chaplain has been reassigned after his commanding officer received complaints about the minister’s counseling on sexual morality. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (15 Mar 2015)

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199-a-08-(Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-“his faith tradition”-Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says Navy Chaplain Wes Modder fulfilled his duty in sharing what he believes the Bible teaches. (15 Mar 2015)

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200-a-16-(Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-“then charges brought”-Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says Chaplain Wes Modder responded to direct questions about what his faith teaches. (15 Mar 2015)

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201-a-14-(Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, in AP interview)-“for other chaplains”-Retired military chaplain Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, says the Navy chaplain fears that his case will set a dangerous precedent. (15 Mar 2015)

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AIR BASE GREETING

Ga. Air Force base rethinks ban on ‘blessed day’ greeting

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Officials at a central Georgia Air Force base have backed down from banning guards from telling visitors to “have a blessed day.”

A man who identified himself as an active duty military member posted on the website for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that Robins Air Force Base personnel used the greeting more than a dozen times with him in the past two weeks.

The organization’s president, Mikey Weinstein, said on the group’s website that he spoke with base officials and was told staff would no longer use the greeting.

After initially banning the greeting, base officials said that further review showed it doesn’t violate Air Force standards.

Spokesman Roland Leach says Guards may say “welcome to team Robins,” and add courteous and professional greetings if they wish.

PAKISTAN

Suicide bombers kill 15 people outside Pakistani churches

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Officials in Pakistan say a pair of suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday as worshippers prayed inside, killing 15 people and wounding at least 70. The explosions occurred in quick succession at churches that are less than a half mile apart.

Afterward, an angry Christian mob blocked a major highway, ransacked a bus terminal and burned two people to death who they suspected of being involved in the attacks. Christian demonstrators blocked roads in other major Pakistani cities as well.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the church bombings in a statement emailed to reporters, and warned that there would be more such attacks.

Christians are often discriminated against in Pakistan and have been targets of extremist Sunni Muslims.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square that he’s praying for an end to religious persecution and for peace to prevail in Pakistan.

Sound:

164-v-29-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–Officials in Pakistan say a pair of suicide bombers attacked two churches in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, as worshippers prayed inside, killing 15 people and wounding at least 70. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (15 Mar 2015)

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120-r-11-(Sound of Christian protesters chanting anti-terrorism slogans, in aftermath of deadly attacks)–Sound of Christian protesters chanting anti-terrorism slogans after bombings targeted worshipers in the eastern city of Lahore. (15 Mar 2015)

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110-a-12-(Rebecca Santana, AP correspondent)-“attack another person”-AP correspondent Rebecca Santana reports that two blasts outside a Christian church in eastern Pakistan brought out retaliatory violence. (15 Mar 2015)

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132-r-47-(Sound of Pope Francis, in Italian, addressing the crowd in St. Peter’s Square)–Pope Francis, speaking in Italian to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, said he felt deep pain when he heard about the suicide bomb blasts outside a church in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore. (Fifteen were confirmed dead and 70 wounded.) (15 Mar 2015)

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133-r-39-(Sound of Pope Francis, in Italian, addressing the crowd in St. Peter’s Square)–Sound of Pope Francis imploring for religious persecution to stop, and for peace to prevail. (15 Mar 2015)

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INDIA-GANG RAPE

India police: Robbers gang rape nun in her 70s at school

KOLKATA, India (AP) — Police say a nun in her 70s was gang-raped by a group of bandits when she tried to prevent them from committing a robbery in a Christian missionary school in eastern India.

The attack early Saturday is the latest crime to focus attention on the scourge of sexual violence in India.

A police officer says the nun was hospitalized in serious condition after the attack, which was committed by seven to eight robbers at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in West Bengal state’s Nadia district.

The officer says police are searching for the bandits, who escaped with some cash, a mobile phone, a laptop computer and a camera belonging to the school. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

REFORM RABBIS-GAYS

US Reform Jewish rabbis install 1st openly lesbian leader

PHILDADELPHIA (AP) — An openly lesbian rabbi is about to become the leader of the largest branch of American Judaism.

Rabbi Denise Eger (EH’-gur) will be installed Monday as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of Reform Judaism.

The 55-year-old Eger won’t be the first openly gay or lesbian rabbi to lead an American rabbinic group. In 2007, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association chose Rabbi Toba Spitzer, a lesbian, as its national president. But Reform Jews, with 2,000 rabbis and 862 American congregations, have a broader role in the Jewish world.

Reform Judaism was the earliest of the major Jewish movements to take formal steps toward recognizing same-sex relationships. In 1977, the Reform movement called for civil rights protections for gays. By 1996, Reform rabbis backed same-sex civil marriage.

Sound:

173-v-30-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–An openly lesbian rabbi is about to become the leader of the largest branch of American Judaism. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (15 Mar 2015)

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GAY MARRIAGE-ALABAMA-RALLY

‘Biblical marriage’ rally planned in southeast Alabama city

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — Opponents of same-sex marriage are planning a rally in the southeast Alabama city of Dothan.

The Dothan Eagle reports that the “I Support Biblical Marriage” rally is planned for March 22 at the Dothan Civic Center.

An organizer, Chip Anderson of Dothan, tells the newspaper that he believes government approval of same-sex marriage could bring judgment from God. He said the marriage rally came to fruition after weekly meetings with pastors from several area churches.

Same-sex marriage is on hold in Alabama for now. U.S. District Judge Callie Granade ruled that Alabama’s bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Some counties began issuing marriages licenses to same-sex couples, but others refused.

The Alabama Supreme Court then ordered probate judges across the state to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

CREFLO DOLLAR-JET

Megachurch pastor seeks donations for pricey private jet

ATLANTA (AP) — The ministry of a prominent megachurch pastor and evangelist is seeking donations to buy a luxury jet valued at more than $65 million.

The website of Creflo Dollar Ministries asks people to “sow your love gift of any amount” to help the ministry buy a Gulfstream G650. Spokesman Juda Engelmayer says the ministry’s current plane was built in 1984 and is no longer safe for travel.

Gulfstream’s website lists an asking price of $67,950,000 for a G650 with a flight record of 1,616 hours and 625 landings since it entered service in mid-December.

Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches.

VATICAN-POPE

Francis predicts his papacy to be 4-5 years, misses pizza

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has marked the second anniversary of his surprise election by predicting that he won’t be pope for long.

In an interview with the Mexican broadcaster Televisa, Francis said: “I have the sensation that my pontificate will be brief: Four or five years. I don’t know. Or two or three. Well, two have already passed.”

Francis has previously said he thought he’d be pope for two to three years.

He said the thing he missed most was being able to go out to get pizza undetected.

At Mass on Friday, the 78-year-old Francis announced a special Jubilee Year to focus the church on his main priority: mercy. It’s only the 27th time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church that there has been a Holy Year.

PRE-K EXPANSION-RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

NYC’s plan for prayer break in pre-K classes raises concerns

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan to expand public pre-kindergarten for all 4 year-olds depends in part on the participation of Jewish, Christian and Muslim schools, under a proposal that would permit religious instruction and prayers during midday breaks.

But civil liberties groups are already objecting to the plan, which would take effect next fall, saying allowing a prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate separation of church and state.

Some pre-K classes are in public schools but many are run by religious groups and other community-based organizations under contract to the city. The latest proposal is aimed at increasing the participation of private religious schools, particularly the Orthodox Jewish schools that serve a growing portion of the city’s population.

BALD EAGLES-RELIGION

Federal judge rules for tribe in dispute over eagle permits

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improperly denied a permit to kill bald eagles to the Northern Arapaho Tribe on its central Wyoming reservation.

The Northern Arapaho had asked for a permit to kill two bald eagles a year for their annual Sun Dance, but the agency denied the request after opposition from the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

The Eastern Shoshone share the Wind River Reservation with the Northern Arapaho and oppose killing eagles.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson ruled that Fish and Wildlife violated the Northern Arapaho’s religious rights and ordered the agency to reconsider the tribe’s application.

PASTOR SLAIN-DEMONS

Police: Man killed pastor he believed possessed by demons

GERMANTOWN, Md. (AP) — Police in Maryland have charged a Pennsylvania man in the death of a Germantown pastor who had been asked to pray over the man to help stop voices he was hearing.

Montgomery County Police say 38-year-old Roland Zinneh of Darby, Pennsylvania, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 57-year-old Pastor Connery Dagadu.

Police say Zinneh was dropped off at Dagadu’s home Tuesday and the pastor was found unresponsive the next morning. After Zinneh was taken into custody, police say he yelled, “Demons! I kill demons!”

Dagadu was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say his death was ruled homicide by asphyxiation.

Police say that during questioning, Zinneh said he fought with Dagadu, whom he believed was possessed by demons. Zinneh is being held without bond.

GERMANY-HEADSCARF BAN

German high court overturns headscarf ban for teachers

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s highest court has struck down a state law against wearing headscarves, saying it violated the German constitution’s guaranteed religious freedoms.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled in favor of two female Muslim teachers from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in a decision that will also apply to other states.

The law banned headscarves on grounds they could call into question a teacher’s neutrality and cause classroom disruptions. But the court ruled a school would need to show “not only an abstract but a sufficiently specific risk” to justify a ban.

The court also said a clause excepting “Christian and Western educational and cultural values or traditions” from the state’s ban violated the constitution’s protection against discrimination on religious grounds.

DENMARK-RING OF PEACE

Danes form human chains outside synagogue in show of unity

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Thousands of people of different faiths have formed a human ring outside the synagogue in Copenhagen where a Jewish security guard was fatally shot last month.

Organizer Niddal El-Jabr says the show of unity was meant to “send a powerful statement” that “Jews should be able to have their religion in peace.”

Saturday’s gathering was inspired by similar symbolic events in Scandinavia in recent weeks. On Feb. 27, Copenhagen’s mayor joined a “ring of peace” on the nearby City Hall square. Police there had banned any events outside the synagogue, citing security.

On Feb. 15, Omar El-Hussein killed the synagogue guard hours after he fatally shot Danish filmmaker Finn Noergaard at a free speech event at another site in Copenhagen.