Update on the latest religion news


Presbyterian approval of gay marriage follows conservative departures

NEW YORK (AP) — The official acceptance of gay marriage by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is partially the result of conservatives leaving the denomination.

Since 2011, when the Presbyterians authorized gay ordination, at least 428 PCUSA churches have left for more conservative denominations, or have dissolved. Those losses helped pave the way for the approval of gay marriage, since many opponents had left. Other theological conservatives have remained as they consider how to proceed.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, calls the new definition of marriage a repudiation of the Bible that approves “what God does not bless.” She says Presbyterians should protest by redirecting donations away from the national church.


262-a-07-(Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, in AP interview)-“loss of membership”-Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, says the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will pay a price for approving gay marriage. (18 Mar 2015)


264-a-16-(Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, in AP interview)-“very clearly addresses”-Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, says gay marriage will undermine the image of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). (18 Mar 2015)


263-a-13-(Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, in AP interview)-“and of congregations”-Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, says the approval of gay marriage is likely to further shrink the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). (18 Mar 2015)


254-v-34-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–The official acceptance of gay marriage by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is partially the result of conservatives leaving the denomination. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (18 Mar 2015)



Ten Commandments plaque at Ohio school will be retired

MARION, Ohio (AP) — A plaque of the Ten Commandments that was gifted by a graduating class nearly 60 years won’t be going back up in a hallway at an Ohio high school.

The school board in Marion, Ohio, has voted to donate the plaque to the county historical society instead of reinstalling it at Marion Harding High School.

The principal had removed the plaque from a hallway at the high school after a parent asserted that it violated separation of church and state. After consulting attorneys, school officials decided that it should go permanently.

School board members voted unanimously on Monday night to donate the plaque to the historical society. People from the community showed up to argue unsuccessfully for it to be put back up.


3 plead guilty in NYC convent fire that injured a nun

NEW YORK (AP) — A man has admitted setting a New York City convent fire that sent a nun leaping out a second-floor window to safety, breaking her back.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan says Vincent Calder pleaded guilty Wednesday to arson. Donovan says two other men, Diego Tuso and Christopher Sasso, pleaded guilty to burglary in the October 2013 blaze.

The 20-year-old Calder is expecting a 10-year prison sentence. The 20-year-old Tuso and 19-year-old Sasso are expecting sentences of 1,000 hours of community service and five years’ probation.

Tuso’s lawyer, Aaron Wallenstein, says his client accepted responsibility for his actions and is “relieved to be putting this behind him.”

The convent is on the grounds of St. Joseph Hill Academy, a Catholic school.


Foes say religious objections bill threatens day care rules

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Some Indiana lawmakers are questioning whether safety regulations approved last year for church and home day cares could be threatened if a proposal to extend religious protections becomes state law.

Democratic Rep. Vanessa Summers predicts that conservatives who fought the day care regulations would cite religious liberty in trying to have them overturned.

Supporters of the Republican-backed measure say they don’t believe day care standards are at risk, although courts could ultimately rule on faith-based challenges.

The law approved by legislators last year requires day cares that receive taxpayer money to meet safety and nutritional standards and adhere to limits on the number of children each caretaker can oversee at one time.

The religious freedom bill could be voted on by the Indiana House next week. It cleared the Senate on a party-line vote last month.


Michigan House approves religious-objection adoption bills

LANSING, Michigan (AP) — Michigan’s state House has approved legislation that would let faith-based adoption agencies refuse to participate in adoptions that violate their religious beliefs.

The bills would also prevent state or local governments from acting against adoption agencies for such a choice, including refusing to issue a license or provide funding.

The Republican-led House passed the legislation package mostly along party lines Wednesday. It passed the House last session but didn’t receive Senate approval.

Democratic opponents say it’s wrong to legalize faith-based discrimination in adoption. But bill sponsors say no one would be prevented from adopting in Michigan because referrals would be made for prospective adoptive parents if an agency chooses not to work with them.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed concern that the legislation could lead to lawsuits.


Cathedral to remove sprinkler system that drenched homeless

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Archdiocese of San Francisco says it has dismantled a sprinkler system it installed at the doorways of the city’s cathedral to soak the alcoves and prevent homeless people from sleeping there.

The archdiocese made the announcement Wednesday after a barrage of criticism because the system installed at St. Mary’s Cathedral during one of the worst droughts in California history was drenching homeless people at night.

KCBS Radio first reported undeterred homeless people were using umbrellas and waterproof gear, but were still getting soaked as they slept in the doorways.

The archdiocese, which supports and helps the homeless, apologized in a statement and said its intentions were misunderstood. It says it was trying to encourage homeless people to use other parts of the cathedral.


Pope Francis to address UN assembly of world leaders

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations says Pope Francis will address the annual U.N. General Assembly of world leaders on Sept. 25 during his first papal visit to the United States.

The pope earlier agreed to address a joint meeting of Congress on his visit. That Sept. 24 speech will mark the first time the head of the world’s Roman Catholics will address Congress. Francis is also expected to have a White House meeting with President Barack Obama.

The U.N. says the pope also will meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his one-day visit to the world body.

Wednesday’s statement welcomes the pope’s visit as “an important part of a historic year in which the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary.”


Holocaust-denying bishop makes waves again with consecration

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop who made headlines in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI rehabilitated him and members of his breakaway traditionalist society is heading for new trouble with the Vatican.

Bishop Richard Williamson is planning to consecrate a new bishop Thursday in Brazil without Pope Francis’ consent — a church crime punishable by excommunication.

Williamson was previously excommunicated in 1988 when he was consecrated as a bishop without papal consent. In 2009, Pope Benedict removed the excommunication, but controversy quickly ensued after Williamson said in a television interview that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.

An associate says Williamson does not fear a new excommunication because he and other traditionalists are trying “to preserve the true Catholic faith.”


Indianapolis Hindu temple goes through $10 million expansion

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Hindu temple in Indianapolis is in the midst of a $10 million expansion.

The Indianapolis Star says the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana opened in 2006, but has used a temporary space that doesn’t resemble the elaborate temples found in India.

The expansion, set to be unveiled in June, will feature a skylight surrounded by four carved towers. It also will include a worship hall with 17 shrines, giving Hindus a chance to worship gods that are revered in different parts of India.

The temple board’s vice chair, Arun Jain, says it’s meant to accommodate the various branches of Hinduism.

The expansion’s unveiling will be celebrated over five days beginning June 3, with planned ceremonies including a blessing of the new towers and a dropping of flowers and holy water from helicopters.