Update on the latest religion news

BAPTISTS-AFTERLIFE ACCOUNTS

Personal afterlife accounts removed from Baptist bookstores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention has stopped selling popular accounts of the afterlife like “Heaven is for Real” and “90 Minutes in Heaven” at its national chain of Lifeway Christian Bookstores.

Last summer, Southern Baptists at their annual convention warned that such books and films can lead people astray with “personal testimonies that cannot be corroborated” and sometimes conflict with Scripture.

They overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential” accounts of heaven and hell.

Lifeway spokesman Marty King says that resolution was taken into consideration and Lifeway stopped ordering personal afterlife accounts last summer. Now, he says, “the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished.”

Sound:

317-a-07-(Marty King, spokesman for Lifeway Christian Resources, in prepared statement)-“during our process”-Spokesman Marty King says Lifeway Christian Resources has been refocusing since Southern Baptists passed a resolution questioning personal afterlife accounts. (25 Mar 2015)

<

316-w-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Marty King, spokesman for Lifeway Christian Resources)–The publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention has stopped selling popular accounts of the afterlife like “Heaven is for Real” and “90 Minutes in Heaven” at its national chain of Lifeway Christian Bookstores. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (25 Mar 2015)

<

319-a-07-(Marty King, spokesman for Lifeway Christian Resources, in prepared statement)-“not be replenished”-Spokesman Marty King says Lifeway Christian Resources stopped ordering personal afterlife accounts after Southern Baptists questioned their validity last summer. ((cut used in wrap)) (25 Mar 2015)

<

318-a-07-(Marty King, spokesman for Lifeway Christian Resources, in prepared statement)-“our new direction”-Spokesman Marty King says Lifeway Christian Resources has stopped stocking and selling personal accounts of the afterlife. (25 Mar 2015)

<

OKLAHOMA FRATERNITY-RACIST VIDEO

Oklahoma student who led racist chant meets black leaders

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video leading a racist chant said Wednesday he’s deeply sorry for his role in the incident and upset and embarrassed that he failed to stop it.

Flanked by several black Oklahoma City community leaders, including pastors and civil rights activists, Levi Pettit apologized and asked for forgiveness following a meeting he had with civic leaders at Fairview Missionary Baptist Church on Oklahoma City’s predominantly black northeast side.

Pettit and several other members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the university were caught on video engaging in the chant that referenced lynching and used a racial slur to describe how African-Americans would never become members.

Fairview Pastor John A. Reed said the Easter season is a time to forgive, just as Jesus forgave those who crucified him.

Sound:

341-a-10-(State Senator Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, at news conference with members of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“educate the public”-State Senator Anastasia Pittman says she is glad that former University of Oklahoma student Levi Pettit had the courage to reach out and apologize to the black community, and to try to learn from the situation. (25 Mar 2015)

<

342-a-06-(State Senator Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, at news conference with members of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“for that journey”-State Senator Anastasia Pittman says she and other community leaders will help former University of Oklahoma student Levi Pettit work for racial unity. (25 Mar 2015)

<

339-a-11-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference with members of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“stop this chant”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, says he is sorry and he is ashamed. (25 Mar 2015)

<

340-a-11-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference with members of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“out of this”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, says he now understands the pain that he caused. (25 Mar 2015)

<

343-a-14-(Reverend John A. Reed, pastor, Fairview Missionary Baptist Church, at news conference)-“he has done”-Reverend John A. Reed, noting that this is the Easter season, says they do forgive Levi Pettit for what he did. (25 Mar 2015)

<

307-a-09-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference with Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“not seen before”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, apologizes directly to Oklahoma State Senator Anastasia Pittman, who made sure he got an education about the civil rights struggle for black Americans. (25 Mar 2015)

<

305-a-09-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference with Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“directly from me”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, says after meeting with members of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus, he now understands how hurtful those words are. (25 Mar 2015)

<

306-a-14-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference with Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus)-“hateful and racist”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, says he is sorry. (25 Mar 2015)

<

410-a-12-(Reverend John A. Reed, pastor, Fairview Missionary Baptist Church, at news conference)-“to forgive them”-Pastor John A. Reed says forgiving Levi Pettit is the Christian thing to do. (25 Mar 2015)

<

409-a-03-(Levi Pettit, student expelled from University of Oklahoma for racist chant, at news conference)-“for your forgiveness”-Levi Pettit, a former University of Oklahoma student who was recently expelled for leading a racist chant, says he hopes his apology is accepted. (25 Mar 2015)

<

RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS

Groups eye Indiana pullout over religious objections bill

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Organizers of a large church gathering and a gamers’ convention say they’re considering moving events from Indianapolis over a bill that critics say could legalize discrimination against gays.

Leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) wrote Wednesday to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urging him to veto the proposal prohibiting laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people to follow their religious beliefs. Church leaders say they’re reconsidering plans to hold their 6,000-person General Assembly in Indianapolis in 2017 because of concerns that some members might face legally sanctioned bias.

The Gen Con gamers convention’s CEO said similar concerns could affect decisions on whether to continue holding its annual 50,000-person event in Indianapolis.

Supporters of the bill say it would prevent the government from forcing people to provide services for activities such as same-sex weddings that they consider objectionable.

The governor’s office says Pence intends to sign the bill into law.

RELIGION REFERENDUM

Republican proposes ‘religious freedom’ referendum

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has proposed asking voters if they want additional religious protections in the Montana Constitution.

State Rep. Carl Glimm says he brought House Bill 615 before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to prioritize people’s personal beliefs above job descriptions. He gave examples such as a county clerk who doesn’t want to issue a same-sex marriage license or a pharmacist who didn’t want to dispense birth control pills or emergency contraceptives.

The proposal would exempt people from state laws that would burden their freedom to exercise religion.

Former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson and other opponents argue that codifying the religious protections would open the floodgates for individuals, corporations and churches to object to any state law they say violates their religion.

TEN COMMANDMENTS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Senate OKs 10 Commandments monument

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate has voted to allow a display of the Ten Commandments near the state Capitol, with the lawmaker behind the idea calling the monument a nod to history.

The bill approved by a 27-3 vote Wednesday would allow a privately funded monument to the commandments to be built on the Capitol grounds, with its design and location approved by the secretary of state. The measure now heads to the Arkansas House.

Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert has said the monument would commemorate the role the Ten Commandments have played in the nation’s legal system. Opponents have said the monument would amount to a state endorsement of religion and would be unconstitutional.

EPISCOPAL FUTURE

Ruling in SC Episcopal fight appealed to state Supreme Court

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The Episcopal Church is appealing a state judge’s ruling that churches in eastern South Carolina that broke with the denomination own the diocesan name, symbols and a half billion dollars in property.

Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ruled in January in favor of the Diocese of South Carolina. The conservative diocese and many of its congregations split with the national church in 2012 over theological differences.

The national church and about 30 congregations remaining with it announced that they have asked the state Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the judge’s ruling.

Attorneys are asking the Supreme Court to consider the case immediately, without the matter first going to the state Court of Appeals.

GAS LINE-EASTER CROSSES

Church members digging to set up Easter crosses hit gas line

HOUSTON (AP) — Some Houston-area church members using a backhoe to dig and set up crosses for Easter hit a gas line and prompted an emergency stay-indoors order.

Fire department officials in the Sheldon area lifted the shelter-in-place order early Wednesday as the natural gas line break was fixed.

Nobody was hurt in Tuesday night’s accident as members of St. Dominic Catholic Church began digging to put down crosses for Easter on April 5. Authorities say parishioners were using the heavy equipment to dig in front of the church when they accidentally ruptured the gas line.

Dozens of residents were ordered to remain in their homes during the incident.

VATICAN-BRITAIN-ISLAMIC STATE

Pope meets relatives of Britons slain by Islamic State group

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Relatives of two British hostages killed by the Islamic State group have met Pope Francis as part of efforts to unite people of different faiths to oppose religious extremism.

Michael Haines, whose brother David was killed in September, and Barbara Henning, whose husband Alan was killed the following month, were brought up to greet Francis on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica after his rain-soaked general audience Wednesday.

Usually such access is reserved for visiting prelates.

Michael Haines said the moment “took my breath away.” In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said the pope “said he was going to pray for me to continue the work that we’re doing on unity and tolerance and bringing our communities together.”

IRAN-PORTRAYING THE PROPHET

Iran film portrays the Prophet Muhammad, drawing criticism

ALLAHYAR, Iran (AP) — In a Persian replica of Mecca, built at the cost of millions of dollars, an Iranian film company is attempting to offer the world a glimpse of Muhammad despite traditional taboos against it.

The movie “Muhammad, Messenger of God” is stirring controversy even before it’s widely released, largely from predominantly Sunni Arab countries. Sunni Islam, the religion’s dominant branch, widely rejects any depictions of its prophet, but the Shiite Islam practiced in Iran doesn’t.

The more than three-hour film focuses on Muhammad’s childhood, never showing his face.

So far, the movie appears to have the support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s current supreme leader, who attended an inauguration of the film’s set in 2012.

Producers plan to ultimately release the film in Arabic, Persian and English, with showings across Iran and abroad in the summer.

IMMIGRANT STUDENTS-BUDDHIST LEADER

Buddhist leader shares stories with immigrant students

REDLANDS, Calif. (AP) — One of the world’s most prominent Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leaders has met with immigrant students in California, telling them how he fled the country of his birth.

The 29-year-old Karmapa is seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama. He left Tibet in 2000 and has since been living at a monastery in India. He is the current head of the 900-year-old Karma Kaguy school of Tibetan Buddhism.

On Tuesday, the Karmapa visited the University of Redlands as part of his two-month visit to the United States. He met with 15 students who listened to him speak and shared their own stories of immigration.

Students from the university traveled to India in 2011 and in 2013 to study with the Karmapa.

MUSLIM LEADER-CHARGES

Islamic school chief pleads not guilty to sexual abuse

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (AP) — The head of a suburban Chicago Islamic school has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal counts alleging he sexually abused an employee.

Seventy-five-year-old Mohammad Abdullah Saleem entered the plea Wednesday before a Cook County judge. The founder of the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin was indicted on charges including aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated battery of a school employee and unlawful restraint.

If convicted, Saleem could face up to five years in prison. He’s free on $250,000 bond.

The Arlington Heights Daily Herald says Saleem’s 22-year-old accuser has claimed he repeatedly hugged, touched and massaged her against her will in her school office.

Saleem’s attorney said after the hearing that prosecutors “purportedly have DNA evidence gathered at the alleged scene,” but that doesn’t mean he’s guilty.

BAR MITZVAH-SEX ARREST

Arizona police: Woman flashed, abused boys at bar mitzvah

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona woman has been arrested for allegedly exposing her newly augmented breasts to adults and children and performing a sex act on a teenage boy at a bar mitzvah.

Scottsdale police say 32-year-old Lindsey Radomski is being held on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor, sexual abuse, felony indecent exposure and misdemeanor exposure. Bond was set at $10,000 at Radomski’s initial court appearance Wednesday.

Police say Radomski was a guest at a home bar mitzvah Saturday and reportedly flashed her revamped breasts to adults.

After most of the guests went home or were asleep early Sunday, Radomski allegedly invited seven boys ages 11 to 15 into a bedroom, allowed them to touch her breasts and performed a sex act on a 15-year-old.