Update on the latest religion news

RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas governor urges changes to religious objection bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is calling for changes to a religious objection measure facing a backlash from businesses and gay rights groups, saying it wasn’t intended to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Lawmakers passed and sent the governor a bill prohibiting state and local government from infringing on someone’s religious beliefs without a compelling interest. Hutchinson said he wants the Legislature to either recall the bill or pass a follow-up measure to make the proposal more closely mirror a 1993 federal religious freedom law.

Conservatives who had been pushing for the measure are questioning the need for any changes. The lawmakers who introduced the legislation say they’re open to discussions, but aren’t saying they would support any changes.

Legislators would have to act quickly. The governor has five days to take action on the bill before it becomes law without his signature.

Sound:

058-a-12-(Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, in AP interview Tuesday)-“of an individual”-Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, says the Arkansas religious freedom bill is being mischaracterized by opponents. (1 Apr 2015)

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061-a-09-(Joseph Ruckus, faculty advisor to Arkansas State University Gay Straight Alliance, in interview Tuesday)-“legislation as discriminatory”-Joseph Ruckus, faculty advisor to Arkansas State University Gay Straight Alliance, says Arkansas’ religious freedom bill could hurt the state’s economy. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Apr 2015)

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056-a-12-(State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Ark., sponsor of the religious freedom bill, in AP interview Tuesday)-“of its own”-Republican State Rep. Bob Ballinger says controversy over the Arkansas religious freedom bill he sponsored is overblown. (1 Apr 2015)

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060-a-12-(Harley Mayall, a member of Arkansas State University’s Gay Straight Alliance, in interview Tuesday)-“have your money”-Harley Mayall, a member of Arkansas State University’s Gay Straight Alliance, says gays shouldn’t force merchants to violate their religious beliefs. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Apr 2015)

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062-a-12-(Hans Hacker, a political science professor at Arkansas State University, in interview Tuesday)-“kinds of things”-Arkansas State University political science professor Hans Hacker says the state’s religious freedom bill could have harmful effects. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Apr 2015)

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059-a-12-(The Reverend Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church, speaking at rally Tuesday outside the state Capitol)-“and justifiable disfavor”-The Reverend Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church, says the religious freedom bill is a moral and ethical shame. (1 Apr 2015)

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057-a-08-(State Rep. Camille Bennett, D-Ark., in AP interview Tuesday)-“us to do”-Democratic State Rep. Camille Bennett says Arkansas religious freedom bill could legalize discrimination. (1 Apr 2015)

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259-a-12-(State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Ark., sponsor of the religious freedom bill, in AP interview)-“of its own”-Republican State Rep. Bob Ballinger says controversy over the Arkansas religious freedom bill he sponsored is overblown. (31 Mar 2015)

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261-a-12-(Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, in AP interview)-“of an individual”-Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, says the Arkansas religious freedom bill is being mischaracterized by opponents. (31 Mar 2015)

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262-a-12-(The Reverend Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church, speaking at rally outside the state Capitol)-“and justifiable disfavor”-The Reverend Wendell Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Church, says the religious freedom bill is a moral and ethical shame. (31 Mar 2015)

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260-a-08-(State Rep. Camille Bennett, D-Ark., in AP interview)-“us to do”-Democratic State Rep. Camille Bennett says Arkansas religious freedom bill could legalize discrimination. (31 Mar 2015)

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250-a-12-(Hans Hacker, a political science professor at Arkansas State University, in interview)-“kinds of things”-Arkansas State University political science professor Hans Hacker says the state’s religious freedom bill could have harmful effects. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (31 Mar 2015)

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249-a-09-(Joseph Ruckus, faculty advisor to Arkansas State University Gay Straight Alliance, in interview)-“legislation as discriminatory”-Joseph Ruckus, faculty advisor to Arkansas State University Gay Straight Alliance, says Arkansas’ religious freedom bill could hurt the state’s economy. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (31 Mar 2015)

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248-a-12-(Harley Mayall, a member of Arkansas State University’s Gay Straight Alliance, in interview)-“have your money”-Harley Mayall, a member of Arkansas State University’s Gay Straight Alliance, says gays shouldn’t force merchants to violate their religious beliefs. COURTESY: KAIT ((Mandatory on-air credit)) (31 Mar 2015)

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RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS-INDIANA BISHOPS

Indiana Catholic bishop: No one should face discrimination

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s five Catholic bishops are reacting to the state’s religious objections law with a statement saying no Hoosiers should face discrimination, whether it’s over their sexual orientation or for living their religious beliefs.

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin and Bishops Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Donald Hying of Gary, Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Charles Thompson of Evansville released a joint statement Wednesday supporting “efforts to uphold the God-given dignity of all the people of this state while safeguarding the rights of people of all faiths to practice their religion without undue burden from the government.”

They say every person should be treated with dignity and respect and that the rights of one person should never be used to deny the rights of another.

Indiana has approximately 750,000 Catholics.

RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS-CONVENTION

Church cancels 2017 Indianapolis convention over new law

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A furor over a new Indiana law that has raised the specter of discrimination has cost Indianapolis a church convention.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) announced Wednesday that it would seek a new venue for its 2017 General Assembly.

The denomination’s General Board said the decision stemmed from concerns that Indiana’s new religious objections law and the absence of state civil rights protections for some citizens could result in attendees being denied services based on a business owner’s religious beliefs.

Critics argue that the law could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. Gov. Mike Pence has asked lawmakers to clarify the language to address those concerns.

TEN COMMANDMENTS-ARKANSAS

Arkansas House supports Ten Commandments display bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas House members have sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson a bill that would allow a Ten Commandments monument to be built at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers voted 72-7 Wednesday to allow the erection of a privately funded display. The secretary of state would be charged with approving the display.

Republican state Rep. Kim Hammer says the bill will honor the role the commandments have played in the nation’s legal system.

Opponents say the display is unconstitutional and could amount to a state endorsement of religion.

TV-AD THE BIBLE CONTINUES

‘A.D. The Bible Continues’ goes beyond the biblical epic

NEW YORK (AP) — NBC’s new series, “A.D. The Bible Continues,” begins with the crucifixion but focuses on what happened after Jesus rose from the dead.

The first of 12 episodes airs at 9 p.m. EDT this Easter Sunday, picking up where its popular predecessor, “The Bible” series from the History Channel, left off.

This NBC series traces the lives of Jesus’ apostles as they began to carry his gospel to the world, depicting them as men caught up in the politics of the day. Only about half of the material comes from the Bible, with the rest from historians of the period.

Both series were produced by Mark Burnett, whose credits include “Survivor,” and his wife, actress Roma Downey, the former star of “Touched By an Angel.”

The original Bible series that debuted in 2013 on the History channel attracted 13 million viewers.

Sound:

238-a-04-(Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues”, in AP interview)-“the early church”-Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues,” says the series shows what happened after Jesus’ resurrection. (1 Apr 2015)

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240-a-08-(Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues”, in AP interview)-“in the Bible”-Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues,” says the series depicts the apostles as men caught up in the politics and turmoil of their time. (1 Apr 2015)

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239-a-14-(Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues”, in AP interview)-“are great historians”-Mark Burnett, co-producer of “A.D. The Bible Continues,” says the series is based on the New Testament and other histories. (1 Apr 2015)

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ROBERT SCHULLER

Crystal Cathedral megachurch founder Robert Schuller ailing

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A daughter of the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, the Southern California televangelist who founded the world-famous Crystal Cathedral, says her father is ailing and could be in his final days.

Carol Schuller Milner said Wednesday that her 88-year-old father had been enjoying life despite suffering from terminal esophageal cancer, but his health began declining earlier this year. She says he grew weaker last week and is surrounded by family and listening to hymns while receiving care at a nursing facility.

Schuller started preaching in 1955 at a drive-in theater and in 1970 began a TV ministry called the “Hour of Power.” In 1980, he built a glass cathedral to house his booming ministry. After a disastrous leadership handoff to his son led to a decline in membership, the church filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and the cathedral was sold to the Catholic diocese.

Schuller resigned from the board in 2012. His grandson, the Rev. Bobby Schuller, now hosts the “Hour of Power.”

ANNULMENT FEES-PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh diocese eliminating fees for marriage annulments

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Diocese of Pittsburgh is eliminating fees for marriage annulments in keeping with comments by Pope Francis that the church should make it easier for some divorced Roman Catholics to remarry and receive other sacraments.

The Pittsburgh diocese says a recent fundraising campaign made the move possible. A northern Indiana diocese eliminated annulment fees last year.

Annulments declare a marriage invalid and treat it as though it never happened. Without an annulment, Catholics cannot remarry in the church.

The fees are typically a few hundred dollars.

WICCAN PRAYER-IOWA

Wiccan will give invocation to Iowa House of Representatives

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A member of the Wiccan faith will give the opening prayer next week in the Iowa House of Representatives, a break from tradition that has raised eyebrows in the state Capitol.

Democratic state Rep. Liz Bennett says she invited Deborah Maynard, a Wiccan from her district, to address lawmakers on April 9. The Wiccan religion is shaped by pagan beliefs and practices.

The “pastor of the day” is asked to keep his or her remarks free of political statements and to be sensitive to people of different faiths.

Chuck Hurley, vice president of Christian group The Family Leader, said he has heard concerns from some legislators and staff members. Hurley said Bennett had the right to invite anyone she liked, but lawmakers and staffers had the option to not attend.

POLAND-BEHEADING VIDEO

Polish priest shows beheading video to high school class

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest has been criticized in Poland for showing high school students in a religion class the uncensored video of Egyptian Christians being beheaded by Islamic State militants.

The Polish broadcaster TVN24 reported Wednesday that both the school and church authorities reprimanded the priest for subjecting his 10th grade students to such disturbing images. The priest played the video as part of a lesson on Christian martyrdom before Easter.

Polish media reported that some parents complained, though one student quoted by TVN24 defended the priest, saying he had given students the option of leaving the room.

The gruesome video shows black-masked militants beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya in February.

VATICAN-JOHN PAUL II-ANNIVERSARY

Francis recalls John Paul II’s suffering decade after death

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is remembering St. John Paul II as an admirable example of suffering on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Polish-born pontiff’s death at the age of 84 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Tourists and pilgrims applauded Francis’ praise for John Paul during a public audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday.

John Paul passed away in his bedroom in the Apostolic Palace that overlooks the square on April 2, 2005, and was proclaimed a saint last year. A vigorous, athletic man when he was elected pope in 1978, the globe-trotting John Paul forged on even as Parkinson’s disease diminished his strength and mobility in his final years.

Francis encouraged sick people to “carry the cross of suffering with joy, as he has taught us.”

ITALY-VATICAN-FINANCIAL ACCORD

Italy, Vatican make financial pact, as Holy See cleans house

ROME (AP) — Italy and the Holy See have signed an accord to cooperate on fiscal matters, as the Vatican works to improve transparency after a string of financial scandals.

Italy’s finance ministry and the Vatican announced the agreement on Wednesday.

The ministry said “full cooperation” between Italy and the Holy See is now possible thanks to reforms begun by the Vatican in 2010. It noted that Italy was the first nation with which the Vatican signed such a cooperation accord.

Vatican-owned property outside the tiny Vatican City State’s borders and situated in Italy will continue to be exempt from Italian property tax.

Pope Francis is overhauling Vatican power structures to combat corruption and other financial ills. The Vatican bank had long been characterized by opaque, secretive ways.