Update on the latest religion news

GOP 2016-SANTORUM

Rick Santorum announces second White House run

CABOT, Pa. (AP) — Former Sen. Rick Santorum has launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a pledge to fight for American workers. But the conservative Republican also touched on social issues.

Santorum said Americans should pray for a spiritual revival “to heal our land,” and he vowed to fight for religious rights that can be lived out in daily life, not just inside houses of worship.

While he didn’t directly mention gay marriage or abortion, Santorum said children have a “birthright” to be raised by their parents in healthy homes.

The former Pennsylvania senator is considered a longshot in a crowded Republican field. But he told supporters, “With your help and God’s grace we can change this nation.”

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282-w-32-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum)–Former Senator Rick Santorum has launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a pledge to fight for American workers. But AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman says the conservative Republican also touched on social issues. (27 May 2015)

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283-a-09-(Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in speech declaring his 2016 presidential candidacy)-“heal our land”-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says the nation needs God’s help. ((longer version of cut used in wrap)) (27 May 2015)

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284-a-16-(Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in speech declaring his 2016 presidential candidacy)-“of worship too (applause fades)”-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he’ll fight for religious rights. ((longer version of cut used in wrap)) (27 May 2015)

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286-a-08-(Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in speech declaring his 2016 presidential candidacy)-“change this nation (applause fades)”-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he’s in the race to win it. ((cut used in wrap)) (27 May 2015)

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289-a-14-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“to fight back”-Former Senator Rick Santorum says he will fight for working class Americans. (27 May 2015)

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291-r-12-(Supporters chanting “Rick, Rick, Rick”, at a rally to launch former Senator Rick Santorum’s 2016 presidential bid)–Supporters chanting “Rick, Rick, Rick” at a rally to launch former Senator Rick Santorum’s 2016 presidential bid. (27 May 2015)

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285-a-13-(Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in speech declaring his 2016 presidential candidacy)-“and the unborn (applause fades)”-Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he’ll be a champion for human rights. (27 May 2015)

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290-a-08-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“change this nation (cheers)”-Former Senator Rick Santorum launches his 2016 presidential campaign with an appeal to supporters. (27 May 2015)

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288-a-18-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“the United States (cheers fade)”-Former Senator Rick Santorum announces his candidacy for president. ((note length of cut)) (27 May 2015)

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257-a-18-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“the United States (cheers)”-Former Senator Rick Santorum announces his candidacy for president. ((note length of cut)) (27 May 2015)

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258-a-14-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“to fight back”-Former Senator Rick Santorum says he will fight for working class Americans. (27 May 2015)

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259-a-08-(Former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at campaign rally to launch his 2016 presidential bid)-“change this nation (cheers)”-Former Senator Rick Santorum launches his 2016 presidential campaign with an appeal to supporters. (27 May 2015)

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260-r-12-(Supporters chanting “Rick, Rick, Rick”, at a rally to launch former Senator Rick Santorum’s 2016 presidential bid)–Supporters chanting “Rick, Rick, Rick” at a rally to launch former Senator Rick Santorum’s 2016 presidential bid. (27 May 2015)

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014-c-26-(Jerry Bodlander, AP correspondent)-“Governor Mike Huckabee”-AP correspondent Jerry Bodlander reports the GOP presidential field is expected to grow today. (27 May 2015)

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013-v-33-(Jerry Bodlander, AP correspondent)–Another GOP presidential hopeful is expected to announce his candidacy today with the field set to get much larger by the end of next week. AP correspondent Jerry Bodlander reports. (27 May 2015)

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CREATIONIST MUSEUM-FIELD TRIP

Third grade field trip canceled after legal threats

GLENDIVE, Mont. (AP) — Third-graders in eastern Montana were unable to go on a field trip to a local creationist museum after an advocacy group called the event a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

The Billings Gazette reports that Lincoln Elementary students were unable to visit the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum after Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter claiming the event was illegal. The letter said that courts have “held that religious views on the origins of life, such as creationism, ‘creation science,’ and ‘intelligent design,’ cannot lawfully be advanced by the public schools as alternatives to the scientific theory of evolution.”

The museum is the second largest dinosaur museum in the state and the only one to assert a literal, biblical view of world history in which humans and dinosaurs coexisted. A reconstruction of Noah’s Ark sits alongside full animal skeletons and fossils sit next to signs about God and the biblical flood.

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT

Teacher sues high school for religious discrimination

DENVER (AP) — A high school in southern Colorado is facing a religious discrimination lawsuit from a teacher who says on-campus prayer and distribution of religious materials violates the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Denver Post reports that Cowboy Church at Crossroads rents out space from Florence High School for Sunday services, and offers morning prayer and Bible study and pizza during lunch in a school classroom.

School District officials said they hadn’t been served the lawsuit yet, but Pastor Randy Pfaff said the Constitution was never meant to keep religion out of schools.

Attorney Paul Maxon says Robert Basevitz’s lawsuit seeks to end the school’s involvement with the church, attorney’s fees and any other compensation the court deems appropriate.

NORTH CAROLINA-GAY MARRIAGE

Marriage objections bill nears final OK in NC legislature

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers are nearing final approval on legislation allowing some state court officials to opt out of same-sex marriage duties based on “sincerely held religious” objections.

The House gave its tentative support to let magistrates and some registers of deeds employees have that option, but they would have to stop performing all marriage duties — for gay and heterosexual couples.

The state Senate has already approved the bill, which came from Republicans after gay marriage was legalized in North Carolina last October. The measure now needs just one more House vote scheduled for Thursday before it goes to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. He’s expressed opposition to the religious exemption idea but hasn’t said whether he would veto it.

Only Utah has passed a similar law allowing government officials to refuse to marry couples for religious reasons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

CHURCH ABUSE-MINNESOTA

For-sale signs go up at archdiocese buildings in St. Paul

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — For-sale signs have been posted outside several properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as it seeks to pay creditors.

KSTP-TV reports the properties with the for-sale signs include the chancery and the archbishop’s residence in St. Paul near the cathedral, as well as three other properties in St. Paul and another in Northfield.

Archdiocese chief financial officer Tom Mertens told the TV station that it was a difficult decision to try selling the properties because of their “significance and history.” He says it will be cheaper to rent spaces.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in mid-January amid a wave of clergy abuse lawsuits.

ISRAEL-KOSHER SEX

Israeli rabbi sells sex toys to religious Jews

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — An Israeli rabbi is selling sex toys that he says can help Jewish couples enjoy physical intimacy while keeping biblical laws.

Religious Jews live according to strict rules of behavior that affect all aspects of life, so Rabbi Natan Alexander says his website presents sex toys and sexuality in a modest way that respects the values of the community.

Dr David Ribner, a sex therapist working at the Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, says Judaism has a positive perception of sexuality and even the most conservative rabbinical groups are interested in making sure the physical aspect of a couple’s marriage works for them.

Alexander’s better2gether website also offers help from sex therapists, gynecologists and other professionals to religious Jews, who can be shy or uninformed about sex.

Rabbi Alexander, who is married with four children, says sexual arousal is a positive thing within marriage and he hopes “husband and wife can feel comfortable together.”

Online: http://www.bebetter2gether.com/

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253-a-10-(Dr David Ribner, sex therapist at Bar Ilan University, in AP interview)-“this particular community”-Dr David Ribner, a sex therapist at Bar Ilan University, says the better2gether website offers products and advice without immodest pictures. (27 May 2015)

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251-a-07-(Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, in AP interview)-“a modest way”-Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, says his website offers sexual advice from experts. (27 May 2015)

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250-a-05-(Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, in AP interview)-“help that couple”-Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, says he gets several orders daily for his products. (27 May 2015)

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252-a-16-(Dr David Ribner, sex therapist at Bar Ilan University, in AP interview)-“works for them”-Dr David Ribner, a sex therapist at Bar Ilan University, says sexuality can be kosher. (27 May 2015)

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249-a-14-(Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, in AP interview)-“help the couple”-Rabbi Natan Alexander, CEO of better2gether, says religious Jewish couples should have access to sexual aids. (27 May 2015)

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VATICAN-IRELAND

Vatican: Irish gay marriage vote a “defeat for humanity”

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s secretary of state calls the Irish vote to legalize gay marriage a “defeat for humanity.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin says he was saddened by the landslide decision, in which more than 62 percent of voters in the Roman Catholic country voted “yes,” despite church teaching that marriage is only between a man and woman.

In comments to reporters Tuesday evening, Parolin referred to remarks by the Archbishop of Dublin that results showed the church needed to do a “reality check.” Parolin said the church needs to acknowledge the reality in terms of “reinforcing its commitment to evangelization.”

He said: “I don’t think you can speak only about a defeat for Christian principles but a defeat for humanity.”

VATICAN-REFORM

Vatican’s media operations in for overhaul

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s media operations are in for a major overhaul to make them more efficient.

The head of Pope Francis’ reform committee outlined the group’s recommendations Wednesday. Chris Patten said the proposal calls for the Holy See’s newspaper, television and radio fiefdoms to be merged under a centralized management, with a souped-up spokesman’s office that can operate in multiple languages around the clock.

Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust, acknowledged the changes will be difficult to implement given the entrenched autonomy enjoyed by the different media branches over budgets and staff. But he said the committee decided not to propose a “Plan B” since the only way to improve the Vatican’s fragmented operation was to merge departments and reduce overlap, especially in translation services.

149-a-10-(Phil Robertson, deputy director, Human Rights Watch Asia, in AP interview)-“within the government”-Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch says Myanmar must end its discriminatory policies against Rohingya migrants. (27 May 2015)

MYANMAR-ANTI-ROHINGYA PROTEST

Buddhists in Myanmar deny boat people are Rohingya

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Several hundred protesters in Myanmar’s main city have denied that boat people arriving on Southeast Asian shores are Rohingya Muslims, a religious minority the government and many others in the predominantly Buddhist nation say does not exist.

About 30 radical Buddhist monks led the rally in Yangon.

Up to 280 Rohingya have been killed by machete-wielding mobs and tens of thousands have taken to the seas in wooden trawlers, hoping to find better lives elsewhere.

In recent weeks, more than 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis fleeing persecution and poverty have landed in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya are denied citizenship. The government calls them “Bengalis,” implying they all are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

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150-a-13-(Phil Robertson, deputy director, Human Rights Watch Asia, in AP interview)-“comes to Rohingya”-Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch urges the government of Myanmar to stop hate speech against the Rohingya Muslims. (27 May 2015)

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ISLAMIC STATE-CHRISTIANS

Islamic State releases two elderly Christian women

BAGHDAD (AP) — Syrian activists say the Islamic State group has released two Christian women who had been held captive with dozens of others in northeastern Syria.

Islamic State militants kidnapped more than 220 Assyrian Christians in February after overrunning several farming communities in Syria’s Hassakeh province.

Osama Edwards, director of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights, says the women, who are 70 and 75 years old, were released on Tuesday and have now reached the northeastern city of Hassakeh.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday the two were likely released because of their poor health. Some of the captives were released previously.

Edwards says the Islamic State is still holding 210 Assyrian Christians and is demanding $100,000 for each hostage.

MLK CHILDREN-LEGAL BATTLE

Dispute over MLK Bible, Nobel prize headed for mediation

ATLANTA (AP) — A legal battle over the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s traveling Bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize is headed for court-ordered mediation.

King’s estate, which is controlled by his sons, last year asked a judge to order their sister to surrender the items. In a board of directors meeting last year, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King voted 2-1 against Bernice King to sell the two artifacts to a private buyer.

The two sides on Wednesday told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney that they’re close to an agreement but not quite there.

A lawyer for Bernice King asked the judge to order mediation, and the estate’s lawyer did not oppose that. McBurney said he would issue an order outlining the terms for mediation next week.