Update on the latest religion news


Justices rule for Muslim denied job over headscarf

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has strengthened civil rights protections for employees and job applicants who need special treatment in the workplace because of their religious beliefs.

The justices sided with a Muslim woman who did not get hired after she showed up to a job interview with Abercrombie & Fitch wearing a black headscarf, which at that time violated the company’s dress code in its retail stores.

The applicant did not tell her interviewer that she was Muslim. But the court ruled that employers generally have to accommodate applicants and employees with religious needs if the employer has an idea that such accommodation is necessary.

Some business groups said the ruling will force employers to make assumptions about applicants’ religious beliefs.


237-v-34-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–The Supreme Court has strengthened civil rights protections for employees and job applicants who need special treatment in the workplace because of their religious beliefs. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (1 Jun 2015)



Rowan County commissioners vote to appeal ruling on prayer

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Rowan County commissioners are going to appeal a federal judge’s ruling which said they must stop opening their meetings with prayers that almost always refer to Christianity.

The Salisbury Post reports that the board voted unanimously on Monday to appeal the decision which involved its prayer practices from 2007 to 2013.

U.S. District Judge James Beaty Jr. ruled that the way the commissioners opened meetings with prayers violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against mixing church and state. The commissioners themselves delivered prayers before their meetings.

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Michael Taylor gave Monday’s opening invocation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said it was disappointed with the board’s decision and said it would continue to make its arguments against the policy in court.


Kansas woman says archdiocese retaliated after complaints

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A woman contends in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas that a school principal filed a false child abuse complaint in retaliation for her complaining that her daughter was being bullied at a diocesan school.

Melissa Schroeder of Shawnee also named Sacred Heart Catholic Church and its school principal, Maureen Engen, in a lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court.

Schroeder contends that her daughter began suffering migraine headaches and other health issues in April 2014 because of the bullying at the school and that her requests for help were ignored by school officials. Instead, Schroeder contends, the principal made a hotline call to the Kansas Department of Children and Families alleging that Schroeder was abusing and neglecting her daughter. The Kansas City Star reports that the agency’s subsequent investigation found nothing to substantiate the allegations.

A spokeswoman for the defendants said “the archdiocese will not comment on the allegations made in the suit.”


Houston rabbi’s home and synagogue flooded

HOUSTON (AP) — Volunteers are helping clean up the United Orthodox Synagogue of Houston after floodwaters heavily damaged its sanctuary, chapel, library, offices, and Montessori School.

Rabbi Barry Gelman fled to the synagogue with his family when their home began flooding last Tuesday, but then the synagogue became flooded as well.

Gelman says the water was two-and-a-half feet deep in his home, so they lost most of their belongings. Flood waters in the synagogue were up to five feet deep.

Francisco Sanchez with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says there are about 1,500 homes in Harris County, including those in Houston, with some level of flood damage.


244-a-11-(Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue, in AP interview)-“of our belongings”-Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue says his home was flooded. (1 Jun 2015)


243-a-05-(Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator, United Orthodox Synagogue, in AP interview)-“of our books”-Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator for the United Orthodox Synagogue, says the sanctuary was flooded. (1 Jun 2015)


241-a-09-(Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator, United Orthodox Synagogue, in AP interview)-“in some areas”-Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator for the United Orthodox Synagogue, says the flood water was unstoppable. (1 Jun 2015)


245-a-09-(Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue, in AP interview)-“to better times”-Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogue says the flood damaged his home as as well as his synagogue. (1 Jun 2015)


242-a-09-(Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator, United Orthodox Synagogue, in AP interview)-“was just underwater”-Jenelle Geller, flood coordinator for the United Orthodox Synagogue, says the damage is extensive. (1 Jun 2015)



On sale soon: Souvenirs for pope’s visit to Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — It will be hard to forget Pope Francis’ first trip to the U.S. — especially in Philadelphia.

Officials are giving the public a peek at some of the souvenirs that will be available online starting in late June. More than 200 items will be offered, with prices starting at $5.

The pontiff plans to visit Philadelphia in September for the World Meeting of Families. It’s an international gathering for Catholics focused on strengthening family bonds.

Many of the keepsakes — like T-shirts, keychains and tote bags — will be branded with the World Meeting logo. But merchandise will also feature images of Francis and will include faith-based items like rosaries and holy medals.

The products will be distributed by Aramark, a food and facilities management company based in Philadelphia.


222-a-06-(Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, at news conference)-“of customized merchandise”-Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, says a variety of souvenirs will be available for people attending September’s World Meeting of Families. (1 Jun 2015)


223-a-13-(Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, at news conference)-“Families, Philadelphia 2015”-Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says people attending the World Meeting of Families will have many official souvenirs to choose from. (1 Jun 2015)


224-a-05-(Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, at news conference)-“for my mother”-Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says he plans to buy some of the souvenirs online. (1 Jun 2015)



Jewish protesters try to block Christian ritual at holy site

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say they forcibly removed dozens of Jewish protesters who were trying to prevent a Christian ritual from taking place at a holy site revered in both religions.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says the skirmish took place Monday at the site revered by Jews as the tomb of the biblical King David and by Christians as the site of Jesus’ Last Supper. On Sunday, dozens of Jewish protesters also attempted to block Christian prayer there for the holiday of Pentecost.

A status-quo arrangement permits Christian prayer at the site on specific holidays. The Vatican is lobbying Israel for more access to the site, which fundamentalist Jewish Israelis oppose.

The Custodia of Terra Santa, a Vatican representative in Jerusalem, said the events were “grave.”


Trial begins in fight over control of oldest US synagogue

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Trial has begun in Rhode Island in a bitter fight over control of the oldest synagogue in the United States.

U.S. District Judge Joh McConnell said Monday that the court is resolving a civil, not religious, dispute and to do otherwise would violate the First Amendment.

The dispute is between the congregation that worships in the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport and the nation’s first Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel, of New York, which owns the synagogue. The Newport congregation says Shearith Israel is a trustee and breached its duties.

The New York congregation is trying to stop Newport from selling ceremonial bells worth more than $7 million to a museum.

The Newport congregation says it’s in financial straits and wants to sell them to create an endowment.


California school district sued over graduation dress code

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Native American student is suing his Central California school district over its refusal to allow him to wear an eagle feather during his high school graduation ceremony.

Lawyers for Christian Titman filed the lawsuit on Monday, claiming the Clovis Unified School District is violating his rights to freedom of expression and religion under the California Constitution. He is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Titman is a member of the Pit River Tribe and says he wants to wear the 5-inch feather at Thursday’s graduation ceremony to mark his achievement and to honor his Native American heritage.

A call to the district was not immediately returned. But in a letter to Titman’s attorneys, Superintendent Janet Young said the district had a strict graduation dress code that was intended in part to show the unity of the graduating class.


County considers reuse plan for ex-presidential retreat

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s Frederick County Council is again considering a plan to turn a former presidential fishing spot near Thurmont into a drug rehabilitation center linked to the Church of Scientology.

The board is considering on Tuesday a request from the church’s real-estate arm to designate the 40-acre Trout Run resort for historic preservation. The designation would enable Social Betterment Properties to make changes otherwise barred by land-use restrictions.

The private resort was visited by presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower.

The board has twice delayed a decision on turning the rustic retreat into a Narconon residential treatment center. The program is based on methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. A Narconon executive says the program is nonreligious and wouldn’t be used for church recruitment.