Update on the latest religion news


Supreme Court strikes down ‘born in Jerusalem’ passport law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have let Americans born in Jerusalem list their birthplace as Israel on their U.S. passports.

The court ruled 6-3 Monday that Congress overstepped its bounds when it approved the law in 2002. It would have forced the State Department to alter its long-standing refusal to recognize any nation’s sovereignty over Jerusalem until Israelis and Palestinians resolve its status through negotiations.

The ruling ends a 12-year-old lawsuit by a Jerusalem-born American and his U.S.-citizen parents.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion that the president has the exclusive power to recognize foreign nations, and that determining what a passport says is part of that power. The court’s four liberals, including the three Jewish justices, joined Kennedy’s opinion.


209-a-09-(Jeff Rathke (RATH’-kee) , State Department spokesman, at briefing)-“sovereignty over Jerusalem”-State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke says the U.S. doesn’t consider Jerusalem to be part of Israel. (8 Jun 2015)


210-a-11-(Jeff Rathke (RATH’-kee) , State Department spokesman, at briefing)-“communications, including passports”-State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke says the Supreme Court has ruled that only the president can recognize foreign nations. (8 Jun 2015)


203-v-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–The Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to list their birthplace as Israel on their U.S. passports. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (8 Jun 2015)



New AMA policy favors ending religious vaccine exemptions

CHICAGO (AP) — The American Medical Association has adopted policies against nonmedical vaccine refusals and for transgender people in the military.

The nation’s largest doctors’ group says parents should not be able to refuse to have their kids vaccinated for personal or religious reasons because of the health risks unvaccinated kids pose to others.

At its annual policymaking meeting in Chicago on Monday, the AMA said it would support efforts to end those exemptions in state immunization mandates.

The AMA also adopted a policy saying there’s no medically valid reason for the military’s ban on transgender service members.

The group has considerable lobbying clout and its positions tend to influence policymakers.


Head of group sued over ‘gay conversion’ therapy testifies

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — The director of a Jewish nonprofit being sued for offering so-called gay conversion therapy says the group claims a success rate of 65 to 75 percent in turning gay men straight, although it doesn’t keep its own statistics and relies on anecdotal evidence from counselors.

Arthur Goldberg also testified Monday that he believes homosexuality is a spiritual disorder and a condition caused by emotional wounds in childhood and adolescence that can be cured through a “gender-affirming” process such as that offered by his organization.

Four young men who underwent the treatment sued Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in 2012. They claim the group, known by the acronym JONAH, violated New Jersey consumer protection laws by making fraudulent claims and misrepresentations about what it could do.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2013 banning licensed therapists from practicing conversion therapy in New Jersey. The law has survived court challenges.


N. Va. Man dies after falling off Virginia’s Crabtree Falls

TYRO, Va. (AP) — Authorities say a 20-year-old northern Virginia man has died after falling from Crabtree Falls during a hike with his church group.

Multiple news outlets report that Franklin Miguel Madrana Guevara fell Sunday around 5:30 p.m. at the falls in the George Washington National Forest. Nelson County Sheriff’s Lt. Billy Mays says the victim was with a church group from Annandale, Virginia.

Authorities say this is the 29th or 30th victim of the Crabtree Falls area since the U.S. Forest Service began keeping records in 1982.

Crabtree Falls is one of the tallest sets of waterfalls in the United States east of the Mississippi River.


Aretha Franklin sings at service for dad, brother in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A memorial service planned by Aretha Franklin for her late father and brother has drawn hundreds of people to a Detroit church where they were ministers.

The Detroit News reports that the Sunday service featuring gospel music and a free soul food buffet packed New Bethel Baptist Church. Several people shared their memories of Franklin’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, and her brother, the Rev. Cecil Franklin.

Her father, who died in 1984, was also a civil rights activist, and her brother, who died in 1989, managed her career.

Nearly two hours into the service in her hometown, the soul singer appeared on stage to perform the gospel tune “The Old Ship of Zion.” Some in the audience cried.

The newspaper reports Franklin’s father would have turned 100 this year.


‘Mother church of country music’ debuts $14M expansion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium is known around the world as the “mother church of country music,” but it started out as a real church.

A $14 million expansion that includes new exhibits and an introductory film opens to the public on Tuesday. They tell the story of the famed music venue beginning with its 1892 founding as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by born-again steamboat tycoon Tom Ryman, who wanted a place for traveling revivalists to preach.

The exhibits take visitors through the Ryman’s many years as a venue for world-famous artists to its three decades as home to the Grand Old Opry beginning in 1943.

The $20 self-guided tour begins with an immersive film in a small, new upstairs theater. After the film, visitors walk into the tabernacle itself, where glass cases behind the pews display artifacts including Johnny Cash’s guitar and a dress worn by Loretta Lynn.


NYPD working to increase ranks of Muslims in department

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police officials are working to recruit more Muslims.

Right now, the department has about 800 Muslim uniformed police officers out of about 35,000. Of those, only about 20 are higher ranked officials.

The commanding officer of the community affairs immigration outreach unit, Lt. Adeel Rana (RAH’-nah), said Monday there’s been a slow increase over the past decade. But that’s changed quickly since the new administration took over.

A video played during the department’s annual pre-Ramadan conference showed dozens of uniformed officers who are Muslim saying: “We are your NYPD.”


US protests jail, flogging sentence against Saudi blogger

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is protesting Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of a verdict against a liberal blogger who was publicly flogged, calling it a “brutal punishment” that violates his “freedom of expression and religion. “

The Saudi Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the sentence of Raif Badawi, a 31-year-old father who was lashed in January in a public square, is final and cannot be overturned without a royal pardon.

Badawi, imprisoned since 2012, initially was sentenced on appeal to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for breaking Saudi Arabia’s technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures through a blog that he created.

U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke says the U.S. strongly opposes apostasy laws, and that Badawi’s punishment should be canceled.


216-a-15-(Jeff Rathke (RATH’-kee), State Department spokesman, at briefing)-“expression and religion”-State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke says the U.S. considers the flogging of a jailed Saudi blogger to be a brutal punishment. (8 Jun 2015)


217-a-15-(Jeff Rathke (RATH’-kee), State Department spokesman, at briefing)-“freedom of expression”-State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke says the U.S. is deeply concerned that the Saudi supreme court has upheld the sentence against blogger Raif Badawi. (8 Jun 2015)



Trustee: Bell-sale idea at oldest US synagogue was offensive

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A trustee from the congregation that owns the nation’s oldest synagogue has testified that its leaders were offended and appalled when the congregation that worships there tried to sell a pair of ceremonial bells to a Boston museum for $7 million.

The trial over control of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, entered its second week Monday.

Michael Katz is a trustee at New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the nation’s first Jewish congregation. It owns the 250-year-old Newport synagogue.

Another congregation worships there. Its members say the building is held in trust for their benefit.

Katz says the New York congregation also owns the bells, which the Newport congregation disputes. He also said it violates their beliefs to sell religious objects.


Cancelled bar mitzvah highlights religious rift in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — A cancelled bar mitzvah ceremony for boys with disabilities is highlighting a rift between Israel’s Orthodox Jews and smaller streams of Judaism.

President Reuven Rivlin had agreed to hold the bar mitzvah at his residence but later suggested a non-religious event, angering the event’s Conservative Jewish organizers.

Most Jews in Israel are Orthodox, as is the religious establishment. Reform and Conservative Judaism, which are dominant in the United States but are small in Israel, have struggled to make inroads.

A former lawmaker, Rivlin has championed civil rights and as president, a ceremonial office, he has promoted pluralism. But he has derided Reform Judaism in the past.

Rivlin’s office said Monday it was not the president’s place to decide the conflict between different streams of Judaism.


Suspended priest pleads guilty in child porn case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A suspended suburban Philadelphia priest has pleaded guilty to federal charges in a child pornography case.

The Rev. Mark Haynes pleaded guilty Monday to using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual contact, possession and distribution of child pornography and destroying or concealing evidence.

Prosecutors alleged that around 2010 the 56-year-old priest posed as a 16-year-old girl named “Katie” on a teenage dating website, met minor girls online and requested that they take and send sexually explicit pictures.

Before his suspension by the archdiocese following his arrest last year, Haynes had been vicar of Saints Simon & Jude parish in Westtown Township since September 2013. Officials said he had also served in seven other suburban Philadelphia parishes.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.