Update on the latest religion news


Trump: No deal with Iran unless US citizens are freed

DERRY, N.H. (AP) — Donald Trump says he would have made the release of four Americans a pre-condition of nuclear talks with Iran.

The deal negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration did not include the release of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and retired FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Trump told an audience in New Hampshire that if he was president, he would have told the Iranians up front to release the Americans as a goodwill gesture, and would have walked out of the talks if they refused. He asked, “How do you make a deal without getting them out?”

Trump noted that Abedini is serving a prison sentence “because he’s a Christian, he’s a minister.”


268-w-36-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump)–Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump says he would have made the release of four Americans a pre-condition of nuclear talks with Iran. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (19 Aug 2015)


270-a-04-(GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, at campaign event)-“out, is incredible”-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump says Iran has won concessions from the U.S. without releasing the Americans it holds captive. ((cut used in wrap)) (19 Aug 2015)


271-a-14-(GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, at campaign event)-“a good deal”-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump says he would have told the Iranians up front that the Americans had to be released. (19 Aug 2015)


269-a-15-(GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, at campaign event)-“getting them out”-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump says the nuclear deal with Iran failed to win the release of Americans held captive there. (19 Aug 2015)



Billy Graham’s son-in-law dies days after found in pool

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A son-in-law of the Rev. Billy Graham has died after being found unresponsive in the swimming pool of the Raleigh, North Carolina, home he shared with his wife, evangelist Anne Graham Lotz.

Seventy-eight-year-old Danny Lotz died Wednesday according to Rex Hospital, which issued a statement for the Lotz family. The retired dentist was taken off life support two days after he was admitted to the hospital.

A statement on Anne Graham Lotz’s Facebook page says the couple was married 49 years and that her husband suffered from severe diabetes and heart disease. The statement says, “He was God’s man who triumphantly finished his race having fought the good fight, and having kept his faith firmly focused on the kingdom of God.”

Anne Graham Lotz is 67. Her father, evangelist Billy Graham, will be 97 in November.


225-v-32-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–A son-in-law of the Reverend Billy Graham has died after being found unresponsive in the swimming pool of the Raleigh, North Carolina home he shared with his wife, evangelist Anne Graham Lotz. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (19 Aug 2015)



Cheating website claims moral high ground over hackers

TORONTO (AP) — A website that invites married people to cheat on their spouses is claiming the moral high ground over hackers who claim to have released its customers’ personal information.

A message posted by the hackers alongside the exposed personal data accuses Ashley Madison’s owners and customers of “fraud, deceit and stupidity.” It urges would-be adulterers to “learn your lesson and make amends.”

But Ashley Madison’s owners say they’re the injured party and that their millions of customers are “freethinking people” whose surreptitious pursuit of an extramarital affair is legal, while the hackers exposing them are “criminals” seeking to “impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society.”

The tech firm CybelAngel says it counted some 15,000 dot-gov or dot-mil addresses in the data dump, suggesting that American soldiers, sailors and government employees have opened themselves up to possible blackmail by seeking affairs through Ashley Madison.


284-a-17-(Steve Mindel, divorce attorney and family law expert, in AP interview)-“on Ashley Madison.com”-Divorce attorney Steve Mindel says there could be litigation brought by aggrieved parties who have lost their spouse to a relationship that was formed online. ((note length of cut)) (19 Aug 2015)


282-a-14-(Steve Mindel, divorce attorney and family law expert, in AP interview)-“result of this”-Divorce attorney Steve Mindel says the hack of the cheating website Ashley Madison and purported exposure of the identities of clients could be a bonanza for his business. (19 Aug 2015)


283-a-15-(Steve Mindel, divorce attorney and family law expert, in AP interview)-“much more advanced”-Divorce attorney Steve Mindel says online dating has come a long way. (19 Aug 2015)


281-a-09-(Steve Mindel, divorce attorney and family law expert, in AP interview)-“exposed in public”-Divorce attorney Steve Mindel says patrons of the cheating website Ashley Madison have been broadsided by hackers. (19 Aug 2015)


257-v-32-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–A website that invites married people to cheat on their spouses is claiming the moral high ground over hackers who claim to have released its customers’ personal information. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (19 Aug 2015)


119-v-30-(Sandy Kozel, AP correspondent)–Hackers claim they’ve exposed millions of marital cheaters. AP correspondent Sandy Kozel reports. (19 Aug 2015)



Kansas secretary of state clerk sues over termination

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former state employee has filed a federal civil lawsuit claiming she was fired from her clerk job at the Kansas secretary of state’s office after she declined to attend prayer services held in the office.

Courtney Canfield, who was hired in January 2013 as an accounts clerk, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Topeka. She said that before Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker ousted her in November 2013, he “repeatedly and emphatically indicated a basis for her termination as the fact that, ‘She just doesn’t go to church.’ “

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Rucker was served Aug. 7 with the lawsuit, which names the office of the secretary of state and Rucker as defendants.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Wichita Eagle in an email that the lawsuit is baseless and that Canfield was fired for poor job performance.

According to the lawsuit, Canfield is a Methodist but didn’t regularly attend church services or “otherwise practice any particular religious beliefs in any way.”


Marriage ruling for Kentucky clerk expires Aug. 31

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A federal judge has clarified that his decision to let a Kentucky county clerk continue not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples will expire at the end of this month.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in June after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Davis said it would violate her religious beliefs to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. Last week, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licenses. But on Monday, Bunning agreed to give Davis more time to appeal his decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bunning decided Wednesday to add an Aug. 31 deadline to his decision after reviewing federal rules of appellate procedure.


Court: Iowa State Fair didn’t violate evangelist’s rights

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Iowa state troopers didn’t violate an evangelist’s First Amendment rights when they asked him to stop preaching near the state fairgrounds.

The Des Moines Register reports that a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that Jason Powell’s lawsuit should go back to district court for a judge to decide whether unwritten policies that fair officials use to manage protesters and advocacy groups are too vague to be enforceable.

Powell sued state and fair officials, saying his free speech rights were violated when law enforcement personnel at the 2013 Iowa State Fair asked him to leave the publicly owned grounds because he stood wearing Christian clothing and holding up a sign.


Ballot wording for Houston gay rights ordinance rejected

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court says voters in Houston must decide whether they want a gay rights ordinance in their city — and not whether the existing one should be repealed.

The ruling Wednesday over ballot wording for a November referendum was another stumble for Mayor Annise Parker and efforts to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the nation’s fourth-largest city. The Houston City Council last year adopted the ordinance to protect gay and transgender people against discrimination in employment and public places.

But the Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that Houston pastors and other conservative activists should have succeeded in a petition drive to put the issue before voters. The court now says the ballot language must ask voters whether Houston should have a nondiscrimination ordinance.


Family slain in Texas to be buried in Minnesota

LA CRESCENT, Minn. (AP) — The caskets of eight family members will be lined up inside a church in La Crescent, Minnesota, far from the Texas home where they were killed.

The victims, including six children, will be buried in the town of about 5,000 along the banks of the Mississippi River.

A funeral service at United Methodist Church is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Pastor Gregg Nelson says the family from Houston will be buried in La Crescent because the last surviving sibling lives there.

Hundreds of mourners are expected in La Crescent, including extended family members from the Chicago area.

The victims include Valerie and Dwayne Jackson, 13-year-old Nathaniel, 11-year-old Honesty, 10-year-old Dwayne, 9-year-old Caleb, 7-year-old Trinity and 6-year-old Jonah. The mother’s ex-boyfriend is accused in the fatal shootings.


Woman, 76, robbed, punched inside Omaha church

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Police say they have arrested a suspect after a 76-year-old woman was robbed and punched in the face inside a church in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Omaha Police Department said Wednesday that 22-year-old Wayman Clark was arrested after a felony warrant for robbery was issued. The department said investigators are still working to identify another male believed to have helped in the Sunday robbery that was caught on surveillance video at St. Cecilia Cathedral.

The video shows the woman reading a parish newsletter inside the church’s entrance when one of the suspects approaches her from behind and grabs her purse before running out of the door. The other male strikes the woman in the head, knocking her down, before also fleeing the scene.

The Rev. James Netusil said he was in the sacristy preparing for morning Mass when the assault occurred.

The woman, who wasn’t identified, was helped by a parishioner before being taken to an Omaha hospital, where she was treated and released.


Pair of centenarians to celebrate their wedding anniversary

CATONSVILLE, Md. (AP) — Two centenarians who met in church have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in Maryland.

Walter and Leslie Kimmel met at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Baltimore when they were 22 years old. Leslie played the organ and Walter sang in the choir. They were married on Aug. 18, 1940. They are both 100 years old.

The Kimmels celebrated their 75th anniversary Tuesday afternoon at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Maryland, where they live.

Walter was a longtime employee of Baltimore Gas & Electric. Leslie worked as a secretary. They have two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


AP poll: Minority of US Catholics know pope’s climate views

NEW YORK (AP) — A new survey finds that most Roman Catholics in the U.S. don’t know about Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and climate change.

The poll also found that only a fraction of Catholics who were aware of the teaching document said they had heard about it at Mass.

The survey was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and Yale University in July — a month after the pope released the encyclical.

In the document, Francis said climate change was a real and largely man-made moral crisis caused by an economic system that exploits the poor. He urged Catholics especially to take up his message. Francis is expected to press his call for action on climate change when he visits the U.S. for the first time next month.

Many American Catholics think the pope should be talking far more about marriage and abortion than the environment.

226-v-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–A new poll suggests that American Catholics are unimpressed or unaware of Pope Francis’ alarm over climate change. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (19 Aug 2015)



Pope: Unemployment causes grave harm to society, family

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is warning that unemployment causes enormous damage to society and families.

Francis has been speaking out for months about different aspects of family life during his weekly general audiences. On Wednesday, he focused on the “sacred” role that work provides families, both materially and spiritually.

He said: “The modern organization of work often shows a dangerous tendency to consider the family a weight, a passive obstacle to productivity. But let us ask ourselves: What kind of productivity? For whom?”

Francis, who worked part-time as a teen-ager in Buenos Aires, has frequently highlighted the importance of dignified work.

He said employers have a great responsibility toward their workers, and that “causing job losses means causing grave social harm.”


Mormon women named to 3 councils previously reserved for men

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon church for the first time is appointing women to three high-level church councils previously reserved only for men.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the appointments Tuesday evening. The three appointees to the councils that set church policy are presidents of Mormon women’s groups.

Linda K. Burton leads the religion’s Relief Society, the largest organization for women. Rosemary Wixom is the president of the General Primary, the branch dedicated to teaching children. Bonnie L. Oscarson leads the Young Women’s organization.

Scholars and Mormon feminists say the move marks a small, but noteworthy step in an ongoing push to increase visibility and prominence of women in the faith.