Update on the latest religion news

JIMMY CARTER

Carter teaches Sunday School classes 3 days after cancer treatment

PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter has taught two Sunday School classes in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, three days after receiving radiation treatment for cancer.

The 90-year-old Carter gave one lesson to about 300 people filling the small Baptist church that he and his wife, Rosalynn, attend. Carter regularly gives the lessons and has been teaching classes since his teens.

Carter recapped the details of his health but moved on after a few minutes to a lesson on faith, love and personal relationships.

He encouraged the crowd to be faithful when faced with failure or disappointment. He suggested, “Say ‘God, I’m really troubled and I ask you to give me the strength to bear whatever I have on my shoulders and to face whatever comes to me.'”

He promised the crowd at the church he would be back to take photos with them after teaching a second class at the nearby high school.

Sound:

168-w-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with former President Jimmy Carter)–Former president Jimmy Carter, teaching Sunday school three days after a radiation treatment for cancer, has offered advice on how to face life’s trials. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (23 Aug 2015)

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169-a-10-(Former President Jimmy Carter, teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church)-“with God Almighty”-Former President Jimmy Carter says life’s trials should call us to prayer. ((cut used in wrap)) (23 Aug 2015)

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171-a-12-(Former President Jimmy Carter, teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church)-“with God’s help”-Former President Jimmy Carter says people should reach out to God after a failure or disappointment. (23 Aug 2015)

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170-a-14-(Former President Jimmy Carter, teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church)-“on my shoulders”-Former President Jimmy Carter says prayers for God’s help can be simple. ((longer version of cut used in wrap)) (23 Aug 2015)

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125-a-14-(Former President Jimmy Carter leads BIble class in a prayer, at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.)-“name, Amen”-Former President Jimmy Carter leads BIble class in a prayer at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. (23 Aug 2015)

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126-r-17-(Sound of Congregation at the Maranatha Baptist Church, singing hymn)–Sound of Congregation at the Maranatha Baptist Church singing hymn. (23 Aug 2015)

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124-r-04-(Former President Jimmy Carter greeting his Bible class, at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.)–Former President Jimmy Carter greeting his Bible class at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. (23 Aug 2015)

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GOP 2016-CRUZ-RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Cruz: Religious liberty a top priority

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says defending religious liberty is a top issue in his Republican presidential campaign.

Cruz began the weekend by hosting a Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa. Its featured guests were Christian business owners who have been sued or prosecuted for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings.

Cruz told CBS “Face the Nation” that the owners of an Iowa wedding venue are no longer in business after being fined for turning away a same-sex couple.

The Texas senator said, “The liberal intolerance we see trying to persecute those who as a matter of faith follow a biblical definition of marriage is fundamentally wrong.”

Cruz said he has fought for religious liberty for years, winning cases involving the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance and a cross on public land.

Sound:

205-w-34-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas)–Texas Senator Ted Cruz says defending religious liberty is a top issue in his Republican presidential campaign. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (23 Aug 2015)

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207-a-07-(Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, presidential candidate, in interview)-“and religious beliefs”-Texas Senator Ted Cruz says Christian businesses are being sued or prosecuted for denying services to same-sex weddings. ((cut used in wrap)) COURTESY: CBS’ “Face the Nation” ((mandatory on-air credit)) (23 Aug 2015)

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206-a-13-(Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, presidential candidate, in interview)-“is fundamentally wrong”-Texas Senator Ted Cruz says Christians shouldn’t be driven out of business for living according to their faith. ((longer version of cut used in wrap)) COURTESY: CBS’ “Face the Nation” ((mandatory on-air credit)) (23 Aug 2015)

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208-a-10-(Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, presidential candidate, in interview)-“and winning successfully”-Texas Senator Ted Cruz says religious liberty is a top issue in his Republican presidential campaign. COURTESY: CBS’ “Face the Nation” ((mandatory on-air credit)) (23 Aug 2015)

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JESUS PICTURE-REMOVAL

Jesus picture removed from Chanute middle school

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — A picture of Jesus has been removed from a Kansas middle school where it had hung for decades.

First-year superintendent Richard Proffitt says the Chanute school district’s lawyer advised him that Royster Middle School could not legally display the print of Warner Sallman’s “Head of Christ.”

The Wichita Eagle reports that issues arose after the district received a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The foundation’s Ryan Jayne said he thinks it’s “wonderful” that the district responded the way it did and as quickly as it did.

But many Chanute residents are unhappy, including former student Erika Semey. She says, “Not enough people have Christ in their lives.”

ILLINOIS-VACCINE EXEMPTION

Vaccination rules won’t immediately affect Illinois students

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois families who don’t want their children to be vaccinated will have to get a doctor’s note before claiming a religious exemption, but the new state law won’t affect students heading back to school in the coming weeks.

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed a bill that aims to reduce the number of unvaccinated children in the state’s classrooms. But the requirements will be delayed until Oct. 16, the day after a deadline for students to receive their vaccines or file objections.

Families seeking a religious exemption next year or transferring after next year’s deadline must complete a certificate explaining their objection with a doctor’s signature to prove he or she counseled the parents about the benefits of vaccines and the danger of opting out.

Illinois is among 47 states that allow children an exemption from vaccines based on religious concerns.

HINDU STATUE-ARKANSAS CAPITOL

Arkansas Secretary of State denies request for Hindu statue

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas secretary of state’s office has denied a request from the Universal Society of Hinduism to place a privately funded Hindu statue on the Capitol grounds in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Legislature passed a law this year to place a privately funded Ten Commandments statue on Capitol grounds. Several other groups, including The Satanic Temple, have since asked to erect statues at the Capitol.

Hindu society president Rajan Zed says his group wanted to place a statue of Lord Hanuman at the Capitol because of the substantial number of Hindu residents in the state. He says the group is considering taking its request to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The denial letter tells Zed to seek legislative approval instead.

POPE-PHILADELPHIA-VOLUNTEERS

10K volunteers to help with papal visit to Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An army of about 10,000 volunteers will be on hand when Pope Francis visits Philadelphia during the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families and holds the biggest events of his first trip to the U.S.

Organizers say volunteers will greet and direct pilgrims, provide translation services, aid guests with special needs and perform a variety of other roles, including posting images and messages on social media.

Six weeks before the pope’s visit, nearly 8,000 had passed criminal and employment background checks. Volunteers must be 18 or older, though the average age of those in the current pool is 50. About 6,000 are female.

The pope will start his trip with a stop in Washington, where he’ll meet with President Barack Obama and address a joint meeting of Congress. In New York, he will speak to the U.N. General Assembly, attend a multidenominational service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

NYC JEWISH SCHOOLS-INVESTIGATION

NYC to probe secular education at Jewish schools

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s Department of Education is investigating more than three dozen private schools in the Orthodox Jewish community to make sure their instruction is up to the most basic standards.

Chaim Weber says there was no science, no geography and no math past multiplication at the Jewish yeshiva he attended, and the only reason he ever heard of the American Revolution was when a teacher introduced it as “story time.” Naftuli Moster says he never learned the words “cell” or “molecule” at the private schools he attended, where secular subjects were considered “unimportant or downright going against Judaism.”

Now young adults, the two yeshiva graduates echo critics who have complained for years about the quality of education at the Hasidic community’s private schools.

State law mandates that the instruction in New York’s private schools must be substantially equivalent to what’s available in local public schools.

ISRAEL LOBBY-MUSLIM LEADER

J Street elects Muslim woman president of college chapters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A dovish Jewish-American lobby that has struggled for acceptance by more established Jewish groups has elected an American Muslim as president of a core initiative.

University of Maryland senior Amna Farooqi was voted president of the seven-member J Street U National Student Board last week. Farooqi, a Maryland resident of Pakistani descent, had previously served as a regional representative on the student board for the lobby.

J Street formed in 2009 to counter harder-line pro-Israel lobbies and has been attacked by critics who view it as disloyal to Israel.

J Street has declared its commitment to the Jewish state, positioning itself as a liberal voice for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and a freeze on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

ISLAMIC STATE

Activists: Islamic State destroys temple at Syria’s Palmyra

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say Islamic State militants have destroyed a temple at Syria’s ancient ruins of Palmyra.

News that the militants blew up the Baalshamin Temple came after the extremists beheaded Palmyra scholar Khaled al-Asaad on Tuesday, hanging his bloodied body from a pole in the town.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday night that the temple of Baalshamin was blown up a month ago. Turkey-based activist Osama al-Khatib said the temple was blown up Sunday.

Both relied on information from those still in Palmyra and the discrepancy in their accounts could not be immediately reconciled, though such contradictory information is common in Syria’s long civil war.

The Observatory and al-Khatib said the blast also damaged some of Palmyra’s famed columns.

IRAN-HAJJ

Iranians begin hajj amid tensions with Saudi

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranians have begun traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, four months after Tehran suspended a minor pilgrimage over the alleged abuse of two pilgrims by Saudi authorities.

State TV says in a report on its website Sunday that 700 pilgrims left for Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. Some 64,000 Iranians have permits to attend the pilgrimage this year. The hajj is required of all Muslims who can afford it and who are physically able.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are regional rivals who back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

In April, Iran suspended the minor pilgrimage, known as umrah, after two Iranians were allegedly abused by Saudi security forces at an airport. It’s not clear whether Iran will resume the minor pilgrimage.