Update on the latest religion news


North Carolina move to put Billy Graham statue in US Capitol

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina proposal to eventually place a statue of the Rev. Billy Graham inside the U.S. Capitol, replacing a statue of a former politician with white supremacist ties, has won state legislative approval.

North Carolina senators voted unanimously Thursday to pass the measure requesting a congressional committee approve Graham’s likeness as a state contribution to the Capitol. The bill, which gained House approval in April, now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.

The 96-year-old evangelist grew up in Charlotte and lives in North Carolina. Under the proposal, Billy Graham’s likeness is to replace that of Charles Aycock, who governed North Carolina from 1901 to 1905 and whose legacy has been tarnished by links to white supremacists of his era.

Congressional guidelines state that a person’s statue can only be installed posthumously, but the measure would start the process, to include choosing a sculptor.


308-w-34-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with state Rep. John Blust. R-N.C.)–A North Carolina proposal to eventually place a statue of the Rev. Billy Graham inside the U.S. Capitol, replacing a statue of a former politician with white supremacist ties, has won state legislative approval. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (17 Sep 2015)



Clerk Kim Davis loses another appeal in gay marriage case

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis has lost another bid to delay licensing same-sex marriages, marking the latest in a mounting stack of rejected appeals.

Davis returned to work this week after five days in jail for defying a court order. She had refused to issue licenses after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Four couples, two straight and two gay, sued her and a federal judge ordered her to issue licenses to all qualified couples. Both same-sex couples who sued her received licenses while she was in jail.

Davis’ lawyers now argue that the order should apply only to the couples named in the lawsuit, meaning Davis would not have to license gay marriages while the case remains pending. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals scrapped that request Thursday.


Christian conservatives rally for religious awakening

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hundreds of Christian conservatives have cheered the husband of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at a rally outside the Tennessee Capitol.

The celebration of Constitution Day was sponsored by the Tennessee Pastors Network and also drew the Rev. Rafael Cruz, the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and presidential candidate.

Speaking of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision effectively legalizing same-sex marriage, the elder Cruz said, “The devil overplayed his hand.”

He said the country needs to elect a constitutional conservative as president, and suggested that Christian conservatives will be roused to action by the ruling.

Speaking briefly after Cruz, Joe Davis simply asked the crowd to pray for him and his wife, who was jailed five days for refusing to license same-sex marriages.


Alabama probate judge asks not to marry same-sex couples

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A probate judge has asked the Alabama Supreme Court for an order protecting him and other officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

AL.com reports that Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams requested the protective order Wednesday afternoon.

Attorney Jack B. Hinton filed the petition on Williams’ behalf. Hinton says the action came after Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared bans on gay marriage unconstitutional.

Alabama lawmakers did not have enough votes Tuesday to pass a proposal to do away with state-issued marriage licenses.


Appeals court upholds injunction halting health mandate

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An Appeals court has upheld a lower court’s order halting a federal mandate requiring two Christian colleges in Michigan and Iowa to provide insurance coverage for certain contraceptives.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis issued an order Thursday that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate and accommodation process “substantially burdened” Dordt College’s and Cornerstone University’s “exercise of religion.”

Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and Cornerstone in Grand Rapids, Michigan, faced fines for noncompliance.

The schools sued in 2013. Alliance Defending Freedom represented both schools. The conservative Christian law group’s senior counsel Kevin Theriot says “the government shouldn’t punish people of faith for making decisions in accordance with their faith.”

The Justice Department called the lawsuit meritless and an attempt to prevent female employees from obtaining coverage.


Trump declines to correct man who says Obama is Muslim

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declined to correct a questioner who said President Barack Obama is Muslim.

Trump was holding a town hall event Thursday evening in New Hampshire. His first question came from a man who raised concerns about terrorist training camps on American soil.

The man said: “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims.” He then said Obama is a Muslim and said he’s not American.

Trump did not dispute the man’s assertions. He said that he would be looking into the issue and plenty of other things.

Trump was a driver of the “birther” movement that claimed the president wasn’t born in the U.S. But he has distanced himself from the issue during his current run.


Trump riffs on Pope Francis

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Donald Trump is giving the pope his blessing.

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, the Republican presidential candidate said, “I like the pope … lot of personality, good man.”

Trump’s remark was in response to a woman in the audience who asked if he plans to meet with Francis next week during the pope’s U.S. visit.

Instead of answering the question, Trump said, “Well, the pope believes in global warming. You do know that, right?” The Republican front-runner added, “Hey, in this room it’s so hot in here maybe I’ll start to believe it myself.”


347-a-10-(Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate, at campaign town hall)-“room is hot”-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump suggests that he and Pope Francis have some differences. ((cut used in wrap)) (17 Sep 2015)


345-w-30-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Donald Trump, GOP presidential candidate)–Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is giving the pope his blessing. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (17 Sep 2015)


346-a-03-(Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate, at campaign town hall)-“personality, good man”-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has some good things to say about Pope Francis. (17 Sep 2015)



Vatican eyes end of embargo after US-Cuba thaw

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is hoping that the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba will soon translate into an end of the U.S. economic embargo.

On the eve of Pope Francis’ trip to the onetime Cold War foes, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, recalled Thursday that the Vatican has long called for an end to sanctions, saying they hurt ordinary Cubans most.

In an interview with Vatican TV, Parolin said there is hope that restored economic ties could allow greater freedoms and human rights to flourish in Cuba.

Author Austen Ivereigh (EYE’-vuh-ree), who has written a biography of Francis, says he expects the pope’s message in Cuba to be more pastoral than political.

Cardinal Parolin also acknowledged criticism in the U.S. to Francis’ economic and environmental message. He said he believes Francis will invite all Americans to reflect and realize that something needs to change in humanity’s relationship to creation.


276-a-07-(Austen Ivereigh (EYE’-vuh-ree), papal biographer, in AP interview)-“what popes do”-Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of Pope Francis, says Cubans won’t likely hear a political message from Francis. (17 Sep 2015)


277-a-07-(Austen Ivereigh (EYE’-vuh-ree), papal biographer, in AP interview)-“profound political implications”-Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of Pope Francis, says the pope’s message to Cubans will probably be more pastoral than political. ((cut used in wrap)) (17 Sep 2015)


275-w-35-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Austen Ivereigh, papal biographer)–Before Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. next week, he’ll spend several days in Cuba. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (17 Sep 2015)



In TV message, pope tells Cubans that Jesus loves them

HAVANA (AP) — Pope Francis has delivered an unprecedented televised message to the Cuban people ahead of his trip to the island, telling them on state television that Jesus “never abandons us” and he “loves you very much.”

The four-minute message from Francis was remarkable in a country led by a communist government that maintained a policy of official hostility to the church for years after taking power. Relations have warmed since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998 but Catholic clergy speaking on state television remains a rare sight.

A letter from John Paul was published in state media ahead of his 1998 trip to Cuba, while Pope Benedict XVI did not send a message before visiting in 2012, the head of public relations for the Cuban Bishops’ Conference said.


White House invites 15,000 people for pope arrival ceremony

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is opening its back lawn to some 15,000 people for the arrival of Pope Francis next week, and it’s promising a traffic nightmare for everyone else in the area.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest offered the crowd estimate for Wednesday’s White House arrival ceremony for the pope. He tacked on a traffic forecast, predicting “traffic’s going to be a mess.”

If 15,000 people do attend, that will surpass the more than 13,000 who were invited for Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival ceremony in 2008. Some 6,000 attended Pope John Paul II’s arrival in 1979.

Earnest took note that the government is encouraging federal workers in Washington to telecommute during the pope’s visit.

While in Washington, the pope also will address Congress and celebrate Mass at the basilica.


325-a-08-(Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, at briefing)-“the White House (second reference)”-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says there will be a huge crowd helping President Obama greet the pope next Wednesday. (17 Sep 2015)


326-a-10-(Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, at briefing)-“be a mess”-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says the city will be unusually congested when the pope visits the White House next Wednesday. (17 Sep 2015)



Largest US Catholic church isn’t big enough for papal Mass

WASHINGTON (AP) — The largest Catholic church in the Americas isn’t nearly big enough to hold everyone who wants to see Pope Francis celebrate a Mass of canonization next week in Washington.

Instead, the pope will declare 18th Century missionary Junipero Serra (yoo-NIH’-payr-oh SAYR’-ah) a Roman Catholic saint from a temporary sanctuary that’s being built on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The church can comfortably seat 3,500 people, and up to 10,000 can cram inside on special occasions like Easter. But the pope’s visit is even larger than that. The Archdiocese of Washington is distributing 25,000 tickets to the Mass next Wednesday.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says the Basilica is the ideal location for the first pope from the Americas to canonize the friar who brought the first Catholic missions to California.


323-a-08-(Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, at news conference)-“to be there”-Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says the church’s Washington basilica isn’t big enough for next Wednesday’s papal Mass. (17 Sep 2015)


324-a-12-(Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, at news conference)-“the new world (second reference)”-Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says it’s appropriate for Pope Francis to canonize 18th Century missionary Junipero Serra. ((Editors: Junipero is pronounced yoo-NIH’-payr-oh)) (17 Sep 2015)


322-v-35-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)–The largest Catholic church in the Americas isn’t nearly big enough to hold everyone who wants to see Pope Francis perform a Mass of canonization next week in Washington. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (17 Sep 2015)



Vandals paint anti-Islamic graffiti at Louisville mosque

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Vandals have spray-painted multiple anti-Islamic messages on the outside of the Louisville Islamic Center in Kentucky.

Center spokesman Muhammad Babar says members found the graffiti Wednesday evening when they arrived for a prayer service. Vandals left phrases like “this is for France” and “Nazis speak Arabic.”

Babar said he filed a police report and has spoken to the FBI about the incident.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer responded by asking the community to help the center paint over the graffiti on Friday.

Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad told reporters Thursday that the FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime.


More than 1,000 pilgrims evacuated during Saudi hotel fire

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi officials say more than 1,000 pilgrims were safely evacuated from a hotel in Mecca after a fire broke out on Thursday ahead of the hajj.

Authorities said the blaze started on the eighth floor of an 11-story hotel.

Saudi civil defense officials said two pilgrims were being treated for injuries from the fire.

The hajj is expected to start on Monday. More than 1 million pilgrims have already arrived for the annual pilgrimage, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to perform once in their lives.

The fire comes after a crane collapse in Mecca last Friday killed at least 111 people and injured more than 390.