House votes to stop health care law abortions

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House has passed legislation that

strengthens conscience protections for anti-abortion health care


House Republicans quoted Bible passages on life in the womb and

defending the voiceless, while Democrats said the bill would allow

religious hospitals to deny emergency care to pregnant women.

Supporters countered that even Catholic hospitals allow doctors to

perform necessary procedures that could abort a pregnancy.

The bill also prohibits insurance plans regulated under the new

health care law from covering abortion if their customers receive

federal subsidies.

The legislation passed the House 251-172, but is unlikely to be

considered by the Democrat-led Senate, and it faces a veto threat

from President Barack Obama.


RI judge visits school in prayer case

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A federal judge has visited a public

high school in Rhode Island to see a prayer mural at the center of

a lawsuit brought by a 16-year-old student.

Judge Ronald Lagueux visited the auditorium of

Cranston High School West on Thursday before hearing arguments from

lawyers for the city of Cranston and student Jessica Ahlquist, who

is an atheist. She wants school officials to remove the mural,

arguing it's offensive to non-Christians.

The prayer encourages students to strive academically and begins

with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen." Her

lawyer argued that makes it an unconstitutional endorsement of


Attorney Joseph Cavanagh Jr., who is defending the city,

responded that the mural is a historical artifact from the school's

early days and serves no religious purpose.

Lagueux took the case under advisement after hearing from both



NJ teacher criticized for Facebook remarks on gays

UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - Officials in a New Jersey school

district are investigating claims that a high school teacher who

advises a prayer group posted remarks on her Facebook page that

described homosexuality as "perverted" and a "sin" that

"breeds like cancer."

Attorney John Paragano told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he

saw posts by teacher Viki Knox before they were removed and alerted

the Union Township school district.

Paragano, who argued the teacher should be dismissed, told the

newspaper that Knox objected to a school display celebrating

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. Union Chief

School Administrator Patrick Martin says the district is


The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey defended Knox's

First Amendment right to make the comments but said the school

system also has the right to investigate whether she is performing

her job in accordance with school policies and anti-bias laws.


Stonework removed from top of National Cathedral

WASHINGTON (AP) - Engineers have removed parts of a pinnacle at

the top of the Washington National Cathedral that were damaged by

the August earthquake.

Three pieces from atop the central tower, weighing 2 tons, were

removed together by crane on Thursday from a height of about 330

feet. The section of stonework was lowered to the ground within a

matter of minutes.

The stonework dates back to 1963. The sections of the pinnacle

removed Thursday had shifted about 8 ½ inches off its base, hanging

over the edge of the lower portion of the pinnacle.

The cathedral's head stone mason, Joseph Alonso, says he is

focused on removing all loose stones so the cathedral can safely


The cathedral is scheduled to reopen for the first time Nov. 12.


Ohio Amish wife: Family had worried about attack

CARROLLTON, Ohio (AP) - An Amish woman whose husband's beard was

cut by members of a breakaway Amish group says her family had been

worried about such an attack before several men came to their door

late one night last week.

Arlene Miller of Carrollton in eastern Ohio says she and her

husband agreed to press charges to get help for members of the

nearby separatist community.

The 46-year-old Miller said her husband, Myron Miller, struggled

with his attackers after they grabbed his beard and used scissors

to cut about six inches off.

Arlene Miller says the attackers fled when they heard her

husband call for their sons to help.

She says they were targeted because they had helped a family

leave the breakaway group's settlement.


Christians flock to Israel for biblical Feast of Tabernacles

JERUSALEM (AP) - Thousands of Christians from around the world

have gathered in Jerusalem to help celebrate Sukkot,

the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.

The Rev. David Parsons, spokesman for the International

Christian Embassy Jerusalem, says his group invites Christians to

the weeklong festival every year -- not to seek converts, but to

show their support for Israel and the Jewish people. On Tuesday,

the Christian pilgrims will march through Jerusalem displaying

their national colors.

Parsons says some Israelis are suspicious of the visiting

Christians, but most welcome them.

During Sukkot, observant Jews build temporary booths, or

tabernacles, in their yards or on balconies to commemorate the

shelters that housed the ancient Hebrews during their 40 years in

the wilderness. When Sukkot ends, synagogues start over reading the

Torah, beginning with Genesis.


Kazakhstan passes restrictive religion law

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) - Kazakhstan's president has approved a

bill tightening registration rules for faith groups.

The law has been described by critics as a blow to freedom of

belief in the ex-Soviet nation.

Supporters of the bill signed into law Thursday by Nursultan

Nazarbayev say it will help combat religious extremism, an issue

that has come to the fore after a series of Islamist-linked attacks

in Kazakhstan over the summer.

The law will require existing religious organizations in the

mainly Muslim nation to dissolve and register again through a

procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups,

including minority Christian communities. It will also impose a ban

on prayer in the workplace.

Passage of the bill marks a reversal of Nazarbayev's earlier

attempts to cast Kazakhstan as a land of religious tolerance.


Saudi-backed religious tolerance center opens

VIENNA (AP) - Saudi Arabia has inaugurated an interfaith center

in Austria, raising questions about religious restrictions in Saudi


At Thursday's ceremony in Vienna, the Saudi foreign minister

said he hoped the spirit of tolerance embodied by the new

institution will help change his conservative Muslim country, which

prohibits any religion except Islam.

The interfaith center's founding document cites principles

enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, especially

"freedom of thought, conscience and religion."

The institution's board will consist of three Christians, three

Muslims, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindu.


Islamic hard-liners attack rival shrines in Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - Islamic hard-liners have attacked shrines

in and around Tripoli belonging to Muslim groups whose practices

they see as sacrilegious, raising religious tensions as Libya

struggles to define itself after Moammar Gadhafi's ouster.

The campaign appears to be aimed mainly at shrines revered by

Sufis, a mystical order whose members often pray over the tombs of

revered saints and ask for blessings or intervention to bring

success. Hard-line Sunnis deem the practice offensive because they

consider worshipping over graves to be idolatry.

In one case, witnesses said dozens of armed, bearded men wearing

military uniforms ransacked a Sufi shrine in Tripoli this week,

burning relics and carrying away the remains of two imams for

reburial elsewhere.

The head of Libya's governing National Transitional Council has

asked a top Muslim cleric to issue a fatwa, or religious ruling,

against desecration of holy sites.


King of Bhutan marries his commoner bride

PUNAKHA, Bhutan (AP) - The beloved king of the tiny Himalayan

nation of Bhutan has married his commoner bride in an ancient

Buddhist ceremony at the country's most sacred monastery fortress.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck came down from his golden

throne in front of a huge statue of Buddha on Thursday to place the

crown upon the head of bride Jetsun Pema. He returned to his seat

as monks chanted in the background, and she sat upon the throne

beside him as the new queen of the country.

The royal wedding has captivated a nation that had grown

impatient with their 31-year-old bachelor king's lack of urgency to

take a wife and start a family since his father retired and handed

power to him five years ago.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-10-14-11 0337EDT