BIRTH CONTROL POLITICS
Bill would reverse contraceptive coverage mandate
WASHINGTON (AP) - Congressional opponents of President Barack
Obama's contraceptive coverage mandate are backing legislation that
would exempt any employer who has religious or moral objections.
The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act is currently supported
by 38 senators and 186 House members.
Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio says the First
Amendment protects the religious liberty of all Americans, not just
Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois calls Obama's
cost-shifting from church-affiliated groups to their insurance
providers "a shell game" that made no change to the mandated
coverage many employers find objectionable.
The White House has called the exemption legislation "dangerous
Contraception battle looms in Mass. Senate race
BOSTON (AP) - The debate over religious freedom and
contraceptive mandates has spilled into the Massachusetts Senate
Republican Sen. Scott Brown says Democratic candidate Elizabeth
Warren wants to dictate to religious people what they should
Warren supports President Barack Obama's proposal that would
allow workers at religious affiliated institutions to get free
contraception directly from insurers. She says Brown has adopted an
extreme position by backing a bill that would let employers and
health plans deny coverage for any service that violates their
But Brown has invoked the memory of the late Democratic Sen.
In a letter to Pope Benedict in 2009, a dying Kennedy said he
supported "a conscience protection for Catholics in the health
From China, no visa for U.S. religious rights envoy
WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department says it has been unable
to secure a visa for its religious rights envoy to visit China.
Last September, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International
Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook said China was one of the
"countries that have challenges in protecting religious freedom"
that she hoped to visit.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland says Cook submitted a
visa application and requested meetings with Chinese officials "a
couple of weeks ago," and would have liked to have been there by
But Nuland says, "The requested meetings have not yet come
through, and the Chinese government has not yet acted on the
Nuland denied a report in The Washington Post that China had
rejected Cook's visa application, and said the State Department was
still trying to arrange what she called "an important visit."
SCHOOL PRAYER BANNER
RI school officials to discuss prayer banner case
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Rhode Island school committee is set
to hold a public hearing on a federal court decision ordering the
removal of a prayer banner at a public high school.
Cranston School Committee member Janice Ruggieri says she
expects the board to vote Thursday on whether to appeal the ruling
in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16-year-old atheist Jessica
A federal judge last month ruled the prayer banner displayed in
the Cranston High School West auditorium is unconstitutional and
ordered its removal. The banner is covered with wood pending a
decision on whether there will be an appeal.
Superintendent of Schools Peter Nero says he's asked police to
attend the meeting.
Ahlquist has been the target of online threats since the court
Judge: Man still unfit for trial in pastor's death
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) - An Illinois judge has ruled that a man
accused of fatally shooting a pastor in mid-sermon three years ago
remains mentally unfit to stand trial.
That ruling raises the specter that Terry Sedlacek may never face a jury on charges that he gunned down the Rev. Fred
Winters at Maryville's First Baptist Church as a stunned
congregation looked on in horror.
Sedlacek had no known connection to the church or Winters, and
an investigator said Winters hadn't received any previous threats
before Sedlacek calmly walked into the church and opened fire.
Sedlacek has been confined for mental health treatment since
being found incompetent to stand trial seven months after the March
2009 shooting. Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli said
there's no substantial probability that Sedlacek will regain his
mental wherewithal within the next year to stand trial.
High school debate erupts over Islamic song
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - Educators in Grand Junction, Colo.,
are backing a teacher in a dispute over an Islamic song being sung
by the high school choir.
Questions arose after a teacher included a song and dance in the
style of Islamic prayer chants.
According to KREX-TV, the composer said it was not intended for
a worship ceremony, but high school senior James Harper says it
conflicts with his religious beliefs.
District spokesman Jeff Kirtland says the teacher was open with
the parents, and students are not being required to participate.
Israeli library uploads Newton's theological texts
JERUSALEM (AP) - He's considered to be one of the greatest
scientists of all time. But Sir Isaac Newton was also an
influential theologian who applied a scientific approach to the
study of scripture, Hebrew and Jewish mysticism.
Now Israel's national library, an unlikely owner of a vast trove
of Newton's writings, has digitized his theological collection -
some 7,500 pages in Newton's own handwriting - and put it online.
Among the yellowed texts are Newton's famous prediction of the
apocalypse in 2060.
Newton revolutionized physics, mathematics and astronomy in the
17th and 18th century.
But the curator of Israel's national library's humanities
collection said Newton was also a devout Christian who dealt far
more in theology than he did in physics and believed that scripture
provided a "code" to the natural world.
Mexican Roman Catholic Church issues guidelines for voting
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's Roman Catholic Church has released
voter guidelines ahead of the July 1 presidential elections.
Religious groups in Mexico are banned from engaging in electoral
politics or supporting or opposing any candidate or party.
The guidelines published by the Archdiocese of Mexico on its
website only say that Catholics must not vote for "those who
support or promote false rights or liberties that attack the
teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures, tradition and doctrine
of the Church."
That appeared to be a reference to gay marriage and abortion,
both of which the church has hotly opposed.
The guidelines also say Catholics "should be alert to the
commitments of the candidates and their parties to respect the
foremost of all rights, which is the right to life, from the moment
Pope Benedict is scheduled to visit Mexico from March 23 to 26.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)