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
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.
NATIONAL CATHEDRAL DAMAGE
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
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.)