Court in Washington State: Can't Force Pharmacies to Sell Emergency Contraceptives; Dove Award...


Judge says Wash. can't make pharmacies sell Plan B

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that Washington

state can't force pharmacies to sell Plan B or other emergency


U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said the state's true goal

was to suppress religious objections by druggists - not to promote

timely access to the medicines for people who need them.

Further appeals are expected, both from the state and from

groups that intervened in the case on the state's behalf.

An Olympia drug store and two licensed pharmacists sued in 2007,

saying that dispensing Plan B would infringe on their religious

beliefs. The drug can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg,

an act they equate with taking human life.

The state argued that the requirements are legal because they

apply neutrally to all medicines and pharmacies.






Jason Crabb leads Dove Awards nominations with 8

ATLANTA (AP) - Singer Jason Crabb has earned eight nominations

for the Dove Awards, the Christian and gospel music show that will

be held in Atlanta for the second year in a row.

Laura Story drew the second-most with six nominations and rapper

LaCrae got five nods for the 43rd annual show, which will take

place on April 19. Kirk Franklin, Chris Tomlin, Natalie Grant and

Jamie Grace each received four.

Crabb, who's up for best male vocalist, will also compete for

artist of the year against Casting Crowns, Laura Story, LaCrae and

The Issacs.

Jamie Grace and R&B singer-turned-minister Montell Jordan helped

announce the nominees Wednesday in Atlanta.

Last year, more than 1.5 million viewed the awards show, which

aired on GMC, formerly known as the Gospel Music Channel.






Schools work to balance gay, religious rights

UNDATED (AP) - Schools nationwide are working to balance gay and

religious rights ever since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed a

California law school to deny recognition to a Christian group that

did not allow gay members.

The 2010 ruling upheld Hastings College of the Law's refusal to

grant official recognition to the Christian Legal Society.

Experts say the decision applies to public schools that have

all-comers policies, which require campus groups to open their

membership and leadership to anyone. Since the ruling, both public

and private schools have reassessed their policies, and some are

considering changes.

Christian groups say forcing them to accept leaders who don't

hold their beliefs is an attack on religious freedom, and that they

have a right to require their leaders to behave in ways consistent

with Biblical texts.

Others say excluding gays for any reason is unacceptable




Cardinal Dolan: Lent is like `spring training'

NEW YORK (AP) - Cardinal Timothy Dolan has celebrated his first

Mass in New York since being elevated from archbishop, comparing

the Lenten season that began Wednesday to baseball's "spring


After Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dolan said

that in Lent, "we get the flab out, we get the sins out. He said,

"Our fight is not against the Red Sox or the Cardinals; it's

against Satan and sin and selfishness."

Dolan wore a cardinal's traditional red cap. But his vestments

were purple, symbolizing Christ's suffering for the period of

sacrifice and penance leading to Easter.

Earlier on his first full day at home, Dolan distributed bags of

food to the hungry at Manhattan's St. Francis of Assisi Church.



Ohio church offers drive-thru for Ash Wednesday

CINCINNATI (AP) - An Ohio pastor has offered drive-thru Ash

Wednesday blessings to people who wouldn't get their ash in church.

The Rev. Patricia Anderson Cook of Mt. Healthy United Methodist

Church in suburban Cincinnati said the service was for busy people

and the disabled, and for others who might be intimidated about

going inside a church.

Cook said she welcomed anyone who wanted to get right with God.

Motorists were invited to drive up and receive ashes on their

foreheads along with a blessing, a church brochure and a Lenten


The ashen cross on the forehead marks the beginning of Lent, 40

days of penance before the celebration of Easter.





Pope marks Ash Wednesday

ROME (AP) - Pope Benedict has led a solemn Ash Wednesday service

to mark the start of the Lenten season of penitence, including the

placement of ashes on the forehead of faithful.

Benedict wore purple-colored vestments as he celebrated Mass in

the Basilica of Santa Sabina, an ancient church on Rome's Aventine


Although the 84-year-old pontiff has been using a wheeled

platform to navigate the long aisle of St. Peter's Basilica, he

walked unassisted into and out of Santa Sabina.

Benedict rubbed ashes on the foreheads of some of the faithful

to symbolize mortality. In his homily, he noted that Ash Wednesday

is a "day of penitence and fasting."

Lent helps spiritually prepare Roman Catholics for Easter, which

this year falls on April 8.



NJ gov: Report of spying on Muslims `disturbing'

PALISADES PARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is

calling a report of a police surveillance operation targeting

Muslims in Newark "disturbing." He also says he doesn't recall

ever being briefed about the spying in 2007 while he was the

state's top federal prosecutor.

Christie says he has no knowledge of the operation. And he says

the New York Police Department wouldn't have had jurisdiction in

New Jersey unless it was working with the Joint Terrorism Task

Force in Newark or another agency.

Newark's top officials say the city didn't know anything about

the nature of the NYPD operation.

The NYPD photographed mosques and eavesdropped on conversations

in businesses frequented by Muslims in Newark.

Christie told a news conference in Palisades Park that the state

attorney general is investigating the report.





Quran burning incites deadly riots in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Clashes between Afghan troops and

protesters angry over the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S.

military base have left at least seven people dead and dozens

wounded despite U.S. apologies over what it said was a mistake.

The unrest started Tuesday when Afghan workers at the main

American military base, Bagram Air Field, saw soldiers dumping

books in a pit where garbage is burned and noticed Qurans and other

religious material among the trash.

The top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. John Allen, quickly issued

an apology and telephoned President Hamid Karzai and major news

organizations to explain that a collection of religious materials,

including Qurans, had been mistakenly sent to be incinerated.

The country's council of Muslim clerics called the U.S apologies

insufficient and said military officials should punish those


In Kabul, about 2,000 people massed outside a heavily guarded

housing complex for foreigners, chanting "Death to America!" as

they hurled rocks at the compound's reinforced walls and set a fuel

truck ablaze.



Protesters throw eggs at Muhammad cartoonist

STOCKHOLM (AP) - Swedish police say an artist who angered

Muslims by depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog was pelted with

eggs during a university lecture when he presented another drawing

of Islam's revered prophet.

Lars Vilks told The Associated Press that he was not harmed in

Tuesday's attack at Karlstad University in central Sweden and that

he continued his lecture on the limits of free speech after police

evicted the protesters from the building.

Vilks, who has received numerous death threats from radical

Islamists, said about a dozen people started yelling and hurling

eggs at him when he presented a sketch showing Muhammad and

19th-century Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen at a beer


Images of Muhammad, even favorable ones, are considered

blasphemous by many Muslims.



Ruling against ultra-Orthodox Jews could spark coalition crisis

in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's Supreme Court has overturned a law

that has helped ultra-Orthodox Jewish men avoid military service.

The ruling addresses an issue that is at the center of a

simmering cultural war between religious and secular Jews.

Antagonism toward the ultra-Orthodox has grown in recent months

over a series of incidents in which religious extremists were seen

as attempting to impose their norms on wider society - such as the

segregation of women on buses and even sidewalks.

The draft exemptions have increasingly become a touchstone issue

among Israel's secular majority, which is required to do up to

three years of compulsory military service. More than 60,000

religious men were granted exemptions last year, permitted instead

to study in seminaries while receiving welfare grants. In its

ruling, the court said it sought to divide Israel's burdens equally

among its citizens.

The decision threatens to shake up Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu's government by forcing it to deal with the issue and

come up with a new system. Both ultra-Orthodox and secular parties

sit in Netanyahu's coalition, and the ruling could force him to

choose sides.



Festival returns to Myanmar's Shwedagon Pagoda

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Thousands of people have flocked to

Myanmar's Shwedagon Pagoda to witness the return of an annual

festival that was banned for more than 20 years by the former

military regime.

Gongs chimed in Yangon Wednesday as the diamond-studded monument

marked what is being billed as the 2,600-year anniversary of the

Buddha's enlightenment and of the temple itself, which according to

legend houses eight strands of Buddha's hair.

More than a tribute to Buddhism, the event was a celebration of

new freedom and the latest sign of change in long-repressed

Myanmar, which is now undergoing political reforms under a

military-backed but elected government.




(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


AP-NY-02-23-12 0337EST


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