Critics of Governor's Prayer Day; Court Ruling Goes against Christian Groups; Michigan Catholic...

      US troops build Islamic center in Afghanistan

      KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S. troops in Afghanistan have
spent 10 weeks converting a building at Kandahar
Airfield into an Islamic center.
      The conversion was completed in time for Muslims' holy month of
Ramadan, which started Monday.
      At the dedication ceremony, base commander Brig. Gen. Jeffrey
Kendall said, "We celebrate the establishment of this center as a
place for Muslims within our base community to practice their faith
in a solemn and reverent atmosphere."
      Others at the ceremony said the project shows that U.S. and
other coalition forces are not trying to change the Afghan people
or their religion.
      The Islamic center will offer weekend classes as well as being a
place of worship.


      Critics announce alternative to rally called by Gov. Perry

      WASHINGTON (AP) - Critics of the day of prayer and fasting
organized by Texas Gov. Rick Perry this Saturday say they'll hold
an alternative rally in Houston Friday evening.
      Participants at Friday's event are to include the Rev. William
Lawson, founder of a Houston megachurch, and the Rev. Barry Lynn of
Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
      Lynn says Perry should not be promoting an explicitly Christian
event like "The Response." He says Friday's event will focus on
constitutional boundaries and "inclusiveness" instead.
      But "The Response" spokesman, Eric Bearse (BURS), says
non-Christians are welcome on Saturday, and if critics choose not
to come, "they're excluding themselves."


      Federal appeals court rules against Christian groups

      SAN DIEGO (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled against
Christian groups who challenged a nondiscrimination policy at
California state universities.
      The policy says officially recognized campus groups cannot
discriminate by factors such as religion and sexual orientation. A
Christian fraternity and a sorority at San Diego State University
sued in 2005. The groups, which are restricted to Christian
members, argued the policy violated their religious freedom.
      A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed but
said there was concern about whether the policy is evenly applied
to all groups. The case was sent back to a lower court to decide
that issue.
      A lawyer for the groups told the San Diego Union-Tribune that
the nondiscrimination policy "clearly treats Christian groups
worse than other groups on campus."

      Calif. city settles religious discrimination suit

      LOS ANGELES (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department has settled a
religious discrimination lawsuit against the Southern California
city of Walnut, resolving allegations that it unfairly denied a
permit to a group seeking to build a Buddhist center.
      The lawsuit filed last year alleged the city violated federal
law which prohibits religious discrimination in land use and zoning
decisions when it denied the Chung Tai Zen Center a conditional use
permit. It claimed the city treated the Zen Center differently than
other religious facilities by approving a permit for a Catholic
      The Justice Department says the city has agreed not to impose
different zoning requirements on religious organizations, but adds
that the settlement must still be approved by a federal judge.

      Ala. lab lost key evidence in praying mom's case

      AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama mother whose 17-year-old son
became sick with flu-like symptoms chose to pray for his recovery
rather than take him to a doctor.
      When Kay Burdette's son died in 2008, prosecutors charged her
with manslaughter. She pleaded guilty to lesser charges in June and
avoided prison, in part because authorities lost a tissue sample
that was crucial to proving that her son died of bacterial
pneumonia, which is generally treatable.
      Lee County District Attorney Robbie Treese says the case was
difficult from the beginning, and wondered how much more Burdette
could be punished.
      Burdette and her son were members of the charismatic Sandhill
Baptist Church near Auburn. Burdette told investigators she trusted
God for physical healing and both she and Jesse prayed for his

      Jeffs talks of persecution in trial statement

      SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - Polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs
has delivered a 30-minute statement at the Texas trial where he's
accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 12.
      After prosecutors rested their case against him Wednesday, Jeffs
evoked the memory of Mormon leader Joseph Smith Jr. and portrayed
himself as the victim of religious persecution.
      Jeffs, who is representing himself, then called one of his
church's members to testify. J.D. Roundy read aloud from the Book
of Mormon and then answered questions about the church's beliefs.
      Jeffs is the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints, which teaches that polygamy brings exaltation
in heaven. The church's 10,000 members see Jeffs as God's prophet.
      If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 119 years to life
in prison.

      Michigan Catholic bishops urge immigrant support

      LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's seven Catholic bishops are
calling for more support for illegal immigrants in a statement
being sent to the state's Catholics and elected officials.
      The statement issued Wednesday asks Michigan lawmakers to reject
legislation that would treat illegal immigrants with disrespect or
divide their families through deportation.
      The bishops also are urging the state's congressional delegation
to replace what they call "a failed federal policy" with reforms
that would offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
      They quote Jesus' exhortation to recognize him in their
treatment of others: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

      Knights of Columbus to pay $22.7M for papal center

      DETROIT (AP) - The Knights of Columbus plan to buy the
financially troubled Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in
Washington, D.C., in a $22.7 million deal involving the Archdiocese
of Detroit.
      The agreement was announced Tuesday in Denver at a Knights of
Columbus convention. The Catholic lay organization plans to expand
exhibits about the late pope and hold events at the facility.
      The Archdiocese of Detroit expects to get about $20 million from
the Cultural Center's foundation from the sale, and the Catholic
University of America will get the rest. The sale will allow the
Archdiocese of Detroit to recoup some of the $54 million it
invested in the center.
      The 130,000-square-foot building has been mostly closed for
years, open by appointment only.

      Catholic group: Haitian amputee soccer team to tour US

      DENVER (AP) - A Catholic men's group says an amputee soccer team
that includes players injured in Haiti's 2010 earthquake plans to
tour the U.S. and work with soldiers injured in Iraq and
      A spokesman for the Knights of Columbus says the fall tour by
Team Zaryen is meant to raise awareness about earthquake amputees
in Haiti and to thank the U.S. military for its help after the
      Thousands of Haitians lost limbs so they could be pulled from
the rubble or to stop infections following the quake. The Knights
of Columbus began working with the soccer team through its work
with Project Medishare to provide prosthetic limbs to Haitian
      The Knights are holding their 129th international convention in

      Malaysia Ramadan TV ads axed after complaints

      KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - A Malaysian television station has
canceled commercials to mark the Muslim month of Ramadan after
angry viewers complained the ads insulted non-Muslim ethnic
      Muslims, who make up nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 28 million
people, refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sundown
during the month, which started Aug. 1.
      One 30-second ad depicted an ethnic Chinese girl eating while
Muslims watch her, another showed her wearing a sleeveless blouse
and in the last one, she's shouting at a stall owner.
      The scenes were followed by messages urging viewers to show
respect for Ramadan by not eating in public, wearing revealing
clothing or being loud.
      Viewers complained that the ads stereotyped minority Chinese and
imposed Islam on non-Muslims.

      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
AP-NY-08-04-11 0332EDT


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