Judges Can't Get Involved in Church Employee Disputes; Episcopal Church Split; Mormon Survey;...


Court: Judges cannot get involved in church dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court says a church school cannot

be sued over an employee's discrimination complaint.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sued a Lutheran

church and school in Michigan on behalf of Cheryl Perich, who

taught secular and religious classes and led chapel services.

She took disability leave in 2004 but tried to return to work.

When the school said it had hired a substitute for the year, Perich

threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She

was then fired and removed from ministry.

In the unanimous ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said

allowing such lawsuits would violate "a religious group's right to

shape its own faith and mission through its appointments."






Episcopal church wins control of Va. Churches

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - A judge has ruled that the Episcopal Church

should be restored as the owner of several historic churches in

Virginia, years after the denomination was essentially evicted by

local congregations dismayed with the denomination's liberal


Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows reversed a

ruling he made in 2008 allowing the conservative congregations to

keep their buildings and other church property. The Virginia

Supreme Court overturned that ruling and ordered a new trial.

At issue is ownership of seven Virginia churches, including two

historic congregations that trace their roots to George Washington:

Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church, for which the city of

Falls Church is named.

The congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church in 2006

following the denomination's consecration of an openly gay bishop

and other theological disputes.

The conservative congregations are considering an appeal.



Christian singer works to end human trafficking

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Christian singer Sara Groves considers

human trafficking the greatest evil in the world today.

Wednesday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day, highlighting the

global problem of children and young adults kidnapped or tricked

into becoming slaves and prostitutes.

Groves told KTIS radio that while missionaries have sometimes

bought slaves to free them, a group called International Justice

Mission has a more comprehensive strategy - working to change laws,

mount rescues and help freed captives recover.

After hearing the testimony of a girl who had been forced into

prostitution, Groves says she offered her own abilities to God to

help bring human trafficking to an end. Her advocacy includes songs

and public appearances.

Groves says human trafficking is a crime more lucrative than

selling drugs, since the slave is sold repeatedly, but the U.S. and

other nations spend far less money in the fight against





Perry's father apologizes for remarks about Jews

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A suburban Cleveland church where the

father of pop star Katy Perry delivered a sermon that drew

accusations of anti-Semitism has released an apology in which he

says he regrets his "hurtful and ugly language."

Pastor Paul Endrei of the Church on the Rise in

Westlake said Wednesday that Perry's father, the Rev. Keith Hudson,

meant to compliment Jewish people when he said having money is what

it takes to make Jews jealous. Endrei says Hudson was blessing

businesspeople Jan. 5 when he "just went too far."

In the apology released this week, Hudson says he is not an


Perry's agent told The Associated Press the singer does not

comment on her personal life.



Mormons see mainstream acceptance ahead for church

UNDATED (AP) - Nearly half of Mormon Americans in a new poll say

they face significant discrimination in the United States, and

nearly two-thirds said other Americans don't consider Mormonism

part of the mainstream.

But more than 60 percent of Mormons surveyed by the Pew Research

Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life believe Americans are

moving toward acceptance of their faith and more than half believe

the country is ready to accept a Mormon as president.

The survey was published as two Mormons - Mitt Romney and John

Huntsman - seek the Republican presidential nomination.

About 77 percent of Mormons in the survey identify with or lean

toward the Republican Party, and most hold strong conservative

views. Three-quarters support a smaller government that provides

fewer services.

The same percentage say having an abortion is morally wrong, and

two-thirds believe homosexuality should be discouraged.


Online: http://www.pewforum.org/



Ohio Amish say not guilty in beard-cutting attacks

CLEVELAND (AP) - Twelve members of a breakaway Amish group in

Ohio have pleaded not guilty to beard- and hair-cutting attacks on

fellow Amish in a feud over church discipline.

The seven original defendants and five more who were added in an

indictment last month entered the not guilty pleas to federal

charges Wednesday in a Cleveland courtroom.

Judge Dan Aaron Polster refused a defense appeal to release the

suspected ringleader and his son on bond.

A feud over church discipline allegedly led to five attacks in

which the beards of men and hair of women were cut, which is

considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

The seven-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy,

assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors say were hate

crimes motivated by religious differences.



Ky. Amish men say they won't budge on buggy fight

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) - A group of conservative Amish men in

western Kentucky have become scofflaws in their protest against a

state law requiring orange safety triangles on their horse-drawn


Nine members of the Swartzentruber order in rural Graves County

have refused to pay fines for not using the triangles, and eight of

them have spent time in jail.

The men believe that the orange triangle is garish and violates

their faith's orders to live simple, plain lives. They prefer using

gray reflective tape and lanterns to make their buggies visible to


Kentucky officials say the orange triangles are still the best

way to make sure buggies are visible for the safety of everyone on

the road.



Prosecutor: NJ synagogue residence firebombed

RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey law enforcement officials

suspect that more than one person may be involved in what's being

classified as a hate crime after a synagogue where nine people were

living was firebombed.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli says several Molotov

cocktails and other incendiary devices were thrown early Wednesday

at a Rutherford home housing a synagogue on the first floor and the

rabbi's residence on the second.

The rabbi, his wife, five children and the rabbi's parents were

sleeping. Police say one device ignited in the rabbi's bedroom, and

he suffered minor burns putting it out.

The prosecutor asks all northern New Jersey residents and

religious institutions to be on alert. This is the fourth incident

at a Jewish center or synagogue in recent weeks.



Fed court orders RI school to remove prayer mural

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A federal judge has ordered the

immediate removal of a prayer mural displayed in the auditorium of

a Rhode Island public high school.

Student Jessica Ahlquist, who's an atheist, had sued Cranston

city and Cranston High School West officials. She demanded they

remove the banner, saying it promoted a religion and was offensive

to non-Christians.

City officials claimed the mural is a historical artifact from

the school's early days and serves no religious purpose.

A senior U.S. District Court judge ruled Wednesday in the

atheist student's favor.



Czech govt OKs landmark religious compensation law

PRAGUE (AP) - More than 22 years after the fall of Communism,

the Czech government has agreed to pay billions of dollars in

compensation for church property seized by the former totalitarian


Under the plan, the country's 17 churches, including Roman

Catholic and Protestant, would get 56 percent of their former

property now held by the state. They would also get $2.9 billion in

financial compensation paid to them over the next 30 years, and the

state will gradually stop covering their expenses over the next 17


Wednesday's decision still needs the approval of Parliament, but

the governing coalition has a comfortable majority.

Culture Minister Alena Hanakova, whose ministry drafted the

bill, called the decision "historic" and the Catholic Czech

Bishops' Conference welcomed the move. The Catholic Church will

receive the biggest share of the restitution money.



US raises outreach to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. has held its highest contacts to date

with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The State Department says its No. 2 official, William Burns, met

with several political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in

the Egyptian capital on Wednesday.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says it was a chance to

reinforce U.S. expectations that Egypt's parties support human

rights, women's rights and religious tolerance.

The U.S. largely shunned the Muslim Brotherhood movement when

U.S.-allied dictator Hosni Mubarak was in power.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's best organized party and was

the biggest winner of parliamentary elections. Burns didn't meet

with Egypt's more radical Salafists.



Sect leader challenges Nigeria president in video

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - A new online video shows the leader of a

radical Islamist sect challenging the president of Nigeria amid a

nationwide strike in Africa's most populous nation.

Imam Abubakar Shekau of the sect known as Boko Haram criticizes

President Goodluck Jonathan and the leader of an umbrella Christian

group who called on worshippers to defend themselves from the sect.

Shekau says the sect would kill anyone who challenges the group.

Shekau, wearing a camouflage bulletproof vest, sits between two

Kalashnikov rifles in the video posted Tuesday to the Internet.

Boko Haram is responsible for at least 510 killings last year

and at least 63 so far this year. It is waging an increasingly

bloody sectarian fight against Nigeria's weak central government.



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


AP-NY-01-12-12 0331EST


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