Political Battle over Birth Control; Human Rights in China; Gay Marriage Now Law in Washington...


White House still at odds with Catholic bishops on birth control

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says legislation in the Senate

that would exempt not just religious, but all employers from

providing birth control coverage that violates their religious or

moral beliefs is "dangerous and wrong."

President Barack Obama tried to get religious employers to

provide free birth control coverage before backing off last week

amid controversy and declaring such coverage must be provided by

their insurance companies instead.

The archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, calls that

a distiontrolnction without a difference. In a prepared statement,

he said the church would not comply, and he urged Catholics to take

a stand for the church and for freedom.

At the White House, Carney dismissed Catholic bishops'

opposition to the revised birth control policy, saying: "They

never supported health care reform to begin with."





US to raise human rights as China's Xi visits

WASHINGTON (AP) - White House officials have said today's

get-acquainted visit by China's likely future leader could include

discussion of grave human rights concerns.

White House senior director for Asian affairs, Daniel Russel,

told reporters that China's Vice President Xi Jinping (SHEE

shihn-peeng) needs to understand U.S. concerns about the situation

in Tibet, and freedom of speech and religion.

The chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious

Freedom, Leonard Leo, says that in the past year, there has been

"an intensification of hostility toward religion on the part of

the Chinese government." He says Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur

 Muslims, Protestants in house churches and Catholics

loyal to the pope have been targeted.

Leo says the Obama administration should address those concerns

with public statements as well as private diplomacy, and threaten

to impose sanctions such as travel restrictions on Chinese

officials who violate human rights.





Washington gov signs gay marriage bill into law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a

measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, but

gay and lesbian couples can't walk down the aisle just yet.

The law takes effect June 7, but a legal challenge could put the

law on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an

initiative was filed at the beginning of the session that opponents

of gay marriage say could lead to the new law being overturned.

As the Democratic governor signed the legislation, a man

shouted, "Do not betray Christ!" However, his voice was

overwhelmed by gay-marriage supporters who cheered and spoke loudly

during his outburst.

Gregoire noted that some religious groups supported the bill.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who

opposes gay marriage, was in town speaking with conservative

voters. He urged them to continue their effort to block the law

from taking effect.






Federal court rules for Ohio festival free speech

CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that the

free speech rights of two Christians were violated at an Ohio


A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

ruled unanimously Monday that a policy against solicitation at the

annual Sweet Corn Festival was too broad, and unconstitutional. The

panel reversed a federal judge's ruling.

The case stemmed from the summer 2009 festival in the Dayton

suburb of Fairborn, Ohio. Plaintiffs Tracy Bays and Kerrigan Skelly

planned to convey their religious beliefs among festival-goers, and

Bays began walking through the park wearing a sandwich board sign

with Christian messages. After encountering opposition from a

festival worker and officials, they left.

They sued in 2010. The Christian legal aid group Alliance

Defense Fund argued their appeal.



Group presses county board to drop prayer

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Freedom From Religion Foundation is

pressing Wisconsin's Brown County Board to drop its prayer before

monthly meetings.

The atheist group says the prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate

and divisive.

Board Supervisor Tom DeWane says some members have disagreed in

the past about whether the prayer should include specific

references to Jesus Christ. But, DeWane says most believe opening

meetings with prayer is a good idea.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette says the Freedom From Religion

Foundation has successfully lobbied the Eau Claire County Board and

Ashland City Council to drop prayers at meetings.

The group also filed a lawsuit in 2007 to remove a nativity

scene from Green Bay City Hall.



Pastor's daughter accidentally shot at Fla. church

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Authorities say the daughter of a

pastor remained in critical condition Monday at a Florida hospital,

a day after being accidentally shot in the head at a St. Petersburg


The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was called to the Grace

Connection Church at about 12:24 p.m. Sunday.

Investigators say Moises Zambrana was showing his gun in a small

closet to another church member interested in buying a firearm.

Zambrana reportedly took out the magazine of the Ruger 9mm weapon

but did not know there was a bullet in the chamber.

The gun went off and fired through a wall, striking 20-year-old

Hannah Kelley.

Deputies said Zambrana has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

No charges have been filed.



Key West church named minor basilica

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - A Key West church has been named a minor

basilica by the Vatican.

St. Mary Star of the Sea will be the first basilica in the

Archdiocese of Miami and the fifth in the state of Florida. The

church was established in 1846 and is the oldest Catholic church in

South Florida.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski announced the news to parishioners in

Key West through a video played at weekend masses.

Churches are given the "basilica" title in recognition of

their historic and spiritual importance.

There are 72 minor basilicas in the United States.

The official designation will take place in a ceremony on May




Former Deadhead starts synagogue for NYU students

NEW YORK (AP) - Once he followed the Grateful Dead. Now he leads

a flock that follows Hasidic Judaism.

Rabbi and former Deadhead Dov Yonah Korn says he plans to

harness the punk-rock energy of Manhattan's Bowery "in a Jewish


Korn and his wife, who met at a concert, are starting a

synagogue for New York University students.

The New York Post says the Lubavitch shul (loo-BAH'-vihch shool)

will be just a stone's throw from the former home of legendary rock

club CBGB, which closed in 2006.

The synagogue's $8.3 million price tag was paid for by donations

from hundreds of past and present NYU students. It's in a

commercial section of a condo building that's also home to Grammy

winner John Legend.



IMF: More ultra-Orthodox Israelis need to work

JERUSALEM (AP) - The International Monetary Fund says Israel's

long term prosperity depends on more ultra-Orthodox Jews joining

the work force.

The IMF says in a preliminary report after a two-week mission to

Israel that the country's economy is strong and has weathered the

global economic slowdown well. But it notes that only about 40

percent of ultra-Orthodox men are employed.

The report highlights a growing rift in Israel between the

secular majority and a fervently devout minority. In ultra-Orthodox

society, men focus heavily on religious study and often do not

work, living instead on government welfare. And since

ultra-Orthodox couples typically have about six children, the

religious minority could become increasingly dominant.



US Attorney meets with SF Bay Area Sikh community

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Sikh community leaders have told the U.S.

Attorney in San Francisco that they face workplace discrimination

and hatred.

Sikhs, whose religion is sometimes confused with Islam, told

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag on Sunday that they constantly struggle

with discrimination and bigotry.

The Contra Costa Times says Haag's visit to the Sikh Center in

El Sobrante was designed to assure them the federal government is

ready to respond to reports ranging from hate crimes to identity


The Sikhs expressed concern that the FBI doesn't specifically

track anti-Sikh hate crimes, lumping them in with anti-Muslim


Haag promised to discuss those concerns with FBI officials.



SKorean pastor arrested over children's deaths

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korean police have arrested a

Christian pastor and his wife over the deaths of their three

children. The parents are accused of whipping and starving the

children in an attempt to cast out demons.

Police said the couple was arrested Saturday after their 10-year

daughter and two sons aged 8 and 5 were found dead at their home.

Authorities say the couple told investigators they stopped

feeding their children and beat them with a belt and a fly swatter

to drive away evil spirits. Investigators say the couple cited a

Biblical proverb that reads "Do not withhold discipline from a


Police say the husband was pastor of an obscure Protestant

congregation called the Brother Church.



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


AP-NY-02-14-12 0336EST


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment