Social Media and Religious Organizations; Southern Baptist Name Add-On; Religious Freedom Bill;...


Religious broadcasters protest exclusion from social media

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Religious broadcasters are sounding the

alarm over exclusion of parts of their message from the Internet.

National Religious Broadcasters President Frank Wright told

members at their convention in Nashville, Tenn., that the defense

of traditional marriage and morality is now banned as hate speech

on some social media platforms.

He gave examples, including the removal of apps for the

Manhattan Declaration and Exodus International from the iTunes


Wright said, "The hecklers in our culture are beginning to

dictate the terms of debate and what speech is permitted on social


Wright acknowledged that Apple, Google, Facebook and other

Internet gatekeepers are private companies, so their speech

policies don't amount to government censorship. But he called for

an open forum on the Web that allows for expression of biblical







Southern Baptist panel recommends add-on to name

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A panel for the Southern Baptist

Convention has recommended that its leadership approve a new,

add-on description for the denomination - "Great Commission

Baptists" - but has stopped short of calling for a complete, legal

name change.

Officials described the new term as a way to give an official,

sanctioned identity to affiliated churches and believers who don't

want to use the term "Southern."

The Rev. Bryant Wright, president of the nation's largest

Protestant denomination, has said he is concerned that the

"Southern" name is too regional and hinders the evangelistic

faith's effort to expand beyond the South.

The panel rejected a complete name change, citing the legal

costs and difficulties. They also noted the positive associations

many hold with the Southern Baptist name, such as with its

well-regarded disaster relief organization.

While the 16 million member denomination continues to plant new

churches in the U.S. and around the world, it has seen a decline in

baptisms, church attendance and membership in recent years.



Evangelicals want reversal of birth control rule

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Thousands of pastors and evangelical

leaders are joining Roman Catholics who oppose President Barack

Obama's contraceptive coverage mandate.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says more than

2,500 evangelicals have signed a letter urging President Barack

Obama to reverse the requirement that church-affiliated groups

carry insurance providing free birth control, including

morning-after pills and sterilization.

The letter rejects Obama's compromise shifting the cost from

church-affiliated groups to their insurers. Perkins says that while

most Protestants do not oppose contraception, they object to what

they view as a violation of religious liberty.

He was joined by two prominent black Christians, Star Parker and

Bishop Harry Jackson, and by the Reverend Richard Land, president

of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty


Land vowed to challenge the mandate both in court and in







Kan. House panel backs religious freedom bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas House committee has endorsed

legislation that backers say would protect religious freedom but

opponents believe would allow discrimination based on sexual


Monday's adoption by the House Judiciary Committee on a voice

vote sends the bill to the full House.

Republican committee chairman Lance Kinzer says the bill puts

into law the language of Kansas court decisions for determining

when government policies place too heavy a burden on practicing


It also allows people to sue state and local government agencies

if they feel their religious freedoms have been abridged.

Critics, including the Kansas Equality Coalition, claim the bill

would be used to discriminate against individuals based on sexual




Latino Mormons speaking out against Romney

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is

not being warmly received by at least one group of Mormons. That's

the fast-growing group of Latino Mormons.

Many of them are expressing concerns about Romney's tough

stances against illegal immigration.

As Romney continues to seek the Republican presidential

nomination while rarely discussing his faith, a growing number of

vocal Hispanic Mormons say they intend to use Mormon teachings as a

reason to convince others not to vote for him.

They have held meetings on immigration, protested outside Romney

events and have even traveled across state lines to help defeat

other Mormon politicians with similar immigration stances.

Latino Mormons point to immigration stories in the Book of

Mormon and the church's stated opposition to policies targeting




Comic actor is a Zen Buddhist

NEW YORK (AP) - Comic actor Rob Schneider says he's a Zen


The star of the CBS sitcom "Rob" says that means just going

with the flow and not taking anything too seriously.

Schneider says Zen Buddhism allows him to "breathe out"

stress, because it teaches him that there's no ultimate meaning -

that "there's no place to be," and "nothing that needs to be


Schneider says life "doesn't mean anything," so people should

just do whatever makes them happy.





Israeli police: Vandals desecrate Jerusalem church

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli police say vandals have sprayed

anti-Christian graffiti at a Baptist church in Jerusalem.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Monday that the vandals

desecrated the church and slashed tires on three cars nearby.

Rosenfeld says that words "price tag" were also scrawled on

the church property. It's a reference to a practice of Jewish

extremists who lash out against the Israeli government for actions

against settlers.

Such attacks usually target West Bank mosques but have recently

spread to a mosque in Israel, an Israeli military base, dovish

activists and Christian sites. Earlier in February, vandals

attacked a Greek Orthodox monastery and a school for Jewish and

Arab students in Jerusalem.

Rosenfeld says the police are searching for suspects.



Explosions, gunfire strike Nigerian city

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) - Authorities and witnesses in northeast

Nigeria report that at least two civilians are dead after fighting

erupted between soldiers and members of a radical Islamist sect.

The fighting began Monday in the city of Maiduguri, with at

least three major explosions heard in a popular market in the city.

A military spokesman said the army killed eight suspected members

of the radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is waging an increasingly violent campaign against

Nigeria's weak central government in its quest to impose strict

Islamic law, free its detained members and avenge Muslim deaths in

the nation.

The attacks, including those specifically targeting Christians,

have widened distrust between Nigerian Christians and Muslims.

On Sunday, a bomb planted by an abandoned car exploded outside a

church in the middle of a worship service near Nigeria's capital,

wounding five people.



Turkey urged to allow greater religious freedom

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - The spiritual leader of the world's

Orthodox Christians says Turkey's new constitution should grant

more religious freedom to the country's minority groups.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met Monday with members of a

parliamentary subcommittee seeking an all-party consensus for a new

constitution, which will replace the one ratified in 1982 while the

country was under military rule.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey has small Christian and Jewish


Bartholomew told reporters he favors a constitution that

promotes equal rights and religious freedoms, including the

reopening of a Greek Orthodox seminary that trained generations of


Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul, is the spiritual leader

of hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide.



Historic monastery in Cyprus near collapse

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) - The leader of Cyprus' Orthodox Church

says a historic monastery where an apostle of Jesus Christ is

thought to have performed miracles is close to caving in and needs

immediate repairs.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II has urged Greek Cypriot pilgrims not

to travel to the Saint Andrew monastery in the island's breakaway

Turkish sector for fear it could collapse.

He said if Turkish Cypriot authorities don't act fast, he'll

dispatch restoration crews to prop up the monastery's crumbling

central archway, possibly stoking tensions on the divided island.

Turkish Cypriot officials say they're keen to protect the

island's cultural heritage and a restoration program is already

under way.




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


AP-NY-02-21-12 0345EST


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