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Warning against Religious Intolerance; Evangelicals in Cuba; Bibles in Schools; The Pope's Brother

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US-ASIA-RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
      US: Religious persecution up in Afghanistan, China

      WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. State Department says in a review of
religious freedom around the world that persecution has worsened in
China and Afghanistan.
      The report says that in China, Christians in unofficial
churches, Uighur (WEE'-guhr) Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists face
increased persecution. It says Afghanistan has failed to protect
Christian converts, while minority Hindus and Sikhs also face
persecution.
      The report cites reports of North Koreans "arrested, beaten,
tortured, or killed because of their religious beliefs," while
Pakistan continues to prosecute people for blasphemy against Islam.
      It adds that in Uzbekistan it's illegal to proselytize, and
Myanmar has imprisoned hundreds of Buddhist monks.

     
     

CUBA-EVANGELICALS
      Cuban evangelicals hole up in church, police watch

      HAVANA (AP) - An evangelical pastor and 60 of his flock have
been holed up in a Havana church for more than three weeks under
the watchful eye of Cuban police.
      The worshippers are led by pastor Braulio Herrera. His son
William says they are there voluntarily and it is a regular
spiritual retreat aimed at "liberating Cuba from sins."
      William Herrera denied press reports that the church is
anticipating the end of the world or pressing for political change.
He spoke to The Associated Press by phone from the temple.
      An official note published in state media said authorities
surrounded the church after family members expressed worries about
loved ones inside, including four pregnant women and 19 minors, but
that everyone was there of their own free will.
     

GAY MARRIAGE-NORTH CAROLINA
      Gay marriage ban will be on May ballot in NC

      RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina voters will get to decide
next May on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage after
the Legislature gave final approval to the question Tuesday.
      North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such a
prohibition in its constitution. State law already defines marriage
as between a man and a woman. Still, amendment supporters argue it
would offer more protection against potential legal challenges by
same-sex couples in six other states and the District of Columbia.
      The proposal also would bar the state from sanctioning civil
unions.
      Thirty states have a gay marriage ban in their constitutions.
     

SCHOOL-BIBLES
      Colorado school reviewing Bible handouts

      FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - An annual Bible handout outside a
middle school in Fort Collins, Colo., is under review after a
parent complained that the Gideons International representatives
went too far.
      The Coloradoan newspaper reports that Webber Middle School
Principal Sandra Bickel plans to meet with church members before
next year's distribution about how the Bibles can be handed to
schoolchildren.
      A parent said that on Monday, church members were blocking
sidewalks outside the school and not allowing students to pass
without talking to them or receiving a copy of the New Testament.
      School officials say they can't stop church members from being
on sidewalks. Bickel said she'll meet with the Gideons before next
year's event to make clear they cannot block students or force
religious literature on them.
     

TEN COMMANDMENTS-VIRGINIA
      Va. school board sued over Ten Commandments display

      RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union is suing
a Virginia school board for posting the Ten Commandments,
contending that the display violates separation of church and
state.
      The ACLU of Virginia filed a federal lawsuit against the Giles
County School Board on behalf of an unidentified Narrows High
School student and the student's parent. The lawsuit says the
display unconstitutionally promotes a specific religious faith and
serves no secular purpose.
      It seeks removal of the Ten Commandments from school walls and a
ban on their further display.
      After removing the Ten Commandments during the last school year,
school board members voted in June to display them again alongside
other historical documents.
     

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS-CONTRACT
      Strike closes Philadelphia-area Catholic high schools

      PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The new academic year has ground to a halt
for Roman Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia area, where the
archdiocese called off classes Tuesday for about 16,500 students
due to a teachers strike.
      The work stoppage is entering its second week as bargaining
between the teachers union and school system has stalled largely
over issues of job security and working conditions.
      The 17 archdiocesan high schools began classes last week despite
the strike because students were mainly involved in orientation
activities. But system officials said Tuesday that continued
reduced staffing could jeopardize student safety as actual classes
were set to begin.
      The most recent contract, which covers more than 700 teachers,
expired Aug. 31.
     

ABORTION-PRIEST SUSPENDED
      Anti-abortion priest-activist suspended by bishop

      UNDATED (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest nationally known for his
anti-abortion activism is being accused by his bishop of failing to
account for millions of dollars in donations.
      Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, is ordering the Rev.
Frank Pavone (pah-VOHN') to stop his work outside the diocese and
return to Amarillo for "prayer and reflection". Zurek described
his concerns in a letter that became public Tuesday.
      Pavone says the claims are baseless. He's asking Vatican
officials to intervene.
      Pavone leads Priest for Life, which has an annual budget of
about $10 million. He's a popular speaker who gave the sermon at
the funeral for Terri Schiavo (SHY'-voh), the severely
brain-damaged woman whose case sparked a bitter legal battle.
     

INTERNATIONAL COURT-POPE ABUSE
      Vatican: Sex abuse case at Hague "ludicrous" stunt

      THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Vatican's lawyer says an
attempt by clergy sex abuse victims to bring a case against the
pope and top Vatican officials to the International Criminal Court
is a "ludicrous" publicity stunt.
      Jeffrey Lena, who represents the Vatican in U.S. sex abuse
cases, says the request for the Hague tribunal to launch an
investigation into possible crimes against humanity is a "misuse
of international judicial processes."
      The Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit legal group,
requested the inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network of those
Abused by Priests, arguing that the global church has maintained a
"long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence" despite
promises to swiftly oust predators.
     

     

GERMANY-POPE'S BROTHER
      Pope's brother releases book on their lives

      BERLIN (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI's brother, the Rev. Georg
(gyorg) Ratzinger, says in a new book that his younger sibling
never changed as he climbed the ecclesiastical ladder to the
Vatican.
      The 270-page "My Brother the Pope" was released in German on
Tuesday.
      The 87-year-old Ratzinger, a former choirmaster, says he and his
brother have always been close.
      He says that when they studied theology together, their fellow
students came up with nicknames for them. The future pope was
dubbed the "book-Ratz" and Georg Ratzinger was called the
"organ-Ratz" because of his interest in music.

     
      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
     
AP-NY-09-14-11 0335EDT

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