Pa. Christian college sues over birth control regs

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Christian college in Pennsylvania is suing

the federal government, saying regulations that require employers

to offer contraceptives that abort fertilized embryos violate its

religious values, including the biblical commandment "Thou shalt

not kill."

The Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit on behalf of Geneva

College, which was founded by the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

College President Ken Smith said, "At Geneva College, we only

have one Lord, and he does not live in Washington, D.C."

The Alliance Defense Fund filed a similar lawsuit in Louisiana

on behalf of Louisiana College, and lawmakers in Missouri, Georgia,

New Hampshire, Idaho and Arizona have filed legislation that would

allow insurance companies to ignore the mandate.

Missouri state Senator Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat,

said she believes it's wrong "to pit religious beliefs versus



Ex-judge in Mass. defends forced abortion ruling

BOSTON (AP) - Retired Massachusetts judge Christina Harms is

defending her decision to order a schizophrenic woman to have an

abortion and be sterilized against her will - a ruling that was

overturned by the state Appeals Court.

The 31-year-old woman had characterized herself as "very

Catholic" and said she was opposed to having an abortion. Her

parents had said their daughter was not a devout Catholic; they

sought and received consent from Harms' court for an abortion.

Harms defended her ruling in a letter she sent to other judges -

a letter first reported by The Boston Globe.

Harms also criticized Boston University for withdrawing a job

offer after her ruling was overturned.

The school says it never made a formal job offer to Harms, but

acknowledges that the controversy created by her ruling contributed

to the decision to take her out of the running for the job.


Romney says Obama has `fought against religion'

SHELBY, Mich. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt

Romney says President Barack Obama's administration has "fought

against religion" and has sought to substitute a "secular"

agenda for one grounded in faith.

Obama's campaign rejected that characterization, calling

Romney's comments "disgraceful."

Romney rarely ventures into social issues in his campaign

speeches but was asked about how he would protect religious liberty

during a town hall-style meeting one week before the Michigan

primary. He said, "Unfortunately, possibly because of the people

the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular

agenda - they have fought against religion."

Romney, who is Mormon, added that he "has understood very

personally the significance of religious tolerance."

He also declared his opposition to abortion and same-sex

marriage and said his presidency would reflect those positions.


Santorum celebrates nation's religious roots

PHOENIX (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum

says the U.S. needs to return to its religious roots.

Campaigning in Phoenix Tuesday, he recalled President John

Adams' dictum that "Our Constitution was made for a moral and

religious people. It's wholly inadequate for the governance of any


The former Pennsylvania senator told his audience that the

Constitution doesn't give them rights, but is meant to protect the

rights they possess because they're "a creation of God."

Turning to the Declaration of Independence, Santorum noted that

the "unalienable rights" people receive from their Creator

include the pursuit of happiness. But he said happiness back then

was defined as doing what's "consistent with God's will in your


He also took aim at President Barack Obama's contraceptive

coverage mandate, charging that shifting the cost from religious

groups to their insurance companies "was a phony accommodation"

that was meant to "trample" religious beliefs.


Southern Baptist leaders OK `Great Commission'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Southern Baptist Convention's

Executive Committee has approved giving the denomination an

additional name, although delegates at this summer's annual meeting

would have to approve the optional "Great Commission Baptists."

Some Southern Baptists worry that their denomination's official

name still carries the stigma of a 19th century split with northern

Baptists over slavery. But a more momentous change at this summer's

convention could have a greater impact.

African-American pastor Fred Luter Jr. of New Orleans was

elected last year to the Southern Baptists' No. 2 position, first

vice-president. Most in that post have gone on to become president.

If Luter is elected president, he would be the first black

leader of a denomination that has been predominately white for much

of its history, but is beginning to show more diversity.


Va Senate passes adoption discrimination bill

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Legislation allowing private adoption

agencies to discriminate against gay prospective parents is on its

way to Virginia's governor, who has said he will sign it.

The Senate voted 22-18 Tuesday to pass legislation allowing

private agencies to deny placements that conflict with their

religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality.

The House had already passed the bill, which only needs Republican

Gov. Bob McDonnell's signature to take effect July 1.

North Dakota is the only other state with such a law.

Two Democrats joined all 20 Senate Republicans in voting for the

"conscience clause" legislation.

Proponents say the measure protects the religious rights of

agencies that contract with the state to provide child placement

services. Opponents say adoption agencies' moral or religious

beliefs should not take precedence over the best interests of the



Villanova cancels gay artist's workshop

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Villanova University has canceled a

workshop by a controversial gay performance artist, saying his

shows aren't in keeping with the school's Catholic values.

Tim Miller tells The Philadelphia Inquirer that he was told

about the cancellation of next month's planned workshop on Sunday.

Miller gained notoriety in 1990 when he and three others had

grants vetoed by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Miller's work is frequently provocative and he's been arrested

in the past for demonstrating for AIDS research funding.

In a statement, Villanova said it embraces intellectual freedom

and academic discourse but had concerns about how Miller's work

matches its "Catholic and Augustinian values and mission."

Miller said he had held a similar workshop at DePaul, the

nation's largest Catholic University.


Religious Carnival bands use samba for evangelism

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's Carnival in Rio, like Mardi Gras in

New Orleans, is a celebration of pleasures before the deprivation

of Catholic Lent, which starts today with Ash Wednesday.

But in Rio de Janeiro, at least three Christian Carnival bands

used the festival for street evangelism.

A band that calls itself "Youth Dependent on God" offered the

usual samba rhythm and dance, but the lyric came as a surprise to


The band's revelers sang, "We are the people of the Lord, a

holy nation. We are here to proclaim the marvels of he who has

called us from the darkest depths to his glorious light, and to

glorify the name of Jesus."

Participants called the experience exhilarating, saying it

ushered them to the front lines of a spiritual battlefield. One

band member said, "I've seen people accept Jesus during Carnival

because they heard us and felt the call."


Monitoring of Muslim students sparks outrage

NEW YORK (AP) - New York's mayor is facing off with Yale

University over efforts by the NYPD to monitor Muslim student


The Associated Press revealed Saturday that New York police kept

close watch on the blogs and websites of Muslim student

associations across the northeast U.S., and in one case sent an

undercover officer on a rafting trip with students from the City

College of New York.

Yale President Richard Levin said in a statement Monday that the

monitoring of students based on religion was "antithetical" to

the university's values.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the practice. He says

there is nothing wrong with officers keeping an eye on websites

that are available to the general public.

He says, "I don't know why keeping the country safe is

antithetical to the values of Yale."


White House apologizes for Quran burning

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is apologizing for the burning

of Muslim holy books in a pile of garbage at a U.S. military base

in Afghanistan.

Press secretary Jay Carney says it's a "deeply unfortunate

incident" and doesn't reflect the respect the U.S. military has

for the religious practices of the Afghan people.

Carney echoed military officials Tuesday in saying that the

Quran burning at Bagram Air Field happened unintentionally, and

that an investigation was being undertaken to understand why it did

and ensure it didn't happen again.

A Western military official said the Qurans were removed from a

library at a nearby detention center because they contained

extremist messages. Carney didn't address those specifics, but said

the administration was following the matter closely.

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

AP-NY-02-22-12 0333EST