Religion news in brief

Vatican denies internal divisions over controversial crackdown on US sisters

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican denies there were any internal divisions over its crackdown on the largest umbrella group of U.S. nuns after a top Vatican official complained that the Holy See’s reform project had caused him “much pain.”

The head of the Vatican’s office for religious orders, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, was quoted over the weekend as saying his office wasn’t consulted or even advised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about its decision to overhaul the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of American sisters.

The Congregation last year placed the Leadership Conference under the authority of a U.S. bishop after determining that the sisters took positions that undermined Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

On Tuesday, the Vatican said Braz de Aviz’s words were misinterpreted.

It said Braz de Aviz and the current prefect of the Congregation, Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, met Monday and reaffirmed their commitment to renewing religious life in the U.S. as well as to the Vatican’s reform plan for the Leadership Conference.

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Israel’s attorney general backs court ruling favoring liberal women’s prayer at holy site

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s attorney general says he will not appeal a court ruling permitting a liberal Jewish women’s group to pray freely at a Jerusalem holy site.

An Israeli court instructed police last month to stop detaining women for performing religious rituals and wearing garb that Orthodox Judaism reserves for men.

The “Women of the Wall” movement has been trying for decades to break Orthodox control on prayer at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

Orthodox rabbis, who control Israeli religious institutions, argued the women break regulations forbidding religious ceremonies that go against “local custom.”

The Justice Ministry said Tuesday that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein would not appeal.

In another victory for liberal Judaism, Israel’s prime minister has signaled he will support a new, mixed-gender prayer area at the site.

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Federal officials investigate after Molotov cocktail thrown into Ogden church

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Federal officials are investigating after a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of a church in Ogden.

The Deseret News reports the device was thrown into a meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometime Sunday night.

Ogden Fire Department Deputy Chief Eric Bauman says the remains of the failed weapon were found Monday morning by a maintenance worker. Bauman says it caused about $1,000 in damage to the kitchen of the church.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are getting involved because the target was a church. The Ogden City Fire Marshal is also investigating.

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Detroit pastor who worked for city sentenced to probation in church kitchen scheme

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit pastor who doubled as a city building official has been sentenced to two years of probation in a scheme to have taxpayers pay for kitchen equipment at his church.

The Detroit News reports U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds on Monday spared 60-year-old Charlie Golden from prison, citing in part his “exemplary” record. He could have faced 10 to 16 months in prison.

Golden must pay a $3,000 fine and perform community service. He apologized in court.

The government says he told a city contractor to get someone to install an expensive exhaust and hood over a deep fryer at Perfecting Freedom Church.

The FBI says Golden signed phony city invoices to ensure that the contractor would be paid by Detroit. Golden was the city’s assistant buildings superintendent.

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Dearborn agrees to settlement with Christian missionaries arrested at 2010 Arab festival

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit suburb has agreed to apologize and pay an undisclosed amount of money to a group of Christian missionaries arrested in 2010 at an Arab cultural festival.

The American Freedom Law Center had sued Dearborn on behalf of a group of missionaries called Acts 17 Apologetics who said their rights were violated when they were arrested at the Arab International Festival. The missionaries later were acquitted.

Terms of the settlement were announced Monday.

Dearborn, which has large Arab-American and Muslim populations, must post an apology on its website for three years and take other steps.

Mayor John O’Reilly says the apology allows the city to move forward.

The law center says its clients have been vilified for simply exercising their constitutional right to evangelize on a public street.

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Atheist group sues Miss. school district, saying Christian prayer meeting was illegal

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi high school forced students to attend on-campus programs where fellow students urged them to turn to Jesus for hope and eternal life, according to an atheist group that has sued.

The district has denied that assemblies were mandatory and says they were legal.

A lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association asks a federal judge to bar the Rankin County School District from having religious assemblies. The suit also seeks to hold Northwest Rankin High School Principal Charles Frazier personally liable. Humanist Association attorney Bill Burgess said Frazier should have known better than to allow the gathering.

The district has yet to respond to the lawsuit filed April 24 in U.S. District Court in Jackson, and administrators could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a series of school prayer struggles in Mississippi. But while many of the cases have occurred in small towns, this one centers on a 1,600-student school in fast-growing suburban area that includes visible religious minorities including a Hindu temple.

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