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Update on the latest religion news

February 25, 2014


Uganda president signs harsh anti-gay law

ENTEBBE, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s president has signed an anti-gay bill that punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.

President Yoweri Museveni (yoh-WER’-ee moo-SEV’-eh-nee) said the bill, which went into effect immediately, is needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa. Some critics believe Museveni signed the bill in hopes of galvanizing political support within his party.

The law calls for first-time offenders to be sentenced to 14 years in jail. It sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” That’s defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults and acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV.

The legislation has been condemned around the world. In Washington, White House press secretary Jay Carney called the law “abhorrent,” urged its repeal and said the White House is reviewing its relationship with Uganda.

Gay rights opponent Scott Lively of Defend the Family International says the law focuses on punishment and that he would have rather seen a law similar to the Russian anti-propaganda model.

Brian Silva, of Marriage Equality USA, says the law is a major setback.


204-a-14-(Brian Silva, executive director, Marriage Equality USA, in AP interview)-“around the world”-Marriage Equality USA Executive Director Brian Silva says the new law in Uganda is a big setback. (24 Feb 2014)

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205-a-09-(Brian Silva, executive director, Marriage Equality USA, in AP interview)-“a wakeup call”-Marriage Equality USA Executive Director Brian Silva says he hopes the new law will help mobilize support for gay rights. (24 Feb 2014)

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206-a-16-(Brian Silva, executive director, Marriage Equality USA, in AP interview)-“voice as well”-Marriage Equality USA Executive Director Brian Silva says he’s hoping for support from government and business on this issue. (24 Feb 2014)

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203-w-36-(Warren Levinson, AP correspondent, with Brian Silva, executive director, Marriage Equality USA)--Uganda’s new law increasing penalties for homosexuality has American roots, opponents charge. AP correspondent Warren Levinson reports. (24 Feb 2014)

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201-a-13-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-“legislation criminalizing homosexuality”-White House press secretary Jay Carney says the U.S. is reviewing its relations with Uganda after the signing of an anti-gay law in Uganda that he says is abhorrent. ((refers to Monday as ‘today’)) (24 Feb 2014)

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278-a-08-(Yoweri Museveni (yoh-WER’-ee moo-SEHV’-eh-nee), Ugandan president, with reporters)-“discourage the trends”-Ugandan Presidnet Yoweri Museveni says government must take action about homosexuality. (24 Feb 2014)

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281-a-08-(Brian Silva, Executive Director of Marriage Equality USA, in AP interview)-“the entire world”-Marriage Equality USA executive director Brian Silva says the new law in Uganda is disappointing. (24 Feb 2014)

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282-a-07-(Brian Silva, Executive Director, Marriage Equality USA, in AP interview)-“a step back”-Marriage Equality USA executive director Brian Silva says the law hurts the cause of equality. (24 Feb 2014)

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Lawyers: Gay marriage a detriment to children

TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) — Lawyers for an Oklahoma clerk who refused to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple argue in a court filing that legalizing gay marriage would harm children, undermine society and make traditional marriages unstable.

The filing was made Monday. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group, cited courts and anthropologists in saying children are better off in a home with a mother and a father. It said traditional couples would be less likely to marry, or stay together, if marriage became a genderless institution not focused on procreation.

A federal judge last month said Oklahoma’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional because the state’s voters singled out one set of its residents for different treatment. Alliance said marriages should be about children, not grown-ups.


Pressure mounts over Arizona bill opposed by gays

PHOENIX (AP) — Pressure is mounting on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that backers say defends religious freedoms by allowing business owners who have strongly held religious beliefs to deny service to gays and lesbians.

The proposed law was approved by the Republican majority, but three GOP lawmakers now say their vote was a mistake. Opponents say the measure is blatantly discriminatory and will become an embarrassment to the state.

Brewer, a Republican, is under intense pressure from CEOs and politicians in Washington including Republican U.S. Senator John McCain.


US Supreme Court won’t revive Arizona abortion law

PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is refusing to revive an Arizona state law that would have disqualified abortion providers from receiving funding for other medical services they provide.

The high court on Monday declined to hear Attorney General Tom Horne’s appeal asking the justices to overturn a federal judge’s ruling blocking the 2012 law. That ruling was upheld by an appeals court in August.

The law would have disqualified Planned Parenthood and other health providers that perform abortions from receiving public funds for other services.

The Supreme Court in May refused to revive a similar law in Indiana that also has been blocked.


Muslims seek refuge in C. African Republic church

CARNOT, Central African Republic (AP) — Hundreds of terrified Muslims holed up in a Catholic church in Central African Republic have been warned to leave the country within a week or face death at the hands of machete-wielding youths.

All that stands between the nearly 800 Muslim captives and a militia is a force of 30 Cameroonian peacekeepers. The fighters, known as the anti-Balaka, have threatened to burn the church to the ground.

Even the Rev. Justin Nary, who takes in more Muslims by the day, knows he too is a marked man in the eyes of anti-Balaka. Some of the refugees fled from a village about 60 miles away where a pastor says at least 70 Muslims were killed.

Muslims and Christians lived together in Carnot in relative peace for generations until a Muslim rebellion from the country’s far north overthrew the government and unleashed total chaos. The situation in the capital, Bangui (bahn-GEE’), appears to have stabilized somewhat, but the sectarian violence continues in the countryside.


Pope makes first overhaul of Vatican in 25 years

VATICAN (AP) — Pope Francis has announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican’s outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century.

He’s created a new structure that will control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Francis’ core eight cardinal advisers and a sharp critic of current Vatican governance, will head the new office.

Francis was elected pope a year ago on a mandate to reform the Vatican after documents stolen by Pope Benedict’s butler revealed the Holy See bureaucracy to be dysfunctional and corrupt.


Newly elected cardinal says UN report on church abuse misleading

ROME (AP) — Newly elected Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, says the recent United Nations report on child abuse in the Catholic Church is “profoundly misleading.”

Nichols was speaking at a news conference in Rome. He was one of 19 leaders made cardinals this weekend.

A United Nations human rights committee released earlier this month said that the Vatican systematically adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades. It urged the Holy See to open its files on abusive priests and bishops who concealed the crimes.

Cardinal Nichols says the report was inaccurate and misleading.


283-a-10-(Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, with reporters)-“a lot older”-British Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols says he questions the fairness of U.N. report enncouraging the Vatican to open its files on child abusers. (24 Feb 2014)

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Philly priest on trial in single-accuser case

Stations: Note nature of copy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jury selection is getting underway in a priest-abuse case prompted by news accounts of the Penn State and Philadelphia archdiocese sex-abuse trials.

The accuser says he contacted Philadelphia authorities in 2012 after seeing child sex-abuse cases in the news. He says that the Rev. Andrew McCormick fondled him and performed a sex act when he was an altar boy in northeast Philadelphia in 1997.

A judge had thrown out the most serious felony charges — sexual assault and deviant intercourse — after finding the accuser’s pretrial testimony did not match those crimes. But prosecutors successfully appealed.

The 57-year-old McCormick is suspended from ministry. Philadelphia police say they knew of an earlier, less serious accusation.

Defense lawyer William Brennan vows to defend what he called a “unsubstantiated, decades-old allegation.”


Greek Jewish community seeks return of Nazi ransom

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greece’s biggest Jewish community says it has taken Germany to Europe’s top human rights court. The lawsuit is an effort to seek the return of a huge ransom paid to Nazi occupiers more than 70 years ago to free thousands of slave laborers — who were still sent subsequently to German death camps.

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki says it also wants “moral vindication.”

In 1942, thousands of Thessaloniki’s Jewish men aged 18-45 were forced into construction projects across Greece by Nazi troops that had invaded Greece a year earlier. They were used to build roads and fortifications -- and to repair railways. Brutal conditions resulted in many deaths.

The suit says a Nazi commander accepted payment of about $70 million for their release, but the city’s entire Jewish population, including the workers, was still sent to German death camps.


Christian hospital of last resort in Pakistan faces closure

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — A Christian hospital on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, in operation since 1964, faces closure.

Wealthy donors and foreign benefactors fearful of violence and unrest have cut back on support of the facility. It has treated hundreds of maimed and sick patients, overwhelmingly Muslims, who had nowhere else to go. Donations and endowments had allowed St. Joseph’s to treat some 100 patients who visit daily. It operates on a budget of just $15,000 and costs have been cut as low as possible.

A priest inspired by visiting Mother Teresa in India built St. Joseph’s. Despite the discrimination that Pakistan’s Christian community often faces, the country has a long history of Christian missionary schools and hospitals providing services to Pakistanis across the country. Many of Pakistan’s elite attended missionary schools, and the schools and hospitals that the missionaries created are well-respected.


Memphis makes final push for health enrollment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton is turning to music, emergency room staffers and churches to urge more African-Americans to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

March 31 is the last day of open enrollment for getting coverage under the federal program for 2014. Wharton, speaking on a conference call arranged by the White House, said the city is making a coordinated final push to get people to enroll in a health plan before the deadline.

Pastors are talking to their congregations, and emergency room workers are telling uninsured patients about new insurance options.

A new ad campaign featuring a reworked version of the Teddy Pendergrass soul hit “Come Go With Me” will urge people to get enrolled. Wharton says 88,000 Memphians lack insurance.


Father who survived fire speaks to crowd

GREENVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A western Kentucky man who lost his wife and eight children in a blaze last month says his faith in God is still strong.

Chad Watson made some of his first public comments since the fire on Jan. 30 killed his wife, La Rae “Nikki” Watson, and eight of their children. Officials have said some type of combustible material fell against a baseboard heater in a bedroom. One child, 11-year-old Kylie Watson, survived.

The father and daughter were hospitalized in Nashville, but returned home to Greenville earlier this month.

Media reported that Chad Watson told a crowd in Greenville who gathered Sunday for a Celebration of Life service that he wants people to remember how his family lived, not how they died. He says they lived with a devout faith in Jesus Christ.

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