Religious leaders appeal for higher minimum wage

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of religious leaders are urging Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.

The Senate is preparing to vote on the measure, which would gradually raise the current $7.25 hourly minimum to $10.10 over 30 months.

In a telephone news conference, the group Interfaith Worker Justice announced that a letter calling for passage of the legislation was signed by 350 religious leaders and more than 5,000 supporters and is being sent to members of Congress.

The Rev. James Perkins, vice president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said the minimum wage should be increased because "the Bible commands us to treat the poor fairly, to not oppress the poor."

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said the Scriptures teach that "our society will be judged on how we treat the poor and the marginalized."


Congressman exhorts believers to pray

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oklahoma Congressman James Lankford is urging Americans who believe in prayer to pray for the nation tomorrow.

The National Day of Prayer is observed every year on the first Thursday in May.

In a House speech, Lankford said although the nation faces daunting challenges, he believes "there is still a God in heaven who hears our prayer" and "cares about our lives."

The Oklahoma Republican, who is running for the Senate, says atheists who complain about the annual observance are free not to pray, and he is free to pray for them.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force says 40,000 prayer gatherings are planned nationwide this Thursday, including a national observance in the U.S. Capitol complex featuring members of Congress, Dr. James Dobson and Shirley Dobson, Vonette Bright, Anne Graham Lotz and Don Moen.


Gov. Perry baptized in same creek as Sam Houston

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry has long revered Texas icon Sam Houston and now shares a spiritual connection with one of his political heroes: getting baptized in the same waters.

His spokeswoman says Perry was dunked last month in Little Rocky Creek near the small town of Independence in a private ceremony witnessed only by close friends and family. It's the same rural and rocky spot where Houston was baptized before becoming the seventh governor of Texas in 1859.

Perry was baptized by the Rev. Mac Richard, the pastor and founder of Lake Hills Church in Austin.

Perry, who will leave office in January and hasn't ruled out another presidential run in 2016, has extolled his faith throughout his 14 years in office. His announced his first run for the White House in 2011 just a week after staging a massive prayer revival that drew roughly 30,000 worshippers to Houston's Reliant Stadium.


Pastor fled home minutes before it was leveled

VILONIA, Ark. (AP) — The pastor of an Arkansas church that's become a Red Cross shelter says his own home was one of those leveled by the killer tornado that struck the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower Sunday evening.

The Rev. Wade Lentz says he and his family fled their home just minutes before the tornado hit, and returned later to find nothing but a slab.

The pastor of Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia says he thanks God that his wife and children are safe. Although he has to rebuild, Lentz is asking for prayers for others who lost loved ones and must now plan funerals.

The tornado killed eight people in Vilonia, including two children, and three people in Mayflower. A father and his two daughters were killed in the same storm system near Little Rock, while a 55-year-old woman died in northern Arkansas.

Lentz says dozens of people who lost their homes are staying in his church. Several other local churches also are serving as Red Cross shelters.



Pastor from embattled Baghdad in US to receive award

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) — As violence spreads in advance of this week's election in Iraq, the vicar of Baghdad's St. George's Anglican Church is in the U.S. to receive the annual William Wilberforce Award presented by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

But Canon Andrew White says his heart is with the Iraqi people he's come to love. White says Baghdad is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, but "perfect love casts out fear."

The Wilberforce Award is named for the 19th Century British statesman whose Christian commitment led to abolition of the slave trade. White will accept the honor near Washington D.C. on Saturday following his visit to Wheaton College in Illinois.

White has worked to bring Iraqis together to end sectarian violence. He says, "If religion gone wrong is the cause of so much violence, religion gone right has to be the cure."