First Presbyterian gay ordination since rule change

MADISON, Wis. _ The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) plans to ordain the first openly gay candidate for ordination since the denomination struck down barriers this year to clergy who have same-gender partners.

Scott Anderson will be ordained as a teaching elder on Oct. 8 at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison.

The new policy won approval from a majority of the denomination's 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies, and took effect on July 10.

The denomination eliminated language in the church constitution requiring that clergy live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The new provision instead requires ministers to "submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life."

Since 2003, Anderson has been the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, a public policy organization. He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary He and his male partner have been together for about two decades.

The 2.1 million-member denomination is based in Louisville, Ky. The much smaller Presbyterian Church in America, a separate denomination, bars ordination for women and openly gay clergy candidates.

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Swiss consider new ban against veiled Muslim women in some public places

BERN, Switzerland (AP) _ Swiss lawmakers are considering a ban on wearing face-covering veils in some public situations.

Switzerland's lower house of parliament voted 101-77 Wednesday to outlaw veils like the burqa worn by some Muslim women when using public transportation or dealing with authorities.

The measure goes next to the upper house and is being pushed by the nationalist Swiss People's Party before federal elections in October.

A lawmaker from the party, Oskar Freysinger, said the aim is "to avoid a religious war" by setting minimum standards for wearing veils.

Freysinger campaigned in 2009 to ban construction of minarets in Switzerland, a law that drew international condemnation when voters approved it despite the government's opposition.

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Legislators question marriage incentive audit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Conservative Republican legislators were critical Tuesday of an audit of Kansas benefit programs that looked for but found few incentives to keep people from getting married.

Republicans raised questions during a Legislative Post Audit Committee hearing Tuesday in Topeka about the report, which concluded that eligibility requirements and regulations had little, if any, effect on clients' decisions to get married.

"Our analysis yielded mixed results across programs, and frequently mixed results within a program," Joe Lawhon said. "In some situations marriage mattered. In other situations it did not."

The report looked at eligibility requirements for 36 state benefit programs, including temporary assistance and veteran programs. It found that 29 areas did have income criteria that had the potential to discourage marriage.

However, during questioning of program staff and clients, auditors learned there was little information as to whether eligibility for services actually caused people to avoid getting married.

The audit is the first legislative report to look at marriage since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in January. As part of his administration's focus on reducing poverty, the conservative former U.S. senator has put an emphasis on encouraging more marriages in Kansas and fewer divorces and cohabitations.

Supporters argue that creating family stability reduces poverty and increases earning potential of Kansas residents. Opponents of the governor's plan question the focus on social issues and religious overtones of the message, including intent to increase faith-based initiatives.

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EEOC sues Md. senior facility for Muslim woman allegedly not hired because of headscarf

BALTIMORE (AP) _ An Ellicott City senior living facility has been accused of violating federal law by failing to hire a Muslim woman who would not remove her religious headscarf.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Monday against Morningside House on behalf of Khadijah Salim.

According to the lawsuit, Morningside House's director of health and wellness asked Salim during a June 2010 interview if she would remove her headscarf, called a hijab, if she worked at the facility. Salim was not hired or contacted after her interview.

The EEOC says Morningside House violated a federal law that requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant or employee's religious beliefs or practices.

A telephone message left for the Morningside House executive director was not returned.

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New lawsuit filed against Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena alleges sex abuse by nuns

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ A new sex abuse lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena accuses nuns of molesting Native American children.

The latest suit, which also names the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province as a defendant, is the second in as many weeks that claims child rape and molestation at the hands of clergy decades ago in western Montana.

It alleges the mother superior and three nuns at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius abused 22 of the plaintiffs from the 1940s to the 1970s. Another 21 plaintiffs were abused by priests who taught or were affiliated with the school, said plaintiffs' attorney Blaine Tamaki.

All 45 plaintiffs are American Indians, Tamaki said. They were not identified by name in the lawsuit. Several of the alleged abusers are dead. Tamaki said he believes some are still alive, though the statute of limitations to pursue criminal charges has long passed.

Last week, 34 people filed a lawsuit the Helena diocese over similar clergy abuse allegations at Catholic schools in St. Ignatius and Missoula, also dating from the 1940s to the 1970s. Tamaki said the plaintiffs are different in each case, though the two lawsuits have similarities, including some of the same schools and clergy members accused.

Both lawsuits claim the Helena diocese was negligent in allowing the abuse to happen and that it knew clergy members were abusing children and did nothing about it.

A spokeswoman for the Ursuline Sisters did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Diocese spokeswoman Renee St. Martin Wizeman said the alleged abusers in both lawsuits were nuns and priests who belonged to the Ursuline and Jesuit orders.

"It appears that these are not Diocese of Helena priests or nuns. We don't have any nuns that are diocesan nuns," St. Martin Wizeman said.

The diocese has not yet been served with either lawsuit, and she said she expects a more detailed response by the diocese by week's end.


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