Muslim teen told she can't wear religious headscarf in JROTC parade

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (AP) _ A national Muslim civil rights group has filed a complaint with the Williamson County Schools after a freshman was told she could not march in the homecoming parade with her Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps class while wearing a religious headscarf.

Demin Zawity, 14, said she felt like crying when her commanding officers told her she couldn't wear the head covering with her uniform.

"They were making something that is not such a huge deal into something so dramatic," she said. "The next day was the parade, and I couldn't march."

Carol Birdsong, a school spokeswoman, said the district follows military regulations for the U.S. Army program.

Zawity's mother, Perishan Hussein, said she contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations about her daughter's treatment.

"There are some Muslims who say she shouldn't be involved in this, and there will be Americans who say she needs to assimilate," Hussein said. "She's an American. I'm an American. She has a right to stand up for her rights."

Zawity has since quit the JROTC and returned to regular physical education classes, but she said she wants to make it easier for Muslim girls to participate in the future.

A New Jersey teen dropped out of the Naval Junior ROTC in 2003 over the same issue. Her school ultimately offered to exempt her from the uniform rules.

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Sacramento congregation to leave Presbyterian Church USA over gay clergy ordination

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ A Sacramento church has voted to split from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) over the national denomination's decision to ordain openly gay clergy.

After months of discussion, members of Fremont Presbyterian Church voted 427 to 164 last Sunday to join the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

"Let me make it clear that Fremont didn't leave the PCUSA, they left us," said the Rev. Donald Baird, senior pastor.

Fremont, with weekly attendance of about 1,400, is the seventh Sacramento-area church to leave the mainline Presbyterian Church over doctrinal issues in the past few years.

About 800 Fremont congregants attended the meeting about the pros and cons of what is technically known as seeking "dismissal" from the mainline Presbyterian fold. Supporters of the separation argued that their denomination had drifted away from biblical teachings with its decision to allow gay ministers.

Scott Anderson became the denomination's first openly gay minister when he was reordained last week in Wisconsin. He served as a Presbyterian minister in Sacramento for seven years before he came out to his congregation and resigned in 1990.

"This is a day of rejoicing. It frees us from the controversy that has split the church," said Clair Parsh, a member for 50 years who favored leaving the denomination.

Cindy Harris, who is preparing to become a minister herself, resisted the change and wiped away tears after the vote.

"I think God can and will call whoever he wants to call, regardless of sex or orientation," she said, wiping away tears after the vote.

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Pa. diocese selling rectory, lot at parish whose sale Vatican blocked; congregants stew

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) _ A local diocese plans to sell the rectory and parking lot at a Roman Catholic parish even though the Vatican stopped the diocese from selling the church building itself.

Members of the congregation at St. Joseph's Church in Bethlehem said the planned sale would derail any chance of reopening the parish.

The Diocese of Allentown tried to sell the church but parishioners appealed to the Vatican, which blocked the sale. However, that decision didn't apply to the parking lot or rectory.

A spokesman for the diocese said the new consolidated parish has no need for the rectory or parking lot because the buildings aren't being used.

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South African church leaders accuse ruling party of interfering in religious affairs

JOHANNESBURG (AP) _ More than 20 churches representing tens of millions of South Africans have accused the governing African National Council of trying to co-opt and manipulate religious leaders.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Wildrid Napier told The Associated Press there is "direct interference by a political party in the affairs of the church." He referred to the head of the ANC's religious affairs desk sending subordinates to "infiltrate" a meeting Tuesday of the National Church Leaders' Consultation.

The church leaders warned Mathole Motshekga to "back off from church!" in a joint statement.

Motshekga could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Tensions have been brewing for two years over church leaders' criticisms of failures in education and health.

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Two indicted in Arapahoe church arson

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Two men have been indicted on federal arson charges in connection with the September fire that heavily damaged the Arapahoe Baptist Church on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

United States Attorney for Wyoming Christopher A. Crofts announced the indictment Tuesday against Norman Ybarra and Lamar Duran. Both defendants are members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and live on the reservation.

The indictment also charges Ybarra and Duran with burglary, alleging they took items from the church. They also face an assault charge, alleging they attacked another person.

Crofts said the men are set to stand trial in December before U.S. District Judge Clarence A. Brimmer of Cheyenne. Crofts emphasized that the defendants are presumed innocent.