Religion news in brief

AP News

11/4/2011 10:42:14 AM - AP News

Michigan Senate OKs bill for schools to have anti-bullying policies; effectiveness questioned

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Legislation that would require Michigan's public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies has been approved in the Republican-led Senate, but some Democrats say the measure wouldn't do anything to protect students.

The bill was approved Wednesday by a 26-11 vote along party lines. It advances to the Republican-led House.

Some Democrats want a more detailed measure that specifically outlines reasons students can't be bullied such as race, weight and sexual orientation. Democrats said a clause in the Senate-approved bill would provide students with a license to bully based on religious beliefs.

Republicans said the bill would protect all students.

Michigan is one of the few states without a law requiring anti-bullying policies. Efforts to adopt one have languished for years.

____

Appeals court hears arguments over state funding for 111-foot cross landmark in S. Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) _ A 111-foot cross in southern Illinois is a religious symbol, but that doesn't mean the state legislature was wrong to fund part of it, a federal appeals court said.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the appeal of Rob Sherman Wednesday involving a $20,000 state grant used to refurbish the Bald Knob Cross for Peace in Alto Pass.

Sherman argues that using taxpayer money for the cross is unconstitutional.

But judges say they don't see clear evidence that the state tried to violate the Constitution's ban on the establishment of a state religion. Judge Richard Posner says courts "can't do everything."

They did not rule on the case Wednesday. A lower court had dismissed Sherman's lawsuit over the grant.

____

Nurses' lawsuit says NJ hospital forced them to help in abortions despite religious objections

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A group of nurses claims in a lawsuit a major New Jersey hospital has forced them to assist in performing abortions despite their religious objections.

The lawsuit was filed this week in federal court in Newark against the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

The lawsuit claims the hospital changed its policy in September to require its employees to assist in abortions or be subject to termination, a requirement that the plaintiffs argue violates state and federal laws.

The nurses are seeking an injunction to force the hospital to change its policy and an order prohibiting it from retaliating against them.

The hospital says in a statement none of its nurses is required to participate in procedures he or she objects to on religious or moral grounds.

____

Dalai Lama to appear in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) _ For the second time in a year the Dalai Lama will make an appearance in Chicago.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will give a public talk on nonviolence at Loyola University on April 26. The Dalai Lama previously spoke in Chicago last July, when he appeared with a rabbi, pastor and Muslim scholar.

There are about 4,000 tickets available for the April appearance. More than 450 will be reserved for Illinois high school students. Students also can enter an essay contest. Winners will present their essays to the Dalai Lama and have the chance to ask him questions.

____

Wichita mosque damaged by fire had received anti-Islam letters, target of vandals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Investigators are trying to determine if anti-Islam letters sent to a mosque in west Wichita are connected to a fire that caused at serious damage to the building.

The leader of the Islamic Association of Mid Kansas, Abdelkarim Jibril, said the mosque received about eight letters starting four to six months ago, although the letters stopped about a month ago. The letters criticized Islam, called the Prophet Muhammad a pig and contained drawings that mocked the prophet.

The leaders of the mosque had planned to turn the letters over to authorities but had not done so before a fire struck the mosque Monday morning, Jibril said.

"We don't know if any of the letters have any relationship to the fire at this point. It's something we're looking into though," said Wichita fire Lt. Troy Thissen.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined the fire investigation Monday.

The blaze, which was reported at 12:45 a.m. Monday, spread quickly. It caused at least $130,000 damage but might have totaled the mosque because of extensive damage to the attic and roof supports, Wichita fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

"We're going to be taking a lot of steps" to review evidence because the fire involves a religious meeting place, Bevis said.

Jibril, who has been president of the association for most of its 32-year history, said it appeared the letters were written by the same person because they contained the same types of pictures and same handwriting.

____

Church buys former northeast Ohio dinner theater

AKRON, Ohio (AP) _ A defunct dinner theater that entertained northeast Ohio audiences for more than 30 years will soon be full again, this time with churchgoers.

The former Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron has been sold to a suburban church that tried unsuccessfully to acquire the property at auction nearly a year ago. An electrical contractor that submitted the winning bid ultimately decided it didn't want to undertake the extensive renovations necessary to transform the building for its purposes.

The pastor of Community Baptist Temple of Lakemore said he believed God had a hand in the turnabout.

"I still felt that was our building and that we were supposed to be there," the Rev. Mark O'Donnell said. "I didn't know how it was going to happen, but we were very confident that with the Lord nothing was impossible."

The theater first began operating in 1973 in what had once been a supermarket in Ravenna, and it moved in 1988 into the Akron site, a former nightclub.

The 31,000-square-foot building will allow the church to seat twice as many people as it does at its current location.

The independent Baptist church is buying the Carousel property for $770,000. O'Donnell said his growing congregation is hopeful that it can move in within a year, once the church sells its current property.