Michigan caucus backs `Judeo-Christian' beliefs

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ A prayer caucus being formed in the Michigan Legislature that specifically endorses Judeo-Christian tradition is drawing criticism for ignoring Islam and other religions.

Lawmakers plan to launch the Michigan Legislative Prayer Caucus with Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley attending.

In its declaration of establishment, the caucus said that it is "a bipartisan body of believers of Scriptural Truth, adhering to established Judeo-Christian principles and Religious Liberties that were widely practiced by the Founders of these United States of America and the state of Michigan."

Rep. Ken Kurtz, R-Coldwater said he plans to chair the caucus, which he said is for "those who so desire that want to join together for prayer and encouragement for one another and on behalf of our state. We felt it was something that was very admirable."

Kurtz said the caucus is primarily for lawmakers of Judeo-Christian beliefs but said anyone may join.

Some have questioned whethe the caucus is constitutional.

Michigan has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. The Michigan head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Dawud Walid, said the caucus's statements were bothersome and self-contradicting.

"I'm a firm believer that our elected officials have the right to have their values guided by their sincerely held religious convictions," Walid said. "However I'm somewhat troubled by the exclusionary language. ... On the one hand it's being articulated that it's open to all. On the other hand, there's some exclusionary language in there."

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House passes Ariz. bill that protects workers from losing state licenses for denying services

PHOENIX (AP) _ A bill that would keep Arizona professionals from losing a work license because of religious beliefs is likely to land on the governor's desk.

The Arizona House approved legislation Tuesday that bans state licensing boards from removing a license because a worker denied service on religious grounds. Supporters said it was inspired by a Michigan case in which a student counselor was disciplined for refusing to work with a gay client.

The 41-17 final vote came a day after the Senate passed the proposal.

The bill states religious protection would not apply in cases of criminal or sexual misconduct.

Supporters cited incidents in other states where people's jobs were threatened as the need for the legislation. Critics have said the bill was too broad and could allow unprofessional conduct to go unpunished.

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it could protect conduct that harms the public.

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AG: RI memorial with cross `transcends religion'

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) _ The Rhode Island attorney general said Wednesay the war monument topped with a cross on city property in Woonsocket "transcends religion" and should not be removed because of a complaint from an atheist group.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said in a statement that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is diminishing the significance of the cross as a tribute to soldiers who died in World Wars I and II.

The Wisconsin-based foundation has called for the monument's removal, saying it violates the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. Mayor Leo Fontaine says the cross is there not as a religious symbol but a tribute to the veterans. Kilmartin says the foundation is taking a "myopic view" and it's "time to fight zealotry."

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Pfizer settles BYU lawsuit for $450 million, suit over credit for developing painkiller Celebrex

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Pfizer Inc. has settled a lawsuit filed by Brigham Young University over development of the blockbuster painkiller Celebrex for $450 million, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed in an announcement by the drug company and the Mormon Church-owned school in Utah.

However, Pfizer said in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it was taking a $450 million charge against first-quarter earnings to settle the case.

BYU and Pfizer battled for six years over the discovery of an enzyme that led to the development of Celebrex, a breakthrough in the treatment of arthritis and inflammation.

BYU's lawsuit says a chemistry professor, Daniel Simmons, discovered the genetic workings of the drug in the early 1990s. It accused Pfizer of violating a research agreement the school made with predecessor companies.

A jury trial had been set to start May 29 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

As part of the settlement, BYU plans to endow a Dan Simmons Chair in recognition of his lifelong work advancing human health.

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Independence woman admits plotting with pastor to have her husband murdered

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri woman has admitted helping plan her husband's murder with her lover, who was also her church pastor.

Teresa Stone, 40, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit murder in the March 2010 shooting death of Randy Stone of Independence. Stone entered the plea with the understanding that her maximum sentence would be 10 years, officials said.

Teresa Stone remains free on bond while awaiting sentencing, which Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan scheduled for June 15.

Prosecutors accused Stone of conspiring with her minister, David Love, who is serving a life prison sentence after admitting he shot Randy Stone to death. Love pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Love once was the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Independence and delivered part of Randy Stone's eulogy. He moved to South Carolina not long after Stone's death and was arrested there in November 2010 after a Jackson County grand jury indicted him on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

During the proceeding Monday in Jackson County Court, Teresa Stone didn't offer any explanations for the slaying but grew emotional when she admitted, while answering questions from her lawyer, that she helped plan her husband's murder.

Randy Stone's mother, Clara Koehler, said later that watching Stone admit her role was difficult.

"It was hard, a whole lot harder than it was with David (Love), but that's probably because Teresa was my daughter-in-law," she said.