Catholic group criticizes German bishops' for freezing out believers who don't pay church tax
BERLIN (AP) — A Catholic reform group in Germany criticized the country's bishops Monday for declaring that believers who refuse to pay religious taxes won't be able to receive the sacrament, become godparents or work in church institutions.
A century-old agreement with the state adds up to nine percent to the income tax bill of Germany's 25 million registered Roman Catholics, earning the church more than euro4 billion ($5.2 billion) annually. The same tax applies to Protestants and Jews.
The churches use the income to pay employees' salaries and fund social work such as care for the elderly. The churches themselves aren't taxed by the state but instead pay an administrative fee for the collection of religious tax. Donations represent a far smaller share of the churches' income than in the United States.
The Catholic bishops' decree in Germany last week is part of an attempt to stem the steady flow of people who opt out of paying religious taxes. It declares that they have committed a "grave lapse" and effectively left the church.
But the group We are Church — which claims to represent tens of thousands of grassroots Catholics — said the bishops' decision to freeze believers out if they don't pay up was "the wrong signal at the wrong time."
The group said many German Catholics choose not to pay religious taxes because they disagree with the church's actions, not because they have lost their faith. It said the decision undermined the bishops' own efforts to regain credibility among believers who have become disenchanted by the fact that for decades the Catholic Church covered up child abuse by priests.
Mormon church dedicates temple in Brigham City; site marks 139th temple worldwide
BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has dedicated its newest temple after a month-long open house that drew more than 400,000 visitors.
Mormon church officials say the site dedicated Sunday in Brigham City, Utah is the 14th temple in the state and the 139th in the world.
The temple will serve about 40,000 people throughout northern Utah and southeastern Idaho.
Ceremonies including marriages and baptisms are held at temples, which are open only to church members in good standing. Mormon meetinghouses or chapels are open to anyone who wants to attend a service there.
The general public was allowed to tour the temple between Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.
Egypt prosecutors refer to trial a Muslim preacher who tore the Bible over anti-Islam film
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian prosecutors say they have referred to trial a Muslim self-styled preacher who tore up an English copy of the Bible during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against a anti-Islam film produced in the U.S.
A prosecution official said Tuesday that Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah and his son have publicly shown contempt to religion. The charge is punishable by up to five years.
The official said a journalist who interviewed Abdullah afterward is also referred to trial. He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Abdullah said what he did, caught on camera, did not qualify as contempt. He said his trial begins Sept. 30.
The film enraged many Muslims for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer.
German officials pitch new rules to keep male religious circumcision legal
BERLIN (AP) — Germany's Justice Ministry has proposed new rules for religious circumcision of infant boys in an effort to ensure that those who carry out the procedure aren't prosecuted.
A June regional court ruling prompted outrage in Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities by stating that circumcision can amount to criminal bodily harm.
The Justice Ministry said Wednesday that the draft rules were aimed at "removing the uncertainty" caused by the verdict.
The proposal submitted to lawmakers would allow properly trained religious practitioners to conduct circumcisions on boys up to six months old. Effective pain relief would need to be provided.
Germany's Central Council of Jews has said it plans to formalize the training of Jewish circumcision practitioners, known as mohalim.
Michigan judge orders man accused in ethnic intimidation case to write reports about religion
BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man who authorities say attacked two men because he believed they were Muslims has been ordered to write a report on the history of Hinduism.
Bay County Circuit Judge Joseph Sheeran on Monday sentenced 26-year-old Delane Bell to two years of probation, with the condition he write the 10-page report.
Sheeran says the men who were attacked are Hindus and Bell needs to educate himself. MLive.com reports Bell says he takes "full responsibility."
The Bangor Township man pleaded no contest in March to ethnic intimidation in the November attack. Authorities say he yelled "jihad" and "Osama bin Laden."
A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt, but is treated as such for sentencing. The judge earlier ordered Bell to write 10 pages about accomplishments of Muslims.
Notre Dame staff urge campus to protect gays, lesbians from discrimination
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — University of Notre Dame employees have signed onto a statement urging the Roman Catholic school to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination clause.
A full-page ad published Tuesday in the campus' newspaper that carries the names of 366 faculty and staff members urges Notre Dame "to make the protection, recognition, and equal treatment" of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people part of school policy.
Organizer sociology professor Richard Williams tells the South Bend Tribune that about a dozen more employees have signed the statement since it was published.
Williams joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1986. He says attitudes have changed on campus just as they have in American society.
The South Bend Common Council earlier this year voted to add sexual orientation to the city's nondiscrimination protection.