Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Jan 16, 2013 11:08 AM

New plaintiffs join suit that alleges sexual abuse coverup by Ky.-based evangelical church

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Five people have joined a Maryland lawsuit that claims a Kentucky-based evangelical church group covered up allegations of sexual abuse against children and failed to alert police and shield children from known sexual predators.

The new plaintiffs join three women who filed a civil lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries in October. The suit accuses church leadership of encouraging parents of alleged victims to refrain from reporting abuses to police and creating "a culture in which sexual predators were protected from accountability and victims were silenced."

The church moved its headquarters to Louisville last year after three decades in Maryland. The group has struggled in recent years with fractured leadership and criticism over its discipline methods.

The church said in a statement about the suit last year that the suit contains "a number of misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent."

The seven females and one male plaintiff are identified in the lawsuit with pseudonyms. Attorneys are seeking to build a class-action suit against Sovereign Grace Ministries, which has more than 80 congregations, including a few outside the U.S.


NY teacher sues after being told to remove classroom religious signs; student had complained

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A schoolteacher is suing her district after being told to remove religious displays from her classroom or risk being fired.

Joelle Silver, a science teacher at Cheektowaga Central High School in a Buffalo suburb, describes herself as a devout Christian.

A federal lawsuit filed Jan. 10 says the district was overtly hostile toward her religion and violated her constitutional rights when it directed Silver last year to remove from her classroom several posters and other displays quoting Bible verses.

Superintendent Dennis Kane said by phone that a student had complained about the material to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based watchdog group, which prompted the district to seek legal guidance.

Silver's lawsuit, filed by the American Freedom Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., said the district's actions "send a clear message to (Silver) that she is an outsider, not a full member of the political and school community because she is a Christian."


European court rules Christian airline worker was discriminated against over crucifix at work

LONDON (AP) — Religious freedom is a right but not an absolute one, Europe's top court said Tuesday, ruling that British Airways discriminated against a devoutly Christian employee by making her remove her crucifix, but backing a U.K. charity that fired a marriage counselor who refused to give sex therapy to gay couples.

In judgments welcomed by civil liberties groups but condemned by religious advocates, the European Court of Human Rights said freedom of religion is "an essential part of the identity of believers and one of the foundations of pluralistic, democratic societies."

"However, where an individual's religious observance impinges on the rights of others, some restrictions can be made," the court said.

The court's judges, by a five-two margin, backed a claim by BA check-in clerk Nadia Eweida, who sparked a national debate in Britain over religion when she was sent home in November 2006 for refusing to remove a small silver crucifix to comply with rules banning employees from wearing visible religious symbols.

BA eventually changed its policy and Eweida returned to work, but she pursued a claim of religious discrimination, seeking damages and compensation for lost wages.


Israel museum to exhibit reconstructed tomb in first major exhibition on biblical King Herod

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's national museum plans to open what it calls the world's first exhibition devoted to the architectural legacy of biblical King Herod, the Jewish proxy monarch who ruled Jerusalem and the Holy Land under Roman occupation two millennia ago.

The display includes the reconstructed tomb and sarcophagus of one of antiquity's most notable and despised figures, curators say.

Modern-day politics are intruding into this ancient find. Palestinians object to the showing of artifacts found in the West Bank. The Israeli museum insists it will return the finds once the exhibit closes.

About 30 tons of artifacts — including hundreds of tiny shattered shards pieced back together — are going on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in a nine-month exhibition opening Feb. 12.

Herod was vilified in the New Testament as a bloodthirsty tyrant who massacred Bethlehem's male children to try to prevent the prophesied birth of Jesus. He is also said to have murdered his wife and sons.


Vatican surprised by Bank of Italy nix on credit card payments; tourist ticketing affected

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican official says he is "truly surprised" that the Bank of Italy ordered credit card payments suspended in the tiny city-state and insists the Vatican has taken adequate measures to fight money laundering.

The Vatican has been cash-only since Jan. 1 after Italy's central bank compelled Deutsche Bank Italia to stop providing electronic payment services to the Holy See. That has meant tourists visiting Vatican Museums — they numbered 5 million last year — and the Vatican post office have had to pay cash for tickets and any other transactions.

It's an inconvenience that, if left unchanged for long, could eventually affect the Vatican's bottom line, given the critical role museum revenues play in the Vatican City State's finances. For example, in 2011 museum revenues amounted to euro91.3 million, helping the Vatican City State post a budget surplus of euro21.8 million.

The Bank of Italy said in a statement this week it had no choice but to order the block because the Vatican has no banking regulatory framework or EU-recognized alternative for anti-money-laundering purposes. The bank said it realized, during a routine search, that Deutsche Bank had never obtained authorization to install the so-called POS (point-of-sales) machines in the Vatican and that "any other European supervisory authority would have behaved in the same way, in compliance with community law."