Relatives of Americans in Iran press for their release
WASHINGTON (AP) — Relatives of four Americans held in Iran are calling on the Obama administration to do more to press for their release during negotiations with Tehran on a nuclear deal.
The wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini said negotiators should "help bring my husband home before you consent to any deal."
Joining her Tuesday at a congressional hearing were relatives of FBI agent Robert Levinson, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati.
Republican Congressman Matt Salmon said that in the nuclear negotiations with Iran he would insist that "any deal is dead without the release of these prisoners."
Naghmeh Abedini said her husband, who has been held almost three years, has resisted pressure to deny his Christian faith despite threats and abuse.
After the relatives' testimony, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution calling for the release of all Americans held in Iran.
France awaits Vatican word on ambassador said to be gay
PARIS (AP) — The French government is expecting the Vatican to decide within days whether to approve the nomination of a respected diplomat who is said to be gay as French ambassador to the Holy See.
Paris is hoping that Laurent Stefanini wins approval five months after the French presidential palace submitted his nomination. The French government is awaiting a response via Vatican diplomatic channels within a week to 10 days, a French official told The Associated Press.
The Vatican spokesman declined to comment.
Gay rights groups have accused the Vatican of delaying a decision because of Stefanini's sexual orientation. Such decisions normally take just a few weeks.
French Catholic newspaper La Croix has reported that the Vatican might see the nomination as a "provocation."
Congregation at oldest US synagogue felt 'blackmailed'
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A board member of the congregation that worships at the oldest synagogue in the U.S. says they felt "blackmailed" by the nation's first Jewish congregation in a dispute over the sale of ceremonial bells for $7 million.
Lawsuits over control of Newport's Touro Synagogue are being heard in federal court in Rhode Island.
David Bazarsky said Tuesday the congregation agreed to sell the bells to a museum only because they'd be on display to the public, and they wanted an endowment so Touro could operate in perpetuity.
Touro is owned by New York's Congregation Shearith Israel. Newport says it acts only as trustee.
Bazarsky says Shearith Israel hasn't been involved at Touro, even when asked for help.
Shearith Israel's lawyer submitted documents showing New York's involvement and relationship with Touro.
Parents sue Hobart district over prayers at school events
HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana school district is being sued over prayers that are said before athletic events, graduations and school board meetings.
Parents Jim and Nichole Bellar say they want to prohibit the prayers from being said at events in the River Forest Community School Corp. in Hobart.
The Bellars say their son has participated on several teams and objects to coach-led sectarian prayers said before the games. They also object to prayers before or during school board meetings and at graduation. They say their son has felt ostracized by the prayers.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Gavin Rose told The Times newspaper of Munster that the prayers are a "serious and flagrant affront" to the First Amendment.
School officials didn't respond to a request for comment.
Justices rule for Muslim denied job over headscarf
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has strengthened civil rights protections for employees and job applicants who need special treatment in the workplace because of their religious beliefs.
The justices sided with a Muslim woman who did not get hired after she showed up to a job interview with Abercrombie & Fitch wearing a black headscarf, which at that time violated the company's dress code in its retail stores.
The applicant did not tell her interviewer that she was Muslim. But the court ruled that employers generally have to accommodate applicants and employees with religious needs if the employer has an idea that such accommodation is necessary.
Some business groups said the ruling will force employers to make assumptions about applicants' religious beliefs.