Obama criticizes rhetoric that targets Muslims
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says Americans should reject "any politics that targets people because of race or religion."
In his State of the Union speech, Obama said insulting or attacking Muslims undermines efforts to keep America safe and "betrays who we are as a country."
The president said the U.S. is a nation that respects all faiths, and recalled that Pope Francis in his speech to Congress had warned that "to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place."
Haley highlight's religion's importance
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley stressed the importance of faith and religious freedom.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, Haley said Republicans "would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy."
Haley said her state was in shock after last year's killing of nine people at a church in Charleston. But she said, "We didn't turn against each other's race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world."
Evangelist: America is in critical condition
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — America is in critical condition, according to the Rev. Franklin Graham.
Hours before President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, Graham delivered his grim assessment in front of Florida's state Capitol.
Tuesday's prayer rally in Tallahassee was the second stop on the evangelist's 50-state Decision America Tour to encourage Christians to pray for America, vote in this year's elections and consider running for office.
Graham told the hundreds of people gathered that "America is being stripped of its biblical heritage and God-inspired foundations." He predicted that "we've got maybe one election left" to preserve America's liberties, or he said "the game will be over."
The son of evangelist Billy Graham is expected to deliver a similar message Wednesday in front of Louisiana's capital, hours before President Obama is to arrive in Baton Rouge.
Pope's new book wins Italian actor's endorsement
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Oscar-winning actor and director Roberto Benigni has given Pope Francis two thumbs up, praising the pope as a fountain of mercy who is "dragging the whole church toward Christianity."
At perhaps the most unusual Vatican book launch ever, Benigni was joined by the Vatican secretary of state, the Vatican spokesman and the Vatican publisher, as well as a Chinese prison inmate, to premier "The Name of God is Mercy." Francis' book-length conversation with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli is being released in 86 countries as part of the pope's Holy Year of Mercy. An audio version in English is being released by Penguin Random House.
Benigni, whose 1999 "Life is Beautiful" won three Oscars, joked that he wanted to be a priest as a child but realized he had to become a comic instead after friends laughed when he said he wanted to be pope.
Sheriff: Amish man confessed to poisoning wife in Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Kentucky man who served as a minister in his Amish church has confessed to poisoning his wife in 2006 while living in Missouri.
Thirty-nine-year-old Samuel Borntreger, of Summer Shade, Kentucky, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Anna Yoder Borntreger. Court records allege he told authorities in Barren County, Kentucky, that he put antifreeze in her drinks and battery acid in her body.
The charges were filed in Harrison County, Missouri, where prosecutor Cristine Stallings says Borntreger was "well known and liked."
Sheriff Josh Eckerson says investigators are looking into Borntreger's death. He says it appears she was diagnosed with a liver problem, but the problem may have been caused by poisoning.
Catholic bishops visit refugees in Jordan
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Catholic bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa have met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees at a church in Amman, Jordan.
New Mexico Bishop Oscar Cantu said Monday's visit was meant to show "solidarity" with the churches in Jordan and thank them for helping care for the estimated 1.5 million refugees "who are fleeing war-torn countries and violence."
Cantu chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.
He said the U.S. can safely accept what he called its "fair share of refugees."
Cantu and about 50 other Catholic bishops are completing a Holy Land pilgrimage that also included visits to Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip.