Religion News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2009 9:55 AM

An Oregon legislative leader plans to introduce a bill to repeal a 1923 state law that bans teachers from wearing religious garb.

House Speaker Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, said he will push to "allow teachers to have the same religious free exercise rights as every other Oregonian" when legislators meet in February.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo, who recently sent letters to every lawmaker asking them to drop the ban, also support such a proposal.

The Legislature passed a law this year allowing all workers except teachers to wear religious dress at work in most instances. Its passage led to questions about why the law remains on the books, given that Oregon is one of only three states with such a ban.

The law, which was aimed at keeping Catholics out of public schools, has not been tested in court since the Eugene School District won a 1986 Oregon Supreme Court case that upheld its firing of a Sikh teacher for wearing a turban.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which has long supported the ban, said the Legislature should not end it without enacting additional protections for Oregon students. The Oregon Education Association has not taken a position on the issue, a spokeswoman said.

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http://www.leg.state.or.us/

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Idaho Attorney General's office rebukes Nampa charter school amid lawsuit threat

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) _ The Idaho Attorney General's office has told officials at a charter school the state won't back down from pursuing information about the school's possible use of the Bible and other religious texts.

Nampa Classical Academy is defying an order from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission to turn over the data. An Arizona-based religious liberty group that is defending the school threatened in a letter to sue the commission if it continues to seek the information.

The school drew attention last summer when school officials said they planned to use the Bible as a primary source of teaching material, but not to teach religion. The commission told the academy it couldn't use the Bible as an instructional text.

Charter Commission chairman Bill Goesling said the use of religious texts would likely lead to the revocation of the school's charter.

The Alliance Defense Fund said the school doesn't have to hand over anything because of a federal lawsuit it filed in September against the state concerning the school's plan to use the Bible.

The group said in the letter that it is considering a second lawsuit against the state to determine whether the school is operating within the boundaries of state law.

But deputy attorney general Mike Gilmore told school officials in an e-mail that the commission and its program manager, Tamara Baysinger, will continue to seek the information from the school.

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http://www2.state.id.us/ag/

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ACLU sues for students to wear anti-Islam shirts in Florida school district

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a north Florida school district, claiming that the Alachua County School District violated students' rights by not allowing them to wear T-shirts with an anti-Islamic message.

The civil rights organization says that while it doesn't agree with the "Islam is of the Devil" message printed on T-shirts distributed by the Dove World Outreach Center, it does support the students' constitutional right to freedom of speech.

A school dress code prohibits clothing that school officials conclude would "disrupt the learning process" or cause other students to be "offended or distracted." The students were sent home for violation of the code after declining to change out of the shirts.

The church was the target of protests after it posted a sign with the same message on its property in July.

In a letter to the ACLU the school board's law firm said that "a school may regulate a student's free speech rights if the exercise of those rights materially and substantially interferes with maintaining appropriate discipline at school, or if the conduct impinges on the rights of other students."

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http://www.aclu.org

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Golden cross in Vatican's collection gets new look

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ One of the gems of the Vatican's priceless religious art collection _ a 6th-century reliquary containing what are revered as fragments of the cross on which Jesus was crucified _ has been restored to its Byzantine-era glory.

The Vatican unveiled the restored Crux Vaticana, a foot-high jewel-encrusted golden cross containing what tradition holds are shards of Jesus' cross inside.

Byzantine art experts said the restoration rendered the cross much closer to what it would have looked like at the time the Byzantine Emperor Justin II gave it to the people of Rome.

Most significantly, the restoration corrected a botched 19th-century restoration that threatened to corrode the piece. And it replaced the brightly colored gems that were added in previous centuries with the large, imperfect pearls that are emblematic of Byzantine-era imperial masterpieces, said restorer Sante Guido.

A circle of 12 pearls now surrounds the relic, and pearls around the cross' edge now alternate with emeralds and sapphires _ the two other gems most often associated with Byzantine emperors, he said.

While there are purported fragments of Christ's cross in churches around the world _ including at Paris' Notre Dame and even across town at Rome's Holy Cross basilica _ the Crux Vaticana is considered the oldest reliquary of the cross. It is the crown in the Vatican's Treasury of St. Peter's collection of religious and historic artifacts.

The cross will be on public display inside St. Peter's Basilica through April 12.

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http://www.vatican.va

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