A junior officer at a Connecticut submarine base has received an honorable discharge after suing the U.S. Navy, saying his religious beliefs prevent him from participating in the military.
Michael Izbicki, an ensign formerly stationed at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, was discharged Feb. 16 as a conscientious objector. The paperwork he filed to drop his lawsuit was approved and signed by U.S. District Court officials in Hartford on Tuesday.
Izbicki, who is Christian, said he plans to use the skills he learned in the Navy to remain in some type of public service outside the military.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Connecticut chapter sued the Navy on Izbicki's behalf last year after he was twice denied an honorable discharge, which he requested based on his religious opposition to all war and the potential that he might be expected to kill others.
"I believe that Jesus Christ calls all men to love each other, under all circumstances. I believe his teaching forbids the use of violence. I take the Sermon on the Mount literally," Izbicki wrote in his application for conscientious objector status.
Izbicki, 25, a native of San Clemente, Calif., has said he was following his family tradition by enlisting in the military and entered the Naval Academy in 2004 with plans of becoming an officer. He began to question his goals after graduating from the academy and beginning submarine training.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in New Haven, which represented the Navy, said they had no comment about the case.
Oregon lawmakers push to end protection for faith healing as defense when children die
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Oregon lawmakers say they will push to end legal protection for parents who rely solely on faith healing to treat their dying children.
A proposed bill targets the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church with a long history of children dying from treatable medical conditions.
State Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, said the deaths of three children of church members in recent years prompted her to introduce the bill.
House Bill 2721 would remove spiritual treatment as a defense for all homicide charges.
Legislators and prosecutors hope the threat of long prison sentences will cause church members to reconsider their tradition of rejecting medical treatment in favor of faith healing.
"It's going to make it easier to hold parents accountable who don't protect their children," said Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, whose office has prosecuted recent cases involving church members.
The legislation already has wide support from both political parties, prosecutors, medical providers and child-protection groups, and there is no organized opposition.
Followers of Christ Church leaders do not speak to the media and rarely issue statements, and the church did not respond to a request for comment.
The Christian Science Church, which opposed a similar bill that was proposed years ago, changed its position. The continuing deaths "reached a critical mass," said John Clague, Christian Science media and legislative liaison.
"This is not about Christian Science," Clague said. "This is all coming from another denomination. We should never risk the life of a child through the practice of spiritual care."
Hindu guru faces indecency trial in Texas, accused of abusing 2 girl followers in 1990s
SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) _ An elderly Hindu guru faces trial in Central Texas on 20 counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.
Prakashanand Saraswati, 82, is the founder and spiritual leader of the Barsana Dham ashram in Hays County. He is accused of misconduct with two girls in the 1990s when their families lived at his religious complex.
A Texas judge last October revoked the passport of the spiritual leader, known as Shree Swamiji. He was arrested in April 2008 at Washington Dulles International Airport after arriving on a flight from Europe.
Ashram officials have denied the allegations. Attorneys for Saraswati previously claimed he was too frail for trial and has back trouble.
India finds 31 guilty in deadly 2002 train burning after yearslong trial
AHMADABAD, India (AP) _ A court investigating one of India's worst outbursts of communal violence found 31 Muslims guilty of setting fire to a train in which 60 Hindus were killed nine years ago.
The court also acquitted 63 people of participating in the 2002 attack on the train packed with Hindu pilgrims in the western Indian state of Gujarat that triggered deadly anti-Muslim riots in India.
About 1,000 people were killed when groups of Hindus rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods and towns in Gujarat from February to April 2002. Most of the dead were Muslims.
Soon after the verdict was announced Tuesday, special public prosecutor J.M. Panchal said he was satisfied with the court's decision.
"This is a judicial pronouncement and it cannot be a subject of debate," Panchal told reporters.
Sentencing is set for Friday. Police had arrested 107 people in the attack and the trial lasted nearly nine years, during which five of the accused died. Eight others have been granted bail while on trial by a juvenile court.
The religious violence was among India's worst since its independence from Britain in 1947. The state government, which has been controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has been accused by the opposition and media of not doing enough to stop the violence and of even stoking it. Gujarat officials deny the accusations.