Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Apr 27, 2011 3:56 PM
Religion news in brief

Families accuse Tenn. county's schools of promoting Christianity

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) _ Three Sumner County families are accusing the local public schools of illegally promoting Christianity through Bible giveaways and prayers since at least 2006.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, on behalf of the families, has sent a complaint about the activities to the Sumner County Board of Education. The complaint requests the board stop the religious activities, but it is not a lawsuit.

One of the allegations outlined in the complaint is that members of a Bible study club at Madison Creek Elementary were permitted to "pray over the loudspeaker for all school children to hear" on a daily basis. Principal Robin Hood denied the allegations, saying the school observes a moment of silence but does not broadcast prayers.

The complaint also alleges students at Indian Lake Elementary were instructed to line up outside their classrooms and pick up a Bible from a table, if they wanted one.

At T.W. Hunter Middle School, the complaint claims a local Baptist church threw a party for Hunter students in which they were taken on county school buses to the church for a day of movies, treats and games. Those who did not wish to attend remained at the school, where they were given additional work.


Judge denies Muslim inmate's lawsuit over beard

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A federal judge says Virginia's prison system did not violate a Muslim inmate's religious rights when it refused to let him grow a 1/8-inch beard.

William Couch, a Sunni Muslim serving life sentences for rape and other convictions, said he recently became convinced that his Islamic faith required him to wear a beard.

But U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson upheld the prison system's grooming policy.

Couch's attorney, Jeffrey Fogel, filed an appeal Monday. He argued that a 1/8-inch beard would not allow Couch to easily change his appearance if he escaped.

Judge Wilson disagreed, writing that an inmate could "change his appearance by shaving it."


Tearful devotees gather for Hindu guru's funeral

PUTTAPARTI, India (AP) _ Throngs of tearful devotees gathered Wednesday for the funeral of Sathya Sai Baba, one of India's best-known Hindu ascetics who was revered by millions as a divine incarnation with miraculous healing powers.

The 84-year-old was buried in an auditorium in his spiritual center in southern India where his body had been lying in state for the last three days. As Sai Baba's nephew performed the last rites, Hindu priests chanting verses from sacred texts instructed him to anoint the body with oil, herbs and flowers.

Tens of thousands of devotees, many sobbing quietly, filled the auditorium and the streets outside, where they watched the funeral on a large screen. Several Indian television channels broadcast the funeral live.

The actual burial was a private moment, with a heavy maroon curtain lifted to surround the body and just immediate family and close associates allowed to view.

Hindus usually cremate their dead, but infants and people considered pure and saintly are buried. Hindu holy men are usually buried in a cross-legged sitting posture called the lotus position in the ancient Indian practice of Yoga.


Muslim community denounces document describing Montreal mosque as terror hub

MONTREAL (AP) _ New WikiLeaks documents that describe a Montreal mosque as a terror hub are defamatory, says a local Muslim spokesman.

The newly leaked U.S. documents claim a Mauritanian terror suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay was the leader of a Montreal-based al-Qaida cell that planned terror attacks in the United States.

The secret documents, released by WikiLeaks on their website last weekend, also claim that members of al-Qaida were recruited and trained at Montreal's Al Sunnah Al Nabawiah Mosque, where the terror suspect served briefly, possibly as an imam.

But the chairman of the Muslim Council of Montreal said the documents serve as an example of how the community's institutions are unfairly targeted by authorities.

Mohamedou Ould Salahi arrived in Montreal from Germany on Nov. 26, 1999, and served briefly at the mosque.

He left Canada after CSIS and the RCMP began to question him about ties to Ahmed Ressam, the so-called "Millennium bomber" who planned to attack the Los Angeles airport.


Christians are encouraged to become journalists

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The international director of Gegrapha, a global fellowship of Christian journalists, says being a reporter is "a gift from God, because God is the great communicator."

The Rev. Arne Fjeldstad encourages young Christians to become reporters, but then to stay in fellowship with other believers so the profession's demands don't sap their faith.

In most newsrooms, Fjeldstad says Christians won't encounter hostility so much as ignorance about their faith, so the demand is all the greater to be ethical, fair and accurate.

In the Bible, he notes that the gospel writer Luke was a journalist who quoted eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry and later wrote first-hand accounts of the early church in the Book of Acts.

Fjeldstad says the Bible also honestly presents its heroes' failings, setting a standard for fair reporting. He says the Bible also encourages readers, including journalists, "to check everything."