Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: May 25, 2011 12:50 PM
Religion news in brief

Chaplains: Troops may fear sharing beliefs on gays

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Leaders of 21 religious groups that send chaplains to the military want Congress or the Pentagon to guarantee that troops won't be punished if they openly discuss their religious objections to homosexuality.

In a joint letter to chaplain chiefs of the Navy, Army, and Air Force, the chaplain endorsers express concern that repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" could marginalize or silence troops who believe same-sex relationships are immoral.

The letter says, "Service members should know that chaplains' ministry and their own rights of conscience remain protected everywhere military necessity has placed them."

Military training to apply the new law allowing gays to serve openly began earlier this year and is expected to be completed by midsummer.


Kansas joins effort to save Utah highway crosses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has joined 19 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a dispute over crosses along Utah highways honoring state troopers who died while on duty.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he joined the effort because he wants to protect the right of free expression on public land.

Fourteen crosses have been erected by the Utah Highway Patrol Troopers Association, using private funds. Each 12-foot-high cross contains a biography of the trooper who died and the state patrol's logo.

An atheist group sued over the crosses in 2005 and a federal appeals court ruled in the group's favor, concluding the crosses were an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Utah then appealed.


Bible's New Testament translated into tribal language

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) _ An Alaskan couple has translated the New Testament into Gwich'in.

Meggie and Pierre DeMers read a passage from a copy of their translation of the New Testament during Sunday morning services at the St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Fairbanks.

Parishioners responded with a standing ovation.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says the DeMers, who are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators, have worked for 31 years to complete the Gwich'in translation of the New Testament.

The Gwich'in people are the only Athabascan tribe to have the New Testament in their language.


Ore. Senate votes to remove spiritual defense for murder

SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ Oregon lawmakers have approved a bill that would remove faith healing as a legal defense in murder or manslaughter cases.

The legislation was drafted largely in response to the deaths of children among members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, who rely on spiritual treatments instead of medical care.

A couple that belongs to the church stands trial this week on criminal mistreatment charges for failing to seek medical care for their infant daughter. Another couple was convicted last year of criminally negligent homicide in the 2008 death of their teenage son.

The Oregon House unanimously approved the bill in March, and the Senate passed it Monday. The bill now returns to the House for a vote on Senate changes.


Trial begins for NH man accused of raping teen

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ A New Hampshire prosecutor says the rape case against a man charged with assaulting and impregnating a 15-year-old from his congregation is about force, fear and her faith in a church that shamed her and banished her to Colorado.

The trial of Ernest Willis of Gilford opened on a dramatic note, when the woman who says he raped her twice in 1997 testified about how "brutal" it was to face hundreds of churchgoers at Concord's Trinity Baptist Church and apologize for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Tina Anderson, now 29, says then-pastor Chuck Phelps arranged for her to move in with a Baptist family in Colorado and place her infant daughter up for adoption.

Willis, who is 51, pleaded guilty last week to one count of having sex with Anderson, who was under the legal age of consent at the time. Willis claims the sex was consensual.


Falun Gong members sue Cisco for helping China build Firewall

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement are suing Cisco Systems.

A federal lawsuit filed in California accuses Cisco and its top executives of supplying the Chinese government with computer networking equipment used to spy on dissidents and censor the Internet.

The Falun Gong practitioners allege that Cisco aided and abetted human rights violations by helping the Chinese government build the "Great Firewall of China."

In a statement, Cisco disputes the allegations. The company says, "We sell the same equipment in China that we sell in other nations worldwide in strict compliance with U.S. government regulations."

Chinese officials have banned Falun Gong, calling it an evil cult.


High school graduations to proceed at Ga. church

WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) _ Cherokee County high schools will hold graduation ceremonies at the First Baptist Church of Woodstock this weekend despite complaints about using a religious venue for the events.

The 7,500-seat church charges about $2,000 per graduation for the five county high schools, and the school system has used it since 2005.

Rob Usher, a member of Cherokee County's school board, says using the church makes sense because it's big enough to seat the graduates' families and friends and is cheaper than other facilities.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State expressed concern over the use of the church. The school board voted in January to go ahead with the graduations there.