Religion news in brief

AP News
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Posted: Jun 29, 2011 1:50 PM
Religion news in brief

Mormon church says senior leaders should steer clear of involvement in political campaigns

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The Mormon church is reminding its senior leaders that they should steer clear of politics as a campaign season ramps up and two of the faith's own compete for the GOP presidential nomination.

In a letter sent June 16, church president Thomas S. Monson and his senior counselors say lay leaders with full-time church responsibilities and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns. That includes making endorsements or financial contributions.

The letter was sent to the highest officers of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Part-time leaders are not barred from such political involvement.

A church website post describes the letter as a restatement and clarification of an existing policy of political neutrality. The church does not back individual candidates or political parties.

Two Mormons _ former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman _ have jumped into the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Judge asks clerk to review emails requested by opponents of Murfreesboro mosque

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) _ A Rutherford County judge appointed the Clerk and Master to review thousands of emails requested by opponents of a Murfreesboro mosque.

Seventeen plaintiffs are suing the county, claiming officials violated the state open meetings law when they approved the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon has asked the county to turn over emails containing any of 77 key phrases. Those amounted to more than 11,000 records.

On Monday, Chancellor Robert Corlew III ordered his Clerk and Master John Bratcher to review the emails to determine whether they contain privileged communications between the county attorneys and the government officials they represent.

No trial date has been set.

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Virginia school-choice group wants to represent 4 families in suburban Denver voucher lawsuit

DENVER (AP) _ A Virginia school-choice advocacy group is getting involved in a voucher fight in Colorado's second-largest school district.

Douglas County in suburban Denver is being sued for instituting a voucher program that parents can use at religious schools. Three groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the program amounts to government sponsorship of religion.

Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Va., argues that because parents choose the school, Douglas County's plan doesn't violate the separation of church and state.

"It's parents, not government officials, who choose where to send their children," said Michael Bindas, a lawyer for the group.

In 2004, Colorado's Supreme Court threw out a state voucher plan similar to Douglas County's. Bindas said that while the state may not direct local schools to send vouchers to parents to use at religious schools, an individual school district such as Douglas County is free to do so.

One of the parents planning to use the vouchers next year, Derrick Doyle, said he can't afford to send three children to a religious high school without assistance. Doyle pointed out that Douglas County allows charter schools and home-schooling.

"We feel like private schools should also be a choice," he said.

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Pennsylvania voter ID bill would allow Amish to get religious exemption from photo requirement

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) _ Amish voters in Pennsylvania would be included in a requirement to show government-issued identification in each election under legislation approved by the state House last week, but they could get an exemption from the requirement for a photo on the ID card.

Lawmakers said that Plain sect voters would be able to get a religious exemption from the provision requiring a photograph on identification cards. But to do so, they would have to clear more regulatory hurdles than the average voter, because getting such a card involves providing the state Department of Transportation with a statement of their beliefs signed by their church district's bishop.

PennDOT would check the bishop's name in its records and then issue a non-photo ID.

"It's actually harder to get that ID than just a driver's license," said Rep. John Lawrence, R-Chester, who wrote the bill's exemption provisions. "They have to show a state-issued ID just like other voters. They're not getting a pass."

Under current law, voters must show ID only the first time they vote, and can use documents without a photo such as voter cards, utility bills and bank statements. Under the bill approved last week by the House, voters would be required to show a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot in any election.

Those who choose not to apply for a government ID would still be able to cast a provisional ballot, but the legislation would require them to return to the county courthouse within six days to prove who they are.

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Jewish groups ask Vatican to punish Polish priest

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Jewish groups are urging the Vatican to sanction a prominent Polish priest who they say uses his radio station to foment anti-Semitism.

Jewish leaders spoke out after the Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk caused an uproar in Poland by calling his country a totalitarian state that "hasn't been ruled by Poles since 1939" _ a statement many interpret as code for saying Jews are secretly running the country.

A Vatican spokesman said Monday that Rydzyk must assume responsibility for his own remarks, but he did not raise the possibility of sanctions.

The World Jewish Congress said the Vatican should expel Rydzyk from his order. The Simon Wiesenthal Center said he should be excommunicated.