Religion News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Jul 20, 2011 9:36 PM
Religion News in Brief

Pope to meet with Kohl, Merkel during September visit to Germany

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany's bishops conference says Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and longtime former leader Helmut Kohl in his upcoming visit to the country of his birth.

The organization on Wednesday released the official program of the Sept. 22-25 tour, Benedict's first state visit to Germany since becoming pope.

It also includes meetings with other politicians, as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders.

The pope is to focus on the future of faith in a country that saw record numbers of Roman Catholics leave the church in 2010.

Among other things, he will celebrate mass in Berlin's Olympic stadium, built during the Nazi era for the 1936 games. Benedict is also to give an ecumenical service in the eastern city of Erfurt.


Lawyer for chief rabbi asks court to dismiss lawsuit in fiery NY attack

NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) _ The chief rabbi in a Hasidic village in New York has asked a court to throw out a civil lawsuit implicating him in the arson attack that badly burned a dissident member.

His lawyer says there's no "factual basis" showing Grand Rabbe David Twersky directed the May 22 attack.

Attorney Franklyn Snitow moved Monday to have the $18 million lawsuit dismissed.

Plaintiff Aron Rottenberg claims Twersky targeted him because he began praying at another synagogue other than the village's principal one.

Another resident, 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer, has been charged with attempted murder, attempted arson and assault. He's pleaded not guilty. His lawyer says Twersky wasn't involved in the attack.

Rottenberg's lawsuit also names Spitzer. His lawyer says he will file opposition papers with the court.


Federal judge tells Dixie County officials to remove Ten Commandments monument from courthouse

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A rural north Florida county must remove a granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the front of its courthouse because it violates the constitution, a federal judge says.

Senior District Judge Maurice Paul sided with The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida in its lawsuit against Dixie County. Paul gave Dixie officials until Aug. 14 to remove the six-ton monument located in front of the courthouse in Cross City.

The ACLU filed suit four years ago, arguing that an official government display of a religious monument violates a clause in the First Amendment that prohibits the government from promoting religious messages. The county argued that a private citizen owns the monument.

"We hope that Dixie County officials will find a permanent place for it at a church or other house of worship, which is the appropriate place for religious monuments," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU's Florida operation. "Removing the monument is the right thing to do."

County officials did not respond to requests for comment Monday. They had argued to Paul that the monument was built and paid for by Joe Anderson Jr. of Old Town, that it was placed there as a private expression of free speech and was not an official endorsement of religion.


Second man charged in whipping attack of fellow Muslim in Australia for drinking alcohol

SYDNEY (AP) _ A second Muslim man was charged Wednesday in connection with an attack on a recent convert to Islam who was allegedly whipped 40 times as a religious punishment for drinking alcohol.

Wassim Fayad, 43, was freed on bail after being charged with aggravated breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offense. The same charges were laid against Tolga Cifci, 20, on Tuesday. Neither man has entered a plea.

In granting bail, Magistrate Tim Kebby ordered Fayad to stay away from the alleged victim, saying the attack was "quite particular, arising from religious motivation."

The incident has created a furor in the Australian media, reflecting the friction caused by the expanding Islamic migrant community in a country whose citizens are predominantly of Christian European background.

Australia relaxed its immigration policies in 1973 when it opened its doors to nonwhites, attracting a flood of immigrants from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard weighed into the debate Wednesday, telling reporters there is no place for religious punishments in Australia.

"There is only one law in this country _ the law of Australia. That's what binds us together and everybody has got to abide by that law," she said.


Pastor chases Bingo bandit who hit Pittsburgh-area church

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ An armed robber made off with a suburban Pittsburgh church's bingo game proceeds despite a car and foot pursuit by its pastor, police said.

The Rev. Thomas Burke said a young man held up the bingo game Tuesday night at Good Shepherd Church in Braddock Hills. The masked robbery flashed a gun and demanded money, netting a few hundred dollars.

Burke and at least one parishioner pursued the robber in a car then on foot into a wooded area where he escaped.

Police detained a suspect but he was released after witnesses couldn't say if he was the perpetrator.

Burke said he was running on adrenaline when he decided to chase the robber and he probably wouldn't do it again.