NC county commissioners seek Supreme Court appeal to keep opening meetings with prayer to Jesus
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) _ The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that barred it from starting meetings with prayer that praised a specific deity.
The board voted 6-1 Monday night to continue its case to the nation's high court if conservative foundations continue to pay its legal bills, including attorney's fees if the county loses.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in a 2-1 decision late last month in favor of two county residents. They sued after a December 2007 commissioners meeting opened with a prayer thanking God for allowing the birth of his son, to forgive them for their sins and closed by making the prayer in the name of Jesus.
One of the appeals court judges pointed out in his ruling that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given before meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 referred to "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "Christ" or "Savior."
The Christian focus was justified because religious leaders of other faiths have an open invitation to lead prayers, Forsyth County commission vice chair Debra Conrad said Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit, saying the case hinges on not on prayer itself but mentioning specific deities in what is supposed to be a neutral government atmosphere.
The county has not had prayers of any kind since a U.S. District Court judge ruled against the board last year.
Okla. Governor seeks public support for construction of Thunderbird Chapel at Camp Gruber
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gov. Mary Fallin is seeking about $500,000 in donations for a chapel at the Army National Guard training post at Camp Gruber. The eastern Oklahoma post hasn't had a location for religious gatherings since it was reactivated more than 30 years ago.
Flanked by officials with the Oklahoma Army National Guard and several vendors who have donated materials and labor for the chapel's construction, Fallin said Tuesday a nonprofit group has been set up to seek public donations and support.
A groundbreaking for the 10,500-square-foot interfaith Thunderbird Chapel is tentatively set for Sept. 7. The goal is to have construction of the facility completed by spring 2012, when about 3,200 soldiers with the Oklahoma National Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade return from Afghanistan and Kuwait. Thunderbird is a nickname of the 45th.
Established in 1942 as a military mobilization training post near Braggs, Camp Gruber was deactivated in 1947, and most of the existing structures _ including 14 "prairie-style" chapels _ were destroyed or moved off the post, said Glenn Short, an architect whose company has donated design plans for the building.
Camp Gruber was reactivated in 1977, but it remains without a chapel.
Col. Mike Taylor, chaplain for the Oklahoma National Guard, said he and other chaplains have had to gather with soldiers under shade trees on the post, at the dining facility or even meet with them in kitchen offices.
"What we've not had at Camp Gruber is a place to serve as an anchor for ministry," he said.
Plans call for a 200-seat auditorium, a covered patio, a fellowship hall, administrative offices, a baptistery and rooms for storage and conferences.
Short said the chapel is designed to accommodate soldiers of all faiths, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Ga. church member gives winning lottery tickets worth more than $4,000 to his congregation
MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) _ Members of a metro Atlanta church say a congregation member has donated his three winning Georgia Lottery tickets, giving the church donations totaling more than $4,000.
Church staff members say they claimed the prize on behalf of the congregation on Aug. 1.
The Rev. Richard Burdick of Unity North Atlanta Church in Cobb County said the money would go toward the church's mortgage and monthly bills.
Church staff member Al Mango said the donor wanted to help the church to pay off its mortgage. Officials have not released the man's name, saying he wishes to remain anonymous.
While some churches consider the lottery a form of gambling, Burdick said his church on Sandy Plains Road neither condemns nor condones it.
Philippines shut down art show mixing Christian religious symbols with phallic objects
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Officials in the Philippines have shut down an art exhibition deemed offensive for combining Christian symbols with phallic objects.
The show launched in June has prompted threats and hate mail against the artists and the state-run Cultural Center of the Philippines, and been condemned by politicians and Roman Catholic leaders.
President Benigno Aquino II criticized the show as offensive to the 85 percent of Filipinos who are Christian like him.
Critics vandalized the installation, which includes a sculpture that portrays Christ as Mickey Mouse.
The center closed the show Tuesday after former first lady and art patron Imelda Marcos joined in the denunciations.
Virginia county officials allow rezoning for construction of mosque after previous denial
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Henrico County officials have rezoned property to allow construction of a mosque three years after they rejected the proposal.
Media outlets report that the Henrico County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to rezone the 3.6-acre property.
A group of Muslim investors initially sought the rezoning in 2008. At that time, the board rejected the request.
Brookland District Supervisor Richard W. Glover says there are no compelling reasons to deny the rezoning. He cited a federal law that prohibits government from imposing burdensome zoning-law restrictions on religious exercise.
Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs President Imad Damaj says he's glad that the board finally approved the mosque.
Residents who oppose the proposed mosque say they're concerned about traffic.