Religion News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Aug 31, 2011 2:40 PM
Religion News in Brief

A federal judge in New York has dismissed a lawsuit against the Vatican concerning rights to reproduce images from treasures in the Vatican Library.

U.S. District Judge Roslynn Mauskopf ruled Aug. 24 that the plaintiffs failed to show they couldn't get a fair hearing in the Vatican courts, where contractual disputes for the images are supposed to be heard.

Magi XXI, Inc. of Long Beach, N.Y. sued the Vatican and two other co-defendants in U.S. district court in Brooklyn in 2007, alleging they had breached a 2001 agreement granting Magi access to images from the Vatican Library to market candles, chocolate, wrapping paper and other materials.

Mauskopf rejected Magi's objections to having the case heard by the Vatican, ruling that the company could get an adequate hearing here even though the pope is supreme legislator, executive and judge; appoints the judges who sit on Vatican courts and can overturn court decisions if they're unjust.

"This court shall not presume that the Vatican courts would act in a biased or corrupt manner toward plaintiff because the Vatican state is a defendant," Mauskopf ruled.

Magi chief executive Claire Mahr said she would likely appeal the decision in U.S. courts rather than pursue the case in the Vatican, given it would cost too much to fly Magi's 50-odd U.S.-based witnesses to Rome and that the amount of damages that could be awarded by the Vatican is paltry.

Magi's suit against the two other defendants is continuing in federal court.

The Vatican's U.S. attorney Jeffrey Lena said Mauskopf's ruling was appropriate given the contract Magi XXI signed.


Ind. vouchers prompt thousands to change schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Weeks after Indiana began the nation's broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Roman Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It's a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

"The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they're going to end up in private, mostly religious schools," said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Attorneys for the state say the voucher system is legal because the state isn't directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who then choose a school.

Under a law signed in May by Gov. Mitch Daniels, more than 3,200 Indiana students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools. That number is expected to climb significantly in the next two years as awareness of the program increases and limits on the number of applicants are lifted.


Turkey to return properties confiscated from Christian, Jewish minorities

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey's government is returning hundreds of properties confiscated from the country's Christian and Jewish minorities over the past 75 years in a gesture to religious groups who complain of discrimination.

The move is also likely to thwart possible court rulings against the country.

A government decree published last Saturday returns assets that once belonged to Greek, Armenian or Jewish trusts and makes provisions for the government to pay compensation for any confiscated property that has since been sold on.

The properties include former hospital, orphanage or school buildings and cemeteries. Their return is a key European Union demand and a series of court cases has also been filed against primarily Muslim Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights. Last year, the court ordered Turkey to return an orphanage to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Some properties were seized when they fell into disuse over the years. Others were confiscated after 1974 when Turkey ruled that non-Muslim trusts could not own new property in addition to those that were already registered in their names in 1936. The 1974 decision came around the time of a Turkish invasion of Cyprus that followed a coup attempt by supporters of union with Greece and relations with that country were at an all time low.


Justice Dept. reaches settlement with Georgia city over mosque, claim of religious discrimination

ATLANTA (AP) _ The U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with the Georgia city of Lilburn over claims that it discriminated against a Muslim congregation's request to build a new worship center.

Federal attorneys announced the agreement after filing a complaint in federal court in Atlanta that claimed the Atlanta suburb violated federal law when it blocked the congregation from expanding its place of worship.

"The city of Lilburn twice failed to approve rezoning permits to allow building a mosque, and the complaint alleges that the rejection was because the applicants are Muslims," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "We are pleased that the city is settling the lawsuit and that the rezoning issue is being resolved."

Lilburn officials did not return calls seeking comment late Friday. The city said in the settlement it would not impose different building or zoning requirements on the mosque or other religious groups. City officials also agreed to attend training classes on the federal anti-discrimination law and to clarify its complaint process for the zoning of religious buildings.

The legal back-and-forth began with the city's repeated decisions to block Dar-E-Abbas Shia Islamic Center's requests for rezoning. The congregation initially wanted to expand from 1.3 acres to a 7.9 acre tract so a full-time imam could live on a campus that also included a gym, a nursery and more parking, according to the complaint.

But the city rejected the center's rezoning request in November 2009, as well as a scaled-back request in December 2010 that would build a 20,000-square-foot mosque on a 4-acre plot.

The Justice Department got involved in June 2011, and government attorneys and the city have been involved in negotiations since then. Lilburn officials, meanwhile, approved a zoning proposal last week that was similar to the request they rejected in 2010.


Mormons working to restore northern Arizona settlement in time for state centennial

WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) _ Mormons are remembering those who paved a path to Arizona and Utah in the 1870s.

Members of the Brigham City Restoration Project are working to restore an old Mormon community outside Winslow named for Mormon leader Brigham Young.

"I look at it as a historical site," said Gene Hancock of Winslow, a member of the restoration team. "This is where Brigham Young called our ancestors to come down and settle this crazy place."

The restoration project has gained momentum in recent years as backers secured government grants and private donations to remake a small part of the abandoned 19th-century community.

The plan is to restore the main community center and two sleeping quarters by the time Arizona celebrates its centennial in February. Backers then hope their work will draw more support and donations to re-create more of the community's original structures.

"People question why we would want to do it, why we'd want to put our time into it or solicit funds to build this thing up," said Hancock. "I look at it as a historical site."

Mormon leader Brigham Young sent an expedition of colonists from Utah to attempt to settle in northern Arizona in the 1870s. The Arizona frontier proved tough back then, and the rugged terrain was difficult to navigate, and irrigation plans failed.

Brigham City faded away. In 1878, the community was ravaged by floods, which destroyed crops, and the colonists moved on. Some Mormons returned later to settle in other parts of the state.