Religion News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Sep 14, 2011 2:16 PM
Religion News in Brief

North Carolina Legislature votes to put gay marriage ban for constitution on May ballot

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ North Carolina voters will get to decide next May on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage after the Legislature gave final approval to the question, despite protests that the question promoted intolerance and discrimination.

The state Senate voted 30-16 Tuesday in favor of putting the question on the statewide primary ballot _ the minimum number of yes votes needed to meet the three-fifths majority for such amendments. The House approved the measure Monday with a few votes to spare.

The proposal also would bar the state from sanctioning civil unions.

North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such a prohibition in its constitution. State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Still, amendment supporters argue that traditional marriage would be better protected against potential legal challenges by same-sex couples in six other states and the District of Columbia.

Thirty states have a gay marriage ban in their constitutions.

Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, who had filed amendment bills for several years without success, finally won Tuesday after an hour of intense debate on the Senate floor. The amendment, which had been blocked for years by Democrats, won a hearing after Republicans took control of the General Assembly for the first time since 1870. Republicans voted heavily for the measure.

Opponents said the question will hurt the state's business climate because of the perception that gays and lesbians aren't welcome. They likened the amendment to previous constitutional provisions in North Carolina that banned interracial marriage and sought to discourage the desegregation of the public schools.


Indonesia sends troops to eastern region after sectarian clashes kill 5, injure 150

AMBON, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesia sent security forces to an eastern region after gangs of Muslims and Christians armed with rocks and machetes clashed in violence that left five people dead and more than 150 injured, officials said Monday.

The violence broke out in the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon after rumors spread that a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver who died in a traffic accident had been killed and tortured by Christians, said Capt. Marinus Djati, the Ambon traffic police chief.

Groups of Muslims confronted Christians after the man's funeral. The two sides traded insults and later started throwing rocks and swinging machetes, police said. The rioters also set fire to houses, cars and motorcycles despite police attempts to disperse them with warning shots, Djati said.

Five people were killed and 154 others were injured, 31 of them seriously, said Bakrie Asyatri, the Ambon government spokesman. He said a tense calm had returned to the city by Monday afternoon.

Indonesia is overwhelmingly Muslim, but Christians form the majority in parts of Maluku _ known as the Spice Islands in colonial times _ and other eastern regions.


Colorado school looking at Bible handouts

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) _ An annual Bible handout outside a Fort Collins middle school is under review after a parent complained that the Gideons International representatives went too far.

Webber Middle School Principal Sandra Bickel plans to meet with church members before next year's distribution about how the Bibles can be handed to schoolchildren.

A parent said church members were blocking sidewalks outside the school and not allowing students to pass without talking to them or receiving a copy of the New Testament.

School officials said they can't stop church members from being on sidewalks. Bickel said she'll meet with the Gideons before next year's event to make clear they cannot block students or force religious literature on them.


After 8 months of round-the-clock protest, NJ diocese to keep some services at 1 small parish

MALAGA, N.J. (AP) _ Prayer and protest have paid off for a group of parishioners in New Jersey.

Camden Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Galante has agreed to keep St. Mary's Church in Malaga open, at least for weddings, funerals and other special services.

The small southern New Jersey parish was slated to merge with others under a consolidation plan. But it was closed ahead of schedule last November when a furnace broke.

Since January, parishioners have held a non-stop sit-in at the church.

Galante decided on Aug. 30 that the church would continue to be used.

Protesters said the vigil will continue because parishioners want Sunday Mass to return.


Court tosses lawsuit by San Diego teacher ordered to remove banners with religious references

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit by a San Diego high school teacher who was ordered to remove large banners containing patriotic excerpts referring to God.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision that ruled the Poway Unified School District violated Bradley Johnson's free speech rights when it ordered him to remove the banners from his classroom.

The unanimous three-judge panel said the Westview High School math teacher's display of such phrases as "In God We Trust" and "God Shed His Grace On Thee" had little to do with teaching calculus, so they weren't protected by the same First Amendment rights Johnson would have been espousing such views outside school.

The appeals court ordered Johnson to pay the school district's legal costs.


Va. county school board sued over Ten Commandments

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Civil liberties groups have sued a southwest Virginia school board for posting the Ten Commandments, contending that the display violates the Constitution's guarantee of separation of church and state.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed the lawsuit Tuesday against Giles County School Board in U.S. District Court in Roanoke on behalf of an unidentified Narrows High School student and the student's parent. The plaintiffs argue that the display unconstitutionally promotes a specific religious faith and serves no secular purpose.

The lawsuit seeks to have the Ten Commandments removed from school walls and a ban on further display of the biblical documents.

After removing them during the school year, school board members voted in June to rehang the biblical texts as part of displays that include U.S. historical documents.