Religion News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 12:59 PM
Religion News in Brief

Johnson County settles 10 Commandments suit, will allow church-state separation display

MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (AP) _ Leaders of a Tennessee county have agreed to show a local man's display promoting church-state separation in the courthouse's "public forum" area.

The agreement is part of a settlement in a case where Ralph Stewart accused Johnson County officials of promoting Christianity, in violation of the First Amendment.

According to the lawsuit, the county allowed a large plaque of the Ten Commandments to hang in the courthouse lobby as part of a display on the history of American law.

Stewart's display, which was not allowed, consists of posters titled "On the Legal History of the Separation of Church and State" and "The Ten Commandments Are Not the Foundation of American Law." The latter contains the statement, "The primary source of American law is the common and statuary law of England, NOT the Bible and NOT Christianity."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced the settlement last week. It included a payment of $75,000 to Americans United for legal fees and a token payment of $1 to Stewart.

Stewart said he would have preferred that the county simply remove the Ten Commandments plaque, but he hopes that this case will deter other counties from adopting a public forum as a way to display Christian religious texts.

"The concept that government should not be promoting a religion is such a really cool idea that we came up with, and they just don't seem to grasp that," Stewart said of local political leaders.

County Mayor Larry Potter referred calls to the county attorney who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Landmark Roofless Church in SW Ind. being reroofed

NEW HARMONY, Ind. (AP) _ Workers are cutting some 20,000 wooden shingles one at a time in order to reroof the 50-foot dome on the Roofless Church in the southwestern Indiana community of New Harmony.

The open-air structure was completed in 1960 to commemorate the religious heritage of the Wabash River town that was founded in 1814 as an attempted "utopian" community.

James Sanders is chairman of the foundation that operates the church and says that workers face a challenge of making shingles to cover the curved dome designed in the shape of inverted rose bud.

The church is frequently photographed for its unique shape covering the altar. The work began in August and could be finished in December.


Mass. church no longer in protest vigil after losing appeal of sale by archdiocese

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) _ A years-long vigil at a Framingham Roman Catholic church, held to protest the church's 2005 closing, is over after the Vatican rejected an appeal of its sale by the Boston archdiocese.

Parishioners at St. Jeremiah learned Tuesday the Vatican denied their appeal of the sale to the Syro-Malobar diocese of the Eastern Catholic Church. The parishioners had argued the sale was forbidden under church law.

Early this month, the Syro-Malobar changed the locks at St. Jeremiah. Parishioner Jackie Lemmerhirt said the Syro-Malobar were allowing parishioners to use the building for Mass and religious education, and they didn't want to disrupt the relationship by occupying the church in vigil when they aren't permitted there.

The parishioners are reviewing possible further appeal.

A spokesman for the archdiocese says church leaders hope and pray the protesters will join an active parish.


South Bend to put land it tried to sell to Roman Catholic high school up for public auction

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ The city of South Bend plans to hold a public auction to sell a piece of city-owned land it wanted to sell to a Roman Catholic high school.

City officials decided on a public auction after U.S. District Judge Robert Miller again blocked the sale of land to St. Joseph's High School. He twice ruled the bidding process included a stipulation that would lead a reasonable, well-informed observer to view the transaction as favoring a religious organization.

The city bought the land for $1.2 million and planned to transfer it to St. Joseph's High School so it could build a football stadium next to a new $35 million school. Four city taxpayers challenged the plan.

City officials say the minimum bid would be $545,000 at public auction.


Neb. school board to consult attorney about ACLU complaint over prayer during graduation

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) _ The Lakeview school board will consult with its attorney about a complaint over prayers during graduation ceremonies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska sent a letter to the school district earlier this month arguing that the ceremonies are unconstitutional.

The ACLU also complained about the ceremonies in 2001, so the district classified graduation as a parent-run event to allow for prayers.

Russ Freeman, the Lakeview superintendent, said that the district will take up the issue with its attorney. He declined further comment.

The ACLU's said in its latest complaint that its review of district materials found that the ceremonies carry an overwhelming message that they are endorsed by the district.


Library denies permission for nativity scene in Louisiana parish

SPRINGHILL, La. (AP) _ Plans to include a living nativity scene in the courtyard of the Springhill Branch Library have stirred controversy in this northern Louisiana city.

Letha Dew, who is leading Christmas season planning for the Main Street community program, said library officials refused to permit anything with "religious tones" on the library grounds.

The nativity scene by a First Assembly of God youth group will appear next month on the triangle-shaped property at the head of Main Street owned by the city of Springhill.

It will be among the numerous church, choir and handbell groups spread out up and down Main Street to entice visitors to walk the area and take part in the holiday spirit.

"They said we could not have anything there that had religious icons or religious tones, but I understood her to say anything religious-based or sponsored, which a nativity scene would be," Dew said of her conversation with the unidentified library manager.

Beverly Hammett, Webster Parish Library System director, said Tuesday that she would release a statement on the library's position but was awaiting advice of legal counsel.

Should library officials reverse their decision, Dew is open to using the library's property.

"If there are no restrictions, then most definitely we'll move something there," Dew said.