Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2012 10:42 AM
Religion news in brief

Sculptor chisels St. Damien statue for church in Puna district where priest ministered

HILO, Hawaii (AP) _ A sculptor on the island of Hawaii is creating a life-size statue of St. Damien for the Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa, located in the district where the venerated Roman Catholic priest first worked after being ordained in 1864.

William McKnight is chiseling a 7-ton basalt boulder into a statue depicting a 5-foot-10, 210-pound Damien topped by his signature hat. The sculpture will show Damien extending his hand to help people.

The base will feature Hawaii Island's main volcanoes, which also are meant to represent the Trinity, along with water symbolizing Damien's crossing to Molokai, McKnight said.

Damien was just 24 when he arrived in Puna, his first parish. Church records show he baptized nearly 100 people and performed seven marriages in the few months before he moved north to minister to people in Kohala and Hamakua.

The priest is best known and honored for work he did after moving to isolated peninsula of Kalaupapa on Molokai, where he cared for exiled leprosy patients in the mid-1800s when no one else would. He contracted leprosy 12 years after he arrived, and died of the disease four years later in 1889.

The Vatican canonized Belgian-born Joseph de Veuster, or Father Damien, in 2009.

A dedication ceremony will be held in March to coincide with the arrival of Bishop Larry Silva, who heads the Diocese of Honolulu.


Emory and Saint Joseph's finalize healthcare partnership

ATLANTA (AP) _ Emory Healthcare and Saint Joseph's Health System have finalized the terms of their partnership.

The announcement comes nearly 10 months after the two organizations announced their intent to form a joint operating company. The move, effective Jan. 1, 2012, forms the largest, most clinically comprehensive health system in Georgia.

The proposed arrangement will give Emory Healthcare a majority ownership of Saint Joseph's, with a 51/49 fraction split. Saint Joseph's will retain involvement in governance of the joint operating company, including super majority voting rights on issues critical to Saint Joseph's mission, values and Roman Catholic religious and ethical directives.

The partnership has received the required regulatory approvals as well as approval from the Vatican.


RI religious leaders urge state to help poor

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Rhode Island religious leaders are pressing state lawmakers to remember homeless and poor residents when they begin their work for the year.

The Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition organized a "vigil to fight poverty with faith" at the Statehouse. The General Assembly kicked off its 2012 legislative session on Tuesday.

Leaders of the coalition say they'll ask lawmakers to "govern with wisdom and compassion" during what they say is a "very trying time in our state."

The state's unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation, at 10.5 percent.

Federal census figures show some 12 percent of Rhode Island residents live in poverty. A federal report issued last year also estimated that as many as 1,070 state residents were homeless on a single night in January.


Library sued over blocking of religious content

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a small-town public library, claiming it unconstitutionally blocks access to websites related to Wicca and other minority religions.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in St. Louis on behalf of Anaka Hunter, a resident of Salem, a largely Christian community of about 5,000 residents in the Missouri Ozarks.

Hunter alleges she was trying to do research at the Salem Public Library but filtering software blocked access to many sites about religions such as Wicca, an earth-based religion, derived from pre-Christian religions and magical practices that promote a peaceful and balanced lifestyle. Hunter was also unable to access sites about Native American Religions.

The suit said some religions were labeled "occult" or even "criminal."

Hunter was doing the research to learn more about her Native American roots through spirituality, the ACLU said. Once access was denied, she complained to the library director, who unblocked some, but not all, information. Hunter also complained to the library board, but the board was dismissive of her concerns, the ACLU said.

Library director Glenda Wofford said it isn't the library's intent to prohibit reasonable use of the Internet for research and other legitimate purposes. She said she would have unblocked websites but Hunter refused to specify which sites she wanted to access, citing privacy rights. Federal law requires public libraries to use filtering software that blocks access to sites with explicit, pornographic and adult content.

"The Salem library is a small, rural library," Wofford said. "We're unable to provide our own filtering system."


Bangladesh teacher arrested after banned book found in college library

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Police have arrested the head teacher at a college in southern Bangladesh after a book considered blasphemous by some Muslims was found in the school's library, an official said Wednesday.

Police officer Abdul Malek said S.M. Yunus Ali was arrested for possessing the novel "Lajja," or "Shame," written by exiled writer Taslima Nasrin.

Malek said Ali, head teacher at the K.C. Technical and Business Management College, could face up to three years in jail if he is found guilty of authorizing the book's inclusion in the library.

The Prothom Alo newspaper said Wednesday that Ali denied having the book and said he was the victim of a conspiracy.

Police corruption and misuse of police investigations by politicians are widespread in Bangladesh.

The novel was banned a year after its publication in 1993 and Nasrin was forced to flee Bangladesh to escape death threats from radical Muslims who considered it blasphemous for advocating secularism. She has been living in India and Europe since then.