Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Jan 18, 2012 3:59 PM
Religion news in brief

Maine lawmakers form legislative prayer group

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Top Maine lawmakers including Gov. Paul LePage have formed the Maine Legislative Prayer Caucus.

The caucus is affiliated with Pray USA, an initiative of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation Inc., which seeks to "preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation and protect American religious liberty."

More than 150 people, including about 50 legislators _ mostly Republicans and a few Democrats _ participated in a ceremony Tuesday to announce that Maine is the sixth state to formalize a legislative prayer group.

Maine legislators have informally gathered to pray since the 1940s. The nonpartisan prayer caucus meets once a week and does not discuss policy or bills.


Polish court slaps fine on singer for insulting the Bible

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ A Polish court slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible _ the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Roman Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible "because it's hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs."

A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of 5,000 zlotys (US$1,450) for offending religious feelings.

The case comes months after another Polish court let off a death metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. It deemed his act artistic expression.


Utah AG's office asks judge to dismiss hospitality industry's case against liquor laws

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Utah has authority to prevent beer taverns and liquor clubs from offering happy-hour discounts, state attorneys said in a court filing defending peculiar regulations governing liquor in a state dominated by teetotaling Mormons.

A trade group for bars and restaurants filed the federal antitrust lawsuit in June, arguing that the happy hour ban amounted to price fixing by state authorities.

The Utah Hospitality Association amended its lawsuit in October to seek a court order that would prohibit Utah legislators from taking influence from the Mormon church when writing liquor laws.

In a court filing Thursday, the Utah attorney general's office asked U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins to throw out the lawsuit.

Because the happy hour ban is applied uniformly throughout Utah, the state argues, it doesn't violate antitrust law.

The industry is targeting the latest changes to Utah's liquor laws, a 197-page piece of legislation enacted last year that, among other things, limits to 2 liters the size of a "heavy beer" container that can be sold in state liquor stores. Retailers can sell only light beer, with less than 4 percent alcohol by volume.

But it was the ban on drinks sold at a "special or reduced price" that caught the ire of Utah's bars, along with new limits on coveted liquor licenses.


KC-St. Joseph Diocese spent more than $1M on abuse cases during 4 months of 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese spent more than $1 million over four months last year to deal with claims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, according to a new report.

An insurer paid $631,553 in costs relating to molestation cases from July through October. The sum includes money to counsel victims and defend the diocese, its employees and priests who are named in 24 pending lawsuits. The cases involve abuse allegations from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Another $427,707 in spending is tied to an independent investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves at the request of the diocese.

The report, which was published in the diocese's newspaper and on its website, said the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's defense isn't being bankrolled with money from diocesan funds. Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges stemming from claims that he took hundreds of pornographic pictures of children. After the images were found on Ratigan's computer, the diocese waited five months to turn copies of them over to police.

The case has sparked multiple lawsuits and led to an indictment against Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese on misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspicions of child sexual abuse.


Court: Ex-con can sue on religious grounds over sheared dreadlocks

CHICAGO (AP) _ Dreadlocks, Bob Marley and an unwanted haircut.

Those are the unlikely subjects of an opinion issued on Friday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The three-judge panel devotes 11 pages to explaining why Omar Grayson, a former inmate at Illinois' Big Muddy Correctional Center, can go ahead and sue a prison officer who forced him to shear his thick, braided locks.

The opinion even includes a photograph of Reggae superstar Marley to illustrate what dreadlocks look like. Marley died in 1981.

Grayson's a member of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem and claimed the haircut violated his religious rights.

The appellate court notes the prison allows committed Rastafarians to keep dreadlocks but appeared to discriminate against other religions that also hold long hair in high esteem.