Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Mar 28, 2012 11:05 AM
Religion news in brief

Native American inmates challenge South Dakota prison tobacco ban in federal lawsuit

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ A Lakota traditional healer is arguing that tobacco is an integral part of Native American religious ceremonies and denying its use is akin to taking away the Bible from a Christian.

Richard Moves Camp testified during a federal trial challenging a South Dakota prison policy banning ceremonial tobacco use. Camp said tobacco has been a central part of prayer for thousands of years. It's traditionally mixed with other botanicals in pipes and smoked to bring peace and harmony and connected to cloth in prayer ties that are burned in fires as a symbol of offering, he said.

Inmates Blaine Brings Plenty and Clayton Creek, members of prison-based Native American Council of Tribes, filed the suit in December 2009 against prison warden Doug Weber, corrections secretary Dennis Kaemingk and attorney general Marty Jackley.

James Moore, attorney for the corrections' officials, said ceremonial tobacco inside the state penitentiary was increasingly abused and inmates had been caught separating it from their pipe mixtures and prayer ties. Moore said the state policy allows other botanicals such as red willow bark to be burned. The state prison system went tobacco-free in 2000 but made an exception for tobacco used in Native American ceremonies.


Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran leaders weigh in against tough Arizona immigration law

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Roman Catholic bishops, joined by Presbyterian and Lutheran leaders, are supporting the Justice Department's legal challenge to Arizona's tough immigration law.

The religious groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday in the lawsuit that aims to invalidate the state measure that targets illegal immigrants. A federal judge had issued an injunction keeping many parts of the law from taking effect. The Supreme Court will hear legal arguments surrounding that injunction April 25.

The brief was filed on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Attorneys for the religious leaders argue in the brief that the federal government, not the states, controls the nation's immigration laws. A patchwork of state laws could hurt the religious mission to serve immigrants, by essentially criminalizing charity, according to the brief.


South Bend council votes 6-3 for ordinance banning job discrimination against gay, lesbians

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ South Bend City Council members have approved an ordinance extending employment and housing discrimination protection to gays and lesbians, with supporters saying the move will improve the city's business prospects.

The council's 6-3 vote early Tuesday came after nearly five hours of debate and public testimony about the proposal. The ordinance exempts churches and other religious organizations, but opponents argue it should also exempt individuals and business owners who believe homosexuality is immoral.

Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg told council members he believed the city should join others across the country with similar measures. He said the council's vote was a test of how well Indiana's fourth-largest city handles diversity.

"In today's economy and today's competition for talent _ if we fail that test, if we remain outside the American mainstream any longer _ South Bend could be typecast as a prejudiced and backward-looking community and our economic comeback will be that much harder to bring about," Buttigieg said.

Democratic councilman David Varner, who voted against the ordinance, said he worried the measure would lead to some business owners deciding to avoid the city. Other opponents said they believed the ordinance went beyond tolerance.

"This is about forced public endorsement. This is about preference," said Patrick Mangan, executive director of Citizens for Community Values. "It is not about equal rights _ it is about special rights."

The council's action will make it illegal in South Bend to deny people access to education, employment, housing and public places based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, and allow the city's Human Rights Commission to hear and investigate those types of discrimination claims.


Female beach volleyball players can wear shorts, long sleeves at London Olympics

GENEVA (AP) _ Most female beach volleyball players will wear their usual bikini outfits at the London Olympics. For those who prefer to cover up, that's OK, too.

Under new rules adopted by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), players are free to wear shorts and sleeved tops. The governing body said the move was made out of respect for the cultural and religious beliefs of some of the dozens of countries still in contention to qualify for the games.

"Many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements, so the uniform needed to be more flexible," FIVB spokesman Richard Baker told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The rule, which will apply to the Olympics, has already been in effect at five Continental Cup qualifying competitions involving 142 nations.

"Winners of the Continental Cups will qualify for the Olympics, so it has to be applied," Baker said.

The FIVB has not specified which countries lobbied to be allowed to cover up in London.

An African qualifying event scheduled May 24-26 in Kigali, Rwanda, includes Algeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo among the contenders. Photographs on the FIVB's website of preliminary matches shows female players from those countries covering their midriffs by wearing sleeveless tops, which are the typical attire of indoor volleyball teams.

A Continental Cup qualifier to be played in Asia will include India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka among 12 competing nations.


Amish buggy legislation wins final passage in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ One vote remains before lawmakers allow the Amish to forgo a longstanding traffic safety measure in the name of religious freedom.

The House voted 75-21 Tuesday for a Senate bill to allow the Amish to use reflective tape on the backs of their horse-drawn buggies rather than bright orange triangles that some object to.

The Amish complain that the signs call attention to them, which is against their religion, and the triangular shape represents the Trinity, which they're not allowed to flaunt.

The proposal returns to the Senate for final passage.

Republican state Sen. Ken Winters of Murray filed the legislation because several Amish men in his western Kentucky district were jailed for refusing to pay fines for not using the orange signs.