Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Apr 04, 2012 12:42 PM
Religion news in brief

NYPD strengthens security at Jewish sites ahead of Passover holiday

NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Police Department is beefing up security at the city's synagogues and other Jewish sites this week for the Passover holiday following a deadly attack on a religious school in France last month.

Authorities stressed that there have been no specific threats reported in the city for the weeklong holiday, which starts at sundown Friday.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said there would be heightened security and the deployment of heavily armed roving counterterrorism units.

"We'll ensure that coverage is more than adequate in those neighborhoods, adding foot posts, visits by officers to synagogues, outreach by community affairs officers, and a heightened presence of anti-crime," Kelly said Tuesday to a roomful of the city's Jewish leaders.

Kelly said the security measures were not related to the investigation of an online mock movie poster that warns that al-Qaida wants to return to New York City. The poster surfaced early Monday, and came from a forum where known terrorists have participated.

The department has kept a constant eye on militant groups for signs they might attack in New York, which has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. The city faces constant threats in al-Qaida, the Hezbollah guerrilla group and so-called homegrown terrorists, Kelly said.

The NYPD dispatched extra patrols to more than 50 locations throughout New York last month on the news that an armed man on a motorbike had attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, a southwestern city north of the Pyrenees mountains. The shooting left a rabbi, his two young sons and a schoolgirl dead.


Gay high school student sues Ohio district over `Jesus' T-shirt urging tolerance

CINCINNATI (AP) _ A gay student whose high school prohibited him from wearing a T-shirt designed to urge tolerance of gays is suing the school, saying it violated his freedom of expression.

The mother of 16-year-old junior Maverick Couch filed the federal lawsuit on his behalf against Wayne Local School District and its Waynesville High School principal. It claims Couch has been threatened by school officials with suspension if he wears the shirt, which bears the message "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe," the lawsuit says. Officials at the public school told him the shirt is "sexual in nature" and inappropriate.

Couch said Tuesday that he wants to wear the shirt at school on April 20 to show support for the Day of Silence, an annual event held nationally for students to draw attention to bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

"I've been bullied and called names, and I wanted to wear this shirt to promote respect for all students, gay or straight," Couch said by telephone.

The lawsuit asks the court to order school officials to allow Couch to wear the shirt and to pay him unspecified "nominal" damages and attorneys' fees.

District Superintendent Patrick Dubbs said Tuesday that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on specifics, but he said he was "disappointed that it has gotten to this point."


Fla. businessman gets 5 years in prep school fraud

MIAMI (AP) _ A prominent South Florida businessman has been sentenced to five years in prison for a real estate scheme that defrauded hundreds of investors, including a well-known Roman Catholic prep school.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams imposed the maximum possible sentence on 73-year-old Gaston Cantens. Prosecutors say the mostly elderly victims lost as much as $20 million through a Ponzi-like scheme in which Cantens paid older investors with money from newer ones.

Many of the victims were members of Miami's tight-knit Cuban-American community. One investor was Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, which has roots in Cuba. Others were Catholic priests.

Cantens had sought house arrest so he could care for his ailing wife. His attorney says Cantens was trying to save a failing business and never intended to defraud anyone.


Condo group says Jewish woman can keep mezuzah

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A condominium association that ordered a Jewish woman in Stratford to remove a religious symbol from her doorway has apologized for what it calls a misunderstanding and says the symbol can stay.

The California Condominium Association ordered Barbara Cadranel to remove the mezuzah last week and warned that she faced a $50 penalty for each day it remained because the condo board hadn't approved it. A mezuzah is a decorative box containing a religious scroll that a Jewish family attaches to its front doorpost.

The association's lawyer, Kurt Ahlberg, said board members didn't know what a mezuzah was. He said Cadranel won't be fined.

Cadranel and Jewish groups had said they were outraged by the association's order, especially since her neighbors had crosses and Easter decorations on their doors.


Muslims in Kazakhstan indignant at vodka makers inclusion of `Allah' on liquor bottles

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) _ Muslims in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan are protesting a vodka producer who printed "Allah" on its liquor bottles.

Bekzat Boranbaiuly, head imam at a mosque in the city of Semey, said the vodka maker should seek forgiveness for the blasphemous use of the Arabic word for God.

Islam strictly forbids drinking alcohol.

The vodka brand is available in most shops in the northern Kazakhstan city of Semey at an average price of $4.40.

Ethnic Kazakhs are mainly Sunni Muslim, but religious attitudes are generally fairly relaxed. The country has a large Slavic minority and the consumption of alcohol is popular across the board.