Religion news in brief

AP News
Posted: Apr 11, 2012 5:25 PM
Religion news in brief

Tunisia marks 10 years since bloody synagogue bomb

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) _ Tunisia's president reassured his nation's Jews of their place in society in a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of an al-Qaida truck bomb at a synagogue on the island of Djerba that killed 21 people.

President Moncef Marzouki flew to the island accompanied by Tunisia's grand rabbi, Haim Bitan, to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence to remember the victims of the truck bombing, which included 14 German and two French tourists. The ambassadors of France and Germany attended, along with the families of the victims.

"All forms of discrimination against Jews, assaults on their lives, possessions or religion are forbidden," he said in a speech inside the synagogue, as he unveiled a plaque. "Tunisian Jews are an integral part of our people and they share all the rights and duties. Whoever violates their rights, attacks all Tunisians."

The speech comes at a time when Tunisia's small, 1,500-strong Jewish community is facing pressure from ultraconservative Muslim groups, after an uprising last year overthrew Tunisia's decades-old secular dictatorship.

At a demonstration of Salafi activists on March 25 calling for the implementation of Islamic law, a Muslim religious leader chanted slogans to "prepare for the fight against the Jews," prompting the leader of the Jewish community, Roger Bismuth, to file a lawsuit against him.


Abuse scandal continues to take toll on US church

NEW YORK (AP) _ Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders received nearly 600 credible clergy sex abuse claims last year. All but a few of the allegations involve wrongdoing from decades ago that are only being reported now.

The findings are part of an annual child safety report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Auditors check compliance with the discipline plan bishops adopted in 2002 at the height of the abuse scandal.

Church officials say they paid more than $144 million in settlements and related costs last year, a slight drop from 2010. Another $33 million was spent on background checks and other child protection measures.

Auditors say improvements are needed in how dioceses monitor accused priests. The auditors also warn about complacency after a decade of intense scandal. Victims' advocate David Clohessy of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says the report is not a true audit. Clohessy says it's "a glorified self-survey, frankly, by the same men who have caused and continue to cause the abuse and cover-up crisis."


Appeals court to consider $66M Tony Alamo judgment

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has agreed to consider a $66 million civil judgment that a jury awarded to two men who say they were abused as children growing up in evangelist Tony Alamo's ministry.

The Texarkana Gazette reports that the oral arguments will likely be heard this summer by a federal appeals court in St. Louis. Alamo is appealing the $66 million in damages that a jury awarded to the plaintiffs, Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna. The two were raised in the Alamo's ministry and a jury agreed that they'd suffered physical abuse and were deprived of an education.

Alamo is currently serving a 175-year federal prison sentence. He was convicted in July 2009 of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.


Convicted US priest remained clergyman for years

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Jurors in a landmark church sex-abuse trial in Philadelphia have been presented with documents outlining the troubled clerical career of a priest who was convicted of child pornography charges yet remained in ministry for years despite similar and repeated complaints.

Prosecutors presented years of correspondence from mental health facilities, therapists and church officials regarding Edward DePaoli when he was a priest. The documents, kept in the archdiocese's secret archives, outlined how DePaoli was convicted in federal court of child pornography charges in 1986. Despite the conviction, he went through psychological treatment, rounds of therapy, and a half dozen church assignments for two decades before he was removed from the priesthood in 2005.

DePaoli is not a defendant in the trial, but prosecutors are trying to make their case against Monsignor William Lynn, who was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 and entrusted with investigating complaints against priests. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly transferring priests suspected of molestation.


Court hears case of fired Fla. teacher

ATLANTA (AP) _ A federal appeals court in Atlanta has heard testimony in the trial of a lawsuit filed by a fourth-grade teacher fired by the principal of a Florida Christian school after she disclosed that she was pregnant before she got married.

A lawyer argued that Jaretta Hamilton is the victim of discrimination, and that the principal at Southland Christian School in St. Cloud fired her because she was pregnant and her maternity leave was going to be inconvenient for the school.

A lawyer for the school told a three-judge panel that the school has a right to fire someone who violates its moral code. The attorney also raised a recent Supreme Court decision that acknowledged the existence of an exception to anti-discrimination laws for churches.

Hamilton was teaching at the nondenominational school in 2009, when she married. About two months later, she and her husband met with the principal to request maternity leave. During the meeting, Hamilton said the baby was conceived before the two were married. Hamilton was fired a short time later.


Court: Ban on abortion protest unconstitutional

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that a state court order that barred abortion protesters from appearing at a town square in the city of Jackson last year violated the protesters' constitutional rights.

In a lengthy 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled the temporary restraining order violated the First Amendment rights of protesters with the group Operation Save America. Dozens of Operation Save America members descended on Jackson last May with graphic signs of aborted fetuses that they showed around town.

City officials objected, saying the signs were inappropriate because the material would have been seen by hundreds of Boy Scouts attending a local event called Elkfest.