In Iowa, Ted Cruz embraces his religious side
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Long known as a fiscal conservative, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is embracing his religious side for Christian home schooling advocates in Iowa.
The Texas Republican told a crowd of more than 500 homeschoolers in Des Moines on Tuesday that "there is no liberty more important than religious liberty." And Cruz decried what he called the federal government's attempts to impede it.
He said the Obama administration has been more openly hostile to religious freedom than any other in American history.
Cruz is frequently mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. His fourth visit to Iowa since last summer has fueled that speculation. Cruz addressed the Iowa Republican Party's annual Ronald Reagan dinner in October, and met with Christian conservatives and evangelical leaders during two visits last summer.
Iowa is expected to host the first nominating caucuses for the 2016 presidential election.
Eastern Mennonite reviews same-sex hiring policy
HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — Eastern Mennonite University is reviewing its policy against hiring people who are in same-sex relationships.
The review includes a six-month listening process that began in January. The university, in Harrisonburg, Va., is conducting an online survey through April 30 to gather public input. The survey is posted on the university's website.
Eastern Mennonite conducted a previous survey to obtain input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors.
Valley Family Forum Chaplain John Sloop told WHSV-TV that changing the policy would go against the word of God. He says the university would lose support.
But Claire Whiting, who attends a Mennonite church, believes the change could be positive.
The President's Cabinet will make a recommendation on whether to change the policy to the university's board of directors in June.
Joseph Fan, underground bishop of Shanghai, dies
BEIJING (AP) — Catholic groups say the underground bishop of Shanghai, Joseph Fan, has died at age 97 following decades of imprisonment and house arrest.
The U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation says Fan died early Sunday evening following a brief illness. It says officials in China's financial hub turned down a request to hold his funeral at the city's cathedral.
Fan was named Shanghai bishop by John Paul II in 2000, but was refused recognition by the Communist Party body overseeing the church in China. Fan was placed under house arrest and another priest, Aloysius Jin Luxian, was named as bishop.
China rejects the Vatican's insistence on the right to appoint bishops and the sides have no formal ties.
Jin's successor, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, has not been seen since being taken into custody in 2012.
Christians, Muslims join anti-slavery campaign
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Christians and Muslims have joined to try to help free millions of men, women and children who are held in modern-day slavery, being forced to work as maids, prostitutes, child soldiers and manual laborers.
The Global Freedom Network launched Monday at the Vatican aims to eradicate slavery by encouraging governments, businesses, educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labor. The initiative is the brainchild of billionaire Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest, who founded the Walk Free Foundation in 2012 to mobilize a grass-roots movement to end slavery.
Forrest, ranked 270th on Forbes' list of the world's richest people, used personal contacts to bring the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church, 85-million strong Anglican Communion and al-Azhar university in Cairo, the world's foremost seat of Sunni learning, on board with the initiative.
Director and actors defend Noah movie
BERLIN (AP) — Director Darren Aronofsky predicts that controversy over the movie "Noah" will disappear once people start to see it.
At the European debut of his $125 million epic, Aronofsky said he believes the biblical story and its characters will resonate with moviegoers regardless of their religion.
The film, starring Russell Crowe as the ark builder, has prompted officials in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to announce it won't be shown in their theaters because Muslims believe it's wrong to depict a prophet.
In the U.S., conservative Christians convinced Paramount Pictures to add a disclaimer to its marketing material saying that "artistic license has been taken" in telling the story.
Jennifer Connelly, who plays Noah's wife, says she thinks much of the controversy about the film is "just speculation" on the part of people who haven't seen it.
"Noah" will open in U.S. theaters on March 28.