Obama extension of gay rights may not include religious exemption
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but it's unclear if there will be a religious exemption.
Obama hoped that Congress would pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch called on the White House to include the same religious exemptions in the executive order that are included in legislation the Senate passed but which is stalled in the House. The bill includes exemptions for churches and other houses of worship, as well as religiously affiliated organizations.
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, says if there's no religious exemption, some Christian and Jewish charities will have to either violate their faith or withdraw from federal contracts.
Arizona break-in highlights gun-possessing clergy
PHOENIX (AP) — A deadly burglary at an Arizona church is raising questions about the wisdom of clergy possessing weapons, no matter how dangerous their mission.
Authorities say a Roman Catholic priest responding to a break-in last week at his downtown Phoenix church grabbed a handgun that ended up in the burglar's hands — and was then used to kill a fellow priest who tried to help.
Many American Catholic leaders have argued that church teaching compels them to advocate for greater limits on guns, but self-defense is also part of Catholic theology, and Catholics have different views of the issue.
Concern about security at churches has grown in the last decade or so in the wake of several high-profile shootings.
The Diocese of Phoenix has no policy on priests carrying guns.
Mormon church agency leaving adoption business
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The social services arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it will no longer operate a full-service Mormon adoption agency, but will shift resources toward adoption-related counseling.
Officials with LDS Family Services made the announcement Tuesday, saying the change will provide would-be parents with more opportunities to adopt.
David McConkie, who manages the organization's services for children, tells The Salt Lake Tribune that the traditional adoption agency model wasn't working for LDS Family Services. He said fewer women are putting their children up for adoption these days, likely because the stigma of being an unwed mother has subsided.
Family Services has been placing 200 to 300 children per year, down from a peak of 665 in 2002.
Officials tell KSL that the decision isn't driven by pressure to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples.
Kenya president blames locals for deadly attacks
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The killers in the Kenyan village singled out non-Muslims Monday night, shooting them point-blank or slitting their throats, just like the previous night in an adjacent hamlet. A Somali extremist group claimed responsibility but Kenya's president on Tuesday blamed local political networks for the 60 deaths.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a national address, said al-Shabab, a Somali group linked to al-Qaida, was not behind the attacks.
But other Kenyan leaders said the second night of deadly attacks against a Christian community on Kenya's north coast seemed designed to try to inflame religious tensions, and al-Shabab said such attacks will continue in retaliation for what it considers Kenya's oppression of innocent Muslims.
An office of Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio was destroyed in the first attack, but TWR spokesman Jon Hill says the office was empty at the time. He says the Christian radio station, located on Lamu island 18 miles offshore, continues to broadcast, with an emphasis on the need for peace and reconciliation.
Giving increases, but not for churches
NEW YORK (AP) — A new report finds charitable giving to social service and church groups, which tends to depend on middle class donors, is flat while institutions like universities, hospitals and the arts are swimming in cash from their usually wealthy benefactors.
The Giving USA report says Americans gave more than $335 billion to charity in 2013, up 3 percent from 2012 after adjusting for inflation.
Religious organizations received more donations than any other sector in 2013, with $105 billion in gifts. But Giving USA said the 31 percent share for church groups was their lowest portion of total giving in four decades. Adjusted for inflation, giving to religious groups declined by 1.6 percent last year.
The research firm Empty Tomb, which tracks religious giving trends, says church members are giving less of their income to their churches than they used to.
But Giving USA board member Rick Dunham says much of the giving to social service groups and Christian schools also arises from religious motives.