Update on the latest religion news

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By AP

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Updated: Mon, 23 Dec 2013 04:15:57 EST

DUCK DYNASTY-HUCKABEE

Huckabee supports "Duck Dynasty" patriarch

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson's suspension by the A&E network shows that "militant activist groups" want to silence the kind of biblical views that Barack Obama expressed when he was running for president in 2008.

On Fox News Sunday, Huckabee said that when Obama spoke in 2008 at Saddleback Church, he "made it very clear that he opposed same-sex marriage, and he said he did so because he was a Christian and because of his biblical views."

In that appearance, Obama told Pastor Rick Warren, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman," and added, "For me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix."

Huckabee has launched an online petition calling on A&E to reinstate Robertson to the hit reality series.

He said Christians don't consider homosexual acts worse than other sins, and believe that all people are sinners in need of God's forgiveness.

Huckabee sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and has said that he may run again in 2016.

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208-a-23-(Former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., in interview)-"his biblical views"-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says the suspension of Phil Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" highlights an alarming trend. COURTESY: Fox News Sunday ((mandatory on-air credit))((note length of cut)) (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *208 (12/22/13)££ 00:23 "his biblical views"

210-a-15-(Former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., in interview)-"the most important"-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says the Bible treats homosexual acts as one sin among many. COURTESY: Fox News Sunday ((mandatory on-air credit)) (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *210 (12/22/13)££ 00:15 "the most important"

207-a-18-(Archive audio of Senator Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, in 2008 appearance at Saddleback Church)-"in the mix"-During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama expressed his view of marriage. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *207 (12/22/13)££ 00:18 "in the mix"

206-w-31-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with President Barack Obama and former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.)--Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson's suspension by the A-and-E network shows that "militant activist groups" want to silence the kind of biblical views that Barack Obama expressed when he was running for president in 2008. AP religion editor Steve Coleman reports. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *206 (12/22/13)££ 00:31

209-a-17-(Former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., in interview)-"that to yourself"-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says Christians have reason to be alarmed by Phil Robertson's suspension from "Duck Dynasty." COURTESY: Fox News Sunday ((mandatory on-air credit)) (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *209 (12/22/13)££ 00:17 "that to yourself"

DUCK DYNASTY-HOMETOWN

In 'Duck Dynasty' hometown local loyalty prevails

WEST MONROE, La. (AP) — "Faith. Family. Ducks." It's the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in West Monroe, La.

It's perhaps most on display at the White's Ferry Road Church of Christ, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.

The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew on Sunday, and standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.

Alan, Robertson's eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon.

Son Willie put on camouflage wader overalls and baptized three people, including one man with cancer.

Sound:

246-a-12-(Sally Sisson, Log Cabin, La. resident, in AP interview)-"supposed to be"-Log Cabin, Louisiana resident Sally Sisson says she doesn't understand why Phil Robertson's comments about gays being sinners were so provocative. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *246 (12/22/13)££ 00:12 "supposed to be"

247-a-13-(The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, pastor, Northminister Baptist Church, in AP interview)-"to us"-The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy says as someone who has worked for justice and equality for everyone, he doesn't appreciate Phil Robertson's comments. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *247 (12/22/13)££ 00:13 "to us"

245-a-07-(Mike Walsworth, West Monroe, La. resident, in AP interview)-"tell that story"-West Monroe, Louisiana resident Mike Walsworth says Phil Robertson is a different kind of guy. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *245 (12/22/13)££ 00:07 "tell that story"

248-a-16-(John Denison, gay Monroe, La. resident and head of Louisiana's Forum for Equality, in AP interview)-"to reach out"-Monroe, Louisiana resident John Denison, who's gay and heads Louisiana's Forum for Equality, says the comments by Phil Robertson are similar to other language he has heard to describe people like him. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *248 (12/22/13)££ 00:16 "to reach out"

FORT BRAGG-GAY MARRIAGE

Same-sex ceremony held at Fort Bragg's chapel

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina home of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and the Green Berets is opening its base chapel to same-sex ceremonies.

Fort Bragg saw Maj. Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor exchanged vows on Saturday.

The pair married in Washington, D.C., in August. The Fort Bragg ceremony wasn't a wedding, which is against state law. But the event drawing together more than 100 people to bless the pair's marriage is believed to be the first for a same-sex couple at Fort Bragg.

Attendees at the Episcopal service included a one-star general and a command sergeant major.

Also attending were Lt. Col. Heather Mack and her wife, who initially was barred from membership in the Fort Bragg Officers' Spouses Club before the group relented earlier this year.

GAY MARRIAGE-METHODISTS

Pa. pastor defrocked over gay wedding offered job

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A United Methodist pastor from central Pennsylvania who was defrocked after officiating at his son's gay wedding has been invited by a California Methodist bishop to serve in her region.

Frank Schaefer says he is deciding whether to accept the offer from Bishop Minerva Carcano (car-CAHN'-yo) to join the California-Pacific Annual Conference. The region includes California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands.

Carcano does not have the authority to restore his ministerial credentials but he says he would have the same rights.

Schaefer on Friday appealed the decision of the church's regional Board of Ordained Ministry to defrock him.

A church jury suspended him for 30 days last month and told him to decide whether he would uphold the church's Book of Discipline or resign. Schaefer refused to surrender his credentials.

MIDEAST CHRISTMAS

Minority Christians prepare for Christmas in the Mideast

JERUSALEM (AP) — Minority Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories are preparing to celebrate Christmas.

Most residents of the Holy Land are either Jewish or Muslim, but one shop in Jerusalem's Old City sells Christmas decorations.

Ivan Tatarsky was shopping there Sunday. He said he was buying a Christmas tree to give his children a joyous holiday. The 31-year-old Jerusalem resident said his family will be together on Christmas "singing songs and dancing around the tree."

In Gaza, Bishop Alexius of the Roman Orthodox Church lit the Christmas tree in his church Sunday. He said, "We are praying on Christmas, the birth of Jesus, for peace and no closure in our country." The bishop said Israel is allowing some Palestinian Christians to join their families in Gaza for Christmas, but is barring Palestinian youths.

The West Bank town of Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, is one of the few Palestinian cities where Christmas is really felt.

Sound:

183-a-08-(Ivan Tatarsky, Jerusalem resident, in AP interview)-"a nice holiday"-Jerusalem resident Ivan Tatarsky says he's buying Christmas decorations in Jerusalem's Old City. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *183 (12/22/13)££ 00:08 "a nice holiday"

184-a-08-(Ivan Tatarsky, Jerusalem resident, in AP interview)-"around the tree"-Jerusalem resident Ivan Tatarsky says his family is looking forward to Christmas. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *184 (12/22/13)££ 00:08 "around the tree"

185-a-08-(Bishop Alexius of the Roman Orthodox Church, in AP interview)-"the young people"-Bishop Alexius of the Roman Orthodox Church says separated Palestinian Christian families are being allowed partial reunions. (22 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *185 (12/22/13)££ 00:08 "the young people"

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS-BIRTH CONTROL

Injunction granted in Okla. birth control lawsuit

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge has granted an injunction that prohibits the government from enforcing the federal health care law's requirement that insurance coverage include access to the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives on almost 200 religious organizations that filed a class-action lawsuit to div the mandate.

The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti will prevent the government from enforcing the mandate as the religious groups' lawsuit makes its way through the legal system. The lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of 187 ministries that provide their employees with health benefits through GuideStone Financial Resources, the health benefits arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the lawsuit, the ministries object to providing four out of 20 Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, which they allege may cause early abortions.

PITTSBURGH DIOCESE-BIRTH CONTROL

Pa. Catholic groups win health care act ruling

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Catholic groups in western Pennsylvania have received another favorable legal ruling in their fight over mandates in the federal health care law.

District Judge Arthur Schwab has granted a permanent injunction to the Catholic Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie in their case. That means they don't have to comply with the disputed provisions unless the ruling is overturned by a higher court.

The dioceses object to the law's requirement that contraception, including sterilization, be offered in employee health care plans.

Schwab ruled in November that forcing Catholic schools and charities to comply with the Affordable Care Act could result in decreased donations and the closure of some programs.

Both sides expect the case to be appealed to higher courts. There are numerous similar challenges in other states.

VATICAN-POPE

Pope urges Italy to find houses for all families

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has urged anti-austerity protesters who attended his weekly Angelus blessing to use dialogue and not violence to press their demands.

Addressing a group of protesters among the pilgrims gathered Sunday in St. Peter's Square, the pope appealed for "a constructive contribution, rejecting the temptation for conflict and violence and following always the path of dialogue."

The pope read aloud one of their banners: "The poor cannot wait." He urged everyone from charities to Italian authorities "to do everything possible so that every family can have a house" this holiday season.

Protests aimed at impressing upon Italian leaders the pain inflicted on ordinary people by the country's economic crisis have been under way across the country for two weeks. Some of them have erupted into violence.

ITALY-POPE-CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Pope Francis visits Rome children's hospital

ROME (AP) — Young patients at Rome's main children's hospital have presented Pope Francis with a basket full of notes expressing their hopes to get well.

Francis spent three hours Saturday visiting patients and their families at the Bay Jesus children's hospital. He was greeted by about a dozen children, who presented him with a bouquet of white roses and a large cardboard heart.

Among the wishes was one from Diego who asked for "no more needles" and Pietro who wished "there were no more illnesses."

Francis thanked the children for their wishes and said "let's present them together to Jesus," adding "especially with you children, Jesus has a special bond."

Francis is the fifth pontiff to visit the hospital, which is controlled by the Vatican's secretary of state.

RUNNING CHAPLAIN

Army chaplain beats cancer, runs SC marathon

FORT JACKSON, S.C. (AP) — Army Chaplain Jeremiah Catlin is running marathons, but it's taken him six years to get there after beating Stage 4 melanoma.

The Wichita, Kansas, native discovered a lump growing on his chest while deployed to Iraq in 2007. Army doctors told the 32-year-old to go home and celebrate the last Christmas he would ever have.

He says he told God in his prayers that there must have been a mistake. But he found doctors who helped him beat the cancer with three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. And he slowly worked to regain his top physical form, running his first marathon at the Darlington Raceway in the fall and training for another in February.

Now, Catlin says he thinks God gave him the experience of overcoming cancer to help him be a better minister to others who are suffering.

ALL-DIGITAL HIGH SCHOOL

Catholic school all-in on trend of all-digital textbooks

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Around the country, schools are increasingly dumping heavy, expensive printed textbooks and putting the material online.

It can be pricey, especially for a public school district, but a Roman Catholic boys' school in the New York City suburbs has gone all-in.

Except for the books on religion, all the texts at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y., from freshman biology to advanced computer programming, are part of a "digital bookshelf" they carry in their laptops and tablets.

Digital books can go beyond their paper counterparts. A history book includes newsreel footage of Woodrow Wilson. A science book shows scientific processes in motion. An English book detects a weakness in grammar and offers help.

Educators say it's an easy transition because students today are "digital natives" accustomed to learning online and on the computer.

MCDONALD'S SETTLEMENT

McDonald's to pay $50g to settle beard suit

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — McDonald's has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit that claimed it discriminated against a Muslim employee who wasn't allowed to grow a beard.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the settlement was reached Thursday with McDonald's Restaurants of California.

According to the suit, Shaheed Khan was a crew trainer at a Fresno McDonald's in 2005 when he asked to wear a beard to work, citing religious beliefs. He quit after the request was refused.

The commission filed a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations. Under the settlement, McDonald's agreed to pay $50,000 to Shaheen and to reinforce training of its managers and staff on existing anti-discrimination policies.

The company didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing.

OBIT-BRONFMAN

Businessman, Jewish advocate Bronfman dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Billionaire businessman and longtime World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman Sr. has died. He was 84.

The Samuel Bronfman Foundation says the longtime CEO of his family's Seagram's liquor empire died Saturday at his home in New York.

Bronfman led the World Jewish Congress during the 1980s when it lobbied the Soviets to allow Jews to emigrate and helped spearhead the search for hidden Nazi loot. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1999. His citation said he worked "to ensure basic rights for Jews around the world."

At Seagram, Bronfman and his brother expanded the company founded by their father before it was acquired by French media and telecom group Vivendi Universal in 2000.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi king appoints son as new Mecca governor

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) —Saudi Arabia's state media report that King Abdullah has appointed one of his sons as the new governor of Mecca, a prestigious and influential position that includes oversight of Islam's holiest shrine.

The 43-year-old Prince Mishaal, who is the king's sixth son, will govern the province of Mecca which is home to the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure toward which Muslims pray, as well as the large Red Sea city of Jiddah.

The 89-year-old king has steadily put his closest relatives in top posts since his ascension to the throne in 2005. Saudi Arabia is one of the world's last standing absolute monarchies and authority is concentrated within an aging and shrinking circle of Al Saud family leaders.

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