Update on the latest religion news

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By AP

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Updated: Thu, 02 Jan 2014 04:16:13 EST

SUPREME COURT-HEALTH OVERHAUL

Supreme Court justice delays birth control mandate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has thrown a hitch into President Barack Obama's new health care law by diving a requirement that some religion-affiliated organizations provide health insurance that includes birth control.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor decided late Tuesday night to div implementation of the contraceptive coverage requirement, only hours before portions of the law would have gone into effect on New Year's Day.

Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged. She gave government officials until 10 a.m. Eastern time Friday to respond to her order.

The White House says it's confident that the rules requiring free contraceptive coverage under the law also address the objections of religious organizations.

Sound:

174-w-39-(Diane Kepley, AP correspondent, with attorney Mark Rienzi, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)--Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has delayed part of the Affordable Care Act -- a delay welcomed by a religious group that challenged the measure. AP correspondent Diane Kepley reports. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *174 (01/01/14)££ 00:39

177-a-13-(Mark Rienzi, attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Denver, in AP interview)-"the elderly poor"-Attorney Mark Rienzi says without Justice Sotomayor's action, the nuns would have been in a difficult position. ((longer version of cut in wrap)) (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *177 (01/01/14)££ 00:13 "the elderly poor"

176-a-16-(Mark Rienzi, attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Denver, in AP interview)-"and abortion-inducing drugs"-Attorney Mark Rienzi says the nuns generally support the Affordable Care Act -- just not these provisions. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *176 (01/01/14)££ 00:16 "and abortion-inducing drugs"

175-a-10-(Mark Rienzi, attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Denver, in AP interview)-"in that way"-Attorney Mark Rienzi explains why the nuns object to the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires them to authorize insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs. ((portion of cut used in wrap)) (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *175 (01/01/14)££ 00:10 "in that way"

178-a-08-(Mark Rienzi, attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Denver, in AP interview)-"answers about it"-Attorney Mark Rienzi says it's time for the Supreme Court to make a consistent decision on how this part of the Affordable Care Act should be handled for all groups. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *178 (01/01/14)££ 00:08 "answers about it"

BOY SCOUTS-CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVES

Christian programs offer alternative to gay-friendly Boy Scouts

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Christians unsettled by the Boy Scouts of America accepting openly gay youths in the new year are being offered at least two alternatives.

The Royal Rangers program has served the Assemblies of God for more than 50 years and now boasts an estimated 125,000 members. Assemblies of God General Superintendent the Rev. George Wood says the "Christ-centered" mentoring program for boys is now being offered to other denominations as well.

Another Christian scouting alternative, Trail Life USA, is just getting started, with 425 troops pre-chartered.

Board chairman John Stemberger says he and other former Boy Scout leaders are concerned that the BSA's policy could lead to openly gay scouts abusing younger boys, even though the new policy prohibits "any sexual conduct" or gay advocacy.

So far, massive defections from the Boy Scouts haven't materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.

Sound:

246-a-09-(John Stemberger, chairman of the board, Trail Life USA, in AP interview)-"development and leadership"-John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, says the new program has 425 troops pre-chartered. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *246 (01/01/14)££ 00:09 "development and leadership"

243-w-31-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with John Stemberger, chairman of the board, Trail Life USA)--Christians unsettled by the Boy Scouts of America accepting openly gay youths in the new year are being offered at least two alternatives. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *243 (01/01/14)££ 00:31

248-a-11-(John Stemberger, chairman of the board, Trail Life USA, in AP interview)-"who he is"-John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, says the new group was formed after the Boy Scouts decided to let openly gay boys become members. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *248 (01/01/14)££ 00:11 "who he is"

245-a-08-(The Rev. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, in AP interview)-"involved in that"-The Rev. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, says the Royal Rangers offer many of the same activities as the Boy Scouts. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *245 (01/01/14)££ 00:08 "involved in that"

244-a-13-(The Rev. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, in AP interview)-"of different groups"-The Rev. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, says the Royal Rangers program offers an alternative to Boy Scouts. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *244 (01/01/14)££ 00:13 "of different groups"

247-a-13-(John Stemberger, chairman of the board, Trail Life USA, in AP interview)-"of the boys"-John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, says the new group is a Christ-centered alternative to the Boy Scouts. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *247 (01/01/14)££ 00:13 "of the boys"

ROSE PARADE-GAY MARRIAGE

Rose Parade hosts its first same-sex wedding

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — It's the 125th time the Rose Parade has made its way through the streets of Pasadena, California -- but never before has the parade featured a same-sex marriage.

Two men stood atop a giant wedding cake float and exchanged vows as part of the New Year's Day event. Spectators cheered as Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair, dressed in dark suits, faced each other and held hands during the ceremony.

The Rev. Alfreda Lanoix (lah-NWAH') of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ performed the wedding ceremony aboard the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float.

Organizers of the parade said the float represented this year's theme, which was "Dreams Come True."

Still, there were calls for a boycott of the parade because of the gay marriage. A San Diego woman launched a Facebook page urging people to skip the event.

PRIEST SUSPENDED

Owensboro police asked to investigate priest

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — The Commonwealth's Attorney's office has asked the Owensboro, Ky., Police Department to investigate allegations against a Roman Catholic priest accused of inappropriate conduct with a minor.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports that the Diocese of Owensboro announced the temporary suspension of the Rev. John Meredith following an investigation.

A letter from Owensboro Bishop William Medley says the Diocesan Review Board unanimously judged the allegation to be credible and urges compassion for the person who brought the matter to light.

Meredith has been a priest at Blessed Mother Catholic Church since 2008.

Commonwealth's Attorney Bruce Kuegel said the diocese referred the matter to the prosecutor's office. He declined to identify the alleged inappropriate conduct.

BLOOMBERG-LAST SPEECH

Bloomberg gives last speech as NYC mayor

NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his final speech as mayor on Tuesday to thank religious leaders for helping New Yorkers in need and to praise the city's diversity.

At an interfaith breakfast in the New York Public Library, Bloomberg said, "Big numbers are easy to deal with. It's much tougher when you deal one on one, looking at a person right in the eye who has a problem."

Bloomberg turned more lighthearted when he spoke about the clock winding down on his tenure.

"As you may know, I've been mayor now for 11 years, 364 days and about nine hours, but who's counting?" he said.

He also cited remarks by Pope Francis about the importance of cities. He then quipped, "The fact that a Jewish kid can quote the Pope in a secular building built by Protestants in front of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders really says all you need to know about New York City."

VATICAN-NEW YEAR

Pope stresses strength, courage, hope in new year

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is offering "words of strength, courage and hope" as the world begins a new year. That was his emphasis in a homily during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday morning.

The Catholic church dedicates Jan. 1 to the promotion of world peace. Francis said there is a "hunger and thirst for justice, peace and God" in the world.

In his first year as pope, Francis has charted a path for what he calls a "poor" church attentive to the needy and a "joyous" one reaching out to others.

The Argentine-born pontiff urged Catholics worldwide to follow an "itinerary of faith" that promotes a joyous Gospel "without borders."

Sound:

152-r-25-(Sound of Pope Francis, speaking in Italian, in homily during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica)--Sound of Pope Francis speaking in Italian in his homily during Mass, offering a blessing for 'strength, courage and hope.' COURTESY: Vatican TV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *152 (01/01/14)££ 00:25

153-r-25-(Sound of Pope Francis, speaking in Italian, addressing thousands in St. Peter's Square)--Sound of Pope Francis speaking in Italian about a letter he received lamenting the world's pervasive violence, and asking 'What is happening in the heart of humanity? It is time to stop' the violence. COURTESY: Vatican TV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *153 (01/01/14)££ 00:25

150-c-17-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"line with that"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports the pope went off script to emphasize his concerns about the brutality he sees around the globe. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *150 (01/01/14)££ 00:17 "line with that"

149-c-20-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"each other's brothers"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports Pope Francis emphasized that friends and enemies are all part of the same human family sharing a common destiny. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *149 (01/01/14)££ 00:20 "each other's brothers"

151-c-18-(Frances D'Emilio (deh-MIHL'-ee-oh), AP correspondent)-"a huge crowd"-AP correspondent Frances D'Emilio reports some of the pope's most poignant moments occur when he ad libs. (1 Jan 2014)

<<CUT *151 (01/01/14)££ 00:18 "a huge crowd"

IRANIAN STUDENT-ORGAN GIFTS

Nurses, family bond online as Iranian dies in US

HOUGHTON, Mich. (AP) — The tragic death of an Iranian woman in Michigan has bonded two cultures and led to a rare donation of eight life-saving organs.

Sanaz Nezami died on Dec. 9, just a few weeks after arriving in northern Michigan to pursue an advanced degree in engineering.

Police say she was severely beaten. Her husband is charged with second-degree murder.

Marquette General Hospital found the 27-year-old woman's family in Iran and communicated with them through video on a laptop. The family allowed Nezami's heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and small intestine to be removed and transplanted to seven people in five states.

Nezami's sister says, "We wanted God to perform a miracle and bring Sanaz back to life. But this is a miracle. Sanaz gave her life in order to give life."

Nezami was buried Dec. 18 in Marquette's Park Cemetery. As a light snow fell, the hospital's Episcopal chaplain, the Rev. Leon Jarvis, read Muslim prayers over the casket.

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