Update on the latest religion news

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Updated: Thu, 03 Jul 2014 07:20:27 EST


Cape Hatteras pastor braces for hurricane

BUXTON, N.C. (AP) — Father Fred Smuda says his church rectory on North Carolina's Outer Banks is on stilts and built to sway in hurricane winds.

Smuda is pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, two miles from the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The lighthouse is on the southeast tip of Hatteras Island, which Dare County officials placed under a mandatory evacuation order as Tropical Storm Arthur approached hurricane strength Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for Dare County and much of the North Carolina coast. Dare County officials say residents and out-of-town visitors who may already have arrived for the Fourth of July weekend should evacuate during daylight hours Thursday.

Late Wednesday, Smuda said the barrier island's only highway was already packed with vacationers trying to escape the storm's expected high winds and seas.

The priest says his parishioners are "a very praying community," but would welcome the prayers of others too.


233-a-07-(Father Fred Smuda (SMOO'-dah), pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, in AP interview)-"above ground level"-Father Fred Smuda, pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, says his church rectory should survive the storm. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *233 (07/02/14)££ 00:07 "above ground level"

231-a-08-(Father Fred Smuda (SMOO'-dah), pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, in AP interview)-"around like crazy"-Father Fred Smuda, pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, says no hurricane has hit Cape Hatteras since he became pastor last year. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *231 (07/02/14)££ 00:08 "around like crazy"

234-a-11-(Father Fred Smuda (SMOO'-dah), pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, in AP interview)-"with the wind"-Father Fred Smuda, pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, says the church rectory where he lives is on stilts 15 feet above the ground. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *234 (07/02/14)££ 00:11 "with the wind"

235-a-10-(Father Fred Smuda (SMOO'-dah), pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, in AP interview)-"the Outer Banks"-Father Fred Smuda, pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, says most of his congregation had planned to ride out the storm. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *235 (07/02/14)££ 00:10 "the Outer Banks"

232-a-09-(Father Fred Smuda (SMOO'-dah), pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, in AP interview)-"two miles away"-Father Fred Smuda, pastor of Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church, says the highway is packed with vacationers leaving Cape Hatteras. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *232 (07/02/14)££ 00:09 "two miles away"


US: Freed Christian woman still in Sudan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence for apostasy was overturned remains stuck in Sudan amid an ongoing dispute over travel documents that would allow her to fly to the United States with her family.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee) said Wednesday that 27-year-old Meriam Ibrahim and her two small children have the documentation they need, but notes "there are others" who disagree.

Her husband Daniel Wani, who holds American citizenship and is with them, said Sudanese authorities accused his wife of forging the documents — a charge he denies.

A U.S. official said last Friday that Ibrahim was at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum and said diplomats were trying to arrange her departure from Sudan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media. Ibrahim's lawyer said the family was in the U.S. embassy for fear of attack.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim, was convicted of apostasy for marrying a Christian. She insists she was never a Muslim, but was raised as a Christian from the beginning.


297-a-14-(Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee), State Department spokeswoman, at briefing)-"have that documentation"-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says Meriam Ibrahim is still in Sudan. (2 Jul 2014)

<<CUT *297 (07/02/14)££ 00:14 "have that documentation"


Alabama shuts down church's sex offender housing

CLANTON, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama pastor says he's shutting down his refuge for convicted sex offenders because of a new law.

Ricky Martin says he doesn't like having to move men out of campers beside his church in rural Chilton County but he has no choice.

Legislators passed a law earlier this year prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living within 300 feet of each other on the same property. It took effect Tuesday.

Martin said he's committed to following the Bible's commands to care for the outcast.

Prosecutor C.J. Robinson said he doesn't doubt the sincerity of Martin's religious beliefs, but there were complaints and concerns over the large number of registered sex offenders on Martin's property. Robinson says more than 50 men have lived at the camp since 2010.


Boy skips church, father charged with endangering

BLANCHESTER, Ohio (AP) — The father of an 8-year-old boy who skipped church and was found at a store near his home has been charged with child endangering.

Police say the boy apparently walked on a busy highway to a Family Dollar store in Blanchester, Ohio, on April 30.

The boy's father, 31-year-old Jeffrey Williamson, told police that he assumed the boy had gotten on a church bus with his four siblings when it pulled up at their house shortly after 6 p.m. but he didn't watch them board it.

The boy's four siblings returned home on the church bus while police were at the home investigating.

Police say Williamson told the investigating officer that his arrest was "ridiculous" because the store was "only 4 divs away" from the family's house.


Grand jury takes case of pastor accused of murder

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A grand jury is reviewing the case of a California youth pastor accused of murder after an altercation outside a Las Vegas pub.

News of the secret proceedings was revealed Wednesday during a Las Vegas court hearing for 35-year-old Robert Lynn Cox.

It's unclear when the jury will decide whether to indict Cox in the death of 55-year-old Link Ellingson, who died of hemorrhaging about six months after the June 13, 2013 confrontation outside the pub.

Cox says he was traveling with members of his Manteca church and stopped for a late-night dinner when Ellingson approached the group and assaulted them. Group members said Cox grabbed the man and both fell. Ellingson hit his head and later died.

Las Vegas police say Cox initially said he punched Ellingson.


Sunrise to fight judge's ruling in 2000 suit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Sunrise Children's Services is planning to challenge a ruling from a federal judge this week that settled a 14-year-old lawsuit over public funding of faith-based organizations.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson on Monday approved a settlement and dismissed the suit, which was filed in 2000 against Kentucky Baptist Homes, now known as Sunrise.

Sunrise attorney John Sheller says the agency will appeal Simpson's ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sheller says the Supreme Court ruling this week on the religious rights of corporate organizations like Hobby Lobby could provide guidance in Sunrise's case.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says Sunrise doesn't have "much of a substantive objection" to the settlement approved by the court.


Teen dies after lighting strike, sheriff says

ETOWAH, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas sheriff says a teenager was killed after he was struck by lightning outside a church.

Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook says 16-year-old Steven Shepherd was standing next to a tree in the Carroll's Corner community on Tuesday night when a storm began to move in. Cook says the teenager's mother was working at the church with others and began looking for him once they noticed he was missing.

Cook tells The Jonesboro Sun that the teen was found face down by a tree that had been struck by lightning.

The youth was taken to South Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Osceola, where he later died.


Vatican gives thumbs up for exorcist association

VATICAN CITY (AP) — An organization of exorcists now has the church's stamp of approval.

The Vatican has formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported Tuesday that the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy had approved the organization's statutes and recognized the group under canon law.

More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.

The head of the association, the Rev. Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy, because exorcism "benefits those who suffer."


China bans Ramadan fast in Muslim northwest

BEIJING (AP) — Government workers, teachers and members of the ruling Communist Party in China's Muslim northwest have been prohibited from taking part in traditional fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Statements posted Wednesday on the websites of government agencies and schools in the Xinjiang (shihn-jahng) region warned employees not to participate in fasting or religious activities for Ramadan, which began Saturday.

The website of a local party committee said party cadres at a forestry bureau there signed a pledge to "firmly resist fasting."

China is in the midst of a security crackdown in Xinjiang following a series of attacks the government blames on Muslim extremists.

A grade school said on its website that it would prevent teachers and students from fasting.

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