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County Wants God's Mercy After Gay Marriage Ruling
MARYVILLE, Tenn. - Officials in a Tennessee county have adjourned without taking action on a resolution asking for God's mercy as it complies with the Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.
      The proposed resolution said Blount County is being forced to issue and recognize marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and it asked God to spare the county from the wrath poured out on the biblical cities Sodom and Gomorrah.
      Wednesday's sudden adjournment shocked the 150 citizens who packed into the meeting room. Some of the attendees expressed their disbelief by shouting "Cowards!" and "You've got to be kidding me!"
      Blount County Commissioner Karen Miller, who proposed the resolution, Miller said she "most likely" would try to reintroduce the measure.

Priest Pleads Not Guilty to Endangering Boy with Musket, 8
HACKENSACK, N.J. - A New Jersey priest accused of pointing a functioning musket at an 8-year-old boy in a church rectory as part of a football rivalry has pleaded not guilty to child endangerment and aggravated assault charges.
      The Rev. Kevin Carter entered his plea Tuesday during a brief hearing in Hackensack.
      The charges stem from a Sept. 13 incident at St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church in Little Ferry.
      Carter, an avid New York Giants fan, claims it was joke that was misinterpreted. He and the boy, who roots for the Dallas Cowboys, were talking about football shortly before the incident occurred. The NFL teams were scheduled to play that night.
      Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli has said he doesn't consider pointing a gun at someone to be a joke.

Pope Aims to Assure Conservatives Marriage Doctrine Safe
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has sought to assure conservatives that Catholic doctrine on marriage isn't up for discussion as a three-week meeting of bishops begins hashing out how the church should welcome gays, divorced people and Catholics in "irregular" unions.
      Francis took the floor after the meeting's first day was marked by a speech from the synod manager, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, in which he closed the door on any movement on whether Catholics remarried outside the church could receive Communion.
      Francis said the issue wasn't the only one on the table and church doctrine isn't up for debate. But in recounting Francis' closed-door speech, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, noted that the synod is discussing a papally approved working text, where the Communion question for civilly remarried Catholics is still open.
      An assistant to Lombardi, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, said several bishops raised the need for a new "language of mercy" in speaking about homosexuals and ministering to unwed couples.

Vatican: Pope Francis to Visit Mexico Next Year, No Date Yet
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican says Pope Francis is planning to visit Mexico next year.
      The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed Tuesday that plans are underway for the trip and said it would include a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. No dates were announced.
      Francis has said previously that he would have liked to have entered the U.S. from Mexico in a sign of solidarity with migrants during his recent U.S. trip, but that the schedule didn't allow for it.
      Francis had planned to visit his native Argentina as well as Uruguay and Chile next year, but it's not clear if that trip will still take place. He also plans to take part next July in the church's World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.

Ex-Manager of Catholic Church Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor
TROY, Mich. - The former manager of a Catholic parish in suburban Detroit says she kept her divorced husband on the church's health insurance at a cost of $26,000.
      Janice Verschuren pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor in federal court. The plea deal ends a case that began with more serious charges of fraud and conspiracy involving her boss, the Rev. Ed Belczak, at St. Thomas More Church in Troy, Michigan.
      Judge Arthur Tarnow will have flexibility when he sentences Verschuren on Oct. 26. She could avoid a prison term.
      Belczak recently pleaded guilty to fraud in a scheme to conceal the theft of more than $500,000. He used a portion of the money to buy a Florida condominium from Verschuren. Belczak will get his sentence on Dec. 1.
Pruitt Opinion Says School Prayer Ban is Overly Broad
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has issued a formal opinion that a recently enacted policy prohibiting public prayer at playoff events is overly broad.
      An opinion released Tuesday by Pruitt addressed a policy approved this summer by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. The group that governs high school athletics in Oklahoma prohibits schools or individuals from publicly reciting a prayer at OSSAA events.
      Slaughterville Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland, an outspoken critic of the OSSAA, requested the attorney general's opinion on that new policy.
      Pruitt's opinion says school districts may not prohibit remarks by a student speaker if those students are selected through "neutral criteria."
      OSSAA spokesman Van Shea Iven says he hadn't seen the opinion and couldn't immediately comment.
Police Arrest Man Who Posed as Mormon 'Pastor' to Cash Check
PHILADELPHIA - Authorities say a Philadelphia man has been arrested on charges that he posed as a Mormon "pastor" to cash a refund check intended for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
      Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Mark Postell was arrested Sunday and charged with wire fraud. They allege that he somehow obtained a check for more than $183,000 that a utility mailed to an address associated with a Mormon cathedral under construction.
      Prosecutors allege that Postell took the check to a check-cashing business April 28 and deposited the funds using a fake ID listing the church's address as his own - and presented himself as the "pastor" - a position that the Mormon faith doesn't have.
      Court documents don't list a defense attorney who could comment on the charges.

Utah Cites Warren Jeff as Reason Polygamy Should be Illegal
SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah attorney general's office is invoking jailed polygamous leader Warren Jeffs as proof that plural marriage should be illegal in Utah.
      The state argues in a filing Tuesday to a federal appeals court in Denver that Jeffs' actions show what can happen when polygamy is allowed. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered wives.
      The state is challenging a 2013 ruling that struck down a key part of Utah's law banning polygamy, bringing the state's law in line with other states.
      Plaintiffs Kody Brown and his four wives argue that their reality TV show "Sister Wives" shows polygamous marriages can be as healthy as monogamous ones.
      The Browns have never been followers of Jeffs, who leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint. The Browns belong to a different polygamous group, the Apostolic United Brethren, which has a better reputation.

Carter to Mediate Dispute Over MLK Bible, Nobel Peace Prize
ATLANTA - Former President Jimmy Carter is stepping in to help resolve a legal battle over the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s traveling Bible and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
      The late civil rights leader's estate is controlled by his sons, who last year asked a judge to order their sister to surrender the items. In a board of directors meeting, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King voted 2-1 against Bernice King to sell the two artifacts to a private buyer.
      The judge in May agreed to mediation after lawyers for both sides said they were close to an agreement and Bernice's attorneys asked for mediation.
      Carter said in a statement Monday that he met with the Kings at the Carter Center. The three King siblings issued a statement expressing optimism about a resolution.
Amid Unrest in West Bank, Israel Demolishes Militants' Homes
JERUSALEM - The Israeli military has demolished the homes of two Palestinian militants who carried out deadly attacks in Jerusalem last year.
      Tuesday's demolitions come amid weeks of heightened Palestinian unrest in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned he'll use a "strong hand" to quell the latest violent Palestinian protests and deadly attacks.
      Netanyahu says his country is protecting the holy sites of Islam, Christianity and Judaism against militants.
      The homes that were demolished belonged to the families of a man who killed seven worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue last year, and a second attacker who killed one person when he rammed a bulldozer into traffic.
      Although the attackers were immediately killed, Israel often carries out such demolitions of the homes of militants' families, believing it will deter future attacks.
Bangladesh Pastor Escapes Knife Attack at His Home
DHAKA, Bangladesh - A Bangladeshi pastor has survived an attempt on his life by three men who came to his home pretending to want to learn about Christianity, police and the victim said Tuesday.
      The incident follows the killings of two foreigners last week in Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country that is grappling with violence claimed by hardline Islamic groups.
      Police say that on Monday, the Rev. Luke Sarker was wounded when three men attacked him with a knife at his home in the northwestern district of Pabna.
      Sarker, the 52-year-old pastor of Faith Bible Church, said by telephone that the men had phoned him about two weeks ago saying they wanted to visit him to learn about Christianity. After they arrived at his home on Monday, the men suddenly attacked him with a knife and tried to slit his throat, Sarker said. But as he shouted, his wife came to his rescue and the men fled.

Flogged Saudi Blogger Wins Pinter Free-Speech Prize
LONDON - A Saudi blogger who has been jailed and flogged for insulting Muslim clerics has been awarded a major free-speech prize.
      Raif Badawi shares the PEN Pinter Prize with British poet James Fenton.
      Badawi is serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted of insulting Islam and breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws with his liberal blog.
      He also was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, spread over 20 instalments, and fined $266,000. The flogging has been suspended since Badawi received 50 lashes in January, a punishment that sparked international outrage.
      Western governments have condemned Badawi's treatment, and rights groups including Amnesty International have campaigned for his release.

Indian Cleric Aims to Stop Muslim Youth from Joining IS
NEW DELHI - The chief cleric of Bangalore's main mosque says he has advised the heads of hundreds of mosques in India's technology hub to actively counter propaganda by extremist Islamic groups by reaching out to young people in colleges and on social media.
      The chief cleric of Bangalore's Jamia Masjid said Tuesday that he is urging Muslim clerics to alert young men and their families about attempts by groups such as Islamic State to recruit them.
      Mohamed Maqsood Imran said he wants Muslim leaders to caution people against the agenda of Islamic State extremists.
      India's 180 million Muslims generally hold moderate views, and the Islamic State group has not found many supporters in the country.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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