Religion Roundup

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Churches Stress Healing, Justice
BALTIMORE - In the first Sunday since unrest in Baltimore, churches turned to prayer and called for healing and justice in the wake of anger over the death of a man who sustained severe injuries while in police custody.
     Some ministers spoke at an afternoon rally at City Hall.
     During a mass attended by Gov. Larry Hogan on at St. Peter Claver church, Archbishop William Lori told parishioners that Freddie Gray's death exposed long-standing issues such as failing schools, insecure family situations and mistrust between communities and civic officials.
     Lori said the right of people who see no way out to make their voices heard and to lift up their frustration and anger publicly must be heard. But he said that must be done in a way that does not create more injustice and more destruction.
     Violence followed last Monday's funeral for Gray. Six officers face charges ranging from manslaughter to second-degree murder.
     This was also the first Sunday for services at Southern Baptist Church, which lost a planned senior center to an arson fire on Monday night. Construction had been well underway. During the morning service, a choir sang "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less."


City: 2 Gunmen Killed Outside Muhammad Cartoon Contest
GARLAND, Texas - Authorities in a Dallas suburb say two armed men who opened fire on a security officer outside of a contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have been killed.
     The city of Garland said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Sunday night that two men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center and began shooting at a security officer.
     The statement says Garland Police Department officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed.
     The statement doesn't say whether the shooting was related to the event.
     The statement says the gunmen's vehicle may contain an "incendiary device." A bomb squad is on scene.
     Nearby businesses were evacuated.
     The American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a contest that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.


3 Congregants Killed When Semi Slams into Church Van
WAWARSING, N.Y. -New York State Police say three congregants of a New York City church were killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into the van they were riding in after attending a religious retreat.
     Police say the semi collided with the passenger side of the church van as it tried to enter Route 209 in the town of Wawarsing at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
     The van was carrying seven people from the Bethesda French Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brooklyn. Pastor Pierre Metellus confirmed that several members of the church were killed and injured.
     Authorities say the three killed were passengers; the driver and another passenger were hospitalized. The remaining two passengers and the truck driver incurred minor injuries.
     Authorities say the congregants had been attending a religious retreat at the Honors Haven Resort.
 
 
Authorities Say X-ray Weapon Defendant Concocted Plot
ALBANY, N.Y. - Federal prosecutors say the upstate New York man accused of helping build a mobile X-ray device to kill Muslims came up with the plot, not FBI agents, and should face trial for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
     Glendon Scott Crawford has asked the judge to dismiss charges, saying the plot was concocted by 59 state and federal agents on the case and the only criminal enterprise was one they concocted.
     In response, prosecutors say the FBI investigated Crawford, a General Electric industrial mechanic, for 14 months and he had approached Ku Klux Klan leaders, including one working as a cooperating witness, seeking financial support.
     Authorities say the device was inoperable.
     The defense says the FBI brought the machine and Crawford declined to turn it on.
 
 
Memorial to Slain French Jewish Man Vandalized
PARIS - French authorities say vandals have damaged a memorial plaque honoring a young French Jewish man tortured and killed in 2006.
     The incident targeting the monument to Ilan Halimi comes amid heightened religious tensions in France, after radical Islamic gunmen attacked a Paris kosher market and newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January.
     An Interior Ministry official said Sunday that prosecutors have opened an investigation into the damage to the monument in a Paris suburb.
 
 
Israel's Jewish Ethiopian Minority Rallies Against Racism
JERUSALEM - Several thousand people, mostly from Israel's Jewish Ethiopian minority, have protested in Tel Aviv against racism and police brutality.
     Sunday's mostly peaceful protest shut down a major highway and there were some minor scuffles with police. A police spokesman said about 3,000 people took part.  Protesters blocked roads in central Tel Aviv as well as a main highway leading to the city.
     Israel's Ethiopian community was shaken last week when footage emerged of an Ethiopian Israeli in an army uniform being beaten by police.
     Thousands of Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, many of them secretly airlifted into the country in 1984 and 1990, but their absorption into Israeli society has been rocky.

 
Angola: Opposition, Police Dispute Fatalities in Raid
JOHANNESBURG - Angolan police and opposition politicians are at odds over the exact number of people killed in a raid on a religious sect that believes the world will end in 2015.
     Angola's main opposition party, UNITA, has accused the police of killing 1,080 people when they raided the Seventh Day Light of the World Church in central Huambo province on Apr. 16.
     Police say the number of fatalities is much lower, reporting that 13 civilians and nine policemen were killed during a raid that led to the arrest of the sect's leader (Jose Julino Kalupeteka).
     A police commissioner says the civilians killed were the personal bodyguards of the sect's leader who clashed with police. The sect had also allegedly taken over army bases that belonged to UNITA, then a guerrilla army, during Angola's civil war that lasted nearly 27 years.
     In recent years, critical coverage of police and politicians from the ruling party has led to the imprisonment of some journalists, according to reports by press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders.
 
 
Tulsa Fire Authorities Rule Blaze at Islamic Center as Arson
TULSA, Okla. - The Tulsa, Oklahoma, fire department says a fire at an Islamic center school was intentionally set.
     A spokesman said in a statement that the Sunday morning blaze was ruled arson but declined to release other details. He said information about how the fire started and potential suspects wouldn't be released because the investigation is underway.
 
 
Muslims Plan to Build Mosque in Central Wisconsin
WAUSAU, Wis. - A group of central Wisconsin Muslims wants to build a mosque in the Wausau area to help meet the growing number of worshippers.
     The Islamic Society of Central Wisconsin has purchased a building for the mosque and hopes to have construction complete within the next two years.
     The Rev. David Klutterman of Wausau's St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, who long has been involved in the city's interfaith efforts, said he welcomes the group. Rabbi Dan Danson of Mt. Sinai Congregation said a mosque in Wausau will enrich the cultural life of the community.
 
 
Pope Defends Soon-to-Be Saint vs Native American Objections
ROME - Pope Francis has praised the zeal of an 18th-century Franciscan missionary he will make a saint when he visits the United States this fall but whom Native Americans contend brutally converted indigenous people to Christianity.
     Francis praised Junipero Serra during a weekend homily at a Rome seminary training future priests from North America. The pope will proclaim the Spaniard a saint during a Washington, D.C., ceremony Sept. 23.
     Native Americans have protested in California, saying the friar should be criticized for what they contend is his role in wiping out native populations in a brutal campaign to impose Catholicism. They contend he enslaved converts.

 
Pope Has Quiet Detractors Ahead of U.S. Visit
WASHINGTON - His popularity has soared among Catholics and even outside the church, but Pope Francis has critics in the U.S.
     Conservative Republicans aren't pleased with Francis' views on global warming and immigration, and his vehement opposition to the death penalty. Their grumblings have been largely private.
 

Madison, Wisconsin Bans Discrimination Against Atheists, Non-Religious
MADISON, Wis. - While conservatives in Indiana and Arkansas were explaining last month why their new religious objections laws weren't invitations to discriminate against gays, the leaders of Wisconsin's capital city were busy protecting the rights of another group: atheists.
     In what is believed to be the first statute of its kind in the United States, Madison banned discrimination against the non-religious on April 1, giving them the same protections afforded to people based on their race, sexual orientation and religion, among other reasons.

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

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