Originally created 05/14/05

Religion news in brief

Sweden's Supreme Court will examine case of pastor convicted, then acquitted over sermon

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Sweden's Supreme Court said Monday it will review the acquittal of Pentecostal pastor Ake Green, who faced criminal charges over a sermon on homosexuality.

An appeals court in February threw out a hate crimes conviction against Green, saying it's not illegal to preach a personal interpretation of the Bible.

But Sweden's chief prosecutor Fredrik Wersaell appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that Green violated Sweden's tough 2003 hate crimes law.

A lower court gained international attention last year when it punished Green with a 30-day prison sentence, which was then suspended pending appeal. He was the first clergyman convicted under Sweden's hate crimes law.

Green, 63, had told his congregation on the small southeastern island of Oland that homosexuals are "a deep cancer tumor on all of society" and warned that Sweden risked a natural disaster because of leniency toward gays.

"Homosexuality is something sick," Green said, comparing it to pedophilia and bestiality. He said gays were likely to rape children and animals.

When he was acquitted, Green told The Associated Press he wasn't worried about spending a month in jail but about "freedom to preach God's word."

In gay dispute, Anglican Church of Canada approves partial withdrawal from world meeting

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - Leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada have decided that delegates will not formally participate in a world Anglican meeting next month that will discuss the global split over homosexuality.

The Canadians will attend the Anglican Consultative Council session in England "for listening, learning and conversation" only, said a Sunday statement from Canada's Council of General Synod. The U.S. Episcopal Church earlier made the same decision.

In February, 35 top international Anglican leaders asked the Canadian and U.S. churches to withdraw their delegates because of U.S. consecration of a gay bishop and provision of blessings for same-sex couples in the United States and Canada.

As requested, U.S. and Canadian representatives in England will explain to the council the theological and biblical rationale for liberal steps on the gay issue.

In a related matter, the Canadians received a report from a theological commission that same-sex blessings are, as Sunday's statement put it, "a matter of doctrine, but not core doctrine in the sense of being creedal." That could clear the way for approval of same-sex blessing rituals at the next national synod in 2007.

In South Africa, meanwhile, the Anglican bishops assured the church that priests will not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages though they have been ordered legalized by the Supreme Court. That November ruling takes effect within two years.

The South African bishops said "our church has repeatedly affirmed that partnership between two persons of the same sex cannot be regarded as a marriage in the eyes of God and that consequently we do not recognize or bless such liaisons."

The bishops said the Supreme Court ruling "should not cause alarm among Anglicans" because the state recognizes freedom of conscience and won't require clergy to violate church teachings.

Pennyslvania Methodists appeal reinstatement of lesbian pastor

PHILADELPHIA - United Methodist Church Bishop Marcus Matthews has decided to appeal a panel ruling that reinstated a Philadelphia minister who had been defrocked for declaring that she was living in a relationship with another woman.

Irene Elizabeth Stroud, ousted last year by a regional church court, was ordered reinstated by an appeals panel of the Northeastern Jurisdiction, covering a 12-state area. The case now goes to the Judicial Council, the church's supreme court, whose next session is Oct. 26-29 in Houston.

The Rev. Thomas Hall, who acted as prosecutor in the original trial, said, "We felt an egregious error was committed at the appellate level."

Stroud told the denominational news service that Matthews returned her clergy credentials but she declined reappointment until the Judicial Council settles her status. She continues as a lay minister at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

Senator Vitter backs Louisiana school board's prayers at meetings

HAMMOND, La. - U.S. Sen. David Vitter has strongly supported officials who are fighting a ban on prayers at Tangipahoa Parish School Board meetings.

Vitter called the ban at Southeastern Louisiana University "flat-out ridiculous," The Daily Star of Hammond reported. Vitter said earlier that the federal court decision was "a perverse reading of the Constitution."

The senator, who won support from Christian conservatives in last year's campaign, argued that legislative bodies frequently open with prayers.

But a February ruling by U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan noted that courts have barred school board prayers by distinguishing between educational bodies and other government groups. She decided that meeting prayers violate constitutional separation of church and state, siding with a challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union

Vitter offered help in the school board's court fight and said he would introduce a U.S. Senate resolution to support prayer before school board meetings.

Ave Maria University in Florida graduates first class

NAPLES, Fla. - Ave Maria University, the first Roman Catholic university to open in the United States in four decades, has graduated its first class.

Twenty-three students received bachelor's degrees from the school, founded by Domino's Pizza magnate Thomas S. Monaghan, a supporter of conservative Catholic causes who hopes it will one day rival the University of Notre Dame.

Honorary degrees were given to L. Paul Bremer, a lay Catholic and former leader of the U.S. occupation in Iraq, and St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Bremer told graduates their generation will fight Islamic extremism the way their fathers fought communism and their grandfathers fought fascism.

Bremer said that while most Muslims do not hate the West, Muslim extremists "hate the very foundations of Western civilization," including separation of church and state, freedom of religion, democracy and the right of every adult to vote.

Burke urged graduates to feed the spiritual hunger of a godless society.

The school has been conducting classes in temporary facilities during construction of a $220 million, 750-acre campus set to open next year. Officials hope for an eventual enrollment of 5,000.


Catholic bishops lobby for immigration reform

WASHINGTON - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops and 20 Catholic organizations announced Tuesday they will be lobbying to reform immigration laws in the United States.

A main goal of the campaign is helping migrant workers and their families gain some legal status in this country, while challenging prejudice against immigrants.

Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have fueled anti-immigrant feeling in the United States. But he said national security can still be preserved without "closing America's door."

"We are, and should remain, a nation of immigrants," McCarrick said.

Among the groups participating in the campaign, called "Justice for Immigrants," are Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and national organizations representing religious orders for men and women.



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