Religion news in briefJanuary 15, 2014 @ 9:20 am
(AP) - Protests at abortion clinics back at high court
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The regulation of protests outside abortion clinics returns to the Supreme Court today for the first time since 2000.
The state of Massachusetts is defending a law that prohibits abortion protests any closer than 35 feet from the entrance to clinics.
Abortion opponents hoping to dissuade women from ending their pregnancies filed suit, saying the law limits their ability to encounter patients arriving for care. But federal courts in Massachusetts have upheld the law as a reasonable imposition on protesters' rights. In 2000, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold a different buffer zone in Colorado.
State officials and clinic employees say the buffer zones make patients and staff feel safer and find it easier to enter abortion clinics.
The Rev. Harry Knox, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, says the law protects women from harassment as they exercise their rights.
But the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, says he prays the Supreme Court will find that the law unconstitutionally suppresses free speech.
Kerry visits papal diplomat to talk Mideast peace
VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Intrigued by signals of an invigorated papal diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has enlisted a new ally in his push for Mideast peace.
In a brief visit to the Vatican Tuesday, Kerry did not meet with Pope Francis but said he had wide-ranging discussions with the pope's chief diplomat.
Kerry is the first American Roman Catholic secretary of state to visit the Vatican since Edmund Muskie more than 30 years ago. He told reporters, "As an altar boy as a young kid, I would never have imagined that I would have been crossing the threshold of the Vatican to meet, as Secretary of State, with the Secretary of State of the Holy See."
Noting that the pope plans to visit the Holy Land in May, Kerry vowed to keep Francis informed on "what progress there may be in the peace process." Kerry said the Vatican also will want to ensure that future agreements guarantee "freedom of access for religious worship in Jerusalem for all religions."
ACLU raises questions about KCC email
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The American Civil Liberties Union says an official email sent by a Kansas Corporation Commission employee discussing his religious beliefs may have opened the KCC to legal liability.
Jared Bowes, a KCC media specialist, tried to put a veiled reference to Jesus into the commission's December newsletter, but it was edited out. Bowes then used his state-issued email address to send a message to his colleagues saying "King Jesus" is "the reason for the season."
Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU Foundation of Kansas, says while state employees have free speech rights, problems arise when religious statements are made using the state email system.
A commission spokesman declined comment, telling The Topeka Capital-Journal that it was a personnel matter.
Gay Ohio teacher: I knew engagement could cost job
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ An Ohio band and choir director says he knew that announcing his engagement to another man likely would mean he could no longer teach at a Roman Catholic school because of the church's teachings on marriage.
Brian Panetta said he was forced to resign last week after he told administrators at Sandusky Central Catholic School about his engagement over the Christmas break.
In a letter to people associated with the school, Panetta calls himself "a proud and gay Catholic" who hopes the church will change its teachings on marriage.
Two other teachers at Catholic schools in Ohio have recently fought their firings over actions that administrators said went against teachings of the church.
A lesbian teacher who challenged her firing by a school in Columbus didn't get her job back. Carla Hale and the Diocese of Columbus reached an undisclosed settlement.
A jury in June found the Archdiocese of Cincinnati discriminated against a teacher who was fired after becoming pregnant via artificial insemination. Christa Dias, who isn't Catholic, was awarded more than $170,000 after winning a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against the archdiocese.
Rodman apologizes for not helping US missionary
BEIJING (AP) _ Former basketball star Dennis Rodman has apologized for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea during his trip there to play in a game to celebrate the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un.
Rodman told media that he "couldn't do anything" as he arrived at Beijing airport on Monday. He said it wasn't his fault and just wanted "to do some good stuff."
Rodman apologized last week for comments he made about Kenneth Bae, who has been detained for more than a year for what North Korea calls "anti-state crimes." He had implied that Bae was at fault in a CNN interview.
Rodman led a squad of retired NBA players to North Korea for an exhibition game marking Kim's birthday.
Former New York Knicks player Charles Smith, who was part of the American team, says Rodman is no diplomat and would probably only have made things worse if he had tried to negotiate Bae's release.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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