Update on the latest religion news



Obama hears anti-abortion message at prayer breakfast

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has attended the National Prayer Breakfast, where the keynote speaker spoke out against abortion.

Christian author Eric Metaxas gave Obama his biographies of William Wiberforce, who fought to outlaw slavery, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up for Jews in Nazi Germany.

He then asked, "Who do we say is not fully human today? Who is expendable to us?"

Metaxas suggested that only God can open people's eyes to see the unborn as human beings, and urged abortion opponents to love those who disagree with them.

President Obama didn't mention abortion in his remarks, but said his faith calls him to defend those who can't speak for themselves.


255-w-31-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Christian author Eric Metaxas)--President Barack Obama has attended the National Prayer Breakfast, where the keynote speaker spoke out against abortion. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *255 (02/02/12)>> 00:31

258-a-06-(Eric Metaxas, Christian author, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"love of Jesus"-Christian author Eric Metaxas says opponents of abortion should not be hateful. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *258 (02/02/12)>> 00:06 "love of Jesus"

257-a-12-(Eric Metaxas, Christian author, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"yet see that"-Christian author Eric Metaxas says not everyone sees the humanity of unborn children. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *257 (02/02/12)>> 00:12 "yet see that"

256-a-18-(Eric Metaxas, Christian author, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"expendable to us?"-Christian author Eric Metaxas says he's written biographies of men who defended the defenseless. ((longer version of cut used in wrap)) (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *256 (02/02/12)>> 00:18 "expendable to us?"


Obama links economic policies with faith

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he relies on his Christian faith to guide his work on the nation's most urgent problems, including the economy.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said he begins each day with prayer, and believes in Jesus's teaching that to whom much is given, much is required.

He said that belief, and his reliance on economic good sense, is behind his policies — including his call for the wealthy to pay more taxes.

Obama urged other leaders to not abandon their values or "the moral glue" that has guided the nation for centuries.

He also recalled feeling humbled after he and Billy Graham prayed for each other at the evangelist's North Carolina home in 2010.


266-w-34-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent, with President Obama)--President Obama says his Christian faith is a big reason he wants to curb Wall Street excesses and boost taxes on the very rich. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *266 (02/02/12)>> 00:34

259-a-06-(President Barack Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"speak for themselves"-President Barack Obama says the Bible teaches him to defend the defenseless. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *259 (02/02/12)>> 00:06 "speak for themselves"

245-a-13-(President Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"neighbor as thyself"-President Obama says his Christian faith informs his initiatives to rein in Wall Street's excesses, and to prevent insurance companies from dropping people when they get sick. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *245 (02/02/12)>> 00:13 "neighbor as thyself"

394-w-33-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor, with Congressman Paul Broun, R-Ga.)--President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, members of Congress and officials from around the world are attending today's 60th annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (1 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *394 (02/01/12)>> 00:33

244-a-14-(President Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"shall be required"-President Obama says his faith is a big reason he wants the rich to bear more of the tax burden. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *244 (02/02/12)>> 00:14 "shall be required"

246-a-14-(President Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"up to them"-President Obama says he believes in the biblical injunctions to be your brother's keeper and to love they neighbor as theyself. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *246 (02/02/12)>> 00:14 "up to them"


Legendary evangelist an unseen presence at prayer breakfast

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he felt humbled after he and the Rev. Billy Graham prayed for each other.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama recalled his visit to the evangelist's North Carolina home in 2010.

The president said that when Billy Graham prayed for him, he felt led to respond in kind, and prayed from the heart.

The 93-year-old Graham sent a message that was read at Thursday's prayer breakfast regretting his inability to attend, and commending what he called "the foundation of unity you embody around the person of Jesus."


268-a-10-(President Barack Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"pray for him"-President Obama recalls meeting with Billy Graham at the evangelist's home in 2010. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *268 (02/02/12)>> 00:10 "pray for him"

269-a-16-(President Barack Obama, speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"to my core"-President Obama says he and evangelist Billy Graham prayed for each other when they met in 2010. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *269 (02/02/12)>> 00:16 "to my core"

209-a-09-(Senator Mark Pryor, D-Ark., speaking at National Prayer Breakfast)-"signed, Billy Graham"-Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor reads a message from a regular attendee at past National Prayer Breakfasts. ((cut originally fed at 8:32 aes)) Updated: 02/02/2012-02:19:42 PM ET (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *209 (02/02/12)>> 00:09 "signed, Billy Graham"


Christian author: God hates dead religion

WASHINGTON (AP) — Christian author Eric Metaxas says that as a young man he rejected religion, in part, because he hated the hypocrisy of people who claimed to be religious.

But Metaxas told thousands attending the National Prayer Breakfast that when he trusted Jesus Christ, he realized that the real "Jesus was, and is the enemy of dead religion."

Today, he said Jesus expects Christians to love antagonists who may call them bigots for upholding biblical morality.

Metaxas also joked about the Fellowship Foundation, which organizes the annual prayer breakfast but shuns publicity.

He said the group — also known as "The Family" — is "a highly secret, indeed a nefarious organization" that runs the world and controls both him and President Obama as its "puppets."


Santorum sharpens criticism as urgency peaks

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has appeared at a campaign rally in Colorado with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Dobson told the crowd, "It would appear to me that Mitt Romney is not a conservative. And Newt Gingrich, I don't know what he is."

Turning to the former Pennsylvania senator, Dobson said, "You are the only true conservative in the race."

Colorado holds its GOP primary next Tuesday.

Dobson said that for Santorum, who has won only a narrow caucus victory in Iowa so far, Colorado "could be the place where it turns around."


2 US missionaries slain at ransacked Mexico home

EL CERCADO, Mexico (AP) — The bodies of John and Wanda Casias have been brought one last time to the Baptist church they founded in a violence-plagued region of northern Mexico.

Mourners paid homage Thursday to the Texas couple who were found strangled in their home.

John and Wanda Casias were originally from Amarillo, Texas, but relatives said they moved to an area outside the city of Monterrey in the late 1970s or early 1980s and founded the First Fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church.

John Casias said his parents devoted 29 years of their lives to their ministry in Mexico and spent each day in prayer and saving souls. He added that they were aware of the violence around them and the risks, but were so secure in their faith that they did not fear it.


Boehner: Feds should back off birth control order

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner says the Obama administration should reconsider a decision to make church-affiliated employers cover birth control on their health care plans.

The Ohio Republican says the regulation amounts to a government mandate that violates the Constitution.

The decision outraged religious groups, who said it would force them to buy something that violates their faith tenets.

President Barack Obama's health care overhaul included the regulation with narrow exemptions for churches that serve only fellow believers. But last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said nonprofit institutions, such as church-affiliated hospitals, colleges and social service agencies, will have to comply, though they will have an additional year to do so.

Boehner told reporters Thursday he hopes the administration will "back up" and reconsider the decision.


292-a-12-(House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur), R-Ohio, with reporters)-"certain contraceptive benefits"-House Speaker John Boehner says the Obama administration should reconsider a controversial order by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius because it does something very basically wrong. (The sentence fragment that follows requires this hard lead.) (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *292 (02/02/12)>> 00:12 "certain contraceptive benefits"

294-a-07-(House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with reporters)-"look at this"-House Speaker John Boehner says the contraceptive coverage mandate should be reconsidered. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *294 (02/02/12)>> 00:07 "look at this"

293-a-08-(House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with reporters)-"these religious organizations"-House Speaker John Boehner says church-affiliated groups shouldn't be forced to pay for contraceptive coverage that violates their faith. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *293 (02/02/12)>> 00:08 "these religious organizations"

349-a-11-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-"balance we found"-White House press secretary Jay Carney says the administration policy protects individual religious conscience while still giving women access to affordable health care. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *349 (02/02/12)>> 00:11 "balance we found"

350-a-13-(Jay Carney, White House press secretary, at news conference)-"after careful consideration"-White House press secretary Jay Carney says the administration doesn't intend to reverse its policy. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *350 (02/02/12)>> 00:13 "after careful consideration"


Jewish leaders offended by Ga. preacher's ceremony

ATLANTA (AP) — Jewish leaders are criticizing a ceremony at an Atlanta megachurch in which Bishop Eddie Long was wrapped in a scroll and exalted as a "king" to the applause of his parishioners.

A video shows Rabbi Ralph Messer, a Messianic preacher, wrapping Long in a large scroll that is purported to be the Torah. Messianic Jews believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah, at odds with traditional Jewish theology.

The Torah is one of the most sacred objects in Judaism. Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League says the ceremony is "horrifying simply because it's completely inappropriate and really awful."

Four former church members sued Long in late 2010 claiming he sexually coerced them. He settled the lawsuit in May.


Filers: Claims against Wis. church not about money

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Some of the 550 people seeking restitution for alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee say they didn't file claims just for the money.

Billy Kirchen of Milwaukee says a choir director began abusing him when he was about 11. Kirchen's 45 now, and says one reason he filed a claim is because he never got an apology from anyone within the Milwaukee Archdiocese, even though he's currently a music director within the Archdiocese.

Fifty-eight-year-old Mark Salmon of Wauwatosa says a Catholic grade-school teacher repeatedly abused him in the '60s. He says he's less interested in money than in seeing Archdiocese officials being held accountable.

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual abuse. However, Kirchen and Salmon specifically permitted AP to use their names.


NYPD document: Collect intel at Shi'a mosques

NEW YORK (AP) — A secret police document shows that the New York Police Department recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Muslims and their mosques based solely on their religion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a May 2006 NYPD intelligence report on Iran. It says police should expand clandestine operations at Shiite mosques. It then lists mosques around the Northeast.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the NYPD never considers religion in its policing. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said police only go where investigative leads take them. But the document lists no leads justifying spying at Shiite mosques.

The document will likely renew debate over how the NYPD views Muslims. Activists in the Muslim community recently sought Kelly's resignation over a video shown to 1,500 officers saying that Muslims wanted to "infiltrate and dominate" the U.S.


280-a-08-(Robert Strang, security consultant, in AP interview)-"things from, from developing"-Security consultant Robert Strang says surveillance is a delicate balancing act in counterterrorism. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *280 (02/02/12)>> 00:08 "things from, from developing"

281-c-14-(Matt Apuzzo (ah-POO'-zoh), AP correspondent)-"into NYPD documents"-AP correspondent Matt Apuzzo reports a 2006 NYPD report recommended surveillance of Shi'ite mosques. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *281 (02/02/12)>> 00:14 "into NYPD documents"

282-c-14-(Matt Apuzzo (a-POO'-zoh), AP correspondent)-"at Shi'ite mosques"-AP correspondent Matt Apuzzo reports the intelligence papers indicate police overstepped their guidelines. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *282 (02/02/12)>> 00:14 "at Shi'ite mosques"

279-a-05-(Malik Sakhawat Hussain (mah-LEEK' sha-kah-WAHT' hoo-SAYN'), Shi'ite imam, in AP interview)-"government at all"-Shi'ite imam Malik Sakhawat Hussain says there's no reason to suspect anyone in the mosque would do Tehran's bidding. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *279 (02/02/12)>> 00:05 "government at all"

278-a-15-(Malik Sakhawat Hussain (mah-LEEK' sha-kah-WAHT' hoo-SAYN'), Shi'ite imam, in AP interview)-"surprise for me"-Shi'ite imam Malik Sakhawat Hussain says he doesn't see why his mosque would be watched by police. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *278 (02/02/12)>> 00:15 "surprise for me"

277-w-30-(Warren Levinson, AP correspondent, with Malik Sakhawat Hussain, Shi'ite imam)--New York Police Department intelligence documents show recommendations for surveillance at Shi'ite mosques around the area. AP correspondent Warren Levinson reports. (2 Feb 2012)

<<CUT *277 (02/02/12)>> 00:30


French court upholds Scientology fraud conviction

PARIS (AP) — A French appeals court has upheld the Church of Scientology's 2009 fraud conviction.

The French branch of the group was accused of pressuring members into paying large sums for questionable remedies and using "commercial harassment" against recruits.

While Scientology is recognized as a religion in the U.S., Sweden and Spain, it is not considered one under French law.

The original trial court, however, stopped short of banning the organization in France, declining even to shut down its operations.

The appeals court on Thursday ordered the same fines as the trial court, $530,000 for the church and $265,000 for its bookstore.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer. It claims 10 million members around the world, including celebrity devotees Tom Cruise and John Travolta.


Egyptian comedian sentenced for offending Islam

CAIRO (AP) — A judge says one of the Arab world's best known Egyptian comedians has been sentenced to three months in jail for offending Islam.

The judge confirms that Adel Imam was convicted in absentia of "defaming Islam." His whereabouts are unknown.

The state-run Ahram Online English website reports he was found guilty for a 2007 movie in which he plays a corrupt businessman and a 1998 play about an Arab dictator. Other reports said the court objected to his use of Islamic symbols.

The judge did not elaborate. He said Thursday that Imam can appeal.

In the 1980's, Imam was sentenced to three months in jail for defaming lawyers in a film. That ruling was later overturned.

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