Religion news in brief

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 22, 2012 17:30 hrs

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — "The Donald" is coming to Liberty University.

Media outlets report that the school announced Wednesday that billionaire real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump would speak at Liberty's convocation on Sept. 24.

Liberty holds convocation three times a week, giving students the chance to hear from religious figures, politicians and others while worshipping together at the Christian school founded by the late Jerry Falwell. The school says the weekly meetings are the largest gatherings of Christian students in North America.

Trump entertained the idea of running for president, but instead endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Other notable convocation speakers this fall are actor Kirk Cameron, Veggie Tales producer and author Phil Vischer, Auntie Annie's pretzels founder Anne Beiler and Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter.


Leader of Indiana National Guard criticized for video praising religious group's work

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The leader of the Indiana National Guard asked an evangelical Christian organization to take down a web video he made praising its marriage counseling following a complaint from a military watchdog group.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation argues that Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger violated military rules and the First Amendment by promoting a religious group in the 33-second video while in uniform, The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday.

Former Air Force attorney Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based group, said Umbarger's message promotes one religious group over others and that such a show of support from a two-star general is intimidating within the military.

"He should be removed immediately and, from our perspective, court-martialed," Weinstein said.

Umbarger made the video in September 2011 on behalf of Centurion's Watch, a Christian group based in Indianapolis that offers marriage counseling to military families. It was posted on the nonprofit's website.

In the video, he says in part: "Any donation or resource that you can give this organization — it's faith-based, it's wanting to keep families together with the stresses and strains of being apart, being in harm's way, risking their lives for this, for this country. I can't think of a better organization that you can support."

Umbarger was appointed Indiana's adjutant general in 2004 by then-Gov. Joe Kernan, a Democrat, and has remained in the position under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as leader of more than 15,800 Guard personnel.

Daniels on Tuesday rejected calls for Umbarger's removal.

"He's a great soldier. If, and I don't know the military regs, if there was a mistake, it's obviously an innocent one," Daniels told The Associated Press. "It's one of the best appointments that I ever made, and I'm not making any changes."


Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh cutting staff to avoid $2.3 million deficit for 2012-13

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is preparing to lay off workers to avoid a $2.3 million deficit for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

A letter to the diocesan staff from the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, the vicar general, said $1 million has already been saved by 15 employees who have retired, resigned or been reassigned. Still, more of the diocese's 180 clergy and lay employees may have to be laid off.

Lengwin wouldn't specify other possible cuts, because they are under review by the diocesan finance council.

"Unfortunately, a significant deficit remains," Lengwin said. Workers won't get annual bonuses and the diocese "will still face the necessity of additional staff reductions," he said.

The diocese is facing financial trouble partly because revenues from parishes has been flat while costs have increased. The diocesan budget for 2011-2012 was $23.2 million, but income for the coming year is projected to be just $21 million.

The six-county diocese has 635,000 parishioners, down from 815,000 in 1993, but the diocese is cutting expenses because it's committed to not running a deficit. The last time that happened was in 1989.

"We tell the parishes that they need to live within their means, and we need to do the same," Lengwin said.

The diocese is funded by a share of the collections from its parishes. The budget is largely for administrative staff, including central church offices and the higher levels of administration for its Catholic schools. But the diocesan budget doesn't include its social service agencies or parishes, which have their own budgets.


Augsburg College opposes gay marriage amendment

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Augsburg College is publicly opposing the amendment to ban gay marriage in Minnesota's constitution.

The announcement Tuesday makes the Minneapolis liberal arts school the first traditional university in the state to come out against the amendment. The Minneapolis-based online institution Capella University has also gone on record against it.

Minnesotans United for All Families, the campaign against the amendment, says Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow's office joined its coalition this week. Augsburg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Five of Minnesota's six ELCA synods have also gone on record against the amendment.

Augsburg has about 4,000 undergraduate students. It's located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.


Mass. child killer, now Wiccan, seeks name change

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts man convicted of abducting, molesting and killing a 10-year-old boy has petitioned a court to have his name changed because of his conversion to Wiccanism.

Charles Jaynes wants to change his name to Manasseh-Invictus Auric Thutmose V.

Jaynes serving a life sentence for the 1997 slaying of Jeffrey Curley. He and another man lured Jeffrey into a car with the promise of a new bike.

Robert Curley, Jeffrey's father, tells The Enterprise of Brockton that he may exercise his right to object to the name change, but ultimately, "nothing will change what he has done."

On the petition filed with Plymouth Probate Court in June, the 37-year-old Jaynes lists his address as the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater and his occupation as inmate.

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