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Religion news in brief

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Feb 20, 2013 16:00 hrs

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland ignored the mistreatment of thousands of women who were incarcerated within Roman Catholic nun-operated laundries and must pay the survivors compensation, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Tuesday in an emotional state apology for the decades of abuses in the so-called Magdalene Laundries.

"By any standards it was a cruel, pitiless Ireland, distinctly lacking in a quality of mercy," Kenny said, as dozens of former Magdalenes watched tearfully from parliament's public gallery overhead.

Kenny told lawmakers his government has appointed a senior judge to recommend an aid program for the approximately 1,000 women still living from the residential workhouses, the last of which closed in 1996. He also pledged government funding for the erection of a national memorial "to remind us all of this dark part of our history."

A government-commissioned report published two weeks ago found that more than 10,000 women were consigned to the laundries after being branded "fallen" women, a euphemism for prostitutes, even though virtually none of them were — and instead were products of poverty, homelessness and dysfunctional families. More than a quarter were directly referred by public officials, such as judges or truancy officers, and all spent months or years in menial labor without access to education. Most did laundry for local hotels, hospitals and prisons, while others scrubbed floors or made rosary beads for the church's profit.

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Court says Wiccan Calif. inmates may be entitled to full-time chaplain

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California prisons hire full-time chaplains and spiritual leaders to serve Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Native American inmates.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court gave new life to a decades-long battle by Wiccan inmates for access to their own full-time chaplain.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a trial judge's dismissal of a Wiccan prisoner lawsuit seeking the same rights as the five other religious practices. The appeals court said the Wiccan prisoners make a compelling argument that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may be unconstitutionally showing preference to the five religions in violation of the First Amendment.

The appeals court ruled that the trial court judge was wrong to dismiss the case almost immediately after it was filed without delving deeper into the evidence.

The appeals court also warned that the CDCR may still be able to show that the Wiccans don't have enough worshippers or critical needs for a full-time chaplain.

The number of Wiccan inmates is in dispute. A CDCR survey reported 183 Wiccan prisoners in 2007 after recording about twice that number in 2002. But Patrick McCollum, a leading Wiccan minister who has led the fight for full-time chaplains for 20 years, puts the number at about 2,000 systemwide.

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Putin suggests Jewish archive disputed with US could go to Moscow museum

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting that a vast collection of Jewish books and documents that is the focus of a dispute between Moscow and Washington be given a permanent home in the Russian capital's new Jewish Museum.

A U.S. judge in January ordered that Russia be fined $50,000 a day until it turns over the so-called Schneerson Collection to Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement within Orthodox Judaism headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Russia claims the collection is state property. Putin on Tuesday criticized the ruling, saying "discussion of this problem has taken on elements of confrontation," Russian news agencies reported. The collection is now held at the state library and military archives.

Putin said he would consider ordering the collection be placed at the Jewish museum, which opened last year.

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Chiefs add depth to defensive backfield by signing former Vikings safety Husain Abdullah

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs football team has signed former Vikings safety Husain Abdullah, who gave up football last season to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, in an attempt to add depth to their defensive backfield.

A practicing Muslim, Abdullah turned down a contract offer from Minnesota to speak at mosques across the country along with his brother, former Cardinals defensive back Hamza Abdullah.

The two of them then journeyed to Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2008. The former Washington State star made 24 starts in 54 games over the next four seasons for the Vikings, making 167 tackles and two sacks with four interceptions. He also was a contributor on special teams.

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Presbyterian seminary wins $200,000 grant to expand African-American church study

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville Seminary has been awarded a $200,000 grant to expand a program that studies African-American churches.

The Black Church Studies Program began at Louisville Seminary three years ago and now has 30 students enrolled in the curriculum.

Lewis Brogdon, the program's director at the seminary, says it needed to do more than just offer classes in black theology, African-American Christianity and preaching. Brogdon says the grant will allow the program's leaders to spend time in local and regional congregations educating laypeople about issues affecting African-American churches and communities. He says it will also help recruit leaders who want to come to the seminary.

The grant is from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. The seminary, founded in 1853, is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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Report: Iran confiscates Buddha statues to stop promotion of Buddhism

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from "The Simpsons" TV cartoon as banned items in the conservative Muslim nation.

Authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country, according to a report Sunday in the independent Arman daily.

Iran has long fought against items, such as Barbie toys, to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.

Some Iranians buy Buddha's statues to decorate their homes and cars.

"As I understand, none of customers cared about Buddhism, they only bought it for decoration," said Reza Sanaei, a shopkeeper who sells the statues.

Under the constitution, Christian and Jewish beliefs as well as Zoroastrianism are recognized beside Islam, the official religion of the country. The law, however, says that, in general, the rights of all non-Muslims should be observed.

Some Islamists do not support production of any statue, since they view it as a way to promote idols.



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