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Religion news in brief

January 6, 2016

Cruz likens his campaign to a religious revival

ONAWA, Iowa (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is comparing his GOP presidential campaign to a religious revival and is urging Iowans to pray daily until the Feb. 1 caucuses.

At a campaign stop Tuesday, Cruz quoted a Bible verse he said applies to America today: “If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear their prayer and forgive their sins and I will heal their land.”

Cruz asked his supporters to pray “that the awakening, that the revival that is sweeping this country, that it continue and grow.”

Otherwise, he said, “the country every one of us loves will be lost.”


Man behind armed Oregon band says he’s on mission from God

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The man behind the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge comes from a Mormon family that has been challenging government authority for at least two decades.

Ammon Bundy, like his father in previous confrontations, says he is following directions from God when explaining the anti-government movement he is attempting to lead.

Two years ago, Cliven Bundy was at the center of an armed standoff with federal officials over grazing rights on government land. Federal officials backed away from seizing the Nevada rancher’s cattle, but the Bureau of Land Management says the family has not made payments toward a $1.1 million grazing fee and penalty bill.

Now Cliven Bundy’s son has put himself in the spotlight in Oregon. His armed group is pressing federal authorities to turn over government land to local control.

In a statement issued Monday, Mormon leaders said the Oregon land dispute “is not a church matter,” but they condemned the seizure and said they were “deeply troubled” by reports that suggest the armed group is acting “based on Scriptural principles.”


Son of Alabama chief justice pleads not guilty to charges

TROY, Ala. (AP) — The son of Alabama’s chief justice has pleaded not guilty to drug charges.

Court documents show Caleb Moore pleaded not guilty on Dec. 21 to two counts. Moore, who is 25, faces charges of felony possession of the prescription medication alprazolam and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Caleb Moore is the son of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a conservative Christian who made national headlines last year with his attempts to block gay marriage. Roy Moore also is known for erecting a Ten Commandments monument in Alabama’s court building.

Caleb Moore was arrested in March in Troy, Alabama. Police responding to a possible break-in said they reported smelling marijuana and finding Xanax.

Caleb Moore pleaded guilty in 2013 and 2014 to separate misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia.


Belfast preacher acquitted of hate speech against Muslims

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — An Irish preacher who was charged with hate speech against Muslims has been acquitted after a judge ruled that his sermon had not been sufficiently offensive.

Scores of Christian supporters cheered Tuesday’s judgment at Belfast Magistrates Court as Pastor James McConnell walked free. McConnell faced a charge of spreading grossly offensive messages after his church put his May 2014 sermon denouncing Muslims online.

Outside, the 78-year-old McConnell said he hadn’t intended to offend Muslims when describing their faith as satanic and many Muslims as terrorists. He said: “I wouldn’t hurt a hair on their head.”

District Judge Liam McNally said courts must be “careful not to criminalize speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of criminal law to censor offensive utterances.”


College begins effort to fire professor for comment on Islam

CHICAGO (AP) — Officials of a suburban Chicago Christian college have begun efforts to fire a political science professor who was placed on leave after saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

A statement on Wheaton College’s website Tuesday said Provost Stanton Jones has initiated a termination-for-cause proceeding regarding Larycia Hawkins.

The action follows efforts by college officials and Hawkins to work out their differences. The private evangelical school says those efforts have reached an impasse.

The college has said it placed Hawkins on leave last month because of statements she made on social media about similarities between Islam and Christianity. Hawkins also donned a headscarf to demonstration solidarity with Muslims.

A spokeswoman for Hawkins didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the college’s move.


Catholic group weighs in on transgender athlete debate

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska Catholic group has urged support for a proposal requiring transgender student athletes to compete based on their sex at birth.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that competing proposals on transgender students’ participation in high school sports are up for consideration by Nebraska School Activities Association member schools this month.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference on Monday “strongly urged” all NSAA member schools to vote in favor of a bylaw amendment requiring students to participate in sports based on their sex at birth.

The group represents Nebraska’s three Catholic bishops.


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