Religion news in brief

Legal experts expect Cincinnati Archdiocese to appeal jury finding for fired pregnant teacher

CINCINNATI (AP) — A jury found an Ohio archdiocese discriminated against a teacher fired after becoming pregnant via artificial insemination, leaving legal experts expecting an appeal they say could have a much wider legal impact.

Christa Dias, who was fired from two schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati in October 2010, was awarded more than $170,000 Monday after winning her federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against the archdiocese.

Steven Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese and the schools, contended Dias was fired for violating her contract, which required her to comply with the teachings of the Catholic church.

The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees’ lives, is the second lawsuit filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.

Legal experts believe it will definitely end up in an appeals court. Jessie Hill, a professor of civil rights and constitutional law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, believes the “ministerial exception” could be raised.

The archdiocese argued before trial that Dias, who was a computer technology teacher, was a “ministerial employee,” a position that has not been clearly defined by the courts.


Humanist groups sues Lake Elsinore for funding planned veterans’ monument with cross

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (AP) — A humanist group is suing a California city for funding a monument depicting a soldier kneeling at a cross.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that the American Humanist Association served Lake Elsinore with the suit on Monday.

The suit claims the Riverside County community violated the separation of church and state by agreeing to pay $50,000 to create a monument with a soldier kneeling before a cross-topped grave. The veterans’ monument would be placed in front of the city’s Diamond Stadium.

City Councilman Brian Tisdale says the design shows a World War II soldier mourning a comrade and isn’t meant to be religious.

However, William Burgess of the humanist group says it still comes down to a government putting a religious symbol on public property.


Iraqi Shiite pilgrims converge on Baghdad shrine; tight security after deadly attacks

BAGHDAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims were converging on a golden-domed Shiite shrine in northern Baghdad to commemorate the death of a revered Shiite Muslim saint. Security is tight after a wave of deadly attacks.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Saad Maan Ibrahim said Tuesday that several thousand policemen and soldiers were deployed in Baghdad to secure the processions. Pilgrims have to undergo several searches before reaching the gates of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine.

Many of the main streets in the capital have been closed in recent days to prevent attacks on the walking pilgrims. No significant attacks have been reported, Ibrahim said.

A series of bloody sectarian attacks made April and May the deadliest months in years.


New research: US Amish groups might appear alike, yet sects have sharp differences

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Conservative Amish groups have larger families than other Amish and their children are far less likely to leave the church, a trend that is expected to bring dramatic changes for them in the coming years, according to a book on the distinctive religious group being published this week.

“The Amish,” a 500-page overview of the Christian followers known for traditional dress and the use of horse-and-buggy transportation, identified 40 distinct groups and a variety of permitted practices.

“They may all look alike on the outside from an external perspective, but the fact of the matter is there are over 2,000 different ways of expressing Amishness in terms of daily practice,” said co-author Don Kraybill, senior fellow at Elizabethtown College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.

The researchers found that more traditional Amish have families of nine or 10 children, while comparatively progressive families are just over half that size, suggesting some are using birth control.


Czech court upholds plan to compensate religious groups over losses during communism

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic’s highest court on Monday upheld a government plan to pay billions of dollars to religious groups in compensation for property the country’s former Communist regime seized from them.

The ruling is a big victory for the country’s churches, which have been fighting since the 1989 fall of communism to get back assets such as farms, woodlands and buildings that have remained in the state’s hands.

Under the plan, 16 religious groups — including Catholics, Protestants and Jews — will get 59 billion koruna ($3 billion) in compensation over the next 30 years. They will also get 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — estimated to be worth 75 billion koruna ($3.8 billion). The state, meanwhile, will gradually stop covering church expenses over the next 17 years.

The Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by the republic’s left-wing opposition. The plan is highly controversial in a country with one of Europe’s highest concentrations of atheists.


US, Jewish inmates seek court order requiring kosher diet offerings in Florida prison system

MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a Miami federal judge to guarantee that Jewish inmates in Florida prisons can have access to a kosher diet.

Government lawyers will ask U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz at a hearing Tuesday to issue an order ensuring the state maintains kosher diet offerings. Muslim inmates are seeking to join the case so they can get halal or kosher meals as well.

In response to lawsuits, Florida officials said kosher meals would be served in prisons statewide beginning in September. But Justice Department and inmate attorneys say a court order is necessary to make sure the state doesn’t rescind its policy.

Kosher and halal meals adhere to strict religious dietary rules. The inmates contend they are prevented from properly exercising their faiths.

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