Speaker Pelosi in Syria; Texas Lawmaker Wants Bible Classes in Public Schools - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

AP Religion Roundup - April 4, 2007

Speaker Pelosi in Syria; Texas Lawmaker Wants Bible Classes in Public Schools

BLACKWELL BELIEVES GOD LED HIM TO FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell
says he isn't dwelling on his defeat last November in the
governor's race.

In his words, ``It ain't my life, and it ain't my wife, and I
know how to bounce back.''

Blackwell says he believes God led him to his new job at the
Family Research Council in Washington. As Senior Fellow for Family
Empowerment, he'll focus on school choice and tax issues.

Blackwell says Evangelical Christians can play a decisive role
in the 2008 presidential election, at a minimum, by blocking
candidates who don't appeal to them.

While Democrats retain their advantage in the black community,
Blackwell says Republicans can increase their share of the minority
vote by campaigning in black churches and communities.

ART STUDENT'S DEPICTION OF OBAMA AS JESUS CAUSES STIR

CHICAGO (AP) _ He wears Jesus' robes and a neon blue halo, looks
like Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and is causing
a stir at a Chicago art school.

A 24-year-old student's papier mache sculpture of the Illinois
senator as a messianic figure titled ``Blessing'' went on display
Saturday at a downtown gallery run by the School of the Art
Institute of Chicago. Since then, the school had been flooded with
calls.

David Cordero made the sculpture for his senior show after
noticing all the attention Obama has received since he first hinted
he may run for the presidency. He says many people seemed to view
the senator as ``a potential savior that might come and absolve the
country of all its sins.''

Cordero says it's meant to caution people not to expect too much
of any one person.

PELOSI VISITS CHRISTIAN SHRINE, MOSQUE IN DAMASCUS

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has visited an
eighth-century mosque and a Christian shrine in Damascus during a
visit to pursue dialogue with Syria's President Bashar Assad.

President Bush has denounced the trip, saying it sends mixed
signals to Syria's government. Pelosi did not comment on Bush's
remarks before heading to Damascus' historic Old City.

Pelosi made the sign of the cross at an elaborate tomb that's
said to contain the head of John the Baptist. About ten percent of
Syria's 18 (m) million people are Christian.

Wearing a head scarf and a black robe, Pelosi visited the
Omayyad Mosque, shook hands with Muslim women inside and watched
men sit cross-legged on the floor during an Islamic class.

TOBYMAC SAYS DCTALK WILL REUNITE SOMEDAY

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) _ TobyMac says he and his former dcTalk
bandmates, Kevin Max and Michael Tait, still communicate regularly
and encourage one another in their solo careers.

Amid the success of his ``Portable Sounds'' c-d and tour,
TobyMac says he, Tait and Max are still close friends, phoning and
text-messaging one another.

Asked whether dcTalk will reunite someday, TobyMac says there
are no current plans to get back together, although he's ``sure
it'll come'' eventually.

TobyMac says, ``The only conversations we've ever had about it
are, 'When are we gonna do it?' It's never been, 'Are we gonna do
it?'''

TEXAS LAWMAKER WANTS BIBLE CLASSES MANDATED IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

DALLAS (AP) _ A Texas legislator wants to require the state's
nearly 17-hundred public school districts to teach the Bible as a
textbook, ``not a worship document.''

Republican state Representative Warren Chisum's bill would
require high schools to offer history and literacy courses on the
Old and New Testaments, but the courses would be elective.

The bill says the courses must be taught in an ``objective and
nondevotional manner'' that does not attempt to indoctrinate
students.

But Mark Chancey, an associate professor in religious studies at
Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says Judaism fares poorly
in such courses. Students, he said, are taught how to read the
Bible from a Protestant Christian perspective.

COUNTY AGREES NOT TO SUPPORT RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES IN JAIL PROGRAM

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) _ To settle a federal lawsuit, a Pennsylvania
county has agreed to refrain from using public funds to support
religious activities.

The settlement filed in Scranton ends a lawsuit filed over
vocational training programs run by The Firm Foundation at the
Bradford County jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for
Separation of Church and State charged that inmates in a former
work-release program were proselytized and pressured to pray.

Bradford County admits no wrongdoing, but agrees not to use
public funds to support religious activities or maintain buildings
primarily used for religious activities.

The settlement also says that publicly funded programs should
not discriminate based on religion in providing services.

CHURCH VANDAL FINED AND SENTENCED TO JAIL

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) _ A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to
180 days in jail and ordered to make eleven-thousand dollars in
restitution for vandalizing a South Dakota church.

Anthony Sanderson pleaded guilty to grand theft and intentional
damage to property.

Authorities say Sanderson and two juveniles stole three
all-terrain vehicles, kicked in the doors of the Savo Lutheran
Church and drove the vehicles inside. Pews, an organ, the pulpit, a
50-year-old Bible and the floor were damaged.

In court, Sanderson said he couldn't explain why he vandalized
the church. He said, ``Maybe it was a way of getting even with
God'' for the death of his younger brother a couple of years ago.

FEDERAL CHARGES FILED IN CROSS BURNING OUTSIDE CHURCH RECTORY

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Two California men are scheduled to
appear in federal court today on charges that they burned a cross
in front of a church rectory.

Kevin Ridenour, who's 21, and 18-year-old Nicholas Craig were
arrested Tuesday.

On March 23rd, a five-foot-by-three-foot wooden cross was set
ablaze outside the rectory of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church
in Westwood.

A witness told investigators he saw Craig and another man
building the cross in an alley near the church the night before.

The rectory is the home of an African priest who came to the
United States in 1999 after surviving the Rwandan civil war.

FIRE AT ANTI-ZIONIST SYNAGOGUE NOW APPEARS ACCIDENTAL

MONSEY, N.Y. (AP) _ Investigators in Monsey, New York, say they
haven't found any evidence of arson in a fire that destroyed an
anti-Zionist Jewish group's synagogue.

The fire gutted the three-story, century-old structure Sunday in
what the group at first suspected was a deliberate act to target
members because of their anti-Israel views. The synagogue teaches
that there should not be a Jewish state until the Messiah comes.

Authorities initially suspected arson, but backed off after
getting a closer look at the charred house north of New York City.
A police detective says it now appears that the fire was
accidental.

No one was injured in the blaze that reportedly broke out in a
kitchen area.

FRENCH CANDIDATE WANTS ISLAM CUT OFF FROM FOREIGN INFLUENCE

PARIS (AP) _ French presidential front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy
has backed off his push to allow state support for mosques, but
says he wants Islam in France ``cut off from foreign influences.''

Sarkozy told a Catholic newspaper that he'll consult all
religions before seeking revision of the French law separating
church and state.

While many of France's Catholic churches stand nearly empty on
Sundays, Muslims often carry out religious observances in basements
of housing projects or on pavements outside cramped mosques.

In a 2005 book, Sarkozy said extremism is festering in
underground mosques and Muslim groups cannot afford to build houses
of worship. While stopping short of calling for direct state
funding to build mosques, Sarkozy has called for government support
for construction of parking lots, cultural centers and annexes to
Muslim prayer halls as a way to encourage the building of mosques.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

APNP-04-04-07 0229CDT

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