Religion Briefs


Obama urged to fill vacancy

Obama urged to fill vacancy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressman and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom are urging President Barack Obama to quickly fulfill a pledge he made last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Obama said he looked forward to nominating the next U.S. Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, a post that has sat vacant since Suzan Johnson Cook resigned last October. Prior to her confirmation, the diplomatic post was vacant for two years.

At a House hearing Tuesday, New Jersey Republican Chris Smith urged the president to quickly name a new ambassador.

Commissioner Elliott Abrams said leaving the seat vacant "sends a message to countries around the world of inattention and lack of concern."

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee) said Secretary of State John Kerry and other administration officials "are dedicated to this issue every day" and are "advocating with governments where needed."

Arvella Schuller dies at 84

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — Arvella Schuller, the wife of the Crystal Cathedral's founding pastor, has died at the age of 84.

Carol Schuller Milner says her mother passed away unexpectedly and peacefully Tuesday at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center.

Arvella Schuller is survived by her husband, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, who launched the ministry at an Orange County drive-in in 1955. She was the organist there. Together they founded the Crystal Cathedral and the weekly "Hour of Power" broadcast, which she produced and directed.

At its peak, the "Hour of Power" attracted 20 million viewers, but the ministry filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Francis on Benedict

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has called his predecessor courageous and humble on the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's remarkable announcement that he would retire.

In a tweet Tuesday, Francis wrote: "Today I ask you to join me in prayer for His Holiness Benedict XVI, a man of great courage and humility."

It was the latest in a long line of praises being showered on Benedict, who became the first pope in centuries to retire when he stepped down last year.

His resignation was seen by many in the Vatican as a great act of governance, enabling the reform-minded Francis to clean house in the Vatican and reboot a 2,000 year-old institution hobbled by sex abuse scandals and growing indifference in a secularized world.

Hobby Lobby files brief

WASHINGTON (AP) — An attorney for Hobby Lobby says the owners of the arts and crafts chain should be exempt from the health care law's birth control mandate because providing contraceptives that destroy life in the womb would violate their religious beliefs.

Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty says Hobby Lobby's brief has now been filed at the Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments March 25 involving challenges to the mandate by Hobby Lobby and Mennonite-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The Obama administration has argued that for-profit businesses don't have religious rights. But Duncan says federal law protects the free exercise of religion "wherever it occurs — in the home, in a church, in a charity or in a family business."

He noted that CVS won praise last week for its decision to stop selling tobacco products, suggesting that businesses can and should act on their principles.

Religious groups fight gay marriage

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A coalition of religious organizations has come together to urge a federal appeals court to uphold bans on same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, saying unions between a man and woman are best for children, families and society.

The argument is being made in a 42-page brief filed Monday to a Denver-based court reviewing cases that could reverse gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Lawyers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote the brief, which was signed by the National Association of Evangelicals and Southern Baptist and Lutheran organizations.

The religious groups say the marriage of a man and a woman as established by God is the best setting for raising children.

They say accusations that their opposition to gay marriage represents bigotry are "false and offensive."

College offers course class in apocalypse

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) — Some Central Michigan University students are getting schooled in the undead this semester, thanks to a religion course that's exploring apocalyptic themes in biblical texts, literature and pop culture.

Philosophy and religion faculty member Kelly Murphy says she always wanted to teach a course on apocalyptic literature, and she is a fan of AMC's TV show "The Walking Dead." The result is Murphy's class, which is called "From Revelation to 'The Walking Dead."'

"Thinking about the end and imagining life in a different way is something that humans have always done," Murphy said in a university release.

Murphy's class will discuss biblical texts, review popular novels and watch clips from movies such as "Shaun of the Dead" and "28 Days Later." Students also will discuss hypothetical ethical and theological problems that people could encounter in a post-apocalyptic world.

"The prevalence of apocalyptic stories in various media gives us a window into what people are worrying about, what they hope for and how they imagine they would react in the face of a cataclysmic event," Murphy said. "In the same way, we can read the Book of Revelation ... and learn what ancient Jewish and Christian groups were concerned about."

Kevin White, a senior from the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores majoring in political science and religion, said it is important to incorporate popular culture into classroom settings because it helps to give students a way to connect with subjects of study.

"Studying ancient biblical texts isn't most people's cup of tea," he said. "But, when you add zombies, it instantly becomes everyone's cup of tea."



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