Religion news in brief


LA archdiocese settles 4 abuse cases for $10M; priest had acknowledged past abuse to cardinal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will pay nearly $10 million to settle four cases alleging abuse by a now-defrocked priest who told Cardinal Roger Mahony nearly 30 years ago he had molested children, attorneys confirmed Tuesday.

The cases involving ex-priest Michael Baker span 26 years from 1974 to 2000. Two were set for trial next month. A judge had said attorneys for the plaintiffs could pursue punitive damages at trial.

The cases were settled this week.

Two of the claims named Mahony and alleged he didn't do enough to stop Baker from abusing children, said plaintiff's attorney John Manly.

Mahony retired as Los Angeles archbishop in 2011 and was rebuked by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, last month after confidential church files showed the cardinal worked behind the scenes to shield molesting priests and protect the church from scandal.


ACLU files federal lawsuit against Rowan Co. commissioners over prayers used to bless meetings

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — A civil liberties group has filed a federal lawsuit against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for their use of Christian prayers to bless their meetings.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina names three Rowan residents as plaintiffs.

The suit accuses the county board of violating the First Amendment provision ordaining the separation of church and state by routinely praying to Jesus Christ to start their meetings. Federal courts have ruled in the past that boards can use an invocation, but only if it is nonsectarian.

After the ACLU informed the county of its intent to sue last month, scores of Christian supporters prayed and sang hymns at a board meeting to support the commissioners.


Century-old Ore. church dissolves, members give $100,000 to college for scholarships

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) — A century-old Coos Bay church with a declining congregation dissolved and remaining members gave $100,000 for college scholarships.

The World newspaper reports the check that was handed over Monday was the largest gift ever to the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation. The money will endow scholarships each year for nontraditional students who have served their community.

The money comes from the First Presbyterian Church of Coos Bay which sold its large building in 2008 to make room for a new fire station.

The congregation continued to meet in another church and had about $1 million in the bank, but members decided there were better uses for the money. Most went to the Presbytery of the Cascades to build new churches in the region.


Utah lawmakers maintain 'Zion curtains' that require restaurants to hide drink-making

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Barriers in Utah restaurants that shield patrons from seeing bartenders mix and pour drinks in restaurants will stay in place after a measure to scale back one of the Mormon-dominated state's offbeat liquor laws died in the state Legislature.

Lawmakers voted 24-2 on Tuesday to kill a proposal to remove the barriers, known as "Zion curtains."

Republican Sen. John Valentine said the move to keep the barricades stemmed from lawmakers' fear that their removal would lead to more drinking in Utah.

"We have restaurants. And we have bars," Valentine said, emphasizing a clear distinction between the two. "And we do not want to foster the culture of alcohol in those restaurants."

The "Zion curtains" go back decades in the state's history, and the nickname nods to Utah's legacy as home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Opponents of today's Zion curtains say the law forces restaurant owners to waste money and space on configurations to keep bartenders out of sight.


Gov't doesn't fight order letting American Taliban fighter Lindh pray daily with other inmates

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The deadline has expired for the government to challenge a ruling allowing American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and fellow Muslim inmates at a tightly controlled federal prison unit in Indiana to hold daily group prayers.

The government took no action before Tuesday's deadline expired and group prayers were supposed to begin Wednesday under U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson's ruling.

Neither the U.S. attorney in Indianapolis nor the American Civil Liberties Union's Indiana chapter had immediate comment.

Magnus-Stinson ruled Jan. 11 that barring Lindh and his fellow Muslims from engaging in daily group ritual prayer at the federal prison at Terre Haute, Ind., violates a 1993 law that bans the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest.

She said her ruling didn't prohibit less restrictive security measures.


Jewish history museum in Warsaw unveils exquisite reconstruction of synagogue ceiling

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Jewish history museum in Warsaw has unveiled a reconstructed synagogue roof with an elaborately painted ceiling modeled on a 17th-century structure, presenting the first object that will go on permanent display in the highly awaited museum.

The wooden roof and ceiling will be a key attraction in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is due to open next year in the heart of the city's former Jewish quarter.

The museum will tell the story of Jewish life in Poland, a complex history spanning 1,000 years, but one that has been forgotten today by many people and which is often overshadowed by the Holocaust.

The story will unfold largely with high-tech multimedia installations, but the reconstructed synagogue roof is a tangible object produced with the tools and techniques that were used when the original structure was first erected in the 1600s.

The ceiling is a rich panoply in milky blues and brownish reds of zodiac signs and animal symbols, along with inscriptions in Hebrew.

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