DES MOINES, Iowa — Roman Catholic leaders in Iowa are urging voters to back a constitutional convention, saying the rare gathering would be the quickest way to overturn the court ruling that legalized gay marriage in the state.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, which represents the state's four Roman Catholic dioceses, issued the statement Monday in favor of a yes vote on a Nov. 2 ballot question that would require a constitutional convention.
Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009, when the state Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that found a same-sex marriage ban approved by lawmakers violated the Iowa Constitution. Since then, about 1,800 same-sex weddings have been held in Iowa, most by couples who live in other states.
Tom Chapman, executive director of the Catholic Conference, said the group was part of a larger effort to encourage Iowa's roughly 500,000 Catholics to vote their conscience on a number of issues.
Voters last called for a constitutional convention in 1920, but it wasn't convened, according to Rich Johnson, the legal director for the Legislative Services Agency. He didn't know why. In such a convention, the Legislature would set a process to select delegates and voters would have to approve any changes delegates propose.
Separately, Minnesota's Catholic bishops are launching a new effort against same-sex marriage, with a DVD being mailed to parishioners. Winona Bishop John Quinn said the DVD explains church teaching on marriage and describes what church leaders consider the potential impact of allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Catholic leaders in Sudan pray for peace as vote on independence, potential conflict looms
JUBA, Sudan — Roman Catholic leaders have launched a countrywide campaign in Sudan to pray for peace ahead of a scheduled referendum on southern independence that some fear may lead to violence.
Southern Sudan, which is predominantly animist and Christian, is scheduled to vote on independence Jan. 9, but preparations for the vote are badly behind schedule. The body charged with organizing the vote has not yet set a date for voter registration, a process likely to be contentious as officials decide who is eligible to vote.
The Obama administration has said it is "inevitable" the south will declare independence. But given the south's substantial known oil resources, many here worry that the predominantly Muslim north will find it difficult to accept an independent south.
"There are a lot of forecasts of war and all these indications that tells us the situation between north and south is as tense as ever," said Sister Cecilia Sierra Salcido, a Mexican nun.
Salcido and other members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba have organized "101 Days of Prayer for Peace." The effort began Tuesday to coincide with the International Day of Peace. It ends Jan. 1, eight days before the referendum.
"The least we can do is pray," said Salcido.
Hundreds gathered on a rainy morning in the southern capital of Juba to mark the launch of the prayer campaign.
Interfaith Christian work has long been a feature of efforts toward peace in Sudan during the country's long civil war and since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 that ended more than two decades of fighting.
Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses proposal to privatize state-owned liquor stores
RICHMOND, Va. —Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to put Virginia's state-run alcohol sales in private hands and triple the number of liquor stores scored a big endorsement from the Christian right.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University and namesake son of the late minister and political activist, endorsed McDonnell's liquor privatization proposal Tuesday.
Falwell said he felt the founders never intended for government to be in the liquor retailing business.
But McDonnell has encountered resistance to his plan from an interfaith coalition concerned that boosting the number of stores from 332 now to 1,000 will worsen alcoholism, damage families and put more drunks on the highways.
NC high school suspends teen who wears nose stud as a religious symbol
CLAYTON, N.C. —A 14-year-old high school student in central North Carolina who belongs to a group called the Church of Body Modification has been suspended again for wearing a nose stud she says is a sign of her faith.
Ariana Iacono was suspended Tuesday morning from Clayton High School, according to Katy Parker, legal director of the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU is backing Iacono's right to wear the nose ring.
This is the third time this year Iacono has been suspended. The Johnston County school system has a dress code that prohibits facial piercings. Parker says the ACLU and the Iaconos haven't yet decided how they'll respond to the latest suspension.