Top Methodist Court To Reconsider Case Related To Gay Man Barred From Church Membership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The highest court in the United Methodist Church will review its 2005 ruling that allowed a clergyman to bar a noncelibate gay man from joining a congregation.

The Judicial Council will take up the issue when it convenes Wednesday, Oct. 27, through, Saturday, Oct. 30, in New Orleans, according to United Methodist News Service.

The ruling five years ago came in the case of the Rev. Ed Johnson, who was senior pastor at South Hill United Methodist Church in Virginia. He had refused to allow a gay man, who said he was not celibate, to become a member of the congregation. Like many other Christian groups, Methodists are divided over how to interpret what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.

At the time, the Judicial Council effectively ruled for Johnson. The court said a pastor in charge of a local church has the authority to decide whether a layman is ready for membership.

Three other regional church districts — Northern Illinois, Minnesota and Arkansas Annual Conferences — are now asking the high court to reconsider. The Judicial Council includes some newly elected members who were not on the court when the 2005 ruling was made.

Malaysia court fines 12 Muslims for parading cow head in protest against Hindu temple plan

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysian court fined 12 Muslims on Tuesday and sentenced one of them to a week in prison for illegally protesting the construction of a Hindu temple and parading a severed cow's head.

The protest last August stoked tensions among Malaysia's three main ethnic groups — the Malay Muslim majority and Chinese and Indian minorities, most of them Buddhists, Christians or Hindus who have complained that their religious rights are often sidelined in favor of Islam.

The 12 men were among scores of Muslims who marched with a bloodied cow's head from a mosque to the central Selangor state chief minister's office to denounce the state government's plan to build a Hindu temple in their largely Muslim neighborhood.

The cow is the most sacred animal in Hinduism.

All 12 pleaded guilty in a Selangor district court to a charge of illegal assembly and were fined US$320 each, said defense lawyer Afifuddin Hafifi. They faced up to a year in prison and a fine for the charge.

Medical board files complaint against Kansas doctor over referrals for late-term abortions

WICHITA, Kansas — A Kansas doctor who provided second opinions for a late-term abortion provider who was gunned down last year could face disciplinary action from a state medical regulatory board.

Dr. Ann Neuhaus provided the second opinions for Dr. George Tiller that are required under Kansas law for any abortion performed after the 21st week of pregnancy when a fetus is viable, or can survive outside the womb.

The Kansas Board of Healing Arts filed an 11-count disciplinary complaint against Neuhaus over some of her second opinions, alleging the Nortonville woman failed to properly evaluate whether an abortion of a viable fetus was necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother — as required by Kansas law.

The petition, signed April 16, was made public Tuesday by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which had filed the initial complaint to the board against Tiller and Neuhaus. The complaint against Tiller was dismissed after he was killed at his Wichita church in May 2009.

An evidentiary hearing on the petition is set for Jan. 11.

The hearing officer then will make recommendations to the board on any disciplinary action, which could range from fines to license restrictions to suspension or revocation of her medical license, said board spokeswoman Lisa Corwin.

Moldovan police investigate death of baby during baptism

CHISINAU, Moldova — Moldovan police say they are investigating the case of a six-week-old baby who died minutes after his baptism, apparently due to having inhaled water during the ceremony.

The baby's relatives say he died after gulping water during his baptism on Friday in a Moldovan village.

In the Orthodox Christian religion, babies are baptized by being briefly immersed three times in water. Priests hold the infant's mouths and noses.

Film shot by relatives shows the baby moving after being taken out of the font, but then suffering difficulty breathing as he is dressed. Twenty minutes later, he started bleeding from his nose and mouth and died.

Church spokeswoman Epistimia Goncearenco said Tuesday the priest who performed the baptism is being investigated for manslaughter.

Laura Bush to speak at Heritage Christian University fundraiser in Florence, Ala.

FLORENCE, Ala. —Former first lady Laura Bush will speak at a Heritage Christian University annual fundraiser on Aug. 28.

University President Dennis Jones said the object is to raise money for scholarships at the small, Church of Christ-sponsored school that provides training for future Bible teachers, preachers and missionaries.

The $100 ticket price includes admission to a concert with actor/singer John Schneider. Organizers are hoping the event will generate $250,000.

Jones says the former first lady will talk about life in the White House and will take questions.

Tenn. GOP gubernatorial candidate criticized for comments on Islam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey is being criticized by a national Muslim rights group for positing that Islam may be more of a cult than a religion.

At an event in Chattanooga earlier this month, Ramsey said: "You could even argue whether that being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult or whatever you want to call it?"

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Ramsey's comments are a sign of "a disturbing trend in our nation in which it is suggested that American Muslims should have fewer or more restricted constitutional rights than citizens of other faiths."

Ramsey responded with a statement saying he's concerned that "far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion."