Catholic Church Seeks Prisoner Pardons In Chile; Some Guilty Of Crimes Against Humanity

SANTIAGO, Chile — The Roman Catholic Church is petitioning Chile's government for prisoner pardons that would include people responsible for crimes against humanity.

The church is asking for the pardons as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Chile's independence on Sept. 18. The church proposes pardons for those older than 70, any with a t erminal decease and women who are mothers.

The controversy centers on the inclusion of some convicted of committing crimes during the 1973-90 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. According to official statistics, 3,065 opponents of Pi nochet's regime were killed and 1,200 more disappeared.

The Group of Families of Detainees and Missing People has asked President Sebastian Pinera not to pardon anyone accused of committing such crimes during Pinochet's dictatorship.

Fort Wayne parents sue school district over religious education program during school hours

INDIANAPOLIS — Parents of a Fort Wayne third-grader have sued the school district, claiming the girl was sent to a religious program on school grounds without their permission.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which filed the federal lawsuit for the parents, argues that the program is unconstitutional and should be barred from operating on school propert y. The ACLU also wants to prevent the school from sending students to the religious program without parents' explicit consent.

The Haley Elementary School student and her parents are named in the suit only by their initials. Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman declined comment. The head of the chur ch group that offers the program was traveling and couldn't be reached July 2.

According to the lawsuit, the child was taken to the class in a trailer on school property for several weeks this past year while she was in third grade. Her parents had not given permission fo r her to attend the class and she was removed after they found out.

Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County has since 1944 offered the weekly classes in which students learn the Bible during school day sessions in mobile classrooms that are nicknamed "little churches on wheels," or in some cases at a nearby church building. The group's website says 80 percent of local schoolchildren in grades 3, 4 and 5 take part.

The group says the classes are non-denominational and use the Good News Bible as a textbook. The class, the website says, "is based on understanding the word of God and applying it to our live s, living as an example of God's love, and trying to be more like Jesus every day."

Hopi tribal members sentenced to probation for illegally possessing a golden eagle in Ariz.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. —Three Hopi tribal members have been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution for illegally possessing a golden eagle.

Prosecutors say Arthur Batala, Darrell Batala and Steven Silas were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff for violating a federal law that protects most species of birds.

Eagles are viewed as sacred in many Native American cultures, and the feathers and other parts of the birds are central to tribal religions and customs. Authorities say enrolled members of fede rally recognized tribes may obtain permits to take eagles for religious purposes, but federal law prohibits the sale of bald and golden eagles or their feathers and other parts.

Arthur Batala was sentenced last week to two years of probation, Darrell Batala to one year of probation and Silas to one year of supervised probation. The three men also must pay $500 apiece i n restitution.

Marietta, Ga., mosque fire called probable arson

MARIETTA, Ga. —Marietta Fire Marshal Scott Tucker says a fire that damaged a Marietta mosque probably was set intentionally.

Tucker said Tuesday there were signs of forcible entry to the mosque, which caught fire Monday night. Firefighters are combing the building for evidence.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it's asking the FBI to investigate. The FBI declined to comment and referred all inquiries to local authorities.

Tucker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that firefighters saw flames coming from the front and back of the converted house when they arrived. He says firefighters were able to save the str ucture, but there was substantial damage to the prayer hall.

Tucker says a fire was set at an adjacent building belonging to the mosque a few years ago.

Boston Archdiocese changes finance model to make collections more fair

BRAINTREE, Mass. —The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is changing the way it collects money from parishes in an effort to make the process more fair.

Thirty-three parishes are participating in the new process for the fiscal year that began July 1 in which 18 percent of parish revenues, including collections, will go to the archdiocese. All p arishes will go to the new system next year.

The process replaces what some officials call a confusing and unfair system in which some parishes contribute as little as 2 percent of their income, while others contribute as much as 35 perce nt.

Church officials said that just over half of parishes are already exceeding or meeting the archdiocese's new expectations, but about 46 percent will have to step up their fundraising.