Religion news in brief

Maine bishop condemns mosque graffiti

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's Roman Catholic bishop is speaking out against inflammatory graffiti that was painted on Portland's largest mosque following the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Bishop Richard Malone says he condemns the anti-Islam graffiti that was painted on the Maine Muslim Community Center on Monday morning. The slogans included "Osama today, Islam tomorrow" and "Go Home."

Malone said now is a time to promote peace, not a time to allow bin Laden's death to spawn hate. He said bin Laden was a man who "sowed division and hatred."


Scientologists say Russia lifts publications ban

MOSCOW (AP) — The Church of Scientology says Russian authorities have lifted a ban on some of its publications.

A statement on the website of the organization's Russian branch says 29 books and lectures by the movement's founder L. Ron Hubbard were banned in late April after a court found them "extremist." It said yesterday that Russia's Justice Ministry has dropped the publications from its list of extremist literature.

Ministry officials refused immediate comment, but an online list of extremist literature does not mention Scientology materials Tuesday evening.

Scientology has also struggled for acceptance in many European countries.


Ohio 'Heartbeat Bill' draws support, criticism

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A strict Ohio abortion bill is drawing support from potential White House hopefuls and criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Anti-abortion group Faith2Action has led the push for the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. It said the measure is supported by four possible presidential contenders: former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Meanwhile, the Ohio ACLU is warning that the bill and other Ohio abortion proposals could make the state a target of costly lawsuits.


Turkey conserves Armenian cultural heritage as gesture of reconciliation toward Armenia

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has launched a project to conserve an ancient Armenian cathedral and church in what is seen as a gesture of reconciliation toward its neighbour.

Turkey and Armenia have been locked in a bitter dispute for decades over the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Efforts to normalize relations have been dealt a setback by the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan is a close Muslim ally of Turkey.

Turkey, however, says it is committed to improving ties with Armenia, and has already restored the 10th century Akdamar church, perched on a rocky island in Lake Van in eastern Turkey. It has also allowed once-yearly worship at the site as a gesture to Armenia and its own ethnic Armenian minority.

Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said Tuesday the new project was being launched in partnership with the World Monuments Fund to conserve the remains of the cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior in Ani, 25 miles (40 kilometres) from the eastern Turkish city of Kars.

According to the New York-based World Monuments Fund, Ani — "one of the world's great cities in the 10th century" — was once the site of hundreds of religious buildings, palaces, fortifications, and other structures. Today it stands abandoned, and the remnants of its celebrated buildings are in a precarious state.


Dallas church to buy recording studio building

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas church has unveiled plans to buy an art deco building where blues great Robert Johnson recorded in 1937. First Presbyterian Church has announced plans to buy what's known as 508 Park Ave.

The Rev. Bruce Buchanan says the plan for the historic building near the church's complex to help the homeless, known as the Stewpot, has been presented to the Dallas Landmark Commission. The panel is responsible for reviewing applications for city landmarks.

Buchanan says the goal is to restore 508 Park's exterior, plus refurbish the inside and create a recording studio. The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that the property was built in 1929 as a film distribution center.


Jewish group intervenes in Ga. mosque fight

ATLANTA (AP) — A Jewish civil rights group has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Muslim congregation that claims its expansion project was unlawfully blocked.

The Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday it was intervening in the case to support the Islamic Center of North Fulton. The congregation claims the city of Alpharetta has illegally blocked its plan to construct a new worship center.

The city has rejected the application, saying that the congregation vowed it would not expand when the center was built in 1998.

The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques filed a similar court motion in federal court. The group contends that the rights of the Islamic Center should be protected under a law designed to safeguard the religious freedom of houses of worship involved in land disputes.