Religion News in Brief

Court lets inmate fight for racist literature

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A convicted murderer has won the right to argue to a federal judge that he should be entitled to receive hate-filled white supremacist material in a Tennessee prison because it's part of his religion.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a lower court should not have dismissed Anthony Hayes' lawsuit against the state of Tennessee and its prison system.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wants the lower court to address whether barring Hayes from receiving the mailings violated a federal law that strengthens religious freedom in prison.

Prison officials have argued the racist literature poses a security risk and should not be in the hands of a violent felon held in maximum security.

The 54-year-old inmate is serving a sentence for first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and two counts of felony escape.


Plans for Muslim youth camp in Iowa shelved

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (AP) — Plans to build summer camp for Muslim youth at Coralville Lake have been scrapped, ending more than a decade of debate over the project.

Muslim Youth Camps of America recently told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it will not seek a new lease for the 114-acre site.

When the plan was proposed in 1999, camp administrators faced concerns over the environmental impact of the project and increased traffic. Religious concerns became part of the debate after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Ron Fournier, a spokesman for the corps, said the camping group said in an e-mail that it could not achieve its goals for the project under current constraints. The project had to be scaled back to satisfy environmental concerns.

The group's lease for the land expired in February.


Calif. Senate OKs bill restricting funeral protests after US Supreme Court free speech ruling

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Kansas-based group that has used inflammatory language to protest military funerals nationwide prompted California lawmakers to restrict how close such protesters can get to funeral services and religious observances.

The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill by Sen. Ted Lieu that requires such groups to stay 1,000 feet from a burial site, mortuary or place of worship.

His bill, SB888, was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in March that said protests by the Westboro Baptist Church are protected free speech. Members of the Topeka, Kan.-based church picket funerals, contending God is punishing the military for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

The bill by Lieu, a Torrance Democrat, makes it a misdemeanor to protest within the 1,000-foot perimeter for an hour before or after a funeral.


Malta votes 'Yes' to divorce in referendum

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Malta, the tiny, staunchly Roman Catholic island — has voted by a narrow margin in favor of legalizing divorce, according to the results of a referendum.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who had campaigned against divorce, said parliament would respect the will of the people in the nonbinding referendum and work on legislation to legalize divorce. Malta is the last remaining European Union nation that bans divorce.

"Even though the result is not what I wished for, now it is our duty to see that the will of the majority is respected," Gonzi said in a televised speech.

The Times of Malta reported that 52.67 percent of voters favored allowing divorce.

The issue has been hotly debated and allegiances went beyond party lines.

"This is a conservative society, but Maltese still live like Europeans. This regularizes their lives," said analyst Saviour Balzan, whose newspaper, Malta Today, had campaigned in favor of the legalization of divorce. "It gives a new lifeline to hundreds of people."

Malta, which also bans abortion, has long Catholic traditions and the church's influence on the Mediterranean nation's 400,000 citizens is still significant. Some 95 percent of the population calls itself Roman Catholic. Pope Benedict XVI visited the island last year.


Church sues Idaho city over zoning rules

MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho (AP) — A Christian ministry has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing that unconstitutional zoning rules discriminate against religious groups.

No Limits Christian Ministries had applied for a conditional use permit so the church could worship in a vacant building. The city denied the request, saying parking space was too limited and that people who parked on nearby blocks would have to cross busy streets, posing a hazard.

In its lawsuit, the church says Mountain Home's zoning rules violate the First and 14th Amendments because while it allows clubs, lodges and other group activities without requiring special permits, it specifically bars churches and requires that religious groups prove they deserve a conditional use permit.


Tyson installed as 7th bishop of Catholic Diocese of Yakima

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Church has installed a new bishop for the Yakima diocese.

More than 1,000 people attended a Mass at Holy Family Parish for the installation of the Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson as the seventh bishop of the diocese. Tyson talked about the importance of community and his role as bishop to minister to people here.

Tyson, 53, was born in Moses Lake and baptized at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima. He previously served as auxiliary bishop of the Seattle Archdiocese.

The Yakima diocese serves more than 80,000 Catholics across a sprawling seven-county area in central Washington. Parishioners include long-standing farm families and Hispanic immigrants who've moved to the area for farm work.