Religion news in brief

Franciscan University in Ohio drops student health insurance over contraception coverage

CINCINNATI (AP) — A Roman Catholic university in eastern Ohio says it will drop student health insurance partly because of a new federal health care rule requiring religious-affiliated institutions' insurance plans to provide contraception coverage.

An official with Franciscan University in Steubenville said Wednesday that another reason for the decision was higher costs resulting from other provisions of the federal health care overhaul.

The school's vice president for advancement says the university, with 2,500 students, cannot include coverage of contraception services and products that are opposed by the Catholic Church.

Catholic officials and religious-affiliated institutions around the country continue to challenge the contraception coverage mandate in court.

The university says it will continue its employee insurance plan while it waits for the outcome of challenges to the federal rule, which begins August 2013.


Team excluded from church softball league after competitors learn of pastor's bisexuality

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The new pastor at St. John United Church of Christ in the eastern Missouri town of St. Clair doesn't play softball, but members of his church do. Or at least they did until their pastor's sexuality prompted a boycott within their church league.

The Rev. James Semmelroth Darnell is bisexual. When pastors at three of the churches in the league found out, they decided their teams wouldn't take the field against the team from Darnell's church, saying the pastor's lifestyle goes against their Christian beliefs.

St. John players decided to quit the six-team league rather than ruin things for everyone else.

"It certainly is very upsetting, especially in 2012, that this is an issue," Darnell said Wednesday. "It's very disappointing but quite frankly not too surprising given the nature of this community — it's a pretty conservative area."

Dover, the Rev. Wyatt Otten of Liberty Baptist Church and the Rev. Ben Kingston of Bethel Baptist in nearby Lonedell decided they wouldn't participate in games against St. John. They informed the church earlier this month, just before the softball season began.

"We are not against people," Kingston said. "We are against sin. That's what we stand against."


HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to address Georgetown grads, despite church criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — A planned graduation speech by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Georgetown University is going forward, despite criticism from the Archdiocese of Washington that Sebelius is an inappropriate choice for the Jesuit school.

The Archdiocese on Tuesday said in a statement that Sebelius' actions as a public official "present the most direct challenge to religious liberty in recent history." Sebelius helped shape President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, which includes a mandate that requires employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control for workers. Catholic bishops have led opposition to the mandate.

Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, is scheduled to speak Friday at a ceremony for graduates of Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. A Georgetown spokeswoman said Wednesday that the plans have not changed.


Settlement reached in lawsuit over burial of black woman in Conn. Jewish cemetery

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman has agreed to settle her lawsuit against her Jewish congregation over the burial of a black woman in the synagogue's cemetery.

Maria Balaban's attorney said he and a lawyer for Congregation Ahavath Achim in Colchester have reached a tentative agreement. The terms were not disclosed.

Balaban sued over the burial of Juliet Steer in 2010, saying the synagogue broke its own rules against burial of non-Jews at the cemetery. Others said Steer was buried in a section reserved for non-Jews. Balaban wanted Steer's body exhumed and relocated, but later dropped that request.

A congregation lawyer, who did not immediately return a message for comment Wednesday, had said in court documents that Balaban was only suing because Steer was black. Balaban's lawyer said race was never a factor.


European Jewish organization urges EU governments to tackle neo-Nazism, growing far right

PRAGUE (AP) — The head of a major European Jewish group says his organization is urging European governments to quickly adopt measures to tackle anti-Semitism and the threat of a growing far right.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, was meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas on Wednesday to seek his support for "emergency measures" to protect European Jewish communities from violent hate crimes.

Kantor plans to ask Necas to help promote the plan among other European leaders and also seek the support of

the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Kantor has expressed concern about Golden Dawn, a party that did well during Greece's May 6 election. It has rejected a neo-Nazi label but campaigned on an anti-immigration platform.


Samples of foods served at NY Buddhist monastery being tested at lab after 150 fall ill

BREWSTER, N.Y. (AP) — Samples of a dozen foods that were served at a Buddhist monastery, including noodles, spring rolls and teas, have been sent to a state lab in hopes of detecting what might have sickened 150 people.

Results could take two days to a week. The outbreak was tracked to a Mother's Day celebration at the Chuang Yen monastery in Kent Cliffs. The monastery said the Sunday party included a food fair.

About 700 people attended, at least 500 of them on tour buses from New York City's Chinatown.

Wittenberg said it's believed all the food that was served was brought in by those attending the celebration and was not made at the monastery. The typical symptoms were vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.