Religion news in brief

Published June 06, 2012

| Associated Press

Church groups sue Philly for homeless feeding ban

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city of Philadelphia is being sued in federal court for its ban on feeding the homeless in city parks.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of a group of community and church organizations who have distributed meals for years in parks along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The area is also home to many Philadelphia museums and tourist attractions. The city moved in March to ban the feedings.

Homeless advocates say the city wants to keep the homeless hidden. But businesses in the area complain about health hazards and crime in the feeding areas.

Mayor Michael Nutter says the city wants to get the homeless indoors where they can get medical and other services.

Signs have been posted prohibiting outdoor feeding. Repeat violators are subject to $150 fines.

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Missionary couple from Spokane killed in plane crash in Africa

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Spokane couple doing missionary work in Africa were killed in a plane crash recently in Zambia.

Jay and Katrina Erickson had been in Zambia since February, working at a hospital on the Zambezi River about 400 miles upstream from Victoria Falls.

The Chitokoloki Mission Hospital said Jay Erickson was flying a six-seat Cessna on Saturday with his wife on board after transporting a nurse. The plane hit an electrical pole and crashed into the Zambezi River near the town of Zambezi.

The Spokesman-Review reported the Ericksons will be buried at the mission.

Their daughters, 2-year-old Marina and 1-year-old Coral, had stayed behind at the hospital. Katrina Erickson's parents, who live in Wisconsin, are preparing to travel to Zambia with Jay Erickson's mother to reunite with their granddaughters, said Pastor Ron Ulmer of Hillyard Baptist Church on Monday.

The couple, both in their late 20s, met at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane and were married in 2008. They traveled to Zambia in late February to begin a yearlong mission to transport food, medical supplies, doctors and missionaries between the 150-bed mission hospital and other remote outposts.

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Lifestyle takes center stage at tax evasion trial of Ky.-based internet minister

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say an Internet evangelist based in northern Kentucky lived a lavish lifestyle off donations from followers from around the world and didn't pay taxes on much of the money.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBride told jurors in federal court in Covington on Monday that Ronald Weinland used credit cards to have his ministry, the Church of God-Preparing for the Kingdom of God, pay for more than $500,000 in personal expenses.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported that Weinland's attorney, Robert Webb, said the charges are erroneous because federal agents misunderstand Weinland's ministry. Webb said the group believes that society is in its "final days" and the U.S. financial system will collapse before Jesus Christ returns.

Weinland is charged with not paying $357,065 in taxes from 2004 through 2008.

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Govt. calls for calm after clashes in western Myanmar kill 9, wound a dozen

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's government warned against "anarchic" activities Monday after 10 Muslims were beaten to death in an area known for sectarian conflict and a dozen other people were injured in a confrontation with police.

Both events took place Sunday in Rakhine state in northwestern Myanmar, a remote area where Buddhist and Muslim relations are strained, sometimes to the point of violence. State television warned that legal action would be taken against those who broke the law.

The report said 300 people stopped a bus carrying Muslims from a religious gathering, dragged out the 10 occupants, beat them to death and burned the vehicle in Taunggup, 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Yangon.

It said some anti-Muslim pamphlets had been distributed in Taunggup relating to the rape and murder of a young Rakhine girl last month, allegedly by three Muslim youths.

Ethnic conflicts are a major cause of instability in Myanmar, mostly involving sizable minorities along the eastern and northern borders seeking autonomy who battle against the government.

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Philippines proposes monuments to horrors on both sides during decades-long Muslim insurgency

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine negotiators hoping to end a Muslim insurgency have proposed creating monuments to abuses committed on both sides, including beheadings by rebels and a president's desecration of an insurgent headquarters with a pork feast.

The monuments should help tell the full story of the decades-long Muslim rebellion in the country's south and remind future generations of the brutality and blunders that helped perpetuate the violence, chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen said.

"We have seen that future generations would not move on and heal unless we really tell the story," Leonen said.

Rebel negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said the proposal was acceptable, but that the government should first focus on resolving the rebellion, which has caused massive deaths and displacement of villagers, while stunting economic growth in the resource-rich region.

The Philippine government and the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front remain optimistic a peace pact can be reached under reformist President Benigno Aquino III's term despite key differences that have stalled Malaysian-brokered negotiations.

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French government promises better security for Jewish sites after new attacks

PARIS (AP) — France's government is pledging to spend more money protecting Jewish neighborhoods, while cracking down on anti-Semitism online following three new violent attacks.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls made the promise at a meeting Tuesday with Jewish leaders.

Valls said in a statement he had called the meeting after two people wearing Jewish skullcaps were injured Saturday in an attack in Villeurbanne in southeast France, and a Jewish youth was attacked Monday in Marseille.

He said police would maintain heightened security measures at Jewish schools, in place since a school shooting killed three children and a rabbi in Toulouse in March.

Since the shooting, 43 violent incidents and 105 threats or acts of intimidation targeting Jews have occurred, according to the Service for the Protection of the Jewish Community.

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