religion

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DETROIT (AP) - A Muslim rights advocacy group says it's filing suit against the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for what it says is the mistreatment of Muslims at the U.S.-Canada border.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced plans for the lawsuit Thursday, saying it will release details at a news conference Friday in Detroit.

The council says the suit is based on "the repeated detention and questioning of Muslims" on religious matters at and near the border.

In a statement, the group says the suit is by four U.S. citizens who say that Customs and FBI agents "detained and handcuffed them without evidence of wrongdoing and questioned them about their
religious beliefs and worship habits."

The Associated Press has asked the U.S. Justice Department for comment.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has released plans to merge and close some of its churches. The diocese includes 99 churches in 11 West Michigan counties.

“Every Parish is in one way or the other affected," said Bishop Walter Hurley. He approved the restructuring plan that's been three years in the making. It’s supposed to help the diocese face future challenges, like changing populations, a growing Hispanic community, and fewer clergy.

“Right now we’re not at a crisis point but what we do need to know as we look to the future, now what happens if we don’t have a pastor assigned to this Parrish or this Parrish," Hurley said. 

Hurley says a few churches in more rural areas up north have already closed. Another handful will close as priests retire. Others will merge together. Hurley says the plan is a living document and subject to change. The Diocese of Grand Rapids isn’t the only one grappling with fewer priests.

There's no set timeline for when many changes will take place, but they're expected over several years.

You can find the full approved "Our Faith, Our Future" plan here. 

If you like gospel music you might want to check out the 20th Annual Gospelfest in Ann Arbor.

The idea behind the event is to celebrate the diversity of music among different communities and faiths in southeast Michigan. Participants seek to bridge cultural, racial, and religious gaps between different churches, and develop friendships.

Jean Wilson is the co-founder of Gospelfest, and choir director at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline. She sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the event’s 20-year history.

Wilson says the event offers a variety of music, from traditional black gospel to contemporary Christian, pop-rock, and more. And she says the event is about diversity and unity.

“Although we are so diverse in our different ways of worship, we are all headed in the same direction; we are all children of the same creator. Although we have so many differences, we do have that thing at the core of our very being that really says that we are all related and are one, and we get to celebrate it.”

On Saturday March 10, choirs from Ann Arbor and Detroit will come together for the 20th Annual Gospelfest at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.

The gospel choir of New Prospect Baptist Missionary Church in Detroit will also participate in this year's event. Here's a video of the choir during a Saturday morning practice.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

I was a teenager back when Mitt Romney’s father, George, was governor of Michigan, and made his own run for the Republican Presidential nomination. I was already fascinated by politics, and followed that race closely. And here’s something you may find interesting. Back in nineteen-sixty-eight, nobody seemed to care that George Romney was a Mormon. Now, his formal campaign didn’t last very long. He dropped out of the race at the end of February.

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - The city of Dearborn has paid $100,000 in legal fees to attorneys for a Christian evangelist whose free-speech rights were violated at a popular Arab-American street festival.

Dearborn has a large Muslim population and one of the nation's biggest concentrations of people with roots in the Arab world. (Photo above of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the U.S. by Flickr user ruffin_ready.)

City police in 2010 barred George Saieg and his allies from freely walking sidewalks with literature to convert Muslims to Christianity. Chief Ron Haddad says he was just controlling foot traffic, but a federal appeals court says the city violated the First Amendment.

The court says allowing the evangelists on the festival's perimeter wasn't good enough.

As the prevailing party, Saieg was entitled to legal fees and other costs from Dearborn. His lawyers say the money was paid last week.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton probably won’t vote in the primary today, though he spends his life doing work that’s greatly affected by the political world. Nor does he seem impressed that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are fellow Roman Catholics.

Actually, he seems pretty appalled by them.

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The head of the American Family Association of Michigan is appealing a court ruling that upheld a federal hate crime law.

The law, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was expanded in 2009 to protect people victimized because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Gary Glenn claims the law is unconstitutional because of the threat it poses to free speech:

Warren's Office of the Mayor

A national nonprofit group for atheists and agnostics wants to display a sandwich board with an anti-religion message inside Warren City Hall.  A nativity scene erected by the Warren Rotary Club is on display in Warren City Hall, something the "Freedom From Religion Coalition" takes issue with.

On one side, the group's sign reads:

  • "At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."


On the other, it reads:

  • "Keep State & Church Separate."


The Macomb Daily News reports the group has tried to put the sign up in past years:

From the Macomb Daily:

For the second consecutive year, the Freedom From Religion Coalition has taken exception to the crèche located in the atrium of the municipal building, saying other viewpoints on religion should be permitted. According to a Fox 2 Detroit (WJBK-TV) report, the group has threatened legal action against the city...

According to the Freedom From Religion Coalition's website, their "demand letter to Mayor James R. Fouts, of Warren, Michigan, gave him until 10 a.m. today to agree to place their “equal time Winter Solstice sign" in the atrium of Warren City Hall.

Mayor James Fouts sent a letter to the group saying he would not allow their sign to be displayed because the sign is "antagonistic toward all religions and would serve no purpose during this holiday season except to provoke controversy and hostility among visitors and employees at city hall."

Fouts says he's allowed displays in city hall celebrating Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday, but could not support the Coalition's sign because "your non-religion is not a recognized religion."

From Fouts' letter:

If you requested permission to put up a sandwich board saying that there is no Santa Claus, you would be met with the same response. Santa Claus lives in the minds and hearts of many millions of children. The belief of God and religion lives in the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people and is as much a part of the fabric of America, as the belief in democracy and freedom.

Attorney Danielle Hessell of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan is representing the Freedom From Religion Coalition in the dispute. Hessell says the group is planning to sue.

From a FFRC press release:

“To date, the mayor has engaged in flagrant viewpoint censorship. As the city’s top government official, he has created a public forum for religion and only for religion. We hope reason will prevail, but if he does not permit our member to place the Winter Solstice display in the atrium tomorrow, we are planning to sue Mr. Fouts in federal court.”

user brother o'mara

Saab files for bankruptcy

Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy in Sweden this morning. The announcement came after officials from General Motors rejected support for a proposal designed to save the company.

From a Saab press release:

After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded. The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors.

Benton Harbor schools working to avoid an emergency manager

The Benton Harbor Area Schools are one of several entities in line for a possible state takeover by an emergency manager. State officials are expected to release findings of a preliminary review of the school system's finances this week.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported on the cuts Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Leonard Seawood, and members of the school board are proposing in hopes of avoiding a state-takeover:

He and the school board have agreed to close 2 schools and lay off 20 employees. Teachers have agreed to work for less money as the district and the union renegotiates a contract with concessions. Seawood is looking to get a 10-percent pay cut for teachers and increase their health care contributions to 20-percent.

The board agreed to demolish some old buildings and list others for sale. BHAS had already privatized bus drivers, custodians, grounds and maintenance and food service.

Protests at Lowe's in wake of "All-American Muslim" controversy

After Lowe's pulled its ad from TLC's reality show "All-American Muslim," protesters picketed outside a Lowe's store near Detroit this past Saturday.

From the Associated Press:

About 100 people gathered outside the store in Allen Park, a Detroit suburb adjacent to the city where "All-American Muslim" is filmed. Lowe's said this week that the TLC show had become a "lightning rod" for complaints, following an email campaign by a conservative Christian group.

Protesters including Christian clergy and lawmakers called for unity and held signs that read "Boycott Bigotry" and chanted "God Bless America, shame on Lowe's" during the rally, which was organized by a coalition of Christian, Muslim and civil rights groups.

Lowe's pulled the ads after it received pressure from the Florida Family Association. In a letter to advertisers, the group said the show was "attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad."

Dearborn Mosque
user rypix / Flickr

Michigan Representative John Conyers (D-Dearborn) says Lowe's Companies, Inc. should "unequivocally apologize" after the company pulled its ads from the reality show "All-American Muslim." Lowe's pulled the ads after it received pressure from the Florida Family Association.

TLC's reality show examines life as a Muslim American.

It follows the life of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn and "the misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community." The show's website depicts the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

In a letter trying to get companies to pull their ads for the show, the Florida Family Association said the show is propaganda and is "attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad."

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case between the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Redford, Michigan and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At issue, according to the SCOTUS blog (SCOTUS stands for the Supreme Court of the United States) is whether the U.S. government can be involved in church activities. From the blog:

Courts have generally believed that federal employment discrimination statutes do not apply to church employees performing religious functions. The question is whether this ministerial exception applies not simply to religious leaders, but also to teachers at a religious elementary school.

The Associated Press has more on the arguments from the church school employee:

Cheryl Perich got sick, then tried to return to work. Still, the school, now closed, fired her. She complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the church.

Religious groups say the case should be thrown out. The Americans With Disabilities Act has an exception to prevent government involvement between churches and ministerial employees.

But a federal appeals court said Perich’s job as a teacher was secular, not religious, so the exception blocking the lawsuit didn’t count.

Flickr/stovak

The ongoing debate in churches regarding homosexuality is being argued on 10 billboards in northwest Ohio. The Toledo Blade reports that Toledo's Central United Methodist church posted a single roadside billboard in April that said that being gay is a gift from God. That has led the minister at Church on Strayer to offer an opposite view.
    

http://horsebackforhaiti.jimdo.com/

This is not your typical road trip. Brandy and Ashley Nelsey, sisters from West Branch, will be traveling across the country on horseback and raising money for the Haiti Water Project along the way. Jennifer White spoke with Brandy Nelsey about what inspired the trip.

“We knew that we loved our horses—that’s something we really enjoy doing and that’s a passion of ours—and we also love the lord greatly. So we thought, well, why not travel the country, see if we can meet other Christians, and see what other opportunities and people are out there. ”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Gender identity and sexual orientation are a hot topic right now in the city of Holland. That’s because Holland city council is considering adding local laws that protect people against discrimination for being gay or transgender. The ordinance would give them protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. The issue is extremely divisive in the generally conservative city.

Reverend Ralph Houston reads passages from the bible to city council at an informal meeting last night. He says passing the ordinance would lead to moral chaos.

Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office / michigan.gov

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief against Eastern Michigan University, alleging the university violated a student’s civil rights. 

Julea Ward was a student in EMU’s masters program for counseling. When she refused to counsel gay students because she’s morally against homosexuality, she tried to refer them to another counselor.

EMU says she violated the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, and removed her from the program. Ward sued EMU in 2009 for violating her constitutional rights.

A federal court in Detroit dismissed the case saying EMU did not discriminate against Ward. Now the Michigan Attorney General’s office is filing an appeal on behalf of Ward.

John Selleck is with the AG’s office. He says this case "would set a standard going forward for other students who have religious objections in any Michigan college case going forward. We think that was a very important reason for us to get involved."

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