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All 6 Boston groups lose appeal to Vatican to reopen church buildings at closed parishes

BOSTON - The Vatican has rejected the appeals of all six groups in the Boston Archdiocese who argued that the church buildings at their closed parishes should be reopened years after the archdiocese shut them down.

The decisions, handed down over the last two months, came after the Vatican granted similar appeals to parishioners from several other closed parishes, including in New York and Pennsylvania.

Those recent wins had Sean Glennon, a parishioner at Mary Star of the Sea in Quincy, hopeful about their appeal. On Tuesday, he was puzzled why none of the Boston-area parishes prevailed.

"It's just very disconcerting, and it's very disappointing," he said.

In the appeals, parishioners weren't asking the Vatican to reopen the parishes, which include rectories, churches and other buildings. They instead argued that their local diocese hadn't justified its decision to convert the church building from sacred to secular use, a necessary move before sale.

The parishioners can appeal the decision to the Vatican high court, the Apostolic Signatura, and at least four of the groups will do so, said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes, which was formed to protest the church closings.

Nebraska governor says bias protections for gay, transgender people should be up to voters

LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska's governor says Omaha and Lincoln ordinances barring discrimination against gay and transgender people should be put to public votes.

Gov. Dave Heineman, at a news conference Tuesday in Lincoln, cited a recent opinion from the state attorney general's office. The May 4 opinion said voters could approve changes to city charters to extend protections to groups not covered by state law, but local governments lack the authority.

Opinions issued by the office lack the force of law but guide legislators and officials statewide and often are cited in disputes over hotly debated issues.

Nebraska's anti-discrimination laws and federal regulations don't extend protection to gay and transgender people.

Omaha narrowly adopted an ordinance in March that said employers, employment agencies, job training programs, labor groups, public accommodations and businesses that contract with the city are barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. It provides exemptions for religious organizations.

Omaha city attorney Paul Kratz has said the city's legal team disagrees with the attorney general office's opinion, and he doesn't think it will have any effect on the new ordinance.

Backers argued that the proposal would make Omaha a more welcoming city to a diverse workforce. Opponents countered that the proposals would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and open up businesses to lawsuits.

Judge allows Shoshone tribe into faith-based eagle permit case

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A federal judge is allowing the Eastern Shoshone Tribe to challenge the Northern Arapaho's plan to kill bald eagles on the reservation they share in Wyoming.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson agreed to allow the Eastern Shoshone Tribe to participate as a ``friend of the court'' in the lawsuit the Northern Arapaho Tribe filed last year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal agency in March issued the Northern Arapaho Tribe the nation's first permit allowing the killing of bald eagles for religious purposes. The permit would allow the Northern Arapaho to kill two bald eagles, but only outside the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Other tribes and individual Indians in the Southwest have secured federal permits allowing them to kill golden eagles.

In asking for permission to intervene in the case, the Eastern Arapaho Tribe noted that it has an indivisible, one-half interest in all the wildlife on the reservation. It states that killing eagles would violate its cultural beliefs and also says that it would be against the joint Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code.

Watchdog group says Kentucky pastor broke federal law by telling followers to vote out Obama

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A religious watchdog group says an eastern Kentucky Baptist pastor violated federal law when he urged his followers to vote President Barack Obama out of office in November.

Pastor Ronnie Spriggs of Hager Hill Freewill Baptist Church said during a May 13 sermon that he wants Obama voted out because of his support for gay marriage.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State say Spriggs' comments violates IRS rules on political activism by nonprofit religious groups. The IRS rarely revokes a church's tax-exempt status.

Spriggs did not return phone calls to his home and office. A video of the sermon was streamed on the Johnson County church's website.

Report: Iranian protesters seek return of local singer hiding in Germany

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's official news agency said protesters in front of the German Embassy in Tehran were seeking return of an Iranian-born singer who went into hiding after receiving death threats.

Singer Shahin Najafi allegedly insulted a Shiite Muslim saint.

The Wednesday report by IRNA said the protesters also demanded that Germany apologize for hosting the singer, who has lived in Germany since 2005.

They called the singer an apostate.

The threats began after comments by religious authorities in Iran were taken to mean the singer insulted Islam with a song meant to be humorous.

Najafi first contacted German police about the threats May 8. A day later, an anonymous person posting on a Persian-language website put a $100,000 price on his head.

Indian bus carrying Hindu pilgrims to northern holy city plunges into Ganges; 26 dead

NEW DELHI - Police say a bus full of Hindu pilgrims plunged into the Ganges River, killing 26 people in northern India.

Rescuers worked more than four hours to pull the bodies from the river late Tuesday in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

Local Tehri district police official Janmejaya Khanduri says four people are hospitalized in critical condition.

The private tour bus had been traveling west from Badrinath to the holy city of Rishikesh with 45 passengers from central Madhya Pradesh state. Police say the driver lost control while trying to overtake a truck on the road.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna announced an investigation Wednesday and said victims’ families would receive 100,000 rupees (about $1,800) in compensation.

Man leading ethics probe of Baptist leader resigns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The head of a group investigating the comments of Southern Baptist Convention ethics leader Richard Land has resigned.

Arkansas pastor Richard Piles said he has taken over as Trustee Board chairman for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission after Steve Faith left in order to commit more time to his local church in Indiana, which is currently without a pastor.

The resignation comes just days before the group is supposed to release the findings of an investigation into the commission’s president for controversial statements about the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Land recently issued two separate apologies for the comments he made March 31 on his weekly radio show. He also apologized for reading commentary from the Washington Times without attributing it to the newspaper.

On Wednesday, Piles said that Faith’s resignation was not the result of a disagreement about the investigation. Faith did not return a call requesting comment.

Piles said the report of the investigation will be made public by June 1. He would not discuss what could be in the report, but did say that he wants to see Land continue in his ministry at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Land has been in that position for 23 years.

Land upset a number of Southern Baptists with his comments on the show. They included accusing President Barack Obama and other black leaders of exploiting Martin’s death for political gain, and saying that racial profiling was understandable given the crime statistics for black men.

One black Southern Baptist pastor had called for Land’s resignation, but retracted that call after Land apologized.

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