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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:56 pm

Religion news in brief

By The Associated Press

Obama, Biden attend multi-faith Cathedral prayer service

WASHINGTON (AP) - Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh clergy prayed for President Barack Obama's second term in an inaugural service at Washington National Cathedral.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sat in the front pew Tuesday as prayers were said in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew.

Kathryn Lohre, president of the National Council of Churches, asked God to "grant them wisdom to discern your will and to consider your Word among the counsel they receive."

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., praised Obama's rhetorical skills - saying, "You should have been a preacher" - and urged the president to bring a divided nation together.

Earlier this month, the cathedral said it would begin hosting same-sex weddings.


Pa. ex-pastor convicted of killing 2nd wife

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former Pennsylvania pastor has been convicted in the 2008 death of his second wife, but still awaits trial in the 1999 death of his first wife.

Arthur Schirmer blamed the second death on a slow-speed car crash and said his first wife fell down the stairs, but authorities ultimately charged him with bludgeoning both women.

The verdict Tuesday comes after Schirmer testified Friday in Monroe County Court. He told jurors that he was driving his second wife, Betty, to the hospital for jaw pain when a deer crossed their path, causing them to crash.

The former United Methodist pastor was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering. He pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence. His attorney pledged to appeal.

Schirmer is charged separately in the 1999 death of his first wife, Jewel, and awaits trial in Lebanon County, Pa.


Man accused of arson at Ohio mosque seeks to withdraw guilty plea

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A former Marine who said he set fire to an Ohio mosque because he wanted to avenge the killings of American troops has asked to withdraw his guilty plea to federal hate crime charges.

Randy Linn says he was under duress and depressed when he entered his plea last month in the fire at a suburban Toledo mosque.

A deal between prosecutors and Linn had called for him to be sentenced to 20 years next April after he pleaded guilty to intentionally damaging and destroying religious property and two gun-related charges.

Prosecutors say he broke into The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo last fall and went room by room to make sure no one was in the building before he poured gasoline on a prayer rug and lit it on fire.

Linn described on Dec. 19 how he had been drinking heavily before he drove to the mosque in Perrysburg.


DA will review Los Angeles church files for crimes

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Prosecutors who have been stymied for years in their attempts to build a criminal conspiracy case against retired Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders say they'll review newly released priest files for additional evidence.

Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public Monday show Mahony and other top aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests and provide damage control for the church.

Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and another key official worked to protect a priest who revealed in therapy sessions that he had raped an 11-year-old boy and abused up to 17 boys.

The top aide, then-Monsignor Thomas J. Curry, is now an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese's Santa Barbara region. He did not respond Tuesday to a message seeking comment.


Egypt's top Muslim cleric cancels Saudi visit over perceived slight

CAIRO (AP) - Cairo airport officials say Egypt's top Muslim cleric cancelled a visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of its monarch when he discovered that senior delegates traveling with him were assigned economy class seats by their Saudi hosts.

The officials said Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar - Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning - angrily disembarked from a Saudi-bound airliner shortly before takeoff on Wednesday and instructed his delegation to follow suit.

Al-Tayeb was assigned a first class seat.

The Egyptians were due to perform the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, or umrah, before flying to the Saudi capital Riyadh to attend Monday's award ceremony for the King Faisal International Prize for scientific and religious achievement.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.


Bob Jones University asks for outside abuse probe

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Bob Jones University is asking an outside Christian organization that deals with child abuse to investigate how the fundamentalist college responds to abuse allegations.

Trustees at the Greenville Christian university agreed earlier this month to the investigation, which will include recommendations on how to better deal with any future abuse allegations. The investigation will include Bob Jones Academy, which teaches students from preschool to 12th grade.

School officials say the investigation was prompted by heart-breaking revelations of sexual abuse in secular and Christian organizations. The investigation will review how it responds to students who say they were abused before coming to the school or outside its campus as well.

The investigation will be handled by an organization called GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.