Religion news in brief

Religion news in brief

WASHINGTON (AP) — Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards says she respects the religious beliefs of Americans who oppose abortion, but is glad that her organization can help women who want to terminate their pregnancies.

At a congressional hearing on taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker said that as a former pastor, he had counseled women who regret their abortions as long as 25 years later.

Richards said she recognizes that people's views on abortion sometimes change over time.

Oklahoma Republican Steve Walker, referring to the donation of fetal tissue from abortions, said: "We can carve up a child and call it a choice." But he added, "We cannot escape our accountability before the creator of life."

Most Democrats have rallied behind Planned Parenthood, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto GOP legislation cutting its federal money. The group provides contraception, sexual disease testing and cancer screenings, as well as abortions, to 2.7 million patients annually in clinics from coast to coast.


Pope: Rights of conscientious objectors should be respected

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis says the conscience rights of officials who object to same-sex marriage should be respected.

In a wide-ranging press conference en route to Rome from his first-ever visit to the United States, Francis was asked about the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for several days after she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite the Supreme Court's ruling making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Davis said such marriages violate her Apostolic Christian faith.

Francis said he didn't know the case in detail, but he upheld conscientious objection as a human right. He said, "If a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right."

During his U.S. visit, the pope visited with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who have challenged the Obama administration's health care insurance mandate.

In New York Sunday, President Barack Obama told a gay rights group that religious liberty isn't reason enough to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.


Weekend church fires in Arizona were result of arsons

DOLAN SPRINGS, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say fires that heavily damaged or destroyed two churches across the street from one another in northwestern Arizona were intentionally set.

Mohave County sheriff's detectives are investigating the arson fires that were set Saturday at Mount Tipton Community Church and Dolan Springs Baptist Church.

The Mohave County Silent Witness program has increased the reward from $750 to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

No one was inside the churches in Dolan Springs when the fires started, and no injuries were reported.

Pastor Chris Zeller said the fire destroyed 35 percent of the Baptist church and heavily damaged the rest of the building. The Kingman Daily Miner reports that Zeller was waiting to learn if any part of the church was salvageable and if the congregation will be allowed back into the building.

The Mount Tipton church was destroyed. Its worshippers held services Sunday at the Dolan Springs Community Center.


Oklahoma panel orders removal of Ten Commandments monument

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A six-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma State Capitol is on its way out.

A panel that oversees artwork at the statehouse voted 7-1 on Tuesday to authorize the privately funded monument's removal after the state's highest court ruled that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt fought to keep the Ten Commandments monument, arguing that it serves a secular, not religious, purpose. But since it was erected in 2012, several other groups have asked to have their own monuments installed, including the Church of Satan and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The original monument was smashed to pieces last year when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A new monument was erected in January.


Evangelist's new book to be his last

NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Graham has released what is expected to be his last book.

The 96-year-old evangelist's latest book is called "Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and our Life Beyond."

The title echoes what Jesus told his apostles: "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also." The book surveys Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, showing how each book of the Bible presents people with choices that will ultimately lead them to heaven or hell.

The Rev. Franklin Graham says the book took about two years to complete, and his father doesn't have the energy to take on any more projects.

Franklin Graham says his father has trouble seeing, hearing and walking, but his mind is still clear and he keeps up with world events.