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11-year protest in Catholic church faces moment of reckoning

SCITUATE, Massachusetts — The nearly 11-year occupation of a closed Roman Catholic church by its former parishioners may be coming to an end.

A Massachusetts judge has ordered the Friends of St. Frances X. Cabrini to vacate as early as Friday. The group has occupied the Boston-area church night and day since October 2004.

But the protesters say they have no intention of leaving. They've appealed the court order and are prepared to be arrested for trespassing, if necessary.

The impasse places the Boston archdiocese, which is still recovering from a clergy sex abuse scandal, in an uncomfortable position. Protesters say their fight is about protecting the rights of Catholics to worship in churches they've known all their lives. They say it's also a stand against the sex abuse scandal.


School apologizes to 6th-grader for barring Bible verse

LAS VEGAS — A public charter school in North Las Vegas has apologized to a sixth-grader after telling her she couldn't use a Bible verse for a classroom assignment.

Non-profit legal group the Liberty Institute said the Somerset Academy issued a formal apology Friday.

Mackenzie Fraiser can now resubmit her technology class assignment with the Bible's John 3:16 verse. The assignment asked students to include an inspirational quote in a PowerPoint presentation about themselves.

The Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to the school on Wednesday asking for an apology within 10 days.

Somerset Academy board chairman Cody Noble says in the letter that the teacher and assistant principal made an inadvertent error interpreting the Department of Education's guidelines on religious expression.


Hartford police probing if pastor shooting was hate crime

HARTFORD, Connecticut — Police in Hartford, Connecticut, are investigating the shooting of a pastor who was placing flags outside a church for Memorial Day.

Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley told WVIT-TV that investigators are keeping open the possibility that the shooting of 54-year-old Augustus Sealy of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, on Sunday morning outside the First Church of the Nazarene was a hate crime.

Foley said the church is accepting and open to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people and comments were made at the crime scene that were hateful toward the LGBT community.

Sealy's wife says he is expected to recover. Police say he was shot in the right leg and left shoulder. No arrests were announced.

Church members planned to hold a vigil against violence Tuesday evening.


Militia name for Anbar fight draws ire

BAGHDAD — The name Shiite militias are using to describe the Iraqi operation to retake Anbar province from the Islamic State group is arousing concern at the Pentagon over its sectarian tilt.

The Popular Mobilization Units have named the battle that began Tuesday in Arabic: "Labaik Ya Hussein." That means "I am here, Hussein" in English. It refers to a grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad who is revered by Shiite Muslims.

That has added to the worries about the Shiite militias operating in Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province long suspicious of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. At the Pentagon, spokesman Col. Steve Warren called the title "unhelpful."

But Karim al-Nouri, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Units, said the name isn't sectarian because, in his words, "all Iraqis, regardless of their sect or religion, love Imam Hussein."


Knotty exhibit planned for pope symbolizes life's challenges

PHILADELPHIA — A knotty exhibit being created for Pope Francis' upcoming trip to Philadelphia will let visitors acknowledge the challenges in their daily lives.

The installation, to be built in the shape of a grotto next to the city's Roman Catholic cathedral, is inspired by a painting called "Mary, Undoer of Knots" that holds special meaning for the pope.

People will be invited to write down their own problems on provided material, most likely ribbon, and tie them to the grotto, leaving them behind. They'll also be encouraged to help others by loosening and removing a knot already in place.

Artist Meg Saligman hopes to gather hundreds of thousands of knots before the September papal visit by holding workshops throughout the city and allowing others to send in their problems via the website mercyandjustice.org.


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