Nation/world religion briefs

The Associated Press

Pope asks migrants to forgive indifference

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is asking migrants to forgive what he says is societies' "closure and indifference" toward them.

The pope made the remarks Tuesday in a message to a Jesuit center in Rome that has assisted refugees for 35 years.

Francis says people fleeing oppression, war and "unjust distribution" of the Earth's resources are brothers with whom to share bread, homes and life. He said instead of being seen as a problem or expense, migrants should be seen as a gift. Francis said migrants can be a "bridge that unites faraway peoples."

Last week, Francis brought three Syrian Muslim refugees families to Italy aboard his plane after a visit to a Greek island. Some 3,000 migrants on the island face possible deportation back to Turkey under an EU deal.


Police: Body of missing Florida priest found in Georgia

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in South Carolina say a man has been charged in connection with a missing Florida priest whose body was found in Georgia.

Aiken County Sheriff's Office Capt. Eric Abdullah released an arrest warrant Wednesday saying that 28-year-old Steve James Murray of Jacksonville, Florida, has been charged with possession of firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of a violent felony, and with receiving stolen goods.

Police say Murray knew the Rev. Rene Wayne Robert of St. Augustine, Florida, and led authorities to the body in woods near Waynesboro, Georgia.

Murray was arrested in South Carolina while driving the priest's Toyota Corolla.

The arrest warrant says Murray possessed several firearms including a double-barrel shotgun, a pump-action rifle and several BB guns. Murray also had jewelry, cash, medication and merchandise that had been reported stolen.


Authorities: 3 teens responsible for vandalizing 2 churches

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say three young people are suspected of vandalizing two churches in western Michigan.

The Ottawa County sheriff's department says information from the public led investigators to the teens, ages 13, 15 and 16.

Authorities say the front door was pried open about 3 a.m. Sunday at Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Georgetown Township. Bibles, books and other church literature were found thrown around the lobby. Fire extinguishers were discharged. Damage to the church was estimated about $2,500.

Deputies say the same three young people are believed to be responsible for vandalizing the Jamestown Christian Reformed Church on Sunday.

The department says the teens are in the custody of their parents as the investigation continues.


Bid to override Haslam veto of Bible as Tennessee book fails

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has failed to override Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of a bill to make Tennessee the first state to designate the Bible as its official book.

Forty-three members voted to re-pass the bill, falling short of the 50-vote threshold to turn back to the veto.

The Republican governor last week turned back the bill over constitutional concerns and because of concerns the measure "trivializes" what he considers a sacred text.

Sponsors argued that the measure seeks to honor the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee history, rather than a state endorsement of religion.

But opponents said it diminishes the significance of the Bible to place it alongside other state symbols like the official reptile or rock.


Comedian Tracy Morgan scraps planned Mississippi performance

TUNICA, Miss. (AP) — Comedian and actor Tracy Morgan has scrapped a scheduled April 29 performance in Mississippi, citing its contested religious-objections bill for his decision.

The Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino on Tuesday confirmed the cancellation, saying ticket holders would be refunded.

Mississippi's incoming law would allow certain workers, including some in private businesses, to cite religious beliefs to deny services to gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. It takes effect July 1.

In a statement, Tracy Morgan said he didn't make the decision lightly. He says he looks forward to rescheduling in the region should the measure be "either repealed or heavily amended."

Several states and cities have banned official travel to Mississippi over the bill. Rock singer Bryan Adams canceled a recently planned appearance in Biloxi over it.


Utah leaders call pornography a public health crisis

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah legislators and anti-porn advocates say pornography is more than a religious issue.

A host of speakers including Gov. Gary Herbert spoke Tuesday during a ceremonial signing of a state resolution declaring pornography a public health crisis. They said it warps children's minds, damages mental health, undermines marriages and contributes to sexual violence.

Herbert compared porn to drugs and alcohol, warning that "there's a particular psychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography."

The non-binding declaration in the predominantly Mormon state doesn't ban anything, but echoes concerns raised by many conservative religious groups as porn becomes more accessible on smartphones and tablets.

The Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment trade group, called it an "old-fashioned" morals bill that is driven by ignorance and opposition to sex education.

But the declaration's sponsor, state Sen. Todd Weiler, said "no boy or girl needs to see those images to learn how families are created."