Christmas tree is lit outside U.S. Capitol amid hymns
WASHINGTON (AP) - An 88-foot-tall spruce that was transported from Washington state to Washington D.C. has been illuminated in a ceremony on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
House Speaker John Boehner flipped the switch that lit the Capitol Christmas Tree, helped by the six-year-old son of an Iraq war veteran.
Washington Congressman Jim McDermott said Christmas is about a "child that came into the world and changed the world." He added, "I hope this tree will remind us of Jesus' call to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked and to take care of the sick."
The U.S. Marine Band played "O Come all ye Faithful," `'Joy to the World," `'O Holy Night" and other Christmas hymns.
On Friday, the National Christmas Tree will be lit on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.
Nativity scene on display at Florida Capitol
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Christmastime manger scenes in public spaces have often been the subject of legal fights in the U.S.
But the American Civil Liberties Union says the creche (krehsh) installed by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee at the Capitol in Tallahassee is legal - because it is privately funded, not government sponsored.
Still, the ACLU says that by allowing the exhibit, which depicts the birth of Jesus, the state will now have to allow anyone to use the premises of the Capitol to express messages.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation plans to put up a banner at Florida's Capitol stating opposition to religion in government.
Notre Dame sues over birth control mandate
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The University of Notre Dame is suing the Obama administration over a federal mandate that its health insurance plans for students and employees cover birth control.
The university filed its lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in South Bend. It claims the mandate violates Notre Dame's freedom to practice religion without government interference. The Roman Catholic university says the birth control mandate violates the church's teaching prohibiting contraception.
The Obama administration promotes the law's provision of a range of preventive care, free of charge, as a key benefit of the health care overhaul. Contraception is included in the package of cost-free benefits. The administration also attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to consider two cases in which business owners have objected to covering birth control for employees on religious grounds.
High court ends Liberty U. lawsuit over health law
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has turned away a Christian university's attempt to overturn a key part of the Obama administration's health care law.
The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling dismissing Liberty University's lawsuit.
Liberty made several arguments in challenging the portion of the health care law that requires most employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fine. The 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Richmond, Va., rejected those claims.
The Supreme Court separately is considering whether for-profit corporations can mount religious objections to the law's requirement to include birth control among preventive health benefits.
Netanyahu gives pope book by father on Inquisition
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given Pope Francis a book about the Inquisition in Spain that was written by the Israeli leader's late father.
Netanyahu presented a Spanish translation of the 1995 book, "The Origins of the Inquisition," to Francis during their 25-minute private audience Monday.
Netanyahu's father was an Israeli historian who died last year. A Zionist activist who opposed partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews, he was best known in academic circles for his research into the Catholic Church's medieval inquisition against the Jews of Spain.
Francis thanked Netanyahu and presented him with a small bronze plaque of St. Paul.
A Vatican statement said discussions between the Israeli and Vatican delegations focused on restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Francis' upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While no dates have been set, the trip is expected sometime in May.