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Mar 4, 12:48 PM EST

Religion news in brief

AP Photo
AP Photo/Bruce Crummy

Multimedia
Mass. Catholics hold vigil in endangered churches
Convent shuts after helping generations 'overcome'
Inside a Voodoo Gede ceremony
Religion News
LGBT anti-discrimination bill passes Utah Senate

Russian priest feels closer to God in serenity of Antarctica

Things to know about the Utah LGBT anti-discrimination bill

Vatican: Fewer than 20 percent of employees women

Pope meets with Chile bishop amid outcry over appointment

Ga. Senate OK's religious freedom bill feared by LGBT groups

AP PHOTOS: Pakistan religious schools in spotlight

NYC public schools to close on 2 Muslim holidays

Judge confirms plan settling Montana clergy sex-abuse claims

3 sought over deadly 1982 attack in Paris' Jewish quarter

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North Dakota missionaries detained in Venezuela return home

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Four American missionaries released by Venezuelan authorities after several days of detention and questioning say they're relieved to be back home in North Dakota, but hope to return to Venezuela someday.

The missionaries from Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Devils Lake were handing out medicine and hearing aids last Wednesday when they were detained. They were told they didn't have the required work visas, something that wasn't required in the last 14 years of delivering hearing aids and medicine to needy citizens.

Group leader Arlynn Hefta said armed Venezuelan soldiers came into the church where they had set up a clinic, but hundreds of villagers then surrounded the clinic and the soldiers, vowing to protect the missionaries. Hefta says the missionaries surrendered so no one would get hurt.

After they were deported to Aruba, Hefta said they learned that Venezuela's president had denounced them as spies, an accusation they found laughable.

He says it was a "harrowing" experience, but the missionaries weren't physically harmed and were treated "somewhat adequately."

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Netanyahu cites biblical deliverance from Persians

WASHINGTON (AP) - In his speech before Congress, Israel's leader has noted this week's Purim holiday, which celebrates the Jewish people's deliverance from a Persian leader's genocidal plot 2,500 years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jews will read the biblical account of Queen Esther's exposure of the plot, which enabled the Jewish people to defend themselves.

Netanyahu told Congress that Israel faces a similar threat from Persians seeking to develop an Iranian nuclear weapon, and he vowed that Jews will protect themselves once again, even if they have to do so alone. He said the U.S. appears to be negotiating "a very bad deal" with Iran.

Addressing a packed chamber that included Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (EL'-ee vee-ZEHL'), Netanyahu declared, "The days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over!"

The lawmakers responded with a standing ovation.

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Suspect declared `Heil Hitler!' after Jewish site shootings

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A police officer has testified at a preliminary hearing that a white supremacist suspected of killing three people at two Jewish sites in Kansas declared "Heil Hitler!" after the shootings.

Overland Park police Sgt. Marty Ingram testified Monday that Frazier Glenn Miller also asked how many Jews he had killed after the shootings on April 13, 2014. The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to put Miller on trial. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

The 74-year-old Miller is charged with capital murder in the shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, and at a nearby Jewish retirement home. None of the victims was Jewish.

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Ebola survivor leaves US after recovery to return to Africa

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - An American missionary who survived the Ebola virus is returning to the West African country where she was infected last year.

A spokesman for the North Carolina-based charity SIM said Monday that Nancy Writebol is returning to Liberia with her husband. SIM spokesman George Salloum says David Writebol is taking over as the charity's country director.

He says the Charlotte couple are due to arrive in Liberia in a couple of weeks after attending a conference in Thailand.

Nancy Writebol last summer became the second American infected with the Ebola virus while working at a hospital SIM supports in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.

She and fellow American Dr. Kent Brantly recovered from the often fatal virus at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

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Fire Department of New York gets 1st female, gay chaplain

NEW YORK (AP) - The Fire Department of New York has sworn in its first female and first openly gay chaplain.

The Rev. Ann Kansfield was sworn in on Tuesday. She is the department's eighth chaplain. Six others are Christian and one is Jewish. Kansfield is a pastor at Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn.

The duties of FDNY chaplains include providing counseling to firefighters and department personnel and performing blessings and invocations. They work part time.

Kansfield told The New York Times it would be great if she can be part of the effort to diversify the fire department.

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