Religion news in brief
Christian leaders urge Obama to address plight of religious minorities
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. and Middle East Christian leaders hope President Obama won't overlook the plight of religious minorities when he tells Americans how he'll respond to the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
On the eve of Obama's address to the nation, Cardinal Donald Wuerl welcomed the Middle East's Christian patriarchs to a Washington summit.
Nina Shea (NEE'-nah SHAY), director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, said it's not enough for the U.S. and allied forces to degrade and destroy the Islamic State group. She said President Obama also should address the plight of religious minorities who are being killed, kidnapped or exiled from their historic homelands.
Robert George, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Americans "should demand action" so that the Middle East's persecuted Christians know they haven't been abandoned or forgotten.
French imams to use pulpit against Islamic State
PARIS (AP) - French Muslim leaders are urging imams to preach against the Islamic State group and offer a message of support for Christians in the Middle East.
Christians there are fleeing the militant organization by the thousands as they face a choice between conversion to Islam or death.
On Tuesday, moderate Muslim leaders called on French mosques nationwide to offer prayers for endangered Christians and send a message to young people that the Islamic State group is neither Muslim nor a state.
The rector of Paris' principal mosque said it was crucial to support Christians against barbarity.
French young people make up the largest number of European jihadis heading to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Fundamental problems plague Seattle megachurch
SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle megachurch Mars Hill is closing some of its branches and making plans to lay off dozens of employees amid controversy surrounding its lead pastor.
The Seattle Times says financial problems in the wake of falling attendance are forcing the cutbacks.
Since 1996, the church has grown quickly to reach 15 branches in five states. Now, Mars Hill leaders say they plan to cut 30 to 40 percent of a paid staff numbering about 100. These cuts will follow other departures in recent weeks by pastors who say they are angry or uneasy about the church's direction.
The cuts are happening weeks after Mars Hill's lead pastor, Mark Driscoll, announced he was stepping down for six weeks amid questions about his management and leadership style. Driscoll has been accused of bullying members who disagree with him. Some members of the church have called him arrogant and dismissive.
A church spokesman says combined attendance at all Mars Hill branches has dropped from more than 12,000 a week at the start of the year to less than 9,000.
Cardinal George hopes to go to Rome in November
CHICAGO (AP) - Cardinal Francis George says a new clinical trial of an experimental drug to treat cancer has left him feeling good, but not great.
The head of the Archdiocese of Chicago spoke to reporters Monday after blessing a newly expanded religious retirement center. George, who is 77, started the trial to treat a recurrence of cancer near his right kidney.
George, the spiritual leader of the Chicago area's more than 2 million Roman Catholics since 1997, said he would travel to Europe in November to meet with archbishops in Barcelona, Spain, and then go to the Vatican. George canceled a trip to Rome in October because of medical treatment.
The archdiocese said earlier this year that a successor to George should be chosen this fall.
Street preacher strikes deal with Springfield
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Baptist preacher who has been ticketed repeatedly for disturbing the peace in downtown Springfield, Missouri, has reached an agreement with city leaders that could lead to the charges being dropped.
The Springfield News-Leader says Aaron Brummitt of Lighthouse Anabaptist Church has agreed to a deferred prosecution deal.
Wampler says the agreement defers prosecution for one year, after which the tickets would be dismissed. As long as Brummitt abides by the restrictions on his street sermons, he will no longer face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each ticket.
Those restrictions include Brummitt's staying at least 125 feet away from Park Central Square while preaching when a city-permitted event is occurring, and not using sound equipment with a volume greater than 75 decibels. The agreement also says Brummitt generally cannot preach more than once a week for more than 90 minutes at a time. But for four weeks in a year, he will be permitted to preach twice in the same week.