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Sep 2, 12:10 PM EDT

Religion news in brief

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Religion news in brief

Pope: Priests in Holy Year can absolve 'sin of abortion'

The Latest on Jewish shootings: Miller returns to stand

Churchill Downs upgrading premium clubhouse seating

Pope marking day to stress care for creation

Silence at Vatican funeral for ex-envoy in sexual abuse case

Influential Christian sect ends protests in Philippines

Israel has failed to reform Jewish radicals, critics charge

Pope: Let's stop crimes like deaths of migrants in trucks

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Federal hearing set in clerk's marriage case

MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge says a Kentucky county clerk who won't issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs has until close of business Wednesday to respond to the latest motion in the case.

On Tuesday, as Rowan County clerk Kim Davis continued to deny licenses to couples despite a Supreme Court ruling against her, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her and her six deputy clerks to appear at a federal court hearing Thursday.

The couples named in the lawsuit have asked Bunning to hold Davis in contempt of court and fine her for refusing to grant licenses, but not to send her to jail.

In a statement Tuesday, Davis said it's not "a gay or lesbian issue," but rather a "matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment."

She and her clerks have been ordered to appear in court on Thursday morning.

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Pope: Priests in Holy Year can absolve `sin of abortion'

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis is allowing priests as well as bishops in the church's upcoming Year of Mercy to absolve women of the "sin of abortion" if they repent with a "contrite heart," saying he is acutely aware that some feel they had no choice but to abort.

Francis said in letter published Tuesday that he has met many women bearing "the scar of this agonizing" decision to abort. He said God's forgiveness cannot be denied to those who repent, and therefore he is giving all priests the power to absolve the sin in the Year of Mercy, which starts on Dec. 8, the church's feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The church views abortion as such a grave sin that, until now, a Catholic woman who wanted to repent for an abortion could not simply go to her parish priest. Instead, her local bishop needed to delegate a priest expert at dealing with such confessions to hear the woman's confession, or reserve for himself the decision on whether to grant absolution.

Essentially Francis is making it possible for women to bypass this formalized process in the church's Year of Mercy.

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McCrory distances himself from ad for Christian rally

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is distancing himself from a full-page newspaper ad about a Christian rally he plans to speak at in Charlotte.

The Charlotte Observer reports that McCrory is set to speak at a rally called The Response on Sept. 26. The ad over McCrory's name and picture invites people to join him for worship, prayer, fasting and repentance. It also calls on Jesus to hear those at the rally and heal America.

McCrory's spokesman, Graham Wilson, says the governor will speak on underage drinking, substance abuse and other issues. But Wilson says the governor did not give organizers permission to invite people on his behalf.

Senior Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth El in Charlotte said the ad goes too far and raises questions about separation of church and state.

McCrory has attended previous prayer events both as governor and as mayor of Charlotte. He said he is "proud to attend the event and be a part of what hopefully will be a constructive dialogue."

Similar events have been held in Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina, with the governors of those states in attendance.

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Appeals court rejects challenge to Jesus statue

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that a six-foot statue known as Big Mountain Jesus can remain on U.S. Forest Service property in Montana.

The statue was erected on a ski slope in the Flathead National Forest in 1954 by the Knights of Columbus to honor World War II veterans who fought in the Alps. It's included in the National Register of Historic Places.

In the decision released Monday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The court ruled that a government permit allowing the statue to remain served "a primarily secular purpose" and was not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

When the case was argued in July, U.S. Justice Department attorney Joan Pepin argued that Big Mountain Jesus has cultural and historical significance for veterans, tourists and Montana residents.

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2 more Tahoe churches latest hit in string of vandalism

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. (AP) - Authorities investigating a string of vandalism at a half dozen churches in Nevada over the past five months say there were two more attacks at Lake Tahoe over the weekend, and the vandals are becoming more destructive.

The two churches, one Catholic and one Presbyterian, are located about a mile apart in Incline Village about 30 miles southwest of Reno.

Washoe County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Clark said The Village Church and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church sustained considerable damage, including broken windows and equipment. The vandals also apparently tried to cut down an outdoor wooden cross at The Village Church late Saturday or early Sunday.

The Rev. Jeff Ogden, pastor at The Village Church, told the Sun newspaper that his congregation would be praying for whoever's responsible.

Donna Caravelli, a parishioner at St. Francis, said the parish is "sickened and shocked" at the vandalism there, which includes broken stained glass windows and a smashed-in front door. But she said, "We forgive them, as they must be truly troubled souls to do such a hateful thing."

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