Religion news in brief
Missionary groups call for evacuation from Liberia
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Two North Carolina-based missionary groups have ordered the evacuation of their non-essential personnel from Liberia after a doctor and a missionary contracted Ebola.
SIM (S-I-M) USA President Bruce Johnson announced Tuesday that his group and Samaritan's Purse decided on the evacuation following an upsurge in the number of Ebola cases in Liberia. A statement from SIM says no symptoms of Ebola are present in any of the evacuees, who are being monitored continually.
A Texas-trained doctor and a missionary from Charlotte have contracted the disease and remain in isolation in Liberia.
Johnson says a Charlotte church will hold a prayer service Wednesday evening for SIM's Nancy Writebol and for Dr. Kent Brantly, who is with Samaritan's Purse.
There is no known cure for Ebola, but Johnson says recovery is possible with proper care. Unfortunately, he says the SIM-Samaritan's Purse facility is the only treatment center for Ebola in the West African country.
Millions displaced by religious violence in 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. says millions of people were driven out of their homes because of their religious beliefs last year.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday released the State Department's 2013 report on religious persecution around the world.
It says that in conflict zones, mass displacement has become the norm. Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war, and this month Islamic militants have forced Iraqi Christians to leave Mosul or face execution.
The report also highlighted more than a million people being displaced in the Central African Republic amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence.
Introducing the report, Kerry also noted the continuing imprisonment of American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran, and said the U.S. will continue to press for his release.
Ex-radio host pleads guilty in child porn probe
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A former host at a popular Christian radio station in western Michigan has pleaded guilty in a child pornography investigation.
John Balyo told a federal judge Tuesday that he photographed sex acts with a 12-year-old boy at a Kalamazoo County hotel. He pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and possessing child pornography.
Balyo says he knew it was wrong.
The 35-year-old was a host at Christian radio station WCSG in Grand Rapids until his arrest in June at a Christian music festival in northern Michigan. His arrest was related to state charges of criminal sexual conduct. That case still is pending in Calhoun County.
Balyo faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison, but his sentence could be longer.
Appeals court allows Sept. 11 steel cross display
NEW YORK (AP) - A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit by an atheist group seeking to stop the display of a cross-shaped steel beam found among the World Trade Center's wreckage.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's ruling last year that the decision to include the beam in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum did not advance religion impermissibly.
American Atheists had sued the museum's operators in 2011 on constitutional grounds. The group says it is disappointed in the decision and is considering whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 17-foot-tall steel beam was found by rescue workers two days after the 2001 terror attacks destroyed the World Trade Center.
Byron Scott thanks God for new job as Lakers coach
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Byron Scott says returning to Los Angeles to coach his former team shows him that "God is good."
The Lakers have named Scott, the team's shooting guard for 11 seasons, as their new head coach.
At a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, Scott said throughout his career God has helped his dreams come true, whether it's been playing for the Lakers, coaching for other NBA teams and now for his home team. Scott said, "It's obviously my heavenly Father, I've been put there."
The 2008 NBA Coach of the Year has a record of 416-521 as a head coach for New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland, reaching two NBA Finals with the Nets.
Byron Scott takes over as head coach after the Lakers' 27-55 season, the second-worst in the team's history.