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Feb 25, 2:23 PM EST

Religion news in brief

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Vatican whodunit: What happened to books on marriage?

Pope promotes ex-sex crimes prosecutor in Malta

German Jewish leader: don't wear kippa in Muslim areas

Religion news in brief

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US church says missionary kidnapped from Nigerian compound

SEATTLE (AP) - An American missionary has been kidnapped in Nigeria, according to her sponsoring denomination.

The Free Methodist Church says on its website that it received a report Monday that the Rev. Phyllis Sortor (SOHR'-tur) was kidnapped from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo. The message from Bishop David Kendall says U.S. officials are working with Nigerian authorities to find and rescue her.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria and most victims are returned unharmed.

According to the church website, Sortor works with a child sponsorship ministry and recently opened a school for the children of Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslim.

The Rev. Brenda Young, lead pastor with Cornerstone Free Methodist Church in Akron, Ohio, says she's been working with Sortor on projects to get clean drinking water to people in Nigeria. Young says she's sure that Sortor "will handle herself as a follower of Christ, as a lover of people and as a loyal American."

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Pope awards high church honor to Armenian mystic St. Gregory

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis has declared St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century mystic and poet revered by Armenian Catholics, a doctor of the church.

Monday's designation of one of the highest church honors on an Armenian monk comes a few weeks before Francis celebrates a Mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks that some call the first genocide of the 20th century.

The title of doctor of the church is reserved for people whose writings have greatly served the universal church.

Gregory, who lived around 950 to 1005, is considered one of the most important figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature.

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NC considers exempting some from gay-marriage duties

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some North Carolina lawmakers say court officials should be exempt from carrying out duties related to marrying gay couples that would conflict with their religious beliefs.

Legislation has been introduced in response to federal judges overturning the state's gay-marriage ban in October. The measure approved Tuesday by the Senate judiciary committee allows magistrates to refuse to preside at same-sex weddings. It also allows assistant and deputy registrars of deeds to not issue marriage licenses. It also prohibits them from acting in all civil marriages.

There have been similar actions in other Southern states: Some Florida clerks' offices scrapped all marriage ceremonies rather than perform same-sex unions. In South Carolina and Georgia, legislation is being developed to let individual employees opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples out of sincere religious belief.

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After attacks, European rabbis train in Prague self-defense

PRAGUE (AP) - Rabbis from European countries have gathered in Prague for training in self-defense and first aid in a response to a wave of attacks against Jews and a rise of anti-Semitism on the continent.

During Tuesday's training sessions, dozens of rabbis were taught how to survive a stabbing and how to treat injuries.

Tuesday's training was part of an annual gathering of rabbis organized by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe and the European Jewish Association headed by Rabbi Menachem Margolin. He said European governments' failure to protect Jews prompted them to organize the training, first in Prague, and later in other European countries.

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Bakers: Same-sex wedding cake dispute is about religious freedom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Two Oregon bakers who may have to pay $150,000 in damages to a lesbian couple for refusing to bake them a wedding cake say they're taking a stand for religious liberty.

Aaron and Melissa Klein took part in a press conference Wednesday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Christian bakers have said they served gays and lesbians, but could not in good conscience make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

The Oregon labor department says a judge rejected the Kleins' contention that the state's discrimination laws violate their religious freedom.

Investigators for the state Bureau of Labor and Industries have recommended that the Kleins each pay $75,000 in damages. A hearing will set the amount next month.

Aaron Klein told reporters he believes Christians "have an obligation to the next generation to stand up for our constitutional freedoms, not given by man but given by God."

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