Update on the latest religion news

WEDDING CAKE DISCRIMINATION

Court hears discrimination case over wedding cake

DENVER (AP) — A gay couple's attorney says a Colorado baker's religious beliefs do not give him a right to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies.

But the attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver says bakery owner Jack Phillips, who is a Christian, should not be forced to spread a message that he believes dishonors Christ.

An administrative judge in Colorado's Civil Rights Commission heard the case Wednesday. A ruling is expected this week.

Colorado has a constitutional ban against gay marriage, but allows civil unions. The civil union law, which passed earlier this year, does not provide religious protections for businesses — a provision Republicans wanted. A similar case is pending in Washington state, where a florist is accused of refusing service for a same-sex wedding.

Sound:

229-a-12-(Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, in AP interview)-"it involves marriage"-Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, says he isn't anti-gay. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *229 (12/04/13)££ 00:12 "it involves marriage"

232-a-05-(Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, in AP interview)-"we should fear"-Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, says his free speech and religious rights are at stake. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *232 (12/04/13)££ 00:05 "we should fear"

230-a-12-(Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, in AP interview)-"marriage honors Christ"-Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, says he tries to live by biblical principles. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *230 (12/04/13)££ 00:12 "marriage honors Christ"

231-a-13-(Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, in AP interview)-"in his beliefs"-Nicolle Martin, attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, says he would rather go out of business than communicate a message he believes is wrong. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *231 (12/04/13)££ 00:13 "in his beliefs"

206-a-08-(Amanda Goad, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, in AP interview)-"party being hurt"-ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad says the gay couple's rights trump the baker's religious rights. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *206 (12/04/13)££ 00:08 "party being hurt"

207-a-09-(Amanda Goad, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, in AP interview)-"are also gay"-ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad says it's insufficient for the baker to say he was discriminating against gay weddings, not gays. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *207 (12/04/13)££ 00:09 "are also gay"

209-a-14-(Amanda Goad, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, in AP interview)-"on being gay"-ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad says the baker's religious beliefs don't exempt him from making gay wedding cakes. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *209 (12/04/13)££ 00:14 "on being gay"

208-a-13-(Amanda Goad, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, in AP interview)-"not that situation"-ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad says the wedding cake wasn't likely to be seen as a reflection of the baker's personal beliefs. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *208 (12/04/13)££ 00:13 "not that situation"

CHURCH ON WHEELS-THEFT

Thief makes off with New Mexico 'church on wheels'

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A brazen thief has made off with a New Mexico pastor's "church on wheels," taking about $40,000 in equipment and dozens of donated toys.

KRQE-TV reports that New City Church in Albuquerque is a portable church that uses a trailer to store everything it needs for Sunday services, including speakers, cords and microphones.

New City Pastor Nate Bush says a man with a red pickup cut the lock on a fenced parking lot Sunday and towed away the church's trailer. He says the trailer was loaded with the church's equipment and supplies, along with toys for an upcoming charity event.

Bush says the trailer and its contents were insured. He says the theft is frustrating and is one of the reasons he plans to move New City into a permanent space.

NORMAN ROCKWELL-AUCTION

Rockwell painting sells for $46M at NYC auction

NEW YORK (AP) — A Norman Rockwell painting titled "Saying Grace" has been sold at a New York City auction for a record $46 million.

Sotheby's says it's the highest price ever paid at auction for an American painting and for a work by the Saturday Evening Post illustrator. The buyer wasn't disclosed.

"Saying Grace" depicts a crowded restaurant with a grandmother and grandson bowed in prayer at their table.

Rockwell was paid $3,500 for "Saying Grace." It appeared on the cover of the magazine's Thanksgiving issue in 1951 and was voted Post readers' favorite cover in a 1955 poll. The idea for the illustration came from a reader who saw a Mennonite family praying in a restaurant.

Another Rockwell painting, "The Gossips," sold for just under $8.5 million, while "Walking to Church" fetched a little more than $3.2 million.

Sound:

242-v-31-(Steve Coleman, AP religion editor)--A Norman Rockwell painting titled "Saying Grace" has been sold at a New York City auction for a record $46 million. AP Religion Editor Steve Coleman reports. (4 Dec 2013)

<<CUT *242 (12/04/13)££ 00:31

ARKANSAS SENATE

Pryor invokes faith ahead of 2014 election in Ark.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor is invoking his Christian faith ahead of next year's election.

Pryor cited the Bible as he spoke to the Political Animals Club in Little Rock on Wednesday. And in a new television ad, Pryor says, "The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party is always right."

Pryor, the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, is seeking a third term next year as he faces a challenge from Republican rival and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

Pryor is an Evangelical Christian. Cotton, who represents southern Arkansas in the House, is a Methodist.

In his speech Wednesday, Pryor said politicians should adopt "the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Cotton's campaign spokesman asked, "Was Sen. Pryor looking out for the people of Arkansas when he voted for Obamacare?"

GRADUATION COMPLAINT-LAWSUIT

Judge refuses to block Greenville school prayers

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that South Carolina's Greenville County Schools can continue to allow student-led prayer and hold school events in places of worship while a lawsuit over the issues continues.

The American Humanist Association sued earlier this year, seeking to stop Mountain View Elementary School from holding future ceremonies in a chapel on the campus of North Greenville University, which is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

The lawsuit says a student known only as "Jill Doe" was "offended, affronted and distressed by the actions of the Elementary School in affiliating itself with and endorsing Christianity" during her graduation this past spring.

PALIN-LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

Palin says 'war on Christmas' is being waged

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Sarah Palin has promoted her new book and lamented what she sees as a "war on Christmas" in an appearance at Liberty University.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate told students at the Christian university that "revisionists" are trying to turn the Christmas season into a "winter solstice season," and are creating a greater divide between church and state.

The News & Advance of Lynchburg, Va., reports that Palin's remarks prompted thunderous applause from students at the university founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

After Palin's convocation speech, hundreds of students waited in line for signed copies of her latest book, "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas."

KABBALAH LAWSUIT

Lawsuits target Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former supporters of the Kabbalah Centre have sued the Los Angeles-based spiritual organization, claiming more than $1 million in contributions was used fraudulently.

The Los Angeles Times reports that two lawsuits filed last week claim the center, which attracted Madonna and other celebrities, raised money to enrich itself instead of using the funds to build a new facility in San Diego and for a children's charity.

The lawsuits say the center was never built and the charity abruptly stopped operation. More than $40 million in damages are being sought from the center and its leaders.

After a boom in popularity due in part with its association with celebrities, the center in recent years has been dogged by controversy. A federal tax-evasion investigation was launched but the current status of the probe is unknown.

VATICAN-SYRIA

Pope prays for 12 nuns abducted in Syria by rebels

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has called for prayers for 12 Orthodox Christian nuns who were abducted from their convent by Syrian opposition fighters.

Francis made the appeal at the end of his general audience Wednesday. He said: "I invite everyone to pray for the sisters of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Santa Takla in Maaloula, Syria, who were taken by force by armed men two days ago."

The abduction has added to fears that hardline Muslim rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad are increasingly targeting Christians.

Syria's minorities, including Christians, have mostly sided with Assad or remained neutral in Syria's civil war, fearing for their fate if the rebels, increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists, come to power.