Faith in brief

Ecuador's draft constitution attacked

QUITO, Ecuador &

A top Roman Catholic official said the country's draft constitution is incompatible with the faith because of its provisions on abortion and same-sex unions.

A special assembly controlled by leftist President Rafael Correa's political movement recently approved the 444-article constitution, which will be put to a national referendum Sept. 28. More than 90 percent of Ecuador's nearly 14 million people are Catholic.

Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil criticized the draft charter for including what he called ambiguous abortion laws and granting the same benefits to same-sex couples and married heterosexual couples.

"A union between homosexuals is not a family," Arregui said in a news conference Monday. "We're going to request that the entire Christian conscience takes note of the nonnegotiable incompatibilities of this constitution with our faith." He also said the proposed document is "leaving the door open to the deletion of a new baby."

How to respond to animal sacrifices


Miami-Dade police officials plan to include in their 2009 handbook a note about how to respond to calls about ritual animal sacrifices.

The decision comes a year after Coral Gables officers raided a home where practitioners of Santeria were slaughtering goats, chickens and pigeons. Several worshippers were held at gunpoint and detained for hours.

The entry will remind county officers that federal and state laws protect people's freedom to practice religion.

The move was hailed by those who practice Santeria, a blend of Roman Catholicism and traditional African religions. Followers of the faith believe in spiritual forces whose survival depends on blood sacrifices.

Amish zoning case headed to trial


Members of an upstate New York Amish sect cannot claim that local building codes hinder their religion or give them special standing, a town judge has ruled.

Morristown Town Judge James Phillips Jr. said the cases against eight Amish men will now proceed to trial. He ordered lawyers in the case to meet for a pretrial conference.

St. Lawrence County assistant public defender Steven Ballan filed motions in November seeking dismissal of building permit violation charges against the men on grounds of free religious exercise and lack of a speedy trial. After nearly eight months, Phillips issued a written ruling July 25 denying Ballan's request.

"The Amish desire 'not to conform to this world' must be reasonably and rationally tempered with required compliance to regulations imposed by a town and society in which they are citizens," he wrote in the 10-page decision.

Ballan said he would discuss the ruling with attorneys and representatives of national religious rights groups before deciding how to proceed.

The Amish men do not deny the charges.

They are part of the strict Swartzentruber sect and say requirements for smoke alarms and engineer-approved designs violate their religious tenet to oppose modernization. The sect has had zoning disputes with local authorities elsewhere in New York, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Nashville megapastor retiring


The pastor of a Nashville megachurch is taking early retirement after coming under fire from a group of congregants who claim he misused church funds.

Members of Two Rivers Baptist Church have approved a $314,000 retirement package for the Rev. Jerry Sutton, a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention who has led Two Rivers for more than 22 years.

The church will pay out the money to Sutton over five years.

Both the pastor other church leaders hope his retirement will end a 14-month conflict with dissident members who sued the church seeking financial records on pastors' salaries and church staff credit card statements. Sutton denied any wrongdoing.

The plaintiffs were ousted from the church on May 12 but the lawsuit continues.

Theology professor leaving seminary


A theology professor who was suspended for suggesting the Bible was the work of both God and people has agreed to leave the conservative seminary where he taught.

In a joint statement, Westminster Theological Seminary and professor Peter Enns said they "arrived at mutually agreeable terms" that are effective as of Friday. No other details were released.

Westminster trustees voted in March to suspend Enns, a tenured 14-year veteran of the school, because of his 2005 book, "Inspiration and Incarnation."

Enns' book was written to help students grapple with recent scholarship suggesting contradictions in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. In it, Enns urges readers to understand the Bible is both divine and human.

Trustees said it appeared that Enns had defied the school's founding principle, based on the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith, the core creed of the Presbyterian tradition. It says that Scripture is solely the word of God and proclaims the "infallible truth" and "entire perfection" of the Bible.

Westminster, located near Philadelphia, was founded in 1929 by former Princeton Theological Seminary faculty who believed that school was becoming too liberal.

"" The Associated Press

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