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Religion around the world

Allowing gay clergy irks conservatives

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two smaller, more conservative U.S.-based Lutheran denominations are expressing disappointment in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's decision to open a wider door to gay clergy.

The ELCA voted last week to lift a ban that prohibited sexually active gay and lesbian people from serving as ministers. Under the change, congregations will now be allowed to hire homosexuals in committed relationships as clergy. Before, gays and lesbians had to remain celibate to serve as pastors.

The 4.7 million-member denomination, which took the actions in Minneapolis at its biennial meeting, became the largest U.S. Protestant denomination to take that step.

The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the 2.4 million-member Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, said the decision ignores biblical teaching on human sexuality and threatens to further harm relations between the two church bodies. The Rev. Mark Schroeder, president of the 390,000-member Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, based in Milwaukee, issued a statement expressing regret about the move.

Illinois warned about state grants

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois should move carefully when awarding $40 million or more in state funds to religious organizations, two national activist groups warned.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Anti-Defamation League told state officials that they've identified at least 97 religious organizations that would get the money from the capital construction bill signed into law last month.

They pointed out in a letter to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that the constitutional separation of church and state forbids using tax dollars for religious purposes and that the grants carry no restrictions.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a $31 billion infrastructure improvement plan last month aimed at improving roads and bridges, but also included millions in grants to local organizations. There could be more groups with religious affiliations than the 97 that the Americans United and the Chicago-based Anti-Defamation League counted because their names don't immediately identify them as such.

Eagle case could be resolved soon

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The lawyer for a Northern Arapaho man who killed a bald eagle for use in his tribe's Sun Dance four years ago says he's working with federal prosecutors to resolve the case ahead of a scheduled October trial date.

Winslow Friday has acknowledged that he shot and killed a bald eagle without a permit on the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming in March 2005.

But the question of whether Friday should be prosecuted for killing the iconic bird has spawned a legal dispute that has ranged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined early this year to review his case.

Friday, now in his mid-20s, could possibly face up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine if convicted. He's scheduled to go to trial Oct. 5 before U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne.

Elderly, disabled protest policy

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The mostly elderly and disabled residents of a North Carolina subsidized housing community are questioning a federal policy that won't allow them to use common spaces for religious activities.

The News & Record of Greensboro reported Friday that the authority that operates the subsidized Elm Tower community near Greensboro has appealed to Housing and Urban Development Department.

The housing authority notified residents a few weeks ago that gathering for religious activities in common areas of the buildings would no longer be allowed.

A spokeswoman for the housing authority said the practice violates a federal policy that forbids organizations receiving HUD funds from engaging in religious activities.