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Religion news in brief

More American Jews say they're secular

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The number of American Jews who consider themselves religiously observant has dropped by more than 20 percent over the past two decades, as the share of Jews who consider themselves secular has risen, according to a survey.

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that around 3.4 million American Jews call themselves religious — out of a general Jewish population of about 5.4 million.

The number of Jews who identify themselves as only culturally Jewish has risen from 20 percent in 1990 to 37 percent last year, according to the study. In the same period, the number of all U.S. adults who said they had no religion rose from 8 percent to 15 percent.

Jews are more likely to be secular than Americans in general, the researchers said.

Virginians OK Islamic academy expansion

FAIRFAX, Virginia (AP) — Officials have granted a zoning exemption that will allow a Saudi-funded academy to expand its campus.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 Monday to grant the exemption. The committee emphasized that the decision was made on zoning issues, not what goes on in the classrooms of the Islamic Saudi Academy. The plans permit construction of a building that would eventually accommodate 500 students.

"The community will get an awful lot of development," said supervisor Penelope A. Gross. "I think (it) will improve the community."

Hebrew-language school to expand

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A Hebrew-language charter school in South Florida is filled to capacity and plans to expand.

Ben Gamla was billed as the country's first such Hebrew-language school when it opened in Hollywood two years ago. Now, school officials said enrollment has reached the maximum with 600 students. A new campus in Plantation is slated to open this month and a charter has already been obtained to open a campus in Miami-Dade County.

The school is seeking permission to create four more charters: an elementary school in Palm Beach County and two other elementary schools and a high school in Broward County.

Critics have said Ben Gamla is a thinly veiled attempt to publicly finance what amounts to a Jewish day school, but administrators insist religion is not a part of curriculum.

Louisianians won't raze 165-year-old church

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A conservation panel has blocked a plan by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans to tear down a 165-year-old church.

The Neighborhood Conservation District Committee on Monday denied the archdiocese's request for a permit to demolish Annunciation Catholic Church, its rectory and parish hall.

Elizabeth LaCombe, a representative of the archdiocese, said the church, which was closed in 2001, is deteriorating and attracts thieves, vandals and squatters dangerous to the community. But several residents of the St. Roch neighborhood argued that the church could be restored and used as a community center or for other purposes.

The archdiocese has closed 34 parishes since Hurricane Katrina.

Acropolis Museum to restore Christian vandalism references

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's new Acropolis Museum says it will restore references to early Christians vandalizing the ancient Parthenon temple. The references were originally deleted from a film shown to visitors for fear of angering the country's powerful Orthodox Church.

The decision last month to delete the short segment angered its creator, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras, and was criticized as an act of censorship in the Greek press.

Museum Director Dimitris Pantermalis said Tuesday that the film would be shown uncut after the Greek-born French filmmaker told him it implied no official involvement of the church of the day in the vandalism — some 1,500 years ago.