Religion briefs

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Evers’ widow to offer invocation

WASHINGTON (AP) – The widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers is expected to deliver the invocation at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21.


The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Tuesday that Myrlie Evers-Williams would deliver the prayer. It comes 50 years after her husband was gunned down in the driveway of his Mississippi home. The inauguration falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Evers-Williams is a distinguished scholar at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss. She was chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.


Inaugural organizers said the Rev. Louie Giglio of Atlanta’s Passion City Church will deliver the benediction for Obama’s swearing-in.


Christian group lists worst persecutors

LONDON, Ont. (AP) – North Korea continues to be the worst country in the world to be a Christian, according to the new World Watch List released by Open Doors USA.


The list ranks North Korea as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for the 11th year in a row, followed by eight nations where Open Doors says “extreme Islam poses the largest threat for Christians,” led by Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq.


Open Doors International spokesman Paul Estabrooks noted that persecution of Christians has increased in 11th-ranked Syria, where civil war has driven thousands into exile, and in African countries where Islamist extremism is on the rise.


In North Korea, Estabrooks said severe persecution of Christians has not eased under new leader Kim Jong Un.


The Open Doors report says Christians are persecuted in at least 60 countries, and says persecution worldwide grew worse last year.


Iranian pastor reported free after Christmas arrest

WASHINGTON (AP) – An Iranian pastor whose re-arrest on Christmas Day was condemned by two U.S. congressmen is free again, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.


ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said his group’s Christian contacts in Iran reported that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released Monday and was at home once again with his family.


Nadarkhani, who was raised in a Muslim family, spent almost three years in prison before his release in September. The ACLJ says he had faced a possible death sentence for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.


Pennsylvania Congressman Joseph Pitts, who is Christian, and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, issued a joint statement denouncing Nadarkhani’s re-arrest and calling for his immediate release. They said that given Iran’s “persecution of Pastor Youcef because of his Christian faith, it was particularly cruel to imprison him on Christmas Day.”


Gay marriage flap: Gallaudet reinstates official

WASHINGTON (AP) – The nation’s leading university for the deaf and hard of hearing has reinstated its chief diversity officer, who was suspended for three months after signing a petition circulated by opponents of gay marriage in Maryland.


Gallaudet University president T. Alan Hurwitz announced the reinstatement of Angela McCaskill in an email Monday to students, faculty and staff. The brief statement didn’t elaborate on the reasons for McCaskill’s reinstatement, and university officials declined further comment.


McCaskill has said she is not anti-gay. She said she signed the petition at her church after listening to a sermon about marriage, adding that she felt it was important for Maryland voters to decide the issue.


Many on campus said they felt McCaskill was the wrong person to lead an office that promotes diversity. But people on both sides of the gay marriage debate in Maryland, where McCaskill lives, said she shouldn’t be punished for exercising her First Amendment rights.


Supreme Court won’t hear Ga. Gun lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court won’t overturn a Georgia law banning firearms in churches and other places of worship.


The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from GeorgiaCarry.org, which wanted the justices to overturn a lower court decision upholding Georgia’s ban on guns in churches and other places of worship.


GeorgiaCarry.org argued that the law burdens “religiously motivated conduct by regulating how or what a worshipper can do with a weapon while he is worshipping.”


But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit brought by GeorgiaCarry and the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston, Ga.


The Supreme Court, without comment, refused to reconsider that ruling.


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