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Senate Democrats seek to reverse Hobby Lobby ruling

WASHINGTON — The Senate is preparing to vote on a Democratic-sponsored bill aimed at ensuring that women receive free contraception coverage even if they work for a company that has a religious objection to it.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers don't have to provide coverage for birth control methods their faith prohibits. Democrats say that amounts to letting bosses impose their religion on employees.

But Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said legislation to remove employers' religious rights would "reduce the free exercise of religion from a fundamental human right to a cheap election year prop."

Democrats are seeking to turn the battle into a women's rights issue that can help them at the ballot box in November.

The bill appears unlikely to draw the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate.


President hits hot topics at Ramadan dinner

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has delivered measured remarks to Muslims attending the annual Ramadan iftar dinner at the White House.

Some attendees at Monday night's event were angry about a magazine's report that the National Security Agency and the FBI scanned the emails of five prominent Muslim-Americans under a secret surveillance program aimed at foreign terrorists and other national security threats.

The Obama administration has not confirmed the report in The Intercept. But the president said "no one should ever be targeted or disparaged because of their faith."

He also said that Americans have the right to practice any faith or no faith and can change religions. Not mentioned was the fact that Muslims in other parts of the world can be charged with apostasy if they convert to another religion. The president also praised an attendee from the Ahmadi branch of Islam, which many Muslims consider heretical.

Amid new conflict in the Mideast, Obama said that while the deaths of Palestinian civilians are tragic, Israel has the right to defend itself against "inexcusable" rocket attacks. He added that "further escalation benefits no one."


Student: Expelled from college after gay marriage

PHOTO: Dan Courtney, of Hamlin, N.Y., and an atheist, delivers the invocation at the Greece, N.Y., town board meeting, Tuesday July 15, 2014. The community's leaders won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to start such gatherings with a prayer. (AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)
Dan Courtney, of Hamlin, N.Y., and an atheist, delivers the invocation at the Greece, N.Y., town board meeting, Tuesday July 15, 2014. The community's leaders won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to start such gatherings with a prayer. (AP Photo/Democrat & Chronicle, Jamie Germano)

OKLAHOMA CITY — A 22-year-old woman says she was expelled from a private Christian college in Oklahoma because she married her same-sex partner.

Christian Minard says she received a letter last week from Southwestern Christian University notifying her of the expulsion after returning from her honeymoon in Las Vegas. Minard said she did not know how the university learned of her March 17 marriage in Albuquerque, New Mexico, though she did say she posted her marriage license on Facebook.

University Academic Vice President and Provost Connie Sjoberg said Minard had been a student at the school in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany but no longer was. She said federal privacy laws kept her from providing details.

Minard admitted that she violated her signed student conduct code, known as a lifestyle principal, which prohibits homosexual relationships. The code also includes prohibitions on smoking, drinking, cheating, premarital sex, discrimination, harassment and profanity.


Atheist opens NY meeting; top court OK'd prayers

GREECE, New York — An atheist has delivered the invocation before a town meeting in the New York community whose leaders won a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right to start their gatherings with a prayer.

Dan Courtney invoked the signers of the Declaration of Independence Tuesday and urged members of the Greece town board to "seek the wisdom of all citizens, and to honor the enlightened wisdom and profound courage of those 56 men."

The court ruled 5-4 in May that the prayers were in line with national traditions and said the content is not significant as long as the prayers don't denigrate others or try to win converts. The town said persons of any faith were welcome to give the invocation.

Town supervisor William Reilich (RY'-lihk) says it's not unusual to have a diversity of views represented.


Officer shoots hatchet-wielding man outside church

DETROIT — Detroit police say an off-duty officer shot and wounded a 27-year-old man who attacked him with a hatchet during services at a northwest Detroit church.

Police spokesman Officer Adam Madera says the injured officer is a member of Citadel of Praise church and was trying to calm down the man about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Madera says the man is believed to have a mental illness. The spokesman says the man attacked the officer with the hatchet outside the church.

Madera says the officer fell but was able to reach his handgun and shoot the man. Madera says another officer responding to a 9-1-1 call also shot the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition Monday.

Madera says the off-duty officer received minor leg injuries.

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