Mississippi gov. signs law allowing service denial to gays
JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi's governor has signed a law that lets religious groups and private businesses refuse service to gay couples based on religious beliefs.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, despite opposition from gay-rights groups and some businesses who say it allows discrimination. Some conservative and religious groups supported the bill. Opponents of the law, however, see it as a sword against LGBT people, not a shield for Christian conservatives.
The measure's stated goal is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.
The measure allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs. Individual government employees may also opt out, although the measure says governments must still provide services.
Governor vetoes bill permitting use of Bible in schooling
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter has vetoed legislation that would have expressly permitted the use of the Bible in public school instruction, calling the measure unconstitutional.
In the veto's accompanying letter Otter said he respects the Bible, but the measure would result in costly litigation for Idaho's public schools. He said the measure directly contradicts Idaho's Constitution.
The bill stated the Bible could be used for reference purposes in subjects like literature, history, music and world geography in public schools, but not scientific subjects. Schools are already allowed to reference the Bible and other religious texts, but this legislation specifically mentioned the Bible.
The Legislature passed the measure in the final week of this year's session after ignoring a warning from the attorney general's office that questioned its legality.
No decision on death penalty in Charleston church shootings
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Prosecutors handling the federal case against the man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church say the decision on whether to pursue the death penalty is in its final stages.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson said Tuesday that the decision is now pending before U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who will make the determination.
Richardson and attorneys for Dylann Roof were in court to discuss updates to the case. Roof was not present, and no date for his federal trial has been set.
Roof faces nine counts of murder in state court for the killings at Emanuel AME Church. He is charged with hate crimes and other counts in federal court. The state is seeking the death penalty in Roof's state trial, which is set for July.
Vatican: Talks about possible pope trip to Greece underway
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican says discussions are under way about a possible trip by Pope Francis to Greece as it begins deporting migrants back to Turkey.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi stressed that no decision had been made and no itinerary planned. But in an email Tuesday to The Associated Press he said: "I don't deny that there are contacts about a possible trip."
A Greek ecclesiastical website, Dogma, reported Tuesday that Francis was planning to visit refugees on the island of Lesbos next week along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens Leronymos.
A controversial European Union plan to stem the flow of refugees began Monday with more than 200 people deported from the Greek islands to Turkey.
Honolulu church's $25 million project to honor 2 saints
HONOLULU — A Honolulu church has a $25 million project in the works that would expand its building to include a new museum honoring Hawaii's two saints.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports St. Augustine Catholic Church was recently awarded a permit for the project to build the Damien and Marianne of Molokai Museum.
The museum will feature virtual and interactive exhibits that detail the stories of the two saints, who both served leprosy patients quarantined on the island of Molokai.
St. Damien was a priest with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who was canonized in 2009. The canonization of St. Marianne, formerly a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, took place in 2012.
To make space for the two-story building, the church's parish hall and back parking lot will be demolished and replaced. Construction is set to start in 2017.
Tennessee lawmakers vote for Bible as state's official book
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee lawmakers have voted to make the Holy Bible the state's official book.
The state Senate gave final approval Monday on a 19-8 vote despite arguments the measure conflicts with a provision in the Tennessee Constitution that "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."
Republican Sen. Steve Southerland argued that his bill is aimed at recognizing the Bible for its historical and cultural contributions to the state, rather than as a government endorsement of religion.
Opponents argued that the Bible would be trivialized by being placed alongside other state symbols like the official tree, rock or amphibian.
The measure heads to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who hasn't said whether he'll issue a veto.