Religion news in brief

Published: Saturday, Feb. 18 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Kansas religious freedom bill needed to fight Obama policies, backers say.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Supporters of a proposal in Kansas that's described as an attempt to protect religious freedoms told state legislators Tuesday that President Barack Obama's ill-fated mandate for insurance coverage of birth control is a compelling example of why the measure is needed.

But gay rights advocates said the primary goal of the conservative and religious groups pushing the bill continues to be nullifying local ordinances or university policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The House Judiciary Committee had a hearing on the proposed "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act" and is expected to vote on it by next Monday. Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, contends the measure simply writes into state law language from past Kansas court decisions for determining when government policies place too much of a burden on practicing religion.

Still, neither supporters nor opponents are treating the measure as a straightforward restatement of existing legal standards. The gay rights group Kansas Equality Coalition mobilized members to lobby against it, and the measure has the backing of conservative groups like the Kansas Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and the Kansas Catholic Conference also weighed in, and both cited the Obama administration's recent decision to require religiously affiliated groups such as colleges and charities to offer employees health plans that cover contraceptives. In response to protests, the president last Friday said he would accommodate the faith-run groups by having insurance companies bear the cost of providing birth control coverage.

— Associated Press

Mexican Roman Catholic Church Criticized for issuing voting guide

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's Roman Catholic Church drew fire Tuesday for releasing voting guidelines for the faithful ahead of the July 1 presidential elections.

All religious groups in Mexico are banned from engaging in electoral politics, or supporting or opposing any candidate or party. The guidelines published by the Archdiocese of Mexico on its website appear to closely skirt the restriction.

But the issue is a sensitive one in Mexico, where harsh anti-clerical laws sparked the 1926-1929 Cristero war, an uprising by Roman Catholic rebels against Mexico's secular government in which tens of thousands of people died. While loosened in the 1990s, many restrictions on church activities in Mexico remain.

The latest guidelines do not mention any party, saying only that Catholics cannot "choose as a political option those who support or promote false rights or liberties that attack the teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures, tradition and doctrine of the Church."

That appeared to be a reference to gay marriage and abortion rights, both of which the church has hotly opposed.

The guidelines also say Catholics "should be alert to the commitments of the candidates and their parties to respect the foremost of all rights, which is the right to life, from the moment of conception."

The suggestions appear aimed especially at candidates of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, which has enacted both gay marriage and legalized abortion in Mexico City, which it governs.

The publication comes just over a month before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit central Mexico from March 23 to 26.

— Associated Press

Missouri measure would allow state to fund religious schools

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