Religion news in brief

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 8 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

According to the state Department of Public Health, 1,056 children entering kindergarten and seventh grade last year received exemptions. That's up by 127 percent increase from 2003, when the state recorded 465 such exemptions.

Vaccination coverage in Connecticut still remains high, with more than 97 percent receiving various vaccinations.

A medical exemption excuses a child because of an allergic, pediatric cancer or HIV or other immune disorders.

State health officials say 111 cases of pertussis, a contagious bacterial disease, have been reported this year and that the state could reach a 10-year high. Last year, there were 68 cases.

Accused pot grower says he didn't know it was on church property

GROVE CITY, Pa. — A western Pennsylvania man who was arrested and charged with growing marijuana on a church's property says he had no idea who the land belonged to.

State police arrested 28-year-old Jason Como last week after the Beloved Disciples Church reported that two suspected marijuana plants were growing on their property in Grove City, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh.

Como says he's a Christian and that he wouldn't have planted the pot there if he'd known the land belonged to a church. Como also says it was for personal use.

Authorities found a small path that led from the plants to the back yard of a nearby home.

Como was charged with manufacturing and cultivating a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

No injuries reported as church in South Georgia collapses

THOMASVILLE, Ga. — Members of a south Georgia congregation are planning their next steps after their church building collapsed.

Church members gathered on Labor Day morning at a pile of rubble that housed St. Thomas AME Church in Thomasville for the past 88 years.

Children playing nearby heard a loud noise coming from the direction of the church last Saturday afternoon.

Pastor Clement Choice's wife, Pat, says church members then discovered that the roof had fallen into to the middle of the building.

No one was injured. Authorities say three nearby houses were evacuated after the collapse when it was feared the church bell tower might fall onto a transformer.

Church members said they've had concerns about structural issues, and had been holding services elsewhere in recent months.

Ex-Harvest Fellowship nondenominational megachurch site in San Antonio sold for development

SAN ANTONIO — A former megachurch complex in San Antonio has been sold as the congregation of about 3,000 dwindled to a couple of hundred.

Harvest Fellowship Community Church in late August sold the buildings and property to a development company. The nondenominational, evangelical church's Loop 1604 site includes 60,000 square feet of facility space.

Terms of the deal with 1604 TC LP haven't been released.

Elder David Keith says there are not enough members to support the buildings and the mortgage. Keith says the congregation, which will worship at the site through 2013 as part of a lease, hopes to operate without debt.

Membership began to decline after Senior Pastor Peter Spencer, who founded the church in 1988, left in 2003.

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