Leaders split over stem cell research

WASHINGTON (AP) – Religious leaders are split over Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s decision to reverse course and support more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was “brokenhearted” by Frist’s announcement last week. “I could not disagree with him more,” Land said.

Roman Catholic Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, who leads the American bishops’ Committee for Pro-life Activities, called the senator’s reasoning “disturbing.”

“Such destruction of innocent human life, even out of a desire to help others, rests on a utilitarian view that undermines human dignity,” Keeler said.

Nigerian governor rallies thousands

KANO, Nigeria (AP) – Thousands rallied in northern Nigeria’s largest city in support of keeping men and women separated on public transportation, in accordance with a Muslim tradition.

The governor of the northern state of Kano, Ibrahim Shekarau, told a crowd of around 10,000 people July 26 that thousands of uniformed security forces would ensure that men and women no longer sit together on the same buses.

“Our aim is to be at the forefront of conducting our activities decently and to protect Allah’s Shariah,” or Islamic law, Shekarau said at the rally in Kano’s main soccer stadium.

Many in Kano, particularly members of the Christian minority, oppose the new law. Officially Shariah is not applicable to Christians in Nigeria, but in practice many Christians say they are forced to comply.

Archbishop’s deposition delayed

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A federal bankruptcy judge has agreed to postpone the deposition of Roman Catholic Archbishop William Levada in the Portland Archdiocese sex abuse bankruptcy case.

Levada was the Archbishop of Portland from 1986-1995, then served as San Francisco’s archbishop and in May was appointed head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which enforces Catholic teachings. It is the post held by former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election as Pope Benedict XVI.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris, in an order signed July 29, agreed to allow Levada to give a deposition in Portland on Jan. 12 rather than this month.

The judge said Levada must agree to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court and waive any diplomatic immunity he may have or acquire because of his new position at the Vatican, which is a sovereign state.

The court filings also state that Levada will let the scope of his testimony and the validity of any privileges he may claim be decided by the court. Archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce said he did not know whether Levada had signed the agreement.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers want Levada to explain how he responded to abuse claims in Portland.

Last month, attorneys for the church offered to make Levada available if he could choose which questions he would answer, but plaintiffs’ lawyers rejected the proposal.

In July 2004, the Portland Archdiocese became the first in the nation to file for bankruptcy protection in the face of millions of dollars in clergy sex abuse claims. Dioceses in Tucson, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash., followed suit.

The Tucson Diocese settled its case last month.

Navajo Nation president signs peyote bill into law

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. has signed a law that makes it legal for Navajos to transport and possess peyote for ceremonial purposes on Navajo Nation land.

The new tribal law also allows peyote that Navajo police confiscate from people who have it illegally to be given to the Native American Church to be used for approved ceremonies.

Shirley said the legislation is a way to preserve the Navajo way of life.

The Navajo Tribal Council approved the measure by a 63-1 vote. The July 29 signing included an all-night ceremony in a sacred teepee near the Navajo Nation Museum. Officials at the event stressed the importance of using peyote properly.

Peyote is used for meditation and spiritual ties both in the Native American Church and other ceremonies. Ceremonial peyote is not smoked, but ingested as a powder.

Smoking peyote is not allowed under the new law.

Peyote, a cactus plant that causes hallucinogenic effects when ingested, is classified by U.S. law as a controlled substance and it is illegal to possess in the United States, but the use of it by the Native American Church is allowed.

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