Christian program OK’d by Ky. judge

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – A Christians-only health plan that serves nearly 20,000 churchgoers nationwide can continue operating in Kentucky, a judge has ruled.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas D. Wingate ruled Jan. 18 that the Medi-Share program isn’t insurance and therefore doesn’t violate the state’s insurance laws.

The Kentucky Office of Insurance had asked Wingate to ban the program because it is not subject to the same laws and regulations that govern conventional health insurance companies.

Pope: Promote mutual peace

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI called on followers of all faiths to denounce violence and promote mutual understanding, in remarks to the new Turkish ambassador to the Vatican.

The pontiff stressed the need for inter-religious cooperation in a world “where tensions seem to be exacerbated.”

“The faithful of the various religions must make an effort to work together for peace, starting with denouncing violence – which has been used too often in the past with the pretext of religious motivations – and learning to know and respect each other better in order to build an increasingly brotherly society,” the pope said Jan. 19.

The pope traveled to Turkey Nov. 28-Dec. 1. During the visit, which came weeks after his remarks about Islam and violence that had angered much of the Muslim world, Benedict visited Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. He promised greater understanding and dialogue with Islam.

“During my memorable trip, I have expressed repeatedly the Catholic Church’s respect for Islam, and the esteem of the pope and the faithful for Muslim believers,” Benedict told the ambassador, Muammer Dogan Akdur.

“Necessary dialogue between religious authorities at all levels begins in everyday life with mutual respect and esteem among believers of all religions,” the pope said.

Ex-nun suing university appeals

ERIE, Pa. (AP) – A former Roman Catholic nun is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her appeal in a civil rights case against Gannon University, a private Catholic school.

Lynette Petruska claims she was forced to resign from the university in Erie after helping expose a priest’s alleged misconduct.

But in September, a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the “ministerial exception” barred it from considering her claims.

Under the exception, courts avoid deciding legal disputes between religious institutions and clergy to protect the rights of denominations to govern their affairs according to their beliefs.

Petruska, who now works as an attorney in St. Louis, contends that ministers should not have to give up protection from other kinds of discrimination, such as race or gender.

Petruska was the first woman chaplain at Gannon, which she claims demoted her in 2002 and forced her to resign because of her gender, and because she helped expose an alleged cover-up involving a priest who took a leave of absence after he was accused of having an affair with a woman.