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Religion news in brief

Wednesday - 5/15/2013, 7:30pm  ET

The Associated Press

Scottish cardinal to atone for sexual misconduct

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican has ordered a disgraced Scottish cardinal to leave Scotland for several months to pray and atone for sexual misconduct, issuing a rare public sanction against a "prince of the church" and the first such punishment meted out by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and recused himself from the March conclave that elected Francis pope after a newspaper reported unnamed priests' allegations that he acted inappropriately toward them.

O'Brien subsequently acknowledged he had engaged in unspecified sexual misbehavior. He apologized and promised to stay out of the church's public life.

On Wednesday, the Vatican said O'Brien, once Britain's highest-ranking Catholic leader, would leave Scotland for several months of "spiritual renewal, prayer and penance" for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the conclave.

The statement didn't specify that the decision was imposed on O'Brien by the Vatican as punishment, and in fact went out of its way to suggest that the decision was O'Brien's. But in the past, wayward priests have been sanctioned by the Vatican with punishments of "prayer and penance," and the statement made clear Francis supported the move and that the Holy See would decide his future fate.

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Kan. prison officials charge doctor's killer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The man convicted of killing one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers is now accused of trying to intimidate the woman who reopened his shuttered clinic, prison officials said.

The Kansas Department of Corrections said Tuesday it filed an administrative charge against inmate Scott Roeder under a prison regulation which prohibits threatening or intimidating anyone. The 55-year-old abortion opponent is serving a life sentence at the state prison in Lansing for gunning down George Tiller in May 2009 at the physician's Wichita church.

The administrative charge stems from a recorded jailhouse phone call that Dave Leach, an abortion opponent from Des Moines, Iowa, posted on YouTube last month that as of Wednesday had gotten 629 views. In it, Leach is heard saying that if someone shot the new abortion provider like Roeder shot Tiller it would be "a blessing to the babies." He called reopening the clinic where Tiller practiced "a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight."

Roeder laughed and agree with Leach, saying on the recording that it was "death-defying" for someone to walk back into that clinic.

"To walk in there and reopen a clinic, a murder mill where a man was stopped, it's almost like putting a target on your back -- saying, "Well, let's see if you can shoot me," Roeder said.

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Singapore church on trial in pop star scandal

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore opened a long-anticipated corruption trial Wednesday of six church leaders accused of embezzling more than $40 million to fund the pop music career of the wife of their evangelical movement's founder.

City Harvest Church faithful queued at a Singapore court overnight and packed the public gallery to show support for the accused who prosecutors say diverted the congregation's funds into "sham" investments to advance the career of aspiring star Ho Yeow Sun, popularly known as Sun Ho.

The church with affiliates in neighboring Malaysia and other countries is one of Singapore's richest and biggest, with membership of more than 30,000. It is known in the region for staging large-scale, elaborate services resembling pop concerts which are conducted by Ho's husband, Kong Hee.

The prosecution's opening statement ridiculed the contention of church leaders that pop music was a tool of evangelism that would help spread God's message. It said Ho recorded and launched secular music albums to influence people "who would never choose to step foot into a church to listen to a preacher."

Investments by the church in two companies, Xtron Productions and Firna, were in substance fake transactions that were orchestrated by the accused who were all involved in the planning and financing of Ho's music career, according to prosecutors.

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Fired gay Ohio teacher: Union won't back complaint

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A gay teacher challenging her firing by an Ohio Catholic school says the local union for Catholic educators has decided not to proceed with her complaint.

Carla Hale said Monday the grievance committee for the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators isn't supporting her efforts to get back her job as a physical-education teacher. The association hasn't returned telephone calls seeking comment.

Hale also filed a complaint with the city of Columbus, which prohibits firings based on sexual orientation.

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