- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

GEORGIA

Gay Lutheran pastor appeals defrocking

ATLANTA — The pastor of Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church has appealed a ruling by a church disciplinary committee to defrock him because he has a homosexual lover.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling filed the appeal in an attempt to prompt the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow open homosexuals as clergy, his spokeswoman said this week. Mr. Schmeling revealed that he was homosexual to the 350-member congregation at St. John’s Lutheran Church and to his bishop before he was hired there in 2000.

But when Mr. Schmeling announced last year that he had found a boyfriend, Bishop Ronald Warren asked the 44-year-old pastor to resign. When Mr. Schmeling refused, Bishop Warren started disciplinary proceedings against him that led to a closed-door January trial.

The panel ordered Mr. Schmeling to leave the pulpit on Aug. 15.

It will take a least two months for the appeals committee to reach a decision, said ELCA spokesman John Brooks.

NORTH DAKOTA

Freethinkers seek nonreligious marker

FARGO — A group that unsuccessfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from public property near City Hall is seeking permission for another monument.

The Red River Freethinkers wants to erect a monument on the mall that will “have a different message, saying, ‘You are free to worship as you please,’ ” said Jon Lindgren, a former mayor and leader of the Freethinkers.

“The Ten Commandments has a religious directive on it, which is to believe in this God and only this God, and it sits on public property, so it kind of implies that our government is telling you to believe in God,” Mr. Lindgren said.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson had ruled that the monument celebrates both religious and secular ideals and therefore does not violate the Constitution. However, Judge Erickson also stated that “this Court is convinced that the public would perceive this mall as a public forum.”

The Freethinkers’ monument would refer to a 1796 peace treaty between the United States and Tripoli, which states in part, “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city is bound to provide equal space for different ideas, as long as the monument is not offensive.

PENNSYLVANIA

Road upgrade dooms ‘Turnpike Church’

NEW BALTIMORE— A popular roadside attraction known as the “Turnpike Church” will soon be a thing of the past because of a highway upgrade.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission plans to remove the steps leading to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The two sets of concrete stairs, which climb out of the Pennsylvania Turnpike on both sides to the church, will be removed as part of an eight-mile upgrade of the roadway.

The steps have been a curiosity for generations of motorists. Over the years, countless travelers have pulled over to walk to the church.

“We’ve had people from all over the world,” said past parish council President Tom Wambaugh.

Church officials believe the steps, built a half-century ago, were part of a deal that required graves of Carmelite priests who lived in the monastery to be moved.

But having steps so close to the highway is too risky, said turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo. They encourage drivers to slow down or pull over on a highway where the speed limit is 65 mph. The steps are slated to be removed in 2009, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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