- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thousands march for Iraqi Christians

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Thousands of people demonstrated outside European Union headquarters to demand protection for Christians in Iraq, saying they were increasingly being targeted in attacks.

Iraqi religious leaders led the protesters, whom police prevented from marching toward the U.S. Embassy. Organizers said 4,000 to 7,000 had come for April 19 demonstration from several European countries. Police put the turnout figure at more than 3,000.

“Christians in the Middle East are being assassinated and massacred,” Iraqi priest Jacob Idine said. “Above all, religious leaders, the archbishops and priests, are being killed in cold blood in Iraq.”

Islamic extremists have killed prominent members of Iraq’s Christian community in recent weeks. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians are thought to have fled since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

LA archdiocese uses schools as collateral

LOS ANGELES — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles is using its school properties to help pay part of a record $660 million to reputed victims of clergy sex abuse.

Spokesman Tod Tamberg said the diocese has put up six high schools as collateral on a $50 million loan to go toward the settlement.

He said five of the schools are in no danger of closing because of the action. A sixth already was scheduled to close in June.

In July 2007, a judge approved a $660 million settlement between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and more than 500 reputed victims of clergy abuse. It’s the largest payout yet in a nationwide sex-abuse scandal that has cost the church more than $2 billion and forced six dioceses to declare bankruptcy.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has said the settlement would not affect core ministry, but the church would have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds and borrow money.

The archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years.

Judge nixes giveaway of Bibles in schools

NEW ORLEANS — Tangipahoa Parish public schools must stop in-school Bible giveaways to students, a federal judge ruled.

“Distribution of Bibles is a religious activity without a secular purpose” and amounts to school board promotion of Christianity, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier ruled.

As requested by both sides, Judge Barbier made a summary judgment based only on the written briefs — something judges may do only if the law is absolutely clear.

But lawyer Christopher M. Moody said he thinks the Tangipahoa Parish School Board is likely to ask the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Barbier’s decision, though he hadn’t yet consulted with the board. “We think there’s a very good chance” of a reversal, he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed the suit for an anonymous family whose daughter said she felt pressured into taking a Bible even though she doesn’t believe in God. The girl was called Jane Roe and her father John Roe out of fear of retaliation by schoolmates and neighbors, the ACLU has said.

“Jane Roe states that she accepted the Bible because if she did not, her classmates would have ‘picked on’ her,” wrote Judge Barbier, a 1998 appointee of President Clinton. “She feared they would call her ‘devil worshipper.’ ”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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