- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

DES MOINES, IOWA (AP) - The former chief executive of an embattled kosher slaughterhouse who has been charged with fraud, money laundering and other crimes is asking a judge to plan court proceedings so they don’t conflict with Jewish holidays.

In the notice filed Monday, attorneys for Sholom Rubashkin said their client has “carefully reviewed his faith calendar” with his rabbi. The list includes about 30 days for religious observance or preparation during which he asked that court proceedings not be held.

Rubashkin, 49, is scheduled to stand trial in September.

The former manager of Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville faces 97 counts of immigration violations, bank fraud, money laundering and other charges.

He and three other defendants, along with the company, were indicted after 389 people, most from Mexico and Guatemala, were arrested in an immigration raid at the plant last year.

The raid put a spotlight on claims of worker abuse at the plant, once the nation’s largest kosher meatpacker. Agriprocessors and its top managers, including Rubashkin and his father, Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, have been accused of more than 9,300 violations of Iowa’s child labor laws.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is producing only at a limited capacity.

This is not the first time Rubashkin’s religion has been a focal point of court proceedings.

Attorneys for Rubashkin and the plant sought a dismissal of charges saying grand jury proceedings were tainted by anti-Semitism and improper comments about religion and race. A federal judge rejected the motion this month.

Federal prosecutors had argued that Rubashkin should remain in jail because they worried he would flee to Israel, where the country’s Law of Return, which gives Jews citizenship, would make it difficult to extradite him. Jewish groups complained that Rubashkin was being treated differently than other defendants because he’s Jewish. He was eventually released on bond.


Catholic bishop boycotts anti-abortion event with GOP Chairman Steele

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ Roman Catholic Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger plans to boycott an anti-abortion group’s annual dinner because of the views of the keynote speaker, Michael Steele, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Steele, a Catholic, said in an interview with GQ magazine that abortion was “an individual choice.” He later said that he opposes abortion and believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Gettelfinger, head of the Diocese of Evansville, spoke to Steele by phone last week and has received a copy of the GOP chairman’s statement, said the diocesan spokesman, Paul Leingang.

However, the bishop said abortion opponents should remain unequivocal in stating those beliefs, and Steele had not done so in the GQ interview.

Gettelfinger has attended the Vanderburgh County Right to Life dinner every year for at least a decade, Leingang said. This year’s dinner, set for April 16, also features Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected head of the GOP national committee less than two months ago. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee did not respond to a request for comment.


Music church can hold limited number of concerts under deal with county

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A nondenominational church formed for people who love “jam band” music can hold a limited number of concerts annually under a deal that ends a religious freedom lawsuit.

Officials in Fayette County had said that William Pritts incorporated the Church of Universal Love and Music to circumvent zoning restrictions on his land. Pritts sued in federal court in 2006, accusing the county of denying him a religious-use zoning exemption.

According to the agreement filed last Friday, Pritts can hold concerts throughout six weekends each year and on six additional Saturdays.

The dispute began in 2001, when Pritts sought a zoning exemption to hold concerts on 147 acres of land he owns in Bullskin Township, about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Neighbors raised concerns about traffic, noise and safety after Pritts told the county that each concert could attract up to 4,000 people. Many concertgoers would also camp at the site.

Pritts incorporated the church in 2002, but his attorneys said it dates back to 1985.




Greece returns stolen medieval church paintings to Italian authorities

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Greece has returned to Italy two pieces of medieval frescoes stolen from an Italian church more than 25 years ago.

The 13th century religious paintings were handed over to Italian authorities in Athens on Monday, the Culture Ministry said.

The two fragments of wall paintings were stolen in 1982 from a chapel at Grotta delle Fornelle, in Italy’s southern Caserta region.

The works were retrieved in 2006, during a raid by Greek police on a villa on the Aegean Sea islet of Schoinoussa in which dozens of illegal antiquities were seized, officials said.

Greek and Italian authorities are closely cooperating to fight the theft and illegal trade in antiquities and works of art.

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