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Church graduations ruled unconstitutional

A Milwaukee school district can no longer hold graduations at a megachurch with superior facilities, according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The full court reversed an earlier decision (by a three-judge panel) and ruled 7-3 that ceremonies held from 2000 to 2009 at Elmbrook Church put "a spiritual capstone on an otherwise-secular education," citing the presence of a 20-foot cross, Bibles, and banners in the sanctuary. Dissenting judges argued it was obvious that Elmbrook School District did not endorse the message of the iconography; one judge noted that "hypersensitivity is not a First Amendment principle."

Pastor accused of diverting funds to wife

SINGAPORE The pastor of Singapore's largest megachurch has been accused of diverting $18 million from church funds to finance his wife's ministry-related singing career. The city-state's Commissioner of Charities accused Kong Hee and other pastors at 30,000-member City Harvest Church of siphoning off funds to the Crossover Project, the music outreach ministry of Kong's wife Sun Ho, under the guise of contributions to a sister church in Malaysia. The church stood behind its accused leaders, denying any misuse of funds and continuing its regular worship services and activities.

State will catalogue secularized icons

Rhode Island lawmakers hope to avoid future litigation over religious icons on public property. They are creating a commission to note which icons have lost religious significance. The legislation was crafted in response to controversy over a memorial cross in front of the Woonsocket Fire Department headquarters; national and local atheist groups have split over suing for its removal.

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September 2012

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