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The Associated Press | November 6, 2013 11:14 AM EST | AP


Legislative prayer gets Supreme Court review

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is weighing the constitutionality of a town council's opening prayers.

The case being argued Wednesday involves prayers offered by local clergy at the start of town council meetings in Greece, N.Y.

A federal appeals court said they violated the Constitution because nearly every prayer in an 11-year span was overtly Christian.

Greece is being backed by the Obama administration and many conservative groups in arguing that the court settled this issue 30 years ago when it held that an opening prayer is part of the nation's fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment. Some of those groups want the court to go further and get rid of other limits on religious expression in the public sphere.

On the other side are two town residents who sued over the prayers and the liberal groups that support them. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens say they and others who attend the meetings are a captive audience and should not be subjected to sectarian prayers.

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Gay rights bill moves forward as opposition silent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators are seeking broader religious exemptions in a bill that would outlaw discrimination against gays in the workplace.

The bill would bar employers with 15 or more workers from using a person's sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation or promotion. The bill would exempt religious institutions and the military.

Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., are crafting an amendment to the bill that also would prevent federal, state and local governments from retaliating against religious groups that are exempt from the law.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., was working on an amendment to expand the number of groups that are covered under the religious exemption.

The measure faces strong opposition in the House, where Speaker John Boehner maintains that it is unnecessary and could prove too expensive and litigious for businesses.

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Religious leaders rally against proposed pipeline

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A group of Catholic nuns who successfully redirected the route of a proposed pipeline off their land in Kentucky are joining other religious leaders protesting the ongoing project.

The Sisters of Loretto, along with members of Baptist, Presbyterian and Unitarian churches, delivered a 36,000-signature petition to Gov. Steve Beshear's office at the state Capitol Tuesday. The group of about 50 demonstrators called on the governor to oppose the project. They say the pipeline, which would carry flammable natural gas liquids through 14 counties, is a threat to the environment.

An office staffer accepted the petition from the group as they gathered inside the governor's office and sang a religious hymn.

The company building the Bluegrass Pipeline is currently securing easements along the project's proposed 180-mile path in Kentucky.

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West Point hosts first wedding between 2 men

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Two graduates of West Point are the first men to marry each other at the military academy.

Larry Choate III married Daniel Lennox Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Military Academy's Cadet Chapel.

Both men are out of the Army and both wore tuxedoes for the ceremony. About 20 guests attended, some in uniform.

The 28-year-old Lennox is getting his master's degree in business administration at Harvard University. The 27-year-old Choate, who used to teach Sunday school at the chapel, is applying to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

West Point hosted two same-sex weddings of women in 2012, more than a year after New York legalized gay marriage. But Saturday's wedding was the first between two men at West Point.

Chaplain Cynthia Lindenmeyer officiated.

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Palin, Trump to attend Billy Graham's birthday

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The Rev. Billy Graham will celebrate his 95th birthday Thursday with a party in Asheville, N.C., and a national telecast of his pre-recorded evangelistic program "My Hope America."

His son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, says hundreds of thousands of Christians have been praying for friends, neighbors and relatives to join them in watching the broadcast and hear Billy Graham's invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In Asheville, meanwhile, 800 people are expected to attend the elder Graham's birthday party, including Christian singer Michael W. Smith, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Franklin Graham says his father will attend, but doesn't plan to speak and won't be able to shake everyone's hand.