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Ted Cruz condemns Nathan Deal's veto of 'religious liberty' bill

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Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has made advocating for “religious liberty” measures a staple of his platform, criticized Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal for his decision to reject Georgia’s latest version of legislation that would allow faith-based organizations to refuse to serve someone if doing so would violate a "sincerely held religious belief" or to hire someone "whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either" violate its religion.

It would also allow religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and protect any individual who refuses to attend a marriage that conflicts with his or her faith.

>>Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes religious liberty bill 

"I thought that was very disappointing to see Gov. Deal of Georgia side with leftist activists and side against religious liberty," Cruz said. "It used to be, political parties, we would argue about marginal tax rates and you could have disagreements about what the level of taxation should be. But on religious liberty, on protecting the rights of every American to practice, live according to our faith, live according to our conscience, we all came together. That ought to be a bipartisan commitment and I was disappointed not to see Gov. Deal not defend religious liberty."

Cruz' remarks don't come as a surprise.

Backers of what became House Bill 757 and the Cruz campaign created somewhat of a symbiotic relationship with each other, hoping that each would get the other across the finish line.

Retired neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson also expressed his dismay, quoting the New Testament in a Facebook post:

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>As a nation founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs; the very notion of this essential ideal is the cornerstone of our...Posted by Dr. Ben Carson on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A group of “religious liberty” proponents will assemble at the Georgia state Capitol Tuesday morning for a press conference -- presumably to push the call for a special session to override Deal’s veto of HB 757. A three-fifths vote by each chamber would be required for the General Assembly to call itself into session.

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But at least until May 3, it may be tough to find lawmakers willing to jump up and support an override session. That’s because the governor of Georgia has the line-item veto and can pencil out specific funding projects in the districts of rebellious members of the House and Senate. 

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes religious liberty bill

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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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According to the governor’s office, the bill "doesn't reflect the character of (Georgia) or the character of our people." Deal said state legislators should leave freedom of religion and freedom of speech to the U.S. Constitution.

“Efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment,” he said.

Many people have been waiting to see whether Deal would sign the bill. He has received a lot of pressure from gay rights groups and companies, including AMC, Disney and Google, that don't support the bill. The bill triggered waves of criticism and presented Deal with one of the biggest challenges he’s faced since his election to Georgia’s top office.

Several companies and businesses have been vocal in opposing the bill, saying it encourages discrimination.

"The negatives will be unbelievable," Hyatt Regency Atlanta general manager Peter McMahon said.

McMahon told WSBTV that he believed that his hotel could lose $1 million in business over the next 18 months if Deal signed the bill. The Human Rights Campaign called on Hollywood film companies to abandon Georgia if Deal signed the measure, and the NFL warned that it could risk Atlanta’s bid for future Super Bowls.

Deal, who is in his final term, officially had until May 3 to act on the bill.

The measure, which surfaced on March 16, would bar government penalties against faith-based organizations that refuse to serve someone if doing so would violate a "sincerely held religious belief" or hire someone "whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either" violate its religion. It includes language based on a federal "religious freedom restoration act," which prevents government from burdening religious belief.

Public employees who refuse to perform their duties, such as a probate judge issuing marriage licenses, would not be covered. The bill says it doesn't permit discrimination prohibited by federal or state law.

It also would allow religious officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and protect any individual who refuses to attend a marriage that conflicts with his or her faith.

The governor’s veto will likely infuriate religious conservatives who considered the measure, House Bill 757, their top priority. This is the third legislative session in which they have sought to strengthen legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage, but last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex weddings galvanized their efforts.

It is also likely to herald a more acrimonious relationship between Deal, who campaigned on a pro-business platform, and the evangelical wing of the Georgia Republican Party. Prominent conservatives vowed to revive the measure next year if Deal chose not to sign it.

Read more here.

Coffee stand workers pray with woman grieving husband

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A Washington woman who was grieving the loss of her husband had no idea that a normal visit to a local coffee stand would change her day for the better.

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"(I) snapped this picture while waiting in line at the Dutch Bros. (coffee stand) today," an onlooker wrote on Facebook. "Turns out the young lady in line ahead of us lost her 37-year-old husband last night." 

The witness, Barbara Danner, said the scene was one of "prayer and support."

According to KPTV, Dutch Bros. employees Pierce Dunn and Evan Freeman were trained not only to provide drinks and items to customers, but also exceptional customer service through genuine connections. 

When a customer approached the service window in tears, a female coworker told Dunn and Freeman, "She's just having a really bad day. Her husband passed."

"As soon as she said that, I was like, 'There's nothing more you need to say. We got this. We're going to do what we do every time we get someone who’s in pain or hurt. We're going to give them our love,'" Freeman told KPTV.

Freeman and Dunn gave the woman a free drink, and then they started to pray with her. 

"Basically, I just said, like, you know, I really want her to have peace over the situation … help the mourning of her and her family," Dunn said. 

That's when Danner took the picture. It has been shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times. 

Coffee stand owner Jessica Chudek said that when she heard about the story, she was filled with emotion, but she didn't know the incident occurred at the location she owned.

"I thought, 'That's great our company does that and we can show love out the window that way.' I started studying it a little more and I said, 'Wait, that's Evan and Pierce! That's my stand, those are my kids!' So it just brought me to tears right then," she said. 

"When I saw the picture, I (was) like, 'This is a normal day at work. We're doing what we do every day,'" said Freeman, who said he never thought the moment would gain viral attention.

"If every single person did an act of kindness or just had a smile on their face, the world would be a completely different place," said Dunn, who hopes to have inspired others. 

Snapped this picture while waiting in line at the Dutch Bros on 138th Avenue today. Turns out the young lady in line...Posted by Barbara Danner on Saturday, March 19, 2016

Mother Teresa to be made saint

Man defends religious rights, wears fox hat in license picture

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An Oregon man's driver's license picture has become the focal point of a constitutional rights case study.

He goes by the name Bishop, and he says he wears a fox hat to honor his religion.

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"I'm a practitioner of the Seven Drums religion," Bishop said. "It's one of the (Native American) Nez Perce religions where we all have a wild animal totem."

Bishop says his animal is a fox, so he wears the hat as a symbol of that spirit wherever he goes.

The DMV office let him wear it when he took his new license picture. However, the application was denied, leaving him without a license for nine months.

"For our facial recognition software to work, we need people to remove any hat or facial gear that obscures their face," a spokesman for the DMV said.

Bradley Steinman, Bishop's lawyer, helped him resolve the case.

"Religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of the United States," Steinman said. "It's one of the things that makes our country the greatest country on the earth."

Bishop said his religious freedoms were violated, so he decided to fight back. He eventually won his appeal, but now he wants to warn others to stick up for their rights no matter what it takes.

"It shouldn't matter if you wear a yarmulke or a hijab or 'a silly fox hat,' as the man at the DMV wants to call it," Bishop said.

SXSW apologizes for asking Olympic fencer to remove hijab

Video includes clips from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Embassy London and images from Getty Images.

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U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad said she was recently asked to remove her hijab during a popular event. 

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In a series of tweets Saturday, Muhammad said a South by Southwest employee asked her to remove her hijab for an ID photo. Muhammad said she was also given the wrong ID badge shortly thereafter. 

Muhammad, who wears the hijab for religious purposes, will be the first U.S. Olympic athlete to wear a hijab during competition in the 2016 Summer Olympics. She's also the first Muslim woman to compete for the U.S. national team in fencing. 

Muhammad was in attendance to speak at a SXSW presentation called "The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life."

After her "crappy experience checking in," SXSW officials said they personally apologized to Muhammad and released a statement, saying: 

"It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge. This was one volunteer who made an insensitive request and that person has been removed for the duration of the event."

Donald Trump slams Pope Francis’ remarks on his faith

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Donald Trump just took on perhaps a foe even he can’t tackle: Pope Francis.

The pope, during a news conference aboard the papal airliner, told reporters, this, according to The New York Times:

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump, never one to back down from ANY fight, was quick to respond. Thus said the Donald, via a statement released by his campaign:

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.  

Catholic bishops not obligated to report clerical sex abuse, Vatican says

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A Vatican training manual tells newly appointed bishops they have no obligation to report allegations of clerical sexual abuse to authorities, according to multiple reports.

The instructions were part of a Vatican training manual outlining how senior clergy should respond to allegations of abuse.

“It's a legalistic take on a critical issue, one which has brought only trouble for the church and its leaders,” wrote Cruxnow.com Associate Editor John Allen. The Catholic news site was the first to report on the documents and criticized the church for failing to focus further on abuse prevention.

Instead, the church said the duty to report lies with the families of abuse victims. Clergy members are only obligated to investigate the allegations internally but encouraged the bishops to know the local legal requirements, The Independent reported.

"According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds," the training document says, according to The Independent.

The guidelines were written by Tony Anatrella, a controversial monsignor and psychotherapist who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Guardian reported.

“While acknowledging that 'the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children,' the training guide emphasizes statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assault against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbors, not other authority figures,” the newspaper reported.

Since 2001, the Vatican has been training newly appointed bishops on how to deal with reports of clerical sexual abuse. So far the training has reached 30 percent of the world's Catholic bishops, according to Cruxnow.com.

Pope baptizes 26 babies in celebration of Jesus' baptism

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Pope Francis baptized 26 baby boys and girls Sunday, marking the day Catholic doctrine says Jesus was baptized. 

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The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord is a tradition for Catholics worldwide, occurring the Sunday after Epiphany. The pope's celebration took place at the Sistine Chapel. (Video via CNN)

While the Catholic Church doesn't have an age limit for baptizing, typically infants raised in Catholic homes are baptized and dedicated shortly after birth. 

The pope encouraged parents to raise the newly baptized infants Catholic and told mothers to nurse when needed during Mass. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images and Davezelenka / CC BY SA 3.0

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