Religion news in brief
Obama to faith leaders: No immigration fix planned
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has told religious leaders that he has no plans to make unilateral changes to the nation's immigration laws.
That's according to the Rev. Luis Cortes, president of the Hispanic faith-based organization Esperanza. He was among six religious leaders who met with Obama in the Oval Office Tuesday. Wesleyan, Baptist and Mormon leaders also were there.
Cortes says Obama told them that "he would not be doing anything to change the law as it currently exists." The president's comments come as advocates press the White House to take executive actions to halt some deportations given that immigration reform efforts on Capitol Hill are stalled.
The White House says Obama told the religious leaders that while his administration can take steps to administer immigration laws, only Congress can permanently fix the broken system.
Vatican responds to next round of UN abuse inquiry
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican has responded to the latest round of U.N. sex abuse inquiries by suggesting it is only responsible for implementing a U.N. treaty against torture within the confines of the tiny Vatican City State.
The Vatican issued a statement Tuesday ahead of a May 5-6 hearing that will likely delve into the Vatican's failures to stop clergy sex abuse around the globe. Another U.N. committee interrogated the Holy See about abuse in January.
In an indication that it will seek to limit its responsibility, the Vatican said it signed the torture treaty in 2002 "exclusively in the name of and on behalf of" the 110-acre Vatican City State, where fewer than 1,000 people live. The Vatican said it will "undertake its obligations on behalf of that state."
New York police end Muslim surveillance program
NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Police Department says it has disbanded a special unit whose efforts to try to detect terror threats in Muslim communities through secret surveillance sparked outrage.
The NYPD confirmed the decision on Tuesday.
The surveillance program by the NYPD Intelligence Division had come under fire by community activists who accused the department of abusing civil rights.
The program relied on plainclothes officers to eavesdrop on people in bookstores, restaurants and mosques. The tactic was detailed in a series of stories by The Associated Press and became the subject of two federal lawsuits.
English city probes Islamic influence in schools
LONDON (AP) - The English city of Birmingham has expanded its probe into an alleged Muslim plot to greatly expand Islamic influence in the city's schools.
The investigation announced Monday will look into 25 schools after more than 200 complaints were received.
The complaints focus on allegations made in an anonymous letter known as Operation Trojan Horse that was leaked. It claimed that a group of radical Muslims had plans to force out teachers and administrators who resisted plans to increase the observance of Islamic customs in schools. The letter's authenticity has not been verified.
Birmingham's City Council and the Department for Education are both investigating complaints that boys and girls have been segregated in class, that sex education has been banned and that non-Muslim staff have been bullied.
Blessing of the Fleet tradition continues
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest has prayed over the boats and crews in Pass Christian, Miss.
Father Mike Austin, who pastors a local parish, strode along the docks Sunday sprinkling holy water on each boat and pausing to bless their crews in the 38th annual Pass Christian Blessing of the fleet.
He asked God for a good, prosperous fishing season for the working boats, fun on the water for the owners of pleasure craft, "and safety for all." Austin said he also prayed for protection from hurricanes.
The Sun Herald reports that one point the priest went aboard a Vietnamese fishing boat. Not quite understanding what the fishermen were asking, he found they wanted him to bless the Virgin Mary statue they carry aboard the boat.