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News Brief


This article was published August 2, 2014 at 3:01 a.m.

Muslims in Joplin

celebrate mosque

JOPLIN, Mo. — Two years after Muslims in Joplin suffered the traumatic loss of their place of worship at the hands of an arsonist, a $2 million mosque has opened.

Families gathered Monday for the first time to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Navid Zaidi, a pulmonologist originally from Pakistan, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the mosque means a lot to the small Muslim community in the southwest Missouri town.

“It’s been a lengthy road, but we did it,” Zaidi, 48, said.

A man awaiting trial for setting fire twice to a Planned Parenthood clinic is also suspected of burning down the mosque in 2012. He has not been charged.

— The Associated Press

U.S.: Religious strife

has displaced millions

WASHINGTON — The United States says millions of people were driven out of their homes because of their religious beliefs last year.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday released the State Department’s 2013 report on religious persecution around the world.

It says that in conflict zones, mass displacement has become the norm. Hundreds of thousands of minority Christians have fled Syria after three years of civil war, and in June Islamic militants forced Iraqi Christians to leave Mosul or face execution.

The report also highlighted more than a million people being displaced in the Central African Republic amid an upsurge in Christian-Muslim violence.

— The Associated Press

Ex radio host pleads

guilty to child porn

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former host at a popular Christian radio station in western Michigan has pleaded guilty in a child pornography investigation.

John Balyo told a federal judge Tuesday that he photographed sex acts with a 12-year-old boy at a Kalamazoo County hotel. He pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and possessing child pornography.

Balyo says he knew it was wrong.

The 35-year-old was a host at Christian radio station WCSG in Grand Rapids until his arrest in June at a Christian music festival in northern Michigan. His arrest was related to state charges of criminal sexual conduct. That case still is pending in Calhoun County.

Balyo faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison, but his sentence could be longer.

— The Associated Press

Court OKs steel cross

at NY 9/11 memorial

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit by an atheist group seeking to stop the display of a cross-shaped steel beam found among the World Trade Center’s wreckage.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s ruling last year that the decision to include the beam in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum did not advance religion impermissibly.

American Atheists had sued the museum’s operators in 2011 on constitutional grounds. The group says it is disappointed in the decision and is considering whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 17-foot-tall steel beam was found by rescue workers two days after the 2001 terror attacks destroyed the World Trade Center.

— The Associated Press

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