Federal appeals court hears school prayer case
St. Paul, Minn. -- A school prayer case went before a federal appeals court Monday -- the latest twist in a three-year dispute over recitation of "The Lord's Prayer" at a Nebraska graduation ceremony.
A Norfolk, Neb., family sued the school district and Norfolk school board member Jim Scheer after he led students in the prayer at the 2000 graduation. Scheer's son was one of the outgoing seniors.
At issue is whether Scheer was speaking on his own behalf or on behalf of the district. Board members customarily have been allowed to speak at commencement if their child is graduating. Scheer said he was not representing the district when he recited the prayer.
The family that sued isn't identified in court filings, but said the prayer violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith of Omaha, Neb., had ruled earlier that she found no evidence that school officials knew what Scheer would say before the ceremony.
Decision clears way for Islamic burial ground
Lawrenceville, Ga. -- Plans for an Islamic cemetery in Gwinnett County are moving forward after county commissioners agreed to a disputed, preliminary design for a 5-acre cemetery.
Gwinnett County planning commissioners unanimously endorsed the proposal for a 1,276-plot cemetery in this Atlanta suburb. A final vote will be held later this month.
Members of the Georgia Islamic Institute in Lawrenceville have been trying for more than 18 months to win approval for a cemetery.
Local officials balked at first because of Islamic burial practices, which call for wrapping the body in a shroud, without embalming and without a casket or vault, and interring it within 24 hours of death. Neighbors also worried about the impact of the cemetery on property values.
The institute's imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz A. Ghaffar Khan, said work on the cemetery should begin soon, and its landscaping and fencing will be installed within 60 days.
When finished, the cemetery will be the second Islamic cemetery in Georgia. The other is located south of Atlanta in Lovejoy.
New feature answers questions about faith
If you've got questions about faith, we'll try to help find answers.
"Faith Forum," a new feature in our weekly Faith section, will take your questions about faith issues and pose them to Lawrence-area clergy and theologians. Then we'll print their responses.
Have you wondered whether 9-11, as some have said, was God's punishment of a sinful nation? Or about what, exactly, is the soul? Or if you can be a Christian and place bets on the Super Bowl?
Send your questions to Jim Baker at the Lawrence Journal-World, P.O. Box 888, Lawrence, 66044. You may also e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to (785) 843-4512.