Cuba's Santeria faithful ask for prosperous 2014
HAVANA (AP) — Cuban followers of the Santeria faith beat sacred drums, sacrificed animals and sang ceremonial songs in the Yoruba tongue Monday to give thanks for the year's blessings and ask for prosperity in 2014.
About 200 believers and onlookers thronged Havana's most important market, Cuatro Caminos, for the ceremony dedicated to Eshu-Elegbara, the deity associated with markets and commerce, and also protector of the universe.
In a central courtyard at the market, people sprayed rum from their mouths at a 2-foot-tall cement-and-stone statue of Eshu-Elegbara, crowned with spiral shells. At its base, they left offerings of coconut, watermelon, candy and flowers.
Two goats and two roosters were slaughtered, and their blood used to bathe the icon.
Cuban Santeria is a syncretic faith mixing Catholicism and African traditions that were brought here long ago by slaves. It is the island's principal religion, with millions of followers.
Creation Museum in Ky. to host Bill Nye debate
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Bill Nye "The Science Guy" is set to visit Kentucky next month for a debate on science and creation with the man who founded the Creation Museum.
Founder Ken Ham wrote on his Facebook page that the museum will host Nye, the former host of a popular youth science show, on Feb. 4.
Nye has been critical of creationists for their opposition to evolution and asserting that the Old Testament is a literal account of the earth's beginnings. Last year in an online video that drew nearly 6 million views, Nye said teaching creationism was bad for children.
The video prompted a response video from the Creation Museum, and Ham later challenged him to a debate.
The event will be titled "Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?" The museum is planning to charge admission.
Police investigating Nazi graffiti on Stockholm mosque
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.
Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden's Islamic federation, says employees discovered the vandalism as they arrived to open the mosque Thursday morning. He posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.
Mustafa said the mosque is targeted by hate mail or vandalism about twice a month, but this is the first time the entrance was defaced with swastikas since the mosque was built in 2000.
Stockholm police said its hate-crimes unit was involved in the investigation, but had no suspects Thursday.
Statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention shows about 5,500 hate crimes were reported to police in 2012. Six percent targeted Sweden's Muslim minority.
Humanist group challenges Ark. county's nativity scene
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — A humanist group is threatening to sue officials in an Arkansas county if they do not remove a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn.
A letter from the Washington, D.C.-based Appignani Humanist Legal Center said the display is "a monument to Christianity" and an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
The letter to County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, Mountain Home Mayor David Osmon and Mountain Home attorney Rick Spencer — who donated the display to the county — said a county resident contacted the center about the display.
Pendergrass said he's seeking legal advice from county attorneys and the Association of Arkansas Counties.
The display includes a baby Jesus surrounded by angels, animals, Mary and Joseph, and the wise men — in addition to a Santa Claus decoration and a Christmas tree.
Mo. school holds prayer sessions despite complaint
FAYETTE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri high school is holding prayer sessions on school grounds despite a legal complaint that claims the sessions are unconstitutional.
Fayette Schools Superintendent Tamara Kimball said district administrators haven't considered ending the Friday morning sessions since the American Humanist Association filed a complaint in November. The district doesn't believe it has done anything wrong by allowing the Fellowship of Christian Students to conduct the sessions, she said.
The complaint was filed by the humanist association, a student and a parent of a former Fayette student, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/19vwwwx). It seeks to end the prayer sessions and "any similar illegal activity," as well as damages from the defendants.
When the complaint was filed in November, Monica Miller, a legal consultant for the humanist association, said the meetings took place during school hours and were promoted by a math teacher, Gwen Pope.
In an answer filed Dec. 23 by attorney Duane Martin, the school district said the sessions were held after school doors were unlocked but before classes officially began.