Religion briefs for Oct. 12, 2013

Atlanta Journal Constitution photo by JASON GETZThe Dalai Lama greets the crowd as he visits the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Georgia.
Atlanta Journal Constitution photo by JASON GETZThe Dalai Lama greets the crowd as he visits the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Georgia.

By The Associated Press

Dalai Lama speaks to thousands in Atlanta

ATLANTA — The Dalai Lama told an audience in suburban Atlanta to focus on love and to be grateful for all that they have.

The Tibetan Buddhist leader spoke to thousands of people this week at the Gwinnett Center arena.

The focus of this visit is “secular ethics,” which is described as a system of shared principles that go beyond religious differences while still respecting and valuing the significance of religion in people’s lives.

The Dalai Lama has held the title of presidential distinguished professor at Emory University since October 2007 and has visited Emory’s campus five times.

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to participate in a series of lectures and panel discussions this week.

Chaplains pray for divine intervention

WASHINGTON — Can prayer move an unmovable object, like the U.S. Congress?

As the federal government remains partially shut down and about to hit a debt ceiling, Senate Chaplain Barry Black continues to appeal to God in his daily invocations.

Before Tuesday’s Senate session, he prayed, “May the tirades of majorities or minorities be equally impotent to sway our lawmakers from doing what is best for America.” He also prayed that the senators will be ethical “as they strive to match their words with deeds.”

On the other side of the Capitol, House Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy prayed that lawmakers will use the power they have to help their constituents “who possess little or no power, and whose lives are made all the more difficult by a failure to work out serious differences.”

Pittsburgh Diocese sues again over mandates

PITTSBURGH — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is suing the federal government again seeking to overturn a looming requirement that employers offer contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.

A judge in November dismissed a previous lawsuit, saying the diocese has not been harmed by the legislation and that the government had promised to take steps to address religious objections.

But the new federal lawsuit claims such promises have proven to be “empty words” — and said the final regulations that take effect Jan. 1 are worse than the proposed regulations that prompted last year’s lawsuit.

The Department of Justice, which will defend the new suit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Church stance urged on homosexuality

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church’s stance on homosexuality has softened considerably since it was one of the leading forces behind California’s Proposition 8.

The Utah-based Church of Latter-day Saints launched a new website this year encouraging more compassion toward gays.

It also implores gay members to stay in the faith, and clarifies that Mormon leaders would no longer necessarily counsel gays to marry people of the opposite sex.

In May, church leaders backed the Boy Scouts’ policy allowing gays in the ranks.

But church apostle Dallin Oaks reiterated this past weekend during a biannual conference that human laws cannot “make moral what God has declared immoral.”

Compiled from The Associated Press