House approves exemption to health care law

WASHINGTON (AP) Individuals who practice faith healing instead of seeking medical attention would be exempt from the health care law’s insurance requirement under legislation passed Tuesday by the House.

The bill would exempt Americans who notify the IRS that covered health care would violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock said insincere applicants would forfeit the exemption and be fined if they voluntarily sought medical treatment.

California Democrat Henry Waxman warned that the legislation would force the IRS to approve almost all requests for the exemption or try to determine whether religious beliefs are “sincerely held.”

The legislation passed after Schock said lawmakers were sworn “before God to protect the religious freedoms of every American.” It’s unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate.

Methodists end minister’s N.Y. wedding case

NEW YORK (AP) – A United Methodist bishop has dropped the case against a retired minister accused of breaking church law by officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding a decision that came just months after another Methodist minister was defrocked for the same reason.

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, a former dean of the Yale Divinity School, said he’s thankful that his church won’t put him on trial for what he called “an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love.”

Bishop Martin McLee, who announced his decision Monday, called on church officials to stop prosecuting other pastors for marrying same-sex couples.

UN starts Central African Republic investigation

GENEVA (AP) Leaders of a U.N. investigation of human rights abuses in Central African Republic said they will look into “reports of genocide.”

The chair of the investigation, Bernard Acho Muna, said he’s concerned that hate propaganda used by both Christians and Muslims in the conflict will fuel more violence.

Political disputes in Central African Republic are turning increasingly sectarian as Muslims are killed, Qurans are destroyed and mosques are set on fire. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled to neighboring countries in recent months.

In December, the 15-nation Security Council mandated an investigation of human rights abuses in Central African Republic for an initial period of one year to compile information and help identify perpetrators with an aim toward prosecuting them.