By Tom Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Seven states on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the federal government requirement that religious employers offer health insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and other birth control services.
The issue has become a political flashpoint in a presidential election year, and the lawsuit by attorneys general from Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Texas was certain to keep it prominent.
Private plaintiffs joining the seven states included Pius X Catholic High School, Catholic Social Services, Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America and private citizens Stacy Molai and Sister Mary Catherine.
The 25-page lawsuit named the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis as defendants.
By Susan Candiotti, CNN
New York (CNN) - The mayor of Newark has called for an investigation into a far-reaching New York Police Department surveillance program that was allegedly conducted in the New Jersey city's Muslim neighborhoods.
"The Newark Police Department was not involved in joint operations with the New York Police Department as was described in the disclosed NYPD report," Mayor Cory Booker said Wednesday, referring to a leaked internal New York police document that allegedly detailed police surveillance of Muslim-owned business and mosques across the city.
"I strongly believe that we must be vigilant in protecting our citizens from crime and terrorism, but to put large segments of a religious community under surveillance with no legitimate cause or provocation clearly crosses a line," he said.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Afghan rage over the burning of Qurans by NATO troops continued Thursday even after a President Barack Obama apologized for the "error."
Afghanistan erupted in violent demonstrations after the troops burned the Islamic religious material at the beginning of the week.
Two American troops were killed Thursday by a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform, a U.S. official said, asking not to be named discussing casualties. The gunman is thought to have been acting in conjunction with a protest outside the base, the official said.
In a letter delivered to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama called the act "inadvertent," Karzai's office and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
From the Blog:
CNN: White House, State Department condemn Iran on pastor’s execution orders
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian charged with leaving Islam, has received a local trial courts final verdict, according to sources close to his legal team, and may now be executed for leaving Islam.
Marco Rubio - a man of many faiths.
CNN: Sen. Marco Rubio's religious journey: Catholic to Mormon to Catholic to Baptist and Catholic
A new wrinkle emerged Thursday in the autobiography of a rising Republican star: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, was once a Mormon. Rubio, a Cuban-American who has played up his Catholic roots on the campaign trail and today attends Catholic churches as well as a Southern Baptist megachurch, was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young boy.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.