By Bill Mears, CNN
Washington (CNN) - In what have become known as the "Jesus pencil" and "candy cane" cases, the Supreme Court refused Monday to consider appeals from the families of elementary school students over distribution of religious-themed gifts on campus.
At issue was whether school officials can be sued for violating the First Amendment rights of what the students claimed was their "private, non-curricular speech based solely upon its religious viewpoint."
A federal appeals court had ruled in favor of school officials in Plano, Texas,on the liability question, and the justices without comment let that decision stand.
The full 16-judge panel from the New Orleans-based court last September concluded while the constitutional rights of the students were violated, school administrators could not be sued under the "qualified immunity" legal standard. The litigation continues on other aspects of two separate incidents nine years ago, both involving schools at the Plano Independent School District in the Dallas suburb.
Atlanta area megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar said on Sunday that he neither choked nor punched his 15-year-old daughter, as she claimed in a report to police on Friday.
Read about Dollar's popular but controversial prosperity gospel.
From Hassan John, For CNN
Jos, Nigeria (CNN) – Three people died in clashes Sunday with police in Jos, Nigeria, hours after a car bomb killed five people during services at a church nearby.
Angry crowds wielding makeshift clubs fought with police after chasing away security forces from the destroyed church. A man dragged part of a charred corpse through the street.
The clashes broke out after witnesses said a suicide car bomber drove toward several churches in the area before plowing into the Christ Chosen Church of God. The attack injured at least 48 people, hospital officials said.
Bruised and bloodied parishioners emerged from the rubble after the blast, which left splintered wood beams and twisted metal where the church once stood. There appeared to be a large number of casualties, including children.
By Laura Koran, 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: Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar on his daughter: 'She was not punched'
Telling thousands of parishioners that he should never have been arrested, Pastor Creflo Dollar said at his Sunday morning service he neither choked nor punched his 15-year-old daughter, as she claimed in a report to police. Dollar, senior pastor of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta, told congregants in the sprawling megachurch and listening at one of more than a dozen satellite churches that when the facts of the case come out, they will be "appalled."
CNN: Hasidic NYPD recruit says he was fired over beard length
A Hasidic NYPD recruit is planning a lawsuit after being dismissed for refusing to trim his beard for religious reasons, his attorney said Sunday. Fishel Litzman, 38, was asked to leave the police academy on Friday, his attorney, Nathan Lewin, told CNN. He began the police academy in January, he said, was in the top 1% of his classes and is "highly regarded" by his peers.
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.