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c. 2008 Religion News Service

Second minor dies at faith-healing church

GLADSTONE, Ore. _ Police are investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy, the second recent death in an extended family belonging to the Followers of Christ church, which favors prayer over traditional medicine.

Police and the medical examiner’s office identified the boy as Neil Jeffrey Beagley of Oregon City. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Police were called Tuesday afternoon shortly after the teen died about 4:30 p.m. following a weeklong illness marked by stomach pains and shortness of breath, said Sgt. Lynne Benton, a Gladstone Police Department spokeswoman.

“We completely ruled out suicide or homicidal violence,” said Benton.

The boy, like all members of the religious sect, did not receive medical attention.

His 15-month-old cousin, Ava Worthington, died March 2 at her home of two treatable conditions: bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. The girl’s parents, Carl and Raylene Worthington, are awaiting trial on criminal charges in her death.

_ Kimberly A.C. Wilson

Catholic boy won’t pledge loyalty to Protestant monarch

LONDON (RNS) An 8-year-old Scottish boy has lost his bid to become a Cub Scout because Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II isn’t a Roman Catholic and he is.

In Britain, would-be Scouts are required to pledge allegiance to the monarch, but young Matthew McVeigh _ whose family is staunchly Roman Catholic _ refused to do so, citing religious grounds.

The child’s mother, Tracy Anne McVeigh, of Neilston, Scotland, told journalists that her son’s refusal to recite the Cub Scout Promise “to do my duty to the queen” was a matter of principle.

Since under British law only Protestants can sit on the throne, she said, “why should we make an oath to the monarchy?“

But Scout Association spokesman Chris Foster insisted that in accordance with British scouting rules, “British subjects must promise to do their duty to the queen” because “she is the head of state.”

Matthew himself was quoted in interviews as saying, “It’s not fair. I don’t want to say a promise that I don’t believe in.”

His mother added that “we don’t think (such an oath) is necessary in today’s world. We are supposed to live in a multicultural age, but this just flies in the face of that.”

To a suggestion that she was exercising influence on her son, the mother replied, “I stand up for what I believe in, and we are giving Matthew morals in life and teaching him to stand up for what he believes in.”

Restricting the monarchy to Protestants has existed in British law since the Act of Settlement was passed in 1701, but it has come under attack in recent years for discriminating against Catholics.

_ Al Webb

Senator apologizes for linking polygamy, gay marriage

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., issued a strong apology Tuesday (June 17) for his remarks last week that some interpreted as a defense of polygamy, and others saw as equating polygamy with same-sex marriage.

In an interview with The Oregonian, Smith said he regrets bringing up his Mormon past in connection with the debate over gay marriage. He said he remains staunch in his belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

“My remarks referenced a point in time when a few of my ancestors were persecuted for not adhering to that belief,” Smith said. “It was an unfortunate reference, and I apologize for making it.”

At a gay-rights panel discussion last week, Smith was asked why he supports a federal ban on gay marriage while also supporting many gay rights. Smith responded that his Mormon ancestors “were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter for following their religious beliefs.”

“Part of what I fear, as you start defining marriage _ we have a long history of doing that in this country, and my Mormon pioneer ancestors were the victims of that.”

Smith, who is running for re-election, has worked hard to maintain good relations with the gay and lesbian community, including sponsoring a hate-crimes bill that covers attacks against homosexuals. He also supports Oregon’s civil union law, and he favors broader rights for domestic partners.

His comments last week caused a ruckus among gays and lesbians.

“Talking about polygamy and same-sex unions in the same breath _ on the face it’s offensive,” said Frank Dixon, a Democratic Party and gay-rights activist. “Maybe he can explain his way out of it.”

Smith sought to do just that. Asked why he brought up his religious past, he offered this explanation:

“If you’d grown up a Mormon, and spent your life trying to get out from the shadow of that legacy, it’s an emotional scar that you carry. I meant no offense by sharing that part of my history.”

He said he never meant to relate polygamy, which was practiced by early Mormons but is now rejected by the church, to same-sex marriage.

_ Harry Esteve

Quote of the Day: The Rev. Kimberly A. Willis of Santa Rosa, Calif.

(RNS) “It was surreal to watch this and think, How can I not bless these people? I can bless a car, and I have. I’ve been asked to bless animals, children, homes, bread, grape juice, but I can’t bless a gay and lesbian couple. That’s unreal to me.”

_ The Rev. Kimberly A. Willis, pastor of Christ Church United Methodist in Santa Rosa, Calif., on her decision to support _ but not participate in _ same-sex weddings by some of her congregants. United Methodist law prohibits clergy from blessing same-sex unions. She was quoted by The New York Times.

KRE/RB END RNS

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