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Report: Only 'full recognition of religious freedom' will protect people

The cover photograph on a new 232-page report outlining religious freedom violations around the world last year pretty much says it all.

The image is of Yezidis of all ages walking on a sandy, dusty terrain with sheep. Thousands of members of this religious minority had been executed and assaulted last year while others were forced to flee their ancient homeland in the Nineveh plains of Iraq by actions of the Islamic State, known as ISIS.

Interfaith activists call solitary confinement immoral, ineffective

They're small spaces -- sometimes 7 feet wide, 12 feet long. And they're where some inmates are held, sometimes for days, sometimes for decades.

Religious leaders across the country are speaking out against solitary confinement cells that they say should never be used by juveniles or the mentally ill and rarely by the general prison population.

The debate is taking on new resonance as a Boston jury weighs the death penalty -- or a life sentence with 23 hours a day in solitary confinement -- for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber.

Christians lose ground, 'nones' soar in new portrait of US religion

The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That's the top finding -- one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics -- in the Pew Research Center's newest report, "America's Changing Religious Landscape," released Tuesday.

This trend "is big, it's broad and it's everywhere," said Alan Cooperman, Pew's director of religion research.

Texas governor says response to prayer after accident made him stronger

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not always lived life in a wheelchair. He was on his morning jog 31 years ago when a falling tree broke his spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Abbott, a Catholic, noted at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held Thursday in Washington, there are times when "our prayers are answered differently than the way we expect."

He said he can recall, "I spent months praying and hoping for the best possible outcome" after the accident. God, instead, "responded by giving me challenges that made me even stronger."

What Catholics can teach America about polarized politics

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Americans of all stripes bemoan political polarization. For people who claim to derive their political values from their religious traditions, polarization raises vexing questions. More than perhaps any other group, faithful Catholics struggle to reconcile their church's teachings with the platforms of the two major parties.

New documentary on Thomas Merton celebrates centennial of monk's birth

Morgan Atkinson's new documentary on Thomas Merton, the famed Trappist monk from the Cistercian abbey in Gethsemani, Kentucky, was "40 years in the making," he joked.

Actually, it was closer to two, but it was Atkinson's own pilgrimage to Gethsemani 40 years ago that not only broadened his exposure to Merton, but led him to become a Catholic himself.

Six things to expect in the pope's address to Congress

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Everyone wants Congress to stop fighting and get working, and that includes Pope Francis, a top adviser said Wednesday in a preview of the pope's upcoming U.S. trip.

The Argentine-born pope has never been to the United States, but he will make history in September as the first pope to address a joint meeting of the House and Senate on Capitol Hill.

"The pope will come humbly but will talk clearly," Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a top adviser to Francis, told an audience at Georgetown University.

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