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Jesus statue still standing after wildfire destroys Tennessee home

Not a day goes by that it doesn’t seem like more bad news comes from the ashes of the recent wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While numbers continue to rise, The Associated Press reports that 14 people are dead and 134 injured.

But one sight is giving some residents hope.

>> After wildfires, Dollywood worker finds lone, charred Bible page at park

According to CNN, a television crew was recently on the ground in Sevier County, where several homes burned to the ground. But the crew came across a statue of Jesus still standing among the ruins of a house.

The story touched country music singer Brad Paisley, who recently tweeted a link to the article with the simple words, "Finding some hope within the ashes."

>> Read more trending stories

This wasn't the only heavenly sight amid the rubble. A theme park employee said he found a charred Bible page while cleaning up the mostly spared Dollywood, whose very own Dolly Parton has pledged to financially help the families affected until they can begin to get back on their feet.

New Catholic app is good for the soul

For Catholics of a certain age, absolution was a weekly ritual. Confessing one’s sins in the privacy of a dark cubicle is a tradition of the religion that exists to this day.

>> Read more trending stories

So for those Catholics on the go, an archbishop from Scotland launched a new smartphone and tablet app on Tuesday that enables parishioners to find a confessional. The Catholic app is nicknamed “Sindr” because it uses the same software as dating app Tinder. Sindr is expected to go live in early 2017, according to Vatican Radio. The idea was inspired by Pope Francis’ designation of 2016 as the Extraordinary Year of Jubilee.

“The idea was really inspired by the Holy Father himself,” Edinburgh’s Archbishop Leo Cushley, who announced the launch, told Vatican Radio. “He said to be imaginative about what to do for the Holy Year of Mercy.”

“I hope everyone’s going to use it.”

Cushley launched the app at St. Peter’s in Rome and called it “a smart bit of technology.” He told The Telegraph that the app could impact “how the Catholic Church brings the mercy of God and the joy of the Gospel to our contemporary world.”

Muslim ban statement disappears from Trump's website

Part of Donald Trump's promise to "make America great again" has been to address Muslim-American relations. 

>> Read more trending stories  

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," Trump posted on his website on Dec. 7, 2015. "According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population."

The statement, titled "Donald J. Trump statement on preventing Muslim immigration," called for a "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." 

"Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension," the statement read. "Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life."

But the statement was removed from the website "around Election Day on Tuesday," according to Reuters.

Trump's list of his potential Supreme Court justice picks and certain details of his economic, defense and regulatory reform plans were also deleted, as were dozens of campaign newsreleases, endorsements and announcements. 

The page that housed the statement temporarily redirected to a page that promoted campaign fundraising. 

"The website was temporarily redirecting all specific press release pages to the homepage," the Trump campaign told The Washington Post in a statement. "It is currently being addressed and will be fixed shortly." 

The page was restored Thursday afternoon.

In a March interview with CNN, Trump said he believes that "Islam hates us."

"There’s something there that -- there's a tremendous hatred there," he said. "There's a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There's an unbelievable hatred of (Americans)."

Researchers excavate Jesus' tomb

Archeologists and restoration teams are getting to the innermost chamber of the tomb that held Jesus. 

Many thought the cave where the faithful laid Jesus' body after he was taken down from the crucifix was destroyed ages ago, but after digging through marble and using ground-penetrating radar, an archeologist confirmed that the cave existed, The Associated Press reported.

"We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades." Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence said.

"This is the Holy Rock that has been revered for centuries, but only now can actually be seen," Antonia Moropoulou said. Moropoulou is in charge of the conservation and restoration of the Edicule, the chamber that houses the cave where Jesus was entombed and and believed by Christians to be resurrected, now under the Church of the Holy Sepluchre

The church dates back to the 12th century and sits on top of 4th-century remains. Six different Christian denominations practice their faith at the same site.

>> Read more trending stories  

The Edicule was last restored in 1810 after a fire. Now it is in need of reinforcement after exposure to humidity and candle smoke, The AP reported.

It was reinforced in 1947 by a British team using an iron cage built around the cave, but it is not enough.

This week, workers slid open a marble slab hoping to reach the chamber itself. The marble hadn't been moved since 1550. Under that, they found debris and another slab. That slab dates to the 12th century and covered another layer, National Geographic reported.

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The team had a total of 60 hours to excavate the inner tomb. It was closed after being fully documented, resealed in the original marble, National Geographic reported.

One part of the tomb will be visible to pilgrims. Experts cut a window in one of the Edicule's marble walls to they can see part of the limestone wall of the tomb. It is the first time the faithful can glimpse the tomb, The AP reported.

National Geographic documented the site on video. 

Read more on the discovery here and here.

WATCH: Man's video of heavenly sight in clouds goes viral

A South Carolina man's video of a heavenly figure in the sky is going viral.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

According to "Today," Cory Hearon, 37, captured a Facebook Live video of a cloud that resembles an angel hovering over the city of Camden. 

>> Read more trending stories

"I almost didn't video it," Hearon said. "It was the first time I had seen something that remarkable with my own two eyes."

The clip has been shared more than 260,000 times and has more than 7.5 million views. 

Read more here.

>> Click here to watch

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> AngelPosted by Cory Hearon on Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tennessee mom opposes textbook that includes Islam

A Tennessee mother is objecting to a social studies textbook used in her local school district, alleging that it promotes Islam.

>> Read more trending stories  

Speaking at a Sullivan County School Board meeting on Monday night, Michelle Edmisten demanded that the district remove the textbook. Edmisten claimed that her seventh-grade daughter’s “personal religious beliefs were violated” with lessons about Islam, the Kingsport Times News reported.

Edmisten said that her daughter, who attends Bluff City Middle School in Blountville, took zeros on the section on Islamic history after a teacher didn’t allow her to opt out of the curriculum and standards and do alternative studies.

Those are zeros that we proudly took and we will not compromise,” Edmisten said.  

Edmisten was the only parent to speak about the issue. 

Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski and Board of Education Chairman Michael Hughes said the system is exploring a religious accommodation option since there is no “opt out” allowed in Tennessee.

The school board said any replacement textbook would have to meet current state standards. According to the state board of education’s website, those standards include educating students about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism in the sixth grade, and Islam in the seventh grade.

The National Council for the Social Studies called the study of religions an “essential” part of the curriculum.

The religious economy is worth $1.2 trillion

How much is religion worth?

The answer is more than megacompanies Apple and Microsoft make in a year combined.

recent study of the U.S. faith economy found religious goods, services and institutions are worth $1.2 trillion a year.

>> Read more trending stories  

Religion might affect America's economy more than you realize. Congregations alone employ hundreds of thousands of people and purchase billions of dollars in goods.

Faith-based elementary schools receive over $15 billion in tuition annually, and that doesn't include middle schools or high schools.

Kosher and halal food sales account for almost another $15 billion. The study's authors didn't include holiday-centered food sales, either, like your usual Christmas dinner menu. That would dramatically increase the faith economy's worth.

Religious health care networks also bring in over $160 billion each year.

Plus, 20 of America's 50 largest charities are faith-based -- accounting for another $45 billion.

The researchers acknowledged their $1.2 trillion estimate is actually a conservative one. Their figure didn't account for the value of religious groups' physical or financial assets, which could make the estimate significantly bigger.

Boy thinks pastor is taking too long, baptizes himself

A Kentucky boy wasn't waiting for anyone during his baptismal ceremony Sunday.

Jordan Warrick, 6, apparently thought the pastor at the West End Baptist Church was taking too long for the big event so he took matters into his own hands.

>> Read more trending stories  

Jordan baptized himself in the church's baptismal pool and the event was caught on video and posted to Facebook where it has nearly 5 million views.

My son gave his life to Jesus today.                     For licsensing inquiries please contact licensing@junkinmedia.comPosted by Terence D Warrick on Sunday, September 4, 2016

He first waded into the chilly water before calling out to the congregation "I'll do it." He then dunked himself, coming up out of the water with raised arms and heading to get dried off, the Courier-Journal reported.

Jordan is active in his church. He sings in the children's choir and is a junior usher. He was also the one who decided he was ready to be baptized. His aunt told the Courier-Journal that Jordan wants to be a missionary and spread the word of Christ.

Norway's state church loses 25,000 members

Norway saw a mass exodus of religious membership when more than 25,000 people left the state church in less than three weeks.

>> Read more trending stories  

The exodus happened after The Church of Norway enabled a new online option Aug. 12 that allows citizen to join and leave the church electronically.

More than 10,000 people deregistered within 24 hours of the site's launch, and within four days, more than 15,000 had left, the Independent reported.

"The number of withdrawals must be seen in relation to the large number of members of the Norwegian Church," Helga Haugland Byfuglien, head of the Norwegian Bishops' Conference, said in a statement on the church's website. "We have great respect for individual choice."

 About 1,200 new members joined online in the same time period.

"No one who doesn't wish to be a member of the Church of Norway should be registered as a member," said Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum, leader of the church's national council. "I'm very happy that almost 1,300 chose to join in August."

The electronic offering was put in place as a way for the church to get its "records in shape and offer an easy way for people to sign up," the Independent reported.

"We will continue to have a broad and open national church. But no one should be a member of a religious community against their will, and therefore I am glad that this self-solution is in place," Raaum said. "Those who mistakenly listed as a member of the Norwegian Church or who do not wish to be members can now easily change their status, and it will give us a more accurate registry."

About 73 percent of the population counted as members of the Church of Norway in 2015, according to the AP, but a significant portion of those people may have been among those who deregistered this year.

The AP reported that the country is among the most secular countries in the world, and a recent survey of 4,000 Norwegians showed this year that non-believers outnumber religious people with 39 percent saying they didn't belive in God, 37 percent saying they did and an additional 23 percent of respondents saying they did not know, The Local reported.

Norway, which previously required at least half of all government ministers to be members of the Church, did away with the Evangelical Lutheran religion as the official state religion in 2012, but the country maintains a constitution built upon "Christian and humanistic heritage," and the king is required to be Lutheran.

Police: Florida man torched church to get at 'devil worshipers'

After allegedly attempting to set fire to Westgate New Testament Church in Florida on Thursday morning, Hector Luis Trujillo told a sheriff’s deputy that he wanted to make a confession.

“I started the fire because the church has bad people — they are devil worshipers — (and) I had to do something,” Trujillo said, according to an arrest report.

Trujillo remains in the Palm Beach County Jail, where he is facing charges of first-degree arson and burglary resulting in more than $1,000 of damage. Judge Caroline Shepherd ordered Trujillo, who is homeless, to undergo a mental-health evaluation.

Cheri Frost has been a congregant at the church — which holds services in Spanish and English — for two years and was married there. On Friday morning, Frost surveyed in disbelief the damage that ruined a nursery and Sunday school on the first floor of the two-floor building.

>> Read more trending stories

“We’re devastated,” Frost said. “This is for the kids. How do you explain to the children that someone came into their safe environment, God’s house, and did something like this?”

A man driving by the church Thursday morning witnessed Trujillo standing outside the nursery and throwing a flaming object inside. The witness dialed 911 and followed Trujillo until deputies arrested him while he was hiding outside a home on the 2600 block of Hiwatha Avenue, along Osceola Drive and near West Gate Elementary School.

Residents whose homes border the church  ran over and helped put out two fires that were set by Trujillo, according to a church official.

Sergio Fuentes, minister for Westgate’s Spanish-language congregation, said Trujillo is unknown to members of the church.

“It’s sad that something so dark could be in somebody’s heart,” said Fuentes, who has ministered at the church for nine years. “We’re trying to help the community. There’s a way to find solutions to the troubles in one’s life, but violence and destruction are certainly not among them.”

Fuentes said one of the fires was set by stacking books used for Sunday school in a pile and setting them on fire. The arrest report estimated damage to be at least $1,500, but Fuentes said it could end up being far costlier.

Between its Spanish- and English-language congregations, the church has about 80 members.

“We’re a small congregation with very limited means,” Frost said. “We’re all going to have to come together.”

The church has been targeted before, Fuentes said. Last Halloween night, someone broke in and stole $8,000 worth of musical instruments and equipment. Church employees and congregants have had their cars broken into as well, Fuentes said.

“This community has been left behind,” Fuentes said. “That’s why these things are happening.”

Court records show that Trujillo, 24, has been arrested eight times in Palm Beach County since 2011. He was sentenced to 28 days in jail in May 2014 after being found guilty of battery, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“We don’t harbor any ill will towards him,” Frost said. “We’re a loving church. We want him to get help. We don’t hate him. Who are we to judge?”

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