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WATCH: Church holds service themed after 2 Chainz’s Pink Trap House

Atlanta’s most talked-about temporary landmark just made its way back into the spotlight — on the sanctuary stage of the dReam Center Church of Atlanta, that is.

>> 2 Chainz creates Atlanta's latest landmark

In an effort to “Make the Church Relevant Again,” church leaders took a marketing tip from Atlanta-based hip-hop star 2 Chainz himself and decorated their sanctuary with a miniature Pink Trap House, a pink stove and a pink toy car.

>> 2 Chainz forced to postpone tour after injury

The church shared its one-of-a-kind service led by Bishop William Murphy on Facebook Live and as of Monday morning, the post has garnered nearly 30,000 views.

>> Watch the clip here

Viewers and attendees alike lauded Bishop’s and the dReam Center Church’s unique way of attracting the youth for its Sunday service.

And 2 Chainz himself took to Instagram to praise the service, writing, “I think it’s dope to be used by God in different ways.”

>> See the post here

2 Chainz’ Pink Trap House, a flipped home at 1530 Howell Mill painted pink to mimic his album’s cover art, was a hot Instagram spot last month.

>> 2 Chainz Pink Trap House offers free HIV testing

The artist, currently performing in a pink wheelchair after breaking his leg on tour, initially used the venue to host a listening party to promote his project with actress and writer Issa Rae, “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.” 

>> On AJC.com: Atlanta's newest landmark takes social media by storm thanks to 2 Chainz

But the house was also used as a site for free HIV testing and for a “Trap Church” event hosted by Street Groomers, a neighborhood watch group and local faith leaders such as Michael Wortham, minister of young adults at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

>> Read more trending news

While the Pink Trap House lease was up July 7, it seems marketing genius 2 Chainz is still making an impact around town.

Muslim Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than white evangelicals, Pew research says

Ten years ago, only 27 percent of Muslims in the United States said homosexuality should be accepted by society, and 61 percent said same-sex relationships should be discouraged.

>> Read more trending news 

But according to a Pew Research Center report released last week, the majority of Muslim Americans today -- 52 percent -- are now accepting of homosexuality, following a trend found in other American faith groups.

Even the Muslims who said religion is “very important” in their lives have become 28 points more accepting since 2007.

Compared to other American faith groups, Muslim Americans are more accepting of homosexuality than white evangelicals (34 percent) and black Protestants (50 percent), but are not as accepting as white mainline Protestants (76 percent) and Catholics (66 percent).

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers 

Young Muslim Americans (Muslim millennials) also tend to be more accepting of homosexuality. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of Muslim millennials in America that said homosexuality should be accepted by society jumped from 33 percent to 60 percent.

The Pew report, which includes data from more than 1,000 adult U.S. Muslims, also found the majority of Muslim Americans continue to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (66 percent) and 39 percent describe themselves as politically moderate.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

Forty-four percent of Muslims eligible to vote cast ballots in last year's presidential election, compared to 37 percent in 2007. Those numbers on Muslim voting are compared to 60 percent of eligible voters overall who cast ballots in 2016.

Muslims overwhelmingly backed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who drew 78 percent of their vote, compared to 8 percent for Trump.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

Alarmed by the anti-Muslim rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, Muslim American leaders made an unprecedented push to register voters in mosques and at community events, leading to higher overall turnout.

Pew researchers estimate the number of U.S. Muslims has been growing by 100,000 each year, reaching 3.35 million, or 1 percent of the American population.

» RELATED: Georgia did not ‘ban Muslim culture,’ as fake-news websites claimed 

By 2050, they estimate Islam will supplant Judaism as the second-most popular religion in the U.S., with Muslims making up 2.1 percent of the future population.

Just over half of U.S. Muslims identify as Sunni, while 16 percent identify as Shiite. Nearly six in 10 adult American Muslims were born outside the U.S.

The largest share of immigrants come from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, while others have come from Iraq, Iran, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

American-born blacks make up about 13 percent of all Muslims in America, but their share is shrinking. Overall, eight in 10 are U.S. citizens, according to the survey.

Eight in 10 American Muslims also said they were concerned about Islamic extremism, and more than 70 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about Islamic extremism in the U.S.

However, three of 10 said that most of those arrested recently on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack had been tricked by law enforcement authorities and did not represent a real threat.

Read the full Pew Research Center report at Pewforum.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Convicted pedophile priest Paul Shanley to be released from prison

Convicted pedophile and defrocked priest Paul Shanley is set to be released from prison Friday.

>> Watch the news report here

In 2005, Shanley was convicted of two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The abuse happened between 1983 and 1989 at St. Jean's Church in Newton, Massachusetts. Shanley, now 86 years old, was sentenced to a 12- to 15-year prison sentence. He will be released on Friday and begin 10 years of supervised probation and cannot have contact with children under the age of 16.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan released a statement to WFXT:

“The Commonwealth is not legally permitted to seek that Shanley be confined further without expert testimony that he meets the legal criteria for civil confinement as a sexually dangerous person. To that end we hired two qualified examiners. We are awaiting their final reports; however, both doctors have informed us that they have concluded that Shanley does not satisfy the legal criteria for a petition to be filed.

"The defendant will be monitored by the probation department for the next ten years and has been ordered to have no contact with children under sixteen years of age. Our office continues to provide support and assistance to the victims in this matter.”

Other priest abuse victims are fighting his release, saying he is still a danger to the public.

"He sexually abused children for decades upon decades... dozens upon dozens of children. Why would he change now?" said Mitchell Garabedian, lawyer for victims. 

>> Read more trending news

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, agrees with Garabedian, saying in a statement:

"While we understand and respect the American judicial system, we fear for the safety of children now that Shanley has been released.

"Research and experience teach us that age does not cure pedophilia. Often age gives predators an advantage. People may see an old man and assume he is harmless. That is not the case.

"The Catholic Church has many treatment facilities for clergy and former clergy with sexual issues. We hope that they will insist Shanley live in a facility where he can receive treatment and where he will have no access to children."

The Archdiocese of Boston sent WFXT the following statement about Shanley's release:

"Paul Shanley's crimes against children were reprehensible. No young person should ever have to experience such violations of their safety and dignity. We continue to assure all victims of abuse of our prayers and our concern. 

"Any person who has been harmed by clergy sexual abuse, and in particular those who may need additional support at this time, are encouraged to contact the Archdiocese's Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach at 617-746-5995."

Oklahoma university removing Bibles, crosses from campus after complaint

A university in Oklahoma is removing crosses, Bibles and other religious paraphernalia from its on-campus chapel after getting a complaint from a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for the separation of church and state.

>> Read more trending news

East Central University President Katricia Pierson said Thursday in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that the school is “looking at the feasibility” of removing the cross on the steeple of the Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel on top of its move to take items from inside the chapel.

“We will continue to use the building as we always have, for all faiths,” Pierson said. “We do not want to presume to embrace one faith over another. We support all cultures and attempt to make them feel comfortable when they are here.”

She said there were only a few items that needed to be removed from the building.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said in a three-page letter received by university officials June 20 that the university was violating federal law by displaying “permanent religious iconography” on its campus, The Ada News reported.

“While it is legal for a public university to have a space that can be used by students for religious worship, so long as that space is not dedicated solely to that purpose, it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to display religious iconography on government property,” the group said in its letter, which was obtained by The Ada News. “Please remove or cover the religious displays and items.”

Pierson said that the university is looking at its options for preserving the removed items.

The Kathryn P. Boswell Memorial Chapel opened in 1957. According to East Central University officials, the chapel was a gift from a man named S.C. Boswell, who gifted the chapel in memory of his wife. It was intended for use by all religious groups on campus.

Ada is about 70 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Trump doesn't hold Ramadan dinner, breaking White House tradition

President Donald Trump did not hold a White House dinner to mark the end of Ramadan, breaking an annual tradition dating back to President Bill Clinton's administration.

>> Read more trending news

CNN reported that Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama held yearly iftar dinners celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Additionally, President Thomas Jefferson in 1805 made sure a formal White House dinner attended by Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who observed Ramadan, occurred "precisely at sunset" instead of the usual 3:30 p.m., according to the Washington Post.

>> 5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting

Trump and first lady Melania Trump issued the following statement Saturday:

>> Muslims in America, by the numbers

"On behalf of the American people, Melania and I send our warm greetings to Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr.

"Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity. Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life.

"During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak."

CNN, citing two unnamed administration officials, also reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson turned down "a request by the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr." The department had held iftar dinners or Eid al-Fitr receptions since 1999, according to CNN.

Read more here or here.

CNN 'Believer' host Reza Aslan calls Trump 'embarrassment to humankind' over London tweet

UPDATE: Aslan has taken down the tweet and issued the following apology:

ORIGINAL STORY: The host of a CNN documentary series about spirituality is making headlines over his heated reaction to President Donald Trump's response to Saturday's deadly terrorist attacks in London.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan, host of "Believer," took to social media after Trump tweeted following the London attacks in support of his controversial travel ban targeting Muslim-majority nations.

>> Read more trending news

"We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!" Trump wrote Saturday evening before posting a separate tweet expressing solidarity with and offering help to the United Kingdom.

Aslan, who is Muslim, tweeted in response to Trump's first message: "This piece of [expletive] is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He's an embarrassment to humankind."

>> Trump tweets ‘ We need the travel ban’ amid reports of London terror attack

Minutes later, Aslan called Trump a "man baby that must be ignored in times of crisis" after NBC News posted that Trump had tweeted unconfirmed information about the attack.

>> London Bridge terror attacks: What we know

Aslan soon became a trending topic on social media, drawing ire from conservative pundits and outlets such as Breitbart.

Billboard supporting Trump’s immigration ban stirs controversy

Some residents believe that a controversial billboard on Interstate 40 in North Carolina by a religious group in support of President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban on Muslim-majority countries has gone too far.  

The sign in Catawba County refers to the 9/11 attack and those behind it.  

Residents of nearby Claremont and Catawba are talking about its message.  

"I think the numbers are powerful enough in themselves,” one supporter said. “So, if you look at it and think something is wrong about it, it makes you wonder about you."  

Oliver Reitzell opposes the billboard.  

"I believe in the Christian way, and that's to embrace everybody,” Reitzell said. “Kind of the hate message behind it, I'm not for that."  

>> Read more trending news

The North Carolina Pastors Network paid for the sign and claims to have support from 600 ministers across the state.  

The organization is headed by evangelist Dave Kistler, who doesn't believe that the billboard's message is one of hate.  

"I'm saying it now that this is not what this is about,” Kistler said. “There's certainly nothing hateful in our billboard. Some have interpreted it to be that and say that. It was not. It is the truth."  

But Paul Cummings, an associate pastor at the Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, believes that the billboard contradicts teachings from the Bible.  

"My opinion is that I think these people need the saving gospel of Jesus more than I need to be protected,” Cummings said. “I'm perfectly willing for people who are hostile to us to be in our country, because that's what loving your enemy is all about."  

Veteran Andrew Katocs, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn't see how the billboard and its message are helping.  

"That billboard, it sounds like somebody is trying to cause some issues that don't need to be worried about now," Katocs said.  

The religious group said it has no plans to take down the billboard.

Megachurch pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen criticized for throwing ‘Hook ‘Em’ hand sign

Thousands of students graduated this past weekend from the University of Texas at Austin, flooding social media with photos of proud new alumni and their families.

>> Read more trending news 

For most parents, documenting the occasion with a photo means throwing up the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign, too, usually without much fuss. But when your parents are the first couple of televangelism, a spirited hand gesture can take on a whole other meaning. 

>> Photos: Longhorns arriving for UT graduation ceremony May 20 

Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, draw thousands every week to their massive Lakewood Church in Houston, and millions tune in from across the globe to watch. The pair also head a massive multi-million dollar empire stemming from book deals and tours. Their son, Jonathan, recently graduated from UT, and he posed with each of his parents for a pretty common photo taken during commencement weekend: the graduate and his mom and dad both making the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign. 

Pope canonizes 2 children who claimed to see Virgin of Fatima

Pope Francis canonized a pair of shepherd siblings on Saturday, giving the Catholic Church two of its youngest saints. The siblings are believed to have seen the Madonna 100 years ago in a Portuguese town that is now a major pilgrimage site, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

The pontiff, before a crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands, proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the newest of the Church's saints, in the town of Fatima.

The two children died at the ages of 10 and 9, within three years of the 1917 apparitions. They are the youngest saints of the Church who were not martyrs.

The Virgin of Fatima is venerated by Catholics around the world, a following underscored by the many national flags fluttering in the huge crowd, estimated at more than half a million people.

In his homily during an outdoor Mass, Francis prayed that the Madonna would protect the most vulnerable members of society, "especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned," Reuters reported.

The story of Fatima's shepherd children has captivated Catholics since their first reported vision on May 13, 1917.

The Church believes the Madonna gave three children — Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their older cousin Lucia Dos Santos — three messages, the so-called secrets of Fatima. Dos Santos became a nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97, and efforts are also under way to make her a saint.

The first two secrets were revealed soon and concerned a vision of hell, seen by believers as a prediction of the outbreak of World War II, a warning that Russia would "spread her errors" in the world, and a need for general conversion to God and prayer, Reuters reported.

The "third secret" intrigued the world for more than three-quarters of a century, inspiring books and cults convinced that it predicted the end of the world.

In 2000, the Vatican said it was a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on May 13, the same day of the first reported apparition in 1917.

John Paul believed the Madonna had diverted one of the bullets that hit him from his vital organs. He donated it to the sanctuary, where it is now embedded in the crown of the statue of the Madonna.

 

Mormon church pulls older boys from Boy Scouts programs

Be prepared for a change in Scouting.

The Mormon church announced Thursday that older teens in the United States and Canada will no longer take part in two Boy Scouts programs beginning in January, KUTV reported.

>> Read more trending news 

On its website, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it would discontinue its Varsity and Venturing Scouting programs for boys ages 14 to 18, beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Church officials said they would replace the Scouting program with a new activities program.

The announcement will affect as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization, said church officials, who told CBS News that the move was not triggered by the Boy Scouts' decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders.

But at least one leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been differing on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor in the split, CBS News reported.

Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University, said the split reflects the two organizations' diverging values.

"The church is wedded very much to traditional gender roles and they see the Boy Scouts of America increasingly move away from that," Bowman told CBS News. "That means that they have come to see it as less of a hospitable place.”

KUTV reported that the church did not believe boys between 14 and 18 are “being served well” by the Varsity or Venturing programs.

The Mormon church has been involved in scouting for more than a century.

Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization is saddened by the decision but understands the church's desire to customize a program, CBS News reported.

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America said it “deeply appreciates” its relationship with the church.

“We recognize that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners," the statement said.

About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will remain in the Scouts while the church develops its program, church officials said. 

Jana Ockey has three boys who all got their Eagle Scout awards when they were 13 years old, KUTV reported. Two of them, Justin, 16, and John, 14 are now in the Varsity and Venturing program.

"I felt like there was a death. It was that strong for me," Ockey told KUTV. "I've been in the scouting program for so long and when I saw what the venturing program could do for the boys I thought it was amazing. The frustration was, not everybody could see that."

For those boys who still wish to work toward an Eagle Scout badge, the church told KUTV they will be “registered, supported and encouraged.”

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