Pennsylvania county judges have ruled in three cases that marriages performed by ministers who do not have congregations and obtained ordination on the Internet are legal, rejecting a contrary 2007 ruling. All three suits were brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which argued York County Judge Maria Musti Cook was wrong to invalidate a marriage in 2007 because the minister who performed it was ordained online and did not have a physical church or congregation. The officiating minister, a friend of the couple, was ordained by the Seattle-based Universal Life Church, which offers instant no-questions-asked ordinations online. Even though Cook’s ruling was limited to York County, registrars of wills across Pennsylvania began warning couples that their marriages may not be valid. In Bucks County, in suburban Philadelphia, for example, 36 couples remarried as a result of the York decision, County Clerk Barbara Reilly said.
Gospel music pioneer dies at 75. Willa Mae Dorsey, whose gospel-singing career lasted 56 years, filled five albums, won her a Grammy nomination and introduced black gospel music to many white congregations, has died at age 75. Dorsey began singing professionally when she was 19. During her career, she sang at Lincoln Center, performed with Mahalia Jackson and shared the stage with Billy Graham, singing in about 40 countries for presidents, princes and ordinary people of faith. She was a regular on Lawrence Welk’s television show, insisting she would sing only gospel and patriotic songs.
Saddleback offers shelter for breakaway Anglicans. Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren has offered to open the campus of his Southern California megachurch to conservative Anglicans who have broken with the Episcopal Church. Warren, best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, wrote to 30 Anglican leaders a few days after California’s Supreme Court ruled Episcopal churches that break with their denomination are not entitled to keep church property. “We stand in solidarity with them and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans,” Warren wrote. “I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.”
Court warns Orissa: Zero toleration for religious persecution. India’s Supreme Court has told the state government of Orissa it will not tolerate persecution of religious minorities, and it criticized the state government for failing to stop the violence sooner. A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court issued the warning following a petition filed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, who requested protection for his flock in Orissa and compensation for church properties damaged in the ongoing violence between Hindus and the minority Christian population that began after the Aug. 23 murder of Swami Laxmanananda, a Hindu religious leader, in Orissa’s Kandhamal district.