Preacher pleads guilty to illegally having venomous snakes in car

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A snake-handling Kentucky preacher has gone back home from a Tennessee courtroom without his venomous serpents.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Jamie Coots pleaded guilty Monday to illegally having poisonous snakes that were confiscated after a traffic stop in Knox County, Tenn., on Jan. 31.

Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of transporting the snakes and wildlife officials agreed to give back the boxes Coots was using to carry the snakes from Alabama to his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Ky.

Coots will be on unsupervised probation for a year.

Coots’ lawyer, Christopher H. Jones of Chattanooga, said Coots wanted to avoid going through a long legal process but still believes Tennessee’s law barring him from transporting the snakes on his way back to Middlesboro is unconstitutional.

“He legally acquired them in Alabama,” Jones said. “He legally possessed them in Kentucky.”

Australian Muslim activists
lose free speech appeal over letters

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s highest court narrowly rejected the case of two Muslim activists who argued they had a constitutional free-speech right to send offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Iranian-born Man Horan Monis, a Sydney cleric also known as Sheik Haron, was charged with 12 counts of using a postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way over three years until 2009. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting the offences. They face potential maximum prison sentences of 26 years and 16 years respectively if convicted.

The six judges of the High Court split on whether the charges were compatible with Australians’ right to free speech. When the nation’s highest court is tied, an appeal is dismissed and the lower court decision stands.

Explosion blows out wall at Minn. church’s day care wing, no one hurt

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) — No one was hurt when an explosion blew out a wall in the day care wing of a church.

Police say the blast was reported about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in a two-story classroom wing of Brookdale Christian Center.

A CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman tells the Star Tribune the church’s boiler apparently exploded. She says the boiler has had maintenance issues in the past.

Six preschoolers were in a nearby classroom. A teacher escorted the children safely outside. Medics checked the children and found they were not hurt.

Brooklyn Center Fire Chief Lee Gatlin says the blast partially collapsed the second floor of the wing and caused about $200,000 in damage.

Gatlin says the wing was roped off and declared unsafe pending further investigation.

Anchorage archdiocese moves to defrock priest after allegations by 5 women

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage said it would take steps to defrock a longtime priest suspected of inappropriate behavior with women.

Father J. Michael Hornick resigned in 2009 as pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church after allegations were made by three adult women that he had engaged in inappropriate — not criminal — behavior.

After the claims were made public, two more adult women came forward and said they had inappropriate contact with Hornick decades before when they were minors, said Father Thomas Brundage, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

Hornick has been forbidden for more than three years from identifying himself as a priest, wearing priest garb or performing sacraments, Brundage said. Only the Vatican can laicize a priest and the process is in motion, Brundage said.

“We would like to finalize that by having him be returned to the lay state,” Brundage said.

The allegations tarnish Hornick’s reputation, his lawyer, Wayne Anthony Ross, said in a statement. Ross said Hornick “vehemently denies any such abuse to adults or minors” and welcomes the canonical process to present his defense.

Hornick was a priest for more than 40 years. The first allegation involving women was reported in 1997 and the church sent Hornick to a treatment facility for about six months.

Dutch court upholds fine against Orthodox Jew who did not carry ID card like all Dutch

AMSTERDAM (AP) — A Dutch appeals court has upheld a euro60 ($90) fine against an Orthodox Jew who refused to show police an identity card, citing religious reasons.

The Hague Appeals Court ruled that a law which makes it mandatory for all people older than 14 to carry ID cards and show them to police upon request does not have a religious exemption.

The man, whose name was not released due to privacy laws, had argued it was against his religious beliefs to carry anything but his clothing on the Jewish Sabbath.

The ruling didn’t say why police approached the man.

The law was introduced in 2005 amid a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. Carrying ID cards hadn’t previously been mandatory in the Netherlands since the Nazi occupation in World War II.