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Religion news in brief

  • Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

    Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

  • Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

    Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

  • Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)
  • Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) attempts to score while defended by Georgia forward Brandon Morris (31) during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 67-48. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Lau)

Iowa State removing Bibles from its hotel guest rooms

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bibles will be removed from guest rooms at Iowa State University’s Hotel Memorial Union in Ames.

The Des Moines Register says a guest complained to a watchdog group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organization wrote to Memorial Union director Richard Reynolds on Jan. 29, asking for the Bibles to be removed. The group’s attorney, Patrick Elliott, said that for a state-run university to provide a Bible to guests, “that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over nonreligion.”

Reynolds responded last week and said the Bibles would be removed by March 1.

The hotel occupies several floors in the Memorial Union and has 52 rooms. The Bibles will be placed in the Memorial Union’s Browsing Library for lending.

Pastor who died of rattlesnake bite remembered

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. — A snake-handling pastor in Kentucky who died after being bitten by one of the serpents during a church service has been remembered fondly at a memorial service.

Jamie Coots was known for his role on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation.” But a family friend remembered him Tuesday night for his “great faith” and tolerance of others. Bill Bisceglia of Middlesboro told Knoxville, Tenn., station WBIR-TV that the 42-year-old Coots didn’t argue with people who didn’t agree with him, but maintained his own beliefs until he died.

People parked blocks away from the funeral home where visitation and a funeral service were held. Visitors said afterward the funeral home was full and lines were long.

Coots was handling a rattlesnake when he was bitten last week.

Judges hear arguments on display of crosses

CHICAGO — The attorney for an Indiana church says its free speech rights were violated when a federal judge blocked the city of Evansville from allowing 31 crosses decorated by vacation Bible school students to be erected along the city’s public riverfront.

Evansville officials had approved the display requested by Westside Christian Church, but two local residents filed suit, arguing that the 6-foot-tall crosses along four blocks of city property would appear to endorse religion. Judge Sarah Evans Barker agreed and prohibited the display.

On Tuesday, the church’s attorney, Bryan Beauman, urged the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling.

Over 3 days, volunteers pack 2 million meals

NOVI, Mich. — A Detroit-area pastor’s vision of guiding thousands of volunteers to pack 2 million meals over a three-day weekend has come true.

The Rev. Brad Powell said it was better than he imagined. His 2 Million Meals effort reached its goal Sunday.

When it did, the seven digits were displayed on an oversized video screen and volunteers cheered and danced as the sports-arena anthem “Rock & Roll, Part 2” filled the convention hall in Novi.

In all, 8,810 volunteers — working in 11 two-hour shifts — packed 2,029,536 meals from Friday to Sunday.

The food is a mixture of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and 21 vitamins and minerals.

It will be shipped to El Salvador, Haiti, and the Philippines, where it can provide one meal a day for a year to 5,560 children.

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