Islam critic says honor turned into a shaming

BOSTON - Brandeis University has transformed an accolade into "a moment of shaming" by withdrawing a plan to give an honorary degree to a Muslim women's advocate who has made comments critical of Islam, she said last week.

The university decided late Tuesday not to honor Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the May 18 commencement after receiving complaints from some students, faculty members and others, including an online petition.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam.

Brandeis, outside Boston in Waltham, Mass., said it had not been aware of Ali's statements earlier.

Ali said that her critics selectively pick quotes and that she doubts the university was not aware of them.

"What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming," she said in a statement Wednesday. "Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. "The 'spirit of free expression' referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014."

Some alumni, students and faculty did voice support for honoring Ali, who was raised in a strict Muslim family but renounced the faith in her 30s after surviving a civil war, genital mutilation, beatings and an arranged marriage.

Wedding-singer priest an Internet hit

DUBLIN - Father's got talent. An Irish priest has become a social-media sensation after he surprised a bride and groom by singing a custom-made cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at their wedding.

Video of the Rev. Ray Kelly's altar-side performance has shot to the top of YouTube in Ireland with more than 240,000 viewings since it was posted Monday following the weekend nuptials of Chris and Leah O'Kane.

The parish priest in the town of Oldcastle, northwest of Dublin, started his version with the words: "We join together here today, to help two people on their way, as Leah and Chris start their life together."

Kelly wins laughter midway as he raises his eyebrows at the stunned couple, and offers a playful wink at the end.

Online: Kelly's performance: http://bit.ly/1qmWLNv

Bill would name the Bible as La. state book

BATON ROUGE, La. - Lawmakers are moving ahead with a proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book, despite concerns the bill would land the Legislature in court.

A House municipal committee advanced the bill last week with an 8-5 vote, sending it to the full House for debate.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn't designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

Pope denounces human trafficking

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity Thursday after meeting with four women who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.

Francis attended a Vatican conference of church workers, charity representatives and police chiefs from 20 nations, Interpol and Europol who pledged greater cooperation to prevent trafficking and encourage its victims to come forward to police.

"Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ," Francis said. "It is a crime against humanity."

The pope met privately with freed sex slaves from his native Argentina, Chile, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Three of them addressed the conference, which issued a final statement pledging to develop strategies to do more to prevent trafficking, care for victims and help them reintegrate into society once freed.

Associated Press