— Evangelical leaders are urging fellow Christians to welcome refugees from Syria and Iraq despite opposition by many governors and presidential candidates.

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, World Relief and other Christian groups said they would not surrender to fears surrounding the issue.

The remarks are from a statement released Thursday called a “Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees: An Evangelical Response.” A recent Pew Research Center survey found white evangelicals had the greatest opposition of any American religious group to accepting more refugees.

Many mostly Republican governors have called for a temporary halt to resettling refugees from Syria over security concerns after the Islamic extremist attacks last month in Paris and earlier this month in San Bernadino, California.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City says a bleeding host reported after a communion wafer turned water red was caused by bread mold, not a miracle.

Officials said this week that a scientist found the conclusive natural explanation for the wafer that turned water in an ablution bowl a dark red color at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Kearns.

The diocese appointed a committee to investigate after the host that went uneaten on Nov. 8 appeared to bleed after being left unattended for several days.

Committee chair Monsignor Francis Mannion says the church sets a high bar for proving a miracle and rules one out if an event has a conclusive natural explanation.

SEATTLE — A Washington state high school assistant football coach who was suspended for praying at midfield after games has filed a discrimination complaint.

The Liberty Institute, a Texas-based law firm representing coach Joe Kennedy, says he filed the complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It alleges Bremerton School District discriminated against him when it suspended him Oct. 28. Kennedy had prayed before and after games, sometimes joined by students, since 2008.

The district asked him to stop when the practice came to its attention this year, but he persisted by silently taking a knee and praying. The district argued that students could feel coerced to participate in religious activity when they see their coaches lead or endorse it.

RICHM — A Virginia man accused in a plot to shoot up or bomb synagogues and black churches has pleaded not guilty to a robbery conspiracy charge.

Charles D. Halderman Jr., entered the plea Tuesday at his arraignment in federal court in Richmond. Robert C. Doyle and Ronald Beasley Chaney II each pleaded not guilty to a robbery conspiracy charge and two firearms counts during their arraignment last week.

Prosecutors say the men conspired to rob a silver and coin dealer and use the money to stockpile weapons, buy land and train for a race war. All three face a three-day jury trial starting March 21.

BETHLEH — The town where the Bible says Jesus was born has staged its first-ever Christmas parade.

Hundreds of people thronged the streets of Bethlehem Monday evening to see floats depicting Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth, the birth of Jesus, the shepherds and the wise men. Other floats featured modern Christmas characters like Santa Claus on his sleigh.

Palestinian sponsors hope the parade will become an annual event in Bethlehem’s lead-up to Christmas, along with the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in front of the Church of the Nativity and folk concerts.

This year, Christmas in the Holy Land comes amid renewed violence.

Wire reports