JERUSALEM

Western Wall prayer rules dividing Jews

Israel’s prime minister has instructed a quasi-governmental Jewish organization to find a solution for non-Orthodox Jewish female groups wishing to pray at one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

An official said Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, to look into the matter. The official spoke anonymously according to government regulations.

Last week Israeli police detained women from a liberal Jewish group who approached the Western Wall in Jerusalem carrying prayer shawls. Orthodox Jews insist those are for men only. The women seek to worship at the site without such restrictions.

Jewish Agency spokesman Benjamin Rutland said Netanyahu told Sharansky that the Western Wall “must remain a source of Jewish unity rather than division.” The wall is a remnant of the biblical Jewish Temple compound.

SANTA FE, N.M.

Hallucinogenic-tea drinkers face appeal

A group of Taos-area homeowners is appealing Santa Fe County’s decision to allow construction of a church where members drink a hallucinogenic tea as a sacrament.

The six Arroyo Hondo homeowners object to the county spending about $400,000 to extend a waterline and build a sewage-treatment system there.

The notice of appeal filed in state court Wednesday argues using taxpayer money violates New Mexico’s anti-donation clause and the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the church known as the UDV has been involved in legal battles for a decade and consistently declined comment.

The church sued after the county rejected it building plan. The county agreed last month to let it build a temple and to put in the water line.

ST. LOUIS

Man arrested in 19th-century Bible’s theft

A 19th-century Bible stolen from a St. Louis church several days before Christmas has turned up at an antique shop and a suspect has been arrested.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a man hawked the Bible for $30 Sunday. But after conducting an Internet search Wednesday, the store that bought the nearly 15-pound Bible learned it had been stolen from St. Johns Lutheran Church. Police were called and the Bible returned.

The church has been the target of repeated burglaries. Thieves have stolen property, ruined food for the poor and damaged the building itself.

SALT LAKE CITY

Utah’s births drop for four straight years

Fewer babies have been born in Utah each of the past four years.

New data from the Utah Department of Health shows that about 1,000 fewer babies were born in 2011 than in 2010. That marks the first time there has been a decline four straight years since the 1980s.

The 51,144 babies born in 2011 in Utah last year were the fewest since 2004. The peak was 2007-2008 when 55,000 babies were born each year in Utah.

Utah still has one of the nation’s highest birth rates despite the slowdown.

- From news service reports