Tebow pulls out of church speech
February 21st, 2013
02:48 PM ET

Tebow pulls out of church speech

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has canceled an appearance at a controversial Dallas-area church. The outspoken Christian quarterback was scheduled to speak at First Baptist Church on April 28.

The church is led by Robert Jeffress, who has been widely criticized for views against homosexuality, Islam and Mormonism. Tebow, announcing his decision Thursday on Twitter, said that he was canceling his appearance "due to new information that has been brought to my attention."

Tebow's statement appeared over a series of four tweets on the social media site.

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Filed under: Religion • Sports
Pastor withdraws from Obama inauguration over sermon on gays
January 10th, 2013
11:51 AM ET

Pastor withdraws from Obama inauguration over sermon on gays

[Updated at 12:14 p.m. ET] An Atlanta pastor who was picked to deliver the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration this month has withdrawn from the ceremony amid a controversy over a sermon he apparently preached on homosexuality in the 1990s.

The Rev. Louis Giglio sent a letter of withdrawal to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Criticism over the selection swirled after the liberal website Think Progress posted a sermon that it said Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, a speech the site called "vehemently anti-gay."

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Civil rights leader's widow to give invocation at Obama's inaugration
In this 2009 photo, Myrlie Evers-Williams stands next to an expanded version of postage honoring her late husband, Medgar Evers.
January 8th, 2013
11:25 AM ET

Civil rights leader's widow to give invocation at Obama's inaugration

The widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers will deliver the invocation and benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration January 21, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Tuesday.

The committee said in a statement that the president was involved in selecting Myrlie Evers-Williams, an Atlanta pastor who is the widow of Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation and the Rev. Louie Giglio, pastor of the Passion City Church, to deliver the benediction.

"I am humbled to have been asked to deliver the invocation for the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States - especially in light of this historical time in America when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement," she said in a statement from the inaugural committee. "It is indeed an exhilarating experience to have the distinct honor of representing that era."

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April 5th, 2012
01:34 PM ET

Holy traffic stop! Violation highlights Beltway Batman’s good deeds

Baltimore (CNN) Lenny Robinson is still getting acclimated to his 15 minutes of fame. When he pulled up to Baltimore's Sinai Hospital in a black Lamborghini decked out head to toe in a custom Batman outfit, he was greeted by a crush of reporters, news photographers and giddy hospital staff armed with smartphones snapping pictures.

Robinson became a viral video sensation last month when police pulled him over in full costume.  The dashboard camera in the Montgomery County, Maryland, police cruiser caught the entire scene, including the officer calling for back up. “You can send me Robin if you wish,” the officer snickered to dispatch before asking the driver, “What’s your name other than Batman?”

“Lenny,” Robinson replied from the driver’s seat in a cape and Batman headdress.

The police pulled over Robinson’s car because instead of a Maryland license plate, he had the Batman logo. He likes his outfit and car to look just right when he visits hospitals across Washington and Maryland to cheer up terminally ill children. Once police heard that and saw that the official license plate was inside the car, Robinson was on his way both to the hospital and Internet stardom. Last week a local paper unmasked the caped crusader with a front-page article detailing the charitable work done by the 48-year-old father of three.

Parked outside Sinai in a valet lot where expectant mothers come at delivery time, the Robinson Batmobile gleams. The black Lamborghini is customized with yellow trim and tricked out with the Batman logo nearly everywhere, including on the floor mats, the door jams and the monster rims. A collection of "Batman" themes blasts out from the stereo. Robinson grins from ear to pointy ear, fielding interviews and breaking away to pick up a sick child, say hello and cheer them up.

Upstairs, Hope for Henry is having its annual superhero celebration.

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Obama announces contraception compromise
February 10th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Obama announces contraception compromise

[Updated at 12:23 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama announced a compromise Friday in the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions.

Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions.

Female employees at churches themselves will have no guarantee of any contraception coverage - a continuation of current law.

There will be a one-year transition period for religious organizations after the policy formally takes effect on August 1.

"No woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes." Obama said at the White House. But "the principle of religious liberty" is also at stake. "As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."

[Updated at 10:11 a.m. ET] The Obama administration's contraception compromise will expand the religious exemption for religiously affiliated universities and hospitals, a source tells CNN Friday. Individuals will be able to get contraceptive coverage directly from insurers.

[Initial post, 8:30 a.m. ET] The White House probably will announce a compromise Friday on a controversial rule requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide full contraception coverage to women, an administration source said.

News of the possible compromise comes after days of escalating partisan and ideological rhetoric over the pending rule, which many Catholic leaders and other religious groups oppose.

As currently written, the rule would exempt churches, but hospitals and schools with religious affiliations would have to comply. The new policy is set to go into effect on August 1, though religious groups would have a yearlong extension to implement the rule.

The administration has been examining laws in 28 states that have similar coverage requirements, senior administration sources said this week. Two sources have told CNN that the administration is particularly interested in the Hawaii model, in which female employees of religious institutions can purchase contraceptive coverage directly from the insurer at the same price offered to employees of all other employers.

Another possible solution, one source has said, would be legislation allowing women employed by religiously affiliated employers to get contraceptive insurance from the exchanges created under Obama's sweeping health care reform rather than from their employer's insurer.

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Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time
The final space shuttle launch in NASA history, the Shuttle Atlantis launches from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday.
July 8th, 2011
01:36 PM ET

Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time

Editor's Note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. Tune in to CNN's live coverage of the launch Friday, on CNN.com/Live and the CNN mobile apps. As part of our coverage our teams are the ground are sharing what they are seeing and hearing during this historic day.

[Updated at 1:36 p.m.] Astronaut Julie Payette, a Canadian flight engineer who flew two shuttle missions told CNN: “I feel good about it being a grand finale for an extraordinarily successful program.”

“This program has inspired so many people," she said. "It is very inspirational when we do things on the edge and this is one of the edges that’s hard to reach.”

[Updated at 12:37 p.m.] Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American in Space, said the launch today was a "really bittersweet feeling."

"[It's like] you've had a good friend or a car that did a really good job, but now its time to move on," she said.

[Updated at 12:20 p.m.] @NASA tweets: "The STS-135 post-launch news conference now will be held at 1 p.m. EDT."

[Updated at 12:06 p.m.] Linda Johnston from Palestine, Texas wiped tears away from her eyes as the shuttle blasted into space. This was her first launch and the moment was overwhelming. She rose from her wheelchair and looked by the brim of her straw hat as her husband and grandson stood by her side.

She said the shuttle symbolizes patriotism. Why its ending, she doesn't know - she's just happy that she and the three generations of her family got to see this one in the flesh.

Another family from Warren, Michigan came to see the last launch.

"It was something I could never see again," one woman told CNN's Brooke Baldwin as she cried. "But I've never seen it and I wanted to."

5-year-old Parker Mills, who was with the rest of his family explained, "It was ginormous!  It just went up into the clouds."

[Updated at 11:57 a.m.] @NASA tweets: Watch Administrator Bolden's video blog about the final shuttle launch and what's next for NASA:  http://t.co/wDqXVRK

[Updated at 11:55 a.m.] Astronaut Leroy Chiao is here to do an interview with CNN International. He's got a"celebration" cigar lit and in hand and said the final launch was "fantastic."

Chiao was the commander of Expedition 10 and lived aboard the International Space from October 2004 to April 2005 and has been aboard three shuttle flights.

[Updated at 11:41 a.m.] "When we saw the bright glare of the shuttle and the chants of U.S.A., U.S.A. started going up, it was hard not to cry, frankly," CNN's Carol Costello says.

[Updated at 11:33 a.m.] Space Shuttle Atlantis has achieved main engine cutoff.

[Updated at 11:31 a.m.] The solid rocket boosters continue to travel upward another 150,000 feet after they are ejected, former astronaut Cady Coleman explains.

[Updated at 11:29 a.m.] A half a ton of fuel per second is being drained from Atlantis' main fuel tank. Engines performing perfectly, NASA says.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m.] "Atlantis flexing its muscles one final time," flight commentator says.

[Updated at 11:27 a.m.] Atlantis is in the middle of its eight-minute ride into orbit.

[Updated at 11:26 a.m.] Space Shuttle Atlantis has lifted off, marking NASA's final mission in the space shuttle program.

"The space shuttle spreads its wings one final time for the start of a sentimental journey into history," launch control said.

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July 4th, 2011
07:07 PM ET

Crystal Cathedral's Schuller bounced from board

The Rev. Robert H. Schuller built the Crystal Cathedral, one of America's first megachurches, from the ground up but now the 84-year-old has been voted out by the church's board.

In a statement issued by the church Monday, church officials said Schuller's role with the board was merely changing.

Schuller's granddaughter, Angie Schuller Wyatt, said the board voted him out because he had been advocating adding more members to the board.

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In Joplin, Missouri, 'telephone poles snapped like match sticks'
The storm snapped trees and telephone poles and flipped over cars.
May 23rd, 2011
11:38 AM ET

In Joplin, Missouri, 'telephone poles snapped like match sticks'

Editor's note: CNN producer Eric Marrapodi was on the ground in Joplin, Missouri, when the weather took another nasty turn Monday morning. Here's what he's seeing and witnessing as the sun comes up, but the storms keep coming.

It smells like fresh-cut lumber in Joplin, Missouri. It's the telephone poles, snapped like matchsticks.

We are taking cover in our live truck after the heavens opened up. There's a leak in the roof, but it's mostly dry.

As lightning pops and thunder booms, you can see the locals flinch. It's likely too close for comfort after they lost 89 neighbors to a half-mile wide twister.

The beating rain will wash away some of the dirt kicked up, but it won't unbend the basketball backboard that went from vertical to horizontal during the tornado.

I still can't figure out how the wicker chair got under the car that's under the snapped telephone pole.

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Filed under: Joplin • Missouri • On the Ground • Tornadoes • Weather