PHILADELPHIA -- A Pennsylvania pastor who broke church law by presiding over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and then became an outspoken activist for gay rights can return to the pulpit after a United Methodist Church appeals panel on Tuesday overturned a decision to defrock him.
The nine-person panel ordered the church to restore Frank Schaefer's pastoral credentials, saying the jury that convicted him last year erred when fashioning his punishment. He was then transferred to the California conference of the church, effective July 1.
"I've devoted my life to this church, to serving this church, and to be restored and to be able to call myself a reverend again and to speak with this voice means so much to me," an exultant Schaefer told Associated Press, adding he intends to work for gay rights "with an even stronger voice from within the United Methodist Church."
The church suspended Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., for officiating his son's 2007 wedding, then defrocked him when he refused to promise to uphold the Methodist law book "in its entirety," including its ban on clergy performing same-sex marriages.
Schaefer appealed, arguing the decision was wrong because it was based on an assumption he would break church law in the future.
The appeals panel, which met in Linthicum, Md., last week to hear the case, upheld a 30-day suspension that Schaefer has already served and said he should get back pay dating to when the suspension ended in December.
Bishop Peggy Johnson of the church's eastern Pennsylvania conference said Tuesday she would abide by the panel's decision and return him to active service.
Negotiators open compromise talks: House and Senate negotiators opened compromise talks Tuesday on legislation to expand health care for veterans, and said they hope for quick response to a scandal that has uncovered long wait times, false record-keeping and accusations of criminal activity at the Department of Veterans Affairs. At their core, the bills passed by the House and Senate would allow millions of former members of the armed forces to seek health care outside the government's veterans system if they were unable to get a timely appointment inside it.
Fifteen medical workers indicted: Southern California doctors were bribed to prescribe a pain-relief concoction as part of a $25 million workers' compensation scam that inadvertently caused a baby's death, according to indictments. Two recently released Orange County grand jury indictments name 15 people, including physicians, pharmacists, chiropractors and the head of an Ontario-based workers' compensation claims management firm. The indictments name Kareem Ahmed, a major campaign donor to President Barack Obama and head of the Landmark Medical Management. Prosecutors contend that he hired pharmacists to produce a pain-relief cream, gave kickbacks to doctors and chiropractors to prescribe it to workers' compensation patients, and conspired to submit phony claims.
Reportedly front for porn ring: Authorities in North Carolina say a registered sex offender ran a home child care as a front for a child porn production operation involving a Special Forces soldier and other adults. Harnett County investigators said Bailey Joe Mills ran the unlicensed child care from his home. Mills has three felony convictions involving sexual activity with children and was charged in January with raping a 13-year-old girl. Authorities said there are at least 10 child victims. Also arrested were Mills' wife, 34-year-old Elizabeth Holland Mills; 29-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Everett Busse of Fort Bragg; 20-year-old Rashawn Rodriguez Drake Jackson; and 50-year-old Tommy Wall.
Pleads guilty in Madoff scam: Paul Konigsberg, a senior partner at a New York accounting firm, pleaded guilty to criminal charges Tuesday in a cooperation deal with the government, saying he unwittingly played a role in financier Bernard Madoff's "horrific and evil Ponzi scheme." Konigsberg, a 78-year-old accounting firm executive, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of falsifying books and records in federal court in Manhattan. He also agreed to forfeit $4.4 million in cash and property. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.