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Company agrees to prayer breaks

A high-tech manufacturing company has resolved a dispute with Muslim employees over their right to pray at work.

Solectron Corp., based in Milpitas, Calif., and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, on Tuesday announced the resolution of a dispute that began when more than 30 Muslim contract employees in Atlanta, Ga., quit their jobs assembling cellular phones. They said they were not allowed to offer obligatory prayers during work breaks.

Muslims pray five times a day, and the workers, all refugees from Somalia, had asked to take two five-minute prayer breaks each shift.

Discussions between the council and company officials resulted in the reinstatement of the contract employees, compensation for back wages, a restatement of Solectron's commitment to diversity, and a contribution to a refugee relief agency that serves the Somali community in Atlanta.

Religious accommodations include a floating break period designed to coincide with sunset prayers.

$20 million Gothic church planned

A Presbyterian congregation aims to buck the trend of new church buildings that look like auditoriums by constructing a $20 million stone Gothic-style church designed to make a statement about God's grandeur.

The style was inspired by Europe's austere churches of centuries ago and by Gothic-style churches built by earlier generations in Tennessee. Contemporary designs emphasize informal worship services, multi-use facilities and a homey, casual environment.

''Our philosophy is that all of life is an expression of what we believe, and we hope to build a church that expresses something of the transcendence and sovereignty of God,'' said the Rev. Jim Bachmann, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church.

''We don't want it to be stuffy or ostentatious. But instead of a shopping-mall consumeristic feel, we want it to be reverent. We want the building to 'preach.'"

The building will go up on 30 acres in the city's Green Hills community. The church already has raised about $7 million in pledges. If money falls short, planners may forsake stone for less expensive brick.

''It depends on how much money the Lord provides,'' Bachmann said.

Duke Divinity School to receive grant

Duke Divinity School will receive a $3.5 million grant for a study designed to find ways to attract and retain clergy in several denominations.

The Lilly Endowment's three-year grant, one of the largest in the school's history, is intended to help congregations rethink how to recruit and keep pastoral leaders.

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