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By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 2:31 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia's top government-sanctioned board of senior Islamic clerics has endorsed a fatwa that calls for a ban on female vendors because it violates the kingdom's strict segregation of the sexes.

The powerful committee said in its ruling Sunday that the mixing of sexes is forbidden and women should not seek jobs where they could encounter men.

The decision comes after a conservative preacher was reprimanded in August for violating a government-mandated restriction on fatwas by calling for a boycott of supermarkets employing female cashiers.

Saudi King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on ultraconservative ideology as part of his bid to modernize the kingdom. But his efforts appear to be challenged by the influential religious scholars, who play a key role in the monarch's legitimacy.

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Churches play a key, sometimes controversial role, in fugitive safe surrender programs

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Law enforcement officials say a program that allows people wanted by the law to turn themselves in safely wouldn't succeed without the crucial participation of local churches.

In New Jersey, the third "Fugitive Safe Surrender" is taking place this week at a church in Somerset. The program is aimed at nonviolent offenders. Many are wanted for drug possession, traffic violations or unpaid child support.

Across the country, more than 25,000 people have turned themselves in at churches as part of safe-surrender programs.

Supporters say the program gives offenders the opportunity to get their lives back on track.

But advocates of church-state separation worry that it blurs lines between government and religious institutions.

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© 2010 The Associated Press

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