Wednesday, November 24 2004 @ 12:29 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
For 15 years San Diego atheist Phillip Paulson and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been trying to get removed the large white cross monument sitting atop Mt. Soledad in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla. According to them, the cross, which was erected more than 50 years ago in honor of those who served in the armed forces in World War II, is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Various neogtiations have consumed the last few months, including bringing the issue to local voters and a nearby church's offer to consider moving the cross there if all avenues for keeping it on public land failed.
Now it may be that the cross's location and public status will be preserved by the federal government. In the huge spending bill passed by the Congress last weekend was a small attachment that makes the land and the cross a national veterans' memorial. If the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by President Bush in the next few weeks, prevails, the county of San Diego will deed the land over to the federal government with compensation of cash, benefits, and/or other property and the cross will stay public as part of the National Park System's national historic landmark program.
The budget legislation included the Mt. Soledad cross because of actions by two California Republican US Representatives, Duncan Hunter and Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
The ACLU is calling the move "political gamesmanship" and says they won't necessarily stop the fight, but are exploring avenues of appeal or recension.
San Diego attorney Charles LiMandri of the conservative first amendment rights organization the Thomas More Law Center notes that such a designation does not mean that Congress is endorsing religion, pointing to the thousands of crosses that mark graves of veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.
Tuesday, November 23 2004 @ 05:09 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
In an address to a Jewish group in New York City today, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says a religion-neutral government does not represent an America that reflects belief in God in everything from its money to its military. Scalia addressed an interfaith conference at a New York synagogue.
Scalia added that preserving a government neutral to religion did not protect the rights of Jews in Europe more than they are protected in America. In Europe, he noted, religion-neutral leaders almost never publicly use the word "God" or any references to religion, but anti-Semitism is far more prevalent and violent in Europe than in the United States.
Official examples of the infusion of religion into American government include the faith of the Founding Fathers, Scalia noted. He also mentioned the word God on US currency, chaplains in the military and the legislature, real estate tax exemption for houses of worship, and the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegience.
Monday, November 22 2004 @ 01:40 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
In a move heralded as a victory for pro-life groups and an attack on reproductive freedom for abortion rights groups, the Congress this weekend passed a $388 billion spending bill that ensures those health care providers who decline to provide abortion or abortion-related services will have the same access to the funding assistance as any other health care providers. An amendment to the omnibus spending bill, called the Hyde-Weldon anti-discrimination amendment, or the federal refusal clause, says that state and local governments that receive federal funds may not discriminate against health care providers and companies that refuse to perform abortions, pay for abortions, provide coverage for abortions, or make abortion referrals.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life (NRL), said the legislation "will prevent state and local government officials from compelling health care providers to participate in killing unborn children." His argument is that health care providers who decline to participate in abortion related services are all too often excluded from funding sources that put them on a level playing field financially with others who do fund such activities.
On the other side of the controversy, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) called the legislation "our worst nightmare -- Congress trying to rob women of their full access to health care." Abortion rights advocates say that if health care providers who do not provide abortion-related services thrive alongside those that do, the tendency will be for health care providers to increasingly refuse such procedures for political or liability reasons, making abortion services less available and more expensive.
The House approved the spending bill 344-51 and the Senate voted 65-30 in favor. The White House supports the legislation and it is expected to be signed into law by President Bush.
Monday, November 22 2004 @ 01:04 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Pointing to the successful efforts of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), a Christian law group is resisting efforts by university officials nationwide to interfere with their right to ban gay members. The by-laws of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) permit only gays who have repented of their sexual sins to become members. CLS was founded to give Christian attorneys and Christian law students a forum for fellowship and interaction among like-minded Christian believers.
Despite their private status and their clearly-worded bylaws, several universities have refused to extend privileges and/or funding to the CLS in the same manner that they do for other campus groups, citing the rule as discriminatory and enough to exclude them from the same treatment as other groups.
In response, the CLS has filed six legal challenges, including one last week against the Arizona State University (Tempe). Two of the six suits have been settled in the CLS's favor so far. The CLS argues that their Constitutional rights to assembly and the free exercise of their religion are being abridged by university policies that would require the religious group to accept members and leaders regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, and regardless of their sexual orientation.
“Religious student organizations, like all other student organizations, should be able to come together around shared commitments,” stated Steven H. Aden, Chief Litigation Counsel for the CLS based Center for Law & Religious Freedom, located in Annandale, Virginia. “It is unfortunate that Arizona State University has chosen to value political correctness over religious freedom.”
Monday, November 22 2004 @ 12:52 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
According to a George Mason University (GMU) professor, President Bush's victory over Senator John Kerry in this month's presidential election owes as much to the votes of moderate Christians as it does to those of more conservative evangelicals.
Speaking at a 2 day Religion and the Presidency conference concurrently in Ohio and Michigan, Professor Mark Rozell noted that although Bush won all 15 states with the highest percentage of evangelical Christians, his win was also dependent on the votes of moderate Christians. Rozell noted that Bush received a significant 45 percent of the votes from moderate Christians and 52 percent of Catholic votes nationwide.
According to Rozell, issues such as same sex marriage attracted moderate Christian voters who were perhaps less motivated by opposition to fetal stem cell researchy funding, for example.
The conference featured 25 journalists, theologians, and professors who addressed a variety of issues involving religion and the presidency, including discussions concerning the current president, George W. Bush, his faith, and the role of faith in the 2004 elections.
After striking down special legislation backed by Governor Jeb Bush and the state legislature that prevented Michael Schiavo from withrdrawing his disabled wife Terri's feeding tube and causing her death, the Florida Supreme Court has now refused wthout comment Gov. Bush's request that it reconsider last month's ruling.
For several years Schiavo has been attempting to remove his wife's feeding tube while her parents and advocates for the disabled and those whose lives are medically threatened have been attempting to keep her alive and to provide rehabilitative care denied by her husband.
Terri Schiavo (40) suffered severe brain damage in 1990 and has been severely disabled since then. She and her husband won a large settlement against the doctors and hospital that has been funding her care. The husband has been living with another woman for several years and has children with her.
Although Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, says the court's newest rejection allows them to remove the feeding tube at will, they will not attempt to do so at least until a court hearing scheduled for Friday at which Terri's parents are requesting a new trial to determine their daughter's wishes.
Anxious to ensure that no school activities offend minority groups, one school district in Washington state has decided to ban all Halloween activities out of deference to witches who might be offended by having their status parodied in costuming or decorations. Puyallup School District, south of Seattle, sent a letter home to parents yesterday stating there would be no observance of Halloween in the entire school district. Spokeswoman Karen Hansen said, "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion, and so we want to be respectful of that."
Hansen said the district superintendent made the decision for 3 main reasons: to respect real witches, to avoid wasting classroom time with parties, and to respect families that couldn't afford costumes. Nothing was said about the potential for offending werewolves, presidential candidates, angels, members of royalty, or those whose religious convictions preclude their participation in Halloween festivities.
When the two presidential candidates were asked about homosexuality at Wednesday's debate, one said we don't know why people are gay, and the other said dogmatically that gays are born that way. While President Bush's ambiguity was more reflective of the inconclusive evidence of science, Senator Kerry's dogmatism not only went beyond the scientific evidence, it offended the increasing numbers of people who proclaim that they have changed their sexual orientation from homosexuality and are now "ex-gays." Jeralee Smith, a self-proclaimed former lesbian who runs a support group for "ex-gay" educators, commented, "I have experienced significant change in my sexual orientation and my feelings."
In Kerry's response, he referred to Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary, when he said that "she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice."
Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and producer of a documentary, "I Do Exist," which chronicles the lives of ex-homosexuals, commented, "Kerry's views, unforntunately, present a view of homosexuality that science does not support. Bush, wisely, has reserved judgment and his views are closer to where science has progressed to at this point. I'm concerned that Kerry misled the country."
Throckmorton continued, "If people are born gay and they're being who they are, then what about all these ex-gays? What about all the people on my film, 'I Do Exist,' who once believed they were born gay, but through a process of change and reflection, now are attracted exclusively to the opposite sex?"
Chad Thompson, who runs a group called Inqueery, helping ex-homosexuals in schools, added, "It sounds like John Kerry is saying that I don't exist. I certainly wouldn't want someone representing me who isn't even willing to acknowledge that I'm here."
In a surprise move, the US Supreme Court today said it will examine and decide the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on government land and buildings. Previously the court has repeatedly refused to examine issues related to their 1980 decision that banned the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. Subsequently, various lower courts have issued different rulings in different cases that at best seem inconsistent, and at worst seem to be contradictory.
The court will examine two cases, one in Kentucky and another in Texas. The Texas case involves a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds and the Kentucky case involves a lower court ruling banning the posting of the Ten Commandments in any Kentucky courthouse.
"The Ten Commandments case could be the blockbuster religious liberty case that the Supreme Court has seen in a really long time," observed Mathew Staver, of the conservative law group Liberty Counsel, which is representing the Kentucky counties that had posted the Commandments in their courthouses. He continued, "It's part of our American heritage. People are upset when they see that being removed."
Hoping the Court will ban any Commandments display in public, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said, "It's clear that the Ten Commandments is a religious document. Its display is appropriate in houses of worship but not at the seat of government."
The Supreme Court chamber where the Justices meet contains a prominent display of a carving of Moses holding the Ten Commandments.
Tuesday, October 12 2004 @ 11:29 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Recognizing the foundational importance of the Roman Catholic missions work in the exploration and settlement of California, the US Senate has approved a bill authored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) authorizing up to $10 million to help restore California's 21 missions. A similar bill was already passed by the House of Representatives. The current version will be reviewed by the House and, if affirmed, sent to President Bush for signature into law before the end of the year.
But Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU), a watchdog organization that vigorously opposes any association between government and religion, has said that it will have its legal department review the legislation and it may file suit against the bill as an unconstitutional violation of separation between church and state. The AU's primary objection is that 19 of the 21 missions are still being used for worship and are owned either by local dioceses or by the Franciscan order of monks.
Anticipating objections like the AU, the legislation was amended in the Senate to require that the Department of Justice review all applications for grants to certify that they do not promote religion with public funds and that the money will only go to preserve the missions' historic features. Similar caveats have been attached to successful legislation helping missions in other areas of the country. Federal funds have also been used to restore the historic Old North Church in Boston and the Newport, Rhode Island Touro Synagogue.
The federal funds would be matching funds raised by the non-profit California Missions Foundation. Other funds could come from California's Proposition 40, approved by voters in March 2002, which set aside $267 million for historic preservation projects of all kinds.
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26