Tuesday, September 28 2004 @ 10:58 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A South Dakota elementary school teacher, Barbara Wigg, volunteered to lead the voluntary after school "Good News Club" in Sioux Falls, but her school board stepped in and filed a lawsuit, arguing that since the law forbids teachers on the high school level from leading religious clubs that meet on campus, they thought the same standard should apply on the elementary level. The case made its way to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that denying Wigg the right to participate violates her First Amendment rights. The school board is still skeptical, according to a school district lawyer, Mike Luce, who said the full federal appeals court should rule on the issue, not just the 3 member panel that issued the ruling, to ensure that not only are Wigg's rights protected, but also the rights of children in her school to feel free to dissent from her views and not participate in the club run by the popular teacher. That is why yesterday the school board voted 4-0 to ask for a further hearing on the issue before lifting the ban against Wigg's participation.
Rob Reiger, of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, said regarding the Good News Club, "This is a legitimate organization that has every right to use school district resources after school. It just appears to the public that you are picking on Barb Wigg because of her personal opinions." He added, "The perception is, it's religious bigotry."
So far the district has spent $30,000 of its own money and $100,000 in insurance money pursuing the ban on Wigg's activity. Wigg's attorney says he'll seek reimbursement of approximately $160,000 in legal fees from the district as well.
Explaining the board's delay in reversing its ruling, board member Debbie Hoffman said, "It certainly isn't a battle we can fight in the media. That's why we're doing it in court."
The Roman Catholic Church in Spain has decried the government's plan to legalize same sex marriages, saying today that it would be like releasing a "virus" into Spanish society. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, said that the union of two people of the same sex is simply not a marriage. He said that it would creat "a counterfeit currency in the body of society;" that it would be like "imposing a virus on society, something false that will have negative consequences for social life."
The Spanish Cabinet is expected this week to pass a bill allowing same sex marriages as one of the only predominantly religious (Catholic) countries following the trend of secular European countries that have already allowed some form of legal same sex union or marriage. The government, headed by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, assumed power in April and has a broad socialist agenda to push, including relaxed divorce and abortion laws.
Once the legislation is passed by the Cabinet, it goes to the Parliament for debate and vote. The government plans that the bill will become law and allowance will be made for same sex marriages as early as next year.
When AB205, California's new Domestic Partners Law, signed by then Gov. Gray Davis, becomes law on January 2005, many same sex couples will take advantage of the law's strong legal protections for gay couples. But many other same sex couples, including many who have already registered with the state as domestic partners, will not sign up or will dissolve their existing registrations.
Although the new law gives many rights to domestic partners, such as parental rights for non-biological parents in a same sex family, it also imposes new legal responsibilities and restrictions many people are not prepared to assume. Some fear that counting their domestic partner's income will exclude them from state and federal assistance programs and payments. Some fear that, should their partnership fail, their partner will successfully obtain half of their net worth through the community property provisions of the law. And others fear that bringing the law into it will make partnerships dependent on expensive legal representation,
In anticipation of the new law, during the months of July and August of this year, more state registered domestic partnerships were dissolved (313) than at any time since the registry began in January 2000. Linda Scaparotti, an attorney who specializes in family law and estate planning for same sex couples, observed, "One has to ask if [the coming law] prompted the higher number of domestic partner terminations."
The state has admitted that the new law might compromise certain state benefits. For example, it may be that Medi-Cal benefits will be determined on the basis of the income of both partners under the new law instead of the income only of the person applying for the care. Medi-Cal spokeswoman Norma Arceo says that Medi-Cal has not yet figured out how to treat domestic partners under the new law.
Nevertheless, those who fail to register as domestic partners may find their time in court rougher anyway. Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, warned, "This is a very predictable but unfortunate byproduct of gaining the huge protections of AB205. If one chooses to forgo those protections for all sorts of what might be good reasons, the legal system loses all sympathy. The essential position is, 'Youd didn't take the proper steps to protect yourself, so you lose.'"
Saturday's election in Louisiana garnered 27% of the state's voters, about average for a special election, and unexpectedly high for an election in the midst of evacuations and clean up from a major hurricane. And of those voters, 78% approved the proposed state constitutional amendment that restricts legal marriage to that between a man and a woman and also bans civil unions and domestic parternships as legally protected unions.
Although many legal challenges are expected, pro-family groups are enouraged that Louisiana is representative of most Americans concerning issues of legal protection for same sex unions.
Deborah Young, Concerned Women for America (CWA) state director for Louisiana commented, "Our state's citizens saw that leaving marriage unprotected would bring a cultural and social disaster as serious in its own way as [hurricane] Ivan's devastating winds." She continued, "Louisiana voters sent a strong message to 'gay' activists seeking to contest the definition of marriage in court."
A Minnesota state worker got more exercise than his colleagues for a while when he was barred from parking in the nearby employee parking lot because he had stuck some religious bumper stickers on his car. In a lawsuit filed on his behalf by the conservative first amendment advocacy organization, the American Center for Law and Justice, Alan Blackburn claimed he was forced to park 1/4 mile farther than the employee parking lot at the Brainerd office of the state Revenue Department because of his bumper stickers.
The lawsuit, which claimed other state employees were allowed to have bumper stickers and other signs on their cars or in their office cubicles that expressed their personal opinions, was settled last week for an undisclosed sum of money and agreement with Blackburn's bosses that he could express his personal religious opinions just like other employees did on his car and in his cubicle. Under the settlement, the Revenue Department did not admit it was liable but Blackburn agreed to drop his suit after he won the same rights as his co-workers.
Some of the messages on Blackburn's car included, "God is a loving and caring God," "God gave us the 10 Commandments," and "'In God We Trust' is our national motto. Why can't the 10 Commandments be displayed on government property?"
Thursday, September 02 2004 @ 10:28 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
The staunchly secular government of France earlier this year passed legislation banning all conspicuous religious signs or apparel in public school, but the first implementation of that law is taking place this week as schools begin a new term. Although the law also bans such items as Jewish skull caps and large Christian crucifixes, it is the general purpose of the law to outlaw the distinctive dress -- including headscarves for girls and women -- of Islamic fundamentalism.
France has the largest proportion of Muslims of any other European country with a Muslim population estimated at 5 million. A significant but small number of those Muslims are radically against the French government, support terrorist views and causes, and are seen by the government as threats to national security and stability. For this reason the French government has undertaken a number of steps to curb the high profiles of such Muslims and to restrict their ability to propogate their views and recruit followers who may become or support terrorists.
On the first day of school, some Muslim girls decided to go scarfless, others wore smaller scarves or bandanas, and some came traditionally garbed. No one was banned from school, but those who violated the law were engaged in official dialog that could culminate in their being banned from school if they continue to refuse to drop the conspicuous religious garb.
In a related development, Islamic terrorists in Iraq who are holding 2 French journalists threatened to execute the 2 unless France recinded the law. Although their deadline has passed, the fate of the journalists is unknown.
Catholic League President William Donohue explained that the bishop of the church, Victor T. Curry, "welcomed" former Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton and Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee to the service and then proceeded to hold more of a political rally than a church service. According to Donohue, "Rev. Sharpton, speaking from the pulpit, added to the politicized atmosphere by shouting, 'We're not people who are going to be beat twice.'"
He then quoted McAuliffe, saying, "But no one was more partisan than McAuliffe: 'Bush has misled us for four years and will not mislead us for the next four years. Get out to vote and we'll send Bush back to Texas.'"
The Catholic League was quick to point out that liberal groups who have made similar charges against religious churches and organizations who seem supportive of conservative issues or candidates not only unfairly attack groups that are perceived as conservative, but that they fail to distinguish between blatant political activism and the kind of values endorsement fully supported by the constitution regarding freedom of speech and religion for all Americans, whether as members of religious groups or individuals. Donohue commended Democratic former President Bill Clinton's appearance last weekend at New York's Riverside Church. Donohue reported that during his remarks President Clinton said, "Politics and political involvement dictated by faith is not the exclusive province of the right wing." Donohue said that Clinton had got it right -- the IRS prohibits "substantial" political involvement by tax exempt churches and organizations, but not incidental and not regarding particular stands on particular issues that impact one's faith and the practice of one's faith.
Donohue also noted a "good example" of politically tinged (but not politically controlled) faith as exemplfied by the Roman Catholic Rev. George Rutler, who celebrated Mass Sunday in New York: "In a lengthy sermon, which focused on humility and the poor, Rutler made a passing reference to the controversy over Catholic pro-abortion politicians, saying that 'No one has a right to take Communion,'" Donohue recounted.
Ironically, Donohue noted, Rutler's mild comment was characterized by an AP reporter as unfair partisanship. Donohue said, "Yet this was enough for an AP reporter to say that 'church-state separation watchdogs' have said that 'Masses such as the one held Sunday amount to tacit political endorsement.'"
Donohue concluded, "Neither Clinton nor Rutler violated the IRS rules governing church and state. But McAuliffe crossed the line, hence the need to contact the IRS."
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has chosen 2 liberal justices to fill vacancies on the Canadian Supreme Court just as the court is set to rule this autumn on the constitutionality of legislation proposed in the liberal controlled parliament which would legalize same sex marriages throughout Canada.
On behalf of PM Martin, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler named 2 Ontario Court of Appeals judges to the court, Justice Rosalie Abella and Justice Louise Charron. With the addition of these 2 women to the Supreme Court, there will be 4 female justices and 5 male, the highest proportion of female justices ever. Cotler says Martin's choice was because he believed the 2 were the best qualified candidates, not because they were female or supported his same sex marriage agenda.
Although the successful appointment of the 2 justices is assured by Canadian protocol, they will be vetted by a parliamentary hearing today that is the first televised vetting of justices in Canada.
Wednesday, August 25 2004 @ 11:45 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
At a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney explained his position on same sex marriage -- that he thinks the parameters for legal marriage, including whether to include or exclude same sex unions, is a matter for the states to decide, not for the federal government. At the same time, he noted that President George W. Bush was supporting a Constitutional Amendment to make same sex marriage illegal on a federal level. Cheney pointed out that at least part of Bush's justification for a federal constitutional amendment was because he believed the issue was being taken out of the hands of the people unfairly by activist judges who were not merely administering the law, but making it with their controversial rulings. Cheney concluded, "At this point, my own preference is as I've stated, but the president makes basic policy for this administration and he's made it clear that he does in fact support an amendment on this issue."
Cheney has 2 daughters, one of whom has publicly declared that she is gay. Cheney said, "Lynne and I have a gay daughter and so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters and we have enormous pride in both of them, they're both fine young women and they do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us, and we were blessed with both our daughters."
Cheney explained his views on same sex marriage, saying, "With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is, what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government . . . to the particular relationship?"
States should have the primary responsibility to define legal relationships, Cheney commented, declaring, "Historically it's been a relationship that's been handled by the states. States have made the basic fundamental decision what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when this question came up in my debate with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that's appropriately a matter for the states to decide and that's how it ought to best be handled."
A federal appeals court today blocked a judge's order to remove a Bible from a monument that stands outside the Harris County courthouse in Houston. According to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the monument can stay intact with its Bible until all appeals by the county have been exhausted. The Appeals Court noted that many such cases end up before the US Supreme Court, but that court has not ruled in such a way that a clear precedent and specific guidelines can help lower courts judge the probabilities that a particular appeal will overturn a lower ruling. Consequently, it would be prejudicial to order the monument's Bible removed without a clear probability that higher courts will affirm that removal.
The suit was brought by a Houston area realtor, Kay Staley, who sued the county, arguing that the Bible advanced Christianity on behalf of the state and sent a message to her and other non-Christians that they have a lesser standing in Houston than Christians.
The monument was paid for, erected, and maintained by the Star of Hope Mission, a Christian mission to the homeless that has successfully rescued the homeless for nearly a century in Houston. In 1956 the mission erected the monument at the county courthouse in honor of its first director, William Mosher, an ex-alcoholic, who was a well-known Houston area industrialist who used his great wealth to benefit many religious and civic causes in the greater Houston area. The monument was refurbished in 1995, when the Bible was added to the display to mark Mosher's contention that his Christian faith was the motivation for his public philanthropy.
The Harris county government pays only the less than $100 in electrical fees charged each year to keep the display lighted.
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