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« on: December 23, 2007, 10:11:54 AM »

Christ, Christians and Christmas Under Attack In The Courts

Nativity scene at Ark. State Capitol draws protest

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is objecting to a Nativity scene next to the Arkansas state Capitol, claiming the display violates the so-called separation of church and state.

Governor Mike Beebe does not believe the Nativity scene should be removed. Beebe's spokesman calls it "a simple and nonintrusive holiday display that's appropriate for the season."

The display just south of the Capitol includes carved wooden sculptures inside a wooden structure that is about 30 feet wide. It includes two signs on the front advertising an address where people can send contributions to the private foundation responsible for the display.
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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2007, 10:18:15 AM »

That's right, there is a Freedom From Religion Foundation. It is not a play on words or a twisting of the words in the name of their organization as is frequently done with the ACLU or Americans United for Separations of Church and State.

Their purpose is to educate more people into becoming "free-thinkers", to file lawsuits against public displays of religion and the promotion of gays and lesbians in all aspects of society.

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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2007, 12:24:56 PM »

SWOSU president clarifies policy regarding acknowledgment of Christmas

The president of Southwestern Oklahoma State University says the school does not have, and has never had, a policy banning the word "Christmas" or Christmas decorations.



It had been reported that the university had banned the word "Christmas" and had told employees, staff, and faculty to refrain from even using the word on campus. In a statement on the university's website, SWOSU president John Hayssaid there apparently was a misunderstanding between some supervisors and staff over Christmas decorations, and some mistakenly assumed that Christmas decorations were prohibited -- and that is not the case, says the university president.

Mat Staver is founder of Liberty Counsel, which investigated the matter. He says the law is clear regarding the acknowledgment of Christmas at government institutions. "Of all places, where free speech and expression should be permitted, it should be at a university -- at least you would think," says Staver. "After all, Christmas is a state and federal holiday."

The Christian attorney says the situation shows how political correctness is damaging the United States. "I think it's just incredible that anyone can legitimately think that they can ban Christmas," he says. "It's a blatant violation of the First Amendment to do so."

Hays says he met with various staff members and department heads to clear up any confusion over the matter. And the university, he adds, will continue to follow the law and to respect the rights of all staff members.
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2007, 07:09:03 PM »

ADF intervening against ACLU in Illinois 'moment of silence' case

The appeal for Illinois's "moment of silence" in schools will go to hearing in federal court, after public interest attorneys helping to represent Township High School District were granted a motion to intervene as a third party. Attorneys from Alliance Defense Fund will participate in briefing and oral arguments in the case involving a law that has been effect since 1969.

The state of Illinois' long-time law allowing an optional moment of silence became a point of conflict when the school district made it mandatory each morning, although it did not dictate how the moment was to be used -- leaving it students and teachers to choose silent reflection or prayer.

An atheist man with a son in Buffalo Grove High School sued the school district over its implementation of the law, according to Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) counsel David Cortman, leading to an injunction by a federal court earlier this year. Cortman says the judge favored allowing ADF to intervene in helping with argument on one side of the constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union on the other.

"If a student has a right to silently pray during that time -- which he absolutely does -- then does it create a constitutional violation merely to state that in the law?" Cortman asks. "Because all this law does is [tell students] this is what you can do; and as one of the options, you can pray. Well, how does it create a constitutional violation merely to state what the student's constitutional right is?"

The ADF attorney explains he will argue that just because the statute mentions prayer -- "the 'p' word," as he puts it -- that does not automatically make it an unconstitutional law or mean that prayer should be treated as if it were pornography or an obscenity.

Briefs in the case will also cover other matters, including whether the suit will become a class action.
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2007, 07:28:04 PM »

enton, TX, sued for ordering college ministry to leave campus area

A Texas city is the target of a lawsuit that alleges discrimination towards a Christian college ministry.

The ministry, Collegiate Community Outreach, involves students in Christian service, Bible study, and outreach work. The lawsuit accuses Denton city officials of misusing zoning laws in order to bar a ministry from operating on private property near the University of North Texas. Legal troubles arose when the city cited the ministry for displaying a sign outside their building. However, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission said the ministry should be allowed to remain in its current location -- but the city disagrees.

Hiram Sasser is with Liberty Legal Institute, which is representing the ministry. "The city of Denton [provides] this area that's right next to the college campus that they have zoned to allow fraternities, sororities, the Moose Lodge, churches and other types of buildings," says Sasser. "This college ministry came along and they just bought this house. The city came along and said we're going to kick you out for Christmas and kick you out to the street, because we don't want this college ministry being located here in this neighborhood."

Sasser says requiring Collegiate Community Outreach to move would be an undue hardship on the ministry. He also says the city does not have grounds to ask the ministry to move. According to the attorney, the city has only stated it will allow individuals to live in the house or to meet there -- but not both. That rationale, says Sasser, is "just crazy."
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2007, 10:54:38 PM »

Bible studies
finally 'free' 
County had told 2 groups to buy
2.5 acres or stop their meetings

A lawsuit alleging officials in Miami-Dade County violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law by demanding that members of Bible studies, even if only two or three people were involved, own an least 2.5 acres of land to meet has been dropped after county officials changed their minds.

The lawsuit by the Alliance Defense Fund had been filed early in 2007 after authorities issued cease-and-desist orders to two separate Christian organizations, the International Outreach Center and Worldwide Agape Ministries, demanding they purchase enough land to make their properties at least 2.5 acres, or stop meeting.

County officials, however, later concluded their demands should be dropped, so the ADF said it was dropping the lawsuit also.

"County officials agreed that forcing people to purchase 2.5 acres of land in order to meet in a private home is ridiculous," said Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for the ADF. "We commend county officials for standing up for the rights of our clients."

The issue arose during the course of 2006, when the International Outreach Center, after meeting for prayer, Bible study, discussion and singing on its small rented property for more than a decade, was given a code violation notice from the county stating the group needed to apply for a "certificate of use."

Additionally, the group was told it would have to purchase enough land to comprise at least 2.5 acres, or stop meeting.

A similar order went to Worldwide Agape Ministries, a home-based religious ministry that meets for the same purposes as IOC, officials said.

"County officials stated at the time that the group would have to purchase 2.5 acres of land to continue meetings, even if the regular gathering included two to three people," the ADF confirmed.

Its lawsuit was filed in February of 2007, alleging that the county's demand was unreasonable, and worse, illegal and unconstitutional.

"The limitation placed on these ministries acts as a major roadblock, particularly since land in south Florida is so expensive," Oster said. "County officials cannot be permitted to continue the enforcement of these broad restrictions against those who simply want to exercise their freedom of religion."

The complaint had documented that the IOC had used the property it has since 1994 for various meetings and events, but in 2006 it was told it failed to meet the county's zoning code, which requires that a church be located on at least 2.5 acres.

Specifically, that code said, "No church shall be constructed, operated or permitted upon any site that does not contain a minimum of two and one-half (2 ˝) acres of land area, including street dedications, and having a minimum contiguous frontage of at least one hundred fifty (150) feet abutting on a public street right-of-way…"

Since IOC, with about 70 members, leased a number of units in a commercial building, it was unable to meet the property size demand. Likewise, WW Ministries meets in a home, and was told "by Miami-Dade County Zoning Compliance Officer R. Brunetto that they could not even have 2-3 people come over to their house for prayer. … Officer Brunetto warned the Plaintiffs that if they continued to have others come to their house for prayer, they would be fined and possibly, a lien could be placed on their house."

The complaint alleged the zoning code provision violated the U.S. Constitution and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

The lawsuit pointed out that the county allowed other activities on smaller parcels, but not churches.

"For example, although auditoriums and private clubs are permitted as a matter of right in the IU-1 District, churches are not," the complaint said. "Defendant's Code does not treat churches within the County equally with other public assembly uses."

However, changes within the county code prompted the ADF to make the decision to pursue legal action no longer.

"County officials are now fully supporting the rights of the groups under federal law, making the lawsuit unnecessary," the ADF said in a statement.

The dismissal document noted, "the parties have worked collaboratively and expeditiously to proffer proposed legislation to the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners… On Oct. 16, 2007, a proposed ordinance … was preliminarily approved on first reading by the Board."

It was planned for final approval early this month, with an effective date 10 days later.

"The … legislation essentially eliminates the Code's acreage and frontage requirements, which were adopted in the 1950s, for religious facilities. The parties agree that the enactment of the proposed legislation will address the plaintiffs' concerns as alleged," the court "Joint Status Report" said.

The city of Lake Elsinore, Calif., earlier had an encounter with a conflict between local zoning regulations and the requirements under RLUIPA, which essentially requires that churches be allowed to exist and expand.

Lake Elsinore officials had rejected building plans by Elsinore Christian Center because they preferred having a property tax-paying operation on the property.

The city's case lost in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the city ended up settling with the church for $1.205 million for damages sustained by the city's initial rejection of church plans.

The appellate ruling found that the city violated RLUIPA, which codifies the First Amendment and provides that governments cannot use land use regulations, such as zoning, to place a "substantial burden" on churches unless there is compelling state interest.

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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2007, 11:09:29 PM »

What is surprising me the most is that a lot of the prejudice against church, Christians, etc. is coming from the south which has always been concider the bible belt??  Curious isn't it?  That we are coming under attack more and more and with increasing pettiness doesn't surprise me however as Satan knows his time is REALLY short, but to see it start in the southern states does.
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2007, 12:00:42 AM »

Yes, it is surprising and many of the Bible Belt states are becoming predominately democratic.

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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2008, 06:27:54 PM »

School districts continue free shoe distribution despite legal threat

The Alliance Defense Fund was able to prevent a liberal group from spoiling the Christmas cheer of two South Carolina school districts by offering to serve as their legal counsel.

The Edgefield and Aiken County districts had received threats of legal action from Americans United for Separation of Church and State last month for facilitating distribution of shoes to students by volunteers in a church-sponsored program. During winter each year, a Baptist church in the Aiken, South Carolina, area offers the "Laces 4 Love" program, which provides shoes to consenting parents of children who are wearing worn-out or inappropriately cold seasonal footwear.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney David Cortman says schools in the two districts provide parental contact information to the church and then allow volunteers to come to schools to deliver the shoes. "Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- one of the far-left liberal groups -- basically found out about this and threatened to sue the school, no less during Christmas time, if they didn't discontinue this worthwhile program," he explains.

ADF sent a letter to the districts informing them that the partnership was perfectly legal, as much as a partnership with a secular aid group would be, and that the Constitution provides equal access for the church's program. They also offered to defend the districts if they received legal action from Americans United.

Bolstered by ADF's support, the districts chose to continue the program. Cortman says liberals are once again trying to wipe out religion from daily life, despite constitutional provision against restricting freedom of religion.

"If this were any secular organization, no one would say a word," the attorney shares. "But merely because a religious organization is doing what the Bible encourages us all to do -- and that is reach out to the needy, reach out to the poor and offer them a service -- for some reason in the left's eyes it automatically becomes unconstitutional."

According to an ADF press statement, Laces 4 Love has distributed in excess of 12,000 pairs of shoes to children in the two-county area.

Rev Barry W. Lynn, minister for the devil, is the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization that started out being predominately Presbyterian but is now largely atheists.

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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2008, 09:36:53 AM »

Court victory for school prayer

A federal judge in Texas has upheld the constitutionality of a 2003 Texas law that allows children to pray during a daily minute of silence at school.

Parents of a child in a suburban Dallas school district sued, claiming a teacher told their child to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."

But Judge Barbara Lynn concludes in her ruling that the primary effect of the law is to bring about "a moment of silence, not to advance or inhibit religion."

The lawyer for parents David and Shannon Croft says the ruling is disappointing but says they haven't decided yet whether to appeal.

The Texas law provides for a minute of quiet time at the beginning of every school day for children to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities."

Governor Rick Perry says, whether they use it to pray or study for a quiz, the lesson ought to be tolerance and personal freedom.
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2008, 09:38:14 AM »

Federal suit claims school denied boy's right to study Bible

A magistrate in Knoxville, Tennessee,has heard arguments in the run-up to a March trial over claims that a fourth-grade student was barred from studying the Bible during
recess.

The issue arose in 2004 when 10-year-old Luke Whitson and his parents claim Karns Elementary School Principal Cathy Summa told the boy he could no longer hold Bible study with his friends on the playground.

Summa denies she did anything to infringe on the boy's religious rights. But in 2006, the school board adopted a policy allowing students to read religious texts at school during "discretionary time."

But that didn't resolve the federal lawsuit brought by the Whitsons, who are seeking monetary damages.
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« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2008, 07:49:19 AM »

Regulators' assault plan puts church in crosshairs
Proposal considers taxes, fees, restrictions on numbers, sizes
Posted: January 6, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily.com

A regulatory plan being considered by a Toronto suburb would put churches in the crosshairs of an assault that would include dramatically higher taxes and fees as well as restrictions on the sizes and numbers of worship centers.

A series of reports by the No Apologies website featuring WND columnist Tristan Emmanuel has revealed the stunning proposals in Brampton that one source confirmed would be used in multiple cities should the Brampton effort prove successful.

WND already has reported how many Biblical standards of behavior are under attack by the "bastardized courts" of Canada, where activists who claim they have "hurt feelings" are demanding – and getting – penalties imposed against those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle.

That description of the courts, also known as the provincial and national Human Rights Commissions, comes from the Canada Family Action Coalition, which is warning that the United States is not far from having similar assaults on traditional family values.

Now comes the report from the site launched by Emmanuel, the founder and president of the ECP Centre – Equipping Christians for the Public-Square as well as the host of "No Apologies," a weekly web-radio show "dedicated to illustrating the absurdity of political correctness."

"One person who's involved … has told us at NoApologies.ca that Brampton is considered a test scenario for dozens of other municipalities in Canada, and that if the tax changes can be pushed through there, other cities are almost sure to follow," the report said.

Among the changes being reviewed:

    * A plan to subject all "non-worship" space owned by religious groups to property taxes. This "non-worship" space would include offices, kitchens, nurseries, fellowship halls, parking lots, restrooms, etc. Not even the sanctuary would all be exempt: only the area "where the congregation sits/stands/gathers for actual worship."

    * A new definition of "places of worship" to eliminate current provisions allowing church properties to be used for day care centers or soup kitchens.

    * New limits for start-up churches, who would be allowed to rent only 3,000 square feet of industrial space for a maximum of three years before being required to buy property.

    * A limit allowing only one "place of worship" for every 10,000 residents.

    * A stratospheric rise in fees for things like zoning and variance issues. One church reportedly had to pay Brampton $400,000 for the paperwork required to build a new sanctuary.

    * Ban religious meetings in homes if they involve more than 20 people, children included.

No Apologies reports that churches and other religious organizations are assembling a response to the proposals outlined in a city study, and a city council vote is scheduled later in January.

A spokeswoman for the city told WND that the study has been launched into a "development charge bylaw," but it isn't yet completed, and doesn't even have a schedule for completion. "No recommendations have been made," she said.

Al Siebring, the editor for the website, wrote in a commentary when he first heard of the plan, he thought it had to be an urban legend.

But he said someone "with a bit of sympathy for the churches" leaked a copy of the still-unreleased plan that includes parts "that read like they could have been written in Stalinist Russia."

"There are some really egregious rights violations potentially going on here, " he said, listing freedom of association, freedom of conscience, and "that little thing" called freedom of religion.

"For someone who grew up reading authors like [Voice of the Martyrs founder] Richard Wurmbrand and [Open Doors founder] Brother Andrew, the parallels to the old Soviet Union and its satellites are striking. The notion of a 'knock on the door' in the middle of a prayer meeting is so counter to everything we have understood to be fundamental to the notion of 'freedom of religion' as to be almost unthinkable," he wrote.

The one good thing about the plan, he said, is that the application of new taxes, fees and limits would be on all "religious" facilities, including temples, mosques, ashrams and chapels.

"Which is why a coalition of 'faith groups' has been formed … to fight this," he said.

Pastor Kevin Begley is the head of the new Brampton Faith Coalition, and indicated the details truly are horrific. He cited the new "plans" for new churches.

"If you want to use a rec centre or a school, you can't get that every week because it's not available," Begley told the website. "(But) if you rent a space in an industrial unit, the draft document recommends that it must be under 3,000 square feet, and you're only allowed in that area for three years. Well, 3,000 square feet - and that includes your offices, your sanctuary, your lobby, your children's or youth (ministries), whatever you want to do - you have 3,000 square feet which is ... about half the size of a gymnasium. And you're only allowed there for three years. After three years, you must have the money in the bank to go out and purchase (your own land and building). That's just not realistic. Land in our city right now is running about a million dollars an acre."

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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2008, 10:12:27 AM »

Christian activist to be arraigned today for refusing to honor 'free speech zone'

The director of Christian activist group Repent America will be arraigned today in a Philadelphia courtroom on charges of unlawful preaching.

Michael Marcavage had been preaching to people on a public sidewalk outside the Liberty Bell Center this past October when he was arrested by officers from the National Park Service. The arrest came after he refused to move to a so-called "free-speech zone" across the street from the building housing the Liberty Bell. The incident occurred during Repent America's annual pro-life evangelism tour, and according to Marcavage, he was just exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

"It's a very dangerous case and another example of how our nation is headed down this path of destruction when people are not free to speak," he cautions. "Then we find ourselves in a society in which we're no longer enjoying the liberties God has bestowed upon our nation." And it is ironic, he adds, that his right to free speech was challenged in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom.

The chief ranger at the site told Marcavage that due to policy changes, freedom of religion and speech are prohibited anywhere on the public park grounds without a permit, and only then if in the free-speech zone.
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2008, 06:09:17 PM »

Woman loses right to wear cross
Court decides in favor of British Airways in discrimination suit

A Christian British Airways employee who sued the company after it required her to cover up a cross necklace while on the job has lost her discrimination suit, but she vows to return to work tomorrow wearing the cross.

As WND reported, Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida, who is a Coptic Christian and whose father is Egyptian and mother English, was sent home after refusing to remove the cross, which British Airways claimed violated its dress code.

Eweida, who was placed on unpaid leave, sued her employer, charging religious discrimination, since the company allowed employees of other religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, to wear faith-related items, including clothing, jewelry and religious markings.

The suit continued despite the airline loosening its cross prohibition last year.

An attorney affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund represented Eweida in court.

"Christian employees should not be singled out for discrimination. This decision will be appealed," said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull, in a statement. "According to British Airways, it's OK for employees to wear a symbol of their faith unless it's a Christian cross. The airline took no action against employees of other religions who wore jewelry or symbols of their religion. That type of intolerance is inconsistent with the values of civilized communities around the world."

The 56-year-old Eweida is quoted by BBC as saying: "I'm very disappointed. I'm speechless really because I went to the tribunal to seek justice. But the judge has given way for BA to have a victory on imposing their will on all their staff."

Eweida lost her initial suit against the company but won an injunction on appeal in the Reading Employment Tribunal. However, in yesterday's ruling in the case, Eweida v. British Airways, the court ruled the airline can continue to prohibit Eweida from visibly wearing her cross. The court concluded that other types of religious symbols, such as turbans, bangles and other religious markings, are unable to be concealed and are therefore acceptable.

"No Christian should be forced to hide her faith in the workplace, particularly when a double-standard exists targeting only Christians for discriminatory treatment," said Bull. "This case should be of particular interest to the American customers of British Airways who understand and value religious liberty."

In a statement, British Airways said: "We have always maintained that our uniform policy did not discriminate against Christians, and we are pleased that the tribunal's decision supports our position.

"Our current policy allows symbols of faith to be worn openly and has been developed with multi-faith groups and our staff.

"Nadia Eweida has worked for us for eight years and continues to be a valued member of our staff."

Regarding appealing the case, Eweida commented, "It's not over until God says it's over."

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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2008, 01:39:56 PM »

Judge blocks Missouri public schools from distributing Bibles

A rural school district's long-standing practice of allowing the distribution of Bibles to grade school students is unconstitutional, a federal judge has ruled.

An attorney for the southeastern Missouri school district said Wednesday he will appeal the judge's injunction against the practice.

For more than three decades, the South Iron School District in Annapolis, 120 miles southwest of St. Louis in the heart of the Bible Belt, allowed representatives of Gideons International to give away Bibles in fifth-grade classrooms.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit two years ago on behalf of four sets of parents. In August, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a temporary injunction against the practice.

The district altered its policy, saying the Gideons and others were still welcome to distribute Bibles or other literature before or after school or during lunch break, but not in classrooms.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry ruled both practices were illegal and granted a permanent injunction.

The purpose of both practices "is the promotion of Christianity by distributing Bibles to elementary school students," Perry wrote. "The policy has the principle or primary effect of advancing religion by conveying a message of endorsement to elementary school children."

Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law group that represented the school district, said he would appeal.

"I think the current policy creates an open forum that allows secular as well as religious persons or groups to access the forum to distribute information," Staver said. "The court has clearly misread the First Amendment and the cases regarding free speech."

The parents who sued are Christian but believe religious beliefs should be taught in the home, not school, said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

The South Iron district has about 500 students in the grade school and South Iron High School.

Superintendent Brad Crocker was out of the office Wednesday and did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Gideons International, based in Nashville, Tenn., distributes Bibles in more than 80 languages and 180 countries, according to its Web site. A spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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