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Author Topic: Christ, Christians and Christmas Under Attack In The Courts  (Read 30922 times)
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« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2008, 08:24:52 AM »

Man told to pay before talking about God 
But transit system backs down when free speech issues raised

A Dallas man was told he had to buy a transit system ticket before he could talk about God to passengers waiting at a bus station, but officials quickly backed down when issues of free speech were raised.

The man, Daniel Bailey, is disabled but for two years had peacefully expressed his Christian faith by witnessing to passers-by at a Dallas area transit station, and distributing Gospel tracts, according to the Alliance Defense Fund.

Then officers at the system's West End DART station approached him and told him that a policy change would not allow him to continue witnessing, the ADF said. The officer reportedly told Bailey to either purchase a ticket or leave, so Bailey left, and contacted the ADF.

The organization, a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the truth, wrote a letter to Gary C. Thomas, president of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, over concerns the situation raised.

"Two years ago, Mr. Bailey received permission from Morgan Lyons with DART to be at the station and distribute tracts and talk to people. After the police … recently told Mr. Bailey that he could not pass out tracts and talk to people about his faith at the station, he contacted Mr. Lyons for clarification. Mr. Lyons responded in an e-mail that the recently passed Code of Conduct applied to prohibit Mr. Daniels from being at the station to pass out tracts and talk to others about his faith unless he was actually waiting on a bus or train himself," the letter, from ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik W. Stanley, said.

"It appears that DART is applying this section of the Code of Conduct to prohibit individuals from exercising their First Amendment right of free speech at DART facilities," he continued. "This prohibition is unconstitutional."

The response from Thomas noted that the Code of Conduct "is not intended to abridge any person's First Amendment rights."

He noted DART has a "right and duty" to regulate its property and operations "to ensure that any expressive activity does not impair the delivery of safe and efficient public transportation services."

But he said DART policy allows Bailey to distribute his message, and there must have been a misunderstanding.

"Please convey to Mr. Bailey that he may continue to hand out his religious material provided he does so in a lawful manner and follows the enclosed policy," he wrote.

"Christians should not be treated as second-class citizens simply because they choose to exercise their faith in public," Stanley said.

"We appreciate the quick and courteous response of DART officials in resolving this matter and are pleased that Mr. Bailey will now be able to return to his activities.

The policy itself requires those involved in "expressive activity" to follow state and federal laws, and avoid distributing materials inside DART vehicles.

Additionally, those people need to have permission from DART, and must not "hinder" passengers, the policy states.

"I appreciate you bringing this matter to my attention and I will communicate the above to my staff, including the DART Police," Thomas said.

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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2008, 08:48:38 AM »

San Jose public school accused of discriminating against pro-life club

A federal lawsuit has been filed against a California public school accused of unfairly silencing a pro-life student group.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed the suit on behalf of the club, "Live Action-Pro Life Club." And the suit claims officials at Westmont High School in San Jose refused to grant the club official status -- which would have allowed the club to receive all rights, benefits, and privileges that other recognized organizations receive.

School officials reportedly stated the club was "too controversial," and that the club could not even be promoted on campus. But David Cortman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, says the school's policy is not being applied evenly.

"But while several groups already are allowed [at the school] that are controversial in nature ..., the mere idea that unborn babies deserve to live has essentially been banned," he notes. Cortman says this is yet another case of political correctness "gone amok."

A motion for a preliminary injunction has also been filed. The injunction would allow the club to operate at the school while the case makes its way through the court system.
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2008, 08:52:56 AM »

Religious signs are church's issue of equality

An Arizona town is being sued for discriminating against religious signs.



In spring of last year, Good News Presbyterian Church filed the suit against the town of Gilbert because of the sign code, which required church signs to be fewer in number, smaller in size, and displayed for much less time than non-religious signs.

The town agreed to a preliminary injunction, and last week passed an amended code. But Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defense Fund -- which is representing Good News -- says the amended code provides the same discriminatory treatment. "The First Amendment requires the town to treat church signs the same as similar non-religious signs, and that's precisely what the town's amended code does not do," he states.

The Alliance Defense Fund is now asking for a new preliminary injunction against the amended sign code while it proceeds with the suit.
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2008, 08:20:01 AM »

 Bryant High blasted for showing religious film

A Washington-based watchdog group that advocates the separation of church and state has demanded that teachers at Paul W. Bryant High School stop showing students a Christian film about a football team that wins by finding faith in God.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Joyce Levey and Bryant High Principal Amanda Cassity a letter Tuesday saying that showing the movie “Facing the Giants” in class violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Tuscaloosa City Schools spokeswoman Lesley Bruintonissued a statement Tuesday afternoon that said, “The film ‘Facing the Giants’ was shown to two Paul W. Bryant High School classes prior to the semester break. After receiving a complaint regarding the film, Principal Amanda Cassity suspended any further showings until the merits of the complaint can be addressed.”

Bruinton said Cassity was aware of the complaint before classes ended for the holidays, and the film hasn’t been shown since.

“It’s been handled,” Bruinton said, without elaborating.

The letter from Americans United, which was sent by fax and e-mail about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday to Levey and Cassity, came after the organization said it received complaints during the fall semester from people who live in the school district.

Americans United has asked that Tuscaloosa City Schools inform all teachers in the system in writing not to show the film. The organization has also asked for a response by Feb. 15.

The letter is the first formal action Americans United has taken. Details about the complaint were vague because the identity of the person who complained is being kept confidential, said Heather L. Weaver, the organization’s attorney.

Weaver added that the local chapter of Americans United is aware of the situation, but that the national office is handling any possible legal aspects.

“This movie is not educational; it’s evangelistic,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a written statement. “Parents and taxpayers expect our public schools to teach, not preach.”

Bryan K. Fair, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who specializes in the First Amendment, said any court that was hearing such a case would wrestle with the question of whether showing the movie was an attempt to sponsor a religious activity in a public school.

“I doubt very seriously that the majority of the current Supreme Court would say that the showing of this film is any sort of religious activity,” Fair said, adding that since Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the court, no case specifically involving religion in public schools has come before the court.

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« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2008, 08:22:07 AM »

Quote
“This movie is not educational; it’s evangelistic,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a written statement. “Parents and taxpayers expect our public schools to teach, not preach.”

Yet Barry Lynn has been playing the devils advocate in supporting homosexual and other liberal indoctrinations in our schools instead of expecting our public schools to teach.

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« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2008, 10:07:15 AM »

University sued again for dissing Christians
Dispute centers on Wisconsin's treatment of student organization

A long-running dispute over attempts by the University of Wisconsin at Madison to discontinue recognition of a student group that provides a Christian ministry on campus has generated a judge's order for the discrimination to stop – again.

According to the Alliance Defense Fund, a second lawsuit was filed against the school after officials allegedly reneged on an earlier settlement that was supposed to bring about the end of the discriminatory actions.

"University officials should recognize the constitutional rights of Christian students just as they do for all other students," said David Hackler, the litigation staff counsel for the ADF. "Unfortunately, University of Wisconsin officials have a long track record of discriminating against Christian students.

"In this case," he said, "they are going back on their word to [the Roman Catholic Foundation] that they would end such discrimination."

The ADF said as a result of a request relating to its newest lawsuit, a federal judge this week ordered the university to halt its discriminatory actions toward the Catholic group and treat it like any other student group while the lawsuit moves forward.

The university had agreed nearly a year ago to a settlement that would resolve an ADF lawsuit filed after university officials refused to recognize the group, claiming members weren't following the school's "non-discrimination" policy. The core of the disagreement involved the Catholic group's requirement that its leaders subscribe to Christian beliefs.

But a new lawsuit was filed Sept. 10 after the university refused to honor the terms of the settlement. In December ADF lawyers filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, and the injunction how has been granted.

"ADF will continue to keep a vigilant eye on public universities to ensure that they abide by the law when it comes to extending religious student organizations the same rights and privileges that other groups have," said Hacker.

The student organization is seeking the same access to student activity fee funding as any other student group, a request that was opposed and rejected by the university because of its allegations the Catholics were violating school "non-discrimination" demands.

"The university seems to play a game of bait-and-switch when it comes to religious freedom on campus," Hacker said. "All UW student groups, including those of a religious nature, are entitled to the same rights and privileges on campus. By denying those rights, university officials are continuing to break the law."

In the first agreement, charges against the school were withdrawn in return for its commitment to refrain from discriminating against Christian students. But in the new claim, ADF attorneys allege the university has imposed conditions on the Catholic organization that are not presented to other student groups.

The foundation is successor to a group that has served more than 50,000 students at the university since it was launched in 1883, officials said.

The dispute arose when the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained to the university about the beliefs of the Catholic student group.

The original lawsuit agreement had called for the Catholic group to be funded with more than $250,000 for the current school year.

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« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2008, 03:32:21 PM »

Georgia schools shying away from Bible classes

A growing number of Georgia public school systems are shying away from developing state approved Bible classes.

The state school board finalized a curriculum for the elective classes in March, but some districts say they'd rather leave that instruction to the church. Other districts say they don't have the extra money for materials and staffing for a class on the Bible.

Georgia's school systems are the first in the nation to offer publicly funded Bible classes after lawmakers passed a bill allowing the courses in 2006.

Lawmakers in Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas have considered similar plans this year, although none has received final approval.

Supporters say fully understanding history, literature and political science requires knowledge of the Bible. But critics fear the classes could easily turn into endorsements of Christianity.
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« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2008, 03:35:12 PM »

Ore. school district rejects class motto as too religious

A rural school district has banned a proposed motto for a graduating high school class because it contains a religious reference.

Some of the 90 seniors at McKenzie High School had been inspired by a Bible verse quoted at the August funeral of a classmate killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

The entire verse was: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles."

It was read at the memorial service for Ryan Snapp, who died Aug. 10 after hitting a tree in the alcohol-related crash. The students deleted any references to God in the proposed motto.

But McKenzie School District officials rejected the motto as too religious: "They that believe shall mount up with wings as eagles."

Brianna Rux, 17, one of the seniors, said the verse seemed fitting, given the school's mascot is the Eagles, and that class members have pulled together to rise above their grief.

"Ourselves being Eagles, it seemed a good way to describe who we are that no matter what we believe in, we can overcome," she said.

But the district's attorney, Bruce Zagar, advised that the motto not be allowed because both the U.S. and Oregon constitutions prevent public entities from taking any action that establishes, sponsors, supports or condones a religion or religious belief. Zagar said omitting the reference to God from the verse doesn't alter its origin - the Old Testament.

The senior class adopted a replacement motto: Nothing we do changes the past; everything we do changes the future.
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« Reply #23 on: January 19, 2008, 03:36:55 PM »

Court declines to reconsider ruling in legislative prayer suit

A federal appeals court has declined to reconsider a ruling that threw out a lawsuit challenging then practice of sectarian prayers in the Indiana House.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had asked the full U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case. That came after a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in October that taxpayers who
sued over the prayers did not have the legal standing to do so.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma says the ruling means the House can resume its normal practice, which in the past has sometimes included mention of Jesus Christ.

But ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk says the ruling was based on the litigants' standing, not on the merits of the case. He says the ACLU likely will file a new lawsuit if the former
practices resume.
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« Reply #24 on: January 19, 2008, 05:09:09 PM »

Court declines to reconsider ruling in legislative prayer suit

A federal appeals court has declined to reconsider a ruling that threw out a lawsuit challenging then practice of sectarian prayers in the Indiana House.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had asked the full U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case. That came after a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in October that taxpayers who
sued over the prayers did not have the legal standing to do so.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma says the ruling means the House can resume its normal practice, which in the past has sometimes included mention of Jesus Christ.

But ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk says the ruling was based on the litigants' standing, not on the merits of the case. He says the ACLU likely will file a new lawsuit if the former
practices resume.

i think that we went a full circle
 and that Jesus Christ is going to pick up The Chruch of God wich He is the Head
 Like Brother Tom says so well
"KEEP LOOKING UP!!
 stay sober
 
Keep busy till I come
Pray
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But to us There Is But one God,  the  Father, of  whom  Are  all  things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom Are all things and we by Him(1Cor 8:6  KJV)
I believe that Jesus died for my sins  was buried rose again and is sitting at the right hand of God Almighty interceding for me Amen
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« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2008, 10:36:16 PM »

Wisconsin pastor asks IRS to investigate his own church

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is challenging an IRS law that many say is wrongly interpreted.



During the 2004 presidential campaign season, Kenneth Taylor, pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Algoma, Wisconsin, preached a sermon encouraging Christians to impact society. Now, he -- along with help from the Becket Fund -- is challenging the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the church on the basis that they violated a tax code that prohibits churches from intervening in political campaigns.

Eric Rassbach with the Becket Fund says the challenge will shed light on a law that has been used since 1954 to censor religious leaders. He notes that in the 1950s, Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson -- as Senate majority leader -- experienced a tough campaign when a tax-exempt organization ran political ads against him.

"So, more or less in the dead of night, he slipped something into the tax code that said tax-exempt organizations could not intervene in a political campaign," Rassbach continues. "That is the only thing the IRS has relied on to then essentially investigate sermons by churches across the country."

Rassbach says the IRS should not be allowed to stop discussions about politics and faith in houses of worship by threatening to strip a church's tax-exempt status. So far, he says, the IRS has not replied to the challenge.
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« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2008, 10:37:56 PM »

Accusation: Atheists, agnostics, Wiccans keeping Christians from freely practicing faith in mil

Retired Air Force officer "Buzz" Patterson believes it is the atheists, agnostics, and Wiccans who have too many rights in the military, and who are preventing Christians from freely practicing their faith.



OneNewsNow has reported that an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is party to a lawsuit claiming Defense Secretary Robert Gates permits a military culture in which soldiers are pressured by their superiors to adopt and espouse Christian beliefs -- and that officers sanction activities by Christian organizations.

But Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson (USAF-Ret.) says it is the non-Christians who are forcing their beliefs on Christian members of the military. "I would say that the atheists and the agnostics and the Wiccans have too much say in what happens in today's military. So I think they've got the cart before the horse," he argues.

Patterson says he would like to see a counter-suit filed on behalf of Christians who are having their rights violated. That suit, he suggests, should say that the rights of Christians are being violated because they cannot pray openly. "I cannot lead my men into combat with the prayer to Jesus. I would like to see the exact opposite thing happen," he states.

The military is restraining Christians from practicing their religion openly, he continues, in order to bow to the demands of political correctness he believes have infested the armed services.
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« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2008, 10:53:43 AM »

City sued for arresting
pastor on sidewalk 
Police take just 195 seconds
to detain 'peaceful' Christian

A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Wichita, Kan., and several of its police officers on behalf of a Christian pastor arrested just for being on public property.

The civil-rights suit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, an advocacy organization that defends constitutional rights, on behalf of Mark Holick, pastor of Spirit One Christian Center.

Spirit One is the worship center also has been threatened by the Internal Revenue Service with an audit for posting messages on its marquee dealing with the value of human life, based on dozens of Bible references.

Holick's arrest happened last summer when a homosexual festival was being held in a public park in Wichita. He went to share his Christian faith on public property, and it took only a little longer than three minutes after his arrival for police officers to arrest him.

The trespassing charges later were dropped, but that doesn't solve the issue, according to the ADF.

"Exercising your First Amendment rights is not a crime," said Joel Oster, ADF senior legal counsel. "Arresting Christians simply because they choose to exercise those rights in a public place is unconstitutional."

The law firm noted that Holick was "attempting" to express his faith on a public sidewalk outside of an event in a public park that was celebrating homosexual behavior.

According to the records in the case, Holick had contacted the police department a week before the event and expressed his desire to communicate his religious views on the date of the homosex-fest. He was told he couldn't go into Heritage Square Park where it was being held, but was told the sidewalk would be his "friend."

Then on the day of the event, Holick and other church members arrived at the sidewalk outside the event and "immediately" were confronted by about 10 officers. He was ordered to leave the sidewalk or be arrested.

He asked where he could go, and he was told the public sidewalks were off-limits to him, and he could go into a nearby privately owned parking lot, the lawsuit said.

Since that was unreasonable, he refused, and was arrested, the lawsuit said.

The trespassing count later was dismissed at the city's request after officials watched a videotape that revealed the pastor was conducting himself peacefully on a public sidewalk. But when ADF lawyers sent a request to the city asking for assurances that Holick would not be "similarly harassed" at future events, the request was ignored.

"Cities should not be able to silence Christian speech by arresting the speaker, only to later drop the charges after the event is over," said Oster. "Such actions only serve to threaten future speakers and silence the Christian message."

The claim alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. WND calls to the city went unanswered yesterday.

"Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction and a declaration prohibiting Defendants from arresting him, or from otherwise restricting his speech, on traditional public fora due to the content and viewpoint of his speech, or because of his religion beliefs," the lawsuit said.

It describes how he "wanted to communicate the gospel message to those persons participating in and attending the Event" and "wanted to attend the Event to build connections with attendees so that he might be able to share the gospel with them later."

However, he never was allowed even to express his beliefs, because he was confronted by police officers "immediately," and within three minutes, 15 seconds had been arrested.

The lawsuit alleged the city's policies and actions were arbitrary and capricious and denied Holick's fundamental rights.

"By forcing plaintiff to choose between abandoning his religious beliefs in order to gain access to speech in the traditional public forum, or abiding by his religious beliefs only to be arrested and prosecuted, defendants have imposed a substantial burden on plaintiff's sincerely held religious beliefs," it said.

WND has reported on a series of such cases, in which Christians are arrested for praying at a homosexual festival, or when they are arrested for nothing more than having a protest sign that is "wider than their torso."

It was in Elmira, N.Y., where police arrested seven Christians who went into a public park where a "gay" fest was beginning and started to pray, faces down, while holding their Bibles.

They were cited for "disturbing the peace," and Assistant Police Chief Mike Robertson told WND that the seven are accused of a "combination" of allegations under that statute, which includes the "intent" to cause a public inconvenience, any "disturbance" of a meeting of persons, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic, or taking part in "any act that serves no legitimate purpose."

Another case developed when police in St. Petersburg, Fla., arrested five Christians for carrying signs "wider than their torsos" outside an officially designated protest area at that city's homosexual festival.

St. Petersburg officials, following disturbances at a previous homosexual pride festival, implemented rules governing outdoor events that set aside "free speech zones," where protesters are allowed.

Holick's church earlier was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for the moral statements he posted on the church's sign.

The notice he got from the IRS warned him about putting his Christian beliefs on the sign, and he responded that he would continue to preach the Word of God. Attorneys said the church has responded to the IRS demands, and has not had further contact yet.

In that case, Holick explained the signs all "are spiritual messages that communicate God's truth, or are directly related to messages in the Bible." He also provided the IRS with a list of dozens of biblical instructions, "to lift up Jesus, to rebuke sin, to save babies, to be honest, to take a righteous stand" and others.

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« Reply #28 on: January 25, 2008, 09:51:42 AM »

Lesbian suit against Christian school tossed
'No triable issues': Academy's right to expel 2 girls in 'relationship' confirmed

A California judge has ruled that Christian schools can set standards for behavior for their students, and impose penalties if they are not met.

The decision comes from Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask, who found "no triable issues" on claims that a Christian school discriminated against two girls because of their perceived sexual orientation, according to a report in the North County Times.

Trask recently dismissed the claims made against California Lutheran High School in Wildomar by the two girls and their parents.

The case developed in 2005 when the girls, members of the junior class, were expelled after school officials noticed behavior by the two that may have indicated a lesbian relationship.

The lawsuit filed by the girls and the parents then alleged the California Lutheran High School Association – which oversees operation of the Wildomar school – engaged in discrimination, invasion of privacy and unfair business practices in its handling and ultimate dismissal of two juniors.

The students were summoned into the office of Principal Gregory Bork, the lawsuit claimed, where Bork "individually and separately interrogated the (students) in a closed room, without the parents' knowledge or consent ... and asked (them) inappropriate and personal questions such as whether they loved one another and were lesbians."

"In such a manner, Bork coerced one of the (students) to admit that she 'loves' the other," a court document stated.

The next day, the parents received a phone call from Bork informing them the board had decided to expel the students. One day later, the parents confronted the principal in person and by phone and were told the two girls could not remain at school "with those feelings."

Bork also wrote a letter to the parents stating "while there is no open physical contact between the two girls, there is still a bond of intimacy ... characteristic of a lesbian (relationship). ... Such a relationship is unchristian. To allow the girls to attend (Cal Lutheran) ... would send a message to students and parents that we either condone this situation and/or will not do anything about it. That message would not reflect our beliefs and principles."

The students, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe and Mary Roe, were expelled in September 2005 for "engaging in homosexual conduct in violation of the Christian Code of Conduct, including but not limited to, posing for pictures in suggestive sexual positions."

Lawyers for the students argued the school is not a religious institution but a fee-taking organization.

But they were opposed by other lawyers, from the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund who argued on behalf of the school, because the decision could affect members of the Association of Faith-Based Organizations.

"Christian schools have the right to make admissions and disciplinary decisions consistent with their Christian beliefs," said Timothy J. Tracey, a litigation counsel for the CLS. "To subject Christian schools to liability under the California anti-discrimination laws for expelling students who engage in homosexual conduct flatly violates this right."

"The 14th Amendment protects the right of parents to send their children to a private religious school that shares their religious beliefs," the arguments said. "The United States Supreme Court has long recognized the existence of parents' right to direct their children's education."

"These parents have chosen to send their children to private Christian schools because of the unique Christian mission and values espoused by the schools. Compelling the schools to condone extramarital sexual conduct contrary to their values and beliefs eliminates a primary reason why parents choose to send their children to these Christian schools in the first place – having their children educated and mentored from a distinctly Christian perspective," the court filings said.

The state may govern the "basic requirements" of private schools, through licensing and reporting requirements, but "it cannot unreasonably interfere with the teaching and educational philosophies of such schools," the argument said.

The First Amendment's Religion Clause also prevents state anti-discrimination laws based on moral behavior from applying, the attorneys argued.

Attorney Kirk Hanson, representing the students, said he would appeal the dismissal of the case. He said he'll continue to argue the school is a business and must abide by state discrimination requirements.

"That's (appeals court) where this case would have ended up regardless," Hanson told the newspaper. "Win or lose at the trial level, the case is going to be in front of a court of appeal."

But John McKay, a lawyer for the school, said, "The First Amendment gives Christian schools the right to educate children on the (basis) of Christian beliefs. We're right on the First Amendment (regarding) free association."

On a forums page at the newspaper's Internet site, "Edward" supported the decision.

"It's not right to enroll in a school that has certain defined beliefs and rules, and then decide you don't want to comply," he wrote. "Simply enroll in a different school that closer matches your idealogy (sic). Don't sue to try to make the existing school what you want it to be."

"This was obviously an attack by the 'diversity' crowd on another religious institution," added "Watch out." "They are dead set on destroying any mention of or exercise of religious freedom."

And Peter added, "Think people think …. If you as a parent sign on a dotted line accepting the rules of the private school, then disciplinary action against your son or daughter should be expected when they break the rules. Face the consequences and move on."

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« Reply #29 on: January 30, 2008, 10:32:55 AM »

1ST AMENDMENT ON TRIAL
Court says states cannot prohibit 'Choose Life'
'Government may not arbitrarily censor viewpoints in open forums'

Advocates for the unborn in Arizona are celebrating a court opinion that concluded the state was not allowed to censor a "Choose Life" message from a program that allows special interest groups to obtain license plates with their slogans, an issue that has been resolved similarly in other states.

The ruling comes from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case argued by the Alliance Defense Fund.

"Pro-life advocates shouldn't be discriminated against for their beliefs," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeff Shafer said. "Today's decision from the 9th Circuit reinforces that if the state opens the door for expression by a class of speakers, it may not then slam the door on those whose messages it prefers be kept from public view."

At issue was a request by the Arizona Life Coalition to a state program that allows specialty license plates featuring various slogans.

The coalition, a group with 100,000 members, applied in 2002 for a specialty license plate with the "Choose Life" slogan. The Arizona License Plate Commission then denied the request, even though specialty plates were granted to other nonprofits such as the University of Phoenix Alumni Network, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Wildlife Conservation Council.

In 2003, the Alliance Defense Fund, working with the Center for Arizona Policy, filed a lawsuit over the issue.

"By denying Life Coalition's application … the Commission ignored its statutory mandate and acted unreasonably in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the 9th Circuit ruling said.

"The government may not arbitrarily exclude pro-life viewpoints from forums opened to just this sort of public discourse," Shafer said. "It is our hope that this victory will have a positive impact on similar cases under way nationwide."

The court ruling found that Arizona law states the commission, "Shall authorize a special organization plate if the organization meets [three] requirements."

Those include that the organization must serve the community, the group's name does not promote any specific product or brand name and that the organization does not promote a specific religion or anti-religious viewpoint.

"We recognize that Arizona has a legitimate interest in regulating controversial material displayed publicly on government property," the court ruling said. "Nevertheless, we are mindful of potential constitutional problems when government officials are given unbridled discretion in regulating speech, even in limited public fora."

The court said Arizona has defined the outer limits of its specialty license plate program, "and Life Coalition fits within those statutory boundaries."

"Because abortion-related speech falls within the boundaries of Arizona's limited public forum, and because the Commission clearly denied the application based on the nature of the message, we conclude the Commission's actions were viewpoint discriminatory," the court said.

The Alliance Defense Fund just days earlier had won a similar contest in Missouri, where a federal court judge concluded that state's outline for the approval process for specialty plates was unconstitutional.

That decision ordered Missouri to issue the "Choose Life" license plate, concluding the Department of Revenue officials who approve or reject applications had too much discretion.

"The statute does not provide the Joint Committee with specific standards or guidelines upon which to base their decisions and no explanation is required for a denial of one's application," said Judge Scott O. Wright in that case. "As a result, [the law] is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."

There, the "Choose Life" slogan was rejected while slogans for an autism foundation, a conservancy group, a cattlemen's foundation and a military support group all were approved.

Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, said the newest ruling from the 9th Circuit is a victory for free speech.

"That the Arizona License Plate Commission tried to censor pro-lifers while allowing other groups to have license plates was clearly discriminatory," he said. "It's reassuring that a federal court has declared that pro-lifers have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else.

"Priests for Life has vigorously promoted Choose Life license plates and urges pastors to work with their people and their state legislators to adopt them," he said.
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