Friday, October 28, 2005

New York Appeals Court Rules That New Paltz Mayor May Not Solemnize Same-Sex Marriage

Albany, NY – Yesterday the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, ruled that New Paltz Mayor Jason West had no authority to solemnize same-sex marriages. The lawsuit against Mayor West and the Village of New Paltz was brought by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Robert Hebel, a New Paltz Village Trustee. Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel of Liberty Counsel, presented the oral argument before the three-judge panel on September 12, 2005.

Last year New Paltz Mayor Jason West prepared his own form and sought to solemnize same-sex unions. Liberty Counsel filed suit, and Judge E. Michael Kavanagh issued an injunction stopping the mayor, noting that marriage in New York is between one man and one woman. Mayor West then appointed Rebecca Rotzler and Julia Walsh – two other Village Trustees – to solemnize same-sex “marriages.” Liberty Counsel filed suit again and obtained another order blocking any Village official from violating the law. The Mayor and the Village appealed the order.

The appeals court sided with Liberty Counsel and ruled that the Mayor and the Village of New Paltz had no authority to violate state law, which authorizes only marriage between one man and one woman. In the opinion, the appeals court stated that the Mayor’s “actions implicated a core constitutional tenet; that is, the separation of power. Here, West robed himself with judicial powers and declared the marriage laws of this State unconstitutional. Having concluded that the Legislature violated the constitution, he then wrapped himself with that body’s power and drafted his own set of documents for licensing marriages. In so doing, he clearly exceeded his role as a village mayor.”

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: “Renegade mayors and rogue public officials do not have the authority to violate clearly established marriage laws. Preserving marriage is the social battle for this generation. Our social stability hangs on the strength of families. To the extent we weaken marriage and family, we destabilize our communities and damage our children. Law breaking mayors have no right to undermine marriage. The people must decide this issue once and for all by passing state and federal constitutional amendments to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

In the past 18 months, Liberty Counsel has defended almost 40 marriage cases throughout the country. Liberty Counsel is a national litigation, education and policy support organization defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Federal Appeals Court Rules That Kindergarten Student's Case May Proceed To Trial

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed a victory to Antonio Peck and his parents by ruling that his case, involving the censorship of an art poster containing a picture of Jesus, may proceed to trial. Antonio is represented by Liberty Counsel.

The case began in 1999, when Antonio attended kindergarten in Syracuse, New York, at the Baldwinsville Elementary School. His teacher instructed the class to draw a poster regarding their understanding of the environment. Antonio's first poster contained several religious figures and the following statement: "The only way to save the world." Antonio was expressing his belief that God was the only way to save the environment. This poster was rejected. Antonio's second poster contained various cutout figures and other artistic work. Some of the figures on the right side included children holding hands circling the globe, people recycling trash into a recycle bin, and children picking up garbage. On the left side of the poster was a bearded man wearing a robe kneeling with one knee to the ground and two hands stretched toward the sky. To Antonio, this figure was Jesus, although the figure was not identified. This poster was displayed for half a day on the cafeteria wall along with 80 other student posters, but unlike the other kindergarten posters, school officials folded Antonio's poster in half so that the figure of Jesus could not be seen. When school officials refused to remedy the matter or adopt a policy to prevent future censorship, Liberty Counsel filed suit over the second poster.

In 2000, the federal trial court ruled that the school had the right to censor the poster because of "church and state" concerns. On March 28, 2001, a unanimous federal court of appeals reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. Last year the same federal trial court again ruled for the school. Yesterday a unanimous court of appeals again ruled in favor of Antonio and reversed the decision. Based on the testimony in the record, the court of appeals ruled that a trial was necessary to determine whether the poster was censored because of its religious viewpoint. The court of appeals pointed to deposition testimony of school officials, which stated that the poster was censored because of the religious image of Jesus. The officials also testified that they would not censor other secular images, even if they were not responsive to the assignment.

In Peck v. Baldwinsville School District, the federal court of appeals for the Second Circuit joined the Ninth and the Eleventh Circuits in holding that viewpoint discrimination is forbidden, even in the public school classroom context. The First and Tenth circuits hold that viewpoint discrimination in the public school context is permissible. This case will now proceed to trial. Based on the circuit splits, this case has the potential to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We are elated with the decision. Now Antonio will have his day in court. The school humiliated Antonio when the teacher folded his poster in half so that the cutout drawing of Jesus could not be seen. To allow a kindergarten poster to be displayed for a few hours on a cafeteria wall, along with 80 other student posters, is far from an establishment of religion. To censor the poster solely because some might perceive a portion of it to be religious is an egregious violation of the Constitution.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

NY Appeals court: Same-sex partner can't sue for malpractice

There is an AP article reprinted on Newsday.com entitled "Appeals court: Same-sex partner can't sue for malpractice".
This could have ramifications for other cases in that state where same-sex partners want the benefits traditionally reserved for marriage.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Conservative Legal and Educator Groups Launch Joint Christmas Project

Today, Liberty Counsel and Christian Educators Association International ("CEAI") kicked off their joint Christmas project in Washington, D.C. Liberty Counsel is a national, religious liberty public interest law firm with offices in Florida and Virginia and hundreds of affiliate attorneys in all fifty states. CEAI has 8,000 members comprised of public school teachers and administrators. CEAI is a conservative alternative to the National Education Association.

For the past three years, Liberty Counsel has conducted its "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign. This campaign provides education about celebrating Christmas in public schools and on public property. Liberty Counsel offers pro bono legal advice and defense to government entities that do not censor Christmas, but Liberty Counsel will file suit whenever Christmas is censored.

CEAI's 8,000 public school teachers and administrators are now joining forces with Liberty Counsel in a national Christmas campaign. CEAI educators will distribute Liberty Counsel's legal memo (in PDF**) about Christmas to their local school districts and government officials. They will also advise Liberty Counsel of any violations of the law so that Liberty Counsel can take whatever legal action is necessary.

Public school students have the right to distribute religious Christmas cards to their classmates, wear clothing or jewelry with religious themes or messages, and sing Christmas carols during choral or talent performances. Teachers have the right to display nativity scenes alongside secular holiday displays and may include Christmas in a discussion about the holidays. In the past few years, students have been suspended for distributing candy canes with an attached card describing the Christian celebration of Christmas. Students have been told they may not say "Merry Christmas," may not sing Christian Christmas carols, or may not wear red and green. These and other forms of discrimination against religious viewpoints will be challenged in court.

Outside the school setting, local, state and federal governments may display nativity scenes or religious greetings alongside secular holiday displays or greetings. Public employees may wear jewelry or clothing with religious themes if other employees are permitted to don secular themes.

Finn Laursen, Executive Director of CEAI, commented: "Christmas is not constitutionally taboo in public schools or in public places. Our teachers and administrators will be the 'eyes and ears' in their communities to ensure that the 'reason for the season' remains part of the holiday celebration."

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: "With a cavalry of thousands of public school teachers and administrators joining forces with hundreds of religious liberty attorneys, we intend to stop the Grinch from stealing Christmas. We will be the friend of government officials who do the right thing, and the foe of those who don't."



**To open PDF documents get a free Adobe PDF Reader

You can also download the Memo in MS Word


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Netherlands Recognizes Union Between One Man + TWO Women

The Netherlands has legalized polygamy in all but name, granting a civil union to a man and two women. The trio, consisting of a heterosexual man and bisexual women, consider themselves married.

The United States is heading down the same slippery slope -- just a few years behind since Vermont has civil unions and Massachusetts has marriage for same-sex couples. According to the ACLU, polygamy is a "fundamental right." People who agree with the ACLU and support the radical homosexual agenda will not rest until marriage has become completely devalued. Children will suffer most from this debauchery.

We wonder what will be the next step for the Netherlands -- One Man + Two Women + One Horse?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Abortion Proponent Dismisses Challenge to Arkansas's "Choose Life" License Plate

Abortion proponent Tamara Brackett dismissed her federal lawsuit in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which sought to strike down the Choose Life Statute along with the entire system of authorizing specialty and vanity license plates.
Last year, Judge Harry Barnes granted Liberty Counsel's request to intervene on behalf of several pro-life groups to defend the Arkansas "Choose Life" license plate. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel, represent Hannah Medical Center, Life Choices, Inc. (crisis pregnancy centers), Rose Mimms and Debora Griffin (who purchased the plate).
In order to prevent the "Choose Life" specialty plate, Tamara Brackett sought to eliminate every specialty plate. Sponsors of other specialty plates include the Disabled American Veterans; Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients; Purple Heart Medal Recipients; Ex-Prisoners of War; Military Reserve Members; U.S. Armed Forces Retirees; Pearl Harbor Survivors; Active and Retired Firefighters; Universities and Colleges; World War II, Korean War, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Veterans; Armed Forces Veterans; Retired Arkansas State Troopers; Distinguished Flying Cross Recipients; Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Education, Research and Awareness; and Organ Donor Awareness, to name just a few.
The dismissal of the Arkansas suit comes on the heels of the ruling by a federal court in Ohio which threw out a similar challenge to Ohio's "Choose Life" specialty plate. In the Ohio ruling, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Inc. v. Taft, federal Judge Donald Nugent ruled that the Tax Injunction Act prohibits federal courts from enjoining an assessment, levy or collection of any tax under state law when state courts offer a "plain, speedy and efficient remedy." Liberty Counsel was also involved in the Ohio case and filed a motion to dismiss the suit. Arkansas federal Judge Harry Barnes has now approved the dismissal against the Arkansas Choose Life Statute in the case of Brackett v. Weiss.
We are pleased that the lawsuit against Arkansas's "Choose Life"specialty plate has been dismissed. The animosity of abortion advocates against the 'Choose Life' message is incredible. To silence the "Choose Life" plate, they have no shame in trying to eliminate the specialty plates of war veterans, firefighters, police officers, universities or breast cancer research programs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Today Regarding Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law

"We are all terminally ill. Life is an illness spread by sexual contact. You die at the end 100%"
- Ludwig Minelli, founder of Dignitas, a Swiss organization the promotes assisted suicide

Today in the case of Gonzalez v. State of Oregon, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding Oregon's assisted suicide law. This important case will give an early glimpse into Chief Justice John Roberts' judicial philosophy. Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief with the High Court in support of the U.S. Attorney General.

Oregon's Death with Dignity Act allows for a physician-assisted suicide. The U.S. Attorney General interpreted the federal Controlled Substances Act to prohibit physicians from prescribing controlled substances for assisted suicide. Liberty Counsel's brief argues that the Attorney General properly exercised his role as protector of the inalienable right to life. This right to life is manifested in the Declaration of Independence which states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, . . ."

The brief reviews many state court decisions prohibiting assisted suicide. The brief also notes that the American Medical Association "continues to stand by its ethical principle that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer." Like the FCC, which has jurisdiction of the airwaves, and the FAA, which has jurisdiction of the airspace, the FDA has jurisdiction over the regulation of controlled substances. The FDA can release new drugs, restrict them or pull them from the market. The purpose of this regulatory power is to ensure that controlled substances are safely used to heal or control pain. The U.S. Attorney General's decision to prohibit controlled substances from being used to kill people is a permissible exercise of his power.

When a physician participates in a person's suicide by administering controlled substances, the line between healer and executioner is blurred, and the sanctity of life is lost. America should not become like Belgium or the Netherlands, where patients wonder whether a physician with a syringe brings life or death. The state of Oregon does not have a constitutional right to require the federal government to participate, directly or indirectly, through the use of controlled substances, in the termination of an innocent person's life. Had the U.S. Attorney General stood idly by and allowed Oregon physicians to use federally controlled substances to kill the elderly, such inaction would have placed the nation's seal of approval on euthanasia.

Technical definitions aside, the difference between so-called "assisted suicide" where the physician hooks up a device and the patient need only flip a switch or the physician mixes a poisonous concoction which the patient need only drink, and "euthanasia", where the physician administers a drug without the patient's participation, is illusory. There is no difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia in reality -- the patient still dies.

According to an encyclopedia website, the Netherlands and Belgium have legalized euthanasia, while Switzerland has legalized assisted suicide. Another website -- of the Christian Medical Fellowship, states that physician assisted suicide is legal in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Oregon and Switzerland. In practice, many doctors practice euthanasia on infants with disabilities. The National Review published a chilling article on the practice.

May God have mercy on us all if this nation sanctions any such barbaric practices.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Federal Court of Appeals Hears Arguments of a Woman Who Was Booted From a Bus Because She Handed Out the Bible

On October 28, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on behalf of Gail Anderson who filed suit against the Milwaukee County Department of Public Works and Transportation Division (“Transit Authority”) after she was escorted off a public transportation bus for distributing the Bible. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, presented the oral argument before the three judge panel.

At the time of the incident Ms. Anderson was 56-years-old. Having no driver’s license, she relies on public transportation. The Transit Authority’s policy, Tariff 116, bans leafleting. Transit Authority officials have applied the Tariff in conflicting and confusing ways. Some interpret the Tariff to prohibit the exchange of business cards or any printed material. Others have made exceptions for two passengers exchanging newspapers.

In the summer of 2002, while Ms. Anderson was seated on the bus, she offered The Book of Hope to a few passengers who were next to her. The Book of Hope contains the Bible. After the bus driver saw her, he ordered her to stop and stated that distributing any literature violated the Transit Authority’s policy. Tariff 116 requires that anyone distributing literature be removed from the bus. In the heat of the afternoon, Ms. Anderson was forced to walk home.

The argument before the federal court of appeals focused on the policy being vague, overbroad, and unreasonable. The conflicting and confusing applications of the policy do not provide sufficient clarity to passengers. Moreover, a total ban on leafleting to nearby passengers who are willing to receive literature violates the First Amendment.

It makes no sense to allow verbal conversations between passengers, as the transit authority must, but prohibit the same discussion when oral conversation is transformed to print and freely offered in the form of a leaflet. The Milwaukee Transit Authority policy allows passengers to wear political buttons but would boot them from the bus if they exchanged them. Conventioneers could discuss what meetings they attended but if they offered to another printed handouts they forfeit their right to ride the bus. Such a policy defies common sense and the Constitution.

Audio of the oral argument is available online at:

http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/fdocs/docs.fwx?caseno=05-1267&submit=showdkt&yr=05&num=1267