Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Tree & Menorah Welcomed, But Nativity Banned By State of Washington

Olympia, WA - Governor Chris Gregoire lit a Menorah in a celebration at the state Capitol on Monday, and at the same celebration, accepted the gift of a Menorah for her home. The Menorah that was lit during the ceremony is displayed in the Capitol rotunda with a Christmas tree. However, when a local resident asked for a Nativity scene to be displayed with the Menorah and the tree, the Governor refused. This morning, at the request of a local resident, Liberty Counsel faxed a letter to Governor Gregoire along with our Legal Memorandum on the constitutionality of displaying religious symbols during the December holiday celebrations. The letter explains that the state cannot show preference for one faith over another by allowing a Menorah while refusing a Nativity scene.
A spokesman for the state claimed that officials were concerned that a Nativity might carry a stronger impression of government endorsement of religion, but there was not enough time to research the issue. However, U.S. Supreme Court precedent clearly shows that both a Menorah and a Nativity are both religious symbols. The state cannot legally allow a Menorah to be displayed while rejecting a Nativity. This is an issue that is widely discussed every year all across the nation. It also takes little effort to determine that a state cannot legally prefer one religion over another.
Last December, Liberty Counsel filed suit against the cities of Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach on behalf of local resident Ken Koenig for refusing to allow a nativity scene in a local park. The towns allowed a Menorah display in the same park. Initially, the towns insisted that the Menorah was a secular symbol, but agreed to allow the display shortly before a hearing in federal court.
The Supreme Court has recognized that the Menorah is a religious symbol for the Jewish faith, while a Christmas tree is a secular symbol. The state showed preference for one faith over another by lighting a Menorah while refusing a request to display a Nativity scene. Religious preference is forbidden by the Constitution.
Every year government officials repeat the same mistakes over and over by banning Nativity scenes from December holiday celebrations. The Constitutional principles are crystal clear. The state of Washington cannot favor one religion over another by allowing a Menorah while refusing a crèche.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cross Will Return To Wren Chapel At College Of William & Mary

Cross Will Return To Wren Chapel At College Of William & Mary
Williamsburg, VA - In a statement released yesterday from President Gene Nichol of the historic College of William and Mary, the cross that stood at the altar in Wren Chapel without controversy for over 75 years will return to the altar. Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the College requesting that the cross remain in Wren Chapel instead of being delegated to a closet so it wouldn't offend non-Christians using the chapel.
President Nichol's statement acknowledges that "many alumni and friends of the College have urged, in the strongest terms, that the decision be reconsidered." Nichol now states that "we will commission a permanent plaque to commemorate the Chapel's origins as an Anglican place of worship and symbol of the Christian beginnings of the College....[I]n an effort to give further recognition to the heritage of the Chapel without substantially affecting its openness and accessibility for College use, I have asked that the altar cross be displayed throughout the day on Sundays with expanded hours. The cross will also continue to be in place on the altar when the Chapel is used for Christian religious services or when any individual requests its display for moments of quiet prayer and contemplation."
The College of William and Mary was founded as a private Anglican school for evangelization of Native Americans and the training of Christian workers. William and Mary is now a public college. Previously, it was the College's policy that any group using the chapel could ask that the cross be removed for their event, and the staff complied with the requests with no problems ever having been reported.
Returning the cross to Wren Chapel is a step in the right direction. The plaque commemorating the religious heritage of the school is a welcome addition to serve as a memorial to the religious history of the College of William and Mary.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

California Supreme Court to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Case

In San Francisco, today the California Supreme Court decided to hear all six cases involving same-sex marriage. On October 5, 2006, in a 2-1 decision, the California Court of Appeals rejected same-sex marriage in the closely watched case challenging the state's marriage laws. The court stated, "In the final analysis, the court is not in the business of defining marriage." Liberty Counsel represents Campaign for California Families and presented argument before the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals opinion stated: "The [same-sex couples] in these appeals are asking this court to recognize a new right. Courts simply do not have the authority to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage.... The court's role is not to define social policy." The opinion also stated: "The trial court's decision ... essentially redefined marriage to encompass unions that have never before been considered as such in this state. [I]t is beyond the judiciary's realm of authority to redefine a statute or to confer a new right where none previously existed."
The oral argument before the California Supreme Court has not yet been set.
From the moment we filed suit to stop San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, we have been preparing this case for the California Supreme Court. History, common sense and legal precedent are on our side. Marriage as the union of one man and one woman transcends political ideology and is grounded in millennia of human history.

Another Senior Center Reverses Decision Regarding Christmas Decorations

Orlando, FL - Calvary Towers, a HUD senior housing facility, yesterday retracted its prior decision to remove all Christmas decorations. This decision came on the heels of the decision by another senior housing facility to reverse its decision to censor Christian Christmas decorations at Orlando Cloisters. Liberty Counsel got involved with both facilities after being contacted by residents.
Management at Calvary Towers sent a memo to the residents advising that religious decorations of any kind would not be allowed on the premises. In a similar situation earlier this week, Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of Orlando Cloisters residents after management had issued a directive to strip the common areas of religious symbols or words. Not surprisingly, Southeastern Property Management (SPM), based out of Alabama, manages both properties. Liberty Counsel conferenced with SPM's attorney and HUD attorneys regarding the directive at Orlando Cloisters and to set the record straight about the constitutionality of celebrating Christmas. HUD also advised SPM that its directive was not proper. SPM finally got the message. As a result, yesterday, management at Calvary Towers sent a memo to the residents that SPM will still oversee the decorations around the building, but residents can decorate their doors and apartments as they wish. There will be a table in the lobby to display diverse symbols of the season, including a Nativity scene.
Southeastern Property Management now understands the importance of the freedoms allotted to the residents of the centers they manage. SPM manages properties in eleven states.
The federal Fair Housing Act protects people against discrimination in housing, including religious discrimination. Facilities such as homes for seniors cannot legally censor out the Christian aspects of the Christmas holiday.
Senior housing facilities which receive federal funding may not sanitize Christmas. The federal Fair Housing Act protects religious freedom and bans religious discrimination. It is nonsensical to think that the receipt of federal funds requires the recipient facility to secularize the federal holiday we call Christmas. Censoring Christmas defies logic and federal law.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Appeals Court Strikes Discriminatory Policy

In Richmond, VA On December 15, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 3-0 opinion in Child Evangelism Fellowship v. Anderson School District Five, holding that a South Carolina school district violated CEF's constitutional rights by charging the group a fee while allowing other groups to use district facilities at no cost. Liberty Counsel represents CEF of South Carolina, which sponsors after-school "Good News Clubs" in elementary schools.
CEF was charged a fee to use school facilities, although the district waived fees whenever deemed "in the best interest of the district." Fees were waived for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, Students Against Destructive Decisions, the local Democratic Party, and a host of other groups, but no waiver was extended to the Good News Clubs. After filing suit, the district changed its policy and sought to "grandfather" free use to the previously authorized groups.
The trial court found that the policies raised First Amendment concerns, but ruled in favor of the district. But now the appeals court ruled the district policy unconstitutional, stating that "government may not bar religious perspectives on otherwise permitted subjects ....[and] communities of faith may not be arbitrarily excluded from the protections of the Free Speech Clause..." "Government need not fear an Establishment Clause violation from allowing religious groups to speak under the same reasonable, viewpoint-neutral terms as other private parties...." "In sum, speech is not to be selectively permitted or proscribed according to official preference." This case represents a significant precedent, because it requires speech-restrictive policies to contain clear standards to prevent government officials from engaging in viewpoint discrimination, much like the case law that developed to govern prior restraints on speech.
This decision marks the end of a three-year battle to preserve Child Evangelism Fellowship's constitutional rights. The court of appeals hit the bullseye. School officials all across America should take notice. Government cannot treat religious groups unfavorably compared to other groups. Equal access is the law, and equal access means equal treatment in every respect. Good News Clubs teach respect, morality and character development. Instead of hassling Good News Clubs, schools should embrace the clubs. These clubs make a positive difference in the lives of children.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Senior Housing Facility Orders Wings Cut From Angel On Christmas Tree

In Florida, Seniors living in an Orlando area retirement home are facing blatant religious discrimination because of censorship of Christmas in their homes. Liberty Counsel is intervening to defend the religious freedom of residents, and faxed a demand letter to the Orlando Cloisters.The management at an Orlando area retirement home, Orlando Cloisters, issued a directive to strip the common areas of any religious symbols or words in Christmas displays. At the management’s direction, an employee at Orlando Cloisters cut the wings off the angel that was on top of the Christmas tree. Later, the angel was replaced with a Santa Claus. Angels were also removed from a display by the elevator in a hallway on one of the residence floors.The management issued a directive to the residents explaining that “Christmas trees, Santa Claus, wreaths, Hanukah Menorahs and ‘Seasons Greetings’ are all acceptable, as these items are not considered religious symbols.” Menorahs are indeed, religious symbols.The Federal Fair Housing Act protects people against discrimination in housing, including religious discrimination. The retirement home cannot legally censor out the Christian aspects of the Christmas holiday.I am astounded that the management would show disregard for the residents’ religious beliefs by cutting the wings off an angel on their Christmas tree! The management of Orlando Cloisters has sent a clear message that Christians are not welcome. I have great compassion for the elderly and cannot stand to see any of them deprived of the joy of Christmas. We will call upon the federal government to issue Christmas guidelines designed to prevent religious discrimination that often occurs in senior living facilities. If Christmas is censored from these precious ones, we all lose a piece of our religious freedom.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Twas Two Weeks Before Christmas

Orlando, FL - With less than two weeks until Christmas, Liberty Counsel is still being inundated with calls from all across the nation relating to the annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign. Below are just a few of many examples:Arkansas - McNair Middle School in Fayetteville removed a teacher’s Nativity scene and Star of David from a larger display that also included secular holiday decorations. School officials were concerned about the religious aspects of the display. After Terry Rhodes called Liberty Counsel for help, he was given a legal memorandum showing that the display was constitutional. Mr. Rhodes gave school authorities the information and the school reversed its decision. Mr. Rhodes was allowed to return the Nativity and Star of David to the display. Publicly sponsored religious symbols are permissible when displayed in the context of other secular symbols of the holiday.Ohio - A teacher in a public school was instructed not to say "Merry Christmas" this year. She has always decorated her classroom with a wreath on her door that says "Merry Christmas." Another teacher in another school in the same district was also told not to say "Merry Christmas." Liberty Counsel sent a letter and Christmas legal memo to the district superintendent. At the most recent school board meeting, an administrator advised that the teachers could now say "Merry Christmas."Tennessee - Cumberland County received a threatening letter from the ACLU about a Nativity scene outside the county courthouse. However, the county has created an open forum for the public and local businesses to display business logos, statues and other items. Private religious speech in a public forum is clearly permissible. In fact, if the county banned religious viewpoints from a public forum, such action would be unconstitutional. Liberty Counsel is working with the county and will offer pro bono defense if the ACLU files suit. Such a suit would be frivolous.Wisconsin - A program coordinator in a public school was told by the principal that the musical program that was scheduled to take place in a church was going to be moved to a location with inadequate seating and acoustics. Liberty Counsel sent a legal memo about Christmas to the school. After receiving the memo, the principal decided to keep the event at the church, and the program was held in the church as originally planned.There is a war on Christmas in this country. Every victory goes a long way toward winning the battle, but we must not take Christmas or our religious freedom for granted. Celebrating Christmas is the classic example of religious accommodation mandated by the First Amendment. If Christmas is silenced or censored, we all lose a piece of our religious freedom.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Spirit Returns to Seattle Airport

Seattle, WA – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport officials plan to put fourteen Christmas trees back up, following their removal on Saturday. A local rabbi had threatened to sue the airport for refusing to include a menorah with the Christmas tree display. Instead of adding a menorah, the airport removed the Christmas trees early Saturday morning.Yesterday Liberty Counsel contacted airport officials and offered free legal assistance if it returned the Christmas trees to the airport facility. Liberty Counsel explained that the rabbi’s demands are legally baseless. Christmas trees have always been recognized as secular symbols by the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, the airport did not open a forum for the entire public to erect displays, so the airport is not required to allow symbols of any other holiday in its facility.Liberty Counsel’s fourth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign is designed to educate and, if necessary, litigate to defend Christmas celebrations. There is much unnecessary misunderstanding of what is permissible, yet the law is clear in this area. Liberty Counsel has a legal memorandum that explains the constitutionality of Christmas celebrations in public places. Liberty Counsel has witnessed public officials in many places facing strong opposition for censoring Christmas.We are pleased that Christmas has returned to the Seattle airport. The airport’s knee-jerk reaction was unnecessary. The overwhelming adverse response by the public to removing Christmas decorations from the airport illustrates the deep belief Americans have in celebrating Christmas.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

PA Church No Longer Left Out In the Cold

Erie, PA – Liberty Counsel has now settled a lawsuit on behalf of Lighthouse Christian Center (Lighthouse) against the city of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The settlement allows Lighthouse to move to a downtown facility where it can operate its outreach program, which is expected to include a Christian bookstore, television ministry, outreach to teens, and church services. Liberty Counsel sued the city on behalf of Lighthouse in July, alleging that the city’s “church-free” zoning ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).After Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit and following an emergency hearing, the city agreed to settle the case. The city agreed that Lighthouse can locate in the commercial space that it had previously been refused permission to occupy. Additionally, the city agreed to amend its zoning code to remove the distinction between secular and religious assemblies. The city also agreed to allow all public assemblies in the city’s commercial areas and will pay attorney’s fees and costs to Liberty Counsel.Until this past summer, Lighthouse was located in a nearby town in a small building with no sewer or running water. The church outgrew the facility and then secured an opportunity to lease within Titusville’s C-1 commercial zone. The local zoning code did not allow churches, but permitted theaters, clubs, lodges, bars and amusements in its commercial areas. Lighthouse was forced outside the city of Titusville, where they rented a temporary building that lacks heat and insulation. The settlement allows Lighthouse to move to more suitable facilities, where the church can grow and operate its many outreaches before more severe winter conditions set in.We are pleased that the city of Titusville has agreed that Lighthouse Christian Center should be treated like other places of assembly in the downtown area. It is unfortunate that a church had to go to federal court to be treated like other groups in the city. Common sense dictates that if theaters or clubs are permitted in a zoning district, then churches cannot be banned.

PA Church No Longer Left Out In the Cold

Erie, PA – Liberty Counsel has now settled a lawsuit on behalf of Lighthouse Christian Center (Lighthouse) against the city of Titusville, Pennsylvania. The settlement allows Lighthouse to move to a downtown facility where it can operate its outreach program, which is expected to include a Christian bookstore, television ministry, outreach to teens, and church services. Liberty Counsel sued the city on behalf of Lighthouse in July, alleging that the city’s “church-free” zoning ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).After Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit and following an emergency hearing, the city agreed to settle the case. The city agreed that Lighthouse can locate in the commercial space that it had previously been refused permission to occupy. Additionally, the city agreed to amend its zoning code to remove the distinction between secular and religious assemblies. The city also agreed to allow all public assemblies in the city’s commercial areas and will pay attorney’s fees and costs to Liberty Counsel.Until this past summer, Lighthouse was located in a nearby town in a small building with no sewer or running water. The church outgrew the facility and then secured an opportunity to lease within Titusville’s C-1 commercial zone. The local zoning code did not allow churches, but permitted theaters, clubs, lodges, bars and amusements in its commercial areas. Lighthouse was forced outside the city of Titusville, where they rented a temporary building that lacks heat and insulation. The settlement allows Lighthouse to move to more suitable facilities, where the church can grow and operate its many outreaches before more severe winter conditions set in.We are pleased that the city of Titusville has agreed that Lighthouse Christian Center should be treated like other places of assembly in the downtown area. It is unfortunate that a church had to go to federal court to be treated like other groups in the city. Common sense dictates that if theaters or clubs are permitted in a zoning district, then churches cannot be banned.

The Supreme Court Should Refuse to Hear Homosexual Marriage Appeal

San Francisco, CA - Liberty Counsel filed a brief this week at the California Supreme Court in opposition to same-sex marriage advocates who failed in their attempt to overturn California's definition of marriage at the state Court of Appeal. The same-sex marriage advocates have now asked the California Supreme Court to take up the case. Liberty Counsel represents Campaign for California Families in a case that is one of six cases that were coordinated into a single proceeding at the trial court and then consolidated for appeal. Liberty Counsel's brief argues that the Supreme Court should refuse to hear the case and allow the Court of Appeal's opinion to stand. The brief states, "Disappointed by the Court's rejection of their efforts to redefine marriage, the Plaintiffs are now asking this Court to assume the role of social engineer and to override the expressed will of the people of California that marriage is to continue to be defined as the union of one man and one woman." Liberty Counsel points out that the Court of Appeal thoughtfully, thoroughly and correctly applied longstanding legal precedents when it held that marriage in California is defined as the union of one man and one woman (as opposed to the union of two persons) and that "same-sex marriage" is not a fundamental right.The appellate court's opinion agrees with the high courts of New York and Washington, among others, which earlier this year rejected similar challenges to the marriage statutes in those states.The California Court of Appeal correctly concluded that courts are not free to redefine the common understanding of marriage. The state has a strong interest in protecting marriage. Children do best when they are raised with a mom and a dad. Gender does matter to the well-being of children. If we experiment with marriage and define it anyway we choose, then we set the stage for the destabilization of the family and our own social security.http://http://www.lc.org/

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

LC asks William & Mary to Restore Cross to Chapel

Williamsburg, VA - The cross in Wren Chapel at the historic College of William and Mary was removed last month from the altar and placed in a closet, because the President of the College was afraid it may offend non-Christians. Liberty Counsel sent a letter to The College of William and Mary, explaining that the message the College is sending is not of inclusiveness and tolerance, but of intolerance and hostility. The letter requests that the cross remain permanently in Wren Chapel, where it has stood without controversy and undisturbed for over 75 years.Current President Gene R. Nichol (the former Chair of the University of Colorado's Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Issues) stated the cross "sends an unmistakable message that the chapel belongs more fully to some of us than others." "In order to make Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths, the cross has been removed from the altar area," said Melissa Engimann, school administrator.Previously, it was the College's policy that any group using the chapel could ask that the cross be removed for their event, and the staff complied with the requests with no problems ever having been reported. Last year, only 20 out of 111 weddings asked that the cross be removed. President Nichol has reversed the policy and had the cross completely removed and placed in a closet. Those who want the cross must request that it be taken from the closet for the event.The College of William and Mary was founded as an Anglican school for evangelization of Native Americans and training of Christian workers. Eleven of the past 26 presidents of the College have been Christian pastors. George Washington was the school's first American chancellor. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became chancellor of the College after retiring from the Court.By removing the cross from where it has stood for over 75 years and hiding it in a closet, The College of William and Mary has sent the unmistakable message of hostility to Christianity. A cross in a chapel should not offend a reasonable person, anymore than a gavel in a courtroom.

LC asks William & Mary to Restore Cross to Chapel

Williamsburg, VA - The cross in Wren Chapel at the historic College of William and Mary was removed last month from the altar and placed in a closet, because the President of the College was afraid it may offend non-Christians. Liberty Counsel sent a letter to The College of William and Mary, explaining that the message the College is sending is not of inclusiveness and tolerance, but of intolerance and hostility. The letter requests that the cross remain permanently in Wren Chapel, where it has stood without controversy and undisturbed for over 75 years.Current President Gene R. Nichol (the former Chair of the University of Colorado's Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Issues) stated the cross "sends an unmistakable message that the chapel belongs more fully to some of us than others." "In order to make Wren Chapel less of a faith-specific space, and to make it more welcoming to students, faculty, staff and visitors of all faiths, the cross has been removed from the altar area," said Melissa Engimann, school administrator.Previously, it was the College's policy that any group using the chapel could ask that the cross be removed for their event, and the staff complied with the requests with no problems ever having been reported. Last year, only 20 out of 111 weddings asked that the cross be removed. President Nichol has reversed the policy and had the cross completely removed and placed in a closet. Those who want the cross must request that it be taken from the closet for the event.The College of William and Mary was founded as an Anglican school for evangelization of Native Americans and training of Christian workers. Eleven of the past 26 presidents of the College have been Christian pastors. George Washington was the school's first American chancellor. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became chancellor of the College after retiring from the Court.By removing the cross from where it has stood for over 75 years and hiding it in a closet, The College of William and Mary has sent the unmistakable message of hostility to Christianity. A cross in a chapel should not offend a reasonable person, anymore than a gavel in a courtroom.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Sex Survey Case

Washington, DC - Today the United States Supreme Court refused to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in the case of Fields v. Palmdale School District. Liberty Counsel took over the case after the Ninth Circuit had already ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not protect parents from having their children exposed to objectionable surveys in public school. Liberty Counsel requested a rehearing by the Ninth Circuit, which then deleted some of the most harmful language in the opinion (which stated that parental rights stop at the schoolhouse gate) but left the parents with no federal remedy.The case involves seven parents who objected to a psychological assessment survey with sexually explicit questions given to children at a California elementary school. The case did not focus on possible state law protections that parents may have. A state law claim was pursued and dismissed in federal court by the original attorneys in the Fields case.The denial of review is not surprising, as the Supreme Court accepts very few of the 8,000 or so cases petitioned each year. The Ninth Circuit ruling applies to the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington but does not affect the laws of individual states, which may provide greater protection for parents than does the U.S. Constitution. Since the Supreme Court chose not to get involved in this issue, state laws are needed to adequately protect parental rights. In the absence of a federal remedy, parents must rely on state law. Many states currently have laws that require parental permission and/or opt out provisions whenever the schools address human sexuality. Liberty Counsel has a comprehensive list of the laws of all 50 states.Parents have the primary role of raising and training their children, especially when it comes to topics such as human sexuality. It is outrageous to permit public school employees to indoctrinate our children regarding sex in any manner and at any age. Parents do not cease being parents when they drop their children off at the schoolhouse door. State legislatures should enact laws that protect the role of parents. It doesn't take a village to raise a child. It takes committed parents. Whenever government assumes it knows best how to raise our children, then the family unit will suffer.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Anti-Christmas Chill Felt In Windy City

Chicago, IL - Today, Liberty Counsel asked Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to stop the religious discrimination against the film The Nativity Story, which has been banned from an event in Daley Plaza. The city of Chicago told organizers of the annual Christkindlmarket (Christ child market) festival not to allow the showing of clips of The Nativity Story, a new film produced and distributed by New Line Cinema, a Time Warner Company. Festival organizers, the German American Chamber of Commerce, complied with the city's request and returned the $12,000 sponsorship cost to the filmmaker.Liberty Counsel faxed a letter to Mayor Daley, informing him that the city must not discriminate against religious viewpoints about Christmas nor interfere with the business relationship between the filmmaker and the festival organizers. Liberty Counsel also urged the festival organizers to accept The Nativity Story as a sponsor.The city claims that promoting The Nativity Story on public property could offend non-Christians and "may be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market." The city did not comment on whether the mayor was concerned that ousting the film from the popular Christmas festival would offend Christians and the vast majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas.The Nativity Story will start playing tomorrow in theaters nationwide and is expected to be popular with viewers of all ages. The film begins with paranoid King Herod and moves through the story of Mary's visitation by the angel, Mary's visit with Elizabeth, Joseph's visitation by an angel and their trip to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. The film contains realistic depictions of everyday Jewish life and exceptional cinematography. Most of the scenes were filmed in Matera, Italy, the same location used for The Passion of the Christ.Liberty Counsel has been involved in defending religious liberty cases since 1989. On its Web site, http://lc.org/helpsavechristmas, as part of its fourth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, Liberty Counsel offers legal memoranda to educate government officials, employers and others that it is legal and proper to celebrate Christmas. Liberty Counsel will educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that Christmas is not censored.Only political correctness gone mad can conceive of booting a film about the birth of Christ from a Christmas celebration, especially a celebration whose name means 'Christ child market.' We honor mothers on Mothers' Day, but in Chicago we can't acknowledge Christ at Christmas? How rude and insensitive it is to enjoy the festivities of a party but not invite the one who is being honored. Chicago officials have violated the core of the First Amendment by censoring the film for its religious viewpoint.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The War Against Christmas

Orlando, FL - The war against Christmas is still raging but Americans are fighting back. Since launching its fourth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," Liberty Counsel has received numerous reports from people all across America who are offended at the blatant censorship of Christmas. Here are some of the most recent reports from people who are standing up for Christmas.* A high school in Wisconsin told student leaders that religious symbols, decorations or wording relating to Christmas will not be permitted this year.* In Ohio, a public school told teachers not to say "Merry Christmas."* A public school teacher in North Carolina was told not to display anything in class with the word "Christmas" on it and not to tell students "Merry Christmas."* A city in New Mexico doesn't want the name of Jesus used in the Christmas parade.* The New York Parks Department is having a "Holiday Tree" instead of a "Christmas Tree."* A manufacturer in Virginia told employees to only use "Happy Holiday" as a telephone greeting, not "Merry Christmas".* A school in Wisconsin wanted to move a musical program from a church to another location, but decided to keep the event in the church after receiving Liberty Counsel's Christmas legal memo.As part of the annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, Liberty Counsel has created a "Naughty and Nice" list which catalogs retailers who either censor or recognize Christmas. The list (at http://www.lc.org/helpsavechristmas) was compiled from information gathered by Liberty Counsel supporters and is updated whenever new information is received. The "naughtiest stores" on the list are Best Buy and Eddie Bauer, which blatantly refuse to recognize Christmas in order not to be "disrespectful" or "offensive". Originally, Toys 'R' Us was on the naughty list because a store wrote a letter saying that the company aims to be "neutral" about Christmas to show respect for customers. Toys 'R' Us is now on the "nice" list after the company said it disagreed with the guest relations coordinator.Our Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign is gathering momentum and making changes. I am encouraged to see that more and more Americans taking a stand in defense of Christmas in public places. If we don't combat the grinches, the American observance of Christmas is in danger of sinking under the waves of 'winterfest' driven by gales of 'seasonal shopping'.

Naughty and Nice List

Orlando, FL – As part of the Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, Liberty Counsel has created a “Naughty and Nice" checklist (available online in pdf or MSWord) which catalogs retailers who either censor or recognize Christmas. The complete list can be found at www.LC.org or www.HelpSaveChristmas.org. The list was compiled from information gathered by Liberty Counsel supporters.Partial “Naughty List"Lowe’s – Employees cannot say “Merry Christmas" to customers. Lowe’s corporate advised that only when customers initiate a “Merry Christmas" greeting can employees respond in kind. Toys ‘R’ Us – “Holidays" are in, “Merry Christmas" is out. Banana Republic – Web site has “Holiday Gift Guide" with no mention of Christmas. Bed Bath & Beyond – No mention of any holidays. Barnes & Noble – Web site says “Gift Guide," “Holiday gift baskets," “Holiday sled," “Holiday delivery," but no Christmas. Stores not allowed to put up Christmas trees, and employees are not allowed to say “Merry Christmas." Best Buy – Web site says “Unique gifts for the season," “Holiday gift ideas." Spokesperson said the use of “Merry Christmas" is disrespectful. Dick’s Sporting Goods – Web site says “gifts" and has images, but no mention of Christmas. Eddie Bauer – Customer service would not recognize Christmas, they “don’t want to offend Jews, those who celebrate Kwanza and those who have no religious preference." Gap – “Holiday Survival Guide" with no mention of Christmas. Home Depot – Web site says “Holiday Store" and “Holiday Lighting" and only at bottom of site says “Make your Christmas decorations complete." Stores have “Holiday Home Accents." K-Mart – Selling “Holiday trees" and “Holiday wreaths."Partial “Nice List"Dillard’s – Advertises “Christmas Catalog." JC Penney – Web site has “Christmas Shipping Countdown." Joann Fabrics – Offers Christmas and Holiday fabrics. Kohl’s – Christmas is all over TV, print and radio ads. L.L. Bean – Advertises and distributes “Christmas Catalog." Linens ‘N Things – Has a “Christmas Shop" and “Christmas Checklist." Macy’s – “Merry Christmas!" on its home page. Michaels – Web site has a Christmas section. M&M-Mars Candies – Will have red and green candies with pictures of Christmas trees and angels among other images. Target – Web site says “Christmas Decor," although the physical store has “Holiday entertaining." TV ad says “Merry Christmas." Wal-Mart – Has a “Christmas Shop," plays Christmas carols, and employees can say “Merry Christmas."Every consumer should make a list and check it twice, stop patronizing retailers which are naughty and shop at those which are nice. Retailers which seek to profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist should realize they have offended the vast majority of Americans who enjoy Christmas. Customers have a choice and they will not patronize corporate Scrooges.

Monday, November 20, 2006

In God We Trust

San Francisco, CA - Today, Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in the case of Newdow v. United States Congress with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Atheist Michael A. Newdow suit claims that the national motto, "In God We Trust" violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Newdow lost at the district court and the case is now on appeal. Newdow's previous suit to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance was unsuccessful.In 1865, Congress passed an act placing "In God We Trust" on all coins. The motto has been used on paper money since 1957. The constitutionality of the motto was challenged in 1970 in Aronow v. United States, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the phrase "has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion". In 1979, atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair also unsuccessfully challenged the motto in the case of O'Hair v. Blumenthal.Although the District Court ruled against Newdow on the merits, Liberty Counsel's brief argues that the District Court improperly applied the standing rules when it found Newdow had standing to bring the suit in the first place. In order to have "standing" a person must have sufficient connection to and harm caused by whatever the person is challenging. In the brief, Liberty Counsel argues that the District Court "stretched precedents beyond the breaking point to find that Newdow had standing to challenge the national motto because the word 'God' offended him." In doing so, the court usurped its very limited role as adjudicator of legal rights to become a creator of legal rights, thus blurring the lines between the legislature and judiciary.Permitting a citizen to sue merely because the person is offended by religious words goes far beyond the intent of the First Amendment. Passive words cannot establish a religion. If Michael Newdow is permitted to proceed with his claim, then the court would become a 'bully pulpit' for any malcontent. American was founded upon religious principals and the belief in God. How can the mere expression of our American heritage establish a religion? Such a thought is preposterous.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Growing Support for Christmas Forces Retailers to Take Notice

Orlando, FL - Following on the heels of Wal-Mart admitting censoring Christmas is not a good idea, other retailers, cities and school systems are starting to take notice of Liberty Counsel's Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign and the growing public support for Christmas.Massachusetts - After the Medway School District was criticized over its censorship of Christmas, the superintendent recently gave teachers guidelines that allow celebration of the Christmas holiday. Last Christmas season, Liberty Counsel contacted the District on behalf of parents who complained that Medway Middle School had banned students from wearing red and green elf hats during its "winter" pageant, Christmas trees were called "Magical trees" and a religious song was censored. This year, according to the guidelines, Medway schools can have Christmas trees and religious Christmas songs.Wisconsin - After a year of persistent effort by Robert Wortock, with Liberty Counsel's assistance, the Racine Common Council reversed last year's decision and voted 15-0 last week to allow a nativity scene display downtown in Monument Square. (On October 17, the Council voted 14-1in favor of the nativity scene, but a re-vote was taken on November 8 due to a question about notice.)Around the Nation - This is only the beginning of the Christmas season and already, Liberty Counsel is receiving many telephone calls and email reports about Christmas censorship. In Florida, a student was chosen to be Mrs. Claus in an after-school choral group, but the principal later told her that the play would not take place because a parent complained about Santa Claus. The same group learned songs for Kwanzaa and Hanukah. In another Florida public school, the calendar of holidays lists "Christmas" as "winter" and Thanksgiving Day as "International Festival." A church in New Mexico entered its float in a Christmas Parade, but local government officials advised church leaders not to use the name of Jesus in songs performed in the parade. The words to "Silent Night" were changed to "Candle Light" in an elementary school program in a New York school. Teachers in North Carolina were told not to wish students "Merry Christmas" or display anything in their classrooms using the word "Christmas." Teachers at a Tennessee public school were told to keep Christmas out of their plans for this year. A clothing store worker in Virginia was advised by her supervisor that the company mandates that the employees use "Happy Holidays" as their greeting over the phone.On its web site, www.LC.org, Liberty Counsel offers legal memoranda to educate government officials, teachers, parents, students, private businesses, employees and others that it is legal to celebrate Christmas.Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, and already we are having a tremendous response to our fourth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign. We are pleased that the Medway School District took our advice and stopped censoring Christmas. Medway has been removed from our 'Grinch List', but we will continue to expose other Christmas foes until we win the war on Christmas.

Friday, November 10, 2006

'Good News' Clubs Gain Equal Access

Orlando, FL - Liberty Counsel is working with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) to clear the way for CEF's Good News Clubs to use public school facilities after school. The Clubs are designed to teach character development to children ages 5-12. Liberty Counsel's efforts on behalf of CEF are meeting with great success all across America.Orange County, North CarolinaAfter written demand by Liberty Counsel to reverse a decision forbidding public school teachers from leading Good News Clubs, the Orange County school district agreed on Thursday to no longer restrict any employee's private speech rights and to allow teachers to lead Good News Clubs on their own time, including after school. In 2004 Liberty Counsel won a case in North Dakota against a school district that prohibited a teacher from teaching students after school in a Good News Club.Naytahwaush, MinnesotaOn Monday, the Naytahwaush Community Charter School approved CEF's request for a Good News Club at the school. The school is located on an Indian reservation. CEF has tried to start Clubs at several schools but was met with resistance from the Reservation until Liberty Counsel intervened. Local CEF leaders are excited about the new Club, and the growth of the local chapter.Lone Peak and Forbes, UtahAfter being stonewalled and rejected, two school districts have agreed recently to allow the Good News Clubs to use their facilities. On Wednesday of this week, a club started at a school in Forbes. A Good News Club will start in Lone Peak on next Thursday. Currently, there are 16 after-school Good News Clubs meeting in seven different school districts in Utah. Every school CEF contacted for a Good News Club has now allowed equal access.Liberty Counsel published educational materials focusing on the rights of students and teachers in public schools, and also provides legal assistance to school officials in drafting policies respecting the free speech rights of students, staff, parents and groups using school facilities.We are excited that more and more school districts are getting the message - equal access means equal treatment. Good News Clubs are great for kids and schools. The clubs teach respect, morality and character development. Instead of restricting Good News Clubs, public schools ought to embrace them.http://www.lc.orghttp://www.cefonline.com/ministry/gnc.php

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Customer Backlash Gets Wal-Mart into the Christmas Spirit

Orlando, FL - Wal-Mart has finally admitted that censoring Christmas is not a good idea. After experiencing a backlash last Christmas season from unhappy customers and facing frustrated employees, some of whom turned to Liberty Counsel for help, Wal-Mart retreated from its use of "Happy Holidays" and will let employees greet shoppers with "Merry Christmas.""We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year," said spokeswoman Linda Blakely of Wal-Mart in an interview with USA Today news. Blakely claims Wal-Mart will say "Merry Christmas" early and often. Wal-Mart will be playing Christmas carols now through the end of the year.The world's largest retailer told its associates at a recent conference that it will bring back the Christmas pitch in an attempt to be the leader in this year's sales. Wal-Mart's advertising will announce "Christmas" and its decorations department will change from "The Holiday Shop" to "The Christmas Shop."Liberty Counsel, a nationwide, public interest civil liberties law firm, launched its fourth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign" this year and is already receiving many consumer complaints about stores refusing to recognize the Christmas holiday. On its web site, www.LC.org, Liberty Counsel offers a Help Save Christmas™ action pack, which includes educational legal memoranda to educate government officials, teachers, parents, students, private businesses, employees and others that it is legal to celebrate Christmas. The action pack also includes a very popular "I LOVE CHRISTmas™" button.Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel, commented: "We are glad that Wal-Mart stopped censoring Christmas. Wal-Mart should have realized it cannot censor Christmas and would have avoided the wrath of the public. To those that claim there is no war against Christmas in America, Wal-Mart is 'Exhibit A' in our 'Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign'. We are having a tremendous response when we ask the public to report a 'grinch' in their community. Wal-Mart has been removed from our 'grinch' list."Last year our 'Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign' ignited a movement to restore Christmas. Retailers that attempt to profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist will no longer be patronized. The tsunami of voices fed up with the secularization of Christmas was heard loud and clear, from city hall to the world's largest retailer. I am pleased that Wal-Mart will recognize Christmas this year. Now that the number one retailer has abandoned its generic 'Happy Holidays' greeting in favor of 'Merry Christmas,' other retailers no longer have an excuse to run from Christmas."http://www.lc.org/

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nurse Testifies Before Supreme Court On Partial-Birth Abortion

Washington, D.C. - On Wednesday morning, November 8, 2006, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument regarding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 ("Act") in Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzalez v. Carhart. Liberty Counsel filed amicus briefs in both cases with the Court on behalf of the Association of Pro-Life Physicians and Illinois nurse Jill Stanek, in favor of the Act.Nurse Stanek has a special interest in late-term abortions. She worked in a hospital where aborted babies born alive were cast aside to die. Stanek offered riveting testimony during hearings on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Stanek's testimony was also introduced into Congressional hearings on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Liberty Counsel President Anita Staver represents Stanek and the physician's group. Staver, an attorney who also has a Master's degree in counseling, recognizes the mental anguish experienced by women who have abortions, especially those who are uninformed about abortion's after-effects.This is the second time this decade that the Supreme Court has heard oral argument on partial-birth abortion. In 2000, the Court struck down a Nebraska statute that it deemed too vague and which did not provide an exception for the health of the mother. The Act passed by Congress, which the Court will consider this term, more specifically describes partial-birth abortion. After hearing testimony on the subject, Congress determined that the Act did not need a health exception because "partial-birth abortion is never medically indicated to preserve the health of the mother."While termed a "partial-birth abortion," the procedure is actually infanticide in that a baby is brutally killed during the birth process, just a few inches away from birth with only its head inside the mother.Women in this nation should be horrified that our sisters are still being subjected to the barbaric butchery of partial-birth abortion. Doctors are obligated to protect woman and that means we must be fully informed of the details of any surgical procedure. Partial-birth abortion causes babies to die a painful death. I am convinced that women do not want their offspring tortured. Not even a death-row inmate could legally be subjected to such a punishment in this nation. I predict that the High Court will retreat from its previous decision and will uphold the federal partial-birth abortion ban. Also, in the not too distant future, I believe that the Supreme Court will rectify the worst decision it ever made. The life span of Roe v. Wade and its progeny is waning. One day we will look back with shame and sorrow on this nation's approval of abortion.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Auburn Sees the (Christmas Tree) Light

Auburn, AL - After two open forums held over an eleven-month period, the Auburn University Student Government Association (SGA) announced that the former "Holiday" tree lighting event will now be called "Holiday Celebration featuring the Lighting of the Christmas Tree."The event had been called the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony since its inception in 2000. The former president of College Republicans, Laura Steele, started a petition to rename the event shortly before last year's tree lighting ceremony. Liberty Counsel worked closely with Ms. Steele to support the effort she spearheaded. According to the Associated Press, over 20,000 e-mails were received over the issue. Thanks to the efforts and persistence of Laura Steele and other student leaders, the stir caused the SGA to review the event, as well as the entire program. "I am so happy that the SGA has decided to call the tree what it is, a Christmas Tree," said Laura. "They have the support and thanks of the thousands of students, alumni and fans that joined the effort to bring the name Christmas back to this wonderful University. We are all very happy to have this resolved and thrilled that we can continue to positively promote Christmas and the real meaning of the season this year at Auburn."Wes Bonds, spokesman for the celebration committee, said the SGA wanted to make sure the tree was called a Christmas tree. "We wanted to find a name that included everything going on," Bonds said. George Stegall, president of SGA, said he believes the new name is more accurate. "There's no holiday tree. Something had to be done about calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree," he said. "I think it will definitely be well received by Auburn University and the Auburn community," he said. The new celebration will include the lighting of the Christmas tree, as well as the lighting of a peace candle and possibly the lighting of a menorah. There has been a disturbing trend toward censorship of Christmas celebrations, but people all across America are fighting back to help save Christmas. Everyone knows that a green, pointed, prickly tree we decorate in December is a Christmas tree. Renaming a Christmas tree to a "Holiday tree" is hypocritical political correctness run amok. Christmas IS constitutional. The Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign is stirring millions of Americans to help save Christmas and to preserve our religious freedom before it is lost forever.
www.lc.org

Friday, October 27, 2006

Florida's Supreme Court Rejects Wiccan Tax Challenge

Tallahassee, FL – Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court declined to consider a Wiccan group’s challenge to a state sales tax exemption. Earlier this year, the high court agreed to take the case and heard oral arguments from both sides regarding the Wiccan’s objection to a sales tax exemption for Bibles and other religious items. Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court defending a state law that exempts Bibles, religious publications and ceremonial items from sales tax. In a 6-1 decision, the Court found no conflict in appellate court rulings on the underlying issue of whether the Wiccans have the right, or “standing,” to challenge the law.The Wiccan Religious Cooperative of Florida (Wiccans) follow an earth-based belief religion and at one time qualified for the tax exemption on certain items sold by the Cooperative. They lost their exemption in 2000 because they did not own a place of worship as required by state regulations. They filed suit on Halloween in 2000, saying they paid sales tax on the purchase of the Satanic Bible and the Witch’s Bible Compleat and claiming Florida Statute 212.06(9) violated the Establishment Clause. A trial judge ruled the Wiccans had standing to sue. A Florida appeals court reversed that decision. The Wiccans appealed. The Florida Supreme Court agreed to take the case based on appellate rulings which, at first, appeared to be in conflict with that issue, when, in fact, it dealt with the narrower issue of “taxpayer standing.” The Court opined the Wiccans lack standing to challenge the law because they are not harmed by it. This is not the same as taxpayer standing.Liberty Counsel’s brief argued that the Wiccans had no standing to sue, because, even if the law were struck down, they would not receive a refund which it claims is due. The brief also points out that the Florida exemption differs from the religious publication exemption struck down by the Supreme Court in Texas Monthly v. Bullock. The Texas law exempted Bibles and religious publications but did not exempt secular publications. Florida law provides a wide array of exemptions for educational publications, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, promotional materials and works of art sold to or used by educational institutions. Finally, the brief argues that the best Supreme Court precedent is Walz v. Tax Commissioner, where the Supreme Court upheld property tax exemptions for churches. The brief points out that Texas Monthly was a fractured opinion with no majority, the Justices who voted to strike down the Texas law are no longer on the Court, those who voted to uphold the law still remain on the Court.The Florida Supreme Court did the right thing in dismissing this case. The Wiccans’ challenge was nothing more than a vindictive lawsuit. The Wiccans would not have benefited at all if they won because they were seeking to have all religious publications taxed, including their own. Florida’s sales tax exemption statute is constitutional and we are pleased that this vindictive challenge to the statute has been dismissed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey Supreme Court Assaults Marriage

Newark, NJ – Today, New Jersey’s Supreme Court issued a decision ordering the Legislature to give all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples. The Court stopped one vote shy of granting same-sex couples the right to marry, instead ruling that all the benefits of marriage must be granted to same-sex couples. Three of the Justices dissented, arguing that same-sex couples should be given the right to marry in New Jersey. Liberty Counsel has been actively, aggressively and directly involved in protecting traditional marriage from attack in dozens of lawsuits around the country.Today’s ruling recognized the backdrop of the New Jersey statutes which the majority stated evidenced a “legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination.” The Court held that, “denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of [New Jersey’s Constitution]. To comply with this constitutional mandate, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples.” The Court ordered the State Legislature to amend its statutes and stated, “The Legislature could simply amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, or it could create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union, as Connecticut and Vermont have done.” The Court then ordered the State Legislature to act within 180 days.New Jersey is not a social experimentation laboratory where the Supreme Court can play. The marital union of a man and a woman is of vital social importance because it uniquely fosters responsible procreation, contributes to the continuing well-being of men and women, to society, to children and to the state. Aggressive use of the courts to undermine marriage has backfired on the same-sex marriage movement. The people of America are not about to idly stand by and watch marriage go up in smoke. Marriage, including all of its rights and benefits, must be protected from judges who dress themselves in lab coats to play social scientists and experiment with the most fundamental institution of society. We must not rest until marriage is protected once and for all by passage of a federal marriage amendment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Liberty Council helps allow Christmas in Wisconsin

Robert Wortock has been pressing Racine, Wisconsin since last December to celebrate Christmas in the town. He was unsuccessful last year, but worked all year to gain support for Christmas. He galvanized a large coalition of area churches and residents to bring the Christmas issue before the Racine Common Council. Mr. Wortock also contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance, and Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the mayor explaining that Christmas celebrations are constitutional. Last week, after a heated debate, the Council agreed overwhelmingly, with a 14-1 vote, to allow annual Christmas displays including a nativity scene, a Christmas tree and Christmas banners.During the 2005 Christmas season, Racine had holiday decorations, but no Christmas trees, nativity scenes, or Christmas banners. Last year, the town called its Christmas tree a "community tree."Liberty Counsel, a nationwide, public interest civil liberties law firm, launched its fourth annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, and is experiencing another active season defending attacks on Christmas celebrations. On its web site, http://www.lc.org/, Liberty Counsel offers a Help Save Christmas™ action pack, which includes educational legal memoranda to educate government officials, teachers, parents, students, private businesses, employees and others that it is legal to celebrate Christmas. The action pack also includes a very popular "I Love CHRISTmas™" button, bumper stickers and other items to promote Christmas.There has been a disturbing trend toward censorship of Christmas celebrations, but people all across America are fighting back to help save Christmas. We applaud Racine, Wisconsin for listening to reason and for allowing its residents to recognize the national holiday of Christmas. Christmas IS constitutional. Our Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign is stirring millions of Americans to help save Christmas and to preserve our religious freedom before it is lost forever.

Friday, October 20, 2006

VA Employee Fired for Supporting Marriage Amendment

In Timberville, VA, An employee of an agricultural foods company has been fired over the display of a sign on his private vehicle. The sign said "please vote for marriage on November 7." The company tried to force Luis Padilla to remove the hand-painted sign from his rear window after other employees claimed to be offended. Padilla's statement reflected his religious conviction that marriage should remain a union of one man and one woman. Expressing his viewpoint with others has now cost him his job, but will further his message, as it brings the marriage vote to the attention of more Virginians.Virginia is one of seven states where voters will decide in November whether marriage will remain as the union of one man and one woman. The other states are Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. A proposed amendment is also pending in Colorado.Liberty Counsel is a nationwide public interest civil liberties law firm with offices in Orlando and Virginia. Liberty Counsel has been involved in over 40 legal cases defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and conducts events to encourage pastors and leaders to support traditional marriage. I predict that Cargill Foods will regret offending the majority of Virginia voters - those who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This is one more example of how speech is stifled in the name of 'tolerance.' Mr. Padilla's viewpoint may have cost him is job, but will encourage others to take a stand by voting 'Yes' for marriage on November 7.

Monday, October 16, 2006

News Max reports:
"A Boy Scouts sailing group that lost free use of a public boat slip because of the Scouts' discriminatory policies failed to persuade the Supreme Court to take its case. The justices on Monday let stand a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling that the city of Berkeley may treat the Berkeley Sea Scouts differently from other nonprofits because the Scouts bar atheists and gays."

Unfortunately, this case sets the stage for ousting all groups that stick to moral values. This is blatant viewpoint discrimination in its worst form.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pastors, Churches and Politics

On this past Friday, Mat Staver spoke at a conference in Florida to encourage pastors to get involved in the political process and instructed them on how to legally engage the culture.The event was recorded at Strang Communications (the publisher of Charisma, New Man, and other magazines) in Lake Mary, Florida. Strang has started a blog entitled Move Up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Human Rights Commission Dismisses Complaint Against Christian Businessman After Liberty Counsel Files Suit

Just one day after Liberty Counsel filed suit in Arlington Circuit Court on behalf of Tim Bono and his company against Arlington County Human Rights Commission, the Commission dismissed the complaint filed by lesbian activist Lilli M. Vincenz, stating there was no valid claim of discrimination against Mr. Bono.

Ms. Vincenz filed a complaint with the Commission under the county's nondiscrimination ordinance, when Bono Film and Video refused to copy Gay and Proud and Second Largest Minority for Ms. Vincenz due to its content. Mr. Bono's company does not duplicate material that is obscene, could embarrass employees, hurt the company's reputation or that runs counter to his company's values. The Commission directed Mr. Bono to duplicate the objectionable videos or pay for the duplication at another facility. The Commission also defamed Mr. Bono by sending a press release to over 5,000 media outlets, stating that there was evidence Mr. Bono had engaged in discrimination. Liberty Counsel filed suit to stop the Commission from taking further action against Mr. Bono.

Liberty Counsel will proceed with the suit that challenges the Commission's authority to recognize "sexual orientation" as a civil right. Virginia law prohibits local government from passing or enforcing nondiscrimination laws that are not authorized by the state. The state does not list "sexual orientation" as a protected civil right or class. Liberty Counsel's suit will affect Arlington County and several other Virginia counties that have illegally passed "sexual orientation" antidiscrimination laws. Several years ago, the Virginia Attorney General issued an opinion concluding that local "sexual orientation" laws violate state law.

Although we are pleased the Commission dismissed the frivolous complaint against Mr. Bono, we will continue to challenge Arlington County's attempt to recognize so-called "sexual orientation" as a civil right. Liberty Counsel's suit will invalidate the county ordinance and other similar ordinances throughout Virginia.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Liberty Counsel Asks Supreme Court to Stop Partial-Birth Abortion

Today, Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal ban on "partial-birth abortion," arguing that babies who are only inches away from birth must be granted the same inalienable right to life as are all other Americans. The so-called "partial-birth abortion" procedure is actually infanticide, in that a baby is brutally killed during the birth process with only its head inside the mother.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is only part of a continuum of protection enacted by Congress to protect the unborn, partially-born and newly-born children, including the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and "Laci and Connor's Law," which provides that a person who kills an unborn baby, along with the mother, is guilty of two crimes.

Liberty Counsel filed its amicus brief on behalf of Illinois nurse Jill Stanek in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenged the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. Mrs. Stanek testified at the hearings on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, offering Congress her first-hand accounts of watching babies born alive and then left to die. This prominent pro-life advocate helped bring this disturbing practice to Congress's attention.

Nebraska abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart, who successfully challenged a similar partial-birth abortion ban enacted by the Nebraska legislature, also brought this challenge to the federal law. Two similar cases were brought in New York and California. In all three cases, the appellate courts found the Act unconstitutional because it lacked a "health" exception. The other two cases are on hold while the Carhart case is decided by the Supreme Court.

Liberty Counsel's brief argues that Congress correctly determined that babies who are inches from birth must be afforded the inalienable right to life granted to children who complete the birth process, and that the right should not be interfered with by a claim that the "health" of the mother somehow justifies killing the child.

The partial-birth abortion procedure is gruesome and barbaric, and if performed on a convicted criminal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Federal law imposes fines and criminal punishment for anyone who takes and destroys bald eagle eggs, but does not protect babies just inches from birth. Partial-birth abortion is never necessary to protect the health of the mother. Abortion doctors use the health exception, which contains no standards, to justify the procedure. This is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse. Babies who are inches from birth deserve the same protections under our laws as all other citizens.

Read more history of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban on Liberty Counsel's web site.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign

The "Friend or Foe" Graduation Prayer Campaign was launched today by Mat Staver, the Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, and Dr. Jerry Falwell, the Founder and Chancellor of Liberty University. The concept behind the campaign is similar to the successful Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign announced by Staver and Falwell last year.

The Friend or Foe Graduation Prayer Campaign will educate, and if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious viewpoints are not censored from graduation. Liberty Counsel's free legal memo outlines the current law. Liberty Counsel will defend any school that follows the law. When school officials censor prayer or religious speech, Liberty Counsel will file suit.

If a speaker is chosen using religious-neutral criteria, and if school officials do not edit the speaker's message or religious viewpoints, then the school is on safe ground. Thus, if a valedictorian, salutatorian, class officer or class representative delivers a message, the speaker is free to include religious themes and can voluntarily pray. The same principle holds true when an adult from outside the school speaks at graduation. Private, voluntary speech on public property is constitutionally protected.

Liberty Counsel has been defending graduation prayer since Staver founded the group in 1989. In Adler v. Duval County School Board, Liberty Counsel won the right of students to pray or give religious messages during graduation. The case went before a federal court of appeals five times (twice before a panel of 12 judges), and to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. The precedent-setting case against the ACLU established the legal principle that public schools are safe when they adopt an equal access policy for graduation where students or other speakers may present either secular or religious messages, including prayer.

Public schools may also hold graduation at religious sites such as churches if the reason for doing so is religious-neutral. One such reason is that the religious venue provides a more convenient or accommodating facility than the public school. Conversely, private persons or groups may rent public school facilities to conduct privately-sponsored graduation or baccalaureate ceremonies. In privately-sponsored ceremonies, the speakers may be chosen for the express purpose of delivering prayer or religious speeches.

Speakers do not lose their rights to free speech when they approach the graduation podium. If schools tell graduates they cannot pray now, they will pay later. The National Day of Prayer recognizes that our country was founded on prayer. Public schools should respect our national heritage and obey our Constitution.


Read Liberty Counsel's Legal Memorandum on Graduation Prayer

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Deltona Mayor Who Censored Religious Paintings Has Ties To ACLU

Deltona Mayor Who Unsuccessfully Tried to Censor Religious Paintings Says the ACLU Shaped His Political Philosophy

A week after Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit over censored religious paintings, Deltona Mayor Dennis Mulder sent an email to George Griffin, President of the Volusia/Flagler chapter of the ACLU, stating: "The importance of the ACLU is immeasurable to me, my life, and my political philosophy." Explaining why he was unable to attend the ACLU meeting, the next sentence asked Griffin to "Please share my thoughts with the group."

After Mayor Mulder and acting City Manager/City Attorney, L. Roland Blossom removed paintings by Lloyd Marcus from a Black History Month display due to their religious themes, Liberty Counsel sent two letters, one explaining the law and the second demanding the paintings be returned. When Mulder and Blossom refused, Liberty Counsel filed suit. At an emergency meeting of the City Commission, Mulder and Blossom backed down and the paintings were displayed.

Public records now reveal that Mayor Mulder has close ties to the ACLU. In one email sent to Mulder, ACLU President, George Griffin, suggested that Mulder could "save face" by claiming that he sought a "second, expert, legal opinion" from the ACLU and decided to display the paintings. The ACLU wrote that if Mulder would state he got advice from the ACLU, "it would irritate the hell out of them [Liberty Counsel]." A week later, Mulder wrote to Griffin that the "importance of the ACLU is immeasurable to me, my life, and my political philosophy."

Since Mulder's political philosophy has been shaped by the ACLU, we looked at a list of some activities of the Florida ACLU. Their web site reveals the group opposed an ordinance to seal magazines deemed harmful to juveniles, opposed the use of school property for use after school hours by religious organizations, opposed the distribution of Bibles by the Gideons, opposed a committee to review films and course material for state schools to comply with community standards on pornography, fought for physician-assisted suicide, fought to overturn a ban on homosexual adoption, opposed parents being notified of their child's abortion, supported partial birth abortion, defended a nude demonstration, tried to force a school district to censor religious speech of students, and opposes the right of citizens to pass an amendment that declares marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The web site does not reveal that the ACLU lost is 8-1/2 year attempt to silent student religious speech, a case Liberty Counsel defended. The web site also does not reveal that the ACLU lost its attempt to evict churches from renting school facilities after school hours, a case also defended by Liberty Counsel. Perhaps Mayor Mulder should have done a little more research about correct legal philosophy before censoring religious expression.

Rather than having his life and political philosophy shaped by the ACLU, Mayor Dennis Mulder should read the Constitution. He would find that the First Amendment is a friend, not a foe, of religious expression.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

South Dakota Legislature Bans Abortion

Yesterday the South Dakota Senate voted to ban most abortions. HB 1215 passed the Senate by a vote of 23-12. A similar bill passed the House by a vote of 47-22. The bill will now go back to the House to approve a few changes made by the Senate, and from there the bill will go to Governor Mike Rounds for signature. The bill presents a direct attack against Roe v. Wade

Section 1 of the bill states that "life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilization." The bill goes on to say that "to fully protect the rights, interests, and health of the pregnant mother, the rights, interest, and life of her unborn child, and the mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child, abortions in South Dakota should be prohibited." The bill also says that the "guarantee of due process of law under the Constitution of South Dakota applies equally to born and unborn human beings, and that under the Constitution of South Dakota, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, each possess a natural and inalienable right to life."

HB 1215 bans abortions except in cases where it is necessary to save the mother's life. The bill makes no exception for health, rape or incest. The bill prohibits both chemical and surgical abortions but does not apply to contraceptive measures or to unintentional death to the unborn
child.

Abortion is the low point in the history of America. A nation that prides itself on liberty has neglected to extend the most basic liberty to the most innocent and defenseless among us. The right to life is the right of all rights. Without the right to life, there is no liberty. In the not too distant future, I believe that the Supreme Court will rectify the worst decision it ever made. The life span of Roe v. Wade and its progeny is waning. One day we will look back on this time of history since 1973 with shame and sorrow.

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel will be a guest on the Abrams Report on MSNBC today to talk about the South Dakota abortion ban. The opposing viewpoint will be presented by Brigette Amiri, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. The show is scheduled to air at 4:00 p.m. today and will re-air at 6 p.m. Transcripts will be available on the MSNBC web site within 24 hours.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Paintings Return to City Hall - Victory Celebrations Announced

The paintings by artist Lloyd Marcus that had been censored by the City of Deltona, Florida, were returned to City Hall this morning and will remain there for the remainder of the Black History Month display. Directions to the exhibit are on our web site with photographs of the paintings. As a result of this artist's brave stand and our lawsuit against Deltona, millions have learned that religious images need not be hidden from public view. Officials from other cities are expressing interest in displaying the paintings, which are part of a 12-piece series. You can thank Mr. Marcus for taking a courageous stand for religious liberty by contacting him via his web site, www.lloydmarcus.net.

On Saturday, February 25, Liberty Counsel's President and General Counsel, Mat Staver will speak at a "Stand Up For America Victory Rally" at the Deland Airport in Volusia County, Florida. Lloyd Marcus will emcee this event, and will sing some patriotic songs. Other guest speakers will include his father, Dr. Lloyd Marcus, Sr. from the Baltimore area, and talk radio hosts Andrea Shea King and Mark Vance. Radio personality Bud Hedinger has also been invited make an appearance. The rally will begin at 1:00 p.m. Organizers suggest that everyone who attends bring American flags and lawn chairs.

On Monday evening, February 27, at 7:00 p.m., Mat Staver will address a meeting of GoVolusia.org, the grassroots organization which mobilized many residents of Deltona to support returning the banned paintings to Deltona City Hall. This victory celebration is open to the public and will be held at the Deltona Arts and Historical Center.

It is encouraging to meet people who are willing to stand up for family, faith and freedom.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Deltona Artist Not Accepting Religious Discrimination Quietly

The Deltona Florida artist, Lloyd Marcus, whose paintings celebrating Black History Month were censored by the City of Deltona, has retained Liberty Counsel to represent him. Yesterday Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to Mayor Dennis Mulder and acting City Manager/City Attorney, L. Roland Blossom, demanding that the paintings be displayed. The letter gives the city until noon today to reverse its decision or face a federal lawsuit. To celebrate Black History Month, the City of Deltona allowed City employees and local citizens to display artwork depicting black history. Marcus is a well-known artist, entertainer and composer residing in Deltona. He has emceed city events and volunteers as President of the Deltona Arts and Historical Center. A City employee requested that Marcus display some of his artwork along with other paintings from the community. One picture displays a partially covered Bible and church sign. Another picture depicts a festive New Orleans funeral, and a third shows a Christmas basket. The paintings are a published series based on scenes from Marcus’s childhood in his father’s Baltimore church. After they were displayed, Marcus received a call stating that Mr. Blossom demanded the paintings be removed due to their religious content. Marcus is a well-respected member of the community and a long-time supporter of the city. He is an accomplished singer, entertainer, songwriter and artist who raised funds for Hurricane Katrina victims with his song “America Cries for You.” He wrote a song honoring the city, called “Deltona.” This remarkable patriot served in the army, sang in a Green Beret choir, performed for President Bush, and sang a solo at an inaugural ball for President Reagan. Photographs of his paintings are online at www.LC.org.

While trying to avoid complaints from a hypothetical heckler, the City officials’ act of censorship managed to offend a majority of Americans, and most particularly the Constitution. The First Amendment does not require cleansing religion from black history. Under the City’s distorted understanding of church and state, Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address on the subject of slavery, where he referenced God and repeatedly quoted the Scriptures, would be considered unconstitutional. Black history cannot be separated from its religious history.



Lloyd Marcus' web site

Deltona's web site


City's press release for Black History Month

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Florida Marriage Amendment Sets Sights for 2008 Ballot

Florida4Marriage.org stated that it will move forward to place the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment ("Marriage Amendment") on the ballot in November 2008. As of February 1, the Florida Department of Elections reported that it has 456,363 certified signatures. A new law in Florida now requires (1) 611,009 signatures for citizen initiatives, and (2) these signatures must be submitted and verified by February 1 of the year in which the proposal is placed on the ballot. Prior to this year, signatures could be gathered almost up to the time of the election. Also, prior amendments required only 488,722 signatures.

Comparing the results of the Marriage Amendment with three other initiatives, two which obtained enough signatures and one which did not, revealthe broad grassroots support for the proposal. An amendment to Apportion Districts spent $2,732,081.26 to obtain 653,425 signatures; a Redistricting Amendment spent the same amount but fell short with only 406,844 signatures; and a Tobacco Education Amendment spent $2,017,724.10 to obtain 645,620 signatures. By contrast, the Marriage Amendment spent only $189,432.77 to obtain 456,363 signatures. Most of these signatures came within the past 8 weeks.

While the broad-based coalition supporting the Marriage Amendment sought to place the initiative on the 2006 ballot, the leaders of the organizations are encouraged by the enormous momentum that built in just 8 weeks. In the 10 days prior to the deadline, the Department of Elections updated its website to reflect over 200,000 additional signatures. At this rate, the Marriage Amendment will soon be certified for the ballot in 2008.

Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, will present oral argument before the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 8 at 9:50 a.m. ET to address the "single subject" requirement of the Marriage Amendment. Every voter initiative must address a single subject and must be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court before it appears on the ballot. The Marriage Amendment addresses the single subject of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

This event moves us one step closer in placing the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment on the ballot. Let the people decide this most important matter of marriage.