Monday, January 29, 2007

Trial Starts Over Censorship Of Kindergartner's Art Poster Containing Picture of Jesus

In Syracuse, NY A trial concerning the censorship of Jesus starts today in the federal case of Peck v. Baldwinsville School District. The case involves a school district's censorship of a kindergartner's art poster containing a picture of Jesus. Liberty Counsel represent the parents of Antonio Peck, the student whose poster was censored.
In 1999, Antonio's kindergarten teacher instructed her class to draw a poster about how to save the environment. Antonio's first poster contained several religious figures and the 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 included cutout figures of children holding hands around the world, people recycling trash, and children picking up garbage. On the left side of the poster was a picture of Jesus with one knee to the ground and two hands stretched toward the sky. This poster was displayed in the cafeteria along with 80 other student posters, but unlike the other posters, school officials folded Antonio's poster in half so that the figure of Jesus could not be seen. The poster was folded to censor any religious reference in the poster and made the poster look silly, as it was only a fraction of the size of the other posters and also cut off part of Antonio's name. School officials admitted that posters with other secular figures which were not discussed in class would be allowed but not Jesus, because such a figure is religious. When school officials refused to remedy the matter or adopt a policy to prevent future censorship, Liberty Counsel filed suit.
Although the lower court ruled that the school had the right to censor the poster because of "church and state" concerns, a unanimous appeals court reversed that decision, ruled that a public school cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination, and sent the case back to the district court for a trial. The trial court again ruled in favor of the district, and, again, a unanimous court of appeals reversed, stating that religious viewpoint discrimination is not permissible even in class assignments. The case is now back for the final trial.. Liberty Counsel will present evidence this week that Antonio's poster was censored because it contained the drawing of Jesus. School officials have already admitted in sworn statements that secular images would not have been censored, even if the images did not relate to the art assignment.
The school district sent a terrible message to Antonio and the other students that faith is not welcome. Schools officials may not discriminate against religious viewpoints of students who address permissible subjects in response to class assignments. Antonio is an example of the maxim that one person, no matter how young, can accomplish great things when they stand for a principled cause.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Religious Club Gains Equal Access to Pennsylvania Public Elementary Schools

In Clinton County, PA Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which sponsors after-school Good News Clubs, has recently gained equal access to use an elementary school facility in Clinton County. Liberty Counsel has been successful in helping CEF fight discrimination against Good News Clubs all across America.
Good News Clubs have been held in two elementary schools in Clinton County in recent years, but CEF was recently advised that, unlike other groups, it would have to pay a fee for use of school facilities. The school district policy allows free access for local groups that are "nonprofit, nonsectarian and working for the welfare of the community/society in general."
Don Colburn, director the local chapter of CEF, was first told that CEF would be charged a fee because CEF was not local. After CEF showed that it had a local office, Colburn was then told that CEF must pay because the Good News Clubs are "sectarian."
Liberty Counsel wrote a letter to the board advising that the First Amendment requires equal access to school facilities for religiously based, nonprofit youth groups such as the Good News Clubs. Equal access means that groups are given access on the same terms and conditions as other nonprofit youth groups like the Boy Scouts.
After the board received Liberty Counsel's letter, the school superintendent advised Colburn that the board decided to permit the Good News Club to meet in the school at no cost, just like other similar groups.
http://www.cefonline.com/

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Good News Club Wins In New Jersey

In Carteret,NJ the Carteret School District is now allowing a Good News Club to meet at the Minue Elementary School after Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the District demanding equal access to the school gymnasium after school. Good News Clubs are sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), an international non-profit organization which sponsors Good News Clubs in all 50 states and in 156 countries.
Tammy Wojtko, the state coordinator for Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Jersey, Inc., works with clubs at elementary schools all over the state. The building manager initially approved CEF's use of the facilities, but Principal Cheryl Bolinger blocked the meetings when she learned that the Good News Club teaches morals and character development from a Biblical perspective. Bolinger instructed Wojtko not to recruit children to attend the free meetings and refused to allow fliers to be sent home with parents to inform them about the Club. Then Bolinger informed Wojtko that CEF could not use the school facilities, even though CEF paid the facility use fee.
Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the district superintendent warning that discriminatory treatment is unconstitutional. The school previously allowed a karate club to use the gymnasium after school. Other after-school student enrichment programs have used school facilities and the District distributed their fliers. The District is obliged to permit Good News Clubs equal access to its facilities and equal treatment. After receiving the demand letter, the school district's attorney informed Liberty Counsel that CEF can hold club meetings and distribute fliers to recruit students.
The United States Supreme Court has already ruled that Good News Clubs must have the same access to school facilities as other after-school programs. A school cannot reject CEF's use of facilities because of its religious nature. Federal appeals courts have confirmed that equal treatment specifically includes the right to have literature distributed on the same terms and conditions as other groups.
Public schools should open their doors wide and welcome Good News Clubs. The good these clubs provide to kids compels an open invitation and the Constitution requires it. Good News Clubs help kids learn morals and character development.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Milwaukee Public Schools Remove Cap on Good News Clubs

In Milwaukee, the Hi-Mount Elementary School in the Milwaukee Public Schools District has removed its cap on the number of students who can attend the after-school Good News Club and has agreed to distribute permission slips in the same manner as other secular groups. Child Evangelism Fellowship, which sponsors the Good News Clubs, is represented by Liberty Counsel.
Jan Comaris received some resistance by officials in the Milwaukee Public Schools when she tried to start a Good News Club in an elementary school. The Hi-Mount Elementary School initially capped the number of school children who could attend the Good News Club at 25. Then the District refused to allow permission slips to be sent home to parents, informing them about the club and requesting permission for their children to attend. Numerous attempts by the Good News Club coordinators to resolve the matter were unsuccessful.
At the Congress Street School, the Good News Club was allowed to meet, but unlike the secular groups which met immediately after school, the Christian club was not permitted to meet until one hour after the end of the school day.
Liberty Counsel intervened and sent demand letters for each of these situations. Senior Litigation Counsel Mary McAlister also spoke with the District's attorney and threatened legal action. The District has now reversed its discriminatory practices and has granted equal access to the Good News Clubs. The cap on the Good News Clubs has been removed. The number of students attending the Hi-Mount club immediately grew from 25 to 54. The clubs can now meet immediately after school, and permission slips are now distributed in the same manner as afforded the secular clubs.
The lengths to which some school officials will go to discriminate against Christian clubs is astounding. The only rationale for such discrimination is unfounded ignorance of the law or animus to the Christian message. Either way, such discrimination is unconstitutional and can no longer be tolerated. Good News Clubs are good for kids.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ohio School District Halts Discrimination Against Good News Clubs

In Stow, Ohio after Liberty Counsel issued a demand letter and threatened to take legal action, Akron City Schools reversed its discriminatory practices and have now agreed to distribute permission slips for Good News Clubs.
While the school district allows the Boy Scouts and other secular after school programs to distribute information and permission slips to students for their parents, requests for similar opportunities by Children Evangelism Fellowship, which sponsors the Good News Clubs, were denied. Since the parents were not informed of the opportunities to send their children to the after school Christian clubs, attendance would be limited.
Liberty Counsel's demand letter stated that the discriminatory treatment was unconstitutional. Senior Litigation Counsel David Corry spoke with school officials and warned that Liberty Counsel would file suit if the district did not reverse its course of action. The district has now agreed to provide equal treatment to the Good News Clubs by allowing the distribution of announcements and permission slips. Bryan Rush, a local coordinator for CEF, was thrilled with the outcome. "Thanks for starting my week off with this great news," he said. Mr. Rush now plans on starting Good News Clubs in all the local elementary schools which have about 4,000 children in attendance. Mr. Rush exclaimed, "This is huge- God is great!!! Thanks for all your hard work.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Alaska Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Churches' Request to Defend Tax Exemption

Alaska Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Churches’ Request to Defend Tax Exemption
Anchorage, AK – Today the Alaska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments by Liberty Counsel on behalf of several churches seeking to defend a lawsuit brought by the ACLU that challenges certain tax exemptions.
Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT) and other churches are seeking to intervene in two lawsuits brought by the ACLU and some Alaska residents who are challenging a statewide law that provides tax exemption for real property owned by a religious organization that serves as the residence of an educator in a private religious or parochial school. Dr. Jerry Prevo is the pastor of ABT.
The ACLU and other Plaintiffs allege that the exemptions violate federal and state equal protection and establishment clauses.
ABT operates a number of ministries throughout Anchorage and surrounding communities, including alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs, community outreaches, children’s programs, a bus transportation service, music programs, and Anchorage Christian School, a K-12 school serving approximately 700 students. ABT owns six residences that are used as housing for teachers at Anchorage Christian School. These residences are integral to ABT’s educational mission, in that they enable ABT to recruit and retain a well-qualified teaching staff despite being unable to offer the wage and benefit programs offered by public schools. The “religious teacher exemption” enacted by the Alaska Legislature applies to ABT’s teachers’ residences, as well as similar properties owned by other religious organizations. The tax exemption enables ABT to continue funding the services it provides to the people of Anchorage. If the statute were to be invalidated, then ABT would be faced with having to divert approximately $23,000 per year from its ministries in order to pay property taxes. Facing such a continuing tax liability would compel ABT to have to choose between recruiting and retaining teachers and providing services to the community. Other churches will face similar hardships if the tax exemption law is invalidated.
This case illustrates that the ACLU is callous towards the well-being of children. The ACLU would rather kick the kids out in the cold than to provide a good education, and the reason for the opposition is solely based on irrational religious bigotry.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Teens & Singles Make Pledge of Purity In Fourth Annual Day of Purity

Be a Part of the Counter Culture: Choose a Life of Sexual Purity This Valentine’s Day is the Fourth Annual Day of Purity
In Orlando On February 14, students around the world will celebrate the fourth annual Day of Purity. The Day of Purity, a project of Liberty Counsel, is designed for students of all ages who commit to remain sexually pure until marriage.
The Day of Purity is designed to encourage students to remain sexually pure and counter the popular message that they should have sex early, often, and with many. National advocacy organizations encourage students to explore their sexuality at an early age. Television ads encourage parents to vaccinate their 9-12 year old girls with the HPV vaccine, after reporting the shocking statistic that 6.2 million people are infected each year with HPV and an average of 3,700 women die each year in the U.S. from HPV. Not once do those ads mention that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease – in other words, the ads don’t convey the most important information: you can’t contract HPV if you choose to remain sexually pure. California has adopted the same strategy of vaccinating its students rather than educating them with a bill that requires all girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated for HPV.
It’s no surprise that in response to this madness, students yearn for the opportunity to choose a different path. During the first three years of the Day of Purity, students from thousands of schools joined with hundreds of organizations around the world in celebrating sexual purity. A list of some of the supporting organizations is posted at DayOfPurity.org.
When students choose to live a life of sexual purity, lives are protected from the devastating physical and psychological effects of sexual promiscuity. With more than 3 million American teenagers infected each year with sexually transmitted diseases, the only safe choice is sexual purity. The Day of Purity presents an opportunity for millions of students to stand up for self-respect and purity. It’s easy to get involved in the Day of Purity. The Day of Purity web site, DayOfPurity.org, allows anyone to download a planning manual along with informative flyers on a variety of topics, order a LivePure wristband and Day of Purity T-shirt, and link to other valuable resources.
We are a country that kills our unborn, puts a governmental stamp of approval on sinful lifestyles, and prohibits discrimination against all religious beliefs except Christianity. Plainly, America is morally challenged, having turned from the moral traditions of our country. Yet, I’m encouraged for our future. I’ve received thousands of e-mails from students around the world who are excited to be able to make a public commitment for sexual purity and to share the message of sexual purity with their friends. Sexual purity is not just about abstinence; it’s about making a commitment to try to live a morally pure life. That means making difficult decisions about what we watch, where we go, who we hang out with, what we say, and what we do. The Day of Purity gives us all an opportunity to stand together in respect for the human dignity and worth of each individual.
www.DayOfPurity.org

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Good News Clubs Return to Connecticut Schools

Good News Clubs Return to Connecticut Schools
Wolcott, CT – The Wolcott School District has now reversed its discriminatory practice of denying equal access to Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Good News Clubs in its elementary schools. Following intervention by Liberty Counsel, CEF of Connecticut will now be permitted to use the District facilities on the same basis as other similarly situated secular groups.
In the past, CEF has held Good News Club meetings at Wolcott elementary schools and has been charged only the minimal charges applicable to local nonprofit or “Group I” organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and similar groups. When CEF applied for facilities use for the 2006-2007 school year, District officials insisted that CEF must be charged as a “non-Wolcott” “Group II” organization. Under the District’s Schedule of Facilities Charges, Group I users are identified as Wolcott community organizations conducting routine nonprofit business and activities, listing organizations including the Boy and Girl Scouts. Group II users are “all other organizations and non-Wolcott organizations” and include, for example, “religious groups,” “dance studios” and “for-profit organizations.”
In December, 2006, Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter stating in part: “CEF of Connecticut is entitled to use school facilities at Wolcott schools on the same terms and conditions as are Boy Scouts and other community nonprofit groups under Group I. Based upon the legal authorities discussed in this letter, we request that the Board respond, in writing, to CEF’s request for facilities use for the upcoming school year and confirm that CEF will be entitled to use facilities as a Group I user…. Since the District’s decision is clearly unconstitutional, every day that CEF is denied access represents a continuing violation of CEF’s First Amendment rights.”
Senior Litigation Counsel Mary McAlister also spoke with the school district’s attorney after he had received a copy of the letter. CEF staff members attended a Board of Education meeting and presented their request to board members. The Board tabled CEF’s appeal. After the meeting, the superintendent asked to meet with CEF staff members. At the subsequent meeting, the superintendent agreed that CEF was a local organization entitled to access as a Group I user.
The First Amendment protects religious viewpoints from discriminatory censorship. Treating religious viewpoints almost equal to secular viewpoints is still unconstitutional. The message of the First Amendment is clear. Equal access requires equal treatment. Good News Clubs are exploding across America and that is good news for our children.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

City Backs Off Arrest Threats Against Pro-life Sidewalk Counselors

Altamonte Springs, FL - Women seeking abortions will again have access to information about adoption and other safer alternatives to abortion since prolife advocates can now peacefully gather near the All Women's Health Center of Orlando abortion clinic located in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Altamonte Springs police officers had threatened to arrest prolife sidewalk counselors until Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of two local residents, Patte Smith with Sanctuary Ministries, and David Risler.
On two occasions, Altamonte Springs police officers responded to complaints from an abortion clinic administrator by threatening the sidewalk counselors with citation and arrest. Officers had threatened sidewalk counselors by citing to vague city sign and noise ordinances. The sidewalk counselors were standing on public sidewalks at the clinic and on adjacent private property with the owner's permission. They were talking about abortion and offering women assistance and alternatives to abortion, and some counselors held signs.
On the day that Liberty Counsel issued a demand letter to the City of Altamonte Springs, the City Manager assured Liberty Counsel that sidewalk counselors would not be arrested for talking to those entering the abortion clinic. City police officers will also be instructed about the constitutionally-protected right to freedom of speech.
The abortion clinic refuses to reveal to the inquiring public the doctors who perform abortions at the facility. Calls for information (888-878-3304) are met with stonewall responses. When asked how can a prospective patient determine whether the physician is reputable prior to making a decision about abortion, the facility representative responds by saying the identity or other information about the doctors cannot be given.
Mathew D. Staver, argued to case of Madsen v. Women's Health Center before the United States Supreme Court in 1994. In Madsen, the Court struck down 300-foot buffer zones around a Melbourne, Florida abortion clinic and clinic staff, invalidated requirements to obtain consent before speaking to people approaching the clinic, and a removed a ban on images that were observable inside the clinic. The constitution protects the right of individuals to peacefully gather and express their opinions. Women have a right to receive information about the medical risks associated with abortion and the many life-saving alternatives available to pregnant women.
http://www.floridaabortion.com/locations/orlando.shtml