Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Former ACLU Leader Arrested On Child Porn Charges

In Arlington, VA Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, the former president of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU, was arrested late last week by federal authorities and charged with receipt and possession of child pornography in violation of federal law. The criminal complaint by the U.S. Attorney's Office indicates that, over a number of years, Rust-Tierney frequented a web site containing graphic child pornography. Rust-Tierney's residence was searched pursuant to a warrant by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Arlington County Police Department, where they found he downloaded videos and photos from the web site. Rust-Tierney, who coaches youth sports teams in Virginia, had previously argued against internet filtering of web sites in public libraries and pushed for "maximum, unrestricted access to the valuable resources of the Internet."
To protect children from online sexual exploitation, Liberty Counsel and Liberty University School of Law support the efforts of Blue Ridge Thunder, one of the top Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces in the nation, headed by Sheriff Mike Brown in Bedford County, Virginia. An ICAC task force is a national program which works in conjunction with state and federal agencies to combat online child pornography and sexual exploitation. Blue Ridge Thunder targets online child predators and assists in their prosecution. It was one of the first ten task forces created by ICAC in 1998. Blue Ridge Thunder has a 100% conviction rate. Its national spokesperson is NBA basketball star Shaquille O'Neal.
One of the top five priorities of the U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, is Project Safe Child, which is dedicated to stopping online child sexual exploitation. Law students at Liberty University School of Law have the unique opportunity to participate in an externship program with the Bedford County Prosecutor's office in conjunction with Blue Ridge Thunder. One law student is working on model legislation to increase the penalty for online child predators.
Children are our greatest resource and the future of our nation. Internet child sexual exploitation is one of the most serious threats to children. State and federal law enforcement must make the protection of children from sexual predators a top priority.

Liberty Counsel urges citizens to report any suspicious activity to the authorities. For additional information, contact any of the following agencies: BlueRidgeThunder.com (540-586-4800); SafeSurfinUSA.org; Missingkids.com (1-800-THE.LOST); NetSmartz.org; Cybertipline.com; projectsafechildhood.gov; or the ICE hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

School Admits Error and Allows Student To Give Bibles To His Friends

In Wilkesboro, NC - A principal at Roaring Elementary School has admitted that a teacher was wrong to stop an elementary school student from giving Bibles as Valentine's Day gifts to his classmates during noninstructional time. The student will now be allowed to give out the Bibles this week.
On the day before Valentine's Day, Adam Prevette brought "Truth for Youth" Bibles to school for two of his friends. Adam's second-grade teacher, Rachel Cheatwood, explained that he could not give the Bibles to anyone unless he brought enough for the entire class. The Bibles were available at a Tim Todd Ministries revival that was being held at a local church that week, so his mother picked up some more Bibles. "Truth for Youth" Bibles are New Testaments that contain colorful comics designed to teach moral values to youth.
On Valentine's Day, Adam brought Bibles to school to give to each of his 25 classmates as his Valentine's Day gifts to them, while others were giving out cards as gifts. Before class Toni Prevette helped her son carry the Bibles into his class but was stopped by the teacher, who insisted that Adam could not give Bibles to his classmates, even during noninstructional time. When Mrs. Prevette explained that her son had the right to give Bibles to his friends, the teacher responded that the school would not allow it. Adam and his mother had to take the Bibles back to their car.
Mrs. Prevette contacted Liberty Counsel after the incident and received assurance that Adam had the right to pass out the Bibles. Later in the week, Adam's father met with the principal about the incident. Principal Adams still refused to allow the Bibles but indicated that she would check with district officials about the matter. On Monday, Principal Adams said that Adam could bring the Bibles back for his classmates this week and apologized that he was ever stopped from giving Bibles to his friends.
Students have a constitutional right to give Bibles to their friends on Valentine's Day while other students are giving out cards. Students are not hostages of public schools. They have the right to share their opinions, whether written or spoken, during noninstructional time, which includes before and after school, between classes, during lunch and at recess.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Supreme Court Could Extend the Reach of Public Schools into Private Life

Washington, D.C. - Today Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in a case with unusual facts that could affect the free speech rights of students while they are off the public school campus. While Liberty Counsel does not endorse the student's message in the case of Morse v. Frederick, the impact of the ruling could be far-reaching and the brief urges the Court to exercise caution.
Coca-Cola and other private sponsors supported a "Winter Olympics Torch Relay" in Juneau, Alaska. Students were released from school so that they could watch the Olympic torch pass. Joseph Frederick, then an 18-year-old senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, never made it to school that morning because he got stuck in the snow in his driveway, but he made it to the sidewalk across from the school, where the torch would pass. He and some friends waited until the television cameras were pointed in their direction and then unfurled a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Deborah Morse, the school principal, crossed the street, grabbed and crumpled up the banner, and suspended Frederick for ten days.
The federal court of appeals ruled in Frederick's favor, finding that the school violated his First Amendment rights. The school argued that although the event was off-site and outside mandatory school hours, and although the students did not need parental permission slips to attend, as they would during a school field trip, the student should nevertheless be punished by the school. The federal appeals court framed the issue as follows: "[T]he question comes down to whether a school may, in the absence of concern about disruption of educational activities, punish and censor non-disruptive, off-campus speech by students during school-authorized activities because the speech promotes a social message contrary to the one favored by the school." The answer under controlling, long-existing precedent is plainly "No."
If the school district wins the case now before the Supreme Court, the consequence might allow schools to punish off-campus, private speech by students even when the circumstances are unrelated to a sponsored school function. Schools might therefore seek to punish religious speech deemed discriminatory or pro-family speech considered to be aimed at homosexuals.
Private speech by students off campus is no business of the public schools. School authorities may not extend their reach into the private lives of students merely because they attend a government-funded educational institution. To think otherwise is absolutely frightening.

Utah Supreme Court Refuses to Give Lesbian Parental Rights to Former Partner's Child

Salt Lake City, Utah - Today the Utah Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Jones v. Barlow and denied an unrelated woman any parental rights over the child of her former partner.
The Utah Supreme Court presented the final resolution to this long battle by concluding that "the common law doctrine of in loco parentis [in the place of a parent] does not independently grant standing to seek visitation against the wishes of a fit legal parent." Both the trial and appeals court had previously ruled that Keri Jones should have visitation with Cheryl Barlow's biological daughter.
Jones and Barlow were living together in Utah when they traveled to Vermont and entered into a civil union. The two women were still living together when Barlow gave birth following artificial insemination in 2001, but ended their relationship in 2003. Barlow is now a Christian.
Liberty Counsel is currently defending two separate cases on behalf of biological mothers whose lesbian former partners are trying to obtain parental rights over the mothers' objections.
The Utah Supreme Court has made a common sense ruling. Other courts should follow suit and put an end to the needless tug of war over innocent children. Permitting unrelated individuals to share parental rights with the real parent undermines the family. Every court should protect the right of a biological mother to direct the upbringing of her children without interference from a nonparent, former same-sex partner.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Liberty Counsel Asks Supreme Court to Settle Legal Battle Between States Over Same-Sex Unions

Washington, DC - Today Liberty Counsel filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to protect Lisa Miller's custody rights as the biological mother of a child born after artificial insemination during her Vermont civil union with Janet Jenkins. The case pits Virginia law, which does not recognize same-sex unions, against Vermont law, which recognizes same-sex civil unions. While living in Virginia, Lisa and Janet traveled to Vermont to obtain a civil union. Ms. Miller is represented by Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and law professor Rena Lindevaldsen, who is of counsel with Liberty Counsel.
The Miller v. Jenkins case is unique because it represents the first time that courts in two states have issued conflicting decisions over a single same-sex union case. It is also the first case to involve dueling federal laws, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), which predates DOMA. Liberty Counsel argues that the Court should hear the case for two reasons. First, this case involves an important question of federal law that has not been decided by the Court concerning the scope and effect of DOMA and PKPA. DOMA recognizes state sovereignty under the Full Faith and Credit Clause so that one state is not directly or indirectly compelled by another state to redefine its own definition of marriage. Second, the Court needs to resolve a split among the states on the scope of parental rights that still exists following the Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville. At least eighteen states, including Vermont, have judicially appointed de facto or "psychological" parents over the objections of fit, biological parents. Conversely, at least twelve states have reached the opposite conclusion. The important question of federal law concerning what rights fit, biological parents have in the face of claims to parentage rights by third parties has yet to be settled by this Court.
Commenting on the case, Mathew D. Staver stated: "The growing conflict and confusion among the states concerning custody and parentage orders arising from same-sex relationships makes it necessary for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the rights of fit, biological parents. The federal Defense of Marriage Act allows an individual state to define its own marriage policy. One state should not be allowed to force another state to accept relationships arising from civil unions or same-sex marriage. In Virginia, marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and civil unions are not recognized. Virginia has a right to guard its borders to uphold the family and protect the parental rights of biological parents over the rights of unrelated third parties.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fourth Annual Day of Purity

In Orlando, Students in America and around the world are celebrating Valentine’s Day by helping educate their peers on the value of sexual purity. Leading up to February 14, 2007, which is the Fourth Annual Day of Purity, young people are actively promoting the choice of purity by distributing flyers, wearing Day of Purity T-shirts and LivePure wristbands and organizing events in their schools, communities and churches.
Students who embrace the purity lifestyle are countering the Hollywood culture with its risqué television shows, vulgar jokes, tasteless commercials and graphic movies. They are inundated at school, on television and on the internet with messages that lust and exploration are normal and healthy and that they should give up traditional moral values and explore their sexuality early and often. The Day of Purity is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of promiscuous behavior.On February 14, 2007, thousands of students will rebel against the popular culture and celebrate the Day of Purity, a project of Liberty Counsel. On Monday, February 12, Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mathew D. Staver, will talk about the importance of the Day of Purity when he addresses the entire student body of Liberty University at a campuswide gathering. Liberty University is the world’s largest evangelical university. Staver is the dean of Liberty University School of Law.
Day of Purity participants obtain a planning manual, wristbands, T-shirts, informative flyers and other useful information from the official Day of Purity web site, www.dayofpurity.org. Day of Purity also has a “myspace page” at www.myspace.com/dayofpurity and a page on www.facebook.com to reach students who want more information.
Rena Lindevaldsen, International Coordinator for the Day of Purity, explained, “The consequences of sexual promiscuity among youth are devastating. More than 3 million American teens are infected each year with sexually transmitted diseases. The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of developed countries, and teens account for 20 percent of the 1.3 million abortions performed each year in this nation. These problems result directly from the failure of our society to offer clear moral guidance. We encourage students to choose sexual purity to drown out the persistent message of sexual promiscuity promoted through television, the internet, movies, video games and even in some school sex education programs. Youth who have already engaged in sexual activity can make a fresh start on the Day of Purity. Students are sending a message to their friends, parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media that it’s time for a positive change in the culture."
www.dayofpurity.org

Friday, February 02, 2007

NFL's Heavy-Handed Attempt to Silence Churches is Out of Bounds

In Miami, FL the NFL’s heavy-handed attempt to prohibit churches from showing the Super Bowl to church members defies common sense. The NFL demanded that Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, cancel its advertised Super Bowl party. In addition to objecting to the church’s use of the words “Super Bowl” in promotions, the league objected to use of a screen larger than 55 inches and disliked the church’s plans to show a video highlighting the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.
The NFL freely admits it routinely makes exceptions for bars and other commercial establishments to show its games with big screen televisions and projection systems. Liberty Counsel characterized this unnecessary singling out of churches as heavy-handed and unfair. The NFL has publicly stated a preference for establishments that sell alcohol over churches hosting a wholesome, family-oriented gathering to watch the biggest football game of the year. With the popularity of big screen TVs and home entertainment, the NFL’s heavy-handed intimidation tactics cross the line into private homes. Will the NFL demand that viewing the Super Bowl at home with friends must be done on screens smaller than 55 inches? This is certainly not the intent of copyright laws, and such tactics by the NFL run afoul of common sense and the spirit of the game.
People throughout the world gather to watch the greatest athletic event of the year. Some view the game on small screens and some on large screens. When cars gather outside our private homes on Sunday afternoon, will the NFL knock on the door and ask to measure our TV screens? It appears that in the NFL’s way of thinking, TV screens bigger than 55 inches are fine for bars but not churches. This discriminatory and nonsensical act of the NFL makes the league look petty, and the NFL should apologize for this silliness.