Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The United States Supreme Court yesterday decided not to review a case challenging the constitutionality of a New York City public school policy that expressly permits the display of the Jewish menorah and Islamic star and crescent during their respective religious holidays, but completely bans the display of Nativity scenes during Christmas.

The constitutional challenge was brought by the Thomas More Law Center, a national, public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on behalf of Andrea Skoros and her two minor children, devout Roman Catholics, who attend the New York City's schools. The lawsuit was filed only after William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, made several unsuccessful attempts to convince school officials to allow Nativity displays alongside the other religious symbols.

The Supreme Court considered the Law Center's petition for review at seven different conferences. At the end of the day, however, by deciding not to review the case the Court passed on the opportunity to clarify its much maligned Establishment Clause jurisprudence. More fundamentally, the Court allowed to stand an anti-Christian policy that adversely affects over one million students enrolled in the Nation's largest public school system, which has 1,200 public elementary and secondary schools.

In the petition, the Law Center asked the Supreme Court to review a February 2006 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in which a sharply divided panel upheld the constitutionally of the City's Nativity ban. The Circuit Court held that this policy of permitting Jewish and Islamic religious symbols but banning Christian religious symbols was permissible in part because it achieved a valid "pedagogical endeavor" by "us[ing] children's natural excitement about various year-end holidays to teach the lesson of pluralism by showing children the rich cultural diversity of the city in which they live and by encouraging them to show tolerance and respect for traditions other than their own."

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, commented, "This case presents yet another example of how federal courts are using Justice O'Connor's contrived test to cleanse America of Christianity. This unprincipled test allows judges to impose their own ideological views under the pretext of constitutional interpretation. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case and remedy its flawed jurisprudence."

In a religious display cased decided by the Court in 2005, Justice Thomas echoed the sentiments of Thompson, stating, "The unintelligibility of this Court's precedent raises the further concern that, either in appearance or in fact, adjudication of Establishment Clause challenges turns on judicial predilections. . . . [A] more fundamental rethinking of our Establishment Clause jurisprudence remains in order."

Robert Muise, trial counsel for the Law Center who handled this case, was disappointed with the Court's decision, stating, "Our Constitution plainly forbids hostility toward Christians. Our Nation has a strong Christian heritage that is reflected in our traditions. One such tradition is displaying a creche during the Christmas season. New York City's Nativity ban exhibits a hostility that is contrary to our history and our Constitution. The Supreme Court should have reviewed this case."


The arguments in the failed (so far) David Parker case

Lawyers for parents aggrieved over material normalizing homosexual families taught to their children, argued that the Lexington school system's refusal to permit them to withdraw their primary school-age children violated their First Amendment Rights under the US Constitution.

"The defendants have chosen to brazenly use tiny children's psyches to promote ideology over faith" said lawyers for parents David and Tonia Parker, and Rob and Robin Wirthlin. The parents' requests to compromise and withdraw their children from homosexual material and discussions in the classroom were rebuffed by school officials, who claim a "legitimate state interest" to normalise same-sex romantic relationships in the minds of schoolchildren.

The plaintiffs' attorneys responded to a motion to dismiss the case from the defendants, the town and public school system of Lexington, saying the defendants are violating "the establishment clause" and "free-exercise" clauses of the Constititution, by inculcating material subversive to the faith of the couples' children. This violates government neutrality in matters of religion and non-religion.

"The First Amendment protects religion, not secularism. Secularism may be important to combat an allegation of establishment, but secularism can never be allowed to burden faith," read the plaintiff's brief, alleging that "the government has intentionally chosen to elevate non-religious secular causes over their deep and abiding religious faith."

"The burden here is nothing short of an intentional attempt to wipe the plaintiff's faith away altogether," argued their lawyers. "The obvious and well-pleaded impressionable age of the children, combined with the State's abject unwillingness to even notify the parents that it intends to indoctrinate on these extremely personal topics virtually ensures that if the State gets its way, the Plaintiffs' children will not harbor the families' beliefs."

The lawyers explained that the parents were not concerned about the mere "exposure" to homosexual families - exposure easily obtainable from children on the playground, but instead seek to "prevent adult-initiated indoctrination or psychic imprinting." The plaintiffs' attorneys offered to provide the Court expert testimony affirming that very young children see a "transference" between parents and teachers, where they see the teacher as almost equivalent in moral authority to a parent, thus validating the parents' concern about the effect of this indoctrination on their children.

"The defendants' sole motivation is their own political determination that the Plaintiffs' faith should be eradicated, and the place to start this process is with their children", stated the couples' lawyers. "This places an enormous burden upon the parents, a small minority of believers, and the minor plaintiffs who will be emotionally conflicted and drained."


Catholics slam Britain for Equality Act's "Violation of Religious Liberty"

Say Britain poised to overturn centuries of legal development in human rights

In comments preceding the upcoming international congress, "Conscience in Support of the Right to Life," the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life said Britain is poised to overturn centuries of legal development in human rights. Bishop Elio Sgreccia told reporters the provisions of the Equality Act that claim to defend human rights, are a "violation of liberty." The Equality Act's Sexual Orientation Regulations will make it illegal to deny goods or services based on sexual orientation, including adoption of children. "I think that conscientious objection is fully justified and I would be surprised if a nation, such as Great Britain, usually considered as the homeland of fundamental liberties, would deny at least on one occasion recognition of this objection," Bishop Sgreccia said. Zenit Catholic news agency quoted the bishop saying, "I hope this won't take place or that, in any case, it will trigger an appeal before the Court of Human Rights."

Responding to the same legislation, the bishop of the Scottish diocese of Paisley wrote in a pastoral letter that there is "something sinister" happening in Britain. "For the first time in the modern era in this country, the Catholic Church is facing the prospect of being forced to act against her faith and against her convictions, or else face legal challenge and possible prosecution."

In a four-point manifesto, Bishop Tartaglia said the Church has no desire to unjustly discriminate against homosexual persons, but said that "no one has the right to be an adoptive parent," and that Catholic adoption agencies base their decisions on the belief that children are best served by being adopted by "a mother and father who are married."

The bishop urged his flock to be prepared spiritually for persecution. "We are so much at home in contemporary society that we have probably not seen this coming." "Affluence, prosperity, aspiration and a pervasive spirit of relativism may tempt some to set aside the principles and values of the Catholic faith and life." He warned Catholics, however, not to allow the Christian voice to be pushed "to the margins of society." "This unfortunate episode may well herald the beginning of a new and uncertain time for the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom."


Atheists' Attacks on Bush Administration's Faith-Based Initiatives Hurting the Poor

Anti-religious groups claim program is evidence of the establishment of a "theocracy"

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a lobby group working since 1978 to abolish government-supported expression of religious belief, is preparing to make oral arguments in the Supreme Court for its high-profile lawsuit against the Bush administration's faith-based social initiatives.

The Foundation will argue, beginning February 28, that the Administration violated the Establishment Clause by organizing national and regional conferences at which the faith-based organizations were allowed to discuss how they can meet the social needs of their communities. The tone at some of these conferences, the Foundation complains, resembled a "revival" meeting at which typically participants pray and openly acknowledge the existence of God.

Since their start in 2001, the government's Faith-Based Community Initiatives have been under steady attack by anti-religious groups who claim that the program is evidence of the establishment of a "theocracy." The government's claim, however, is that smaller organizations run by churches and other local religious groups are better placed to help and understand the needs of individuals than are large, top-heavy government bureaucracies.

Research by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life has found that "a solid majority of Americans (66%) favour allowing churches and other houses of worship to apply, along with other organizations, for government funding to provide social services."

The FFRF, a "national association of nontheists," says its goals are to "promote freethought (sic) and to keep state and church separate." The group supports a totally secularized public environment as well as euthanasia, under the rubric of "death with dignity," and unlimited publicly funded abortion.

The Foundation's litigation successes in the past have included the abolition of a state Good Friday holiday, the ending of bible instruction in public schools and the removal of Ten Commandments monuments and crosses from public land.

The results of some of their public interest lawsuits, however, have been decried as a campaign against freedom of religious expression that has backlashed on the poor.

The Associated Press quotes Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a group filing briefs in support of the government's initiatives, who said of the group, "They are successful in the sense that they have disrupted government funding for faith-based initiatives. But real people with real problems are no longer getting help because of some of their lawsuits."


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