Monday, September 03, 2007

Appeals Court Asked To Hold State Responsible for Illegally Strip Searching Children

Today Liberty Counsel filed a brief at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a state worker who made two elementary children undress without parental consent. The case is Michael C. v. Gresbach. The eight-year-old boy, his nine-year-old sister and their parents are represented by Stephen Crampton, Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, and Wisconsin attorney Michael D. Dean.

The case involves Dana Gresbach, a social worker from the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, who, acting on a tip that Michael C. had spanked one of the children with a plastic stick, decided to examine the children at a Christian school. Gresbach entered Good Hope Christian Academy and had the principal bring the children to a private room for questioning. She instructed the principal not to call their parents and would not allow the principal to observe the investigation. Gresbach then interrogated both students, forcing the boy to raise his shirt and the girl to lift her jumper and pull down her tights for a bodily examination. After the parents found out about the incident, they were furious. Gresbach closed her investigation after finding no evidence of abuse.

The trial court ruled that there was an obvious violation of the students' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Now, Gresbach has appealed that ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case involves the fundamental issue of the constitutional right of families to be free from unwarranted intrusions by government social workers who, as here, without any parental knowledge or consent, subject children to humiliating and degrading activities. The case also raises concerns about the defiance of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare to respect basic restraints on the exercise of its enormous power. In another federal lawsuit against the same Bureau, Doe v. Heck, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that it is "patently unconstitutional" for government officials to seize a child on private school premises without a warrant or an emergency.

Stephen Crampton, Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, commented: "Government social workers cannot simply barge into a private school whenever they feel like it and strip search innocent children. Just like police officers, they must obtain a warrant, consent, or be acting in an emergency, before performing physical searches or other intrusive investigations."


Britain To Expand Police State Apparatus and ID All Subjects by 2009

The United Kingdom is now selecting companies to develop a compulsory multi-billion pound national identity card programme to complement the massive surveillance system monitoring the movements of British subjects.

The Labour government called the œ5.7 billion ID programme "another milestone" in the fight against terrorism, organised crime, and illegal immigration, while opposition parties and civil liberties groups argue the programme smacks of the police state and is another milestone in eroding the freedoms and the privacy once enjoyed by Britons.

Under this scheme Britons would be compelled to take up biometric national ID cards containing all ten fingerprints, which at some later date would also incorporate iris and face-recognition technology. Starting in 2009, all Britons applying for passports or renewing their passports would also have to apply for the ID cards. Britons have not had mandatory national ID cards since World War II, when the island kingdom was in a national crisis fighting for its survival against Nazi Germany.

"It has become increasingly clear that the methods we have traditionally relied on to prove ID are outdated, inefficient, and increasingly open to abuse," stated Home Office Minister Meg Hillier. "That has to end, and that is why we are taking the scheme forward." The government issued a notice (published in the Official Journal of the European Union) inviting firms to bid for contracts, worth between œ50 million and œ500 million, to build and run the national ID programme.

However, the Conservatives pledged Thursday to "scrap the costly white elephant" if Britons vote them back into power. "This project will do nothing to improve our security," said David Davis, the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary. "In fact independent experts like Microsoft and the LSE (London School of Economics) have pointed out that it could well make our security worse while costing the taxpayer 20 billion pounds in the process."

The Home Office's claims, that the biometric cards will add to Britain's security problems are supported by a 2006 investigation by the UK's Guardian newspaper. The Guardian proved that the new UK biometric passport - another scheme of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) - could be hacked easily by their computer expert and even more easily by those with the resources to do it - those terrorists and crime lords the system is supposed to thwart. (See here) The ID cards will use similar technology, which the EU-funded Future of Identity in the Information Society (Fidis) called "poorly conceived" and a threat to the privacy, security, and identity of EU citizens.

If Britain continues with its plan to ID all subjects biometrically and place them under surveillance, the democratic nation will have adopted major hallmarks of the police state nearly indistinguishable from communist China. The 12.4 million citizens in Shenzen City, for example, will soon have to carry new biometric ID cards containing home address, work history, background, ethnicity, religion and medical insurance. The government plans to place them under watch with a network of 20,000 cameras, in addition to 180,000 existing private security cameras in the workplace that are also monitored by the government. This programme is meant to identify criminals and social or political dissidents. About four million Britons a year are expected to get the biometric cards when they renew their passports once the scheme is off the ground.


European Commission Threatens Charitable Status of Catholic Hospitals and Schools

The European Union has threatened to open a formal investigation following complaints about the charitable tax status of schools and hospitals owned by the Catholic Church in Italy. The European Commission is questioning a 2006 law that exempts Church property form real-estate taxes, saying the benefits may by breaking EU regulations on state subsidies. The Commission confirmed that the process was begun following complaints made by "third parties."

The Catholic Church is the world's single largest and oldest charitable organisation with a two thousand year history of organised care of the poor, sick and vulnerable. The notion of state-supported charitable institutions was invented and protected by the Church throughout the development of western European societies beginning at the end of the Roman Empire.

The far left Guardian newspaper in Britain ran a story Tuesday claiming that the Church was thinking of giving up the charitable status of some of its institutions due to pressure from the government and the EU.

Without citing sources, the Guardian claimed the Church has tax exemptions amounting to _1bn a year. The Guardian cited an interview in La Stampa with a senior Vatican official, Monsignor Karel Kasteel, who is quoted saying, "The Holy See is ready to sit down at a table with the government to update the Concordat and revisit the tax issue."

Many of the Church's charitable institutions are owned and operated by legally independent religious orders, some of which began their charitable works in the earliest centuries of the post-Roman period, making them technically "private" businesses. Nevertheless, these still pay half the normal corporate tax levied on businesses in Italy.

"Once a body has economic activities attached to it, then there can be a distortion of competition and it wouldn't be the first time we look at advantages given to the Church in various member states," EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

EU commissioner Neelie Kroes said there was no formal investigation at the moment, but that the Commission has "addressed the Italian authorities and asked them for information about this."

In recent years, Catholic leaders in Rome have warned of increasing attacks on the freedom of the Church by European Union secularists and the extreme left. Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, warned against the "ideological prejudice" behind the Commission's move.

"To those who put into discussion the agreement between the Holy See and Italy, it's worth taking into consideration that this has produced social peace and collaborative benefits to all the Italian people," said Giuseppe Betori, secretary of the Conference.

Today government ministers and other politicians have come to the defence of the Church against the EU pressure tactics. Justice Minister Clemente Mastella "expressed concerns" while the minister in charge of infrastructure, Antonio Di Pietro, denounced the investigation, calling it "a political tool to put a wrinkle in the plans of those who do good works."

"This offensive is incredible," said Maurizio Gasparri, of the centre-right National Alliance political party. He called the threat "intolerable" interference and accused the EU of siding itself with an "anti-Catholic left" in Europe.

Rocco Buttiglione, a former government minister, said the European Commission should not feed "the suspicions of an anti-Christian European Union".

The EU has been increasing pressure on the Church, especially through its tax status. In September 2005, the EU ordered the government of Spain to start charging the Catholic Church sales tax on goods it buys such as candles, pews and land for building churches. The Commission threatened to take the Spanish government to court if it did not agree.


Even Thinking about God Boosts Positive Social Behaviour Says New Study

Thoughts related to God cultivate cooperative behaviour and generosity, according to University of British Columbia psychology researchers. In a study to be published in the September issue of Psychological Science journal, researchers investigated how thinking about God and notions of a higher power influenced positive social behaviour, specifically cooperation with others and generosity to strangers.

UBC PhD graduate Azim Shariff and UBC Assoc. Prof. Ara Norenzayan found that priming people with 'god concepts' - by activating subconscious thoughts through word games - promoted altruism. In addition, the researchers found that this effect was consistent in behaviour whether people declared themselves believers or not. The researchers also found that secular notions of civic responsibility promote cooperation and generosity. "This is a twist on an age old question - does a belief in God influence moral behaviour"" says Shariff. "We asked, does the concept of god influence cooperative behaviour" Previous attempts to answer this question have been driven by speculation and anecdote."

The research, conducted between September 2005 and July 2006 with 125 participants, is the first of its kind in North America. According to the researchers, there is little replicable empirical data using moral behaviour and religion as measures. As Shariff notes, UBC is the first to apply an implicit priming technique to capture and assess subconscious motives or goals, and their associated behavioural outcomes, to this area of concern.

Priming is an experimental procedure used by cognitive and social scientists, mainly in psychology and economics, to obtain indicators of social tendencies by implicitly inducing relevant thoughts. As priming operates largely outside explicit awareness, subjects are unlikely to consciously revise their behaviours or beliefs, the researchers say.

The researchers undertook two related studies. In both studies, groups were randomly assigned to the religious prime or to the control group. Participants in the religious prime group were given a word game and had to unscramble sentences (using spirit, divine, God, sacred and prophet). Those in the control group were given the same task with non-spiritual words. After this task, all participants played an anonymous dictator game, whereby subjects were given 10 one-dollar coins and asked to make a decision of what to keep and what to share with an anonymous recipient.

The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the positive results for the religious prime in both studies. Sixty-eight per cent of subjects from the religious prime groups allocated $5 or more to anonymous strangers, compared to 22 per cent from groups where neutral or no concepts were activated.

In the second study the researchers also investigated the strength of the religious prime relative to a secular prime. They used concepts of civic responsibility and social justice to prime subjects (with target words civic, jury, court, police and contract) and obtained almost identical results.

"We did not anticipate such a subtle prime, simply getting participants to unscramble sentences with a few key words, having such a large effect on people's willingness to give money to strangers," said Shariff. "These are compelling findings that have substantial impact on the study of social behaviour because they draw a causal relationship between religion and acting morally - a topic of some debate. They by no means indicate that religion is necessary for moral behaviour, but it can make a substantial contribution."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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