Prayer warriors at homosexual fest on trial
Police told Christians they had no speech rights in public park
A trial is scheduled to begin today in Elmira, N.Y., and lawyers for the defendants say it will be a test of whether the First Amendment affirmations of freedom of speech and freedom of religion still are valid in the United States. "Choosing to exercise your First Amendment rights in a public place is not a crime," Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund said. "The government has no right to arrest citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights in public."
At issue is the arrest of several Christians at a "gay pride" event is Wisner Park in Elmira in 2007. Julian and Gloria Raven and several others entered the park to pray silently for the participants of the event celebrating homosexual behavior. Officials with the ADF noted that the materials advertising the event said everyone was invited and it was open to the public. "The group did not draw a disorderly response from event participants," the ADF said.
However, an Elmira police sergeant had told the group they were banned from the park. They were not allowed to "cross the street, enter the park, or share their religion with anyone in the park," according to the ADF. The group's members later were arrested and accused of "disorderly conduct."
"It seems oxymoronic to say that by walking silently in a public park, with heads bowed, these people somehow disturbed the peace," Oster said. "From the sit-ins of the 1960s to today, courts have repeatedly ruled that the police cannot arrest those who peacefully express their message in public places."
While the facts of the case make it seem relatively minor, the ADF said the issue is nothing less than the United States' freedoms of speech and religion. "If this violation of these Christians' rights is allowed to stand, the First Amendment rights of all people of faith are in jeopardy," the ADF said.
When the Christians were arrested, officials with Elmira justified their actions to WND. Assistant Police Chief Mike Robertson told WND that the members were accused of a "combination" of allegations, including the "intent" to cause a public inconvenience, a "disturbance" of a meeting of persons and obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. He also said at the time that the accusations would include taking part in "any act that serves no legitimate purpose."
Raven had told WND his group assembled to pray for three hours the night before Elmira's "pride" festival in promotion of the homosexual lifestyle. "We have a legal right to be at an event held in a public square. We're not a hate group," he said. "We're Christians and we're going to be there to pray." He said he contacted police, who told him he had no free speech rights in the public park. "The female officer, she said, 'You're not going to cross the street. You're not going to enter the park and you're not going to share your religion with anybody in this park,'" he told WND. "When she said that, for the first time in my life as a Christian, I felt now my freedom of speech is threatened or challenged," he said. "I was being told I could not share my religion with anybody in that park."
Raven said he told the officer "she was violating the Constitution that she had sworn to uphold, and she was very agitated and adamant, and couldn't look me straight in the eye." Raven asked for the justification for such a threat and was not given a response. He said his team of Christians then went into the park, and they were arrested within three or four minutes. He said if the situation is left unchallenged, the city of Elmira will be in the position of being able to control the content of people's messages in a lawful assembly - or even thoughts if they are nearby. "We didn't say boo to a goose, still we were arrested," he said.
The local newspaper reported the arrests came just "moments" after Elmira Mayor John Tonello delivered a speech "celebrating diversity." And the actions prompted some immediate criticism from newspaper readers. "I was appalled and disgusted by the gay stories strewn through the paper. What was even more disturbing was the way the city acted. Since when is it illegal to sit on the ground in a public park and recite Bible verses? Are they not protected by the same Constitution that allows gay people to have their gay pride event. These Bible thumpers had their constitutional right to free speech and assembly trampled on by the city. They should not have been arrested," said Kevin Raznoff.
Robertson told WND the Christians "certainly" have a right to assemble, but not on public property when there's an "organized" event there. Asked repeatedly about how the "disturbance" statute relates to First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, he did not answer. "Obviously, they caused a disruption to an event that was taking place," he said.
But Raven confirmed to WND the Christians did not approach a single person, did not speak to anyone and did not even make any audible statements until after they were arrested.
British police will be taught sharia law and the Koran
Police will be trained on the importance of the Koran and Sharia law to Muslims under Government plans to tackle extremism. Lessons in the Islamic faith and culture will become part of the formal training for recruits. Chief constables said officers will build better relationships by understanding the communities they are policing. [How about the "communities" learning about British law?] This could prove crucial in rooting out extremism and preventing a terrorist attack, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers.
But critics expressed concern that the plan could foster division, rather than combat it. It comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK "seems unavoidable". He later said his remarks had been misinterpreted.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis added: "Of course it is sensible for the police to have an understanding of the Koran and Sharia law as long as we do not allow the situation to slip so that Sharia law is regarded on an equal basis with British law. "British law is and always must be pre-eminent."
The scheme is part of a wide-ranging strategy to prevent extremist ideas gaining hold in schools, colleges and prisons. Other initiatives in the 40-page strategy include guidance to parents on how to stop children searching for extremist websites, and intervening where convicted terrorists are suspected of spreading hate in prison. Police will not have to learn the "depth and complexity" of Sharia law but would be expected to understand Islamic culture.
But critics have described the plan as "politically correct thinking". Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: "Police officers are not there to implement sharia law. They are there to implement British law. "This idea is misguided. We will only get community cohesion when everybody signs up to being British and following British law."
The so-called Prevent strategy says: "Research last year revealed that the police service would be very low on the list of agencies that the Muslim community would turn to if they had concerns about a member of their community who embraced violent extremism. "The police service has a long way to go in building a relationship of trust around these issues." The Chief Constable in charge of the strategy, West Yorkshire's Norman Bettison, said: "We work closely with communities and the majority of police training at the moment in this area is done in partnership with Muslim organisations. "We are building on this basis of training and emphasising that a basic principle of policing is that officers work with and should understand the communities they are policing.
"The Acpo Prevent strategy recognises this in the context of non-Muslim officers working with Muslim communities. "These issues can be complex and include nationality, community and religious issues, all of which are interwoven. "That is what we are trying to get across to officers in our training. The depth and complexity of sharia law is not part of this training. "The strategy remains in draft form at present and I expect it to be formally adopted by chief officer colleagues after further feedback from partners and communities."
Royal warrior Prince Harry sees off the sneerers
His frontline duty against `Terry Taliban' has been the making of Harry - even parts of the Arab media have been impressed
Budgie, Ginge, Cornet Wales, Widow Six Seven - whatever you like to call Prince Harry, in less than 48 hours he rocked our world. From the exposure of his presence in Helmand province on Thursday evening to his return to RAF Brize Norton yesterday, he transformed the public image of himself, the army, the royals and the war against the enemy he called "Terry Taliban".
To describe this as a sensational public-relations coup is not to diminish the prince's determination. He wanted to go and, with General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, he made it happen. In doing so, he left the sneerers struggling to find a downside.
Most spectacularly, Jon Snow on Channel 4 News dug a hole for himself on Thursday by questioning the ethics of a press blackout to which his own company had agreed. Viewers e-mailed to accuse him of treason or worse. On Friday, undeterred, Channel 4 News kept on digging by trying to whip up antiHarry feeling among British Muslims. Spotting the racist implication that they were being lumped in with the Taliban, almost all the Muslims backed Harry.
Even the Arab media were impressed by the behaviour of the soldier prince. "It's an extremely important story for us," said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab paper Al-Quds al-Arabi. "He's the grandson of the Queen on the front line . . . He's endangering his life and he's not scared to fight for his country." Atwan said his newspaper had contrasted "the brother of the future British king fighting discreetly and without publicity" with "Arab royal families who prefer to stay in their palaces and enjoy the oil wealth of their countries".
Only the most rabid extremists remained to provide backing for the sneerers. "I think Prince Harry has been involved in an act of war with Muslims," said Omar Bakri Mohammed from Leba-non. He is banned from Britain.
The Prince flew to the main base at Kandahar in the week before Christmas. So far so normal. His special status was acknowledged when he was taken over by the Special Boat Service - the marine equivalent of the SAS. They took him by helicopter to Helmand, avoiding the Camp Bastion base filled with thousands of allied troops. Then he had special Gurkha protection. But otherwise he shared the life of his men. This was what he wanted, but it also avoided any suggestion that his deployment was purely cosmetic.
Yesterday the full extent of his involvement with the fighting emerged. When the news broke on Thursday, Harry, call sign Widow Six Seven, was acting as mobile forward air controller for a US-led advance. He was directing French aircraft in an attack on Taliban fighters flushed out by US and Afghan troops.
Harry, known to his mates as Ginge, for obvious reasons, or Budgie, because he was seen by colleagues "flapping like a budgie" on his first day, was also involved in questioning civilians. "The great question is `Where's the Taliban?' " he said. "I have asked, `Where's Bin Laden?' in the past. They just laugh. One guy said, `You're too late.' "
What has Harry achieved by putting himself so thoroughly in harm's way? First, he rescued the defence secretary, Des Browne, and his ministry. Early last year, the image of the British armed forces was at a new low after the Iranian capture of 15 British sailors. The Iranians exploited the incident by first humiliating then handing back the sailors. Browne made matters worse by allowing, then disallowing the sailors to sell their stories. Browne also botched the deployment of Harry to Iraq. In February 2007 he announced - to the world and Al-Qaeda - that the prince was going. Inevitably, because of the security risk Browne created, the MoD had to back down and Harry's deployment was cancelled.
Dannatt and Harry were both furious. From their anger sprang the deal that produced a media blackout for 10 weeks while Harry was in theatre. For the army, in need of new recruits, the exploits of Harry were pure publicity gold.
Yesterday, Dannatt spoke of the impact of Harry on the front line. "I think that's good for him, I think that's good for the royal family, certainly good for the army. I think that's good for the nation . . ." Dannatt also spoke of signs that opposition to the Iraq war is giving way to respect for the army's achievements. "You only have to reflect on the large number of homecoming parades and enthusiasm . . . I was just delighted to see the way that many towns and cities and communities welcomed regiments back . . . there is a great degree of appreciation of what our soldiers and servicemen are doing both in Iraq and in Afghanistan." Harry is the jewel in the crown of Dannatt's campaign to save the army from apathy, public distaste for operations in Iraq and political cack-handedness.
Harry also saved himself. The staged photographs, videos and interviews covering his time in Helmand contrast starkly with the shots of him lurching drunkenly out of London nightclubs. Plainly, for him, the army had worked as it should - giving purpose to a drifting existence. Hopeless Harry had become Hero Harry.
A hero is also what the royals needed. The Diana inquest may be making a fool of Mohamed Al Fayed, but it's doing the royals no favours by raking over one of the most terrible episodes in the Queen's reign. Hero Harry is a welcome distraction.
But yesterday Harry seemed to read from the wrong script. "I don't want to sit around in Windsor," he said. "I generally don't like England that much and it's nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general shite that they write."
The media - and especially the international paparazzi - won't take this well. They had agreed to the blackout and had taken some flattering pictures in theatre and conducted some equally flattering interviews. Harry's demeanour on leaving his plane at Brize Norton - no smile, no wave, nothing for the cameras - seemed to suggest something more than the feelings of a soldier snatched from his posting. It suggested real disappointment at being back in the royal goldfish bowl. He may have thought it was bad before he left; now it's going to be worse.
Then there's the terrorist threat. As the hate internet sites make clear, he is now the highest-value Al-Qaeda target in Britain and one of the highest in the world. "The rest will be the business of the lions of Al-Qaeda and the eagles of the Taliban," one site said before Harry was extracted. His security is now certain to be beefed up to the point where it is likely his clubbing days are over. Officers from Scotland Yard have met to discuss strategy. A senior Whitehall official said yesterday that MI5 would be monitoring radical Islamic websites to see what further threats were being made against the prince.
A skiing trip to Klosters rumoured to be planned in a month's time will be the first big test of these raised levels of protection. This will be a new experience for Harry, who has been used to living the London high life. Did he, when he fought to be allowed to face the enemy, imagine the price of victory?
The exploits of Hero Harry have been a triumph for Dannatt, the army, the prince and the royals. But now the hard work really begins - of keeping Harry focused on the reality of the new role he has made for himself, of providing him with higher levels of security and of preventing his new celebrity from, once again, destabilising the royals, that most unstable of families. Terry Taliban provides one challenge, but avoiding the fate of his mother - a woman destroyed by fame - may turn out to be the real test.
Hasidic Threats Force Art Exhibition to Close
Post below lifted from GoV. See the original for links
A Berlin gallery has temporarily closed an exhibition of satirical works by a group of Danish artists after six Hasidic Jews threatened violence unless one of the posters ridiculing Orthodox Jewish headgear and tonsorial customs was removed, it said on Thursday.
No, that’s not the news story you read yesterday. But it could have been, if Jews were the same kind of thin-skinned and perpetually offended people that Muslims are.
Yesterday’s story focused on Dummer Stein, the first photo in a sequence in a Berlin art gallery’s exhibition. The “Stupid Rock” depicted in the poster is the Kaaba, the holy shrine in Mecca. The gallery closed the show after Muslim youths entered the building and made threats.
The photo on the second poster in the series, as you can see from the larger version shown at right, is captioned Dummer Hut, or “Stupid Hat”.
Each additional poster is also a Dummer something or other, a series of “stupid” things exposed to avant-garde artistic ridicule.
But what’s being ridiculed in that second photo? Whose hat is stupid?
A BBC article on the incident shows the Dummer Stein poster being taken down from the wall. Next to it you can see the Dummer Hut a little more clearly.
I found yet another photo on a Swiss German-language news site.
I can’t read much German, but I found this description in the article: Das Motiv gehört zu einer ironischen Serie, in der unter anderem auch ein orthodoxer Jude mit Kopfbedeckung unter dem Titel "Dummer Hut" abgebildet ist.
Which I translate as: “The subject is one of an ironic series, in which is displayed, among other things, an Orthodox Jew, with headgear, under the title ‘Stupid Hat’.”
Through the magic of modern Forensic Photology I have extracted a larger version of the Stupid Hat poster.
Yes, it’s true: as you can see in the picture, a Orthodox Jew is tugging out his sidelocks while sporting a big dummer hat.
And now thousands of Jews have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv and burned down the Danish and German embassies, while calling for the murder of the Surrend artists.
Need anything else be said?
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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.