Saturday, October 09, 2004


In Jesus' name, you can't pray.

The Culpeper County Ministerial Association isn't bowing down to that "suggestion" from the Culpeper Town Council. The group says it may challenge an Aug. 11 memo from Town Attorney Robert W. Bendall asking ministers not to refer to "Jesus, Christ or any variations of those names" while praying at the opening of council meetings. The memo stems from a U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision July 22 ruling that a Great Falls, S.C., legislative prayer violated the First Amendment clause prohibiting the establishment of a state religion. The ruling sparked a similar controversy earlier this year in Fredericksburg, where Councilman Hashmel Turner stopped leading prayers at meetings rather than omit the name of Christ.

Bendall and Culpeper Mayor Pranas Rimeikis were invited to appear before the Ministerial Association at its regular monthly meeting yesterday to clarify the town's position. Bendall told the group it was "never my intention to tell you how to pray," but he suggested that those who open council meetings with prayer "pray to a neutral god" in the future. "There is no problem with 'Almighty God,' but we do not want to disparage one faith or sect over another," said Bendall, who called himself "just a messenger."

"Praying to a generic god denies me the right to speak to my God," the Rev. Marshall Braylo, pastor of the Jeffersonton Baptist Church, replied. "We're not choosing a golf course here," said the Rev. Mark Jarvis, former pastor of Open Door Baptist Church. "We're talking about our relationship with the true God through the Lord Jesus Christ."

"There are many out there who don't believe your god is the true god," the town attorney countered. He added that even leading the audience in the Lord's Prayer is legally "problematic."

More here.


A company that refused to offer a woman part-time work after she had a baby has been ordered to pay $16,000 in damages for unlawfully discriminating against her because of her responsibility as a carer. In a landmark decision, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal found the small transport company for which Evelina Reddy worked had been unreasonable in requiring her to return to her job full-time.

Ms Reddy, a manager in the customs section, told her employer two months before she was due to return from maternity leave that she needed an extra nine weeks off work and then wanted to work only three days a week, because of her responsibilities caring for her daughter. She had been unable to find suitable childcare and had to take her daughter to her mother's home 25 kilometres away. To avoid peak-hour traffic she wanted to work from 7.30am to 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her employer, International Cargo Express, for which she had worked six years, wrote back saying she was not entitled to work part-time or to have extra maternity leave.

The three-member tribunal last week found International Cargo Express had reacted in a "knee-jerk" way and failed to properly consider her proposal. It is the first case in which carer's responsibilities have been used to argue a claim for part-time work. Mothers had won similar cases previously on the grounds that denying them part-time work amounted to sex discrimination. The company's managing director, Peter Timmermann, yesterday said his company had other staff working part-time, but a manager needed to be in the office every day. "How can you manage a company part-time?"

Kylie Nomchong, the company's barrister, said it was a significant case that went against some recent decisions. "The [tribunal] is saying it now requires employers to create part-time positions for women returning to the workforce." she said.

More here.


The notorious Ninth Circuit rules that the government may legislate to protect land that Indians say is "sacred" but that it must not allow Christian symbols in public places

"Before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, McKinnon's attorney argued that the ADOT violated the Constitution's Establishment Clause because Arizona required McKinnon, and everyone else in Arizona, to adhere to the "religious orthodoxy" of American Indians, an orthodoxy that, because Woodruff Butte is "sacred," bars its use. This is hardly the neutrality the Constitution requires when governments address matters of religion. Moreover, said McKinnon's attorney, the ADOT's action would be unconstitutional even if the ADOT had closed state-owned land; closing "sacred" private property is, if possible, even more unconstitutional.

A month after McKinnon's oral arguments, the Ninth Circuit ruled in another case involving religion and land use. Ordering the removal of a Latin cross, which memorialized the veterans who died in World War I, from the National Park Service's Mohave National Preserve, the Ninth Circuit held, "[T]he Establishment Clause [means] government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions)." The ADOT's preferential treatment of American Indian religion seemed doomed.

Nonetheless, on September 1, the Ninth Circuit dismissed McKinnon's lawsuit as "premised on flawed analysis of the [Establishment Clause]." The Ninth Circuit did not just dismiss McKinnon's case, it issued a broad, published ruling that bars any challenge to the preferential treatment of American Indian religion: "[T]he Establishment Clause does not bar the government from protecting an historically and culturally important site simply because the site's importance derives at least in part from its sacredness to certain groups." Curiously, the historical and cultural importance of the Latin cross in the California desert was irrelevant to whether its presence violated the Establishment Clause.

Dale McKinnon has appealed. Meanwhile, however, the Ninth Circuit's two most recent rulings provide that governments may endorse paganism, but not Christianity"

More here.

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