Saturday, May 14, 2005


A Vermont man is fighting the state government over its refusal to allow him to have a license plate with a reference to a Bible verse. After receiving a rejection from the state to his request for custom plates bearing "JOHN316," Rutlant, Vt., resident Shawn Byrne appealed to an administrative law judge. When the appeal was rejected Byrne, with the help of religious-liberties law firm Alliance Defense Fund, sued in federal court earlier this year.

According to the Rutland Herald, Byrne's attorney, Jeremy Tedesco, last week filed a response in U.S. District Court to the state's motion that the suit be dismissed. "To be sure, title to these thin tin plates may rest in the state, but the message on a vanity plate is that of the registered owner, not the state," Tedesco wrote in his filing, saying the rejection of the plates was a violation of Byrne's First Amendment rights.

The state last month argued in court records that the case should be dismissed because license plates are state property and a religious message placed on them could be viewed as a government endorsement of religion, the local paper reported. "The 'reasonable observer' in our case is not a motorist with an 'eggshell psyche,' which (state agencies) unflatteringly seem to think fill Vermont roadways, but a reasonable, mature person who would know that the message that appears on vanity plates is selected by the individual who purchased the plate," Tedesco wrote. "Indeed, common sense tells the reasonable observer that the message on the plate is associated with the driver behind the wheel, not the state that issued the plate." Tedesco included examples of other Vermont plates that appear to reference religious themes, including "HIREPWR," "PSALM" and "RI-CHUS."

The suit states Byrne applied for vanity plates for his Ford pickup, submitting these three possibilities: "JOHN316," "JN316" and "JN36TN." The state rejected his request because it "refers to deity."

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A principal at Karns Elementary School is on shaky constitutional ground after telling a group of young students that they cannot bring their Bibles to school or study them during recess, according to a letter written to Knox County School District officials by an ADF-allied attorney. "The Constitution does not prohibit Bibles during recess; it prohibits the wholesale banning of Bibles during recess," said Charles Pope, the ADF-allied attorney who wrote the letter to the district. "A school official cannot tell a student that he can't bring his Bible to school or study it with friends during non-classroom time."

Ten-year-old student Luke Whitson used his regularly scheduled recess time to read the Bible with a few friends on his school's playground. After receiving a complaint from a parent, the school's principal reportedly ordered the students to stop their activity, put their Bibles away, and cease from bringing their Bibles to school. "There are no `age discrimination' allowances in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The law protects these students the same as it protects all students," said ADF Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco. "Children have rights of speech and association during their non-instructional time, and the school may not curtail those rights because of their age."

The students and some of their parents were upset by the principal's actions. After complaining to the school, Whitson's parents sought legal assistance from Pope, of the Athens legal organization JMF Counsel. "The law as it pertains to this situation is well settled. Students may have religious discussions and Bible study during non-instructional time," Pope explained in his letter. "The school district should immediately issue a statement addressing the unconstitutional actions and policy and alerting all personnel to permit Luke and other similarly situated students to exercise their constitutional rights."


Obesity hysteria survives despite official debunking

"Obesity hysteria recently collapsed under its own weight. But the public health establishment, media and politicians are doing their best to revive it. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in the April 20 Journal of the American Medical Association that estimated the net death toll attributable to obesity to be 25,814 people per year. This, of course, was quite a downward revision from CDC's March 2004 claim that obesity caused about 400,000 deaths per year, approaching the toll estimated for smoking.

But don't expect the 93.5 percent reduction in the size of the scare to have any measurable impact on the obesity industry's momentum. When the new study was published, CDC chief Dr. Julia Gerberding told the Associated Press that the agency won't scale back its anti-obesity campaign which, by the way, won't mention the new reduced death toll estimate. "There's absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country," Gerberding insisted. The translation, of course, is that CDC receives plenty of taxpayer funding to promote the obesity scare and it's not giving it back....

Former President Clinton joined the obesity fray this week announcing a joint campaign with the American Heart Association to encourage children to have healthy diets and to be physically active-both worthy goals. But President Clinton stepped into the realm of obesity hype when he stated, "The truth is that children born today could become part of the first generation in American history to live shorter lives than their parents because so many are eating too much of the wrong things and not exercising enough." The reality of the matter is actually quite different. First, there is little evidence to support the notion that otherwise healthy adults have shorter lifespans simply because they may be overweight. In fact, the new CDC study reported that adults who are merely "overweight" actually live longer on average than adults who are of "normal weight." Next, there is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that, for otherwise healthy children, childhood weight determines or impacts longevity...."

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