Colorado Coalition Fights Vouchers
A coalition of parents, teachers' unions and civil rights groups filed suit on May 20 challenging Colorado's new law permitting low-income students at "unsatisfactory" public schools to attend parochial or private schools at taxpayer expense.
Colorado is the first state to enact such a program since the Supreme Court gave school vouchers the green light last summer. The lawsuit, filed in Denver County district court, invokes the Colorado constitution, which forbids public money from supporting schools "controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatever."
Groups fighting the law include People for the American Way, Colorado branches of the NAACP, the American Jewish Congress, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
VMI Prayers Unconstitutional
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ban on prayers before evening meals at the Virginia Military Institute.
"In establishing its supper prayer, VMI has done precisely what the First Amendment forbids," ruled a unanimous 3-judge panel on April 28. "Put simply, VMI's supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors," wrote Robert B. King.
Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore vowed to appeal the ruling to the entire appeals court, saying prayers are "part of the fabric of our country."
A Vicar We Could Like
Hundreds of villagers in Taarbaek, Denmark, demanded the reinstatement of Thorkild Grosboel, 55, after he was suspended in June by the state Lutheran Protestant Church for not believing in a god. Grosboel recently told a newspaper that "there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection."
Although about 85% of the population belongs to the state church, only 5% regularly attends church services.
Firefighters Fight Chaplain Corps
Six California firefighters filed a lawsuit this spring seeking to end the chaplain's corps of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, saying the evangelical minister who runs the corps improperly injects Christian religious faith into a government organization.
The two-year-old corps replaced a longstanding peer-counseling program. Of the first 52 people to join the chaplain's corps, all but two are Christians wearing crosses on their uniforms.
The litigants, who refer to themselves as "the Satanic Six," include a Baptist, an Episcopalian, a Christian Scientist, a Jew and a rationalist agnostic. They allege that wearing religious insignia while on duty is only a short step from proselytizing fellow firefighters. They want the corps disbanded and are asking that no religious language be used at ceremonies.
Federal Courts Hijacked?
Pres. Bush's many nominees to the federal courts include such controversial choices as:
James Leon Holmes, an Arkansas lawyer who wrote in 1997 that a wife is to "subordinate herself to her husband" and likened abortion rights activists to Nazis.
William Pryor, 11th Circuit nominee, whose record as Alabama attorney general is antiabortion, anti-state/church separation, antigay, and pro-"states' rights." He is best known for rallying on behalf of Judge Roy Moore to promote government prayer and the Ten Commandments. In 1997, he said: "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians to save our country and save our courts."
Dennis Cook, 6th Circuit Court, who has a record of not upholding enforcement of fair employment laws, and is a member of the Federalist Society. Confirmed May 5.
Carolyn Kuhl, 9th Circuit nominee, who argued in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and granting tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, and dismissed a claim by a woman whose doctor invited a drug company representative to witness her breast exam without her consent.
Charles Pickering, 5th Circuit nominee, who voted for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion and against state-funded family planning as a Mississippi senator, and was critical of the Voting Rights Act.
John Roberts, D.C. nominee, who argued in favor of a gag rule barring doctors working in buildings receiving federal funding from mentioning the option of abortion, and supported Operation Rescue. Approved by Judiciary Committee in May.
Claude A. Allen, 4th circuit nominee, 42, described as a campaign pitchman for U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, and who once accused a Helms opponent of having links "with the queers."
Colorado Coalition Fights Vouchers