Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 8 October 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

State/Church Bulletin: Oct. 2010

3 employees appeal religious firing

Three employees of a religious nonprofit in Washington state are appealing a 2-1 federal appeals court decision that upheld their firing by World Vision Inc. The employees stopped attending prayer services and revealed they didn’t believe in the triune God, which got them fired. The plaintiffs are seeking a hearing before the full 9th Circuit panel.

The plaintiffs claim that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects their employment, but court rulings to date have applied an exemption in the 1964 landmark law that lets religious groups discriminate.

World Vision gets about $300 million a year from the federal government. “If World Vision wants to discriminate in hiring and firing based on religion, then it should not be receiving federal dollars. Twenty-five percent of its income is from the federal government, from the public,” Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told FOX News.

Justices jump gate between church, state

The Catholic “Red Mass” celebrated for 57 years on the Sunday before the U.S. Supreme Court’s fall term opens brought Vice President Joe Biden and five members of the court to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3.

About a dozen people outside protested the unholy alliance inside of state and church. The Archdiocese of Washington claims the Mass’ purpose is “to invoke God’s blessing and guidance on justices, judges, attorneys and senior government officials.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas were the Catholics attending. Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s three Jewish members, also attended. Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor, both Catholic, didn’t attend, nor did Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

In her 2005 book Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish, Abigail Pogrebin quotes Ginsburg on the Red Mass: “I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias, although they’re much of that persuasion, were embarrassed for me.”

Library bans Georgia boy for proselytizing

Caleb Hanson, 16, was banned on Aug. 28 for six month from all branches of the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System for proselytizing.

According to a letter from the North Columbus [Ga.] Public Library, Hanson repeatedly asked patrons “about their religious faith and to offer biblical advice.” He told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer he was given several warnings by staff but refused to stop.

Hanson’s parents and grandparents are missionaries. He is home-schooled and attends First Assembly of God Church.

Michael Broyde, law professor at Emory University, called the library’s decision reasonable and appropriate. “It falls under the time, place and manner restriction.”

Challenge to hate crimes law fails

U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington of the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed a lawsuit Sept. 7 by several Christian advocates and pastors who challenged the  Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in October 2009.

The plaintiffs alleged the law infringed on their First Amendment freedoms of speech, religion and association and said they feared being subjected to “increased government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance and intimidation on account of their strong, public opposition to homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle and the homosexual agenda.”

Ludington agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder’s argument that the plaintiffs don’t have standing because they don’t face a credible threat of prosecution.

Court tosses student’s religious speech suit

A panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed a suit Sept. 17 by a community college student whose Speech 101 teacher allegedly called him a “fascist bastard” while he was speaking about being a Christian.

The student, Jonathan Lopez, sued the Los Angeles Community College District last year, alleging the teacher, John Matteson, discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs. Lopez asked the court to strike down a district sexual harassment code forbidding students and employees from creating a “hostile or offensive” educational environment.

The court unanimously found that Lopez failed to show he was harmed by the sexual harassment policy and that he lacked standing to bring the case. Despite “the disturbing facts of the case,” Lopez did not show how his speech or his future intended speech would have violated the policy he challenged, the court ruled.

Texas board sees Muslim textbook bias

The Texas State Board of Education voted 7-6 on Sept. 24 in favor of a resolution that calls for rejection of textbooks that are “pro-Islamic, anti-Christian.”

The changes involve editing sections involving Christianity and Islam in a way that pleases the board’s conservative members.

“It is hard not to conclude that the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims,” said Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network, a group that seeks to counter the Christian right. “This is the 21st century, yet board members continue to ignore sound scholarship and mire themselves in every hot-button political issue they can find,” Miller said.

The resolution was written by Randy Rives, who is not a board member. Board member Rick Agosto commented, “This makes us look cuckoo. It’s crazy.”

Doughnuts banned on heels of fetus dolls

About 200 members and supporters of the Church on the Move in Roswell, N.M., are up in arms because at least four high school students were suspended or received detention for leaving Krispy Kreme doughnuts with bible verses in the teachers’ lounge Sept. 3. The students are part of a church youth ministry called Relentless Ros‑

well. About 25 students tried to distribute the doughnuts. The round trip to buy them in Texas took six hours.

It’s a touchy subject because several students were disciplined last spring for handing out plastic dolls resembling fetuses. The dolls had bible ver‑

ses attached and cards listing services of a pregnancy resource center.

Students had been told over the public address system not to distribute anything without approval or risk disciplinary action.

Pastors taunt IRS on Pulpit Sunday

Nearly 100 U.S. pastors took part Sept. 3 in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an in-your-face challenge to Internal Revenue Service rules barring political endorsements by clergy.

The theocratic Christian Alliance Defense Fund organized the event. In 2008, 33 pastors took part in the first Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Several also participated in 2009 in a political off-year. The churches are putting their tax-exempt status at risk, but unless the IRS investigates, the churches will get away with breaking the law.

FFRF signs onto religious challenge

It’s wrong to fund religious schools with taxpayer dollars, say the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other advocates for state-church separation in an amicus brief filed in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, the court will consider if an Arizona tax credit for donations to groups that offer scholarships to attend private schools is constitutional. The groups are called School Tuition Organizations (STOs).

Kathleen Winn and a group of taxpayers challenged the program, in effect since 1997. It allows dollar-for-dollar income tax credits for individuals contributing to STOs. In recent years, more than 80 percent of scholarship dollars were awarded by religious groups.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the taxpayers.

“This program is a way for religious groups to funnel tax dollars to private schools,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “It’s blatant government endorsement of religion.”

FFRF signed onto an amicus brief submitted by American Humanist Association legal counsel Bob Ritter and signed by several other groups

Couple: Vaccination defiles God’s plan

Andrea and Paul Polydor, of Garden City, N.Y., sued Kellenberg Memorial High School — a Catholic school — for refusing to admit their unvaccinated son to ninth grade.

In a seven-page suit, the couple alleges “JP” should be granted an exemption to public health laws that require inoculation against mumps, measles, rubella, hepatitis B and other diseases.

From the lawsuit: “We must not defile our blood and our bodies with diseases and other impure substances. As the divine Architect, God designed our bodies to have immune systems that must not be defiled by vaccines. Immunizations are a violation of God’s supreme authority, and therefore, unholy. Since immunizations are unholy they violate my religious beliefs.”

The Polydors also claim that using vaccines would show a “lack of faith in God, and His perfectly designed immune system.”

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