State/Church Bulletin

‘Choose Life’ plates struck down in N.C.

CNN reported that U.S. District Judge James Fox ruled Dec. 7 that North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plates are unconstitutional.

“The state’s offering a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice alternative constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” Fox wrote.

Republican state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill for the plates, wants to appeal the decision.

Lawmakers voted down amendments that would have created pro-choice alternatives such as “Trust Women. Respect Choice.” 


Judge charged for religion in courthouse

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has filed notice of formal charges against Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins for allegedly running a religious materials business out of the courthouse, WCTV reported Dec. 6.

Hawkins is accused of using her county email account, judicial assistant and her office spaces and equipment to create, edit and promote Gaza Road Ministry products “to the detriment of the prompt and efficient administration of justice.”

She makes $142,000 annually as a judge. 


Texas student refuses school’s ‘beastly’ ID

Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, which started requiring students to wear radio frequency identification tracking chips this year, is being sued in federal court by sophomore Andrea Hernandez, who refuses to wear the ID tag on biblical grounds.

The Rutherford Institute, an evangelical legal group in Charlottesville, Va., is representing Hernandez. Institute President John Whitehead told the Washington Post that, according to the Hernandez family’s beliefs, “any kind of identifying badge from the government is the mark of the beast, which means that you pay allegiance to a false God.”

District officials have repeatedly offered to let Hernandez come to school wearing an ID card without the chip and battery. Her lawyers have filed a motion claiming that a badge with no tracking capabilities still runs counter to her  Christian principles.


Louisiana vouchers ruled unconstitutional

Louisiana State District Judge Tim Kelley ruled Nov. 30 in Baton Rouge that the expanded voucher program in Act 2 of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s educational reform package put into effect this school year is unconstitutional.

Kelley ruled that the program improperly diverts tax dollars from the state’s public school funding formula to private schools, reported Ponchartrain Newspapers.

About 4,900 students have enrolled in 117 private schools with taxpayer dollars. More than 10,000 students applied.


New backdoor effort to teach creationism

Indiana State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who earlier failed to get a bill passed letting schools “teach the controversy” about evolution, has a new idea: Requiring teachers to provide evidence if students challenge their science lessons. The chairman of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee calls it “truth in education.”

Kruse said, “If a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

Gerry Wheeler, National Science Teachers Association executive direction, called it a “a creative new evolution that the creationists are going to” and one of the “very insidious ways of trying to get nonscience into the science classroom.”


Oklahoma high court reverses voucher ban

In a 7-2 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Nov. 20 reversed a lower court decision that struck down the state’s school voucher program for special needs students because it used public money to benefit sectarian institutions.

The Supreme Court ruled that the school district plaintiffs lack standing because they are not taxpayers, and that the funding is not from local tax dollars but from the Legislature’s general grant to the districts through the state Department of Education.


Judge mandates church for convicted teen

When District Judge Mike Norman, Muskogee, Okla., sentenced Tyler Alred, 17, on a vehicular manslaughter conviction in November, he included Sunday church attendance for 10 years as a requirement of a deferred sentence. The District Attorney’s Office is supposed to monitor Alred’s church attendance, the Tulsa World reported.

Randall Coyne, University of Oklahoma College of Law professor, said the church condition would likely not stand if challenged, but someone would have to complain. Norman expressed doubt anyone would challenge it.

Enter the ACLU of Oklahoma, which on Dec. 4 filed a complaint with the state Council on Judicial Complaints, asserting that the sentence violates the Code of Judicial Conduct. Brady Henderson, ACLU legal director, said giving a defendant a choice between church and prison can’t be enforced without illegal government intrusion. 

“I firmly believe in going to church, but the bible also tells you to obey the laws of the land,” said Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore. “You can obey the laws of the land and still be a Christian. In this case, the laws of the land do not permit a judge to order you to go to church.” 


Turkey fines channel for ‘Simpsons’ blasphemy

The Telegraph reported Dec. 3 that Turkey’s Supreme Board of Radio and Television fined CNBC-E for “making fun of God, encouraging the young people to exercise violence by showing the murders [in a ‘Simpsons’ Halloween episode] as God’s orders.”

The episode, “Treehouse of Horrors XXII,” has a segment titled “Dial D for Diddly” in which Ned Flanders goes on a killing rampage after hearing what he thinks is the voice of God. Later in the episode, the devil demands God bring him a cup of coffee. “Yes sir,” God responds, revealing it’s actually the devil who runs the world.

Turkey is officially secular, but most of its 75 million people are Muslim.


Diocese’s ‘Obamacare’ lawsuit dismissed

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry on Nov. 27 dismissed the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese’s lawsuit against the Obama administration for requiring it to offer birth control services to employees as part of the federal health care mandate.

McVerry said in his 28-page opinion that the diocese has not been harmed by the law because most of its provisions don’t take effect until 2014. “[D]e-
fendants have actively begun the process of amending the regulations to address the specific religious objections which plaintiffs raise in this litigation.”

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