In The News

Kansas Evolves Again! Kansas voters in an Aug. 1 primary defeated three out of four creationist candidates for the Kansas Board of Education, all but ensuring that last year's notorious board action removing evolution from state science standards will be overturned. With half of the 10 seats at stake, two incumbent creationists lost to moderate Republicans: board chairwoman Linda Holloway, and Board member Mary Douglass Brown. Only incumbent creationist Board member Steve Abrams survived his primary race. Whatever the outcome of November's election, no more than four "conservatives" will serve on the board. A 6-4 board vote last year removed references to evolution and the Big Bang from state student assessment tests. Kentucky Decalog Barred A federal judge on July 25 barred Kentucky from erecting a 6x4 foot monument of the Ten Commandments on its Capitol grounds. U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood said its purpose is religious, not secular. Debate over the Ten Commandments dominated the Kentucky spring session, which passed a resolution directing the state to return the old monument to the Capitol grounds where it had been displayed for 17 years, and encouraging schools and local governments to post them. Indiana Monument Enjoined A federal judge on July 28 issued a temporary injunction enjoining Indiana from erecting a Ten Commandments monument on the statehouse lawn. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker halted plans for installing the monument, saying it lacks a secular purpose. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union challenged the plans, after the legislature passed a bill allowing schools and other public facilities to post the commandments in their buildings if displayed with "other" historical documents. That bill went into effect on July 1, inspiring a religious rally in Orange County, Indiana. Some 300 people gathered at the courthouse on June 30 just before midnight to watch officials unveil a Ten Commandments as "God Bless America" and Scripture readings rang out. A statement by Anne Gaylor, Foundation president, was reprinted by several Indiana newspapers, saying in part: "Indiana has once again buttressed its reputation as the dumbest state north of the Mason-Dixon line. The Ten Commandments are not an historic document." House "Trusts In God" The U.S. House of Representatives, in a nonbinding voice vote on July 24, encouraged the display of the religious national motto "In God We Trust" in public schools and buildings. The rhetoric-filled bill was sponsored by Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-CO, in support of the Colorado Board of Education's call to display the religious motto in public schools there. (See story, p. 3) Only one lawmaker spoke against the measure. On June 27, the House gave symbolic support to Ohio's New Testament motto, "With God, all things are possible," which was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in April. That House vote was 333-27, with 66 lawmakers simply voting "present." Other states with religious mottos include: Arizona (Latin for "God Enriches"), South Dakota ("Under God the people will rule") and Florida ("In God we trust"). Teens Sue Over Virginia Law Nine Virginia teenagers became plaintiffs in an ACLU lawsuit filed in late June challenging a new state law instructing students to "meditate, pray or engage in other silent activity" during a daily minute of silence. Although Virginia's state superintendent issued a June memo recommending that schools not mention prayer, Attorney General Mark Earley insisted parents and students be instructed on the students' "option to pray." Polygamists Circle Wagon Polygamist church leaders in southern Utah delivered directives to about 10,000 parishioners from the pulpit two July Sundays in a row calling on followers to spurn public schools and "apostates." Officials of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to bar nonmembers or rival polygamists from their markets and grocery stores. Church members were instructed to home-school their children. A mass exodus of children in polygamous areas between the Utah and Arizona border could close public schools. A Real Sea Change A physician from the Netherlands is proposing to raise a million dollars to equip a ship, dubbed "Sea Change," as an ocean-borne abortion clinic. Dr. Rebecca Gomperts would sail the world, serving women with unwanted pregnancies in countries that ban abortion by performing first-trimester abortions 12 miles offshore in international waters. She also hopes to train local abortion providers and deliver contraceptives. The World Health Organization estimates that 20 million out of 53 million abortions each year are illegal, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 women annually. Prayer Fight Fosters Hatred A Jewish mother reported in July that the losing battle by the school district in Santa Fe, Texas, to promote Christian prayer fostered an atmosphere of hate resulting in death threats against her son. Donna Nevelow said her son, Philip, 13, was taunted with "Heil Hitler" and Nazi salutes, that his head was shoved into a toilet and banged against lockers, and that students threatened to hang him. On June 27, he was assaulted outside school by a schoolboy, 13, who has been arrested. Three other juveniles were arrested in May for the death threat. "The emphasis of the Santa Fe school district on Christian prayer has created an environment of hatred for anyone not a part of their agenda. I think what is happening to my son is a direct result of the school prayer issue." The Santa Fe district lost its bid to retain "student-led" Christian prayer after the Supreme Court's resounding 6-3 decision in June against the practice. Santa Fe officials denied any responsibility for their role in creating religious division. Atheist Student Exchanges Hosts A German foreign exchange student was evicted in late July by his host family in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, because he is an atheist. The Catholic family, who knew Martin Thyssen, 16, was an atheist before accepting him, wanted him to attend Mass on Sundays, and did not want to discuss any beliefs but theirs. The exchange program said it was flooded with calls from families wanting to host Martin. A Catholic family from Edinburg who said they accept Martin's views was selected. Vouchers On California Ballot Proposition 38--to create the nation's largest voucher program sending as many as 6.5 million children to mostly religious private schools with public money--will be on the November ballot in California. The initiative would give parents, regardless of income, $4,000 per pupil to send children to private schools. Gov. Gray Davis, citing improved scores since his 1998 election, said: "My message is to stay the course. The voucher is a 180-degree mistake." Voters have rejected similar initiatives in Colorado, Washington and, previously, California. Ballot sponsor Tim Draper, a venture capitalist, is pledging to spend $20 million to promote the referendum. "Moses" Driven To Drink? The reverent Charleton Heston, 75, recently accused London theater critics of driving him to drink. Heston spent three weeks in a Utah clinic for problem drinking, after the closing of his London play, Love Letters. One critic said the performance by Heston and his wife was so lacking in animation that the reviewer was forced to "suppress an overwhelming desire to rush up on stage to pinch them to check they were alive." Hawaii Removes 8 Crosses Hawaii took down wooden crosses at the entrance to Sacred Falls State Park, following a complaint by Foundation member Mitch Kahle. The crosses appeared following a May 1999 rockslide, which has closed Sacred Falls. The crosses were removed in July, in accord with Hawaii Administrative Rules.

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