On Christianity - page 11
-- City confesses it violated pastor's rights
-- School backs off religious flyer ban
-- Judge scolds San Diego County for closing church
-- Christian Exodus banned from Google ads
-- IRS targets church political message
-- ACLU attack dogs maul student prayer
-- Christian family reignites 'War on Christmas' ... in July!
-- New Mexico accused of violating 'free exercise' of religion
City confesses it violated pastor's rights
Minister arrested for being on public sidewalk
Posted: April 07, 2009 WorldNetDaily
The city of Wichita, Kan., has confessed it violated the civil rights of a pastor who was arrested for being on a public city sidewalk at the time a homosexual event was going on nearby, and the subsequent lawsuit has been dismissed as part of a consent decree.
The case was brought by attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Spirit One Christian Center Pastor Mark Holick.
It was dismissed in an order from U.S. District Judge Thomas Martin, whose ruling described the situation:
"Plaintiff was preparing to share his religious beliefs with others on the public sidewalk near the entrance of Heritage Park in Wichita, Kansas, where a Gay Pride event was about to take place." "within 5 minutes of arriving at that location, Plaintiff was threatened with arrest if he did not leave, and then immediately arrested when he refused to leave, handcuffed, placed in a squad car in front of members from his church, including adults, youth, and children, processed at the police station by having his mug shot taken, fingers printed, and placed in a cell with others."
The judge noted that all charges against Holick later were dismissed, and the civil rights complaint was filed for the wrongful arrest.
"The defendants do not contest that they violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights," the judge wrote.
"Christians shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," said Joel Oster, a senior legal counsel for the ADF. "We are pleased city of Wichita officials will now ensure that Pastor Holick is free to exercise his First Amendment rights in public without fear of arrest."
Holick's arrest came June 24, 2007, while he was peacefully expressing his faith on a public sidewalk with other members of his church.
Holick had notified police of the group's plans a week before the event but still was confronted by eight to 10 officers who informed him that he would be arrested if he did not leave the public sidewalk.
They accused him of trespassing and arrested him after he refused to move to a private parking lot across the street.
"The actions of the police were based solely on the perceived content of our Christian speech and beliefs," said Holick. "They arrested me before I even had a chance to speak."
The lawsuit followed early last year, and the consent order was released by the judge just days ago.
The court's ruling noted that the arrest "has already been expunged form the records of the City of Wichita Municipal Court, with a court finding that in the interest of the public welfare, the records will not be available to the public for any purpose."
"Defendant violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and free exercise of religion by arresting him based on his religious speech in a traditional public forum," the judge said.
The city paid Holick $11,700 in damages "in accord with the city's ordinary accounting procedures," plus attorneys fees and litigation costs of $2,500.
When Holick informed the city of his plans to preach the gospel on the public sidewalks outside the homosexual festival, officers told him he could not go into the event. But when he arrived and positioned himself on the public sidewalk, officers ordered him to leave, then arrested him.
The officers had told him to go into a private parking lot across the street, which Holick declined to do.
City authorities dropped the charges as soon as they saw a video revealing the pastor conducting himself peacefully on the public sidewalk. But the ADF's request for a letter from the city assuring Holick that he would not face similar harassment in the future was ignored, so the ADF sued.
WND has reported on a series of such cases in which Christians are arrested for praying at a homosexual festival or for nothing more than having a protest sign that is "wider than their torso."
In Elmira, N.Y., police arrested seven Christians who went into a public park where a "gay" fest was beginning and started to pray, faces down, while holding their Bibles.
They were cited for "disturbing the peace," and Assistant Police Chief Mike Robertson told WND the seven are accused of a "combination" of allegations under that statute, which includes the "intent" to cause a public inconvenience, any "disturbance" of a meeting of persons, obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic or taking part in "any act that serves no legitimate purpose."
Another case developed when police in St. Petersburg, Fla., arrested five Christians for carrying signs "wider than their torsos" outside an officially designated protest area at that city's homosexual festival.
St. Petersburg officials, following disturbances at a previous homosexual pride festival, implemented rules governing outdoor events that set aside "free speech zones" where protesters are allowed.
Holick's church earlier was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for moral statements he posted on the church's sign.
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| School backs off religious flyer ban
'The district deserves credit for doing the constitutionally correct thing'
Posted: January 03, 2009 By Drew Zahn 2009 WorldNetDaily
Maricopa Unified School District offices
A public school that once permitted community organizations to distribute literature to students but barred churches from passing out similar flyers has now relented under pressure from a determined pastor and his legal counsel.
The Maricopa, Ariz., Unified School District formalized a change to a literature distribution policy that previously denied First Baptist Church of Maricopa Pastor Jim Johnson's request to hand out flyers advertising his church's Awana Journey 24 Club, a weekly Bible study program for high school students.
"The district deserves credit for doing the constitutionally correct thing," said attorney Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance that defends religious liberty and assisted Johnson in the case. "The decision to modify the policy is a victory for the First Amendment rights of all students and religious groups who merely asked for equal treatment."
When Johnson first submitted the flyer advertising the Bible program to the school district early this year, he was forced to wait nearly five months before the district rejected his distribution request. School officials cited a policy that that allowed nonprofit organizations to distribute literature promoting events and activities "that extend the community's cultural, recreational, artistic, or educational opportunities," but prohibited "material that promotes a particular religious belief" or any "non-school promotional literature soliciting for or promoting participation in … religion."
In July, Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit on Johnson's behalf in federal court.
"Christians shouldn't be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman on the organization's website. "Prohibiting religious groups from taking part in an open forum while allowing all non-religious nonprofits to participate is a clear violation of the First Amendment according to well-established federal court precedent."
"Christians have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America," said Tedesco. "School districts cannot treat people or groups with non-religious viewpoints more favorably than those with religious viewpoints."
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the school district reversed its decision in Johnson's case, and earlier this month, formally changed its policy.
ADF has since voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.
"We appreciate the school district's decision to do the right thing," said Cortman. "The district recognized that the First Amendment is clear and that federal court precedent is overwhelmingly in favor of equal treatment for religious speech."
Judge scolds San Diego County for closing church
Government decision to shut worship facility 'presents extraordinary circumstances'
Posted: November 28, 2008 By Alyssa Farah WorldNetDaily
A federal judge scolded San Diego County for closing a Christian church's worship center and ordered officials to process permits needed by the congregation to remedy violations.
The ruling found that Guatay Christian Fellowship, on Old Highway 80 in San Diego County, probably will win its lawsuit against the county, which had shut down the building and banned the congregation from meeting there over a zoning issue.
County officials said the building could be used for a bar, but not worship, and ordered the church, which had rented the building for nearly 25 years, to close under the threat of criminal penalties and fines of up to $2,500 per day.
The county also threatened to contact the electrical company and instruct it to cut power to the structure.
However, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller, in his ruling, said, "The county's actions in this case were draconian," according to the officials with Pacific Justice Institute, which worked on the case.
The judge's preliminary injunction against the county prevents it from further implementing its "harsh" cease-and-desist order, officials said.
"To effectively deprive a group of individuals from practicing their religious beliefs at a site in continuous use for over 20 years, presents extraordinary circumstances," the judge wrote.
"The public interest overwhelmingly weighs in favor of [the church]," he continued. "Congress has determined that the balance of equities and public interest should weigh in favor of the free exercise of religion and that this balance should only be disrupted when the government is able to prove, by specific evidence, that its interests are compelling and its burdening of religious freedom is as limited as possible."
Pete Lepiscopo, a PJI affiliate attorney of the San Diego law firm Lepiscopo & Morrow, who filed the suit and argued in court on the church's behalf, commented, "It is very gratifying to have the court recognize that the county's actions were extreme and illegal."
He continued, "The county is not off the hook yet as the church will seek monetary damages from the county for violation of the church's religious, assembly, and speech rights, but the church is relieved that it will now be allowed to resume meeting for worship as it has done for nearly a quarter century."
Attorney Karen Milam, who heads the Southern California office of PJI, added, "We were shocked when we first heard what had happened to Guatay Christian Fellowship, and we are thrilled that the court agreed by issuing a preliminary injunction."
The judge also ordered that the church could resume its religious services as soon as it resolves several code concerns, and the county "is ordered to allow and expeditiously process any permit required to remedy the violations."
He noted the county previously had acknowledged the church at this location, even informing the church that its existing wells and reservoir are adequate for the "use of the recreation building for a 200-person church."
The judge's opinion also cited county actions in issuing permits for electrical upgrades, noting the upgrade pertained to an "existing church."
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Christian Exodus banned from Google ads
Search engine cites 'sensitive content' despite they OK homosexual firms
Posted: July 21, 2005 Update Friday, November 28, 2008 WorldNetDaily.com
Despite accepting advertisements for such groups as homosexual singles sites, Google is coming under scrutiny again for allegedly banning commercials for a Christian organization.
ChristianExodus.org, the group looking to have like-minded people move to one state to help restore godly values to government, says it's been rejected from placing ads on Google AdSense.
An e-mail from the Mountain View, Calif.-based company cited "sensitive content" as the reason for the rejection, though it was not specific in what was considered sensitive.
"After reviewing your application, our program specialists have found that it does not comply with our policies," the Google AdSense Team wrote. "We have reviewed your site and found that many of the ads that would appear on your site would not be relevant to your site's content. As the ads would not provide a valuable experience for your site's users or our advertisers, we feel that your site isn't a good fit for the AdSense program at this time."
The news disappointed Keith Humphrey, who was looking for ways to generate revenue for the site.
"The traffic alone could have been worth hundreds of dollars per month, with links to Christian bookstores and other things, but it did not meet their 'criteria,'" Humphrey wrote in a letter to Cory Burnell, president of ChristianExodus. "No doubt they accept sites promoting 'gay marriage' and things like that, but we are the ones who are rejected due to 'sensitive content.'"
Google provided two Web pages outlining policies, but neither mention the word "sensitive."
Under the content section, some preclusions listed include:
Violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization;
Illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia;
Pornography, adult, or mature content;
Gambling or casino-related content, etc.
WND asked Google a series of questions, including: "What sensitive content precludes this group?" and "Is there some kind of anti-Christian bias involved?"
Google spokesman Barry Schnitt would not provide any specifics about sensitive content, stating only, "Any suggestion that Google discriminates in our policies is absolutely false. Our AdSense policies prohibit websites that advocate against any individual, group or organization."
This is not the first time Google has been criticized for nixing ads based on content.
As WND previously reported, Google banned the Christian organization Stand to Reason's advertisements promoting its stance against homosexuality, saying the group promotes "hate."
A conservative book publisher also said the search engine rejected his ad for a book critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton while continuing to accept anti-Bush themes.
In addition, Google has been criticized for allowing ads critical of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, allegedly censoring conservative ads, and giving priority to large media companies in searches performed on Google News.
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IRS targets church political message
10/31/2008 Charlie Butts - OneNewsNow
Another church has been reported to the Internal Revenue Service for endorsing candidates. It's located in the tiny New Mexico town of Espanola.
Mike Naranjo pastors Rock Christian Fellowship, which uses a marquee outside of the church building to display messages to passersby. This being an election year, Naranjo put two large pictures on the sign, one of an aborted baby and the second of a healthy baby. He then put three pro-abortion candidates' names under the picture of the aborted baby and three pro-life candidates' names under the picture of the healthy baby.
"We put the last names of the candidates -- Obama -- that are pro-choice. And then on the other side we put the picture of a healthy baby and the last names of McCain and the other candidates that are pro-life," he explains.
Naranjo contends it did not take long for Espanola residents and the media to react. "I mean, it stirred up," he says. "It was like agitating an ants' nest."
Before the dust settled, Naranjo received a surprise in the mail. "And next I had heard, we were being reported by the Americans [United] for Separation of Church and State to the IRS," he adds.
Naranjo suggests he was trying to provide a voter guide similar to those distributed by the American Family Association, but his church was focusing on one issue. "Now, the problem with this is the law," he concludes. "In my opinion, it's stifling the church, the very moral conscience of America."
So far the church has no legal representation, although the Alliance Defense Fund has offered to do so. Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports that Naranjo told them he would "rather lose [his] 501(c)(3) than [his] soul."
dogs maul student prayer
Group snarls at admin for allowing invocation, Christmas concerts at churches
Posted: August 29, 2008 By Chelsea Schilling © 2008 WorldNetDaily
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two high school students who say they are offended by the school's policy of allowing prayer at voluntary events and holding Christmas concerts at churches.
The students, from Pace High School in Pace, Fla., are identified only as Minor I Doe and Minor II Doe in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court because they are both under 18. The complaint alleges disclosure of their names would put the students at risk of "social ostracism, economic injury, governmental retaliation … and potential physical harm."
Benjamin Stevenson, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida's Northwest Region office, released an ACLU statement accusing school officials of using governmental positions to promote individual religious beliefs in public school.
"Parents, not the public schools, should be responsible for deciding whether their children receive religious education," said Benjamin Stevenson, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida's Northwest Region office. "Religious freedom is eroded when the government endorses any particular religious viewpoint."
The lawsuit states, "[S]tudents not only face overt compulsion to adopt the religious beliefs of school officials, but also must contend with subtle coercive pressures to conform their religious beliefs to those favored by school officials."
According to the complaint, graduation ceremonies at the high school have included prayers by students who are "often members of groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Christian World Order." Attendees are asked to stand during prayer. The grievance also alleges Pace High School has conducted school-sponsored events at private places of worship and that school officials have promoted personal religious views and proselytizing of students in class and during extracurricular activities.
The complaint claims teacher and girls' track coach Clint Martin has used a bullhorn to preach to cross-country students before school in the parking lot. It also states faculty and staff invite students to pray before sports events such as football and basketball games and before club meetings.
Pace High Principal Frank Lay and Superintendent John Rogers, defendants in the suit, declined to comment on the pending legal action. However, Daniel Mach, director of litigation for the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief said he believes the school should refrain from endorsing religions.
"The government should not be in the business of deciding which religions to promote," he said in an ACLU statement. "Individuals, families and religious communities should be free to make their own decisions about religion."
Christian family reignites 'War on Christmas' ... in July!
Rips school district's ban on holiday music as 'plainly unconstitutional'
Posted: July 30, 2008 By Joe Kovacs WorldNetDaily
Michael Stratechuk of Maplewood, N.J., continues his fight for Christmas music to be permitted in government schools.
Although the calendar says it's July, a four-year battle in what some believe is a "War on Christmas" reignites in the morning in federal court over a school district's ban on Christmas music.
The case surrounds the family of acclaimed orchestra conductor Michael Stratechuk of Maplewood, N.J., who began the fight on behalf of his school-age sons, Kurt and Karl.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District has been under fire since prohibiting all Christmas music that even hinted something religious, including instrumental songs.
Stratechuk says before the 2004-2005 school year, the district allowed religious music including Christmas carols. But that changed when the district adopted a strict policy banning all religious music.
"Rather than try to respond to all the various religions and try to balance them, it's best to stay away from that and simply have a nonreligious tone to them and have more of a seasonal tone," then-Superintendent Peter Horoshak told the Newark Star-Ledger in 2004.
A legal document filed in the case states, "According to Stratechuk, the policy conveys a government sponsored message of disapproval and hostility toward religion (specifically Christianity) and deprives his children of the right to receive information and ideas."
The conductor added it "conveys the message that Christianity is disfavored."
Going to bat for the Stratechuk family is the Thomas More Law Center and the American Catholic Lawyers Association, basing their arguments on the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Robert Muise, the Thomas More attorney who will argue the case, said, "The Constitution prohibits school districts from adopting policies that disfavor religion. Contrary to popular myth, our Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. The school district's policy is plainly unconstitutional."
In December 2002, WND published a groundbreaking report about Christmas, documenting numerous controversies over public mentions and displays of anything to do with the federal holiday, as well as the history of Christmas in America.
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New Mexico accused of violating 'free exercise' of religion
Appeal contests $6,600 fine for photographers who refused to perform 'gay' ceremony
Posted: July 03, 2008 2008 WorldNetDaily
The state of New Mexico is being accused of violating the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of "free exercise" of religion because of a ruling that a Christian husband-and-wife photography team must pay a $6,600 penalty for refusing to shoot pictures at a same-sex "commitment" ceremony.
The accusation comes in legal action brought by the Alliance Defense Fund over the penalty announced for Elane Photography.
"Christians in the marketplace should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs any more than anyone else should," Jordan Lorence, a senior counsel for the organization, said. "The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience. The commission's decision demonstrates stunning disregard for our client's First Amendment rights."
The "commission" to which he was referring was the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, which targeted Elane Photography with its state authority and ordered the penalty of $6,600 after a one-day "trial" over the beliefs of the Christian-owned business.
The commission ruled Jon and Elaine Huguenin violated state anti-discrimination requirements when they declined to take the same-sex pictures, even though neither marriage nor civil unions are legal for members of the same sex in New Mexico.
The ADF said its legal action appeals to the 2nd Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, to correct the outcome of the case.
"Elaine Huguenin declined [the job] because her and her husband's Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony," the ADF said.
"The government cannot make people choose between their faith and their livelihood," said Lorence. "Could the government force a vegetarian videographer to create a commercial for the new butcher shop in town? American business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate."
Same-sex ceremonies are not the only issues the photographers choose not to take part in.
"Because of their beliefs, Jon and Elaine Huguenin agree that Elane Photography will not take photographs of, for example, people without clothes, or photographs that present abortion or horror movies or pornography in a favorable light," the legal action said. "Jon and Elaine Huguenin have strong moral and philosophical beliefs that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. … Additionally, Jon and Elaine Huguenin are Christians. They believe the teachings of the Bible. They believe the Bible's teaching that God created marriage as one man and one woman and that marriage of one man and one woman reflects the relationship of Christ loving the Church."
"Therefore, [they] will not take photographs of situations that will promote or depict favorably such practices as unmarried cohabitation, polygamy, polyamory, no-fault divorce or same-sex 'marriage,' regardless of the sexual orientation of the people in the photographs," the brief continues.
The complaint came from Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, who had a "commitment ceremony" in Taos on Sept. 25, 2007.
But the penalty should be reversed because the order and fine violate their guaranteed free exercise of religion as well as "the plaintiff's right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, section 17 of the New Mexico Constitution," the challenge said.
A similar dispute also is developing just miles to the north in Colorado where lawmakers not only banned expressing discrimination based on the "perception" of gender, they made it a criminal offense.
"This [law] is so loaded. It's written in an open-ended fashion that anybody can take just about any part of it and grow it into a huge monstrosity," state Rep. Kevin Lundberg, who argued against SB200 when it was in the Colorado legislature, told WND. "It was written with intentional [vagueness]."
He spoke with WND after a news conference this week at which a number of groups and organizations announced plans to challenge the law. Among those promising to dispute the new limitations on speech and actions was Liberty Counsel, which is reviewing the situation now in preparation for a legal challenge.
"Section 8 of Senate Bill 200 is a wide open door for any judge to censor anything that condemns homosexuality, including Scripture," Lundberg said at the news conference. Section 8 is headlined, "Publishing of discriminative matter forbidden."
"I do believe that the Bible is banned, under the plain language of this new statute," said Steve Crampton, general counsel of Liberty Counsel.
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