On Christianity - page 12
-- Bishop's conviction for bell sounds overturned
-- Franklin Graham: Christians Will Lose the Power to Pray Outside Church Walls ‘Maybe in My Lifetime’
-- Republicans Press Defense Secretary Gates to Explain Why Air Force Excluded Conservative Leader from Prayer Event
-- Hate-Crimes Law Named No.1 Anti-Christian Act of 2009
-- 2-month-old killed to stifle 'religious' dissent
-- Activists Claim Christian Woman Has Been Executed in North Korea
-- Teacher's rant on Christians draws court rebuke
Bishop's conviction for bell sounds overturned
'No pastor should fear jail time for engaging in peaceful religious expression'
Posted: May 06, 2010 WorldNetDaily
Bishop Rick Painter, sentenced for allowing church bells to ring
A state court in Arizona today reversed the conviction of Phoenix Bishop Rick Painter, who had been handed a sentence of jail time (suspended) and probation for the sounds his church bells made.
"Pastors and churches shouldn't live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government," said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. "Certainly, no pastor should have to fear jail time for engaging in peaceful religious expression."
Painter had been convicted and sentenced to jail for ringing the bells at Christ the King Liturgical Charismatic Church.
But the conviction was reversed in an order from Judge Crane McClennen, who noted that the law on which the conviction was based has since been ruled unconstitutional.
"On April 19, 2010, Judge Susan R. Bolton of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona signed a Final Order and Judgment … declaring that the City of Phoenix Noise Ordinance, Municipal Code 23-12 to 23-15 was unconstitutional when enforced against any sound generated in the course of religious expression."
(Story continues below)
The state of Arizona then submitted a document saying it did not oppose Painter's request for a reversal of judgment.
Painter's conviction came despite the "great lengths" to which his church went to find a solution for the "few" local residents to complained about the sound of the bells.
City officials subsequently had notified St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish its bells could be a violation and First Christian Church of Phoenix also got involved.
Bolton's ruling said the city's noise limit "when enforced against any sound generated in the course of religious expression," violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
The bells at Painter's church normally chimed every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and have been registered to emit only 67 decibels from the nearest property line. A whisper is 30 decibels, and a normal conversation is about 60 to 70 decibels. Under the law that was struck down, ice cream trucks were allowed to emit up to 70 decibels at a distance of 50 feet under an exemption to the city's ordinance, but no exemption existed for church bells.
Painter was given a suspended 10-day jail sentence and three years' probation, but the court action today cleared his criminal record.
WND previously reported on a series of attacks on Christian churches elsewhere around the world based on noise ordinances.
All Nations church, silenced by neighbors' complaints about 'noise'
The Christian Legal Centre in the U.K. reported a "last-minute out-of-court settlement" that allowed a 600-member church in London to continue its worship.
The Lambeth Council had issued a noise-abatement notice to the All Nations Centre in Kennington, which prevented the church from using any amplification for its worship music and its pastor's preaching.
No allowance was made for any of the seniors in the congregation, some of whom have hearing difficulties, officials said.
Onn Sein Kon, case manager at the Christian Legal Centre, said the organization has noticed an increasing number of attacks on churches because someone can hear Christian worship.
"Regrettably, our caseload is increasing with councils issuing noise-abatement notices as a means of curtailing or closing churches in London," Kon said. "What is really going on here is action by secularists to try and restrict Christian freedom and expression in this country."
The legal organization said another church, Immanuel House of Worship in London, also has been "silenced" by the government because the sound of its worship drew a complaint from a single Muslim neighbor.
The Christian organization called Barnabas Aid also is reporting similar tactics are appearing in Africa.
"The government of Senegal has recently launched a campaign to close down a number of churches, on the grounds that their services are too noisy. Congregations that do not own their own premises are being targeted. Several have had their public worship suspended, and others are under threat," the ministry report said.
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Franklin Graham: Christians Will Lose the Power to Pray Outside Church Walls
‘Maybe in My Lifetime’
May 05, 2010 By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor
(CNSNews.com) – Two top evangelical leaders sounded a defiant tone on the eve of National Day of Prayer -- warning that the American right to freedom of religion “is being eroded every day” and may be lost in an onslaught of secularism unless Americans “have the guts to stand up.”
The Rev. Franklin Graham, who last month was officially “dis-invited” by the Army to speak at a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the Pentagon for statements he made about Islam, said he will not back down in preaching the Gospel as he sees it.
“We’re living in a time where we cannot compromise, we cannot back up, we cannot retreat,” Graham said Wednesday during a live Webcast from the Washington, D.C. offices of the Family Research Council.
“The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be preached to the ends of the Earth – that’s what He’s called us to do,” he said.
Graham, the honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer, made his comments in a sermon to an audience of leaders making final preparations for Thursday’s National Day of Prayer.
He alluded to Eastern Europe under communism, where Christians and others were allowed to pray only within their homes or inside the officially sanctioned churches that were allowed by the state.
“I think its coming to this country where we (will) have the freedom to preach inside a church wall, but we will lose the freedom to do it outside. That day will probably come – maybe in my lifetime,” Graham said.
Ironically, it was Graham’s famous father, the Rev. Billy Graham, who, in the 1980s became the first Western preacher allowed by the Soviet government to preach at a Russian church -- helping to open the door to greater religious freedom after 70 years of repression.
“(In the United States) we see everyday our rights being eroded. Just a little at a time, but its happening. Everyday. So let’s preach while we can. Let’s stand up and holler ‘Jesus Christ! King of Kings, Lord of Lords!’to the top of our voice,” the younger Graham said.
“The secularists are going to get ticked off, the news media’s going to hate it. I don’t know, maybe the people in the White House are going to be mad. But you know what, I don’t care. Because God has called us to take the Gospel -- His Gospel, the power of God and His Salvation -- unto the ends of the Earth.”
Graham was joined by James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., who is leading efforts to stop and force a referendum on recent action by the Washington, D.C., city council creating homosexual marriage in the nation's capital.
Dobson, who praised Graham as a "model" for the restrained way he responded to a recent ruling by a federal judge in Madison, Wis., outlawing the statute creating the National Day of Prayer, said the right to publicly proclaim the Christian Gospel was one of the chief freedoms enshrined in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers.
“I am convinced that there are people in high places, people with a great deal of authority and influence, who want to eliminate every vestige of religion -- especially Christian religion, or evangelical religion – from the public square. They want to expunge it. They want to get rid of it. They want to take away our right to worship and to have a prayer service in a government building. That’s not unconstitutional!” Dobson said.
Dobson said 33 of 44 U.S. presidents have called for a National Day of Prayer.
“This has been our history. We dare not lose it now,” Dobson exclaimed. “And we will, if we don’t have the guts to stand up with that kind of intensity.”
Dobson, whose wife Shirley serves as chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, recounted a case in Santa Rosa County, Fla. -- near Pensacola -- involving a high school principal and athletic director at an off-campus event who prayed at an off-campus meeting.
“Prior to the meeting, one of them said to the other, ‘Why don’t you say a word of prayer from wisdom and what we’re about to do?’ And he said a 16-second prayer. It was a prayer for their food! Sixteen seconds! It was reported and a judge in Northern Florida hauled them into court, harangued them for eight hours in one day, and threatened to put them in prison for six months,” Dobson said.
Dobson said the judge did not back off until members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus took up the cause.
Last September, after a day-long court hearing, U.S. District Judge M. Case Rodgers in Pensacola ruled that Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman had not violated a 2008 court order banning school employees from praying publicly "at any time or at any place" in the Florida school district.
Lay had asked Freeman to pray at the dedication of a field house held during school hours, but conducted on the property of a nearby church.
The men had faced up to six months in jail and $5,000 in fines each for violating the order, which the same judge had issued as a result of a 2008 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on bahalf of two anonymous students at the high school.
The judge held that the violation of the order had been "spontaneous" -- and not voluntary.
Republicans Press Defense Secretary Gates to Explain Why Air Force
Excluded Conservative Leader from Prayer Event
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor
In this Feb. 2, 2010, file photo Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, seen with Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, testifies about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
(CNSNews.com) – The current and former House Republican Whips are calling on Defense Secretary Robert Gates to explain the “written or unwritten policies” that led the Air Force to rescind its invitation to conservative leader Tony Perkins from speaking at a national prayer luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base because he disagrees with President Obama’s policy on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
In a letter to Gates dated March 4, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the defense secretary they were “concerned” that a “new litmus test” was being applied when the Air Force (as CNSNews.com earlier reported) changed its mind about letting Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, participate in the Feb. 25 event “because statements posted on the organization he leads are purportedly at odds with the positions of the president” -- statements condemning Obama's intention to change the military policy on homosexuality.
“This action troubles us a great deal,” the congressmen wrote, “not only in this particular case, but because of the implications for anyone who might disagree with the administration in the future.”
They asked Gates: “Specifically, is it the policy of the Air Force and/or other branches of the armed services to allow only those individuals who agree with the president on all matters of policy to participate in ministry events they host?”
The congressmen labeled the Air Force action as a “new litmus test.”
“The luncheon in which Dr. Perkins, a former Marine, was scheduled to participate was designed as a time of prayer, not of policy discussion,” the congressmen noted.
On Jan. 29, shortly after President Obama’s State of the Union address, the chaplain’s office at Andrews notified Perkins that it was rescinding the invitation because of “statements posted on the Family Research Council Web site, which are incompatible in our role as military members who serve our elected officials and our commander-in-chief.”
The congressmen pointed out that there was no further explanation about the statements in question, nor the alleged incompatibility was provided.
“What is clear from this letter, however, is the establishment of a new litmus test -- if one disagrees with the president, that person is not welcome to participate in military activities,” Cantor and Blunt wrote. “Holding private citizens to such a standard – one not even expected of senior military officials, who are often asked to give their expert military opinions to Congress, is incredibly disconcerting.
They added: “The chilling impact such a standard could have on the free speech of private citizens and those who serve in our armed forces, guaranteeing precisely these types of freedoms, cannot be allowed to stand.
The congressmen asked Gates to reply.
Perkins told CNSNews.com that he was surprised that the letter was sent -- but understood why.
“I think the members of Congress who saw this understood it for what it was --“that this is a direct assault on religious liberty and freedom of speech," Perkins said. "And I think they see where this policy change – the path that its taking us down – is leading and I think they are right to ask these questions because it very well could be a foretaste of things to come.”
A Defense Department spokeswoman could not confirm if Secretary Gates has received the letter.
The Cantor-Blunt letter, meanwhile, is not the only letter sent by a member of Congress concerned about the implication of the Perkins incident.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, sent a letter to Gates purportedly asking for an investigation of the incident. Though Pence’s office confirmed the letter was sent, it would not release the contents.
Hate-Crimes Law Named No.1 Anti-Christian Act of 2009
January 21, 2010 By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor (CNSNews.com)
The new federal hate crimes law has all the potential to be a major attack on religious liberty and freedom of speech, according to top religious liberty attorneys.
The law was chosen the number one anti-Christian act of 2009 by the Christian Anti-Defamation League.
Attorneys who defend religious rights agree: The recently enacted hate-crimes law is a threat to religious liberty.
“The very fact that this law elevates ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to the same protected status as race – that in and of itself is a cataclysmic shift in policy,” said Mathew Staver, president of the religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University Law School.
“That will have a ripple effect far beyond the specific words of this bill,” he added. “That is contrary to our Judeo-Christian heritage and beliefs, far beyond any particular disclaimer that it is not going to affect speech.”
Erik Stanley, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the hate-crimes law is not about punishing crimes. It’s about punishing beliefs and ideas.
“It is actually a thought-crimes law,” Stanley said. “There is no difference between, say, an assault that is already punishable, and an assault that is punishable as a hate crime, other than the belief of the perpetrator.”
Hate-crimes laws are never enacted to help prosecutors put felons away, Stanley said. They are placed on the books to “send a message.”
“One of the primary motivations for hate-crimes laws is to send a societal and a governmental message of disapproval of certain beliefs that are held by people,” Stanley told CNSNews.com.
The new hate-crimes law is designed to try to eradicate the belief that homosexuality or transgenderism is abnormal or sinful, Stanley said.
“Now certainly, we would agree that you cannot act on those beliefs in a criminal manner,” he added. “But this would be the very first time that the federal government is sending that message of governmental disapproval of a certain belief that is widely held by a majority of Americans, and a religious belief – that homosexuality behavior is unbiblical or sinful.”
The new hate-crimes law, officially known as “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” doesn’t penalize speech. It specifically targets and provides for sentences up to 10 years for violent crimes to anyone causing bodily injury or attempting to do so – “through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device” based on the “actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any Person.”
It also specifically says prosecution “does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim.”
But Stanley said the concern of constitutional attorneys who defend religious freedom in court is not that pastors and churches will now be "hauled out of their pulpits for preaching a biblical message for preaching a message about homosexual behavior, right off the bat" – but that they will become part of hate-crimes prosecutions.
“I think what we’re concerned about is that a pastor would be called to testify in connection with a hate-crimes prosecution,” Stanley told CNSNews.com. “For instance, if someone commits a ‘hate crime,’ relevant evidence would be: what are their associations, what pastors do they listen to, what do those pastors say? And those pastors could be called to testify as to what they believe and what they preach about homosexual behavior.”
The very fact that the pastors would be called to testify in connection with a hate-crimes prosecution would “send a chill and a shockwave throughout the pastorate,” Stanley said. “It can chill speech just as easily as telling a pastor: ‘You cannot speak.’ ”
Worse, he said, is that everywhere that hate crimes laws have been enacted, speech restrictions have followed.
“Hate-crimes laws always lead to hate-speech regulations,” Stanley said.
“We’ve seen hate crimes laws that progressed to hate-speech regulations in places like Canada, Sweden, other places in Europe, Australia, where we have seen things start out as hate-crimes laws. It’s not a very big logical leap between a hate-crimes law and a hate-speech regulation."
In December, in fact, the Canadian province of Quebec adopted an official policy to “combat homophobia.”
The policy contains steps toward an official ban on what it calls “Heterosexism” – which Quebec defines to be the “(a)ffirmation of heterosexuality as a social norm or the highest form of sexual orientation; social practice that conceals the diversity of sexual orientations and identities in everyday representations, social relations and social institutions, in particular by taking for granted that all people are heterosexual.”
It also defined “Homophobia” to mean “All negative attitudes leading to the rejection of and direct or indirect discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and transgenders, or against persons whose appearance or behaviour does not conform to masculine or feminine stereotypes.”
Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil is now charged with implementing the policy.
“An inclusive society such as ours must take the necessary steps to combat homophobic attitudes and behaviour patterns, and move towards full acceptance of sexual diversity,” Quebec Premier Jean Charest said.
But could that happen in the United States? Proponents of the U.S. law, including the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual activist group, scoff at the idea that the new U.S. hate-crimes law could lead to hate-speech prosecutions in the United States.
Indeed, the law itself would seem to preclude such actions: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration,” the text reads.
It further adds: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.”
But Stanley said that the U.S. Constitution’s protection of free speech and freedom of religion has been under constant assault by the Left and is not the firewall it once was.
“Some critics of what we’re saying would say, ‘We have a First Amendment. We have a Constitution that protects the right of free speech,’” he said. “The reason why I think that kind of rings hollow is, for one, the Left has never let the Constitution stop it before.
“But, two, if you want a perfect example of where these things can go, look at our university campuses, where they started out as hate-crime provisions and progressed to hate-speech regulations. ADF is waging a battle with universities all across the country that have enacted hate-speech codes in order to silence opposition (to homosexuality.)”
Hate-speech restrictions are already happening, he emphasized.
“This happens in our very own country,” Stanley said. “It’s happening under our very noses in universities all across the country, so it’s not a large leap to say it could certainly progress very quickly in hate-speech regulations here.”
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is named after University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was allegedly murdered because he was homosexual, and James Byrd, a black Texas man who was killed by being dragged behind a pick- up truck.
The hate-crimes law was sponsored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
2-month-old killed to stifle 'religious' dissent
Posted: August 20, 2009 By Bob Unruh WorldNetDaily
Editor's note: The following contains disturbing and graphic descriptions of attacks on Christians.
An international Christian group has reported a horrifying episode of Christian children being abducted and killed in an apparent effort to stifle "religious and political" dissidents in Laos during the runup to a visit by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, recently visited several nations, including some that often have earned high rankings among nations that persecute Christians. His trip included visits to Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Now comes a report from International Christian Concern about the newest atrocities.
"International Christian Concern has just learned that Lao soldiers captured, mutilated and decapitated a two-month-old girl during recent military attacks against Hmong and Laotian civilians," the group said. "Survivors of the attack said the infant was used for target practice."
ICC cited reports from the Center for Public Policy Analysis that claimed eight children were captured and 26 Hmong and Laotian civilians were murdered during a series of four major attacks over the past month – apparently designed to stifle "religious and political dissidents" ahead of the visit from Webb.
"Christian Hmong were most certainly among those attacked as they are often targeted specifically by the regime," the report said.
The report included a statement from Vaughn Vang, the director of thet Lao Hmong Human Rights Council.
"We are told, by some of the Lao Hmong survivors of the recent military attacks in Laos, that the LPDR (Lao Peoples Democratic Republic) soldiers of the LPA (Lao Peoples Army) used the … Lao Hmong girl, while she was still alive, for target practice … once she was captured and tied up; they mutilated her little body and continued to fire their weapons, over and over … until her head just eventually came off after so many bullets severed her head."
The rest of the children, ranging up to 8 years old, remain missing and Vang's concern is that they likely would be tortured and killed by soldiers.
The ICC report said the decapitated child's body was found next to her mother, also a torture victim of the soldiers.
"Unfortunately," the ICC said, "this level of brutality against women and children is not uncommon for Lao soldiers. It is standard procedure for soldiers to surround and isolate pockets of Hmong people and starve them out to be killed when they venture out to forage.
"Philip Smith, the Executive Director of CPPA, told ICC of video footage smuggled out of Laos in 2004 that documents the aftermath of the killing and brutalization of five Hmong children, four of them girls, on May 19th of that year. That footage was used in an extremely graphic documentary, "Hunted Like Animals," by Rebecca Sommer," the report said.
The videos are available at RebeccaSommer.org, but ICC warns the clips are "highly graphic." The website warns that no children should view the clips.
"Rights groups have rightly called the acts the Lao military commits against children and civilians war crimes," said Natalia Rain, ICC"s regional manager for East Asia. "Let the international community not be guilty of the same by its silence in the face of a regime who has already been allowed so much room that it has reached the heights of sadism in the torture and decapitation of a two-month-old little girl."
Webb said in a website statement the U.S. needs to "re-engage with Southeast Asia at all levels."
"Our relations with Laos," he said, "have never been fully repaired since the end of the Vietnam War more than 30 years ago."
During his time in Laos, his schedule included meetings with the nation's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense.
According to the RebeccaSommers.org website, the Hmong people of southeast Asia, many of whom cooperated with American forces during the Vietnam War, still are hunted and killed for actions of four decades ago.
Open Doors USA ranks Laos No. 8 on its 2009 World Watch List of nations that persecute Christians.
The World Watch List is compiled from a specially designed questionnaire of 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom. A point value is assigned depending on how each question is answered. The total number of points per country determines its position on the World Watch List.
"It is certainly not a shock that North Korea is No. 1 on the list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution," said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA. "There is no other country in the world where Christians are persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner."
The organization estimates 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.
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Activists Claim Christian Woman Has Been Executed in North Korea
July 24, 2009 By Kwang-Tae Kim, Associated Press
Seoul, South Korea (AP) - North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman last month for distributing the Bible, which is banned in the communist nation, South Korean activists said Friday.
Ri Hyon Ok, 33, was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon near the border with China on June 16, according to a report from an alliance of several dozen anti-North Korea groups.
Ri's parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the northeastern city of Hoeryong the following day, the report said, citing unidentified documents it says were obtained from North Korea. It showed a copy of Ri's North Korean government-issued photo ID.
It is virtually impossible to verify such reports about secretive North Korea, where the government tightly controls the lives of its citizens and does not allow dissent.
On Thursday, an annual report from a state-run South Korean think tank on human rights in the North said that public executions, though dropping in number in recent years, were still carried out for crimes ranging from murder to circulating foreign movies.
North Korea claims to guarantee freedom of religion for its 24 million people but in reality severely restricts religious observances. The cult of personality surrounding national founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current leader Kim Jong Il, is a virtual state religion.
The government has authorized four state churches, one Catholic, two Protestant and one Russian Orthodox, but they cater to foreigners and ordinary North Koreans cannot attend. However, defectors and activists say more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity secretly.
The U.S. State Department reported last year that "genuine religious freedom does not exist" in North Korea.
"North Korea appears to have judged that Christian forces could pose a threat to its regime," Do Hee-youn, a leading activist, told reporters, claiming public executions, arrest and detention of North Koreans are prevalent.
The Investigative Commission On Crime Against Humanity also alleged in its report that in March, North Korean security agents arrested Seo Kum Ok, 30, another Christian, in a city near Ryongchon and tortured her. The agents alleged she was attempting to spy on a nuclear site and hand over the evidence to South Korea and the U.S.
The report said it remains unclear whether she survived. Her husband was also arrested and their two children disappeared, it said.
The commission said it was seeking to try to take North Korean leader Kim to the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes against humanity.
Activists claim that such atrocities -- including murder, kidnap, rape, extermination of individuals in prison camps -- cannot take place in North Korea without Kim's knowledge or direction as he wields absolute power.
"Let's file a suit against Kim Jong Il to the International Criminal Court," the activists chanted.
Teacher's rant on Christians draws court rebuke
Rules harsh criticism of student violated Establishment Clause
Posted: May 04, 2009 By Bob Unruh WorldNetDaily
In what apparently is a first-of-its-kind decision, a federal court has ruled that a California teacher violated the rights of a student by making fun of Christianity.
Teacher James Corbett of Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo already had a reputation for dissing the faithful when Chad Farnan began taking an Advanced Placement European history class from him two years ago.
In his class and in front of Farnan, Corbett criticized creationism as "religious, superstitious nonsense" and now he's been brought up short by a federal court ruling that determined his statements violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
That prevents Christian teachers from proselytizing during classtime, and now apparently prevents agnostic or atheist teachers from condemning the faith during class time.
"We hope that the impact of this will be that teachers will begin to consider whether their comments express disapproval toward religion or hostility toward religion," Jennifer Monk, a lawyer who represented Farnan, told WND.
Monk is with Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a national non-profit legal organization whose aim is to protect religious liberty in the courts.
"Corbett stepped over the line of what is constitutionally permissible," said Robert Tyler, the general counsel for the Advocates. "This opinion is constitutionally unique because the Establishment Clause is usually used against religion under the guise of the so-called 'separation of church and state,' but this case shows that the Establishment Clause prevents hostility towards religion and is a promising step towards protecting every students' constitutional rights."
WND reported earlier when the case over the teacher's classroom rantings against the South, church, Republicans, Christians, conservatives and Rush Limbaugh erupted.
The law firm said the court decided to allow many of Corbett's comments, including his statement, "When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth,"
The case alleged Corbett "spends an extended period of time at the beginning of each class discussing topics that are not only irrelevant to history but also inflammatory and often altogether inappropriate for high school students."
It alleged that Corbett's diatribes caused "students to hold religious beliefs to feel like second-class citizens."
Among the statements made by the teacher:
What part of the country has the highest murder rate? The South. What part of the country has the highest rape rate? The South. What part of the country has the highest … church attendance? The South. Oh, wait a minute. You mean there is not a correlation between these things …
You know, you go down to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, all these states that are as red as they could possibly be, as right-wing Republican as you could possibly be. When you first present these people with the economic policies of the Democratic party, they are all Democrats. Virtually all the social programs, they like. They lead the Democratic party on social issues. That's it. Social issues, can you imagine what they're saying on Rush Limbaugh now? About, 'Middle school people in New England giving people birth control pills. My God. What next?' I love Rush Limbaugh. … And, boy, is he a liar. Unbelievable."
Well, we know abstinence doesn't work. And we know one other thing, and that is, once people become sexually active, they often don't stop for, like, 40 or 50 years. I mean, generally, when you start you don't, like, have a conversion and try to become re-virginized, you know. It's not going to happen.
"Students come to class to learn, not to be forced to listen to the personal, demoralizing rantings of their teacher," Tyler said.
Monk said Farnan, 16 and a sophomore when the case developed, is just now finishing his junior year. He withdrew from the class but remained in his school during the dispute, she said.
"He's excited about the ruling. He took a courageous stand, took a lot of heat at school, and he's excited the court ruled how they did."
The court concluded that Corbett's statement calling creationism "superstitious nonsense" was "improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause."
"The Supreme Court's comments with regard to government promotion of religion apply with equal force where the government disapproves of religion," the court ruling said.
U.S. District Court Judge James Selna reviewed Corbett's statement, and concluded, "The court cannot discern a legitimate secular purpose in this statement, even when considered in context."
The Farnan family, in a statement, said, 'We are proud of Chad’s courageous stand. We are thrilled with the judge's ruling. It is a vindication of his constitutional rights."
Remaining to be determined in the case are fees and damages, which Farnan sought in his lawsuit. Monk said those will be determined at a future hearing, as well as whether there should be a court order preventing Corbett from making similar hostile remarks in the future.
The judge said the ruling was based on a federal court case from 1971 that established three variables: does the statement have a secular purpose, does it help or hurt religion and does it generate "excessive government entanglement" in religion.
The judge found the school district, which paid to defend Corbett, would not be liable for Corbett's classroom conduct.
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