Archive for May 11th, 2006

Liberty Counsel Announces National ‘Friend or Foe’ Graduation Prayer Campaign

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

A good article that outlines what the law says about your graduate being allowed to pray at graduation ceremonies. In a nut-shell; a student may pray and include religious messages in their presentation.

(AgapePress) – A Christian law firm and a Christian university have teamed up to educate public school officials about students’ rights when it comes to graduation ceremonies. The result is the “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign, a joint project between and Liberty University and the Florida-based legal group Liberty Counsel.
Dr. Jerry Falwell, founder and chancellor of Liberty University, joined Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver in announcing the launch of the Friend or Foe Graduation Prayer Campaign on May 4. Staver observed that Liberty Counsel is offering school officials and others a free legal memo that outlines what current law has to say about religious expression at school graduations. He also noted that the pro-family legal organization’s attorneys are prepared to confront schools that engage in religious censorship and to take legal action, if necessary.
The head of Liberty Counsel notes that the firm has been defending graduation prayer ever since it was founded in 1989. In one such battle, Adler v. Duval County School Board, the organization argued a precedent-setting case against the American Civil Liberties Union and won the right of students to pray or give religious messages during graduation.
The case went before a federal appeals court five times and to the U.S. Supreme Court twice, but the final ruling established the legal principle that public schools may safely adopt an equal access policy for graduation events, with students and other speakers being allowed to present either secular or religious messages, including prayer.

Liberty Counsel Chairman Puts Public Schools on Notice
In announcing the new “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign, Staver said Liberty Counsel will gladly educate and, if necessary, litigate in the interest of ensuring that prayer and expressions of religious viewpoints are not censored from graduation events. The attorney says Liberty Counsel attorneys will defend any school that follows the law with regard to allowing graduation speakers to express their religious viewpoints. And, he adds, when school officials censor graduation prayer or religious speech, Liberty Counsel will file suit.
While some school officials may censor out religious viewpoints in an effort to avoid being accused of violating the Constitution’s establishment clause, Staver says he wants public school administrators to understand that they can actually avoid litigation by not censoring religious speech at commencement ceremonies. In many cases, he notes, the legal problem arises when schools single out those viewpoints that are religious in nature and attempt to purge them from their graduations or other school events.
“For example,” the Liberty Counsel spokesman explains, “if a valedictorian, a salutatorian, a class officer or another class representative gets into the podium because of their position, they obviously can talk about secular topics and viewpoints.” However, he believes many school officials fail to understand that these student speakers can also talk about religious viewpoints, including prayer.
“And the same is true for an outside speaker that is selected from the community or from the nation to address the graduating body,” Staver insists. “That person can also include religious viewpoints and prayer.” And furthermore, he adds, public schools can freely hold graduation ceremonies at churches or other religious venues if those sites are chosen using religion-neutral criteria and offer a more convenient facility than the public school can provide.
School officials need not fear that they will be violating the First Amendment if they do not censor all religious expressions from their graduation exercises, the pro-family attorney says. “This country, indeed, was founded upon prayer,” he contends, “and, of all places public schools ought to recognize that history and respect our Constitution.”
Clearly, Staver emphasizes, public school students or outside speakers do not shed their free speech rights when they enter the graduation podium. “They have the same rights of free speech,” the Liberty Counsel founder says, “even though it happens to occur in a public venue.” Private, voluntary speech on public property, he asserts, is constitutionally protected.

School District Sued After Suspending Christian Student

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Another school district that doesn’t understand the term “freedom of speech”.

(AgapePress) – A North Carolina school district is being sued over its decision to discipline a student for passing out leaflets which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality.
Midway High School in Dunn suspended Benjamin Arthurs for distributing religious flyers regarding the “Day of Truth,” an event where Christian students share a biblical perspective on the homosexual agenda. Sampson County Schools superintendent Stewart Hobbs claims Arthurs was trying to push his religious beliefs on others, and thus violated the so-called “separation of church and state.”
But according to Arthurs’ attorney, David Cortman with the Alliance Defense Fund, the First Amendment says otherwise. “This school district permits the [pro-homosexual] ‘Day of Silence’ to be promoted, which is of course the homosexual agenda being promoted in the schools,” the attorney explains. “And the day after, Alliance Defense Fund has begun what is called the ‘Day of Truth.'”
Cortman explains that Arthurs, a ninth-grader who is a member of the Bible Club, Who’s Who, and the National Honor Society, felt the “Day of Truth” observance would afford him the opportunity to give a Christian perspective on the homosexual agenda. Instead, notes Cortman, the student was given in-school suspension for his efforts. The ADF spokesman sees a double standard.
“One of the problems is that the much touted tolerance that we hear about often doesn’t seem to extend to people of faith,” he says. That is why ADF has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county’s board of education on the student’s behalf, alleging his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated.
“The first thing we would like to see, obviously, is the in-school suspension removed from Benjamin’s file,” says Cortman. “Just as important as that is we would like to see the school adopt a policy that respects religious speech and permits it on the same terms and conditions as it permits other student speech.”
The lawsuit seeks to have the suspension expunged from Arthurs’ record, and argues the district’s policy against religious expression is unconstitutional. It also states that the ninth-grader’s Christian beliefs “compel him to share his faith and to address relevant subjects from a biblical point of view with other students.”

Preventing New Cartoon Crisis

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

This is a very dangerous proposal and hopefully will be treated as so much hot air.

As the crisis over the Danish cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad appears to be dying down, it is time to create a system to prevent such a costly crisis from erupting in the future.
As a result of the crisis, lives were lost, embassies were attacked in the Muslim world, the loyalty of Muslims living in Europe was put into question, and the image of Islam in the West as a violent religion was reinforced, thus increasing the possibility of the “clash of civilizations” desired by Islamic radicals such as Osama bin Laden.
Making a resolution of the conflict over the cartoons so difficult are the very different perspectives of much of the Muslim world and the West. Although it is certainly true that anti-Western states such as Syria and Iran sought to manipulate the crisis for their own political ends, one must acknowledge that a number of Muslims were genuinely insulted when they saw their prophet depicted as a terrorist.
While the Danish cartoonists may have sought to show, through their cartoons, that some Muslims were citing the Koran, and Muhammad, to justify suicide bombings, the cartoons had a very negative impact in the Muslim world where Muhammad is revered.
Complicating the situation further was the reaction of many in the West to the violence perpetrated by the Muslims protesting the cartoons. The Muslims were accused of double standards, since anti-Semitic and anti-Christian cartoons are widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and when complaints are made about them, the response is usually “we have a free press” – precisely the words used by the Danes to justify their cartoons.
In order to rectify the situation, and to prevent a future crisis of this type from erupting, what is needed is a “code of conduct” for the newspapers and other media in both the Western and Muslim worlds. All governments must agree that the negative depiction of religion is “out of bounds,” and penalties should be imposed on those who violate the code of conduct.
The problem, of course, is to determine the difference between legitimate criticism of someone who acts in the name of a religion, and the negative depiction of that religion.
To solve that problem, I propose the creation of an International Religious Court, composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergymen with one clergyman representing each of the three religions. Anyone feeling that his or her religion was insulted could appeal to the International Religious Court for a ruling on the matter, and the court would then determine whether a penalty should be invoked. It would be the responsibility of the government on whose territory the action took place to impose the penalty.
I realize that establishing the authority of the International Religious Court would not be easy. First of all, given the divisions between Sunni and Shia Islam, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, and Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism – to mention only the most important divisions of the three religions – finding a single individual to represent each of the three faiths will be a challenge.
Second, governments may be reluctant, on grounds of sovereignty, to impose penalties required by such an international court. Nonetheless, there is a precedent wherein a number of states have, in certain cases, voluntarily agreed to abide by the decisions of the International Court of Justice, which could be a model for the International Religious Court.
Given the very severe costs of the Danish Cartoon Crisis, establishing both an international code of conduct to prevent negative media depictions of religion, and an International Religious Court to determine whether that code has been violated, are needed to defuse future crises such as the one over the Danish cartoons. I urge the international community to create the code of conduct and establish the International Religious Court as quickly as possible.

Hat tip to Jen at the Scriptorium.