Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Archive for January, 2010

Ten Commandments monument in place at Oklahoma bank

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 25, 2010

POTEAU, OK – A Ten Commandments monument that supporters want to put on the lawn of an Oklahoma county courthouse has been installed outside a bank for the time being.

More than 200 people turned out for last week’s unveiling of the monument at Community State Bank in Poteau, Oklahoma. The 7-foot by 5-foot granite monument is surrounded by lights.
Le Flore County commissioners initially agreed to put the monument on the courthouse lawn. But they later decided to wait for a Supreme Court decision on a similar monument in neighboring Haskell County.
Haskell County commissioners are appealing a ruling that a monument on their courthouse lawn is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Advertisements

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »

The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a bill that would tightly regulate homsechooling.

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 25, 2010

The state House voted 324-34 against changes to the current law.

“Winning by such a significant margin is welcome relief for New Hampshire homeschool families,” said Mike Donnelly, staff attorney for Home School Legal Defense Association.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Judith Day who felt the current homeschooling law required too little accountability. Under the proposed legislation, parents or legal guardians would be required to submit in writing their intention to educate their child; keep a portfolio of the homeschooled child’s work and log of reading materials; and have an annual evaluation demonstrating educational progress commensurate with the child’s age and ability. Evaluations would also be more strictly regulated.

Current law requires that parents provide yearly results of either the test or an evaluation of the child’s portfolio, not both. And parents who are certified or private school teachers can write their own evaluations.

Day argued that under current law, administrators do not have sufficient information to determine whether a home education program needs remediation or should continue. She noted that greater accountability would not be excessively burdensome to parents.

But parents opposed amending the current law, and interpreted the changes as government interference with family affairs. They expressed their opposition through rallies and calls and letters to legislators.

Rep. Barbara Shaw, who has 45 years of teaching experience, and a majority of a bi-partisan legislative study committee recommended that the bill is “Inexpedient to Legislate.”

“After studying this issue for several years I’ve gotten to know homeschoolers, the law, and how the system works and I’m convinced that it is working fine,” Shaw said, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association. “There are no changes needed.

“Some people have accused me of doing a 180 on homeschooling – and I would have to admit that’s true. But that’s because I’ve seen that homeschooling is working for children in our state and the current law is adequate.”

A recent comprehensive study, conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute, found that homeschoolers scored 34-39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. Also, homeschooled boys and girls scored equally well.

Courtesy of Christianpost.com

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »

Preacher’s toe touches school lawn, he gets arrested

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 25, 2010

Case brought after principal calls cops to silence Gospel

A New Jersey judge has dismissed a criminal case against a volunteer who was preaching the Gospel on public property in front of the Edison, N.J., High School when his toe inadvertently brushed the grass and he was arrested.

The case has been detailed by the Alliance Defense Fund, which takes on civil rights and religious rights cases nationwide.

The order dismissing the case against Robert Parker was signed by Judge Travis Francis.

“Christians shouldn’t be arrested and charged as criminals for expressing their beliefs on public property. They have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America,” said ADF-allied attorney Demetrios Stratis of Fair Lawn.

“A person cannot be charged with a crime just because a school official has a complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment or doesn’t like what that person has to say. We are pleased that we prevailed in court in getting these unwarranted criminal charges dropped,” he said.

According to the report issued yesterday by the ADF, Parker “was taken into custody after his toe touched the grass on the school’s side of the sidewalk. He was charged with trespass and disorderly conduct.”

It was last May when Parker was sharing the Gospel from a public sidewalk outside the high school after students were dismissed for the day.

The school principal came out and told him to leave, whereupon Parker explained his First Amendment free speech and free exercise of religion protections. Dissatisfied, the principal called police.

According to the ADF, when officers arrived they took control of the situation and instructed students “not to go near Parker.”

The principal then insisted that Parker be arrested.

“While speaking with officers, Parker’s toe brushed against the grass along the school side of the sidewalk. The officers arrested him and issued him a summons for ‘defiant trespassing,'” the ADF reported.

The events leading to the arrest were recorded on video.

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »

Evangelicals shift to gentler tone but not in politics

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 25, 2010

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times | Leave a Comment »

Research Reveals Alarming ‘Sexting’ Stats

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 24, 2010

Pew Research Center has released results of a survey on “sexting,” the practice mostly among youth of transmitting nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves via cell phone.  

The research involves a survey combined with focus groups, and Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist and a spokesperson for Pew Research, reports the results.
 
“We found that four percent of teenagers 12 to 17 who had a cell phone said that they had sent these images of themselves to somebody else,” she explains. “And then we also found that 15 percent of teenagers at the same age range said that they had received these images of somebody that they knew.”
 
The spokeswoman adds that those figures were not surprising, but “one thing that did surprise us…was the fact that there’s actually no gender difference between boys and girls in the sending or receiving of these images. I think we have this story in our minds that this is something that girls experience more than boys, but in fact, both groups were equally as likely to say that they both sent and received them,” she notes.
 
According to the report, the practice can be dangerous as well as embarrassing as some of the photos were transmitted to other parties out of revenge over ending a relationship. Sometimes they were sent to interest another party in dating, but were then given a wider audience. The practice is growing, the study shows, and for a generation of teens that uses cell phones daily, the temptation is there.

by Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project
December 15, 2009

This is part of a Pew Research Center series of reports exploring the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial Generation
Overview

In a nationally representative survey of those ages 12-17 conducted on landline and cell phones, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found:

  • 4% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via text messaging.
  • 15% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phone.
  • Older teens are much more likely to send and receive these images; 8% of 17-year-olds with cell phones have sent a sexually provocative image by text and 30% have received a nude or nearly nude image on their phone.
  • The teens who pay their own phone bills are more likely to send “sexts”: 17% of teens who pay for all of the costs associated with their cell phones send sexually suggestive images via text; just 3% of teens who do not pay for, or only pay for a portion of the cost of the cell phone send these images.
  • Our focus groups revealed that there are three main scenarios for sexting: 1) exchange of images solely between two romantic partners; 2) exchanges between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship and 3) exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where at least one person hopes to be.

Introduction: Cell phones are more and more a part of teen life

Since the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project first started tracking teen cell phone use, the age at which American teens acquire their first cell phone has consistently grown younger. In Pew Internet’s 2004 survey of teens, 18% of 12-year-olds owned a cell phone. In 2009, 58% of 12 year-olds own a cell phone. We also have found that cell phone ownership increases dramatically with age: 83% of teens age 17 now own a cell phone, up from 64% in 2004.

At the same time the level of adoption has been growing, the capacity of cell phones has also changed dramatically. Many teens now use their phones not just for calling, but also to access the internet and to take and share photos and videos. In our survey of 800 youth ages 12-17, conducted from June 26 to Sept. 24, we found that 75% of all teens in that age range own a cell phone and 66% of teens use text messaging.

Texting has become a centerpiece in teen social life, and parents, educators and advocates have grown increasingly concerned about the role of cell phones in the sexual lives of teens and young adults. In particular, over the past year, press coverage and policy discussions have focused on how teens are using or misusing cell phones as part of their sexual interactions and explorations. The greatest amount of concern has focused on “sexting” or the creating, sharing and forwarding of sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by minor teens.

Both laws and law enforcement practices around sexting are emerging to deal with the issue and they vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some law enforcement officers and district attorneys have begun prosecuting teens who created and shared such images under laws generally reserved for producers and distributors of child pornography.

An incident in Pennsylvania that unfolded earlier this year highlighted the conflict between those committed to strictly enforcing the law and those who believe that such enforcement is a heavy-handed response to a social problem best handled outside of the legal system in a way that treats minors as a special case (as in other parts of the justice system). In Pennsylvania, a local district attorney threatened to charge 17 students who were either pictured in images or found with “provocative” images on their cell phones with prosecution under child pornography laws unless they agreed to participate in a five-week after-school program and probation. The parents of two of the girls countersued the DA with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that the images did not constitute pornography and that the girls could not be charged as they did not consent to the distribution of the images that pictured them. Similar incidents occurred in Massachusetts, Ohio, and several other states. One notable incident in Florida left 18-year-old Philip Alpert listed as a registered sex offender for the next 25 years after he was convicted of sending nude images of his 16-year-old girlfriend to family and friends after an argument. Teens are being charged with everything from “disorderly conduct” and “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” to felony “sexual abuse of children…, criminal [use] of a communications facility, or open lewdness.”

Legislatures in a handful of states are stepping in to consider making laws that downgrade the charges for creating or trading sexually suggestive images of minors by text from felonies to misdemeanors. In 2009, the Vermont and Utah state legislatures downgraded the penalties for minors and first-time perpetrators of “sexting.” Ohio has legislation pending to criminalize, at a milder level, sexting between minors.

In December 2008, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and their research partners released a study called “Sex and Tech” that examined the role of technology in the sex lives of teens and young adults. In addition to the National Campaign’s online survey, Cox Communications, partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Harris Interactive, and MTV in partnership with the Associated Press have also released findings from online surveys on the topic. In the National Campaign study, 19% of teens ages 13-19 who participated in the survey said they had sent a sexually suggestive picture or video of themselves to someone via email, cell phone or by another mode, and 31% had received a nude or semi-nude picture from someone else. In the Cox study done in March 2009, 9% of teens ages 13-18 had sent a sexually suggestive text message or email with nude or nearly-nude photos, 3% had forwarded one, and 17% had received a sexually suggestive text message or email with nude or nearly nude photos. The MTV-AP poll conducted in September reports that 1-in-10 young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 have shared a naked image of themselves with someone else and 15% have had someone send them naked pictures or videos of themselves. Another 8% of young adults have had someone send them naked images of someone else they know personally.

Continue reading the full report at pewinternet.org

Courtesy of http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=865740

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times | Leave a Comment »

The Sciences: Built on a Christian Foundation

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 24, 2010

Waves of the so-called philosophical “Enlightenment” (which was really the religion of naturalism/secularism)–struck North America at successive and slightly overlapping time periods during the eighteenth century.  These intellectual waves were elaborations of groundwork laid by English Christian scientist-philosophers such as Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Isaac Newton (1642-1737).  Contrary to popular myth, many seventeenth-century Christians, including “Puritans”, were learned, intelligent, and broad-minded.  They elevated scientific investigation as a discipline for comprehending God’s physical creation and as an instrument for promoting public education, agriculture, and medical advances.

Robert Boyle, together with famed architect Sir Christopher Wren, founded the Royal Society of London in 1662 to counteract the pantheism of the radicals and the materialism of English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the deist (religious secularist) author of Leviathan (1651) (a book about a State where the sovereign’s will to power rules and the selfish citizenry live in a state of war).   Many of the English political radicals, in addition to being social “Levelers” (an early form  of socialism), were pantheists: they believed in a mystical divinity of Nature, not a personal God.  To them, God was a cosmic force inherent in all things.  The pantheistic worldview blends with naturalism and materialism, the worship of the matter in Nature itself and the temporal things of this world, on down  the scale to atheism.  These religious worldviews can be generally described as “nontheistic beliefs” or religious secularism.

In counterpoise to the radical worldview was the Christian-oriented worldview of Boyle and Newton.  Their methodology comported with the objective search for truth that Christianity initiated.

Boyle advocated the scientific (empirical) method of forming and testing hypotheses in order to discover natural laws and utilize them for mankind’s improvement.

Newtonian principles were: (1) the laws of the universe were rational and ordered; (2) those laws were established by God; and (3) man could deduce physical laws through educated, rational observation.

Support for this viewpoint is found in the Bible, by the way:

(1) The laws of the universe are rational and ordered, and (2) those laws were established by God:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:18-20).

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  […]  The law of the LORD is perfect, […]  The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy [….]  (Psalm 19:1-4, 7).

“[…] all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”   (Colossians 1:16-17).

(3) Man can deduce physical laws through educated, rational observation:

[…] being understood from what has been made […] (Romans 1:20).

“He [Jesus] replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.”  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.’ ”  (Matthew 16:2-3) (illustrating the process of deducing results from observable data).

Posted in National Heritage | Leave a Comment »

TEACHER WITH BIBLE DIVIDES OHIO TOWN

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 24, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.

Pam Schehl/Mount Vernon News, via Associated Press

John Freshwater, center, in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in April 2008.

The New York Times

Mount Vernon, with a population of 15,000, has more than 30 churches.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Jennifer and Stephen Dennis, whose son said John Freshwater burned a cross on him.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Ann Schnormeier, right, supports the firing.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Don Matolyak, John Freshwater’s pastor.

Human Rights Watchdog Releases Hall of Shame List

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.

The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

“Freshwater’s supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,” said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.”

Mr. Freshwater, who declined to be interviewed, has said he did not mean to burn a cross on any student’s arm. Instead, he said he intended to leave a temporary X on the skin using a device called aTesla coil during a science demonstration. He says he had done that, with no complaints, hundreds of times in his 21 years as a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School.

In a radio interview in 2008, he said he had been a target for removal since 2003, when he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact. “I ruffled some feathers,” he said.

Married and a father of three, Mr. Freshwater, 53, was popular among students, always willing to stay after school to tutor or listen to students who needed someone to talk to.

In testimony at the board hearing, his supporters said he had consistently received positive evaluations from superiors and won distinguished teacher awards at least twice.

But school officials and former colleagues presented a different picture.

One high school teacher said she consistently had to reteach evolution to Mr. Freshwater’s students because they did not master the basics. Another testified that Mr. Freshwater told his students they should not always take science as fact, citing as an example a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality.

“Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

School officials said Mr. Freshwater’s science classroom was adorned with at least four copies of the Ten Commandments and several other posters that included verses from Scripture.

Mount Vernon is not a place accustomed to controversy and news media attention. It is proud of its wholesomeness. Wooden porches are adorned with American flags. A Civil War hero sits atop a tall obelisk in the center of the impeccably preserved town square. Tour guides brag about the Woodward Opera House, which is billed as the oldest freestanding opera theater in the country.

“The whole issue has been an embarrassment,” Ann Schnormeier said as she sat with 10 other women at a religious study meeting at First Congregational United Church of Christ near the center of town. She said her grandson, like many students, adored Mr. Freshwater.

“People have faith here in this town,” she said, “but Mr. Freshwater was crossing the line, and the school board has rules. There are laws, and he needs to leave his teaching position.”

Mr. Freshwater, who is currently suspended without pay, does not see things that way.

Last June, he filed a federal lawsuit against the school board seeking $1 million in damages, and in April 2008, he called a news conference at the town square to say that while he was willing to remove posters and other religious materials from his classroom — as instructed by the school board — he was drawing the line on removing his Bible.

The reaction was immediate.

Students held a “bring your Bible to school” day. Others started wearing T-shirts with “I support Mr. Freshwater — God” on the front. As the case dragged on, producing more than 5,000 pages of transcripts and more than 30 days of oral testimony, some Freshwater supporters vowed to broaden the fight.

Callers to local talk radio said that if Mr. Freshwater lost his job, they would look for indiscretions by other teachers and lobby for their removal.

Among those attending school board meetings were members of a local group called the Minutemen.

“This case woke a lot of people up around here,” said Dave Daubenmire, the founder of the group, which he named Minutemen because they “are a group of Christian guys who will show up on a minute’s notice to peacefully show support for their faith.”

In town, pastors are divided.

“I support Freshwater as a man of faith, but he is not supposed to be conveying these views in school,” said the Rev. R. Keith Stuart, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Miles away, Mr. Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, posited that the criticism of Mr. Freshwater was part of a larger trend toward bigotry against Christians.

“If he had a Koran on his desk, he’d be fine and no one would say a word to him,” Mr. Matolyak said. “If he had ‘Origin of Species’ on his desk, they would celebrate that.”

The family of Zachary Dennis, one of the two students who say they were branded by Mr. Freshwater, said they were eager for the matter to be closed. “We are religious people,” Jennifer Dennis, Zachary’s mother, said in an interview. “But we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child.”

After teachers and students criticized Zachary for speaking up, she said, the family sold its house and moved.

“We are Christians,” she said, “who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »

DON’T HIDE GOD IN A CLOSET:

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 23, 2010

Religious Secularism and Public Acknowledgment of God in the 21st Century

Asking the Christian alone to give way and redefine his or her own views to fit the sensibilities of others: That’s the definition of the religious secularist viewpoint of the so-called “separation of church and state”.  Explanation of this statement constitutes the discussion that follows.

Standing Up to Religious Secularism:

300 Years of Jonathan Edwards

The year 2003 marks three hundred years of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)–three hundred years since that great theologian/philosopher was born in 1703.

Though a lot has been written about him since then, not a lot of it is accurate.  (For one thing, it is rarely mentioned that he preached in a low, even voice, and he was an extremely logical, well-educated intellectual who had a hearty interest in scientific observation.  His rationale for becoming a minister, rather than a scientist, can be found in his words stating that knowledge of God is the greatest science (scientia meaning “knowledge”): “There are no things so worthy to be known as these things [pertaining to knowledge of God].  They are as much above those things which are treated of in other sciences, as heaven is above the earth.”)

Though Edwards’ role in the “restoration of Christianity” movement called the Great Awakening is often emphasized (and rightly so), less seldom explained is the reason why Edwards and his fellow Great Awakeners felt that Christianity needed restoration in the first place: At that time, Christianity was endangered by what was (and still is) another religious viewpoint: the rival religion of secularism (called “natural religion” in the eighteenth century–or rather, naturalism–making a “god” out of the material universe (“Nature”).    This worship of the material universe (matter itself) and abstract Reason was a religion that managed to get itself labeled as the “Enlightenment”–the beginning of what we now call “secularism”, “secular humanism”, or sometimes, “atheism” or “nontheistic beliefs”   Today, this same viewpoint has claimed exclusive use of the word “science”.   That is unfortunate, because scientific knowledge gained its start from Christianity.  (One Christian interested in science was Jonathan Edwards.)

(To see how today’s secularism vs. Christianity is really an enhanced repeat of the eighteenth century’s true enlightenment vs. false Enlightenment) debate, see: Jesus Is the Light of the World.)

Posted in National Heritage | Leave a Comment »

Teacher With Bible Divides Ohio Town

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 22, 2010

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Most people in this quiet all-American town describe themselves as devoutly Christian, but even here they are deeply divided over what should happen to John Freshwater.

Skip to next paragraph

Pam Schehl/Mount Vernon News, via Associated Press

John Freshwater, center, in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in April 2008.

The New York Times

Mount Vernon, with a population of 15,000, has more than 30 churches.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Jennifer and Stephen Dennis, whose son said John Freshwater burned a cross on him.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Ann Schnormeier, right, supports the firing.

Kirk Irwin for The New York Times

Don Matolyak, John Freshwater’s pastor.

Mr. Freshwater, an eighth-grade public school science teacher, is accused of burning a cross onto the arms of at least two students and teaching creationism, charges he says have been fabricated because he refused an order by his principal to remove a Bible from his desk.

After an investigation, school officials notified Mr. Freshwater in June 2008 of their intent to fire him, but he asked for a pre-termination hearing, which has lasted more than a year and cost the school board more than a half-million dollars.

The hearing is finally scheduled to end Friday, and a verdict on Mr. Freshwater’s fate is expected some months later. But the town — home to about 15,000 people, more than 30 churches and an evangelical university — remains split.

To some, Mr. Freshwater is a hero unfairly punished for standing up for his Christian beliefs. To others, he is a zealot who pushed those beliefs onto students.

“Freshwater’s supporters want to make this into a new and reverse version of the Scopes trial,” said David Millstone, the lawyer for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, referring to the Tennessee teacher tried in 1925 for teaching evolution. “We see this as a basic issue about students having a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in the public schools.”

Mr. Freshwater, who declined to be interviewed, has said he did not mean to burn a cross on any student’s arm. Instead, he said he intended to leave a temporary X on the skin using a device called a Tesla coil during a science demonstration. He says he had done that, with no complaints, hundreds of times in his 21 years as a teacher at Mount Vernon Middle School.

In a radio interview in 2008, he said he had been a target for removal since 2003, when he proposed that the school board adopt a policy to teach evolution as theory, not proven scientific fact. “I ruffled some feathers,” he said.

Married and a father of three, Mr. Freshwater, 53, was popular among students, always willing to stay after school to tutor or listen to students who needed someone to talk to.

In testimony at the board hearing, his supporters said he had consistently received positive evaluations from superiors and won distinguished teacher awards at least twice.

But school officials and former colleagues presented a different picture.

One high school teacher said she consistently had to reteach evolution to Mr. Freshwater’s students because they did not master the basics. Another testified that Mr. Freshwater told his students they should not always take science as fact, citing as an example a study that posited the possibility of a gene for homosexuality.

“Science is wrong,” Mr. Freshwater was reported as saying, “because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and is therefore a sinner.”

A third teacher testified that Mr. Freshwater advised students to refer to the Bible for additional science research.

School officials said Mr. Freshwater’s science classroom was adorned with at least four copies of the Ten Commandments and several other posters that included verses from Scripture.

Mount Vernon is not a place accustomed to controversy and news media attention. It is proud of its wholesomeness. Wooden porches are adorned with American flags. A Civil War hero sits atop a tall obelisk in the center of the impeccably preserved town square. Tour guides brag about the Woodward Opera House, which is billed as the oldest freestanding opera theater in the country.

“The whole issue has been an embarrassment,” Ann Schnormeier said as she sat with 10 other women at a religious study meeting at First Congregational United Church of Christ near the center of town. She said her grandson, like many students, adored Mr. Freshwater.

“People have faith here in this town,” she said, “but Mr. Freshwater was crossing the line, and the school board has rules. There are laws, and he needs to leave his teaching position.”

Mr. Freshwater, who is currently suspended without pay, does not see things that way.

Last June, he filed a federal lawsuit against the school board seeking $1 million in damages, and in April 2008, he called a news conference at the town square to say that while he was willing to remove posters and other religious materials from his classroom — as instructed by the school board — he was drawing the line on removing his Bible.

The reaction was immediate.

Students held a “bring your Bible to school” day. Others started wearing T-shirts with “I support Mr. Freshwater — God” on the front. As the case dragged on, producing more than 5,000 pages of transcripts and more than 30 days of oral testimony, some Freshwater supporters vowed to broaden the fight.

Callers to local talk radio said that if Mr. Freshwater lost his job, they would look for indiscretions by other teachers and lobby for their removal.

Among those attending school board meetings were members of a local group called the Minutemen.

“This case woke a lot of people up around here,” said Dave Daubenmire, the founder of the group, which he named Minutemen because they “are a group of Christian guys who will show up on a minute’s notice to peacefully show support for their faith.”

In town, pastors are divided.

“I support Freshwater as a man of faith, but he is not supposed to be conveying these views in school,” said the Rev. R. Keith Stuart, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Miles away, Mr. Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, posited that the criticism of Mr. Freshwater was part of a larger trend toward bigotry against Christians.

“If he had a Koran on his desk, he’d be fine and no one would say a word to him,” Mr. Matolyak said. “If he had ‘Origin of Species’ on his desk, they would celebrate that.”

The family of Zachary Dennis, one of the two students who say they were branded by Mr. Freshwater, said they were eager for the matter to be closed. “We are religious people,” Jennifer Dennis, Zachary’s mother, said in an interview. “But we were offended when Mr. Freshwater burned a cross onto the arm of our child.”

After teachers and students criticized Zachary for speaking up, she said, the family sold its house and moved.

“We are Christians,” she said, “who practice our faith where it belongs, at church and in our home and, most importantly, outside the public classroom, where the law requires a separation of church and state.”

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »

Group That Alerted Media to Biblical Markings on Rifle Sights Wants Congress to Investigate ‘Military Religious Extremism’

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 22, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor

(CNSNews.com) – The advocacy group that brought worldwide attention to the fact that an American company has been stamping biblical references on combat rifle sights used by the U.S. military said Thursday it hoped the damage done was not “beyond repair.”

Trijicon’s “outrageous practice” of stamping Christian references on rifle scopes used by the U.S. military “was an unconstitutional disgrace of the highest magnitude to our military and an action that clearly gave additional incentive and emboldenment to recruiters for our nation’s enemies,” Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) head Mikey Weinstein said, after Trijicon Inc. announced it would now stop the practice.

“It is nothing short of a vile national security threat that, despite our nation’s efforts to convince the Muslim world we are not pursuing a holy war against them, our military and its contractors time again resort to unlawful fundamentalist evangelical Christian practices, even on the battlefield,” Weinstein said in a message posted on the MRFF Web site.

MRFF, a watchdog group that describes itself as an advocate of “the free exercise of religious freedom in the military,” says on its Web site that it “brought to light” the existence of “the secret ‘Jesus’ Bible codes.”

It is taking credit for breaking the story, which ABC News first reported on Monday, and it is calling for a congressional investigation: “We can now only hope that the United States Congress and The Pentagon will comprehensively investigate how this catastrophe and countless other examples of military religious extremism infiltrates every branch of our honorable armed services.”

Before the MRFF-initiated “ABC News investigation,” Trijicon had included the biblical references alongside other markings on its products for more than two decades, a practice it ascribed in a statement this week to “our faith and our belief in service to our country.”

Thanks to the MRFF, the obscure sets of numbers and letters like 2COR4:6 and JN8:12 are now widely known to refer to New Testament verses.

The news reports prompted governments as far away as Australia and New Zealand – whose forces in Afghanistan also use the scopes – to consider their options.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, meanwhile, called the presence of the markings “a potential recruiting tool for anti-American forces” and a Muslim Public Affairs Council official said they provided “propaganda ammo to extremists who claim there is a ‘Crusader war against Islam’ by the United States.”

According to the U.S. Central Command, the Trijicon rifle scopes were bought in 2005 for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. It said in a statement it “only became aware of these codes in the past several days.”

“The codes on the scopes are contrary to U.S. Central Command guidance,” CentCom commander Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday.

“Our mission is to protect the population we’re serving and establish conditions for security, stability, and development, and we strive to do that while remaining sensitive to the cultural and religious norms of the populace we are supporting.

“We deeply respect the cultures of the host nations and our coalition partners in the Central Command Area of Responsibility,” he said.

Trijicon on Thursday issued a statement saying it had agreed to stop putting references to scripture on products manufactured for the U.S. military, and would also provide modification kits to enable the military to remove the markings on products already deployed.

In response to concerns raised by the Department of Defense, Trijicon, Inc. initiated this action to ensure the war-time production needs of the troops are met as quickly as possible.

“Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate,” said company president Stephen Bindon.

“Trijicon’s more than 250 American workers are proud and humbled to provide critical hardware for our nation’s brave service men and women and we look forward to working with the Department of Defense to ensure our immediate solutions are in compliance with the military’s standards requirements.”
Courtesy of Christian News Service

Stratis later filed a motion to dismiss the charges with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, and the court ordered the dismissal. The Edison Municipal Court later followed the order.

Courtesy of WorldNetDaily

Posted in Hot Legal News | Leave a Comment »