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Archive for March, 2010

California City opens door a crack for home Bible studies

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

Officials in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., who had ordered participants of a home Bible study either to purchase an unobtainable city permit to meet or shut down, now are relenting a little.

City officials have said the Bible study targeted earlier for banishment can continue to meet, but they are keeping the threat of forced closures for potential use against other Bible studies.

WND reported when the situation was developing.

Brad Dacus, whose Pacific Justice Institute is working on the case, said then that it appeared city officials were deliberately choosing to close down the study – which had been ordered to cease operations by Good Friday.

But the institute now has confirmed Rancho Cucamonga has dropped its pending enforcement action against this group, although the way is not yet clear for others to meet.

Pacific Justice reported that the mayor and other city officials even visited the Friday night Bible study last week.

Rancho Cucamonga officials had demanded that the small home Bible-study group stop meeting – or apply to purchase a Conditional Use Permit that also would be required for a full church operation. Dacus said the study group has been meeting Friday nights and averages about 15 people. Members are affiliated with Shiloh Tabernacle, which rents a community center for Sunday services.

The city’s letter insisted the study is not allowed because it is a “church,” Dacus said. In the city, churches are required to obtain a “Conditional Use Permit” in residential areas.

“The city has also indicated that no CUP would be granted and the gatherings must cease by Good Friday, April 2,” PJI said.

“However, while the city has dropped its enforcement action against the Bible study group, the city has indicated that it did so only because it determined that the Friday night group did not appear to be a ‘church,'” according to a new Justice Institute report.

“In a letter to Pacific Justice Institute last week, an attorney for the city defended the city’s requirement that all churches in residential zones are illegal unless they obtain a costly permit. Thus, small home-based religious groups that consider themselves churches or meet on Sunday mornings instead of weeknights could still face severe enforcement action by the city at any time. And to date, city officials have taken no action to change this policy,” the report said.

“We are very pleased that the City of Rancho Cucamonga saw the light and dropped their attempts to shut down this Friday night Bible study,” said attorney Michael Peffer, who heads the PJI’s southern California office.

“At the same time, we are concerned that the city appears determined to use the same heavy-handed tactics against house churches. We urge any church or Bible study group threatened by Rancho Cucamonga or any other local government to contact PJI immediately,” he said.

The situation was similar to a dispute that arose recently in Gilbert, Ariz., and another last year in San Diego County.

In the previous cases, San Diego County officials apologized after a code-enforcement officer tried to shut down a Bible study, and in Gilbert, officials told WND they were working on a change in a zoning requirement that had been interpreted by staff members to ban Bible studies from residences.

Dacus said the Rancho Cucamonga stance is a significant problem because its definition of a church is so broad.

“According to their definition a family praying over their dinner would qualify as a church,” he told WND.

“When you step back and look at communist China, home churches are being persecuted there. This isn’t any different. And this isn’t even a church, just a Bible study, facing the same ultimatums, the same demands as in communist China,” he said.

The city, however, has no similar restrictions for Monday-night football parties or various other events that would be held in homes, PJI pointed out.


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The decline of the West: UK’s Move Against Israel Fits into the European Trend of Appeasing Islam

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

By ZVI MAZEL

Osama bin Laden must be laughing his head off while plotting his next action against Europe in his dusty cave somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once again Great Britain has demonstrated what a staunch ally it can be. One can trust the West; democracy is good for terrorists. It views terror as an ordinary offense against society and deals with it accordingly. Never mind that Bin Laden, Khaled Mashaal, Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the like have basically declared war on Western society and its values, and are making a concerted effort to achieve their aim. First on their list is Israel.

This is not a conventional war but something far more insidious and dangerous. Terrorists hide among civilians to target civilians. This is a gross violation of international law and all the conventions dealing with the rules of engagement should be addressed as such, with Western nations banding together to fight this modern scourge. They have to search and neutralize terrorists.

Like the US, England sends its very own secret service people to search out and kill terrorists wherever they are – from Ireland to Gibraltar to Afghanistan. Of course, they have their pick of Commonwealth passports. But let a master terrorist, a man who has killed, a man who has been masterminding the steady flow of arms into Gaza, the arms used against Israeli citizens, die in suspicious circumstances and all fingers are pointed at the assumed culprit – Israel.

GREAT BRITAIN, a country which has made so many Muslim arch-murderers welcome (Abu Hamza al-Masri, Abu Qatada who was considered Bin Laden’s representative in Europe, to name just two), granting them political asylum on the grounds they would be put to death in their own countries because of their crimes there; Great Britain where the disciples of these murderers launched deadly attacks against British civilians in 2005, decided that now was the time to make a stand.

By expelling an Israeli diplomat it would show the world that it would not let an alleged misuse of its passports go unpunished.

The move was, of course, warmly welcomed by Hamas in Gaza – a place where some British citizens were held prisoners without reason in the not-so-distant past. This move against Israel is seen as weakening that country’s capacity in fighting terror. It fits perfectly in the current European trend of appeasing Islam at all costs. Nowhere is that trend more visible than in England.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the country’s highest religious authority, calls for the introduction of Shari’a – Islamic Law – in British law. Illegal Islamic courts hand out judgments in complete violations of local law. Extremist Muslim organizations working with far-left groups are busy demonstrating against Israel, calling for the boycott of its products and of its culture. The British government remains passive in the name of freedom of speech and opinion, while the freedom of speech of Israeli representatives is severely curtailed and they are prevented from stating the case for Israel on campuses and public venues.

What’s worse is that we are talking about two supposedly friendly countries: Aren’t they both democracies, based on a parliamentary system; aren’t they both committed to human rights and freedom of speech? And aren’t they both fighting terror?

So how can the UK so conveniently forget the threats made against Israel on a daily basis by terror organizations and their unending attempts to kill Israeli civilians while stockpiling weapons for the next round of fighting?

Far more innocent civilians have been killed by allied troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere than in Gaza, but no one is suggesting another Goldstone Report.

While Israeli officers and officials are threatened with arrest if they set foot on British soil, no allied soldier or official faces a similar fate. Would someone explain why?

SOME ISRAELI commentators hastened to write that the whole affair wasn’t so bad, much ado about nothing, and that Israel’s actions had left England with little choice but do what it did. They are wrong. Measures could have been taken to deal with the matter efficiently, but discreetly. Condemning Israel publicly sends the wrong message. It is a clear encouragement to its enemies from the axis of evil.

On the other hand, it blends seamlessly with the talks Britain has started with Hizbullah under the transparent if not fraudulent excuse that the dialogue is with the political branch of the organization. Nasrallah makes no bones about his aim, which is to destroy Israel, and he says it often and repeatedly. Arab countries are now eagerly if not gleefully waiting to see what other Western country might follow suit. 

One can ask what good will weakening Israel do. There won’t be an answer. As an Italian politician told me recently: “Europe has it too good. It  has no wish to really fight terror and halt the Islamic wave threatening to engulf it. You are on your own, my friend.”

The writer is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden and a fellow of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs.

Courtesy of the Jerusalem Post at http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=171932

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Thomas More Law Center Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review School Policy Banning Christmas Music

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, yesterday filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court, requesting the Court review the constitutionality of a New Jersey school district policy that banned the performance of traditional Christmas music in the district’s public schools.  [Click here to read petition]

The challenged policy banned the performance of Christmas music, including simple instrumentals, during year-end holiday concerts; it forced the high school brass ensemble to “eliminate” “traditional carols” from its “repertoire”; and it banned the Martin Luther King (MLK) Gospel Choir, a student organization, from performing at the high school holiday assembly for the student body because the choir sang religious songs.  The new policy went so far as to remove from any “printed programs for any Holiday concert” any “graphics which refer to the holidays, such as Christmas Trees and dreidels.” 

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented, “This anti-religious policy is yet another example of the militant hostility that many public schools have towards Christians and Christmas.  These school districts have embarked on a program to eradicate any reference to Christianity because that religion is a major stumbling block to their political indoctrination of our children. 

Since at least 1960, Christmas music had been a part of the Christmas holiday traditions in the New Jersey school district.  In fact, a year before the new policy was enacted in 2004, the school district held a December holiday concert that included such traditional religious songs as “Joy to the World, ” “O’Come All Ye Faithful, ” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, ” and “Silent Night.”  Under the new policy, these traditional Christmas songs are now banned.

As a result of this ban on Christmas, in December 2004, TMLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Michael Stratechuk and his two children, who were students in the New Jersey school district when the policy was enacted in 2004.  A federal district court judge in New Jersey found that the policy was constitutional, and his decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In their decision, the Third Circuit stated,

“Certainly, those of us who were educated in the public schools remember holiday celebrations replete with Christmas carols, and possibly even Chanukah songs, to which no objection had been raised.  Since then, the governing principles have been examined and defined with more particularity.  Many decisions about how to best create an inclusive environment in public schools, such as those at issue here, are left to the sound discretion of the school authorities.  We see no constitutional violation in Policy 2270 or its application in this case.  We will therefore affirm the decision of the District Court.”
The Supreme Court petition was drafted by TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Robert Muise.  In the petition filed with the Court yesterday, Muise argued:

“Christmas is a national holiday, and religious music in the public schools is one of the rich traditions of this season.  The Third Circuit’s opinion, if left unchecked, will ensure the demise of this tradition, and it will embolden those who use the Establishment Clause as a blunt instrument against religion to continue to do so.  Consequently, this case is about much more than holiday music.  It is about halting the proliferation of government policies and practices that disfavor religion.  A decision with such potentially broad and troubling implications merits review by this Court.”

Thompson echoed the concern: “Traditional Christmas music has long echoed in the halls and auditoriums of our Nation’s public schools, reflecting our national celebration of this holiday season.  Unfortunately, our recent history has not been so favorable to this holiday and its traditions.  Even the word ‘Christmas’ itself is becoming a forbidden expression—a casualty to the forces of political correctness that consider it enlightened, if not outright fashionable, to remove all traces of religion from the public domain.  If we do not stop these policies now, it is likely that they will continue to spread across our Nation like an anti-Christian virus.  This is an important case; it will likely decide the fate of one of our most cherished traditions.”

Muise added, “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s flawed Establishment Clause jurisprudence has promoted—and in many respects, encouraged—anti-Christian policy decisions by school boards all across the country, including the one challenged here.  This case presents an opportunity for the Court to abandon its much maligned jurisprudence in favor of one that respects our Nation’s religious heritage and traditions.”

The New Jersey school district policy at issue in this case was featured in a book, The War On Christmas, by former Fox News anchor, John Gibson.

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India Authorities Detain Christian Preachers

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

NEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)– A Christian preacher of one of India’s oldest mission organizations has been held in a prison in India’s volatile Orissa state since December over allegations that he has links with a militant group, evangelical leaders said Friday, March 26.

The worker of Indian Missionary Society, who was not identified apparently for security reasons, has been held in Malkangiri District Jail following his trip to a jungle area where he tried to avoid violence between local Konya people and the militant People’s War Group (PWG), said Pastor A. K Samuel in published remarks.

PWG is fighting against India’s government for its alleged capitalist ideology and has become part of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The Christian preacher reportedly tried to convince PWG however not to attack the local population. He met the group after Hindu extremists “falsely informed” the militants that the Koya people are “convertingto Christianity and that they are planning to identify [the PWG] to police,” Pastor Samuel said.

PREACHER DETAINED

The preacher was later detained on charges of having links with PWG, added the Evangelical Fellowshipof India, which represents evangelical churches and groups across India. Authorities have not yet commented on the sensitive case, but Christians made clear they were trying to get the Christian worker released.

The detention of its worker comes a set-back for the 107-year old Indian Missionary Society, which claims to be active in 20 Indian states with over 650  missionaries.

The group says it is working in 3900 villages and has established 255 churches, 741 house churches, five schools, 24 hostels  and 18 medical and rehabilitation centers “for rendering medical” and other support “to poor people.”

Details of the worker’s detention, which BosNewsLife obtained Friday, March 26, came a month after EFI said Orissa police also detained Reverend Anant Prasad Samantray for allegedly “delivering derogatory remarks” against Hinduism in the town of Bhabanipatna in Orissa’s Kalahandi District.

FORMER HINDU

A former Hindu priest “who decided to follow Jesus Christ”, Samantray told an audience at a recently organized evangelical “revival meeting” that he discovered that “Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life,” EFI explained.

 

“After hearing his speech, some Hindu hardliners stopped him and dragged him to the police station and fileda complaint against him of speaking ill against Hinduism.”The revival meeting was reportedly attended by Christians only but “some Hindu extremists happened to hear the message through a loudspeaker,” EFI said, citing an eyewitness.

 

Local Christian leaders said they are “taking steps to get the pastor out of jail”. He has been held in Kalahani District Jail since February 20, according to EFI investigators.

 

Tensions remain high in Orissa, where over 100 people are believed to have died and tens of thousands of peopleforced to flee their homes in anti-Christian violence since 2007.

 

NINE CONVICTIONS

 

Last week, nine people were convicted and sentenced to fouryears in jail for their role in the 2008 riots in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, where most people died.One man was acquitted due to lack of evidence, Indian media reported.

 

“Nine people were convicted and sentenced to a four-year jail term and fined 5,500 Rupees each in a case of arson during Kandhamal riots. One man named Hrushi Pradhan has been acquitted in the absence of evidence,” P.K. Patra, the public prosecutor,was quoted as saying by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

 

The Fast Track Court-II Judge C.R. Das reportedly convicted the nine people of Salesaru village on March 16 for torching the house of Balusan Digal and other villagers in August 2008.

 

That violence broke out after the killing of Hindu leader leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides on August23, 2008. Although Maoist rebels reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks, Hindu militants blamed Christians.

 

Despite the convictions, Christian groups have complained that dozens of suspects in the Orissa clashes have been freed in fast-track court procedures that were set up by the local government.

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Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Parental Notification of Abortion Law in Illinois; Law Will Not Go Into Effect Until After Appeal

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

CHICAGO, March 29 /Christian Newswire/ — Today in Cook County Court, a judge dismissed the case challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, while imposing a stay of his decision for 60 days to allow the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) time to file an appeal. Attorneys from the Thomas More Society appeared as “friends of the court” today in Court as Judge Daniel Riley delivered his ruling.

“Today’s ruling represents a great step toward ending underage secret abortions in Illinois. This written decision represents the first time an Illinois court has upheld the Parental Notice Act of 1995 against the ACLU’s challenge,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel at the Thomas More Society. “We look forward to the day that abortion providers are made to respect the rights of parents to know before their daughters are taken for abortions.”

The ACLU is expected to appeal. On appeal, the Thomas More Society will renew its request to intervene in the case to defend the contention that the Illinois Constitution does not include a right to abortion.

Thomas More Society attorneys conceived the idea to revive the dormant Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act in 2005 and led the successful effort to have the Illinois Supreme Court issue the required appeal rules in 2006. Since then, the Thomas More Society has fought to defend the law from attacks by the ACLU and other opponents, who attempted to defeat the law by arguing that the Illinois Constitution of 1970 included a strong right to abortion, even though abortion was virtually illegal in Illinois under the 1970 state constitution. Judge Riley ruled that the Illinois Constitution does include a right to abortion, but that parental notice is constitutional because the Illinois right is not broader than the federal right.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.

As a public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by private donations. Visit www.thomasmoresociety.org for more information.

 

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2nd Korn Member Shares Story of Faith, Recovery from Addiction

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

A member of nu metal band Korn will release a book on Tuesday about his journey through addiction, faith, and recovery.

  • fieldy

And, no it’s not former guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, who split from the group in 2005 following his conversion to Christianity.

This time, it’s bass guitarist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, who is still a member of the band but reveals how different he is now from his former self in Got the Life.

“I was an expert at drinking, smoking dope, popping pills, using foul language, being mean, and partying without any remorse,” Fieldy recalls in his soon-to-release book, published by Harper Collins. “You don’t get that good at anything without lots of practice.”

The turning point for now 39-year-old came after his father became ill.

“When Dad got sick, I thought I could fix him because I had money, power, and influence,” he recalls. “I was rich and famous, right? I thought I could fix anything.”

As time went by, however, his father’s condition went from bad to worse. Every doctor Fieldy took his father to insisted that he had cancer, though all the tests returned negative.

To cope with the mounting frustration, Fieldy turned to partying, drinking, smoking, and pill popping – activities he had been engrossed with for the last twenty years of his life.

But Fieldy’s “deep denial” of his father’s illness would soon come to an end. In 2005, Fieldy’s father – a “total Holy Roller, completely into Jesus” – died.

And following his father’s dying wish, Fieldy found God.

“I’ve been clean for three years. I don’t fight with my wife anymore. I don’t lust or cheat anymore …. I don’t wake up feeling like hell anymore. I don’t spend money on things I later regret anymore. I don’t deny my blessed life that has been waiting for me … anymore,” Fieldy writes since his father’s death.

“Losing Dad was my wake-up call to see that I had to change the way I lived or I was going to die, too,” he adds.

With never-before-seen photos and never-before-heard stories, Got the Life offers Fieldy’s raw, candid, and inspiring story of rock and redemption.

The bassist’s hope is that his thoughts will somehow inspire readers.

“Don’t waste your life. There are only so many hours in a day and you can never get those back,” he writes. “You were made to make a difference.”

Today, Fieldy is a happily married father of three who lives in Southern California. He is also still a member of Korn and working on a new album with the band as well as a few side projects. Among the side projects is his own clothing line, Immanuel One Twenty Three.

Courtesy of Christian Post at http://www.christianpost.com/article/20090310/2nd-korn-member-shares-story-of-faith-recovery-from-addiction/index.html

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Former Vampire Novelist: No Rest, Peace Without God

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

 

Famed Interview with the Vampire author Anne Rice confesses there is no rest and no peace without God, in a new video in which she talks about her return to the Christian faith.

For 38 years, Rice was a “Christ-haunted atheist,” she says in a recently posted “I Am Second” video. Her vampire novels were a reflection of her internal struggle living in the godless world she created.

The vampire, she says, is a metaphor for the outcast and the person who feels cut off from God.

Rice gained fame and wealth from her vampire novels, but internally she was increasingly dissatisfied with “the world in which salvation was not a possibility,” she shares.

“And the reason for the dissatisfaction was simple: I really believed in God,” she says in the video. “Not only did I believe in Him but I loved Him and I wasn’t admitting it.”

Rice grew up in a Catholic home as a child but rejected her faith when she was 18 to gain freedom and search for knowledge.

“I felt that there were so many things forbidden to me as a Christian … I felt a desperate need to be free,” she recalls.

In the “I Am Second” video, Rice says she was reminded again and again “that as long as you are denying God you will not know any rest. You will not know any peace.”

“You can’t save yourself through art. You can’t save yourself through music. You can’t do it through travel. You can’t do it through wealth,” Rice shares. “All your attempts at saving and transcending through other means will ultimately fail. You save yourself or God saves you when you turn to Him.”

After nearly four decades of denying God, Rice says she was finally ready to surrender to Him. She returned to the Catholic Church in 1998.

“I surrendered the doubts,” she says. “Imperfectly and contrite, I went back.”

And returning to Christ has changed everything in her life. For one, she no longer feels she can work with the vampire metaphor.

“I wasn’t a person in a godless world [anymore], far from it,” she says.

Now Rice devotes her time writing books that are “directly to God and devoted to Jesus Christ.”

“I have changed and I have to do this,” she says with determination. “I have to write for Him.”

Her Christian books include Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, and Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim.

Rice is the latest celebrity to give a video testimony on “I Am Second,” a movement which seeks to lift up Christ by declaring that He is first and we are second.

Other celebrities who have given testimonies include former NFL Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy; former lead guitarist/co-founder of the metal band Korn, Brian “Head” Welch; and Major League Baseball Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

E3 Partners Ministry launched the “I Am Second” outreach campaign on Dec. 2, 2008, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The campaign was initially meant to reach only those in north Texas but once the website was launched, it quickly went viral. To date, the campaign has received more than 2 million visits to its website from over 211 countries.

On the Web: www.iamsecond.com

Courtesy of Christian Post at http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100330/former-vampire-novelist-no-rest-no-peace-without-god/index.html

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Texas school board members dispute critics’ assertions

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 31, 2010

 

   
 
Thomas Jefferson
No, Thomas Jefferson is not being removed from social studies curriculum standards in Texas, two prominent members of the Texas State Board of Education say in correcting critics’ erroneous claims. 

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–Despite news reports to the contrary, Texas students will be required to learn about Thomas Jefferson and constitutional religious freedom guarantees, say two prominent members of the Texas State Board of Education.

Additionally, “Nowhere in our social studies curriculum standards is America referred to as a Christian nation,” said board chairman Gail Lowe, a Republican from Lampasas, Texas, contrary to claims in a March 22 letter to textbook publishers by the liberal Interfaith Alliance.

In interviews with the Southern Baptist TEXAN about new social studies standards for Texas public schools, Lowe and Don McLeroy, the immediate past board chairman, said widely circulated news reports contained numerous inaccuracies, including claims that Thomas Jefferson was left out of the standards, that First Amendment religious freedom guarantees were omitted because conservative board members reject the concept of church-state separation, and that religious dogma had crept into the standards.

The board meeting, held March 10-12 in Austin, made national and international news, chiefly because Texas buys or distributes about 48 million textbooks annually, influencing textbook content for most other states.

The Guardian newspaper of London claimed on its blog that the board was “rewriting history,” an assertion of the Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself a “mainstream voice to counter the religious right.”

In the Interfaith Alliance’s letter to textbook publishers, the group’s leader, C. Weldon Gaddy, wrote that the board’s “most egregious vote” was denying separation of religious and government institutions by rejecting a late amendment by Dallas Democrat Mavis Knight that students learn “the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

McLeroy said he believed Knight’s amendment would paint the founders as neutral toward religion generally.

“They weren’t,” McLeroy said. “They simply didn’t want a state church, a state religion. That’s it. To say that we were against protecting the religious freedoms of all the people, that is all spin from the Texas Freedom Network. That’s all it is. Because it’s not right.”

Lowe added: “The First Amendment very clearly prevents Congress from establishing a national church, but it also promotes the free exercise of religion. Students need to understand that this is what the founders intended. It is inaccurate to say the Founding Fathers were neutral about religion; most were strong proponents of religious faith but did not believe in a national church controlled by the federal government.”

The new standards require, among other things, that students “trace the development of religious freedom in the United States” and “analyze the impact of the first amendment guarantees of religious freedom on the American way of life.” Additionally, students must “identify and define unalienable rights” and “identify the freedoms and rights guaranteed by each amendment in the Bill of Rights.”

The board’s actions became fodder in the Texas gubernatorial campaign when Bill White, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, claimed on March 17: “Last week the Texas State Board of Education, led by [Gov.] Rick Perry’s appointee, voted to remove Thomas Jefferson from social studies textbook standards. That’s right. Thomas Jefferson … was deleted from a list of historical figures who inspired political change.”

Jefferson was removed from a list of leading Enlightenment thinkers in world history curricula, but he is included numerous times in U.S. government and American history, according to copies of the standards obtained by the Texan. As of March 22, the Texas Education Agency had yet to post the standards online for public viewing.

Lowe said, “The only historical figure mentioned more times than Thomas Jefferson in our curriculum standards is George Washington. There is no way students in Texas will avoid learning of his contributions to our country.”

McLeroy, who is finishing his term this year after being defeated in the Republican primary by Thomas Ratliff, widely considered a moderate, said he voted for removing Jefferson from the world history Enlightenment period because Jefferson was merely “a son” of Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Voltaire.

Responding to critics who say the board has a religious agenda, Lowe said, “The social studies framework is not about religious dogma, church traditions or specific denominational beliefs. To the secular, radical left thinker, however, any mention of religious belief is anathema. It is those voices who are screaming most loudly because they do not want to admit the extent to which religious liberties and religious faith have influenced our country.”

Lowe said religious references are plentiful in the country’s founding documents, which are heavily emphasized in the standards.

McLeroy said the country was founded on “biblical” principles from Judaism and Christianity, “but you don’t see us putting it in the standards that we are a Christian nation and no one is pushing for that.”

“The whole idea of the nature of man — man created in the image of God, man as fallen — those things are found throughout [the founders’ writings]. Those are the core beliefs about the nature of man that make our country unique — the importance of the individual created in God’s image; you don’t have a king; and the idea of man as fallen. You cannot trust man 100 percent so you have a separation of powers. That whole form of government is founded upon a biblical view of the nature of man.”

During the meeting, the board also turned back some controversial revisions offered by teams comprised of teachers and scholars. The board voted to retain requirements that students learn about historical notables such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison and added language about significant political ideas, including the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” cited in the Declaration of Independence.

The new standards will face a final vote in May when the board meets. Standards for given subjects are revised every 10 years. The board has a 10-5 Republican majority and an eight-member conservative voting bloc.

Courtesy of http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=32585&ref=BPNews-RSSFeed0329

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Senior bishops call for end to persecution of Christians in Britain

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 30, 2010

Six prominent bishops and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, describe the “discrimination” against churchgoers as “unacceptable in a civilised society”.

In a thinly-veiled attack on Labour, they claim that traditional beliefs on issues such as marriage are no longer being upheld and call on the major parties to address the issue in the run-up to the general election.

In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, the bishops express their deep disquiet at the double standards of public sector employers, claiming that Christians are punished while followers of other faiths are treated far more sensitively.

Their intervention follows a series of cases in which Christians have been dismissed after seeking to express their faith. They highlight the plight of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a cross around her neck. This week she will begin a legal battle against the decision.

Christians are also increasingly concerned that the Government is ignoring their views on issues such as sex education and homosexuality when introducing new legislation.

A group of 640 head teachers, school governors and faith leaders have signed a separate letter to this newspaper warning that compulsory sex education in primary schools will erode moral standards and encourage sexual experimentation.

They call for the dropping of legislation that will see children as young as seven taught about sex and relationships.

In their letter, the bishops urge the Government to stop the persecution of Christians.

“We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development.

“In a number of cases, Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are simply not being upheld.

“There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”

In addition to Lord Carey, the letter has been signed by the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester; the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester; the Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester; the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn; and the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield.

Mrs Chaplin will take the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to an employment tribunal this week after she was told last year that she must hide or remove a small cross on her necklace if she wanted to continue working on hospital wards.

While the trust refused to grant her an exemption, it makes concessions for other faiths, including allowing Muslim nurses to wear headscarves on duty.

Mrs Chaplin, 54, has spent all of her career at the Exeter hospital and had never been challenged before over the necklace, which she has worn since her confirmation 38 years ago.

The bishops criticised the way in which Mrs Chaplin had been treated and stated that she should not be prevented from expressing her faith by wearing her cross.

“This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect,” they say.

“To be asked by an employer to remove or ‘hide’ the cross is asking the Christian to hide their faith.”

The bishops said that it was “deeply disturbing” that the NHS trust’s uniform policy permits exemptions for religious clothing, but appears to regard the cross as “just an item of jewellery”.

They also expressed surprise that the court has asked for evidence to be submitted to verify that Christians wear crosses visibly around their neck.

Mrs Chaplin is being represented by leading human right’s barrister Paul Diamond, who also advised Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient. She was later reinstated.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre, described the treatment of Mrs Chaplin as “scandalous”.

“This is yet another case of double standards for Christians,” she said.

“It would seem the Exeter Hospital would rather use its money to deny Christians their rights than using its scarce financial resources to treat patients.

“It is ridiculous that in our country with such a great Christian heritage the court requires evidence to prove that the cross is a Christian symbol whilst not applying the same standards to other faiths.”

Lynn Lane, the human resources director for the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust, said: “The trust has fully acknowledged that this has become an important issue for Mrs Chaplin which is why we offered her a number of different options in the hope that a mutually acceptable solution could be agreed.

“For the trust this has always been about compliance with our agreed uniform policy and the safety of staff and patients.”

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, the human rights group, said: “Whether personal faith motivates the wearing of a cross, turban, head scarf or Star of David, it is fundamentally illiberal to require people to check such an important part of themselves at the workplace door for no justifiable reason.”

” Freedom of thought, conscience and religion should protect people of all faiths and none.

“We look forward to the Supreme Court demonstrating this by overturning the Court of Appeal in Nadia Eweida’s case against BA.”

Courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7531293/Senior-bishops-call-for-end-to-persecution-of-Christians-in-Britain.html

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Christians call on Microsoft and Yahoo to end internet censorship in China

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 30, 2010

Release International is calling on Microsoft and Yahoo to follow Google’s lead and refuse to censor the Internet and reports of persecution in China.

“Religious persecution is a daily reality in China,” said Release CEO Andy Dipper. “The Chinese people need to be told the truth – and gatekeepers to the Internet Microsoft and Yahoo have a duty to let the truth be told.”

The message came at a conference in London last week to raise awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians in China. The joint conference was held by human rights advocates Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Release International.

The conference highlighted the plight of human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, who disappeared more than 400 days ago, after defending leaders of the persecuted house church and practitioners of the banned movement Falun Gong.

Addressing the conference was human rights campaigner, Bob Fu, a former leader of the Tiananmen Square student protest in 1989. He called on China to release immediately Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, whom he said had been tortured severely.

“When the authorities arrested Gao previously in 2005 they tortured him in ways that cannot be described,” said Fu, head of ChinaAid Association. “If he is still alive, they are almost certainly torturing him again. The aim is to break his spirit and to scare off other human rights campaigners.”

Fu was one of the last men to speak to Gao Zhisheng before he was hauled away by the Chinese authorities 400 days ago.

“We do not know for sure now whether Gao is dead or alive. It’s possible the authorities have disfigured or crippled him and would now be embarrassed to let him be seen,” he said.

“We call on China to let the world know whether he is still alive and, if so, release Gao immediately.”

Applauding Google’s decision to no longer allow China to censor its web browser, Fu extended a challenge to Yahoo and Microsoft to follow suit.

He said: “My message to Bill Gates and Yahoo is do the right thing. Don’t sell your conscience. Don’t give in to censorship.”

Dipper added: “We call on the international community to continue to bring pressure to bear on China to allow religious freedom and freedom of speech. We hope Microsoft and Yahoo will indeed do the right thing and stand up for freedom.”

Fu later briefed parliamentarians in the House of Lords on the continuing abuse of human rights in China.

ChinaAid reports persecution increased by almost 20 per cent in 2009. Some of the harshest persecution was suffered by the House Church movement, churches that refuse to register with the government and submit to state control and restrictions. ChinaAid recorded almost 3,000 cases of individual persecution, with a growing trend towards abuse and intimidation, rather than prosecution.

Courtesy of http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christians.call.on.microsoft.and.yahoo.to.end.internet.censorship.in.china/25584.htm

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