Month: April 2010

Virginia Governor reverses State Police Policy allowing Prayer in Jesus’ Name


RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell has rescinded a Virginia State Police policy that requires the volunteer chaplains to deliver non-denominational prayers at department-sanctioned events.

McDonnell’s move  reverses a 2008 directive issued by Virginia State Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty. Six of the 17 troopers who participated in the state police’s chaplaincy program resigned from their volunteer duties in protest of the policy. Despite complaints from some legislators and social conservatives, then- Gov. Tim Kaine defended Flaherty’s directive.

Flaherty had issued the directive in response to ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that a Fredericksburg City Council member who is also a minister could not pray “in Jesus’ name” during an invocation that opens council meetings because the invocation is government speech. Flaherty’s directive applied only to department-sanctioned events such as trooper graduations and an annual memorial service. The policy does not apply to private ceremonies such as funerals or when counseling fellow employees and victim families.

Del. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, a retired state trooper, has been a vocal critic of Flaherty’s policy. Carrico has twice introduced bills aimed at reversing Flaherty’s directive, but both measures failed to get through the legislature.

Carrico commended McDonnell today and said, “I think he realized the need to rescind that to protect the constitutional rights of all those chaplains.”

Kent Willis, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said McDonnell should not change the policy.

“The policy enacted by the state police is consistent with federal court rulings, and it serves the important purpose of preventing state police chaplains from violating the First Amendment,” Willis said in a statement. “There is no reason for the governor to bow to pressure from groups that are encouraging the police to break the law by delivering sectarian prayers at government events.”

Courtesy of

Judge asks feds to show militia did more than talk

DETROIT (AP) – A federal judge challenged prosecutors Wednesday to show that nine members of a Michigan militia accused of plotting war against the government had done more than just talk and should remain locked up.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts heard nearly 10 hours of testimony and arguments over two days. She did not make a decision about whether the nine will remain in custody, saying only that a ruling would come soon.

The members of a southern Michigan group called Hutaree have been in custody for a month. An indictment accuses them of weapons violations and a rare crime: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the government by first killing police officers.

Prosecutors say the public would be at risk if the nine are released. But defense lawyers claim the government has overreached with a criminal case based mostly on hateful speech.

An undercover agent infiltrated the group and secretly made recordings that have been played in court. While there is talk about killing police, it’s not specific. In one conversation, there are many people talking over each other and laughing.

Roberts pressed that point more than once as Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet argued in favor of keeping the nine in jail. The judge suggested she didn’t hear or read in the transcripts any indication that violence was imminent.

“Mere presence where a crime may be planned is not a crime. … How does this add up to seditious conspiracy?” Roberts said.

Waterstreet said the government is not required to show all its evidence at this early stage of the case. He referred to the words of militia leader David Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich., who was recorded by the undercover agent while they drove to Kentucky earlier this year.

“It’s now time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny. Time is up,” Waterstreet said, quoting a transcript.

Later, putting the transcript aside, the prosecutor said: “The theme is the brotherhood is the enemy – all law enforcement.”

Defense lawyers urged the judge to look at each defendant individually. Although all are charged with conspiracy, they were not always together during critical meetings cited by the government.

“‘What if’ is not the standard. … None of these words are an instruction to anyone to commit a crime,” said Stone’s attorney, William Swor, as held up a stack of transcripts.

Arthur Weiss, a lawyer for Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind., said disgust with the government as recorded by the undercover agent is similar to what’s said daily by radio and TV talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

“Millions of people” are talking about “taking our country back,” Weiss said.

The judge also heard from relatives of some of the defendants who pledged to be responsible for them if they were released from jail.

Courtesy of

Is U.S. military cowering before Muslims?

The nation’s largest public policy women’s organization is appalled at the way the Pentagon appears more committed to appeasing Muslims, than allowing a high-profile Christian leader to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to members of the military.

Last week the Pentagon created an uproar when the Army announced that it would rescind an invitation to Franklin Graham to speak at the Pentagon’s National Prayer Day event on May 6. The radical Muslim group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations applauded the decision, calling the well-known evangelist “controversial.” CAIR had pushed the Pentagon to disinvite Graham because he had told the truth about the violent teachings of Islam.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, has chimed in with other pro-family leaders who have expressed their outrage. She says it is appalling that the military is afraid of offending Muslims.
“The military would disinvite him apparently because they’re afraid of offending violent Muslims,” she observes. “This is just a Muslim belief that non-Muslims must show subservience of Muslims.
“And to think that the military — which is in midst of a war against radical Islam — is actually kowtowing to some of the most violent elements of that religion makes me fearful for our country.”
Wright expresses concerns that apparently there are people in the leadership of the U.S. military who are more afraid of offending America’s enemies than they are about advancing the very thing that could bring peace — the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of

Judge says Silsby deceived fellow missionaries

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A Haitian judge says he dropped kidnapping charges against Laura Silsby and nine other U.S. missionaries because all the children they were trying to take out of Haiti were given over freely by their parents.

But Judge Bernard Saint-Vil tells The Associated Press he has ordered Silsby tried on a lesser charge of arranging illegal travel because she knew she had no right to take the 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Saint-Vil also said Tuesday that Silsby deceived the other missionaries by telling them she had the proper documents to take the kids to the neighboring Dominican Republic.

The other nine were freed in February and March. Silsby remains in jail and faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press

Clinton urged to protect ‘fragile’ Christian minority in Iraq

Church leaders from various denominations have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work with Iraqi authorities in protecting the persecuted Christian minority.

The National Council of Churches and its partners throughout the world on Monday sent a letter to Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates expressing concern about “the ongoing situation of violent attacks on minority groups in Iraq.”

“Christians in Iraq have suffered more than a dozen violent deaths so far this year,” the letter states. “Our concern is now particularly acute because it is possible that tensions will increase as various political forces continue to vie for power following the recent elections.”

Iraq held its parliamentary election in March but the formation of a new government has been delayed amid heated disputes over the results.

As politicians continue to wrangle over a new coalition government, church leaders fear the “growing climate of mistrust and animosity” in the aftermath of the elections “will further threaten the fragile Christian community.”

In the letter, NCC General Secretary the Rev. Michael Kinnamon and church leaders – including the Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey of the Alliance of Baptists, Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church in North America, and the Rev. Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – strongly request that Clinton and Gates communicate the concern to the Government of Iraq.

The letter comes days after Christians in northern Iraq erected a statue of Jesus, modeled after Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, amid mounting attacks by extremists.

Bashar Jarjees Habash, coordinator of Christian affairs in the city of Hamdaniya, said the statue of Jesus opening his arms was built to “send a message of peace to everyone to say that we want to live in peace with all,” as reported by Agence France-Presse.

“The people of this area have always tried to live in peace with everyone, even those who fight and threaten them,” he told AFP.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, some 250,000 to 500,000 Christians, or about half the Christian population, have left the country, according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

Christians have been the target of attacks for years and violence against the shrinking community escalated earlier this year, ahead of the March 7 elections. At least 10 Iraqi Christians were killed by unknown gunmen in Mosul in February.

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians took to the streets that month a number of protests, chanting “Stop the killing of Christians.”

In the new appeal this week, church leaders asked U.S. officials to work with Iraqis to not only protect Christians and other minority groups but also encourage the preservation of religious and ethnic diversity in Iraq.

Courtesy of

Muslims Want Franklin Graham Removed from Capitol Prayer

Less than a week after Franklin Graham was disinvited from the Pentagon prayer event, the evangelist faces another attempt to remove him from a National Day of Prayer observation.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that is widely accused of having ties to terrorists, has called on congressional sponsors of the National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill to rescind Graham’s invitation to speak at the May 6 gathering.

CAIR denounced Graham as an “anti-Islam preacher” who sends a message of “religious intolerance.”

“Franklin Graham has the right to be an Islamophobe, but he does not have the right to a taxpayer-funded public platform,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR national legislative director, in a statement.

Despite the pressure to remove Graham, members of Congress involved in NDOP on Capitol Hill say they will not withdraw the invitation. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who has sponsored the Congressional National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol for the past several years, and other lawmakers have stated that the invitation will stand, according to the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

“Suggesting Mr. Graham should be removed from a National Day of Prayer event because of his religious opinions is absurd,” said NDPTF chairman Shirley Dobson, in a statement Tuesday. “No one understands better the need for prayer at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.”

Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, noted that Graham’s son is currently serving in the military overseas on his fourth combat tour. And the evangelist’s father, Billy Graham, has served the religious needs of Americans, including a dozen presidents, for decades.

“Moves to exclude any member of this great family from this prayer event represent everything that is wrong with the agenda of political correctness that is rampant in our country,” Dobson said. “Our nation’s founders wouldn’t have tolerated it, and neither should we.”

Graham is the co-honorary chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Last Thursday, the army canceled Graham’s scheduled appearance at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer event because of concerns over past remarks he made about Islam.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Graham called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” He also made disparaging remarks about the Muslim faith in an interview with CNN’s Campbell Brown in December 2009.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, on behalf of Muslim military personnel and defense department staff, had demanded in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Graham be disinvited from speaking at the Pentagon prayer event. The army called the comments inappropriate and suggested it went against the army’s message of tolerance.

Graham brought the Pentagon prayer situation to President Obama’s attention. During Obama’s visit with Billy Graham at his North Carolina home on Sunday, the younger Graham expressed his concern that activists were trying to remove all religion from the military.

Graham told The Associated Press that Obama said he “would look into it.”

Courtesy of Christian Post at

Two Convicted of Denying Access to Abortion Clinic

For the first time in New York City, federal prosecutors have used the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act to secure a conviction in a case where access was blocked to a clinic that provides abortions.

The prosecutors used the statute, signed into law in 1994, to charge two men who stood in front of an entrance at the Margaret Sanger Center, a clinic operated by Planned Parenthood at the corner of Bleecker and Mott Streets.

The men, Richard R. Dugan and Theodore A. Puckett, were each convicted on Monday of a single count of violating the act after a one-day bench trial conducted in Manhattan by Judge Robert W. Sweet of United States District Court. Each man faces a maximum six-month sentence and a fine of $10,000. Sentencing was scheduled for June 10.

Although the statute had never been used in a criminal prosecution in New York City, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan said prosecutors there had used the measure in 1996 in a civil case.

According to a criminal complaint, Mr. Dugan, 48, of Breaux Bridge, La., and Mr. Puckett, 58, of Normandy, Tenn., blocked staff and patients from using two entrances to the clinic on Dec. 12, 2009, and refused to leave.

During the proceeding on Monday morning, Mr. Dugan, who represented himself, told Judge Sweet: “They were going in there to kill babies, and we were stopping that. So I think the whole case should just be dismissed right now.”

Mr. Puckett told Judge Sweet that he did not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, adding, “I can’t participate in this farce.”

An official in the United States attorney’s office said that the two men obstructed the driveway of a clinic in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., in 1995, and that a judge later issued an injunction barring them from blocking that building.

Alejandro Miyar, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that since 1994 the agency had filed 58 criminal cases across the country related to the FACE act, resulting in 80 convictions. In addition, he said, the department had filed 19 civil suits using the act.

Over the last year or so, groups of several dozen protesters had been showing up on the first Saturday of each month at the clinic on Bleecker Street, said Joan Malin, the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood in New York City. Members of the crowd have displayed pictures of aborted fetuses, passed out pamphlets and sometimes attempted to dissuade women from entering the premises.

Those protests have generally been peaceful, Ms. Malin said, but Mr. Puckett and Mr. Dugan emerged from such a gathering to block the clinic doors.

Ms. Malin said she hoped the convictions on Monday would send a message.

“I am concerned when people blockade and make it difficult for clients and staff to get in,” she said. “We provide health care services, and for people to obstruct that is wrong.”

Courtesy of the New York Times