Every two to three years, Eddie Sales trims and prunes the crape myrtles at his church, Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church. But this year, the city of Charlotte cited the church for improperly pruning its trees. “We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don’t want to worry about them hanging down in the way,” said Sales, a church member. The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000. “I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about it,” Sales said. “We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined.” The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division. “When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced,” Johnson said. “We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road.” Charlotte has had a tree ordinance since 1978, and when trees are incorrectly pruned or topped, people can be subject to fines, Johnson said. Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence. “The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees,” Johnson said. “Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees.” Individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters to receive a free permit to conduct the landscape work. Foresters will then meet with the person receiving the permit and give instructions on how to properly trim their trees, Johnson said. The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board, but certification is not required to receive a permit. On private property, fine amounts are based on the size of the tree improperly pruned. For small trees such as cherry trees or crape myrtles, the fine is $75 per tree. Excessive cutting can increase that fine to $100 per branch. For large trees such as oaks or maples, the fine is $150 per tree. Because there is a widespread lack of understanding on how to prune crape myrtles in the Charlotte area, Johnson said, residents found in violation regarding these trees are asked to simply replace them, and the fine will be lifted. Sales said trees found in violation at the church must be cut down and replaced with new trees by October, but the church plans to appeal. Sales doesn’t know how much it would cost to replace the trees. “We trimmed back these trees in the interest of the church,” Sales said. “If we were in violation, we certainly did not know we were.” Typically during the course of a year, Johnson said, about six private residents are found in violation of improper topping or pruning. “We are trying to be pro-active and not trying to fine people excessively,” Johnson said.
The nation’s agency for military veterans has agreed to stay out of religious refereeing for now, backing down from its attempt to tell a minister how to craft a prayer for a Memorial Day invocation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Hindrichs told federal District Judge Lynn Hughes that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not demand that Memorial Day prayers at Houston National Cemetery Monday be as non-denominational as possible.
“(The agency) will let the prayer go on this Monday,” Hindrichs told Hughes.
The change of heart came one day after the judge granted the Rev. Scott Rainey a temporary restraining order against the agency after officials told the pastor to edit his prayer to make it as general and non-denominational as possible. Rainey’s prayer, submitted for review at the agency’s request included the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and thanked Jesus Christ, the Christian savior, in closing.
“The … prayer/message is specific to one belief,” wrote Arleen Ocasio, director of the Houston National Cemetery.
“I’ve never said a prayer in my life that didn’t end with Jesus Christ,” Rainey said after Friday’s hearing. “It was unrealistic expectation for me not to include the name of Jesus Christ.”
Veterans Affairs officials informed Rainey that if he wanted to give the invocation, he would have to keep the language in his prayer “general” and “non-denominational.”
Rainey filed a lawsuit against the agency Thursday, claiming the government was censoring his speech and asked the judge to stop the agency from doing so.
Judge warns agency
Hughes granted a temporary restraining order which will stay in place through Monday’s Memorial Day. The judge said that while he was not doubting the government’s word, he was “an experienced optimist” who didn’t want to leave room for the government to change its mind before Monday.
Yesterday, the judge warned the agency it had stepped too far, saying officials were essentially “decreeing how citizens honor their veterans.”
“The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity,” Hughes wrote.
For the past two years, Rainey has given the Memorial Day invocation at the cemetery to honor U.S. soldiers who have fought and died. The invocation is sponsored by a private group, the National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston, but held at the Houston National Cemetery, which is public property.
This year, however, the cemetery director asked to see the prayer beforehand. She then asked Rainey to edit it.
“… While it is very well written, I must ask you to edit it,” Ocasio wrote on May 19. “The tone of all messages must be inclusive of all beliefs, need to be general and its fundamental purpose should be specific to those we are honoring, and non-denominational in nature.”
Rabbi Roy Walter, senior rabbi at Congregation Emanu El, said he agrees with Rainey’s free speech position.
“I do believe the government doesn’t have the right to tell him what he can and cannot do,” Walter said.
But the rabbi said Rainey’s prayer doesn’t reflect that all veterans are not Christians.
“I don’t think it’s sensitive to the fact that a great many people who are veterans, who gave their lives or lived through service, are not Christian.”
The notice on Sunday (May 22) from Police Chief Ben Salma, citing a May 8 decree from the Bejaia Province governor, also states that all churches “in all parts of the country” will be closed for lack of compliance with registration regulations, but Christian leaders dismissed this assertion as the provincial official does not have nationwide authority.
“All buildings permanently designated for or in the process of being designated for the practice of religious worship other than Muslim will be permanently closed down in all parts of the country, as well as those not having received the conformity authorization from the National Commission,” Salma stated in the notice.
On Sunday (May 22) the governor of Bejaia sent a statement to the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) informing him that all churches in the province were illegal because they were unregistered. Registration is required under controversial Ordinance 06-03, but Christians report the government refuses to respond to or grant their applications for registration.
The controversial law was introduced in 2006 to regulate non-Muslim worship. In 2008 the government applied measures in accordance with Ordinance 06-03 to limit the activities of non-Muslim groups, ordering the closure of 26 churches in the Kabylie region because they were not registered. No churches had been closed down since then.
EPA members argue, however, that the law is impossible to implement as officials refuse to register their churches despite efforts to comply. They said the authorities apply the law when they want to harass churches.
“It’s always the same thing,” Mustapha Krim, president of the EPA, told Compass. “They use this law when they want to pester us.”
On Monday (May 23) members of the EPA were scheduled to visit the Minister of Religious Affairs. Instead, however, they were received by one of his deputies, who told them the ministry was not aware of the decision of the Bejaia governor. The meeting was not constructive, according to Krim.
Krim, a resident of Bejaia, sounded relaxed and pragmatic on the phone, but he was adamant that the EPA members had no intention of closing their churches. The letter from the governor did not include a closure date, nor did it give any further reasons local authorities made this decision.
The governor of Bejaia is not particularly religious, according to Krim, making his order to close the churches of his province even more bemusing, he said.
The churches of Bejaia have submitted the documentation the controversial law requires, and the government’s unwillingness to give official permission for the churches to operate is a matter for officials, not churches, to resolve, asserted Krim.
“There are no precise reasons given [for the order to close],” Krim said. “They said we have to be in conformity to the law. We’ve always tried to do this and have submitted all that they requested. Now it’s up to them to give us the authorization and do what they need to do.”
According to the governor’s statement, if the churches do not comply, authorities may use force. The leaders of the churches in Bejaia have decided to conduct church services this weekend as scheduled and “see what happens,” said Krim, who also expects police to show up.
“For now, on Friday and Sunday there will be church meetings like always, but we expect that we may encounter the police,” he said. “They have the authority to intervene.”
He and the leaders of the other Protestant churches of Bejaia will meet on Thursday (May 26) to discuss a plan in the event of a police presence and force. He said some of the Christians have expressed fear and have many questions.
Asked if he thought this could mean the beginning of more closures of churches across Algeria, Krim said, “It is possible they are capable of doing things like this. We have no intention to close, and we have mobilized people to pray so that God can intervene.”
Despite efforts to comply with the ordinance, no churches or Christian groups have received governmental approval to operate, and the government has not established administrative means to implement the ordinance, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 Report on International Religious Freedom.
Though no churches have closed since 2008, their status remains questionable and only valid through registration with the EPA.
There are more than 99,000 Christians in Algeria, less than 0.3 percent of the total population of 35.4 million people, according to Operation World. Muslims make up more than 97 percent of the population.
This Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on if students in elementary schools have the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The case surfaced in the Plano Independent School District in Texas where Thomas Elementary School Principal Lynn Swanson and Rasor Elementary School Principal Jackie Bomchill were sued for restricting student speech when it referenced “God” or “Jesus.”
According to the Liberty Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting freedoms and strengthening families, in a prior incident, officials banned 8-year-old Jonathan Morgan from handing out candy with Jesus’ name on them to classmates at a school party. “Then they confiscated a little girl’s pencils after school because they mentioned ‘God,’” the Institute reported. The group also reported that: “They even banned an entire classroom from writing ‘Merry Christmas’ on cards to our troops serving in Iraq.”
The disagreement began in district court then progressed to a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit where school officials’ efforts to have the complaint rejected because of their “immunity” failed. Now the 5th Circuit appeals court has arranged an en banc hearing in which 17 judges will listen to arguments and decide the dispute.
The school officials are arguing, “that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students,” explains the appeal brief submitted by Liberty Institute. They are claiming that the case is a dispute of “first impression,” – that is, the first time the question has been raised. Swanson and Bomchill are urging, “that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students.” According to school officials, “neither the Supreme Court nor this Court has ever extended First Amendment ‘freedom of speech’ protection to the distribution of non-curricular materials in public elementary schools,” the brief explains.
Liberty Institute asserts, “The First Amendment is not implicated by restrictions on student-to-student distribution of non-curricular materials by elementary school students to their classmates.” Kelly Shackelford, the president and CEO of Liberty Institute, Stated that the fundamental question that remains is whether the appeals court will “strip away the First Amendment rights of kids and their parents in the schools.”
Shackelford believes this could quickly turn into slippery slope; If an elementary school student has no First Amendment rights, what about a middle school or junior high student. What if this later extends to the adult collegiate level? “This is chilling. What this means if they have no First Amendment rights is that they have no right to have a viewpoint different from the government,” he said.
Shackleford said he is pleading with Christian organizations and groups to be in prayer this weekend over the arguments and the outcome. According to his statement, “Whatever confusion may exist about student speech and the Religion Clauses, the confusion does not extend to the fundamental principle that school officials may not discriminate against student speech solely because it expresses a religious viewpoint.”
NewsCore) – MARGATE, England — A Christian doctor in England has been threatened with an official warning from his professional body for discussing Jesus with a patient, The (London) Sunday Times reported.
Richard Scott, a doctor for 28 years, is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) and faces disciplinary action after he suggested to a 24-year-old man that he might find solace in Christianity.
Scott, who practices at a medical center in Margate, east of London, well known for having Christian doctors, insists he only raised his spiritual beliefs after carrying out a thorough and lengthy consultation, during which medical checks and referrals for further care were arranged.
When the man’s mother inquired of the consultation, however, her son apparently replied, “He just said I need Jesus.” This prompted his mother to refer Scott to the GMC, claiming that he had not offered medical advice during the consultation but instead talked about Jesus.
The young man, who has been described as “in a rut and in need of help” grew up in a different religion but his faith had lapsed. He has continued to seek treatment from the practice despite the complaint filed by his mother.
The GMC has written to Scott suggesting he accept an official warning but the GP (family doctor), who has an unblemished record as a medic, has decided to fight the allegations and stand up to what he believes is a politically correct trend in Britain to persecute Christians for expressing their faith in the workplace.
Scott fears that if he accepts the warning, and discusses his Christian beliefs with other patients, he could be struck off.
He maintains he acted professionally and says the complaint was made against him in the knowledge that professional bodies are nervous about claims of a religious nature.
Scott said, “I only discussed my faith at the end of a lengthy medical consultation after exploring the various interventions that the patient had previously tried, and after promising to follow up the patient’s request for an appointment with other medical professionals.
“I only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission. In our conversation, I said that, personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient. At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.
“This complaint was brought to the GMC not by the patient, who has continued to be a patient in this practice, but by the patient’s mother.”
Scott is a partner at the Bethesda medical center in Margate, Kent. The six partners at the practice are all Christians and it has taken a biblical name. Practice leaflets and message boards publicize the doctors’ religion and invite patients to raise Christian beliefs with them.
Scott is being advised by the Christian Legal Center. Paul Diamond, the leading human rights barrister, has been instructed in the case.
By Selwyn Duke
Increasingly, it seems that the American flag is joining toy guns and dodgeball on the banned-from-school list. And the latest story on this front involves The Butterfield Elementary in Orange, Massachusetts, where a teacher told an eleven-year-old boy that he may not hang his depiction of Old Glory because it might “offend” another student.
The boy, Frankie Girard, had drawn the picture in art class but then found that his teacher didn’t share his patriotism. Says his father, John, “He was denied hanging the flag up. And he asked if he could just even hang it on his desk, and he was told no. He could take the picture that he drew and take it home and be proud of it there.”
I guess patriotism has joined piety as a “private matter.” (Leftists tend to confuse closets with shelves. Everything that should be in the former, they display; everything that should be on the latter, they hide.)
There is a bit of a back story here, too. It is claimed that this incident followed an altercation in which the offended one struck Frankie after Frankie asked him why he didn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
As for the accusation leveled against the teacher, it’s denied by the school superintendent, Dr. Paul Burnim. He refused to go on camera, but, reports WWLP.com’s Matt Caron, he “told 22News over the phone that nobody ever told Franklin the drawing was offensive, and said the only reason it wasn’t hung was because Franklin was supposed to be doing other work; [sic] not drawing a picture.”
Nose growing much, doctor?
The reason why I don’t believe this man for a second is this: What eleven-year-old is going to concoct a story that his teacher said his flag drawing was “offensive”? Oh, I understand that kids can lie almost as well as educators, but such a fabrication would require a level of cultural knowledge and sophistication beyond the grammar-school set. No, what we have here is a guilty teacher and a superintendent doing damage control and hiding under his desk.
As to this, Frankie’s father, John — who has contacted the ACLU (which makes me wonder about his cultural knowledge) and gotten a lot of press — said that Dr. Burnim asked him if this would “go away” if his son were allowed to hang the flag now. Obviously, this educator is worried about being hanged himself. Doctor, the time for that is past.
And you are a coward.
If you were any kind of man, you would have been offended that a teacher would look askance upon the flag. If you were any kind of a man, you would have leapt into action without hesitation. If you were any kind of man, you would have defended our culture. But you’re something other than a man.
It’s called a leftist.
And this is typical of leftists. They persecute traditionalist students in thousands of schools and universities nationwide (see Campus-Watch.org), and, when they are occasionally caught with their hands in the commie jar, they don’t even have the guts to come on camera and defend their “beliefs.”
This is because they operate based on popularity, not principle. They are pack animals, fawners over the fashionable. In 1936 Germany, they would have been doing the goosestep, and in 1917 Russia, they would have sported the hammer and sickle. This malleability isn’t surprising, either. “Left,” like “right,” is a relative term. Left of what? In the case of these folks, the only constant is that they’re left of sanity.
Now, in the comments section under Caron’s article, someone in the community accused Frankie of being a bully. But this is irrelevant. It would be a mistake to conflate a defense of the flag with a defense of a flag-waver. If the boy misbehaved, punish him, but you don’t prohibit the flag’s display because it’s “offensive.” You hang the flag — and then “hang” the child if necessary.
Speaking of which, was the little offended offender punished for striking Frankie? Or is that allowed now when someone has the temerity to express patriotic sentiments?
And who is offended by the flag, anyway? Is this classmate a budding al-Qaeda member? A La Raza Reconquista type? Is his last name Chavez? (Actually, Frankie’s sister claims he’s a Jehovah’s Witness.) Whatever the case, if the American flag offends him, I suggest that he’s in the wrong country.
The thing I find most irritating about this story is the ridiculous idea that “offensiveness” should be a guide for anything. And it not only shouldn’t be…
…but it cannot be.
This is because offensiveness is completely relative and subjective: most everything offends someone and most everyone is offended by something. Yet we won’t prohibit everything. Would we kowtow to a child who was offended by sitting next to a black classmate? In short, we have to discriminate among people’s feelings. And what will be the yardstick that we use to judge? Unless it is the “feelings” of the given authority figure — in which case the judgments are completely arbitrary — the standard of right and wrong must be applied.
Once you recognize this, the offensiveness argument goes out the window. It passes muster only in a relativistic universe in which, without a conception of Truth as a yardstick for making decisions, people use the only thing they have left: emotion. Yet this reduces society to the law of the jungle: we fight, using fists, votes, or words (maybe lies), and those who prevail see their will done. And that higher one, and civilization, are casualties.
The truth is that when people take offense, it’s usually just a ploy. They’re not really offended.
They just don’t happen to like what you’re saying.
But if they were honest and said just that, they’d seem intolerant. So they try to seize the moral high ground by putting the onus on you and claiming you’re “offensive.” Yet they usually have neither the high ground nor anything moral. If they had the latter, they’d likely be able to mount an argument as to why you’re wrong in a real, absolute sense. Instead, all they’re saying, properly translated, is that they don’t like how you taste. If they looked to Truth, however, they might find that the problem actually lies with their palate.
Something else that can exist only in a relativistic universe is the spiritual disease that today wears the label “liberalism.” Get people to believe in Truth, and this disease will die as surely as will a fungus exposed to the light.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is applauding Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) for recently signing a bill to protect the religious expression of college students.
Jeremy Tedesco serves as legal counsel for ADF, a legal alliance that defends the right of people to live out their faith. He tells OneNewsNow this law comes at a time when it is much needed.
“The bill was really inspired by the Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision in Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez, where a Christian student group was kicked off campus because of its religious membership restrictions, and the Supreme Court upheld that,” Tedesco explains. “So this bill addresses that; it provides…protection for religious student groups that select leaders and members based on shared religious values.”
He says the law will also protect Arizona students. He notes a counseling student in Michigan who was dismissed from her graduate program when she refused to counsel a student who asked for advice on how to improve his homosexual relationship. The American Counseling Association (ACA), which agreed with the school’s action, objects to the Arizona law.
“We’ve got this momentum building on the wrong side of the issue, basically saying that Christians have no place in the profession,” Tedesco points out. “So having a law like this in place allows Christians to at least get the education to enter their profession. And now we’ve got to make sure that these licensing boards don’t turn around and do the ACA’s bidding and start revoking the licenses of Christians.”
The ADF legal counsel adds that the Arizona law is in line with America’s history of commitment to religious liberty and freedom.