Thursday, June 10, 2010

U.S Cities Warned to Stop Persecuting Christians

Click to read full story from World Net Daily

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

Some months ago, officials in Elk River, Minn., reversed a policy banning religious meetings at its public library at the urging of Alliance Defense Fund attorneys.

Now letters have gone out from ADF to more than 150 other government jurisdictions across the nation asking them also to correct policies that illegally target the religious content of community activities.

"I think it's finally gotten to a head," ADF senior legal counsel Joel Oster told WND today. "The Supreme Court in 2001 in the Good News case sealed the deal on this issue. It should not be litigated any more."

But the organization explained litigation might be needed if officials don't change suspect policies in the Chambers County library in Valley, Ala.; the Carlsbad, Calif., city library system; the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes library in Old Lyme, Conn.; the Gwinnett County public library in Lawrenceville, Ga.; the Sycamore, Ill., public library; the Clinton, Ind., public library; the Nelson County public library in Bardstown, Ky.; and the Lynn, Mass., public library.

Also, the Ann Arbor, Mich., district library; the Pamlico County public library in Bayboro, N.C.; and others in Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were sent letters.

A total of 151 governmental entities that control more than 750 public facilities are receiving notice, according to the ADF.

The organization explained government officials "frequently refuse or restrict Christian churches, groups, and individuals when they attempt to reserve facilities otherwise open to the public at schools, libraries, parks, and community centers – a practice routinely determined to be unconstitutional by the courts."

"Christians shouldn't be excluded and restricted from using public meeting rooms and other facilities simply because they plan to express a Christian viewpoint," Oster said. "The Constitution prohibits the government from deciding who can and cannot use space based upon which viewpoints are being discussed during those meetings. Public officials can't give preferential treatment to some views over others."

He said that many times inappropriate policies – imposing illegal limits on Christian and other religious groups – have gone unchallenged, and, as a result, churches and others are prevented from discussing their faith, while secular subjects are not banned.

ADF reported that as a result of its litigation over the years, policy changes have been made that already affect more than 1,900 other public locations.

One such case was Elk River, Minn. City officials there stated a library meeting room was "free of charge, for use by community members for non-religious, non-commercial meetings, which are open to the public." The policy further said "usage may not be for prayer or other worship purposes."

The city allowed reduced rate rentals for park facilities to all Elk River non-profits, except groups using them for "prayer or other worship purposes." That meant those engaging in religious expression would have to pay the full rate charged to commercial and out-of-town groups.

Elk River resident Brad Bjorkman approached the city council about its discriminatory policy, and one member responded that the policy would not be changed and that his only option was to sue the city. Bjorkman then contacted ADF attorneys, who sent a letter on his behalf to Mayor Stephanie Klinzing urging the city to change its policy based upon well-established First Amendment case law.

The city council soon agreed to remove the problematic restrictions.

Oster told WND the heart of the problem is the longstanding insistance that there is a "separation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution.

He pointed out the concept is not in the Constitution and a lot of education will be needed before the belief is corrected.

"The Supreme Court has been very clear. The Constitution does not require government to be hostile to religion," he said. "Religious speech clearly is protected."

He said what is forbidden is for the government to establish a church and require citizens to attend or support it.

Report Says United States More Violent Than China and Cuba

Click to read full story from Fox News

BRUSSELS (AP) — Cuba and China are more peaceful than the United States, according to a report published Thursday.

The global peace index, prepared by the Sydney, Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, says the world in general is becoming a more violent place. The report says nearly two-thirds of the countries it ranks every year have become more violent since 2007.

Iraq is the most violent nation in the world, the report says, followed by Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Israel, Georgia, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Beacons of peace are New Zealand — which tops the index — Iceland, Japan, Austria, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland and Sweden.

The United States ranks 85th, below Cuba and China and just ahead of Angola.

The idea for the index came from Steve Killelea, an Australian entrepreneur who wanted to identify what makes a peaceful country. He asked the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is affiliated with the Economist news magazine, to look at a range of variables, from levels of homicides per 100,000 people — which drags down America and boosts Denmark — to corruption and access to primary education.

South Africa Hides It's Homeless As The World Cup Games Draw Closer

Click to read full story from NPR News

Overview of Blikkiesdorp, a shantytown outside  Cape TownAs Friday's kickoff to the 2010 World Cup approaches, some of South Africa's host cities are going to great lengths to clean up their images.

After all, the four-week, 32-team tournament is expected to draw more than 300,000 international soccer fans and the attention of a global television audience.

Just a few blocks from Cape Town's new Green Point soccer stadium is Sea Point, where high-rise hotels stand atop old stone walls at the ocean's edge. Families and tourists stroll through the area's grassy waterfront parks.

It is beautiful, and that's partly because of what visitors don't see: dozens of homeless people who normally live in the area.

Ahead of the matches, Cape Town police have been arresting homeless people who live there and, in some cases, relocating them to the outskirts of the city.

Shane Raymond is a homeless man who eats at a nearby soup kitchen.

Blikkiesdorp is supposed to provide temporary shelter for Cape Town residents who are waiting for government housing. But many say they have been forcibly relocated there in an attempt to clean up Cape Town streets and make way for a World Cup stadium.

Blikkiesdorp is supposed to provide temporary shelter for Cape Town residents who are waiting for government housing. But many say they have been forcibly relocated there in an attempt to clean up Cape Town streets and make way for a World Cup stadium.

"There are people that I have known who are no longer in circulation. And there's this little area just outside of Cape Town near the airport that they call Blikkiesdorp, and that is where they are moving these people to," Raymond says.

Life In 'Tin Can City'

Blikkiesdorp is about 45 minutes outside Cape Town. The name is Afrikaans for "Tin Can City," and it's easy to see how it got the name — there are hundreds of identical metal shanties laid out in perfect rows. Children and dogs run through the area's maze of gravel roads.

About 300,000 families in Cape Town are awaiting government homes, and Blikkiesdorp is supposed to provide temporary shelter for many of them.

But most people there are never issued a home elsewhere. Natasha Flor says she lived in a field near Green Point stadium for 14 years before a social worker brought her to Blikkiesdorp.

"I ended up here when that lady, she just come and throw us here, because she is a social worker in Green Point for [those of us who are] outside, and then she just dropped us here," Flor says.

Gavin Brooks and his three children were brought to Blikkiesdorp from Sea Point. He says he was told he couldn't stay where he was and that the government had a better place for them to live, but that they would have to live in Blikkiesdorp for three to five years.

"We feel like we are thrown away here, like the government is just throwing us away. It's like a dump," Brooks says.

No Coercion, Official Says

Cape Town officials deny that anyone has been moved to Blikkiesdorp against their will. Hassan Khan is on the board of the City Improvement District — the organization responsible for cleaning up Cape Town's streets — and he also directs the Haven, a night shelter for homeless people.

"I think there's a misunderstanding here. It is quite possible that those people ... didn't think that they had any other choice of housing than going to Blikkiesdorp. But if the implication is that they were forced there, then I would have to say that that's not possible in a democratic country," Khan says.

South Africa wants to present itself as a top tourist destination to World Cup fans, and ridding the streets of homeless people seems to be an important part of the preparations in many of the nine cities hosting matches.

In Johannesburg, one official bluntly acknowledged the city's intention to chase away homeless people, saying, "You have to clean your house before you have guests."

More than 800 people in Johannesburg have been arrested or relocated, according to local reports, and similar actions are reportedly taking place in Rustenburg and Durban.

In a country where the forced removal of millions of black people during apartheid is still a recent memory, the relocations are especially controversial.