Monday, September 27, 2010

Georgia Teen Banned From Libraries For Proselytizing

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A 16-year-old boy has been banned from all branches of the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library system for six months for proselytizing.

According to a letter from Kirsten Edwards, acting manager of the North Columbus Public Library, Caleb Hanson repeatedly asked patrons "about their religious faith and to offer biblical advice."

Caleb received the letter through his parents, Tim and Elizabeth Hanson, who are in Columbus on furlough from mission work.

He said he was given several warnings, since June, from the library on Britt David Road.

"At first (library employees) warned me not to do it," he said. "Then they took me into an office and told me not to do it."

He said he then began talking to people outside the library, and patrons continued to complain.

Claudya Muller, the director of the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library system, said the ban "had nothing to do with what he was saying, but he was warned multiple times. ... As people came in, he would approach them. He prevented people from simply using the library."

In addition to the North Columbus branch, the system includes the Columbus, South Columbus, Mildred L. Terry, Cusseta-Chattahoochee, Lumpkin, Marion County and Parks Memorial public libraries. The ban was effective Aug. 28.

Jury Acquits 4 Missionaries Of Inciting Crowd At Muslim Festival

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A jury acquitted on Friday four Christian missionaries who were accused of inciting a crowd while videotaping themselves proselytizing to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in June.

Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were acquitted of breach of peace, 19th District Court officials in Dearborn said after the verdict. Mayel was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer's order.

The four are members of a Christian group called Acts 17 Apologetics, who, according to the group's Web site, "refute the arguments of those who oppose the true gospel, most commonly the arguments of Muslims and atheists." They maintain that Islam is a false religion and inherently violent.

They were charged in July with disorderly conduct after police said they received a complaint from a Christian volunteer working at the festival who said he was harassed by the group.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. said Friday night that he respects the decision, but the missionaries were anti-Muslim bigots pulling a publicity stunt to gain attention on YouTube in order to raise money.

ACLU Court Order Criminalizes Christianity

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By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

The Florida dispute over a "Consent Decree" adopted by school officials that critics charge violates the First Amendment and abridges the rights of teachers and students alike has been escalated to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a petition is asking the judges to strike it down.

The newest filing in the long-running dispute over complaints of prayers at some off-campus events in the Santa Rosa County School District was filed by Liberty Counsel.

The document is on behalf of efforts by the Christian Educators Association International to intervene in the case. The organization has interests in the outcome and had tried to enter at the trial court level, but was rejected by the judge.

The case originated when two high school seniors in 2008 brought the complaint under the pseudonym of "Doe." The solution adopted by the school board was a "Consent Decree" crafted by the American Civil Liberties Union which since then has been used to threaten employees with fines and jail time for something as personal as praying over a meal.

For example, Liberty Counsel was successful in 2009 defending Michelle Winkler on contempt charges brought by the ACLU after her husband, who is not employed by the district, offered a meal prayer at a private event in a neighboring county.

Also, on Constitution Day, Liberty Counsel successfully defended Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman on criminal contempt charges. The ACLU complained that Freeman offered a blessing for a lunch for some 20 adult booster club members.

According to Liberty Counsel, under the decree and the official district guidelines, "teachers are always considered to be acting in their 'official capacity' whenever a student is present, even at private functions off campus. Teachers cannot pray, bow their heads, or fold their hands to show agreement with anyone who does pray. Teachers and staff cannot 'Reply' to an e-mail sent by a parent if the parent's e-mail refers to God or Scripture. Teachers either have to delete such references from the original e-mail or reply by initiating a new e-mail. Teachers and staff are also required to stop students from praying in their own private club meetings. During witness testimony, Winkler cried as she described how she and a coworker, who had recently lost a child, had to hide in a closet to pray."

As a result, Liberty Counsel also initiated a separate lawsuit against the district on behalf of faculty, staff and students whose rights "are infringed" by the decree.

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said, "Public schools are not religion-free zones, yet this ACLU-crafted court order criminalizes Christianity and censors religious expression, even outside of school time. We will not rest until this unconstitutional order is overturned."

The appeal brief argues that the district court was mistaken, because the "Consent Decree" involved resolution of a case involving those two students alone, and it was not a class action case. Therefore, when they graduated and separated from the school, the case should have ended.

"The Consent Decree must be vacated as moot and the action dismissed for want of jurisdiction," the brief contends. "It is well-settled that graduation moots the interest of former students in declaratory or injunctive relief against their former schools.

"It is now undisputed that both plaintiffs graduated on May 30, 2009, and have 'no continuing contacts [with] Pace High School and/or the school district,'" it says.

WND reported weeks ago when Florida lawmakers got involved in the case. They adopted a new law that reads, "District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from taking affirmative action, including, but not limited to, the entry into any agreement, that infringes or waives the rights or freedoms afforded to instructional personnel, school staff, or students by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the absence of the express written consent of any individual whose constitutional rights would be impacted by such infringement or waiver."

Staver called the Consent Decree "the most unconstitutional order I have ever read."

"It was written as though the First Amendment does not exist. It is only a matter of time before this Consent Decree is overturned," he said.

The claims against Santa Rosa County School District began in August 2008 when two anonymous students sued with the help of the ACLU over longstanding practices at the school allowing prayer at some off-campus events. The school's separate counsel had agreed to a Consent Decree that "essentially bans all Santa Rosa County School District employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities," Liberty Counsel reported.

Liberty Counsel lawyers said they volunteered to work for free for the school to protect the First Amendment rights at issue.

"But the school district decided instead to shake hands with the ACLU, pay the ACLU $200,000 in legal fees and voluntarily enter into the consent decree that obliterates religious freedom and makes a mockery of the First Amendment," Liberty Counsel said in its description of the conflict.

White Decendents Of 1st U.S African American Doctor Gather To Put Tombstone On His Unmarked Grave

White descendants of the nation's first professionally trained African-American doctor gathered in a cemetery on Sunday to dedicate a tombstone at the unmarked grave where he was buried in 1865.

"Right now I feel so connected in a new way, to actually be here," said Antoinette Martignoni, the 91-year-old great-granddaughter of James McCune Smith. "I take a deep breath, and I thank God, I really do. I am so glad to have lived this long."

Smith, born in New York City in 1813, wanted to be a doctor but was denied entry to medical schools in the United States. He earned a degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, then returned to New York to practice. Besides being a doctor, he was celebrated in his lifetime as a writer and an anti-slavery leader.

Although scholars have written books about Smith, who set up a medical practice in lower Manhattan and became the resident physician at an orphanage, his descendants knew nothing about him until recently.

The story of why Smith was nearly overlooked by history and buried in an unmarked grave is in part due to the centuries-old practice of light-skinned blacks passing as white to escape racial prejudice. Smith's mother had been a slave; his father was white. Three of his children lived to adulthood, and they all apparently passed as white, scholars say.

Greta Blau, Smith's great-great-great-granddaughter, made the connection after she took a course at Hunter College on the history of blacks in New York. She did some research and realized that James McCune Smith the trailblazing black doctor was the same James McCune Smith whose name was inscribed in a family Bible belonging to Martignoni, her grandmother.

Her first response was, "But he was black. I'm white."

Blau, of New Haven, Conn., concluded that after Smith's death, his surviving children must have passed as white, and their children and grandchildren never knew they had a black forbear, let alone such an illustrious one.

Blau contacted all the Smith descendants she could find and invited them to join her Sunday for a ceremony dedicating a handsome tombstone at Smith's grave at Brooklyn's Cypress Hills Cemetery.

Eleven of Smith's descendants went to lay flowers at the cemetery, the final resting place of other notables including baseball player Jackie Robinson and actress Mae West.

Blau's aunt Elizabeth Strazar said she had grown up believing her ethnic heritage was English, Irish, Scottish and French.

"Now I can say I'm English, Irish, African-American and French, which I feel very proud of," she said.

Joanne Edey-Rhodes, the professor whose course led Blau to discover her ancestor, said Blau had written about Smith in her paper for the course.

"She was writing about this person and didn't realize that that was her very own ancestor," Edey-Rhodes said.

Edey-Rhodes, who's black, said that to be black in America in Smith's time "was a horrible condition."

"Black people were a despised group, and to many we still are a despised group in the world," she said. "I think that it is so important that at this time in history, that a family that is classified as white can say, 'I have this African-American ancestor,' and be able to do it without any shame, without having to hide it."

The tombstone dedication was followed by a panel discussion at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem. Smith was an active member of the church, which was at another location in his lifetime.