Friday, December 3, 2010

Court Rules Censoring Student's Valedictorian Speech About God Unconstintutional

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday ruled 6-1 in favor of a valedictorian who was barred from mentioning God or Christ in her graduation speech.

The school district in Yellowstone County violated Renee Griffith's constitutional right to free speech, the high court ruled.

"We find it unreasonable for the School District to conclude that Griffith’s cursory references to her personal religious beliefs could be viewed by those in attendance at the BHS (Butte School District) graduation ceremony as a religious endorsement by the School District," Justice Patricia O'Brien Cotter wrote in the opinion.

The decision reverses a lower court's ruling that the school district's practice of excluding expression of personal religious views in student speeches was a reasonable basis for its action against Griffith.

Griffith, one of the ten valedictorians in the class of 2008, was scheduled to deliver a speech jointly with another student at the 2008 graduation ceremony. Part of her prepared remarks included: "I didn’t let fear keep me from sharing Christ and His joy with those around me. I learned to impart hope, to encourage people to treat each day as a gift. I learned not to be known for my grades or for what I did during school, but for being committed to my faith and morals and being someone who lived with a purpose from God with a passionate love for Him."

The valedictorian was told that religious references were not permitted in graduation speeches and that she had to omit references to "God" and "Christ" in her speech. Griffith refused to do so, saying that she could not accurately convey her high school experience without mentioning these motivations for her accomplishments, actions, and life purpose.

She was offered an alternative – to change the "God" and "Christ" references to "faith."

Again, Griffith refused the changes. As a result, she was pulled from delivering the valedictory speech.

The student filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau shortly thereafter, alleging discrimination against her on the basis of religion. The complaint was dismissed.

She then filed a complaint in the Thirteenth Judicial District, claiming that the school district violated her state and federal constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion. The court, however, ruled that the district's decision prohibiting Griffith from speaking did not violate the First Amendment.

She appealed.

The high court ruled that the school district violated its own written policies of non-censorship. One of the policies states that "the school administration shall not censor any presentation or require any content" and that students who are selected to speak may choose to deliver "an address, poem, reading, song, musical presentation, prayer or any other pronouncement of their choosing."

"We hold that the School District violated Griffith’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution when it impermissibly censored the content of her valedictory speech based on the viewpoint she expressed," the court concluded.

Read More from Christian

FBI Arrests Man Accused Of Generating A Third Of The World's Computer Spam

A 23-year-old Russian is accused in Milwaukee of generating a third of the world's computer spam.An FBI agent in Milwaukee is credited with bringing down the 'king of spam,' a 23-year-old Moscow man accused of controlling a network of infected computers generating an estimated 10 billion unwanted e-mails a day.A federal criminal complaint says the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have been tracking Oleg Nikolaenko since at least 2007.He was arrested last month during a visit to Las Vegas. He's scheduled to appear in federal court in Milwaukee Friday.

Read More from

U.S Veteran Dies After Winning Fight To Prove He Is Alive

Caswell County, NC -- A local veteran died Thursday morning, hours after getting his benefits reinstated by Veterans Affairs due to confusion that he was already dead.

Floyd Holmes' wife, Marie Holmes, called WFMY News 2 earlier this week when she felt like she hit the end of the road in the battle to get her husband's disability payments returned.

Marie said there was a confusion after Floyd Holmes' son died several months ago. The Social Security Administration though Floyd Holmes died. She said the couple straightened that out, but ever since, Floyd had not received his disability check from the VA.

Floyd's health problems started with colon cancer, which lead to the removal of his large intestines and then problems with his kidneys.

WFMY News 2's Justin Quesinberry reached out to the VA Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning, Marie said she received a call from a VA representative saying they were going to reinstate his check in the next five days.

"The first thing I thought, it's a crying shame that it took me this long to get through to somebody that had authority to do something," she said after she was told about the reinstatement.

Marie Holmes called WFMY News 2 Thursday afternoon and said her husband died Thursday morning. She said she was thankful for the WFMY team working to help reinstate her husband's benefits.

WFMY News 2 received the following statement Thursday afternoon from Kerry Meeker of Veteran's Affairs:

"The Department of Veterans Affairs is deeply saddened by the death of Veteran Floyd Ross Holmes, Jr., and extends sincere condolences to his family and friends. We will work closely with the Holmes' family to provide the benefits earned. As of Dec. 1, Mr. Holmes received all retroactive benefits payments due and his spouse will receive an additional benefit within 30 days," she said.

Read More from

Store Advertises Offering Beer And Cigarettes For Food Stamps Plus $1

PLANT CITY, Fla. - A new advertisement from a Plant City grocery store is causing some concern. The promotion basically offers to accept food stamps in exchange for cigarettes and beer.

The ad offers beer and cigarettes for $1 for customers who use food stamps to purchase large quantities of meat. The store owner calls it a promotion, but some call it a loophole in the law.

It’s illegal to use food stamps to buy things like beer and cigarettes, but what’s listed in the ad appears to be perfectly legal.

The ad for the Price Buster Food Center in Plant City offers large quantities of meat, such as 27 pounds of beef for $60. The very top line of the ad reads, "EBT & Food Stamps Accepted." If the customer pays just one extra dollar, the store will throw in cases of beer or cigarettes.

The bargain has some customers concerned. “It bothers me. Cigarettes and beer should definitely not be part of a food stamp promotion,” said customer Tina Brodowski.

ABC Action News asked store owner Jeffrey Housholder if the promotion is a loophole that allows customers to use food stamps to buy beer and cigarettes. “Well, they can use their EBT cards, they can use their credit cards, they can pay me cash. It’s all the same deal to everybody,” Housholder responded.

Housholder says he’s not doing anything illegal, and he’s right. The USDA says because the deal is available to anyone, even customers who aren’t using food stamps, and because the beer and cigarettes are a separate charge, it appears to be within the law.

But Terry Field with the Florida Department of Children and Families says that insignificant one dollar charge appears to be just a way to sidestep the law.

“It may not be technically illegal, but it certainly doesn’t seem to pass the smell test,” Field said.

Housholder argues that his store has been hit hard by the economy, and this is just another way to bring customers in.

“Plant City has lost probably about 8 to 10,000 residents in our area. We’re just trying to broaden our advertising and reach out to more people,” Housholder said.

Field says it could lead to misuse of the food stamps program.

“To know that they’re using food stamps to buy food simply because they’re getting a bonus of cigarettes or alcohol, that’s a little problematic,” Field said.

Read More from

Maine Woman Collects Socks For U.S Soldiers

The mother of a Maine soldier serving in Afghanistan has launched a mission to collect comfortable socks for soldiers overseas.Deborah Walsh, of North Berwick, started Socks For Soldiers after her son Daryl requested a few pairs of sturdy, comfortable socks as a Christmas present.Walsh said that most people will never realize what a simple pair of warm and well-padded socks can mean to a fighting soldier.

"It turned out to be a blessing, because people have really reached out. I've had the most wonderful conversations with people who want to do something, but didn't know what to do."
- Deborah Walsh
She's specifically looking for Smartwool socks -- a popular hiking sock that she said allows soldiers to better endure Afghanistan's rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions.At nearly $15 a pair, Walsh said she couldn't provide the socks for soldiers overseas alone, so she launched Socks For Soldiers to find others willing to help."It turned out to be a blessing, because people have really reached out. I've had the most wonderful conversations with people who want to do something, but didn't know what to do," Walsh said.

Walsh said people from all over have donated dozens of socks for the cause. She is working on sending her second batch to her son's platoon.

Read More From

Fire Destroys Historic Chapel In Gettysburg PA

An early-morning fire involved four buildings in Gettysburg, Adams County, on Friday.
IMAGES: See Fire Scene In Downtown Gettysburg
The fire broke out along the 100 block of Chambersburg Street
The blaze started at about 3:30 a.m. and involved a private residence, a coffee shop, an Adams County Rescue Mission shelter and a Civil War chapel on the southside of the street.The wooden chapel, which the U.S. Christian Commission owns, was destroyed. Fire officials said another blaze broke out in that building in 2004.No injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation.Six families, who were living in the shelter, were displaced. The American Red Cross is assisting them.Additions to the chapel may have been built with illegal permits. Borough officials recently issued an order to vacate the property.

click to read more from