Sunday, June 22, 2008

State/Church Bulletin

State/Church Bulletin
Bush Pushes Faith-based Schools

Pres. Bush called on Congress to fund inner-city faith-based schools to the tune of $800 million, at a White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-based Schools on April 24..

He justified the handout by saying "we're using taxpayers' money to empower faith-based organizations to help meet critical needs throughout the country. . . . We also provide federal funding support for institutions of higher learning. We're using taxpayers' money to enable somebody to go to a private university, a religious university. . . .

So my attitude is if we're doing this, if this is a precedent, why don't we use the same philosophy to provide federal funds to help inner-city families find greater choices in educating their children?"

He invoked the D.C. Choice Incentive Act, in which 2,600 children "find new hope at a faith-based or other nonpublic school," at taxpayer expense..

He proposed "Pell Grants for Kids" as a $300 million initiative to remove 75,000 low-income children from "troubled" public schools to go to a "school of the parents' choice."..

Bush attacked the "so-called Blaine Amendments" in 30 state constitutions, which prohibit public support of religious schools. He claimed these "amendments have their roots in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry." They are actually patterned after Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty of 1786, protecting the right of citizens not to be compelled to attend, erect or support places of worship or religious seminaries..

Florida Amendment Spells Trouble

An amendment to the Florida State Constitution going on the November ballot would greatly weaken what the St. Petersburg Times has called "Florida's sturdy wall between church and state."..

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission veered off the course of its mission and passed a proposal this spring to put a referendum on the fall ballot to repeal the state constitution's explicit limitations on taxpayer funds going "directly or indirectly" to aid sectarian institutions..

Efforts by former Gov. Jeb Bush to fund religious school vouchers have been repeatedly repelled by the courts, which cite the state constitution's prohibition..

This major threat is an attack which could be duplicated in many other states, whose constitutional provisions have been a safeguard against forcing citizens to fund parochial schools. The wording of the Florida amendment is so broad it would probably bar any litigation challenging "faith-based" funding..

2008 Religious Earmarks

The Secular Coalition of America, of which the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a member organization, has completed a review of the 24 Congressional Appropriations Committee reports for the fiscal year 2008 appropriations process, finding at least 140 earmarks deemed "constitutionally suspect." Those earmarks total almost $30 million in public funds, which have now been appropriated..

Earmarking refers to placing a provision in legislation that directs funds toward specific projects or organizations, typically in a legislator's home state or district..

Identified as the top ten most egregious earmarks:

* $750,000 to renovate World Impact Ministries' St. Louis Headquarters (Bond, R-MO)..
* $200,000 to pay for the the International Fellowship of Chaplains' attendance at the Road to Hope Training Program (Gillmor, R-OH)..
* $200,000 to the Lower East Side Conservancy, a group that works to restore and preserve living synagogues (Maloney, D-NY)..
* $200,000 to the Goodwill Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter that seeks to convert its clients to Christianity (Lautenberg, D-NJ)..
* $850,000 for construction at Morning Star Ranch, a Christian-only camp that trains youth to become lay evangelists (Brownback, R-KS)..
* $300,000 to Wildwood Ranch, another Christian-only camp (Conyers, D-MI)..
* $350,000 to Northwest Nazarene University, an evangelical college with a strict code of conduct that does not admit nontheists and possibly bars gays/lesbians (Craig and Crapo, R-ID)..
* $450,000 to Grace College, an evangelical Christian college that requires belief in an inerrant bible for admission (Souder, R-IN)..
* $150,000 to Quinn Chapel in Chicago for renovation (Davis, D-IL)..
* $150,000 to New Hope Academy, a reform and rehabilitation program that requires conversion to Christianity (Carney, D-PA)..

CNN Holds 2nd Faith Forum

CNN TV aired its second "faith forum" on April 13, subjecting the Democratic candidates to another media-imposed de facto religious test for public office, at Messiah College, Penn. The event, billed as a "faith and compassion" forum, was cosponsored by several religious entities..

Cohost Campbell Brown asked questions such as when a candidate had "actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit," "do you have a favorite bible story?" "if one of your daughters asked you . . .

'Daddy, did God really create the world in six days?' what would you say?" and how did a spiritual leader "bring you closer to God?"

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham asked slightly more nuanced questions, such as "do you believe God wants you to be president?"

Readers are urged to complain to CNN about this inappropriate and unprofessional journalism..

Religious Pharmacist Loses

A Wisconsin state appeals court in March upheld sanctions against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills. The pharmacist, who cited religious objections and would not transfer the woman's prescription elsewhere, was sanctioned..

Ten Commandments Barred in Kentucky

A federal judge permanently barred a Kentucky county from using the Ten Commandments as part of a "Foundations of American Law and Government" display..

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley recently ruled that the Grayson County display, put up by a minister, had the "effect of endorsing religion." It originally included the text of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and other documents. McKinley held that the intent of the display was religious, not educational..

Court Reviews Religious Displays

The Supreme Court will review a case determining whether cities can keep certain religious displays off public grounds..

The case involves a Utah lawsuit launched by the Summum faith, which sought to place its "seven aphorisms" on public grounds already displaying the Ten Commandments. Pleasant Grove rejected the request. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that if a city accepts donated monuments for a public park, it generally cannot favor some over others. The city is appealing that decision, with the aid of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law & Justice..

Religion Rules at Medical Schools

About 100 of the 150 U.S. medical schools now offer some kind of spirituality in medicine coursework. Three-quarters of these schools require students to take at least one spirituality course, according to the March 10, 2008, issue of American Medical News..

Parents Charged in Faith Death

Parents in Oregon City, Ore., who let their infant daughter die by relying on prayer rather than medical care, were charged in late March with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment..

They are the first to be charged since a 1999 Oregon religious shield law was struck down..

The parents, who belong to the infamous Followers of Christ Church, allowed their daughter to die from treatable bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection..

Saudis Arrest Starbucks Woman

Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested an American businesswoman in February for sitting in a coffeeshop with a man who was not a close relative. The woman was briefly detained..