A religious liberty case involving candy canes, pens, and pencils with Christian messages — which has been dragging on for eight long years — has finally made its way to the highest court in the land. The conservative legal advocacy group Liberty Institute is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold school districts accountable that violate the free speech rights of students who wish to express their religious faith in school.
The case in question began in 2004 when first grader Jonathan Morgan was banned by the principal of Thomas Elementary School in Plano, Texas, from handing out pens, shaped like candy canes, to fellow students at his class “winter party” because the pens had the name “Jesus” imprinted on them. The principal, Lynn Swanson, had met with the youngster’s parents before the party and explained that teachers would confiscate any religious-themed materials or items, and that the school children would also be prohibited from using the word “Christmas” during school activities.
Two years earlier, another student at the school, Michaela Wade, had faced similar repercussions when she tried to hand out treat bags that included pencils with the inscription, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
This Christmas season the family of 17-year-old Jenni Lake remembered the Pocatello, Idaho, teen for her sacrifice in refusing medical treatment for cancer so that the baby growing inside her would be born healthy and whole.
In October 2010, Jenni was diagnosed with grade-three brain cancer and given about two years to live. Doctors immediately began aggressive chemotherapy on the high school junior to slow down the advance of the cancer, and last March Jenni and her family got the hopeful news that the tumors on her brain and spine were shrinking.
But shortly afterward, when her boyfriend, Nathan, took her to the emergency room because she was throwing up, Jenni got some shocking news: she was pregnant. What made the revelation even more troubling to the teen was that her cancer treatment could prove fatal to the baby growing inside her.
“She was pretty scared, because the baby had been through two rounds of chemo from March and April and she was just about to start another round,” recalled Jenni’s mother, Diana Phillips.
Two doctors who traveled to Maryland to perform late-term abortions have been arrested on multiple murder counts, in what the Associated Press called an “an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus.”
Police took Dr. Steven Brigham into custody December 28 in New Jersey, while Utah authorities arrested Dr. Nicola Riley in Salt Lake City, where she is awaiting extradition.
The two doctors were indicted by a grand jury following a nearly year-and-a-half investigation that began after a botched abortion at Brigham’s Elkton, Maryland, clinic near the Delaware border.
According to documents filed by medical regulators, an 18-year-old woman who was 21-weeks pregnant suffered a ruptured uterus and other internal injuries while under the care of the two doctors. But instead of calling 9-1-1, Riley drove the woman to a local hospital, where, according to documents, both she and Brigham refused to cooperate with medical personnel. Investigators searching Brigham’s clinic found a freezer containing 35 late-term, pre-born babies, including one estimated to have been aborted at 36 weeks — or nine months.
In the final run-up to the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses, a handful of Republican presidential candidates highlighted their pro-life bona fides in a nationally simulcast “teletown hall” forum sponsored by Personhood USA and several pro-life organizations.
Significantly, all four of the participants in the National Presidential Pro-life Forum — Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry — have signed on to the Personhood Republican Presidential Candidate Pledge, which supposedly binds them as President to, among other promises, “work to advance state and federal laws and amendments that recognize the unalienable right to life of all human beings,” and to appoint federal judges and other officials who will work to uphold such federal measures.
The prayers of faithful Christians in Nigeria were interrupted by bombs detonated by Islamic militants during worship services on Christmas Day — attacks that are becoming perennial in a nation that rests on one of the theological fault lines between Christianity and Islam.
Last year, bombings in the Nigerian city of Jos killed dozens of people and wounded nearly a hundred more; this year the attacks by the Muslim group Boko Haram killed approximately 40 people. Bombs were detonated in the cities of Madalla, near the capital city of Abuja, Jos in central Nigeria, and in Damaturu and Gadaka in northern Yobe state, where fighting between the government and Boko Haram has been particularly fierce.
The name of the terrorist organization at the heart of the recent violence — Boko Haram — describes the character of its agenda: Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden.” Of course, Christianity is far from being a religion exclusively identified with the West; a faith that spread in its earliest days from Jerusalem throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, even as it began to make inroads European territories of the Roman Empire is hardly “Western.” But the Christmas bombings have been an annual element of the campaign of terror that members of Boko Haram have waged against Nigeria’s Christians.
One of the most erroneous and harmful ideas of our time is the notion that free-enterprise capitalism and the society upon which it is based are incompatible with the moral standards of Christianity. Indeed, one of the main drivers of the Occupy Wall Street movement is its condemnation of “corporate greed.” And before the Occupy Wall Street crowd got going, Michael Moore was condemning free-enterprise capitalism in his spurious 2009 documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. In one scene, Moore, one of those so-called limousine liberals who have profited very handsomely in our free-enterprise economy, asked a couple of religious leaders about capitalism. They both agreed that capitalism is “evil,” without explaining exactly why. Presumably, we are supposed to understand that Moore provides the explanation throughout the film. (One cannot help but wonder how many religious personages Moore had to interview, in order to get the responses he used.)
In fact, the very opposite of this popular belief is true: Free-enterprise capitalism and Christianity are not incompatible, because the strongest reasons to defend economic freedom and the market economy are related to Christian morality. It is economic freedom and the market economy that the moral standards of Christianity require, not the opposite economic system, commonly referred to as socialism, the welfare state, or some other name for collectivism. At the same time, economic freedom and the market economy require Christian moral standards in order to function properly.
An environmental group claiming to represent the stewardship concerns of evangelical Christians handed pro-abortion politicians and the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency a huge present just before Christmas. On December 21, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency’s long-awaited stringent new regulations on mercury, the Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), was standing alongside her to show his organization’s support.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers — via recommendations to the CTIA —The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association — to develop features that "disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." That means she wants to be able to turn off your cellphone while you're driving.
With very little evidence, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that there were some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year that involved distracted drivers. Americans ought to totally reject Hersman's agenda. It's the camel's nose into the tent. Down the road, we might expect mandates against talking to passengers or putting on lipstick while driving. They may even mandate the shutdown of drive-in restaurants as a contributory factor to driver distraction through eating while driving. You say, "Come on, Williams, you're paranoid. There are already laws against distracted driving, and it would never come to that!" Let's look at some other camels' noses into tents.
How did your U.S. Representative and Senators vote on last summer's debt deal that raised the national debt limit while promising to reduce future spending and deficit projections? How did your Representative vote on a measure that would have repealed the federal phaseout of the ubiquitous incandescent light bulb? And how did your Senators vote on an amendment to prohibit U.S. citizens from being held indefinitely in the ongoing war against terrorism without being given a trial?
The answers to all three questions above are in our latest "Freedom Index" in the January 9, 2012 issue of The New American and also available online as a downloadable PDF.
The New American's "Freedom Index" is a congressional scorecard that rates all members of the House and Senate based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, national sovereignty, and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements. The index is published four times each two-year congressional term; each index rates Congressmen based on 10 key votes.
A mother in North Carolina complained to her local school district after her son came home with a New Testament, telling her that he got it for free at his school. According to the Asheville, North Carolina, Citizen-Times newspaper, Ginger Strivelli, whom the paper identified as a “pagan,” was upset when she learned that her son’s school, North Windy Ridge in Weaverville, appeared to be distributing New Testaments. What made her even more upset was that school officials “were not apologetic” about the apparent New Testament handout, the paper reported. “It’s totally inappropriate they think they can get away with this,” Strivelli told the Citizen-Times. “It’s absolutely unbelievable and their attitude is ridiculous.”
The school’s principal, Jackie Byerly, insisted that there was nothing amiss in making copies of Scripture available to students, explaining that a local group from Gideons International — an organization that has been providing free Bibles to hospitals, hotels, and individuals for over 100 years — had dropped off a box of New Testaments at the main office, with a request that students be allowed to pick up copies if they wished. After getting a thumbs-up from the school district’s superintendent, Byerly left the box outside the school office for students to access during their break time.