Tag Archives: freedom of religion

Day of Dialogue April 19 Coming to a High School Near You

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2uAYBOCAUQ&w=420&h=315]

Student Sues School District and Teacher After Being Punished for Expressing His Religious Beliefs

The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit yesterday afternoon against the Howell Public School District located in Howell, Michigan, and teacher, Johnson (“Jay”) McDowell, for punishment and humiliation heaped on a student after he expressed his religious belief opposing homosexuality when asked by the teacher during class.

The student, Daniel Glowacki, a junior at Howell High at the time of the incident, was specifically asked by McDowell about his feelings on homosexuals. Daniel responded that as a Catholic he was offended by the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Because of his answer, Daniel was ordered to leave the classroom under threat of suspension.

As news of the incident spread, homosexual activists across the country hailed McDowell as a hero and vilified Daniel and his family, as “bigots”, referring to Daniel’s religious objections to the homosexual agenda as “hate” speech. McDowell is head of the school’s teachers union. The Michigan Education Association, the state teachers’ union, supported McDowell’s actions.

National lesbian TV host, Ellen DeGeneres got in on the anti-Glowacki campaign. Daniel even became the subject of a school assembly.

The incident occurred on October 20, 2010, the day that Daniel’s Economics class teacher, Jay McDowell, wore a purple “Tyler’s Army” t-shirt, as part of a national campaign promoted by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to highlight alleged “bullying” of homosexuals.

Rather than teach academic courses that day, McDowell decided to spend the entire day promoting this national pro-homosexual agenda, which included showing his classes a video concerning such “bullying.”

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, commented: “Rather than teach the required Economics curriculum for which he is paid, McDowell, with the full knowledge of school officials, used his position of authority to promote his homosexual agenda at taxpayer’s expense. This case points out the outrageous way in which homosexual activists have turned our public schools into indoctrination centers, and are seeking to eradicate all religious and moral opposition to their agenda.”

Thompson added, “It defies common sense for schools to ban all sorts of unhealthy foods while at the same time promoting the homosexual lifestyle, which hard statistics show increases drug abuse, suicides and reduces the life expectancies by several years. Schools that promote such lifestyles are engaging in a form of child abuse.”

The incident all started when McDowell ordered a student in his classroom to remove her confederate flag belt buckle because he was offended by it. Daniel pointed out the teacher’s obvious hypocrisy: the teacher can promote a message that might be offensive to students, but students can’t wear clothing that expresses a message that is offensive to the teacher.

In total disregard of his professional responsibilities as a teacher and the constitutional rights of his students, after ordering Daniel to leave the classroom, McDowell asked the remainder of the class whether anyone else did not accept homosexuality. A student raised his hand, and McDowell ordered him out of the classroom as well.

In this case, the teacher became the bully, and the students who opposed his homosexual agenda became his victims.

A 14-year old openly gay student who supported McDowell at subsequent school board meeting appeared on the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to discuss his speech. The student was rewarded with a $10,000 academic scholarship by a digital media company.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan filed the lawsuit on behalf Sandra Glowacki and her son Daniel in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. TMLC is representing the family at no charge.

The lawsuit claims that Daniel Glowacki’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech and equal protection have been violated by the policies and actions of the school district and McDowell. Among other things, the lawsuit seeks nominal damages, a declaration that the school policies and actions violate the Constitution, and injunction to prohibit further constitutional violations.

In cooperation with the NEA, the MEA, and the HEA, and in furtherance of the national agenda of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (“GLAAD”), the School District permitted the celebration of “Spirit Day” at Howell High School on October 20, 2010. On Spirit Day, people who support the acceptance of homosexuality wear the color purple.

In fact, the School District permitted its teachers to sell purple t-shirts with the slogan “Tyler’s Army” to students and teachers to promote the 2010 Spirit Day. “Tyler’s Army” is a reference to Tyler Clementi who committed suicide after a video of him having sex with another male student in his dorm room was posted on the Internet.

Senior Trial Counsel, Robert Muise, handling the case, stated: “Homosexual activists, with the willing and complicit support of public school districts and teachers’ unions throughout the country, are using our public schools to foist their destructive agenda on our children, thereby creating a hostile learning environment for those students who oppose this agenda on religious and moral grounds. This case is just one example of the pernicious effect these activists are having on our students and in our community. We intend to stop it.”

The Howell School District and the Michigan Education Association (“MEA”), which is a subsidiary of the National Education Association (“NEA”), along with the Howell Education Association (“HEA”), which is a chapter of the MEA, have forged a symbiotic relationship and have worked with one another to adopt policies, that promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle and to prohibit religious opposition to homosexuality. The school district has promoted the concept that religious opposition to homosexuality is equivalent to bullying, hate speech, and homophobia in order to eradicate such opposition.

FBI Accused of Secretly Investigating Christian Street Preacher, Placing Him on Terrorist Watch List

WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to information provided to The Rutherford Institute, the FBI has been conducting a secret investigation into the associations and activities of a Christian street preacher and is believed to have added the preacher to its terrorist watch list. Inclusion on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, which is a secret list maintained by the government, can hamper one’s ability to travel and can result in heightened governmental surveillance. In a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, called on the agency head to either cease the FBI’s investigation of Michael Marcavage, a street preacher well known for publicly exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and religious expression, or make known the charges being made against him.

“Michael Marcavage deserves to know why he is under investigation and whether he has, in fact, been placed on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. However, if, as we suspect, Marcavage is guilty of nothing more than engaging in nonviolent religious speech which government officials perceive as controversial, then the government has clearly overstepped its constitutional bounds,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This sort of secret investigation, which is antithetical to the principles of a free society, has a chilling and deleterious effect on the ability of all Americans to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech.”

Christian street preacher Michael Marcavage, the director of an evangelism ministry whose mission is the public proclamation of the Gospel, regularly travels the country preaching in traditional public forums, distributing Christian literature, and engaging passersby in discussions about the Christian faith. Marcavage recently learned that the FBI has been requesting “interviews” with his friends and associates in order to interrogate them about his activities. Subsequently, a reliable source informed Marcavage that he was the object of an FBI investigation and that his name had been added to the FBI’s terror watch list, the Terrorist Screening Database, based on his alleged affiliation with an anti-abortion group known as the “Army of God.” Inclusion on the terrorist watch list, which is a secret list maintained by the government, can hamper one’s ability to travel and can result in heightened governmental surveillance. Concerned that his placement on such a list could have a chilling effect on his expressive activities, Marcavage asked The Rutherford Institute to intervene on his behalf.

In his letter to Mueller, Whitehead points out that under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6), in order to be placed on the terrorist watch list, an individual must be known to be a terrorist or must be reasonably suspected of being a terrorist. Moreover, Marcavage, who has devoted himself to peaceful advocacy and who has never been involved in terrorism nor associated with any terrorist organizations, including the so-called Army of God, does not meet the criteria laid out in Directive 6. Thus, Whitehead insists that the FBI make known the reasons why Marcavage has been placed under investigation, confirm or deny Marcavage’s presence on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, and if the concerns about him prove to be unfounded, as Marcavage insists they must be, or are related solely to Marcavage’s nonviolent speech activities, that his name be removed from the terrorist watch list immediately.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.

Not a Single Christian Church Left in Afghanistan, Says State Department

There is not a single, public Christian church left in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.

This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime.

In the intervening decade, U.S. taxpayers have spent $440 billion to support Afghanistan’s new government and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in that country.

The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.” Read the rest of Edwin Mora’s article.

Housing District Employee Suspended For Displaying Cross

Colin Atkinson, the Wakefield District Housing (WDH) employee who was in the news recently for fighting for the right to keep displaying a palm cross in his van, has been suspended from work following continued harassment.

Mr Atkinson had displayed a small palm cross in his work van for fifteen years when his employers told him to remove it after an anonymous complaint suggested it may offend those of other faiths.

After a campaign mounted by Christian Concern and negotiations with his employer it was agreed in April that Mr Atkinson could continue to display his cross in his van.

Originally published by Christian Concern on August 1, 2011.

However, after a resolution had seemingly been found, Mr Atkinson suffered repeated problems at work. He was moved to a different workplace location 16 miles away, has had his work van removed from him and been told to travel by bus instead due to “general financial cutbacks.”

Mr Atkinson filed a grievance procedure and has now been told to stay at home. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said:

“I thought common sense had triumphed when the company agreed I could go back to work. But I have found there is still a lot of hostility against me, even though I have done nothing more than defend the basic rights of Christians to express their faith in public.

“My employers have broken their promises and I believe they are trying to humiliate me or dismiss me for seeking to stand up for my rights. It is disgusting what they are doing.”

One of the bosses at WDH who had asked Mr Atkinson to remove the cross from his van disappeared from the office about a month after Mr Atkinson returned to work. His absence was due to Mr Atkinson’s presence in the office, according to the company.

Mr Atkinson added:

“Meanwhile, the boss resumed work three weeks ago but I feel he should be the one who should be moved, not me. My bosses have now offered me a pay-off to retire early but a condition is that I, my wife Geraldine and all my family would be prevented from speaking out publicly.

“That is not my style. It would be breaching my human rights.”

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

“After a public outcry, Colin was allowed to return to work and to continue to display a palm cross in his van.

“However, since the media attention died away, he has suffered continued harassment and victimisation, and Wakefield and District Housing has not honoured its agreement to allow him to return to work. It seems that WDH hoped that Colin could be bought off and go quietly. But he will not be gagged or bullied.”

Huge Win for Free Speech!

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Rick Perry citing that the plaintiffs, Kay Staley and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, had no standing in the case. Staley claimed that Gov. Perry’s call for a day of prayer for the nation and his participation in the prayer rally, The Response, were unconstitutional because they violated the Establishment Clause.

Liberty Institute filed a motion to intervene and argued in court today on behalf of the American Family Association (AFA), which is planning and promoting The Response, scheduled to take place August 6 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

“The dismissal was a total and complete victory,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Institute president and CEO. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s attempt to stifle free speech and religious liberty failed miserably. Today was a victory — for Gov. Perry, for AFA, and for the First Amendment.”

Early this year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation was dealt a heavy blow when the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed its lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer. The court’s ruling in the case, which used arguments Liberty Institute made in its amicus brief representing Dr. James Dobson, Citizenlink, and dozens of state family policy groups, proved invaluable in winning today’s case.

Christian Pastor’s Free Speech Victory against City of Dearborn

The U. S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Sudanese Christian Pastor George Saieg has a free speech right to distribute religious literature on public sidewalks and evangelize Muslims during the Annual Arab International Festival held each year in Dearborn, Michigan.

For five years Saieg, who specifically ministers to Muslims, had been discussing his Christian faith and passing out literature on Dearborn’s sidewalks during the Festival without encountering any problems. Nevertheless, in 2009 police officials informed him he had to remain in a booth, prohibiting him from distributing his literature on the nearby sidewalks and public streets.

Dearborn is one of the most densely populated Muslim communities in the United States.  It has the largest Mosque in North America.  In the past few years Dearborn has gained national attention for taking a pro-Muslim stance and for the arrest and intimidation of Christian evangelists for engaging in protected speech activity.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national conservative Christian public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Pastor Saieg in 2009, naming the City of Dearborn and its police chief, Ronald Haddad, as defendants.  The case was handled by TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Rob Muise.

In ruling for Saieg, the court recognized the problem Saieg had with booth-based evangelizing: “the penalty of leaving Islam according to Islamic books is death, ” which makes Muslims reluctant to approach a booth that is publically “labeled as … Christian.”

Source: Thomas More Law Center, May 25, 2011.