In fact, in April eMarketer, an Internet newsletter that provides market research on E-business, said AFA was sixth on its list of “Top Ten Religious Web Sites” (www.emarketer.com).
AFA Web sites include:
AFA Journal (www.afajournal.org): The Web site for AFA’s monthly magazine contains a helpful archive of past articles.
AFA Online (www.afa.net): For those wanting information and ways to become active, the main page for American Family Association is “Activist Central.”
American Family Radio (www.afr.net): More than 170 radio stations in the AFR network are represented here, and visitors can listen to AFR live or even “podcast” some programs.
AgapePress (www.agapepress.org): AFA’s popular Internet news outlet is perfect for individuals, church newsletters and Christian newspapers.
AFA Center for Law and Policy (www.afa.net/clp): This is the main page for AFA attorneys as they fight to maintain the religious freedoms of Christians.
AFA Foundation (www.afafoundation.net): Help is available here for those who want to be good stewards with the resources entrusted to them by God.
AFA Resource Center (www.americanfamilyresourcecenter.net): Thousands of products, from music to books to research tools to gifts, can be purchased through this popular site.
American Family Filter (www.afafilter.com): Powered by Bsafe Online, parents can obtain reliable, accurate protection for Web-surfing families here.
War in our public schools
For much of the last century up to the present, public schools have been the scene of countless skirmishes in the wider culture war between secularists and so-called progressives on the one hand, and religionists and traditionalists on the other. But it seems as if lately the volume – as well as the intensity – of the battles has increased.
• In Raleigh, North Carolina, Natalya Hill, the mother of a second-grader, is threatening to sue Leesville Elementary School for not allowing her son to distribute Easter candy with an attached religious message.
Hill is being represented by Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Delia Van Loenen, who claims the U.S. Constitution was violated when the student was told he could not pass out the candy during class time, lunch or recess.
“The school needs to know that the students have a right to religious expression – that’s protected under the First Amendment,” Van Loenen said. “And basically the school has treated this student’s religious speech as second-class speech, and it’s a blatant violation of his constitutional rights.”
Van Loenen wrote a letter to the school demanding restoration of the student’s free speech rights. As of April 24, 2006, the school had not responded to the letter, and the principal would not comment on the alleged incident.
• In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the ADF recently filed a lawsuit against the Downington Area School District alleging “extreme” censorship of Christian student activities. For example, the school district is accused of forcing a student club to meet as a “prayer club” rather than a “Bible club.”
In addition, students were allegedly required by school officials to remove a Bible verse, cross and all mention of God from a promotional “See You at the Pole” poster before approving its display.
“In fact, there is [also] part of the [Downington] speech code that basically equates expressing a religious viewpoint with expressing obscenity,” said Randall Wenger, ADF-affiliated attorney.
Therefore, the ADF believes that lumping religious points of view and profanity into the same category and deeming both as “prohibited speech” is unconstitutional.
After all, the First Amendment “absolutely guarantees” students the right to express their viewpoints, including their religious viewpoints, Wenger explained.
“On campuses across the nation, Christian students are facing harassment by school administrators who use their positions as a bully pulpit,” he added.
• In Texas, a public school district faces a possible lawsuit from a Christian student group over the use of school facilities.
One school day prior to the club’s scheduled meeting, the Grapevine/Colleyville Independent School District told Students Standing Strong, a student-led Bible study club, that it was banned as a non-curricular student group and that it would have to pay a rental fee, sign a rental agreement and obtain a one-million-dollar insurance policy before meeting on school grounds.
Liberty Legal Institute, a Dallas-area based religious freedom defense group, said such requirements are a direct violation of the Equal Access Act, passed by Congress in 1984; therefore, the institute wrote a demand letter outlining the club’s constitutional rights to the district.
While the letter convinced administrators to allow the club use of school facilities free of charge this time, Liberty Legal’s chief counsel Kelly Shackelford believes the issue is still unsettled. After all, the district does not require other student groups to pay fees and sign rental agreements. Shackelford said a lawsuit is still a possibility if the discriminatory practices continue.
“We’ll go to court, if necessary, to protect these kids’ rights to meet, to encourage one another in their faith, to sing and to do things that they’re doing that the school should be happy that they’re doing,” he added.
• Also in Texas, the Plano Independent School District (PISD) has agreed to stop discriminating against a student-led Christian club after the student group filed suit against the district.
The suit was filed by the Liberty Legal Institute in response to school officials telling Christian students that their religious club, Students Witnessing Absolute Truth, could not receive official recognition or a staff sponsor due to the nature of the club. The club was formed with permission of the administration. The club’s removal from a list of non-curricular clubs on the PISD Web site is what spurred the legal action.
Unfortunately, this type of discrimination is not new to the district. Last year Christians filed a lawsuit against the school system for not allowing students to distribute religious-themed candy during Christmas.
“There are plenty of school districts that just either don’t get it or refuse to follow the law,” explained Hiram Sasser of Liberty Legal Institute. “[W]e have to go district by district enforcing the law. …”
As a result, PISD officials formerly agreed to offer the Christian group the same privileges afforded other student groups.
Youngster’s religious freedom preserved
In late April the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a unanimous ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals, which held that a New York public school could not discriminate against a student because of religion.
The appellate court had found in favor of young Antonio Peck, who was censored by his Syracuse elementary school because an art poster he drew (at right) contained an image of Jesus.
Antonio, who is now in the fifth grade, drew the picture as part of an assignment to design a poster about protecting the environment. The child’s work was displayed on a school cafeteria wall along with 80 other student posters during an event when parents were invited to view the posters. However, the kindergartner’s poster had been folded in half in order to cover the image of Jesus.
School officials argued that the child’s poster, because it included an image of Jesus, violated the separation of church and state and would give the impression that the school was teaching religion. When the school refused to remedy the situation, to apologize, or to adopt a policy that would prevent future censorship, a suit was filed by the religious freedom defense group Liberty Counsel on behalf of the Peck family.
Attorney Mathew Staver, president and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, applauded the high court’s decision, calling it “a great ruling for the rights of students and their Christian viewpoints and expression around the country.”
www.lc.org, 4/24/06; agapepress.org, 4/27/06
Abortion buffer zone denied by judge
Last October, the West Palm Beach, Florida, city commission implemented a 20-foot buffer zone around a local abortion facility to keep pro-life demonstrators away from the facility and its clients. The city ordinance had the backing of Mayor Lois Frankel, herself an attorney.
AFA Center for Law and Policy (CLP) sued the city of West Palm Beach on behalf of three pro-life demonstrators, claiming that the zone was an unconstitutional infringement on their free speech rights.
Federal Judge Donald Middlebrooks ruled in April that the zone was not necessary. He further rejected the city’s claims that the buffer zone was to protect “healthcare facilities” in general. Judge Middlebrooks said the ordinance was adopted specifically to target demonstrators at Presidential Women’s Center, an abortion provider.
At a hearing on the preliminary injunction, two young women testified that they gave birth to their babies only after meeting demonstrators outside the Women’s Center. Those demonstrators, the CLP’s clients, gave the women pro-life literature which led them to reject abortion.
“The largest buffer zone ever upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court was eight feet,” said CLP senior litigation counsel Michael DePrimo. “This particular buffer zone just completely obliterated any opportunity for any demonstrator to be able to hand out literature.”
DePrimo said that from the beginning, CLP advised city officials that the 20-foot zone was unprecedented and unconstitutional and that the CLP would challenge it in court.
Networks sue FCC over indecency rules
The big four television networks – ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox – have filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission to prevent enforcement of the FCC’s indecency regulations. The move was prompted by the FCC’s unprecedented $3.6 million fine against CBS and 103 network affiliates for airing a teen sex orgy scene in the drama Without a Trace.
Conservative and Christian watchdog groups have reacted to the networks’ ludicrous litigation in concert. “It’s incredible that the networks think they should have free rein to air the ‘f’ word and the ‘s’ word and all manner of other obscenities and sexual perversions with no restraint,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “After all, the airwaves belong to the American public, not to the networks.”
Lanier Swann of Concerned Women for America said, “The [lawsuit] illustrates how out of touch television moguls are with American families. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe the FCC should, in fact, have more ability to regulate our television content.”
Parents Television Council President Brent Bozell said the suit is “beyond preposterous … utterly shameless. The networks have taken this fight to a court of law because they know they don’t stand a chance in the court of public opinion.”
Wildmon predicted the case may, indeed, eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The Washington Post reported that broadcasters had admitted in private that this could be the test case they’ve been waiting for to challenge the government’s ability to police public airwaves.
www.agapepress.org, 4/18/06; www.lifesite.net, 4/18/06
An article in Time magazine revealed some of the tricks frequently employed on reality shows. For example, producers of ABC’s The Dating Experience thought it would make for more interesting television if a female participant was perceived to like one of the male contestants, when in reality she did not.
How did the producers solve this problem? Time’s James Poniewozik said: “So they sat her down for an interview. Who’s your favorite celebrity? they asked. She replied that she really loved Adam Sandler. Later, in the editing room, they spliced out Sandler’s name and dropped in audio of her saying the male contestant’s name.”
Apparently such tactics are a regular part of reality television. Poniewozik said the above example even has a name – “Frankenbiting.” The moniker comes from the fact that sound bites are “stitched together” to create a sentence that wasn’t actually spoken by a participant.
Other tricks: fake settings are built, maybe an office or an apartment that gives the impression the contestants are at a real location; a “misleading montage,” in which footage shot days apart is reassembled to create a more interesting story line; or even dubbing in sounds over a scene in which participants are off-screen, to suggest something that never really occurred – like sex.
Of course, Poniewozik admits that most people who watch reality shows expect some shenanigans. “But even savvy viewers who realize that their favorite reality shows are cast, contrived and edited to be dramatic,” he said, “may have no idea how brazen the fudging can be.”
Court nixes student’s free speech rights
In California, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a San Diego high school student may be barred from wearing a T-shirt displaying Christian messages in opposition to homosexuality.
The 2-1 decision upheld a lower-court ruling against Chase Harper, who was suspended by Poway High School for wearing a T-shirt displaying the messages: “Homosexuality is shameful” and “Our school embraced what God has condemned.”
Harper had worn the shirt – without incident – during an annual pro-homosexual event in 2004 known as the “Day of Silence.” But when he wore it to school the next day and was ordered to remove it, he refused. The lawsuit emerged from that confrontation.
The majority opinion, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, said Poway did not violate Harper’s constitutional rights to religious expression because the message on his shirt was offensive to homosexual students, who were a protected minority.
Reinhardt is well known to pro-family groups, as his rulings in two other infamous cases have been controversial: that the Pledge of Allegiance cannot be cited in schools because it contains the words, “one nation, under God;” and that parents have no “fundamental right” to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children.
Steve Crampton, chief counsel for the AFA Center for Law and Policy, said he believed the timing of Reinhardt’s latest ruling was no coincidence, coming as it did just prior to this year’s national “Day of Silence” protest on April 26.
In an increasing number of schools, Crampton said, homosexuals have “become ‘super citizens’, and Christians in particular are second-class [and are] not allowed to voice their own deeply held religious convictions on this subject.”
Parents fight back in Massachusetts city
In Lexington, Massachusetts, parents who oppose the promotion of homosexuality became irate when Heather Kramer, a second-grade teacher at Estabrook Elementary School, decided to read a book to her students that normalized gay marriage.
King & King, a book for children, is a tale about a young prince who can’t find a princess he wants to marry. Then, one day, he spies another prince and decides to marry him. Following the wedding, the picture book shows them kissing.
Parents complained that state law requires parental notification before human sexuality issues are broached in public school settings. In response, however, both the Estabrook principal and Kramer told parents Rob and Robin Wirthlin that same-sex marriage was not a human sexuality issue, and that no notification would be given in the future.
It’s not the first time that homosexuality has been controversial in Lexington, especially since the state became the first in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. Last year David Parker, the parent of a kindergarten student, was arrested when he demanded assurances that his son would not have to sit through lessons promoting homosexuality. Charges were dropped, but Parker was banned from school property.
Parker, along with his wife Tonia, and the Wirthlins have been forced to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Lexington and Estabrook school officials.
“Parents are tired of school officials interfering with the moral and religious upbringing of their young, impressionable children,” Parker told the Massachusetts-based Article 8 Alliance, a pro-family group that has been fighting the gay agenda in that state since 1995.
www.latimes.com, 4/20/06; www.article8.org, 5/2/06; agapepress.org, 4/24/06, 4/26/06, 4/28/06
AFA-NY director to debate humanist
Should gay marriage or civil unions be lawful? This is the question Frank Russo, state director of AFA New York, and D.J. Grothe, national field director for the Council for Secular Humanism, will argue in an upcoming public debate.
“My objective is to present arguments that I believe the typical homosexual may not have heard before,” Russo said. “These are going to be … sociological arguments [as well as] economic, physiological and psychological.
“I will try to put it as gently as I can,” he added, “but to not speak the truth to these folks would be, I think, inexcusable.”
The debate is set for Friday, June 16, at 7:00 p.m. EST at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library in Plainview, New York. The debate is free and will be broadcast at a later time on Public Access TV in New York State. For more information contact AFA of New York, P. O. Box 203, Port Washington, NY 11050; phone: 516-944-3544.
Keynote speakers include Fred Barnes, Jennifer O’Neill and Kellyanne Conway. Barnes has long been recognized as a leading journalist in conservative circles. He is editor of the Weekly Standard and was a White House correspondent for the New Republic in the1980s and ’90s.
Actress Jennifer O’Neill has earned a widespread reputation as a pro-life advocate. In 2003, she received the National Right to Life’s Proudly Pro-Life award for her tireless work on behalf of life.
Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company, Inc., is a noted pollster and commentator on the national political scene.
The National Teens for Life Convention will run concurrently and on-site childcare is available. For more information or to register, visit www.nrlc.org/convention or call 202-378-884.
‘One Nation Under God’ Ohio license plate available
In February an Ohio auto license plate became available with the phrase “One Nation Under God” inscribed under the regular plate number. The plate came on the scene after a campaign by Moms for Ohio (MFO) political action committee.
“We wanted families who wanted to show their support for keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance to have a simple and affordable way to do so,” said Theresa Fleming of MFO. “The bill was passed in December.”
Most specialty license plates are also a means by which purchasers contribute to the cause promoted on the plate. In this case, however, there is no fund raising attached. The plate is available as long as one thousand people purchase it each year.