Sunday, May 25, 2014

The 3 - May 25, 2014

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes a development in a Florida school district, which has stated that students are allowed to read the Bible in class during non-instructional time.  Also, Federal judges struck down voter-approved amendments concerning traditional marriage in 2 states.  And, there's news on the pro-life front, as another state, Louisiana, has passed a bill requiring admitting privileges for those performing abortion, while a milestone was reached in Texas - the 20th abortion clinic closed since a pro-life bill passed last year.

3 - Florida school district says that students can read Bible 

There was some promising news out of Broward County, Florida earlier this week, as a report was released that the public school district there issued a statement saying that it was OK for the Bible to be read during free reading time because its content is found on the Accelerated Reader list.

This came in response to the story of Giovanni Rubeo, a fifth-grader from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, who, according to the Liberty Institute website, was reading his Bible in April during “free reading time” when he was told by his teacher to “put it on my desk.”  The teacher then informed Giovanni’s father in a phone message that the Bible and “those books” - meaning religious books - were not allowed in “my classroom.”

Giovanni’s father engaged the help of Liberty Institute.  According to Senior Counsel Jeremiah Dys, in response to the school district's statement:  "Now the Broward County Public Schools says it will allow the Bible as part of the Accelerated Reader Program and recanted what Tracy Clark, its spokesperson, said to the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel on May 6, 2014. We are pleased they are now complying with the law and will allow students to read their Bible during free reading time and within the Accelerated Reader program.”

Dys added, “We do not know if the teacher is in trouble with the school district, but we will continue to monitor this school system carefully to ensure that their actions toward student religious liberty continue match their words."

As Liberty Institute points out, "The Rubeos are not alone in their battle to freely live out their faith. Other students are also experiencing infringement of their religious rights, though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to carry out our faith in our daily lives free from government interference and prohibits government hostility to religion."
2 - 2 Federal judges rule against traditional definition of marriages, states won't appeal

This week, 2 more Federal judges declared state constitutional amendments affirming traditional marriage to be unconstitutional.  In Oregon, according to the WORLD website, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane made one of the declarations.  At least one county office immediately started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples who were waiting to wed.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in February joined the list of state attorneys general who refused to defend their states’ marriage amendments in court. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) petitioned the court to take up the defense on behalf of Oregonians, but was denied.  The organization appealed that decision, also asking Federal appeals judges for a stay of the ruling, which NOM anticipated would go in favor of gay marriage. The appeals court rejected NOM’s plea.

Another state Attorney General, Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania, refused to defend that state's marriage amendment, and as WORLD reported, Pennsylvania’s Republican governor announced he will not appeal a ruling that struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.   Gov. Tom Corbett’s office had mounted a defense to the legal challenge against the law after the state’s Democratic attorney general, Kathleen Kane, refused to do so.   According to WORLD, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones wrote in his opinion, “We now join the 12 federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil."

Corbett said he did not think an appeal would be successful, but he did say that, “As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered...I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

WORLD offered an analysis of "The State of Marriage," pointing out that until 2003, same-sex marriage was banned in all 50 states. It said that now, seventeen states now allow same-sex marriage, either through legislative action or voter referendum. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, judges in six states have struck down statues upholding traditional marriage. More judges likely will follow suit, and the question of whether states can determine what constitutes marriage within their borders will eventually be decided by the nation’s highest court.

1 - TX pro-life bill having effect on clinics, LA passes new requirements on abortion sellers, AL in court

Last year, it took a special session of the Legislature due to some blocking measures taken by abortion proponents, but lawmakers in Texas passed a landmark pro-life law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and to ban abortion after the point at which an unborn child can feel pain - around 20 weeks.  Now, the 20th abortion seller in Texas has shut its doors, according to a report on the CitizenLink website.

Northpark Medical Group (NMG) in Dallas has reportedly decided to close because it did not meet state standards. NMG is affiliated with Douglas Karpen, who faced a lawsuit last year alleging, according to the complaint, he killed babies after they were born.  A grand jury cleared him of the charges.

Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz is quoted as saying that, “These abortion clinics are choosing to shut down themselves because they’re refusing to follow common sense laws that protect women and show respect toward innocent human life...If it’s going to cost them more money or they’re going to have to do it in a safer way, they decide not to do it at all. It really is not about what’s best for women, it’s what’s best for their business.”

And, this week in Louisiana, the state Legislature there this week overwhelming passed a bill that requires doctors performing abortions to have practicing privileges at hospitals. According to a report on the website, referencing The New York Times, this policy change may force three of the five abortion clinics in the state to shut down.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards said, “With similar restrictions passed in neighboring states over the objection of leading medical experts, we are deeply concerned that women in a vast stretch of this country are in read danger of losing the ability to access legal abortion safely."

Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas have passed similar laws. The admitting privileges requirement is being challenged in a Federal courtroom in Montgomery, and hearings continued this week.  The Montgomery Advertiser has been following the trial.

I would be concerned if a Federal court looks at becoming so involved in the regulation of abortion that it begins to determine how far is too far for a woman to travel to terminate the life of her pre-born baby and to perhaps select locations where abortions must be performed.  That would seem to be an outcome of the line of thinking presented by a judge in a hearing on Mississippi's law, according to the New York Times report.

The Times made this statement in its piece:
Legal experts say the legislation is raising a fundamental question: At what point is access to abortion so limited that it violates the right to the procedure granted by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade?

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