3 - Pakistani woman's death sentence put on hold by high court
Asia Bibi, the first woman to be sentenced to death under blasphemy laws in Pakistan, has a chance to appeal that conviction, according to a piece on the Christianity Today website.
She was sentenced in 2010, after allegedly making derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman. The article says that the Muslim woman had refused water from Asia Bibi, a colleague, on the grounds that it was “unclean” because it had been handled by a Christian. The Muslim woman and her sister were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defense failed to convince judges that their evidence lacked credibility.
The nation's highest court, the Supreme Court in Islamabad, the capital, has temporarily stayed her execution pending a full review of her case. Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, appeared in front of three Supreme Court judges at the first hearing earlier this week. The CT story referenced apiece on the Morning Star News website, which quotes the attorney: "I believe that Asia Bibi’s case was not handled properly, but even now she has a good chance of being freed from her ordeal on the basis of inadmissible evidence." He added, "We have a good case, and I’m sure the Supreme Court will consider the shoddy trial Asia Bibi has been subjected to and deliver justice to her."
According to CBN.com, Naveed Aziz with the British Pakistani Christian Association, said, "I am pleased with this decision," adding, "It is obvious that international pressure led to this amazing decision, and I thank all people who have called for her freedom. Sister Asia will have to spend more time in jail, but her freedom is now a real possibility and only a matter of time."
2 - Mount Soledad cross will stand; property on which it stands sold to private owner
Since 1954, a Veterans' memorial including a 27-foot cross has stood atop Mount Soledad, in San Diego. According to Liberty Institute, the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial is the first Korean War Veterans Memorial on U.S. soil. It is on an 800-foot hilltop and includes a 29-foot cross with a plaque identifying it as a veterans memorial. It is surrounded by large granite walls that display photos and names of America’s veterans, along with various and diverse religious and secular symbols.
The Liberty Institute website tells the story. For over 20 years, the memorial has been the subject of a lawsuit brought about by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claimed the memorial’s cross violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. In January 2011, during the legal dispute over the memorial, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the cross unconstitutional.
In 2013, a Federal district judge ordered the cross to be torn down, but he did grant a stay, giving Liberty Institute and its client, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, the opportunity to appeal. Liberty Institute and the MSMA did so a few days later, and in February 2014, the U.S. government joined Liberty Institute and the MSMA in appealing the ruling. The defendants asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but the high court denied the request, pending the outcome of another appeal before the Ninth Circuit.
As the Liberty Institute website says:
After more than two decades of attempts to remove the cross had not achieved that result, and with the prospect of a long judicial battle ahead and defenders of the cross unwilling to yield, last year a legislative remedy was proposed. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 called for the federal government’s sale of the property to the MSMA, and this was passed by Congress and signed by the President, leading to the transfer of the land.
This week, the U.S. Government sold the land to the MSMA. Hiram Sasser of Liberty Institute says: "Today’s actions will ensure that the memorial will continue to stand in honor of our veterans for decades to come. This is a great victory for the veterans who originally placed this memorial and the Korean War veterans the memorial honors." But, his colleague Jeff Mateer issues this warning: "This is a day to celebrate," adding, "But the work is not over in protecting veterans memorials from legal attacks by organizations opposed to veterans memorials containing religious imagery on public land."
1 - TX Supreme Court blocks Houston's "Equal Rights Ordinance"
I have reported in the past about these so-called SOGI - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity - ordinances that some cities have passed, creating, under the guise of so-called "tolerance," special rights for individuals based on those components. This could even extend to a person being allowed to use the bathroom of a gender that is the opposite of his or her biological gender.
It's a mess - and perhaps the most high-profile of these ordinances comes out of Houston, Texas, where the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) last year passed the City Council, under the leadership of openly gay mayor Annise Parker. According to a report on the Family Research Council website, "There was overwhelming opposition to the law in Houston and that triggered an effort by the citizens to repeal HERO by referendum." This campaign was led primarily by a group of pastors and churches who collected twice the number of signatures required to place the repeal vote on the ballot. However, Mayor Parker and City Attorney David Feldman said that the sufficient number of signatures had not been collected. Furthermore, in preparing their defense, city officials subpoenaed various forms of communication by pastors who had opposed HERO. The city later withdrew the subpoenas after national opposition arose.
As FRC reports, three months ago a Texas district court judge ruled that the petitioners had failed to gather enough valid signatures to get the repeal measure on the ballot. But, this week, that decision was overturned by the Texas Supreme Court, which concluded that the City Secretary had certified the petition and that brought the "City Council's ministerial duty" to go through the repeal process into effect. The Court held that the Houston City Council must stop enforcement of HERO and reconsider the ordinance. If it does not repeal HERO by August 24, 2015, then by that date "the City Council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election."