Sunday, May 15, 2016

The 3 - May 15, 2016

On this week's edition of The 3, spotlight 3 recent stories of relevance to the Christian community, it's graduation time, and seems like we hear consistently about free speech rights being limited concerning graduations ceremonies - find out about a school district in Ohio that will no longer have the singing of The Lord's Prayer in a ceremony.  Also, a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court indicates that a pre-born child has rights.  And, the big story from this week involves an Obama administration edict stating that transgender students are allowed to use the restroom corresponding to their chosen gender identity, opening the doors to restrooms that are not sufficiently separated by gender.

3 - School board ignites graduation prayer controversy in Ohio 

In East Liverpool, Ohio, the song, The Lord's Prayer, has been a part of the graduation ceremony for the past ten years at a local high school, but after last year's event, the Freedom from Religion Foundation received a complaint and contacted the school district, where officials decided to drop the song from the program to avoid a potential legal battle, according to a story on the website.

The article reports that there was never any official vote on the matter nor public meeting about the issue, and the song was not fully discussed among the board until recently when members exchanged emails with each other about the issue. Board member Patricia Persohn, in correspondence obtained by The Review, said, “I am hearing parents threatening to withdraw their students. I was elected to represent the views of the community, and they are screaming,” adding, “I do believe it is just a matter of time before we are engaged in a fight. We need to set this issue aside right now and move on.”

The school board held a meeting recently, but no action was taken regarding the song. The choir director asserted that such songs are not illegal if they have educational value and relayed that her students are disappointed that the Lord’s Prayer will not be a part of the program this year, including one who identifies as an atheist. The superintendent said, "I am a Christian and it hurts me that there is even a question about it, but as superintendent, I have to put that aside. As you said, we can’t make it legal. I’m just sorry this is happening."

This is the time of year where there is a debate about religious expression in graduation ceremonies, and while I have not found a Christian legal advocacy group involved in this matter - yet - you can see where students do have constitutionally-protected free speech rights. The First Liberty Institute website states that: "As long as the valedictorian, salutatorian, president, or other students selected to write speeches are chosen by neutral criteria such as their academic achievements, the students have the right to reference what is important to them in their speeches, including their faith. Students maintain control over the content of their speeches, not the school board."

The site says that according to the U.S Department of Education, “Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, that expression is not attributed to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content.”

2 - Iowa supreme court determines unborn children have same rights as minors

There was an interesting decision about the rights of pre-born children issued by the Iowa Supreme Court recently.  According to a story on the WORLD website, in a case involving the death of a drug addict who was trying to get his addiction under control and died of an accidental overdose, the court found in favor of Brenna Gray, who had sued her husband’s physician and other medical providers. She claimed they failed to monitor her husband’s drug addiction treatment properly.  Even though a jury had cleared the doctor of criminal charges, Mrs. Gray claimed a spousal consortium injury and, on behalf of her then-unborn daughter, a parental consortium injury, which includes the loss of parental “support, companionship, aid, affection, comfort, and guidance.”  The spousal injury case was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, but the parental consortium case was allowed to continue.

Borrowing from a pro-life argument, the plaintiff's attorneys pointed out that a ruling against the child “would permit a child who was just seconds old at the time of [her] parent’s death to sue, yet prevent the same suit from a child who was born a second after [her] parent passed away.”  The Iowa Supreme Court, clearing the way for the lawsuit to go forward, ruled the law does apply to preborn children.  In its decision, it wrote, “[A] child conceived but not yet born at the time of [her] parent’s death can bring a parental consortium claim” after she is born.  It said, “Whatever deprivation of consortium O.D.G. is currently experiencing is no less real just because she did not experience it in utero.”  (O.D.G. refers to the child.)

The WORLD report pointed out that the court, using strong language, attempted to sidestep the implication of its decision on the legality of abortion, explaining it ruled for the plaintiff simply because the petition, filed when the child was 3 years old, was “clearly ‘brought on behalf of a minor.’”

Clarke Forsythe, acting president and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, said he wasn’t surprised by the court’s decision.  He is quoted as saying, “The case is not huge and not unprecedented...But it does confirm that the unborn child is a human being in the womb.”

1 - Administration issues sweeping changes allowing transgender access to restrooms opposite of biological gender

This past week, the Departments of Justice and Education issued a letter to every public school district in the nation saying that under Federal law, transgender students must be allowed to use the restroom corresponding to their chosen gender identity, rather than their biological gender. reported that the letter was signed by officials of the two Federal departments.

As Todd Starnes commented on the website:

Boys who identify as girls and vice versa must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms and shower stalls of their choosing. They must also be allowed to play on the sports teams of their choosing.

School districts that dare defy the administration’s directives could face lawsuits and lose millions of dollars in federal funding. Resistance, in other words, is futile.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.

Starnes quoted from Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, who said, "It’s an outrageous attack on our Creator Himself, upon human sexuality and morality and a further advancement of the flagrant attack on religious freedom in our culture."

The story said that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to fight the administration’s decree, telling a gathering of Republicans, “Obama is turning bathrooms into courtroom issues.”  He added, "Our country is in crisis and Texas must lead the way forward."  Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings if the President goes forward with the order.

“The administration’s new guidelines simply reinforce what has been abundantly clear already—that it has a political goal of forcing women to share restrooms and locker rooms with men across the nation and will spread falsehoods about federal law to achieve its aims. This is precisely why we have filed two federal lawsuits, one in Illinois and one in North Carolina, on behalf of students and parents who are understandably concerned about their children. Solutions exist to accommodate everyone without violating anyone’s privacy rights, but the administration won’t entertain those solutions because of its preference to unlawfully impose its political will through threats and intimidation.”

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