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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Pritchett

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

Two students have filed a lawsuit against their Pennsylvania school district for the right to operate a pro-life club according to their proposed mission statement. The lawsuit, filed July 11, came after the district refused to back down from requiring the club’s policies meet unprecedented standards.

Elizabeth Castro and Grace Schairer jumped through all the requisite hoops to establish Trojans for Life at Parkland High School in Allentown, Penn., only to have their request denied in March. After attorneys with the Thomas More Society warned the district in a letter that its actions violated the students’ constitutional rights, the school backed down but with a caveat.

The club said its mission was to “establish an active pro-life culture among the youth of our community by educating our peers on life.” But the district demanded the students keep their pro-life message confined to members only and changed the mission to “establish[ing] an active pro-life culture among our members by educating our members on life.”

“As far as we know, no other club is restricted to advocating and educating solely their own members, but are permitted to engage in speech with the entire school,” Thomas More Society attorney Jocelyn Floyd told me. “Even after we explained the problems with those restrictions and gave legal support to back up our explanations, the district insisted that it would not change its positions on any of them.”

With negotiations at an impasse, Castro and Schairer filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit, Castro v. Parkland School District, claims the district’s actions violate the federal Equal Access Act and the First Amendment.

The district also prohibited the club from fundraising, fearing a possible violation of the Establishment Clause if money raised by the students went to support religiously affiliated pregnancy centers. But Floyd said the law allows student clubs to use raised funds at their discretion.

Administrators called students’ plans to sponsor a memorial service outside an abortion center “dangerous,” denied the activity, and declared all club activities subject to district approval.

Floyd said no other Parkland High School club is required to operate under such scrutiny, and the standards violate the district’s own policy.

Schairer, who will be a senior this fall, hopes to see the club established before she graduates to educate her peers about abortion and offer resources to students facing unplanned pregnancies.

“The school is treating us like second-class citizens because we want to create a culture of life and be a positive influence to our peers,” she said.

 

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: July 21, 2017

Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington state florist sued for declining to create custom floral arrangements for a gay wedding, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case. In their July 14 appeal, Stutzman’s attorneys asked the court to consolidate her case with that of Colorado baker Jack Phillips,’ which the court agreed to hear this fall.

Stutzman will have to wait until the justices return from their recess in October to find out if they will take up Arlene’s Flowers v. the State of Washington and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll.

Stutzman’s attorneys with ADF also represent Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Both petitions question whether the government can compel the baker or the florist to “create expression that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage.”

The state of Washington and Robert Ingersoll, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued Stutzman in two separate lawsuits. She stands to lose her business and her personal assets if the court rules against her or Phillips.

“This Court’s review is needed to prevent the state from silencing professional speech creators with dissenting religious views,” the petition states.

 

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: July 21, 2017

A female suicide bomber on July 17 killed at least eight people when she detonated explosives at a mosque in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. The bombing is the latest in a spate of attacks by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram this month that have killed at least 43 people in the city.

Danbatta Bello, a spokesman for the civilian defense force, said two girls were strapped with explosives, but one got stuck in barbed wire in a ditch near the area. Bello said officials from the civilian defense force chased after the second girl.

“She rushed to the mosque and detonated the second bomb,” Bello said. “The first girl blew up where she was trapped.”

The explosion, which brought down the mosque, killed at least eight people and wounded 13. Bello said security officials killed two other female suicide bombers in another part of the city around the same time as the mosque attack.

The Nigerian military late last year said it had “crushed” the extremist group, but its sporadic attacks persist and have heightened in the past month.

On July 12, four suicide bombers killed 19 people and injured 23 others in Maiduguri when they first attacked civilian defense forces and then civilians who came out to mourn the dead. On July 3, Boko Haram militants raided the village of Ngalewa in southern Niger, 30 miles from the Nigerian border. Witnesses said the militants killed at least eight people and kidnapped about 40 women and children.

This week, Boko Haram released an unverified video of 10 kidnapped women calling on the government not to forget about them. The women were likely abducted in a June attack when the militants ambushed a 200-vehicle convoy on a highway connecting Maiduguri to the town of Damboa. Another video released earlier this month showed the public execution of eight men in northeastern Nigeria. Agence France-Presse reported one man who donned a white turban told the gathering villagers that the people facing execution were “apostates who have left the fold of Islam.” He warned the villagers of a similar fate should they defy the enforced Sharia law.

Martin Ewi, an analyst with South Africa–based Institute for Security Studies, confirmed terror attacks, especially in Maiduguri, have stepped up in the past month. Ewi said the killings signal that Boko Haram now has more opportunities to attack.

“It has either gathered strength, or the other party has relaxed,” he said, referring to a decline in security efforts in the area.

 

Courtesy: WORLD News Service

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: July 21, 2017

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