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      ======================================================================


      Calif. Senate approves gay marriage bill

      02:03 PM CDT on Thursday, September 1, 2005
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      Message 2 of 26 , Jan 30, 2006
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        ======================================================================


        Evangelists set to testify - in federal court

        On eve of fraud trial, Christian investors say they were betrayed

        08:19 AM CST on Monday, January 30, 2006

        By TIM WYATT / The Dallas Morning News

        Evangelists set to testify - in federal court
        On eve of fraud trial, Christian investors say they were betrayed
        08:19 AM CST on Monday, January 30, 2006
        By TIM WYATT / The Dallas Morning News

        When Gregory Setser's import empire came crashing down two years ago, little was left to pay back hundreds of investors and church groups who funded his International Product Investment Corp. with at least $160 million.
        Big-name evangelists and everyday churchgoers are among those who were invited to invest in a plan to import cheap, foreign-made goods for pre-arranged sales to retailers like Garden Ridge, Kmart, Michaels and Pier 1.
        But what remained after the Securities and Exchange Commission shut the company down serves as testament to the lavish California lifestyle of Mr. Setser, a former Canton, Texas, ceramic merchant.
        Paid for by thousands of evangelical Christians:
        A 100-foot yacht moored off Mexico, a private plane and helicopter parked at a Los Angeles airport, and a quartet of well-furnished homes in nearby Rancho Cucamonga.
        This morning, jury selection is set to begin in a downtown Dallas federal courtroom to decide if the 49-year-old Mr. Setser, four family members and a German business associate carried off a massive Ponzi scheme from 2000 to 2003 that used religion as part of its sales pitch.
        "That was the biggest betrayal of the whole thing," said investor Helen De Lemos of Houston. "The Christian affiliation was the big reason we took the risk in the first place."
        Ms. De Lemos said she and her husband lost about $30,000 investing in an IPIC venture in July 2003. They were drawn into the venture through a friend at church, who also lost his investment before the SEC shut down International Product Investment Corp.
        "It sounded a little funny at first, but with a Christian organization we thought we could take that risk and maybe God would watch over it," Ms. De Lemos said.
        Efforts to contact Mr. Setser in Canton, where he has been on home detention and electronic monitoring since early 2004, were unsuccessful. He and four other family members, including his wife and two adult children, have denied any wrongdoing.
        The Trinity Foundation, a group that regularly blasts so-called prosperity gospel taught by many televangelists, has noted a growing trend in what's come to be called religious affinity fraud.
        "It's part and parcel of the whole prosperity gospel deal," said the group's founder, Ole Anthony. "People like Setser get connected and close to spiritual leaders, who make money on the first one or two levels of a scheme, and that gets approval of the fraud to believers," he said.
        Over 100 witnesses

        Court records suggest a complicated, confusing trail of Setser family spending and business deals that used IPIC money to pay for their homes, cars, a family member's wedding -- even cosmetic surgery -- instead of building its import business.
        Lawyers on both sides of the criminal case filed thousands of pages of documents, and called for more than a hundred witnesses to stand by to testify in U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn's court. The trial could last for up to six weeks.
        Among those who may be called to testify are evangelists Benny Hinn of Irving, Fort Worth's Kenneth Copeland and Florida-based Reinhard Bonnke of Christ For All Nations. Authorities believe they were duped by IPIC's scheme when the company paid them "profits" that turned out to be money taken in from new investors. In a Ponzi scheme, money from new investors is used to pay off old investors.
        If convicted, the six defendants, each charged with 22 counts, could face statutory sentences of up to 45 years in prison.
        Jurors may hear more than a simple accounting of how and where all the money may have gone.
        Prosecutors plan to introduce evidence from court records filed last week that Mr. Setser and two family members threatened at least four people who may be called to testify against them.
        In court records filed last week, prosecutor Jeff Ansley's filing wrote: "Gregory Setser threatened to have [the witness] and his family killed if he ever 'crossed' Setser.
        "On numerous occasions, Setser claimed to [witness] that he had connections to organized crime, including the Mafia," Mr. Ansley wrote.
        Another witness was told that he needed to be careful because he was being watched, and a third witness told authorities that "anyone who went against them in this case ... was going to go down," the document states.
        The filing did not cite an exact time the threats were made, only that one threat was made after the Setser family members were indicted. No further charges of witness tampering have been folded into the criminal case.
        Prosecutors also hope to introduce attempts by three Setser family members to bring in new investors in a diamond project linked to the United Nations -- long after their criminal indictment. The family would also get access to large stashes of money in offshore banks after the trial, according to court records.
        Prosecutors also plan to tell jurors that all five Setser family members under indictment failed to file individual income tax returns since 1999.
        Regardless of the outcome, those who lost money with IPIC have only a slim chance of collecting full restitution.
        Mr. Setser promised investors returns of 25 to 50 percent in two or three months' time. Other investors were promised 6 or 7 percent returns each month for allowing IPIC or its subsidiaries to manage their money.
        According to court documents and interviews, goods were imported, including toys, knickknacks, decorative ironwork for gardens and electric scooters. Showcases were built in Los Angeles and Panama to allow IPIC employees to display to prospective investors warehouses stockpiled with mountains of cheaply bought bounty.
        But such goods were "rarely" really purchased from abroad for resale to retailers as promised, according to Dennis Roossien, a court-appointed Dallas attorney who has spent more than two years tracking and selling off the remnants of IPIC to repay investors.
        "It was simply stated that Setser and IPIC wanted to share the extraordinary blessing bestowed upon them with other like-minded Christian organizations," Mr. Roossien wrote in court documents.
        His investigation involved a cadre of lawyers and forensic accountants who scanned bank accounts and offices from California to New York to Germany and Panama.
        "Very little capital appears to have been used to purchase merchandise," he wrote.
        Investors who could prove they gave IPIC money claimed about $35 million in losses, but prosecutors believe IPIC took in at least $160 million -- no one knows for sure. The Setser family did not cooperate.
        By last summer, Mr. Roossien's investigation had spanned the globe, but only a little more than $12 million was found to return to investors.
        Documents show that almost $2 million came from investors who voluntarily paid back early "profits" IPIC had given them after the investors learned the money was really just new investor money.
        Mr. Roossien also recovered about $6 million by selling Mr. Setser's personal estate -- which traced back to IPIC investor money.
        Mr. Roossien never found any accounting by the Setsers of what was actually owed investors, should their business plans have actually worked.
        Last summer, Mr. Roossien asked a federal judge to allow him to approve refunds to be mailed out this fall -- when all is said and done payouts could be as little as 15 cents on the dollar.
        Some items worthless

        The rest of the missing IPIC money appears to have been squandered in grandiose, incomplete business ventures doomed to lose money -- or that would have required millions more in capital before they could be sold, court documents allege.
        Much of the product lines actually purchased by the Setsers were part of the "elaborate sets" and couldn't be resold or were worthless, Mr. Roossien wrote.
        Like the condoms and the corn liquor.
        IPIC funds paid for millions of condoms from Brazil and thousands of liters of corn liquor from the U.S. -- all found in a warehouse in Central America.
        "No one other than Gregory Setser appears to know how he envisioned selling the liquor or the condoms or why they were located in Panama," Mr. Roossien told the judge.
        Ms. De Lemos remembered that her investment involved buying a large shipment of latex condoms for a stateside buyer.
        "I'm surprised to learn they ever bought any," Ms. De Lemos said. "I thought it was just another empty promise.
        "Now, we can sort of laugh about it," she said. "It wasn't our life savings, but when you think about some who put in retirement savings, it's not funny at all."

        E-mail twyatt@...
        WHAT IMPORT INVESTMENT COMPANY BOUGHT

        Court-appointed lawyer Dennis Roossien has spent more than two years compiling a list of assets paid for by investors in International Product Investment Corp. Here's a partial list of what was found:

        50,000 liters of corn liquor made in the U.S. and stored in a Panamanian warehouse, but no liquor sales permit for Panama.
        7 million latex condoms from Brazil with a December 2004 expiration date.
        A 108-acre coffee plantation in western Panama bought for $200,000 that had yet to yield a bean.
        A $1.2 million paint factory in Panama that never sold or manufactured anything.
        Equipment for a bottling plant in Ensenada, Mexico, that sat in shipping crates.
        A bottled water company with a few pallets of stock for show -- plans called for Panamanian tap water to be used as its source.
        A $1.2 million "start-up" Internet service provider that never started up.
        A worthless Tasmanian oil and gas project.
        A record company to "ignite the singing career" of a Setser daughter. It lost $780,000.
        450,000 gallons of obsolete, expired paint in a California warehouse used as a prop for investor pitches that cost $3 a gallon to dispose of under state law.
        Hundreds of boxes of cheap toys from China with no interested buyers lined up.
        A large extrusion machine that was bought despite its inventor's admissions that it didn't work.
        An inoperable concrete building-block plant that never formed one concrete block.
        Half ownership in an idle, steam-generated power plant near San Francisco that would cost millions more to be recommissioned, and required $6,000 a month to monitor.
      • croft@optihumanist.org
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        Message 3 of 26 , Feb 20, 2006
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          Another God Told Me To Do It story.
          ======================================================================


          Testimony: Schlosser tried to follow God's command

          01:03 PM CST on Monday, February 20, 2006

          By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

          Testimony: Schlosser tried to follow God's command
          01:03 PM CST on Monday, February 20, 2006
          By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News

          MCKINNEY - The day little Maggie Schlosser was killed, her mother saw a TV report of a lion that injured a boy.
          She thought it was the biblical end of days and that God commanded her to cut off her daughter's arms, as well as her own arms, legs and head, a psychiatrist testified Monday.
          David Self was the second psychiatrist to testify that Dena Schlosser didn't know right from wrong when she severed her daughter's arms at the shoulders, killing her.
          "This is a bizarre assault," Dr. Self said. "This is not the way people kill people ..." when their intent is to kill.
          After she was jailed, she did not understand why she was behind bars if she was following what God told her to do, Dr. Self said.
          Ms. Schlosser, 37, is standing trial for capital murder in the death of her baby girl, who died in November 2004 just before Thanksgiving in the family's Plano apartment. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
          The defense must prove to the jury that Ms. Schlosser suffered from a mental disease or defect that caused her to be insane at the time of the child's death.
          Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, a guilty verdict would send Ms. Schlosser to prison for life. If the jury believes Ms. Schlosser was insane, she would go to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon for treatment. She would remain there until doctors and State District Judge Chris Oldner agree she should be released.
          Ms. Schlosser was diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis soon after Maggie's birth and cycled on and off medication for the next several months.


          E-mail jemily@...
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          Message 4 of 26 , Feb 20, 2006
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            This seems kind of odd.
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            Gay-hating church's protests provoke restrictions

            Oklahoma latest to seek limits after followers crash services for soldiers killed in Iraq

            09:49 PM CST on Sunday, February 19, 2006

            By ARNOLD HAMILTON / The Dallas Morning News

            Gay-hating church's protests provoke restrictions
            Oklahoma latest to seek limits after followers crash services for soldiers killed in Iraq
            09:49 PM CST on Sunday, February 19, 2006
            By ARNOLD HAMILTON / The Dallas Morning News

            OKLAHOMA CITY -- As chief of the six-member police force in Newkirk, Okla., John Hobbs knows trouble when he sees it -- even when it arrives in the form of a fax about a funeral.
            The day before his town was to honor a local soldier killed in Iraq, Chief Hobbs received word that a Kansas church group would picket the funeral to promote its belief that the death reflected God's wrath against America's tolerance of homosexuality.
            "It was hard to take," he said. "These people were just unbelievable."
            Such demonstrations by members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., and the publicity-loving Rev. Fred Phelps have led at least 14 states, from Vermont to Mississippi, to weigh measures that would make it more difficult to protest at funerals.
            In Mr. Phelps' case, that means preventing funerals from being used as a platform for anti-gay messages. One fear is that the protests could lead to violence.
            With help from two other police agencies, Chief Hobbs and his officers managed to keep the peace, even dissuading irate residents from taking matters into their own hands.
            But the potential for violence didn't escape some Oklahoma lawmakers: They think it's time to restrict what they regard as hate speech and appalling behavior.
            In Oklahoma, the Senate has passed a bill, and the House is expected to consider one this week, despite concerns that such laws could produce unintended consequences for free speech and assembly, not to mention costly, protracted legal challenges by church adherents. AP Funeral protests by Kansas preacher Fred Phelps are the target of legislation.
            Mr. Phelps, who has led the Westboro church since 1955, said state lawmakers know their proposals are "manifestly unconstitutional" and likely to be challenged in court.
            "It's irresistible to these amoral, unprincipled demagogues masquerading as statesmen," he said. "The rabble is roused, and it's great politics.
            "I doubt there's even one out of 1,000 that could even quote the First Amendment. They're blatantly un-American and lawless. That's the truth," he declared.
            Mr. Phelps' group has protested during at least one Texas funeral, gathering outside Dimmitt's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for the funeral of Sgt. Jacob "J.J." Dones, killed in Iraq on Oct. 20.
            The Texas Funeral Service Commission said there are no laws restricting demonstrations at funerals in Texas.

            According to experts, the Westboro church is primarily composed of members of Mr. Phelps' family and is not affiliated with mainstream Baptist organizations. Mr. Phelps, 76, is a disbarred attorney and father of 13.
            His group has trumpeted its anti-gay message by picketing at about 80 funerals in 30 states during the last eight months. It not only has targeted soldiers' funerals, but also services for AIDS victims and gays.
            Its adherents showed up recently at a memorial service for 14 West Virginia coal miners who died in separate January accidents.
            Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, a retired Army chaplain co-writing one of the Oklahoma measures, said state lawmakers and elected officials from Vermont to California have requested copies of his measure, all hoping to defuse "an inflammatory situation."
            He decided to pursue a new law last summer after learning the group picketed outside the funeral of Army Spc. Jared Hartley in Newkirk, a town of 2,000 or so near the Kansas border, about 90 minutes north of Oklahoma City.
            "It could have gone either way," said Chief Hobbs. "It was pretty volatile there for a while. Thank God it didn't turn out to be a free-for-all."
            When Mr. Wesselhoft made public his proposed legislation, Westboro members showed up at his church, the First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., protesting outside Sunday services.
            Mr. Phelps said his church "couldn't have asked for a more effective" means to spread its message than for "these legislatures to get in a furor" over the funeral protests.
            He likened the legislative responses to the Muslim outcry over a Danish newspaper's cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad, noting that he grabbed headlines this month when he referred to Kentucky lawmakers as "the Kentucky Taliban."
            "God is through with this country," Mr. Phelps said. "It is now Brokeback Mountain territory. This nation is doomed.
            "It's a powerful message, and it needs to be delivered," he declared.
            Counterdemonstrators have shown up at many of the funerals where Westboro members picket. About 100 bikers were at the Del City church, revving up their engines to drown out the Westboro protesters' comments.
            Both the Oklahoma measures seek to restrict the time and location of funeral protests -- establishing, for example, 500-foot buffer zones from the property lines of funeral homes, churches, mosques, cemeteries or other locations where services are under way.
            The House version would prohibit demonstrations two hours before, during and two hours after services. The Senate-passed plan would ban protests an hour before, during and four hours afterward.
            Both would make violations a misdemeanor under Oklahoma law. Proposed penalties include a range of possible fines -- from $500 to $2,500 -- and possible jail terms -- from 30 days to 60 days -- depending on which plan is approved.
            The House could take up its version this week. A joint House-Senate conference committee may be necessary to iron out differences between the two.
            "This is an inflammatory situation," said Mr. Wesselhoft, who is from Moore, a south Oklahoma City suburb. "I'm surprised somebody hasn't been hurt. I'm very concerned about it."
            But Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association, sounded a cautionary note during a hearing in which the state House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 10-0 to endorse the bill.
            While stressing his trade organization representing the state's newspapers is not opposed to the measure, he reminded lawmakers that constitutionally they cannot restrict groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church without also banning counterdemonstrators -- some of whom, for example, might want to wave American flags to show their appreciation for the dead soldier's sacrifice.
            State lawmakers insist they are not proposing new limits on free speech and assembly without giving careful thought.
            "I'm a strong supporter of the First Amendment," Mr. Wesselhoft said. "We cannot regulate content of speech -- but we can regulate time, distance and manner.
            "This is for families, grieving, laying their loved ones to rest. They have a right to do it without harassment."

            E-mail ahamilton@... RESTRICTING DISRUPTIONS NEAR SERVICES
            * States acting so far are Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
            * The bills all contain some limit on how close protesters could be to a service. The distance ranges from 300 feet in several jurisdictions to 1,000 feet in South Dakota.
            * Limits on when demonstrations could occur also are included. The time would range from 30 minutes before and after a funeral in Illinois to two hours in several states.
            * "Fighting words" would be banned in Illinois and Wisconsin.
            * Virginia would limit behavior that would cause reasonable people to fear for their safety.
            * In Mississippi, a bill limiting access to some protesters at any funeral died in committee.
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            Message 5 of 26 , Aug 16, 2007
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              Letters: Moment of silence challenged
              06:37 AM CDT on Thursday, August 9, 2007




              Since when does the minority dictate rules?

              Re: "Moment of silence begins court battle -- C-FB ISD: Dad crusading against God in school; alleges it backs prayer," Tuesday Metro.

              I am angry, tired of one person or one small group controlling what happens in schools, businesses or other such places. I thought this country was based on majority rules.

              A moment of silence is just that -- a moment when you can think of anything you wish. It is time to stand up and make as much noise as that small minority that wishes to change these things.

              Nancy Jones, Lewisville


              Activist is just a nuisance to schools, courts

              It's unfortunate that such a flap should be raised over the state's moment of silence in public schools, which is certainly within the bounds of constitutionality.

              As for "one nation under God" in the pledge, "in God we trust" on our currency or singing any Christmas song, these are all part of American cultural tradition and will withstand any First Amendment challenge. If David Wallace Croft were a true humanist, he would live and let live instead of being a nuisance to the school district and the courts.

              Mike Cinolotac, Arlington


              Homeschooling could solve his problems

              David Wallace Croft claims to advocate justice for all. He does not want his children exposed to other people's cultures, practices, morals, beliefs or values, but he apparently wants his crammed down everyone else's throats.

              If he is so unhappy with the education, events and exposure his children receive in public schools, why doesn't he do the obvious -- homeschool them? By homeschooling, he can teach his children his narrow views, including how to sue anyone over anything.

              Carol Cotton, Dallas


              We must be silent, even if only for a minute

              As a high school teacher, I inform my students that it is a rule in my classroom to be silent during the minute of silence. It is often the only minute of genuine silence any of us gets all day.

              In David Wallace Croft's zealous anti-religious campaign he forgets that in a society that places high value on freedom of speech, it is at least of equal importance that we be given an opportunity to listen, if only for a minute.

              Melody Barnhart, Lewisville
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              Message 6 of 26 , Aug 27, 2007
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                ======================================================================

                Schools wrestling with policies under new religious liberties act
                Not all districts have set policy on act meant to clarify students' right to expression
                08:03 AM CDT on Monday, August 27, 2007
                By BRANDON FORMBY / The Dallas Morning News bformby@...



                Editor's note: This story is the second installment in The Dallas Morning News' Legislating Your Life series, which examines laws taking effect this week that may affect Texas schools, communities and families.

                The Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act was meant to clarify how Texas schoolchildren can publicly convey their religious stances on campus and at school events.

                Instead, it has created statewide confusion over how districts should comply with the law and added a new layer of divisiveness to an issue already well known for passionate discord -- religion in schools.
                Also Online Read the text of the new religious expression law
                Complete back-to-school coverage, including district-by-district news and information
                08/22/07: Officials face difficult challenge as they confront dogfighting in Texas

                "It's one of those things that touches deeply held values and beliefs and deeply held beliefs about American tradition," said Catherine Clark, associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards.

                The law, which is also called the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, requires Texas school districts to adopt a policy regarding students' voluntary religious expressions. Enacted in June, it has had some North Texas school boards scurrying to implement their guidelines before a new school year begins today.

                The act was inspired by lawsuits against school districts from Plano to Santa Fe, Texas, that have curtailed activities such as using school resources to promote a Bible club. In the landmark Santa Fe case, the U.S. Supreme Court said the tiny Gulf Coast school district erred in allowing student-led prayer on school loudspeakers during football games.

                "We've had a lot of court cases and in almost every one, the school districts have lost because they're not doing what they're supposed to," said state Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, the law's author.

                Who speaks and when

                Among other things, the legislation commands districts to define how students are chosen to speak during morning announcements and at school events; not to discriminate if a student expresses his or her religious beliefs; and to state that the student's remarks do not reflect the position of the district.

                The law prohibits districts from penalizing students who express religious views in their class work. And districts must allow religious groups to organize and meet in the same manner as other groups.

                But many districts, attorneys and experts say confusion doesn't stem from the law itself, which codifies constitutional rights and court decisions.

                "The issue is with the school board policy in following that law," said Dennis Eichelbaum, a Frisco attorney who represents more than 100 school districts.
                Also Online
                Link

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                Link
                Link

                Mr. Howard's law includes a model policy that districts can adopt. It states that student speakers shall introduce football games, morning announcements and other district-chosen events.

                Trustees in districts including Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Lancaster approved policies based on the state model last week. Lancaster schools spokeswoman Teri Wilson said because such a policy is new, it may be tweaked later.

                "We're just going to continue to monitor it and adjust it as we go forward," she said.

                Proponents say districts that adopt the state model will be better protected if someone files suit against them.

                "If they'd just go with the law, they'd be clean," said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Texas-based Free Market Foundation and chief counsel at Liberty Legal Institute, which has represented many parents suing school districts over religious expression.

                Kelly Coghlan, who was an attorney in the Santa Fe case, drew up the state's model after he consulted with other attorneys, including those at Liberty Legal.

                But not everyone agrees that the state's model policy is the best option for districts.

                "I can't imagine why you would use a policy written by an attorney that sues school districts," Mr. Eichelbaum said.

                Opponents of the state's model say some of its rules, such as student speakers at football games, don't apply to all school districts. Among other things, they say, the state model is flawed because it isn't aligned with the broader law in which it is included.

                Ms. Clark, the Texas Association of School Boards official, said her agency developed an alternate model because they also felt the state's model didn't line up with the language of the law. TASB officials don't endorse either model and encouraged districts to work with their attorneys to develop a policy.

                "There's different nuances for different districts depending on their size and how they set things up," said Barbara Williams, a TASB spokeswoman.

                The Rockwall school board is expected to adopt a policy based on TASB's model later this month. Board President Brad Lamberth said officials took the agency's alternate model and tweaked it to create a custom-fit policy. But they don't expect it to change campus life much.

                "I think it's fairly consistent with what we practice anyway," he said.

                Mr. Howard said TASB's creation of an alternate model is part of the reason many districts are puzzled about how to respond to the law.

                "If you've got the Legislature telling you one thing and TASB saying something else, I think that causes confusion, don't you?" he said.

                Yet, some school districts are straying from both models and opting for policies their attorneys created. Fort Worth officials are recommending such a move to their trustees this month. Plano passed a policy last week that is based solely on the language of the law itself, not the model policy it offered.

                Duncan Webb, Plano's school board president, said trustees didn't like how the state model allows students to express themselves at a football game when parents and community members are in the stands.

                "We decided it was not the right forum to try that," Mr. Webb said.

                Watching for hiccups

                Last week the Carroll school board heard from state Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, who presented information about the egislative session. She said trustees expressed frustration with Mr. Howard's law, which she had supported.

                "Time will tell if it can be worked out without or with the Legislature revisiting the matter," she said.

                Some school officials are expecting hiccups no matter what. The Dallas school district's attorneys have yet to recommend a policy, in part because they're waiting to see what comes of other districts' decisions.

                And Cedar Hill school officials, who also went with a policy developed by attorneys, expect more problems enforcing a policy than in choosing one.

                Kim Lewis, chief operating officer, said, "It may be more difficult going forward because the first time we have to deal with it, we're going to be scratching our heads and digging for the policy."

                Staff writer Staci Hupp contributed to this report.
                RELIGION IN SCHOOLS
                The new law on religious expression in schools requires Texas school districts to adopt a policy to:

                * Establish a "limited public forum" for student speakers at school events that does not discriminate against expressions of faith.

                * Develop a neutral method of choosing students to speak at school events and graduation ceremonies.

                * Ensure that students don't offer obscene or vulgar speech.

                * Declare that the district does not endorse the student's views.

                Students would be able to:

                * Express religious beliefs in assignments without being penalized.

                * Organize religious-oriented clubs that would have the same access to school facilities as secular groups.

                Dallas Morning News research
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                  ======================================================================

                  Couple wants 'God' out of Texas pledge
                  Dallas: Atheists say new wording harming their kids; injunction denied
                  12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 29, 2007
                  By KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH / The Dallas Morning News kunmuth@...


                  A day after thousands of schoolchildren began reciting the revised Texas pledge honoring "one state under God," an atheist couple asked a federal judge in Dallas that the language be immediately removed.Legislators inserted the language into the pledge earlier this year to mirror the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade denied the request late Tuesday by David Wallace Croft and his wife, Shannon, for a preliminary injunction to stop the use of the pledge before any trial. No trial date has been set. An unidentified John and Jane Doe are also parties to the case. "The U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear for decades that patriotic tributes to God are allowed under the Constitution," state solicitor general Ted Cruz argued in court.The Crofts' attorney, Dean Cook, said, "Two wrongs don't make a right." He argued that the Croft children, who attend Carrollton-Farmers Branch schools, are harmed by recitation of the Texas pledge, even if they are allowed to leave the room. He called it a "temporary jail." "Children are highly impressionable and subject to peer pressure," Mr. Cook said. The revised Texas pledge reads: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible." Mr. Cook argued that the U.S. pledge has been allowed to stand mostly because it is a tradition and has been in place for decades. The Texas language is different because it is new, he said. Mr. Cruz said this argument of "old may be OK, but new is bad" does not work because the language is identical and has never harmed children who said the U.S. pledge."In both the nation and the state there is a long tradition of acknowledging the role of the Almighty," Mr. Cruz said after arguments Tuesday. "Texas is a uniquely patriotic state." The Crofts announced earlier this month they were suing Gov. Rick Perry, as a representative of the state, over the pledge on the same day arguments were held over their separate lawsuit against the state's minute of silence law. In ea!
                  ch case,
                  the Crofts argue that actions by legislators are unconstitutional and amount to violations of separation of church and state. They argued legislators sought to reintroduce prayer in schools by mandating the moment of silence in 2003. The law gives children the option to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activity" during that minute. In Texas, schoolchildren recite the U.S. pledge and the Texas pledge and then observe a minute of silence each morning before classes. The lawsuit challenging the moment of silence is before U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn. She has not yet issued a ruling. In 2002, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled in favor of California atheist Michael Newdow's lawsuit challenging the U.S. pledge's inclusion of the words "under God" and held it to be unconstitutional. Two years later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision. Mr. Cook cited the 9th Circuit's opinion Tuesday. "This 9th Circuit opinion is one of the most criticized opinions," Judge Kinkeade said in court. "It's roundly criticized." Mr. Croft said he has received numerous
                  e-mails and postings on his blog, david-wallace-croft.blogspot.com, about his court challenges. While he has received some support from other atheists, many are angry and opposed to his actions. "All the bad things that are going to happen to me are supposedly going to happen in the afterlife," Mr. Croft said in referring to the responses. "It's hard to take that seriously."
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                    Greg Abbott: Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible
                    Those four words are new to the state pledge of allegiance, and, despite protests, they should stay
                    10:50 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 29, 2007




                    As young Texans return to school this week, they are beginning their day by pledging allegiance to our state and nation. As they recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, they have four new words to say: "One state under God." And those words should sound familiar; Americans have been saying the same in the U.S. pledge for more than 50 years.

                    Unfortunately, a North Texas couple is suing the state in an attempt to overturn our state pledge. Professed atheists, they object to their children having to watch and listen as their classmates "engage in a ritual proclaiming that there is a God and that Texas is 'one state under God.' "

                    As the state's lawyer, I am committed to vigorously defending our pledge. And so far, we are succeeding. A federal district judge yesterday rebuffed the couple's attempt to remove the phrase while the lawsuit proceeds through the court system.

                    America's founders crafted the First Amendment to guarantee the individual's right to believe or not to believe in God, but that protection for the individual does not banish God from the public square. Quite the contrary. U.S. and Texas history clearly shows the founders seeking Divine guidance as they fashioned our system of government. And they publicly acknowledged that influence at every turn.

                    The 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence appealed to "Nature's God," the "Supreme Judge of the world" and "divine Providence" and famously stated that all people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." These acknowledgments of the Almighty continued unabated well into the early years of the Republic.

                    Congress authorized paid chaplains for the House and Senate the same week they approved the First Amendment. In what is known today as the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall, the House hosted church services for 50 years. Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration, and First Amendment author James Madison were regular attendees. Preachers even used the House speaker's podium as a pulpit.

                    Right here in Texas, as our forefathers began their fight for independence, their open acknowledgement of the Almighty echoed across Washington-on-the-Brazos. When Sam Houston and his brave companions declared their independence from Mexico, they invoked "the Almighty" and "the true and living God." They closed the 1836 Declaration of Independence by "fearlessly and confidently" committing their fates to "the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations." Forty years later, the writers of the Texas Constitution began by "humbly invoking the blessing of Almighty God."

                    With such a clear record of reliance on Providence, it should come as no great surprise or offense to acknowledge God in our state pledge.

                    The federal courts have looked favorably on the idea. Since Congress added "under God" to the U.S. Pledge in the 1950s, virtually every reference to the pledge by the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed its conformity with the First Amendment. Three years ago, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said plainly in Elk Grove v. Newdow, "I do not believe the phrase 'under God' in the pledge converts its recital into a 'religious exercise.' "

                    Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed her view in 1985's Wallace v. Jaffree that the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance serves "as an acknowledgment of religion with 'the legitimate secular purposes of solemnizing public occasions, [and] expressing confidence in the future.' "

                    In that same case, Chief Justice Warren Burger observed that holding the pledge unconstitutional would "make a mockery of our decision making in Establishment Clause cases."

                    Even Justice William Brennan -- by no means one of the high court's most conservative members -- admitted in the 1963 case School District of Abington Township v. Schempp that "the reference to divinity in the revised pledge of allegiance ... may merely recognize the historical fact that our nation was believed to have been founded 'under God.' "

                    Neutrality is the aim. The First Amendment does not permit government to endorse religion, but neither can it exhibit hostility toward religion. It's a delicate balance, to be sure, but including the words "under God" in the Texas Pledge successfully and constitutionally walks that line.


                    Greg Abbott is attorney general of Texas. His
                    e-mail address is Greg.Abbott@....

                    Staff photo
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                      ======================================================================

                      More meddling in prayer debate
                      06:11 AM CDT on Thursday, August 30, 2007




                      I'm a patient guy. I'm respectful of other opinions. I believe real wisdom emerges from the friction between opposing points of view.

                      You know a "but" is coming, don't you?

                      OK, here it is... But I think I'll strangle the next person who says: "All our problems began when they kicked out school prayer."

                      Arggh!

                      That pat little statement has stirred so much unnecessary turmoil in our society. And the damage just continues to mount.

                      I guess you saw the front-page story this week about a new state law that school administrators are scrambling to sort out. "The Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act," it's called.

                      And what a brilliant name its backers came up with. Would you want to run for re-election having voted against schoolchildren's religious liberties?

                      Never mind that we have a little thing called the U.S. Constitution that has done a darn good job of protecting everyone's religious liberties for a couple of centuries. Nope, just to be doubly darn sure, the great minds of the Texas Legislature have now weighed in.

                      They want to be certain that little Johnny and Susie can witness to other children about their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

                      I don't mean to be irreverent, but you know that's what most folks mean by "school prayer," right? One that fits right in with their own beliefs.

                      I guess that's what drives me crazy about the simplistic idea that everything went haywire when teachers quit leading class prayers. The people who say that would be the first to scream if that prayer were Muslim, not Methodist, or Buddhist, not Baptist.

                      It's also funny to me how some people twist their principles around on this issue. You hear people say: "The main thing I want from government is to be left alone."

                      A fine libertarian principle. But when it comes to something as intensely personal and private as religion, they seem bound and determined to inject it into our public schools.

                      Now we've got a freshly rewritten state pledge -- adding "under God" -- and a mandate that it be said in every public school.

                      As a Christian, I'm certainly not offended by the new wording. But neither does it deepen my spirituality one iota.

                      It seems clear this was just another political end run around the school prayer issue -- another attempt to inject religion into our schools, whether the Supreme Court likes it or not.

                      I'm certainly not saying schools should be hostile to religion. Some have gone to silly extremes to avoid any mention of it.

                      But the line between "silly" and "respectful" is definitely in the eye of the beholder. The kindergarten Christmas party that seems so benign might look very different to the Jewish parent whose child came home crying and confused.

                      This new Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act is going to make it even tougher for school administrators to draw the line.

                      When the Scientology kid uses class announcement time for a recruiting pitch, will teachers be in violation for discouraging that?

                      Or the angry Islamist kid? Or the wacky Wiccan? Or the brimstone Baptist? Or... or... or...

                      So much of this political meddling goes back to that obsession with school prayer. But here's the bottom line: If there is no prayer in our public schools today, there's no one to blame but parents and students.

                      The state mandated four years ago that public schools must provide a daily minute of silence for students to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activity."

                      I wonder how many parents have talked with their kids about using that minute to pray as that family's faith would lead.

                      Not many, I'd wager.

                      For that matter, I wonder how many churches, mosques, synagogues and so forth have urged their young people to use that minute in earnest prayer.

                      Homes and places of worship are where those conversations need to take place. Then there will be truly meaningful prayer in our public schools.

                      And the lame complaints can end.
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                        ======================================================================

                        Letters: 'Under God' in Texas pledge
                        09:03 AM CDT on Saturday, September 1, 2007




                        Founders fought for separate church, state
                        Re: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, 'one state under God,' one and indivisible -- Those four words are new to the state pledge of allegiance, and, despite protests, they should stay, argues Greg Abbott," Wednesday Viewpoints.
                        Staff photo Takara Rose, a Cedar Hill student, says the Texas Pledge.
                        Attorney General Greg Abbott points out that our nation's founders were religious and that justifies the inclusion of "under God" in the Texas and U.S. pledges of allegiance.

                        What Mr. Abbott fails to mention is that many of our forefathers had been persecuted in their home countries for their religious beliefs. They decided to leave their native countries and the state-sanctioned religious oppression to which they were subjected.

                        They fought wars to gain the freedom required to create this country, in which the government would never be able to impose any religion on its citizens.

                        They choose to create a nation based on tolerance, in which the state would never be able to use its power to impose religion on its citizens, and no one would ever have to suffer through the religious persecution they lived through.

                        Peter Lowegard, Richardson
                        Thanks to judge for stopping pledge challenge
                        Re: "Couple wants 'God' out of Texas pledge -- Dallas: Atheists say new wording harming their kids; injunction denied," Wednesday Metro.

                        Thank you, Judge Ed Kinkeade, for denying the request of David Wallace Croft and his wife to stop the Texas pledge. Some folks seem to confuse freedom of religion with freedom from religion.

                        Just because Mr. Croft does not wish his children to say the pledge is no reason for my grandchildren not to be allowed to say it. This country was founded on the basis of the majority rule.

                        Sandy Jarvis, Holly Lake Ranch
                        Baptists treasure freedom of conscience
                        My church history professor would be rolling over in his grave. Texas Baptists have backslid so far as to allow those yahoos down in Austin to undo generations of progress toward religious freedom by pressuring schoolchildren to pledge allegiance to God.

                        Freedom of conscience is a hallmark of Baptist tradition, and any interference in religion by government is a step in the wrong direction.

                        Bob Sheaks, Irving
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                          ======================================================================

                          Mary Stanfield of Highland Village: Wrong about rights
                          Teens don't seem to understand free speech
                          09:05 AM CDT on Friday, September 7, 2007




                          Either my voice carries incredibly well, or an epidemic of eavesdropping is plaguing America. Chronic, involuntary eavesdropping (CIE). I wonder where the star-studded public service announcements are.

                          I was sitting at the lunch table rambling away when two of my friends got caught up in an argument with the people sitting across the round table from us. One of the girls was ordering us to stop our conversation, because, she said, discussing religion in a public place is against the law.

                          Needless to say, this came as a shock to us. When we reminded her about the First Amendment to the Constitution, she confidently told us, "That doesn't apply to the law."

                          The conversation degraded from there and, after a few exchanges I'm glad an assistant principal didn't overhear, we simply turned around and continued where we left off.

                          Such is the state of America's youth, many of whom will be voting in the next presidential election. They don't know their own rights, much less the rights of others. The sad thing is I can't really blame them.

                          We're being raised in the time of "separation of church and state" on steroids. Instead of everyone being able to express opinions without prejudice, no one can. With all the focus on protecting diversity, we've managed to kill it.

                          And with people to look up to like David Wallace Croft, the crusader against a moment of silence in public schools, I'm fearful of the day when my generation takes over the country. He and others like him try to trample others' rights in order to remove all traces of religion from schools. That helps breed ignorance about the law. He has every right to be an atheist and to raise his child according to that (lack of) belief. But that doesn't mean he has the right to expect everyone around him to be an atheist as well.

                          That's especially true in a state and country with such religious roots. We can debate all we want on the beliefs of the founding fathers -- in fact, informed debate on all these issues is exactly what we need -- but we can't ignore the history of the Christian majority in this country. Or the simple fact that most Americans belong to one religion or another.

                          The Legislature recently felt the need to pass a bill clarifying students' right to express religious views on any topic on which they are normally allowed to express secular views. It seems like a pointless rewording of the First Amendment, but I'm starting to see that the message is needed. Not just to protect the religious views that hold such an important place in many students' lives, but also to foster the expression of a variety of opinions -- both secular and religious -- on all issues.

                          It's the cornerstone of a functional democracy, and I don't want to be the generation that causes our democracy to fail.

                          So, for the benefit of my peers, here are some things the school system doesn't seem to teach anymore: Religious speech in public is not illegal. People talking about their religion in our vicinity is not an attempt on their part to convert us. It's much easier to mind our own business than it is to invade someone else's conversation and censor the content.

                          And until someone finds a cure for CIE, maybe sufferers could better spend their time learning the laws of the country we're to inherit.


                          Mary Stanfield is a senior from Highland Village at Marcus High School in Flower Mound and a Student Voices volunteer columnist. To respond to this column, send an
                          e-mail to voices@....
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                            Texas schools' moment of silence upheld after Carrollton couple's challenge
                            Judge says law doesn't mandate prayer
                            08:46 AM CST on Saturday, January 5, 2008
                            By STEPHANIE SANDOVAL / The Dallas Morning News ssandoval@...



                            A Carrollton couple's court challenge to Texas' requirement that schoolchildren observe a minute of silence has failed.

                            David and Shannon Croft had sued Gov. Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district, alleging that the law was unconstitutional and amounted to required prayer.

                            But U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn in Dallas upheld the statute this week.

                            She said the law -- amended in 2003 to add the word "pray" to "reflect" and "meditate" as options for students' use of the minute -- does not promote an "excessive entanglement between government and religion."

                            "The Legislature amended the statute to provide a period of time for the full panoply of thoughtful contemplation," Judge Lynn said. "The primary effect of the amendment is not to advance or inhibit religion."

                            Dean Cook, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed in the opinion but respects the judge.

                            "Whether we're going to appeal at this point, we're going to have to discuss that and see what we want to do," he said.

                            Meanwhile, he has another case pending in state district court, in which the Crofts have sued the governor over the addition of "one state, under God" to the pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag.

                            Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, said she wasn't surprised by the ruling. But she expects more challenges to similar statutes around the country.

                            "Secular students, atheist students, are not happy with this, and they're going to challenge it in every way possible," she said.

                            She said students who want to pray can do so by their locker or at their desk at any time, and there's no reason to stop the school day.

                            "Basically, what it is is a way to silence everyone else while those who want to pray can pray," she said. "Everyone knows what this is all about, and we pretend that it's not what it really is. It's really about starting the school day off with prayer."

                            Judge Lynn said in her ruling that there is no doubt that some legislators, including the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, had expressed a desire with the bill to put prayer back in schools.

                            But she said it was also clear that the Legislature intended to draft a constitutional law and that the addition of the word "pray" was not an endorsement of religion or prayer in the classroom. That finding is further supported by a catch-all provision that allows students to engage in any kind of silent activity or thought during that minute, she said.

                            Lisa Graybill, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said her organization was not involved in the case but had watched it closely.

                            "I think we might disagree with the outcome of the analysis had we been part of the case, but we were not," she said. But she said that the judge did a thorough job of reviewing the legislative history and the intent of the law.

                            "I think it's a really thorough opinion," she said.

                            Because the judge acknowledged that her decision was a "close" call, Ms. Graybill said, she is interested in seeing whether the plaintiffs will appeal.

                            And though the judge ruled that the law itself is constitutional, that won't prevent someone from filing a lawsuit alleging that a school's implementation of it is unconstitutional. An example of that might be if teachers or school administrators said the moment of silence was specifically for prayer.

                            The governor said in a written statement that justice was served in the ruling.

                            "I am proud that Texas' children will continue to be able to have a moment dedicated daily to their innermost thoughts and contemplations," Mr. Perry said.

                            Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also praised the decision.

                            "Particularly in an age where children are so frequently confronted with violence and disorder, 60 seconds of quiet contemplation at the beginning of each day is not too much to ask," he said in a statement.

                            The Crofts have repeatedly failed to return phone calls from reporters. But over the years, Mr. Croft has fought several signs of religion at Rosemeade Elementary, which his children attended.

                            The family successfully asked that "Silent Night" be dropped from a holiday program and objected to an "In God We Trust" poster on the wall.

                            On his blog, Mr. Croft wrote that the minute of silence is a waste of educational time and has no secular purpose.

                            Liberty Legal Institute, a Plano-based legal organization that protects religious freedoms and First Amendment rights, called the court ruling a "great victory."

                            "The ultimate intolerance is someone attacking a moment of silence because they are worried others will decide to pray in their free time," chief counsel Kelly Shackelford said in a written statement. "This is a victory for everyone who believes in freedom."

                            The school district was dismissed from the lawsuit in August because the plaintiffs were challenging the constitutionality of the state statute, not the district's policy.

                            But Carrollton-Farmers Branch school officials expressed relief at the news Friday.

                            "Our perspective was this is primarily a state law," school board President John Tepper said. "As a district, we and our employees, teachers in particular, were just doing our best to comply with the state's requirements there. We're pleased they didn't find any problems on our part in that regard."

                            Schools superintendent Annette Griffin said that every morning, after the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and state flags, each campus calls for a minute of silence. She said students are free to do what they want during that minute, as long as they are quiet and don't interfere with others' thoughts, contemplation or prayers.

                            "During that time, you can pray, you can not pray, you can pray to whoever you want to, or you can just be silent," Dr. Griffin said. "They can use that moment to think about whatever they want."
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                              Former state science director sues over intelligent design e-mail
                              05:20 PM CDT on Wednesday, July 2, 2008
                              By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning Newststutz@...



                              AUSTIN -- A former state science curriculum director filed suit against the Texas Education Agency and Education Commissioner Robert Scott on Wednesday, alleging she was illegally fired for forwarding an
                              e-mail about a lecture that was critical of the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.
                              Also Online Document: Lawsuit filed by Christina Comer

                              Christina Comer, who lost her job at the TEA last year, said in a suit filed in federal court in Austin that she was terminated for contravening an unconstitutional policy at the agency that required employees to be neutral on the subject of creationism -- the biblical interpretation of the origin of humans.

                              The policy was in force even though the federal courts have ruled that teaching creationism as science in public schools is illegal under U.S. Constitution's provision preventing government establishment or endorsement of religious beliefs.

                              "The agency's 'neutrality' policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause," the lawsuit said.

                              Ms. Comer also said in her complaint that she was fired without due process after serving as the state science director for nearly 10 years.

                              Her lawsuit seeks a court order overturning the TEA's neutrality policy on teaching of creationism and declaring that her dismissal was unconstitutional. The suit also seeks her reinstatement to her old job.

                              The theory of intelligent design holds that the origin of the universe and humans is best explained by an unknown "intelligent cause" rather than through evolutionary processes such as natural selection and random mutation. Critics -- and at least one federal judge -- contend that intelligent design is nothing more than creationism and has no business being taught in science classes.
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                                ======================================================================

                                Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district dropped from lawsuit over moment of silence
                                06:51 PM CDT on Monday, August 4, 2008
                                Associated Press



                                A school district has been dropped from a lawsuit challenging the daily moment of silence in Texas classrooms.

                                Shannon and David Croft's 2006 lawsuit initially named Gov. Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, where the couple's three children still attend. They sued after they said an elementary teacher told one of their children to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."

                                But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday dropped the district from the lawsuit.

                                A 2003 law allows children to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities" for one minute after the American and Texas pledges at the beginning of each school day.

                                In a brief filed Friday with the 5th Circuit, the state said the law is "clearly secular -- to promote patriotism, thoughtful contemplation and nondiscrimination." The state also said that allowing students to pray during the moment of silence protects religious freedom, which is a constitutional right.

                                W. Dean Cook, the Crofts' attorney, today called the state's arguments a "smoke screen." He is appealing on the Crofts' behalf after a federal judge in January threw out a challenge to the state law as unconstitutional.

                                "No one knows how it would promote patriotism," Cook said. "It's just a way of trying to get prayer into public schools."
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                                  Prayer clash continues in Wylie school district
                                  12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, August 19, 2008
                                  By HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News hyan@...


                                  It was supposed to be a bond committee meeting to discuss the future of Wylie's growing school district.
                                  (PHOTO: Mikki Lewis opens school supplies Monday at Dodd Elementary. She was surprised to hear a school board member open a meeting with The Lord's Prayer a month ago. That set off a debate over the role of religion in the school district. ">JUAN GARCIA/DMNMikki Lewis opens school supplies Monday at Dodd Elementary. She was surprised to hear a school board member open a meeting with The Lord's Prayer a month ago. That set off a debate over the role of religion in the school district.
                                  )But just a few seconds into it, controversy erupted. School board member Ralph James stood up and led an invocation with The Lord's Prayer. He was barely able to finish the words "Our Father" when committee member Mikki Lewis interrupted. "I popped up and said, 'Excuse me!' because it wasn't on the agenda, and it surprised me," said Mrs. Lewis, a mother of two in the Wylie school district. "I wasn't there to pray or practice my religion," she said. Mr. James said he was flabbergasted, as was most of the room.So the committee resorted to a moment of silence instead. But the silence wouldn't last long. The prayer debate still continues a month after that meeting. Wylie ISD superintendent H. John Fuller has offered to meet with Mrs. Lewis to discuss "the concept of se- paration of church and state," though a date for a meeting had not been set. According to the Texas Municipal League's Web site, many Texas cities and other governmental entities open meetings with a brief prayer known as "legislative prayer," which is considered legal. Mrs. Lewis said the school district should allow representatives of diverse religions to open meetings -- not just Christians. She said she represents other parents who agree with her but are too afraid to speak up."I felt very alone and very scared, and scared for my family," Mrs. Lewis said. "But this is four years that I've been trying to do something."Reading materialsIn recent years, she said, Wylie school officials have allowed The Gideons International to place Bibles on a stand in Cooper Junior High and offer them to children. One of Mrs. Lewis' children attended the school.Dr. Fuller said Gideons Bibles have been available for years."The Gideons have, for several years, used a limited forum whereby Bibles are placed on a table at our junior high and intermediate campuses where students may choose to pick one up or not pick one up," the superintendent said in an
                                  e-mail. "The Gideons have not physically been on campus when students are present for several years."Mrs. Lewis said she asked about setting up a table with other literature, such as the Quran. Dr. Fuller declined the offer, she said, because it might cause unrest.But Dr. Fuller said Ms. Lewis never approached him that request. "No one has asked me about distributing similar literature using this limited forum or any other means of distribution," he said.Dr. Fuller said he's open to distributing materials other than the Bible. It depends on the organization and whether its distribution plan follows school district policy, he said.Mrs. Lewis comes from a religiously diverse family. She is Jewish, her husband is Catholic and her father was an atheist whose parents were Orthodox Jews.Bible BeltShe said the district is losing sight of Wylie's increasingly diverse population. "I know this is the Bible Belt, and I respect that," Mrs. Lewis said. "But this is a growing, changing area."Mrs. Lewis
                                  e-mailed the superintendent and the school board president after her prayer protest at the bond committee meeting. She quickly received a response from school board member Sue Nicklas."I must share with you first and formost [sic] that there are many people who are praying for you," Ms. Nicklas wrote. "In ten years as a trustee of the Wylie school board, you're the first parent to complain about a prayer, and the very first person in my 68 years that has ever had the audasity [sic] to interrupt God and one of His children in prayer."Ms. Nicklas said Mrs. Lewis "doesn't set the agenda for meetings. We are elected by the people ... in the community."Wylie is a Christian community, Ms. Nicklas said."You go with the culture and customs of the community," she said.Dr. Fuller said he's committed to trying to find common ground."As superintendent of schools in WISD, I believe that public schools should neither inculcate nor inhibit religion but become places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect," he wrote. "I further believe schools have an obligation to uphold the First Amendment by protecting the First Amendment rights of students of all faiths or those with no faith."
                                • croft@optihumanist.org
                                  David Croft [david@croftsoft.com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com. (Page at:
                                  Message 16 of 26 , Dec 21, 2008
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    David Croft [david@...] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                    (Page at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/yahoolatestnews/stories/122208dnmetaids.8ca83a8.html?npc)


                                    ======================================================================

                                    AIDS data may end Dallas County's ban on condom distribution
                                    10:17 PM CST on Sunday, December 21, 2008
                                    By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News kkrause@...



                                    The number of Dallas County residents living with HIV and AIDS has steadily increased during the past five years.

                                    But county health workers still are not allowed to distribute condoms in high-risk neighborhoods because of a controversial Commissioners Court policy passed 13 years ago.

                                    At least two court members, however, are hoping to reverse that policy.

                                    "I can't continue to join the ostrich head-in-the-sand group given the numbers," said Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat who raised the issue during a recent meeting.

                                    Dallas County had the highest HIV rate in Texas last year and in 2006, state officials say, although the reported number of new cases has been decreasing.

                                    The number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases is up, according to county statistics.

                                    Before 1995, county health workers routinely ventured into local communities to hand out condoms and needle sterilization kits to those with the greatest risk of infection. But that year, a narrow majority of commissioners voted to end the practice, saying it encouraged illegal and immoral behavior.

                                    The commissioners also approved regulations requiring county health programs to emphasize abstinence. It gave Dallas County the distinction of having the only public health agency in the state that barred condoms in education and prevention programs.

                                    Texas leads the nation in abstinence education spending, with $17 million laid out last year in public schools.

                                    "'Just say no' hasn't worked with too many things," said Mr. Price, who voted against the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                    Mr. Price, who is black, said he is alarmed by the number of AIDS cases in local black communities and said he doesn't want to see the numbers continue to increase "under my watch." Local Hispanic communities also have been hit hard, mirroring a national trend.

                                    Better treatments have led to an increase in the number of people living with AIDS, federal health officials say.

                                    In Dallas County, condom availability is not a question of money.

                                    The Texas Department of State Health Services provides free condoms to all county health departments in Texas. The county Department of Health and Human Services has condoms available in its clinics to those who ask for them, director Zach Thompson said.

                                    But many people at risk of contracting the disease will not necessarily come to the county health department building, off Interstate 35E just north of downtown, AIDS awareness experts say.

                                    "Any barrier to receiving condoms needs to be eliminated," said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, a Dallas nonprofit. "It's better to go in the communities that are high risk because they may not come to you."

                                    Community organizations like hers have advocated for a change in the county's policy for years. She said she's thrilled that it's finally up for discussion and believes it will be changed.

                                    Mr. Thompson said his department has a mobile medical clinic that visits neighborhoods with people who have a high risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It offers screenings, treatment, testing, counseling and referrals -- but no condoms.

                                    County Judge Jim Foster, a fellow Democrat of Mr. Price's, said it's time to end the ban on condom distribution.

                                    "For the cost of one dollar we can save a couple hundred thousand dollars in medical bills," he said.

                                    "A lot of people thought a lot of these diseases would go away."

                                    It's not clear whether Mr. Foster and Mr. Price have enough votes to reverse the county's condom policy. Two of the court's three Republicans -- Kenneth Mayfield and Mike Cantrell -- voted for the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                    They could not be reached for comment.

                                    Commissioner Maurine Dickey, one of the newer Commissioners Court members, said she wants to study the issue before forming an opinion.

                                    "I want to listen to the discussion and see what the situation is," said Ms. Dickey, who is seen as a moderate and potential swing vote on the issue.

                                    Shortly after commissioners enacted the 1995 ban, they agreed to a compromise under which privately donated condoms would be available in county health clinics.

                                    Local medical professionals blasted their decision at the time, saying it would endanger public health. Federal and state agencies cut some grant funding to the county for disease prevention and education efforts.
                                  • Jerry Weiss
                                    David - 1.  I m not sure why you sent me this article. 2.  The religious aspect aside, what s the actual research on results of giving out condoms in
                                    Message 17 of 26 , Dec 22, 2008
                                    • 0 Attachment
                                      David -
                                      1.  I'm not sure why you sent me this article.
                                      2.  The religious aspect aside, what's the actual research on results of giving out condoms in various communities besides Dallas? 
                                       
                                      Happy Holidays,
                                      Jer

                                      --- On Sun, 12/21/08, croft@... <croft@...> wrote:
                                      From: croft@... <croft@...>
                                      Subject: [dallasbrights] dallasnews.com article from David Croft
                                      To: dallasbrights@yahoogroups.com
                                      Date: Sunday, December 21, 2008, 11:58 PM

                                      David Croft [david@croftsoft. com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                      (Page at: http://www.dallasne ws.com/sharedcon tent/dws/ dn/yahoolatestne ws/stories/ 122208dnmetaids. 8ca83a8.html? npc)

                                      ============ ========= ========= ========= ========= ========= ========= ====

                                      AIDS data may end Dallas County's ban on condom distribution
                                      10:17 PM CST on Sunday, December 21, 2008
                                      By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News kkrause@dallasnews. com

                                      The number of Dallas County residents living with HIV and AIDS has steadily increased during the past five years.

                                      But county health workers still are not allowed to distribute condoms in high-risk neighborhoods because of a controversial Commissioners Court policy passed 13 years ago.

                                      At least two court members, however, are hoping to reverse that policy.

                                      "I can't continue to join the ostrich head-in-the- sand group given the numbers," said Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat who raised the issue during a recent meeting.

                                      Dallas County had the highest HIV rate in Texas last year and in 2006, state officials say, although the reported number of new cases has been decreasing.

                                      The number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases is up, according to county statistics.

                                      Before 1995, county health workers routinely ventured into local communities to hand out condoms and needle sterilization kits to those with the greatest risk of infection. But that year, a narrow majority of commissioners voted to end the practice, saying it encouraged illegal and immoral behavior.

                                      The commissioners also approved regulations requiring county health programs to emphasize abstinence. It gave Dallas County the distinction of having the only public health agency in the state that barred condoms in education and prevention programs.

                                      Texas leads the nation in abstinence education spending, with $17 million laid out last year in public schools.

                                      "'Just say no' hasn't worked with too many things," said Mr. Price, who voted against the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                      Mr. Price, who is black, said he is alarmed by the number of AIDS cases in local black communities and said he doesn't want to see the numbers continue to increase "under my watch." Local Hispanic communities also have been hit hard, mirroring a national trend.

                                      Better treatments have led to an increase in the number of people living with AIDS, federal health officials say.

                                      In Dallas County, condom availability is not a question of money.

                                      The Texas Department of State Health Services provides free condoms to all county health departments in Texas. The county Department of Health and Human Services has condoms available in its clinics to those who ask for them, director Zach Thompson said.

                                      But many people at risk of contracting the disease will not necessarily come to the county health department building, off Interstate 35E just north of downtown, AIDS awareness experts say.

                                      "Any barrier to receiving condoms needs to be eliminated," said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, a Dallas nonprofit. "It's better to go in the communities that are high risk because they may not come to you."

                                      Community organizations like hers have advocated for a change in the county's policy for years. She said she's thrilled that it's finally up for discussion and believes it will be changed.

                                      Mr. Thompson said his department has a mobile medical clinic that visits neighborhoods with people who have a high risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It offers screenings, treatment, testing, counseling and referrals -- but no condoms.

                                      County Judge Jim Foster, a fellow Democrat of Mr. Price's, said it's time to end the ban on condom distribution.

                                      "For the cost of one dollar we can save a couple hundred thousand dollars in medical bills," he said.

                                      "A lot of people thought a lot of these diseases would go away."

                                      It's not clear whether Mr. Foster and Mr. Price have enough votes to reverse the county's condom policy. Two of the court's three Republicans -- Kenneth Mayfield and Mike Cantrell -- voted for the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                      They could not be reached for comment.

                                      Commissioner Maurine Dickey, one of the newer Commissioners Court members, said she wants to study the issue before forming an opinion.

                                      "I want to listen to the discussion and see what the situation is," said Ms. Dickey, who is seen as a moderate and potential swing vote on the issue.

                                      Shortly after commissioners enacted the 1995 ban, they agreed to a compromise under which privately donated condoms would be available in county health clinics.

                                      Local medical professionals blasted their decision at the time, saying it would endanger public health. Federal and state agencies cut some grant funding to the county for disease prevention and education efforts.


                                    • David Wallace Croft
                                      Jerry, I forwarded it to the list because it seemed related to a blog entry I recently wrote on abstinence-only sex education here in the Dallas area:
                                      Message 18 of 26 , Dec 22, 2008
                                      • 0 Attachment
                                        Jerry,


                                        I forwarded it to the list because it seemed related to a blog entry I recently wrote on abstinence-only sex education here in the Dallas area:
                                        http://david-wallace-croft.blogspot.com/2008/05/anti-condom-message-in-school.html


                                        --
                                        David Wallace Croft / (214) 636-3790 m
                                        http://www.CroftSoft.com/people/david/

                                        --- On Mon, 12/22/08, Jerry Weiss <docdoer@...> wrote:
                                        From: Jerry Weiss <docdoer@...>
                                        Subject: Re: [dallasbrights] dallasnews.com article from David Croft
                                        To: dallasbrights@yahoogroups.com
                                        Date: Monday, December 22, 2008, 9:26 AM

                                        David -
                                        1.  I'm not sure why you sent me this article.
                                        2.  The religious aspect aside, what's the actual research on results of giving out condoms in various communities besides Dallas? 
                                         
                                        Happy Holidays,
                                        Jer

                                        --- On Sun, 12/21/08, croft@... <croft@...> wrote:
                                        From: croft@... <croft@...>
                                        Subject: [dallasbrights] dallasnews.com article from David Croft
                                        To: dallasbrights@yahoogroups.com
                                        Date: Sunday, December 21, 2008, 11:58 PM

                                        David Croft [david@croftsoft. com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                        (Page at: http://www.dallasne ws.com/sharedcon tent/dws/ dn/yahoolatestne ws/stories/ 122208dnmetaids. 8ca83a8.html? npc)

                                        ============ ========= ========= ========= ========= ========= ========= ====

                                        AIDS data may end Dallas County's ban on condom distribution
                                        10:17 PM CST on Sunday, December 21, 2008
                                        By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News kkrause@dallasnews. com

                                        The number of Dallas County residents living with HIV and AIDS has steadily increased during the past five years.

                                        But county health workers still are not allowed to distribute condoms in high-risk neighborhoods because of a controversial Commissioners Court policy passed 13 years ago.

                                        At least two court members, however, are hoping to reverse that policy.

                                        "I can't continue to join the ostrich head-in-the- sand group given the numbers," said Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat who raised the issue during a recent meeting.

                                        Dallas County had the highest HIV rate in Texas last year and in 2006, state officials say, although the reported number of new cases has been decreasing.

                                        The number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases is up, according to county statistics.

                                        Before 1995, county health workers routinely ventured into local communities to hand out condoms and needle sterilization kits to those with the greatest risk of infection. But that year, a narrow majority of commissioners voted to end the practice, saying it encouraged illegal and immoral behavior.

                                        The commissioners also approved regulations requiring county health programs to emphasize abstinence. It gave Dallas County the distinction of having the only public health agency in the state that barred condoms in education and prevention programs.

                                        Texas leads the nation in abstinence education spending, with $17 million laid out last year in public schools.

                                        "'Just say no' hasn't worked with too many things," said Mr. Price, who voted against the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                        Mr. Price, who is black, said he is alarmed by the number of AIDS cases in local black communities and said he doesn't want to see the numbers continue to increase "under my watch." Local Hispanic communities also have been hit hard, mirroring a national trend.

                                        Better treatments have led to an increase in the number of people living with AIDS, federal health officials say.

                                        In Dallas County, condom availability is not a question of money.

                                        The Texas Department of State Health Services provides free condoms to all county health departments in Texas. The county Department of Health and Human Services has condoms available in its clinics to those who ask for them, director Zach Thompson said.

                                        But many people at risk of contracting the disease will not necessarily come to the county health department building, off Interstate 35E just north of downtown, AIDS awareness experts say.

                                        "Any barrier to receiving condoms needs to be eliminated," said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms, a Dallas nonprofit. "It's better to go in the communities that are high risk because they may not come to you."

                                        Community organizations like hers have advocated for a change in the county's policy for years. She said she's thrilled that it's finally up for discussion and believes it will be changed.

                                        Mr. Thompson said his department has a mobile medical clinic that visits neighborhoods with people who have a high risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It offers screenings, treatment, testing, counseling and referrals -- but no condoms.

                                        County Judge Jim Foster, a fellow Democrat of Mr. Price's, said it's time to end the ban on condom distribution.

                                        "For the cost of one dollar we can save a couple hundred thousand dollars in medical bills," he said.

                                        "A lot of people thought a lot of these diseases would go away."

                                        It's not clear whether Mr. Foster and Mr. Price have enough votes to reverse the county's condom policy. Two of the court's three Republicans -- Kenneth Mayfield and Mike Cantrell -- voted for the condom distribution ban in 1995.

                                        They could not be reached for comment.

                                        Commissioner Maurine Dickey, one of the newer Commissioners Court members, said she wants to study the issue before forming an opinion.

                                        "I want to listen to the discussion and see what the situation is," said Ms. Dickey, who is seen as a moderate and potential swing vote on the issue.

                                        Shortly after commissioners enacted the 1995 ban, they agreed to a compromise under which privately donated condoms would be available in county health clinics.

                                        Local medical professionals blasted their decision at the time, saying it would endanger public health. Federal and state agencies cut some grant funding to the county for disease prevention and education efforts.


                                      • croft@optihumanist.org
                                        David Croft [david@croftsoft.com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com. (Page at:
                                        Message 19 of 26 , Feb 4, 2009
                                        • 0 Attachment
                                          David Croft [david@...] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                          (Page at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/carrollton/stories/020309dnmetschoolmoment.1640c66a.html)


                                          ======================================================================

                                          Texas officials ask federal appeals court to uphold schools' moment of silence
                                          04:57 PM CST on Tuesday, February 3, 2009
                                          The Associated Press



                                          NEW ORLEANS -- The Texas attorney general's office asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to uphold a state law that allows schoolchildren to pray or meditate during a daily minute of silence.

                                          U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn upheld the constitutionality of the law last year, throwing out a lawsuit that David and Shannon Croft filed against the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district and Gov. Rick Perry. The couple claims one of their children was told by an elementary school teacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."
                                          Also Online Link: David Wallace Croft's blog
                                          Dad crusades against God in school

                                          The Crofts, of Carrollton, appealed Lynn's ruling.

                                          On Tuesday, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case. The court didn't immediately rule.

                                          In 2003, state lawmakers amended an existing law that already allowed schools to hold a moment of silence to specify that students can use the time to "reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student."

                                          W. Dean Cook, a lawyer for the Crofts, said the new version of the law is an "endorsement of prayer."

                                          "By including the word 'prayer' in there, that shows a non-secular purpose," he told the judges.

                                          Texas Solicitor General James Ho, who handles appeals for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said lawmakers included the word "prayer" to avoid confusion.

                                          Judge Fortunato Benavides said advocates on both sides of the issue tend to distort the implications of laws governing school prayer.

                                          "I can see why the Legislature might think that it might be important to let people know what they can do and put it in the form of a statute," he said.

                                          A total of 26 states have moment-of-silence laws, but Texas' is the only one that calls for the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited before students observe a minute of silence at the start of each school day, Ho said in court papers.

                                          "These opening exercises give students the opportunity to start each day on a proper footing," he wrote. "Some will take time to prepare mentally for the day ahead. And others may use this opportunity to exercise their faith through silent, nondisruptive prayer."

                                          Ho and Cook both cited prior rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court to support their positions. Cook said the justices struck down an Alabama law that mirrors Texas' minute-of-silence statute.

                                          "By amending (the law) to include the word 'pray,' the Legislature, whether intentionally or otherwise, has advanced religion," he wrote in court papers.

                                          Ho said Alabama lawmakers had enacted their law "for the express purpose of defying the U.S. Supreme Court," whereas sponsors of the Texas law wrote theirs in a way that would pass constitutional muster.
                                        • croft@optihumanist.org
                                          David Croft [david@croftsoft.com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com. (Page at:
                                          Message 20 of 26 , Feb 4, 2009
                                          • 0 Attachment
                                            David Croft [david@...] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                            (Page at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/carrollton/stories/DN-silence_04met.ART.State.Edition1.4c5d1e3.html)


                                            ======================================================================

                                            Texas schools' moment of silence case centers on use of 'prayer'
                                            12:00 AM CST on Wednesday, February 4, 2009
                                            FROM WIRE REPORTS The Associated Press


                                            NEW ORLEANS -- The Texas attorney general's office asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to uphold a state law that allows schoolchildren to pray or meditate during a daily minute of silence.U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn upheld the constitutionality of the law last year, throwing out a lawsuit that David and Shannon Croft filed against Carrollton ISD and Gov. Rick Perry. The couple claims one of their children was told by an elementary school teacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."The Crofts appealed Lynn's ruling. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case. The court didn't immediately rule.In 2003, state lawmakers amended an existing law that already allowed schools to hold a moment of silence to specify that students can use the time to "reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student."W. Dean Cook, a lawyer for the Crofts, said the new version of the law is an "endorsement of prayer.""By including the word 'prayer' in there, that shows a nonsecular purpose," he told the judges.Texas Solicitor General James Ho, who handles appeals for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said lawmakers included the word prayer to avoid confusion.Judge Fortunato Benavides said advocates on both sides of the issue tend to distort the implications of laws governing school prayer."I can see why the Legislature might think that it might be important to let people know what they can do and put it in the form of a statute," he said.A total of 26 states have moment-of-silence laws, but Texas' is the only one that calls for the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited before students observe a minute of silence at the start of each school day, Ho said in court papers."These opening exercises give students the opportunity to start each day on a proper footing," he wrote. "Some will take time to prepare mentally for the day ahead. And!
                                            others
                                            may use this opportunity to exercise their faith through silent, nondisruptive prayer."Ho and Cook both cited prior rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court to support their positions. Cook said the justices struck down an Alabama law that mirrors Texas' minute-of-silence statute."By amending [the law] to include the word pray, the Legislature, whether intentionally or otherwise, has advanced religion," he wrote in court papers.Ho said Alabama lawmakers had enacted their law "for the express purpose of defying the U.S. Supreme Court," whereas sponsors of the Texas law wrote theirs in a way that would pass constitutional muster.The Associated Press
                                          • croft@optihumanist.org
                                            David Croft [david@croftsoft.com] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com. (Page at:
                                            Message 21 of 26 , Mar 28, 2009
                                            • 0 Attachment
                                              David Croft [david@...] has sent you a story from dallasnews.com.
                                              (Page at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/032709dnmettexaspledge.78988d59.html)


                                              ======================================================================

                                              Judge dismisses parent's lawsuit over 'one state under God' wording in Texas pledge of allegiance
                                              08:03 PM CDT on Friday, March 27, 2009
                                              By KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH / The Dallas Morning News kunmuth@...



                                              A judge has dismissed the claims of an atheist parent who sought to remove the words "one state under God" from the Texas pledge of allegiance.

                                              Parent David Wallace Croft had argued that the insertion of the words in 2007 by legislators was unconstitutional and amounted to a violation of the separation of church and state.

                                              Public school children recite the pledge every morning after the U.S. pledge.

                                              U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade on Thursday upheld the pledge as it is worded: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible."

                                              In his opinion, Kinkeade wrote, "A voluntary recitation of the Texas Pledge of Allegiance simply does not coerce students in the same way a school-sponsored prayer might."

                                              He noted that the U.S. pledge and four other states have similar pledges that make reference to God or divine grace.

                                              Dean Cook, Croft's attorney, said he is considering appealing the decision.

                                              "The insertion of the language 'under God' shows that the Legislature did not have a secular purpose," he said. "It would be just as inappropriate if they inserted the language 'this is a state under no God' or a 'state under Vishnu.' It doesn't maintain the proper neutrality between the state and religion."

                                              Attorney General Greg Abbott also issued a statement.

                                              "The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that patriotic acknowledgments of the Almighty are constitutional," he said. "Texans can rest assured that we will continue defending their children's ability to recite the state Pledge of Allegiance each morning."

                                              In addition, the judge noted that parents have the right to excuse their children in writing from reciting either pledge.

                                              Croft, whose children are enrolled in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district, also has unsuccessfully challenged the minute of silence Texas children observe every morning after reciting the pledges.

                                              Cook said he is considering asking the Supreme Court to consider taking up the moment of silence case, since the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his arguments earlier this month. He also said he and his client have received many
                                              e-mails because of the cases, some of which are threatening in nature.

                                              "I'm beginning to see that living in Texas, it's not surprising the way it went," he said of the decision.
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