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Missouri Family E-News

November 22, 2011

Muslim Students Claim Bias at Catholic University



The Washington, D.C Office of Human Rights is investigating a complaint by Muslim students at Catholic University that they are victims of religious discrimination.   


The students claim their human rights are being violated because they are surrounded by wooden crucifixes, paintings of Jesus, and other Catholic symbols which they find offensive and inappropriate.


The complaint includes 60 pages of allegations against the University.  The Muslim students are demanding that Catholic University officials provide them with a dedicated prayer room devoid of Catholic imagery.


The attorney for the Muslim students says they are particularly offended because they have to perform their religious rituals under the shadow of the cathedral that towers over the entire campus--the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.


"They have to pray five times a day and to be sitting there trying to do Muslim prayers with a big cross looking down or a picture of Jesus or the Pope is not very conducive to their religion," says attorney John Banzhaf.  "It may not be illegal, but it suggests that they are acting improperly and probably with malice."


Patrick Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, says he is stunned by the complaint.  "I don't know what he wants them to do--if he wants them to actually move the the Muslim students don't have to look at it."


"This attorney is really turning civil rights on its head.  He's essentially saying that Catholic University cannot operate according to Catholic principles," Reilly adds.  The Cardinal Newman Society promotes Catholic identity in Catholic schools.


Banzhaf, the attorney for the Muslim students, is a law professor at George Washington University.  He is known for filing dozens of human rights' complaints.  His personal website brags that he is the D.C. area's "best-known 'radical' law professor.                    


Catholic Bishops in Illinois Drop Civil Unions Lawsuit



Three Catholic dioceses have decided to drop their lawsuits against the State of Illinois regarding the termination of foster care and adoption services contracts with their Catholic Charities affiliates.


The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services announced that it was revoking its contracts with the Catholic agencies because they refused to place children with same-sex and cohabiting "couples."  The state action followed passage by the Illinois Legislature of a new law legalizing same-sex "civil unions."


The bishops of the Springfield, Joliet, and Belleville dioceses announced they were abandoning their legal action against the state because of the financial toll involved.

"The decision not to pursue further appeals was reached with great reluctance, but was necessitated by the fact that the State of Illinois has made it financially impossible for our agencies to continue to provide these services," says Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton.  "Since we now need to close offices and lay off employees, further appeals would be moot."


Catholic officials estimate that the state's decision will affect approximately 1500 foster children.  "While the State has forced the Catholic Church out of state-supported foster care and adoption services, the losers will be the children, foster care families, and adoptive parents who will no longer have the option of Catholic, faith-based services," the bishops said in a joint statement.


However, the bishops also noted:  "The silver lining of this decision is that our Catholic Charities agencies going forward will be able to focus on being more Catholic and more charitable, while less dependent on government funding and intrusive state policies."  



Supreme Court Permits Removal of Roadside Memorial Crosses

Memorial crosses honoring fallen state trooper will be permanently removed from Utah highways as a result of a perplexing decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The High Court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling ordering the removal of the crosses honoring Utah highway patrolmen killed in the line of duty.

Beginning in 1998, the Utah Highway Patrol Association has erected the nondescript white crosses which include the name and badge number of the fallen officer, the date of their death, and the logo of the Utah Highway Patrol.  Thirteen such crosses have been placed along Utah roadways paid for by the Highway Patrol Association on behalf of the families of deceased officers.

The Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the crosses were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, "conveying to a reasonable observer that the State of Utah is endorsing Christianity."  The lawsuit had been filed by the American Atheists organization, which claimed that the crosses were "divisive religious icons."

The Supreme Court's decision to let the Tenth Circuit ruling stand has once again confounded religious liberty observers.  Just last year the High Court ruled in favor of a cross-shaped memorial in the Mojave Desert.  In that decision, the justices made specific reference to roadside crosses honoring deceased law enforcement officers.

In that case, the court said:  "The goal of avoiding governmental endorsement does not require eradication of all religious symbols in the public realm.  A cross by the side of a public highway marking, for instance, the place where a state trooper perished need not be taken as a statement of government support for religious beliefs.  The Constitution does not oblige government to avoid any public acknowledgement of religion's role in society."

Justice Clarence Thomas was the only Supreme Court Justice to vote to hear the case.  He blasted his colleagues in a 19-page dissent.  "Today the Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles...Our jurisprudence has confounded the lower courts and rendered the constitutionality of displays of religious imagery on government property anyone's guess..."

Justice Thomas added:  "Our Establishment Clause precedents remain impenetrable, and the lower courts' decisions...remain incapable of coherent explanation...One might be forgiven for failing to discern a workable principle that explains these wildly divergent outcomes...We should not abdicate our responsibility to clean up our mess because these disputes [are of our own making.]"

Thomas noted that the cross is "used both generally in cemeteries to commemorate the dead and by uniformed services to memorialize those who died in the line of duty."  Thomas said it was reasonable for the Highway Patrol Association to conclude that "the cross effectively and simultaneously conveyed the messages of death, honor, remembrance, gratitude, sacrifice, and safety that they wished to communicate to the public"

Byron Babione, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, bemoaned the court's baffling decision.  "Thirteen heroic men fell, leaving their survivors to mourn and memorialize their loved ones, and now those widows, children, parents, colleagues, and many more must suffer through losing the very memorials that honored those heroes."

"One atheist group's agenda shouldn't diminish the sacrifice made by highway patrol officers and their families," Babione added.  "Justice is not well served when unhappy atheists can use the law to mow down memorial crosses and renew the suffering for the survivors."

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says the latest ruling is yet another assault on the religious liberties guaranteed in the Constitution.  "I find it tragic that our freedoms are now at greater risk from our own courts than from the foreign and domestic enemies we have faced...If this decision is ever applied nationally, no crosses on public property will be tolerated.  Arlington National Cemetery and other notable landmarks would have to be completely dismantled."

The decision affects all the states included in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' jurisdiction.  Those states, in addition to Utah, are Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.  The only guidance one can draw from the Supreme Court's incomprehensible rulings is that the crosses are permitted in the states included in all the other judicial circuits.

The Utah Highway Patrol Association is not going down without a fight.  They have left the crosses standing for the moment, but have removed the logo of the State Highway Patrol.  They hope federal courts will then no longer view the crosses as constituting "government" displays.  "We feel strongly that without the cross there is no memorial," says association attorney Frank Mylar.

The Family Research Council is leading a petition drive calling on the federal courts and Congress to support cross memorials as consistent with the free exercise of religion assured in the Bill of Rights.  Over 40,000 Americans have signed the petition so far.  You can join them by clicking this link:
FRC Petition 


Joe's Signature