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Missouri Family E-News

March 5, 2013

Brouhaha Erupts Over Bathrooms in Bay State


Massachusetts parents are in an uproar over new state education policies that allow "transgender" students to use bathrooms of the opposite sex.


The state's Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, issued the new guidelines to all schools serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade.


The policy states that boys who declare they are girls must be allowed to use the women's restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilies.  And vice versa.


"The responsibility for determining a student's gender identity rests with the student," the policy reads.  "A school should accept a student's assertion of his or her gender identity."


The policy further directs school officials to address

students according to their chosen identity, and to discipline fellow students who fail to affirm a fellow student's "gender identity choice."


The guidelines go so far as to prohibit school officials from discussing a student's gender identity choice with their parents without the permission of the student.


The new bathroom rules are the result of legislation passed in Massachusetts prohibiting discrimination based on "gender identity."


Kris Mineau, President of the Massachusetts Family Institute, sharply criticized the new directive as a violation of student's privacy.  "This policy places girls at risk of privacy invasions and sexual abuse as early as kindergarten."  


In related news, a Colorado couple has filed a complaint against their local school district because school officials won't allow their six year-old son to use the girls' bathroom.


Jeremy and Kathryn Manis have filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division against Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, Colorado.


They claim that their son, Coy, is a victim of "gender identity" discrimination in violation of Colorado's newly revised anti-discrimination statutes.


Even though Coy is allowed to wear girls clothing to school and is referred to in feminine terms, his parents say that is not enough.  They insist that failure to allow Coy to use the girls' bathroom "singles out and stigmatizes" their child.  


Congressmen Call for Probe of Planned Parenthood Funding     



Four Missouri members of Congress have joined their colleagues in calling for an investigation into the expenditure of federal funds by the Planned Parenthood Federation and its affiliates.


Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, Congressman Billy Long, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler have signed their names to a joint letter calling for the study.


The letter calls on the General Accounting Office to examine the allocation and use of federal taxpayer dollars by the abortion industry giant.


"Planned Parenthood and other organizations who provide abortions are dependent on Uncle Sam, but there is no accounting with what they are actually using the money for," says Louisiana Senator David Vitter, one of the signatories.


Planned Parenthood has come under fire in recent years for allegations of Medicaid fraud and for failing to ensure that federal grants do not fund abortion services.


During fiscal year 2011-2012, Planned Parenthood received over $540 million in taxpayer funding.  Affiliates of Planned Parenthood performed more than 333,000 abortions during that same year.    



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Federal Judge Rejects Challenge to Missouri Prayer Amendment 



A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Missouri's new religious liberty amendment.  U.S District Judge Howard Sachs has ruled against a challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two inmates incarcerated in state prisons.    


The religious liberty language, placed on the ballot as Amendment 2, was approved by Missouri voters last August by a resounding vote of 83 to 17 percent.  Commonly referred to as the Missouri Prayer Amendment, the measure spells out in considerable detail the free exercise rights of Missouri citizens and schoolchildren.


The lawsuit challenged a provision that declared that the new amendment did not expand the rights of prisoners beyond those afforded by the laws of the United States.  The ACLU had contended that this section would somehow diminish the religious freedoms previously held by individuals incarcerated in Missouri prisons.


Judge Sachs concluded that the plaintiffs failed to specify any "instance where the amendment takes away a specific right," or any particular program or condition that would be impacted by the amendment.  Sachs agreed with the the defense of the State of Missouri that the case was a "moot dispute over abstract, hypothetical concepts." 


"No practical change in the law can be supposed, and plaintiffs fail to suggest hypothetical situations where the results would be altered by the new amendment," Judge Sachs wrote.  "Without a plausible claim of actual prejudice,  justification becomes unnecessary."


The ACLU has unsuccessfully argued that the Missouri Constitution prior to Amendment 2 provided more expansive religious liberties than those articulated in the First Amendment to the federal constitution.  Judge Sachs agreed with state courts that no such evidence exists.


Last summer the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals determined that Amendment 2 would "simply make [prisoners] rights coextensive with federal law."  Judge Lisa White Hardwick wrote that it was "purely conjectural" that existing rights under the Missouri Constitution would be somehow affected.


The ruling by Judge Sachs is a huge victory for religious liberty advocates in Missouri.  The ACLU has not chosen to file a legal challenge to the substantive provisions of Amendment 2.  That means that all the religious freedom guarantees outlined in Amendment 2 will continue to stand and remain in full force and effect.


The Missouri Prayer Amendment ensures that students have the right to pray on a voluntary basis in the public schools, and furthermore have the right to the free exercise of religious expression without interference.  Students may also share their beliefs about religion in school assignments free from any discrimination based on the religious content of their work.


The religious freedom amendment also protects the conscience rights of students with religious convictions.  Amendment 2 states that "no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate their religious beliefs."


Amendment 2 assures that Missouri citizens and elected officials have the right to pray individually or corporately in private and public settings.  This includes the right to pray on government premises and public property, provided that such religious expression complies within "the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances."


The religious liberty amendment also guarantees the right of the Missouri Legislature and local governments to offer invocations before their meetings.  The General Assembly and the governing bodies of local political subdivisions may continue a common practice of inviting minsters and clergypersons to offer such invocations.


The ACLU recently abandoned the major elements of another lawsuit challenging the practice of governmental invocations.  The ACLU had filed suit in federal district court seeking to enjoin the County Commission in Franklin County from praying before their meetings.


Attorneys for the ACLU withdrew the portion of their lawsuit challenging the County Commission's policy of inviting ministers from the community to offer invocations.  They are still challenging a prior practice of the Commission in which county commissioners offered the prayers themselves.


The Missouri Family Policy Council strongly promoted the Missouri Prayer Amendment, and in large part wrote the language of the amendment.  We thank God for these recent victories in our judicial system that help preserve the free exercise rights of Missouri citizens and families.


We are grateful to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and  Assistant Attorney General Joanna Trachtenberg for their diligent defense of Amendment 2 and all of its key provisions.  Time will tell whether the ACLU chooses to pursue a long-shot legal appeal of Judge Sachs' decision.



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