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Missouri Family E-News

August 6, 2013

Koster Leads
Effort to Battle Online Sex Trade  



Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is leading an effort to enact new laws on the federal level to combat child sex trafficking and prostitution.


Koster has enlisted the support of his fellow Attorneys General to call on Congress to make changes to the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA).


Koster is taking aim at internet websites that are used to promote promiscuous sexual behavior that are a haven for the sex trafficking industry.


"Local prosecutors report that prostitution solicitations have largely moved online,"  Koster states.  "To keep up with changing technology, federal law needs to be modernized to provide local prosecutors the tools to strike back against those who promote sexual exploitation."


The Communications Decency Act was enacted by Congress in 1996 to help restrict minors from accessing pornographic materials online.  Koster says the purpose of the act has been stymied by federal court decisions.


"Courts have interpreted certain provisions of the
Act to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as, that promote and profit from human trafficking," Koster explains.


"When law enforcement attempts to take steps to hold online classified sites accountable, the CDA has been used as a shield from all local law enforcement or regulation." 


Koster points out that generates an estimated $3 million to $4 million per month in revenue.


"Absent interstate travel, federal property, or the involvement of a minor, prostitution is not a federal crime," Koster says.  "While the CDA provides criminal authority to the federal government, the attorneys general believe that criminal jurisdiction needs to be extended to help combat these crimes."   


Koster's office drafted the letter to Congress and succeeded in obtaining the signature of 46 fellow attorneys general and the attorneys general of two United States territories.


We commend Attorney General Koster for continuing to make the battle against human trafficking a priority of his office. 


Justice Dept. Demands 

The Obama Administration has pressured a California school district to allow a teenage girl to use the boy's restrooms and changing facilities.

The parents of the girl had filed a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit after their daughter was not allowed to sleep in the boys' cabin on an overnight field trip to a science camp.

The Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education concluded that the Arcadia Unified School District violated federal gender discrimination statutes.

The U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement with Arcadia school officials under which the girl will have unrestricted access to the boy's bathrooms, showers, and sleeping quarters.

In related news, the California General Assembly has passed legislation that would require that all California schools allow students to choose which restroom they want to use.

Matthew McReynolds, attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute, says the new law disregards the privacy and safety of children.

"These students have reasonable expectations that they will not be forced to share intimate spaces with members of the opposite sex.  There are no safeguards whatsoever that would allow responsible adults, including coaches, teachers, chaperones, school administrators, and others to act in the best interests of all students."
"Even the most liberal parent should see that allowing boys and girls as young as five, or astute as 17, to be able to pick and choose which gender's bathroom to use is outrageous."

High Court to Hear Landmark Case on Religious Expression  


Religious liberty advocates are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue a landmark ruling upholding the constitutionality of public prayer in governmental settings.  The High Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals regarding public invocations.

The case comes from the town of Greece in suburban Rochester, New York.  The lawsuit was filed by the atheist group the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  The plaintiffs are two town residents who contend that invocations offered before meetings of the town council amount to an unconstitutional establishment and endorsement of the Christian religion.

The Second Circuit decision is a curious one.  The judges rejected the argument that invocations must be limited to "non-sectarian" prayers.  In so doing, the judges concurred with decisions of the 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuits that "sectarian" invocations are constitutionally permissible.

"We cannot agree...that the Establishment Clause precludes all legislative invocations that are denominational in nature...A state-imposed requirement that all legislative prayers be non-denominational...begins to sound like the establishment of 'an official or civic religion'...Under the First Amendment, the government may not establish a vague theism as a religion any more than it may establish a specific creed."

Nonetheless, the 2nd Circuit ruled that the town's invocation policy was unconstitutional because it had the effect of "affiliating" the government with Christianity.  "We conclude...that the town's prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular viewpoint."  The town followed a practice of inviting ministers at random from the community who were listed in a local church guide to offer prayers before their meetings.

The 2nd Circuit observed that "Christian clergy delivered each and every one of the prayers for the first nine years of the town's prayer practice, and nearly all of the prayers therefter."  The Court ruled that the town had the obligation to go outside the community to ensure that non-Christian ministers were included among those offering the invocations. 

The 2nd Circuit's opinion seems to stand at odds with the lone decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the subject of governmental invocations.  In the 1983 case of Marsh v. Chambers, the High Court upheld prayers offered before sessions of the Nebraska General Assembly.  The Nebraska Legislature had for a number of years employed a Presbyterian chaplain to offer its invocations.  The Supreme Court ruled that the invocations were constitutionally legitimate so long as they were not used to "proselytize" on behalf of any particular faith or disparage other faiths.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the nation's leading Christian legal interest organization, welcome the Supreme Court's decision to hear the Galloway v. Town of Greece case.  "Since this nation's founding, public meetings have been opened with prayers offered according to the conscience of the speaker," says ADF attorney David Cortman.  "There is no legal reason why a town can't do this today with people from within its own community."

"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," says Brett Harvey, ADF Senior Counsel.  "It's perfectly constitutional to allow community members to ask for God's blessing according to their conscience."

Noted legal observer Eugene Volokh says the pending decision will likely establish groundbreaking case law on the subject of public prayer.  "The Court may use this case as a means of reconsidering the 'endorsement test,' under which the Establishment Clause is read as barring government speech that a 'reasonable observer' would see as endorsing or disapproving of a religion."

The "endorsement test" was enunciated by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  Justice Anthony Kennedy has replaced O'Connor as the swing justice on the Court, and he along with other justices have not subscribed to the "endorsement test."

Religious liberty supporters were cheered by two appellate court decisions issued in March by the 9th and 11th Circuits.  In the 11th Circuit case, that court upheld invocations offered before meetings of the city commission in Lakeland, Florida.  The 11th Circuit judges reaffirmed their previous position that "Marsh forbids judicial scrutiny of the content of prayers absent evidence that the legislative prayers have been exploited to advance or disparage a religion."

In the 9th Circuit case, that extremely liberal court upheld the invocation practice of the City of Lancaster.  "Plaintiffs would have us order the city to review...the text of every proposed prayer, approving...only those drafts rid of all references to saints, disciples, prophets,     deities, and the like...It would assign to the government the task of coauthoring prayers, precisely what the [Supreme] Court...declared unconstitutional."

The 9th Circuit disagreed with the reasoning of the 2nd Circuit in the Greece case.  "That most [prayers] so far have been Christian is merely a function of local 'demographics and the choices of religious leaders who responded out of their own initiative to the city's invitation.'"

Missouri attorney Michael Whitehead has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Greece case on behalf of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the
Southern Baptist Convention.  In that brief, Whitehead writes:  "Trying to create 'neutral' invocations at legislative meetings harms the free exercise rights of the religious person.  A person wishing to give an invocation must be able to pray according to the dictates of that person's conscience without the prayer police scrutinizing the content of that prayer."

We encourage you to be praying for the Supreme Court Justices as they hear this case, with a decision expected during the first half of next year.  This case has the promising potential to dismember judicial hostility to religion in the public square.

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