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Peter Martin is championing a woman suing to enforce the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the California Constitution against what she says is the active government promotion of religion.

The Times Standard coverage.

According to Martin, Jager testified that city staff drafted a proclamation and prepared a letter promoting the 2012 prayer breakfast.

”These two documents were prepared by city staff during working hours,” Martin said. “He may not feel that is inappropriate, but I think we will leave that up to a court to decide.”

Jager confirmed Friday that he had asked Deputy City Clerk Suzanne Ziemer to type up a letter promoting the breakfast, but said he doesn’t see that as a misuse of city time.

”It maybe took her two minutes to type up,” he said. “I mean God Almighty, we are really splitting hairs here.”

As a matter of law, I’m not certain that the time is relevant, only that public resources were used to promote a religion.  It comes down to the details of the prayer breakfast.  Public prayers have been upheld at the Federal level, but Peter Martin is arguing that California law is tougher.

The complaint cites a Hindu prayer delivered last summer as in violation.  Is the City of Eureka really promoting Hinduism?  In the movie Slackers it was suggested that the cartoon Smurfs was part of a plot acclimating us all to blue people – so we can deal with the return of Govinda.



This Dissent article makes the case that a boycott shut down Glen Beck.

I find it dubious, but if it’s true – is that something for the left to take pride in?  I don’t like boycotts aimed at free speech, but that’s the civil libertarian in me.  The First Amendment to me isn’t just Constitutional Law.  Yes, I know it only applies to government.  But it also represents an ethos – that you fight bad words and ideas with words and ideas of your own and that broad discourse is inherently progressive.

Just my thinking.  For what it’s worth.

A Mississippi Judge held an ACLU attorney in contempt for failing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in court.  The judge ordered that the attorney remain in prison until he agreed to recite the pledge.  The attorney continued to refuse, and was released four hours later.

Poor Target.  All they wanted to do was drop a money-bomb of $150,000 in support of a homophobic candidate in the Minnesota Governor’s race.  And now they’re catching flack for it.

One proud mother’s Youtubing of her protest is getting loads of hits.

What is particularly amusing in a dark sort of way is the candidate recipient of Citizens United money.  From TPM:

<i>For his part, Emmer has criticized such boycotters. “The sad part to me is, I thought we were supposed to be able to exercise our rights of free speech,” said Emmer. “We’re supposed to celebrate the fact that we have different perspectives. And it doesn’t seem like that’s what this is about. This seems to be more personal and we’ve got to get over that.</i>

So basically, not only must we now allow campaigns to dump obscene amounts of money into campaigns, but we’re not even supposed to say anything about it.  Corporations should have the right to dictate the outcome of elections free of criticism.   Criticism is a violation of their First Amendment rights!

A side note, watching Ms. Reitan enter the Target, it looked exactly like our own Target’s entrance.  I mean, literally, you watch it and it could be the Eureka entrance.  Scary.

A Maryland teenage student refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the teacher had her basically arrested for it.  On the first day she refused, the teacher sent her to the office (one wonders why the principal didn’t rectify the situation immediately).  On the second day the teacher called the school police to have her removed from the classroom as the teacher insulted her and allowed other class members to taunt her.

The ACLU is involved and quite frankly I don’t think they should let the district off with just an apology.  The district recognizes that she had the right, but there really should be zero tolerance for this.  Give the girl credit for her courage, but this teacher’s actions have probably made the duration of the girl’s high school time a living hell.  Quite frankly, having this teacher wag his/her finger at the kids he/she has already whipped up is a remedy which will do more to aggravate than mitigate.  And personally I think the teacher should be required to attend a high school civics class and pass it.

From the Arcata City Council agenda for tonight’s meeting:

A. Introduce Ordinance No. 1399, Adding Article 10 – Unlawful Panhandling to Title IV – Public Welfare, Morals and Conduct; Chapter 2 – Other Violations, to the Arcata Municipal Code.
On October 21, 2009, the Council gave direction to draft a panhandling ordinance to include a City-wide ban against aggressive panhandling and a location-specific ban against panhandling of any form in certain problem areas.

RECOMMENDATION: Introduce Ordinance No. 1399, adding Article 10 – Unlawful Panhandling to Title IV – Public Welfare, Morals and Conduct; Chapter 2 – Other Violations, to the Arcata Municipal Code; waive reading of the text and consent to read by title only.

The link is to the staff report, but I can’t find a link to the ordinance proposal itself. I’m assuming that the “aggressive” panhandling provisions would require that the panhandler withdraw after the first “no,” as in the San Francisco ordinance which I believe was upheld as not barred by the First Amendment.

I get that there are serious problems which drive away business.   I am hesitant to bring my kids to the Arcata Square green at times, and sometimes certain people have dominated the Arcata Forest playground which ought to be left for kids.  But there are basic liberties at stake as well, and I’m concerned that the issue can play right into the ongoing war on the poor.

I’m for banning panhandling at ATMs, but I’m concerned about what appears to the scope of “problem areas.”

I think I would oppose the measure, but no, I don’t have any alternative constructive solutions.

The Fortuna City Council voted to install a plaque which reads “In God We Trust” on a wall in the Council Chambers.  The Council was responding to a push from an organization called “In God We Trust-America, Inc.,” which is pushing for the motto to be installed in city halls around the state.  The organization’s mission is:

“To Promote Patriotism
By Encouraging Elected Officials
To Display Our National Motto,
“In God We Trust”
In Every City Hall in America.”

Over 50 California cities have signed on, most of them in the conservatives areas of the state.  The organization insists it’s all about patriotism and not pushing religion.  As the Times Standard article suggests, there is probably safe harbor against the Establishment Clause for the motto since it’s been on our currency for half a century (during the McCarthy era when we also injected “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance – seen as a weapon  against “atheist communism”).

I’ve long thought the ACLU is counterproductively anal about religious displays on public property, and I don’t think a lawsuit is worth the effort even if it could prevail.  But I’m not convinced that this is about patriotism and cultural heritage as the organization claims.  It comes across to me as more of a “neener, neener” mini-backlash against the perceived secularization of the culture at large – as in sticking it to the (secular humanist) man.

Here’s an old Chronicle article on the founder Jacquie Sullivan who lives in Bakersfield, “the buckle of California’s Bible belt.”

The debate about what is appropriate for public agencies and officials to “express” in religious terms often starts with Jefferson’s “wall of separation letter.”  Liberals often refer to the portion preserved in the original, but omitted by Jefferson in the final draft to avoid offending people like Ms. Sullivan.  Conservatives often argue that we should ignore that part since Jefferson elected to omit it, but the point is that he personally felt it was important for the president to refrain from even minor religious expressions.

Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.

The debate will no doubt rage for the duration of our lifetimes, as the Supreme Court rulings are hardly a bastion of guiding consistency on the matter.

Alternet compiled some passages from Paul Krassner’s new book In Praise of Indecency, which explores issues across the country pertaining to sex, forbidden words, and pornography.  They’ve entitled the collection, “You still can’t buy a vibrator in Alabama.”  In discussing the very issue, Krassner writes:

“Alabama is a vibrator-free state. Well, technically you can go across state lines and buy sex toys in Georgia and Tennessee and carry them home. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown a gleam of interest in this controversial state law. At the very least, this case seems to be a restraint-of-trade case as much as anything else, since the devices are sold in all the neighboring states. I would like to be a fly on the wall when oral arguments are heard.

“Justice Antonin Scalia: You say that the sale of the Twizzler-Twister should be banned?

“Alabama Guy: Yes, Your Honor.

“Justice Samuel Alito: And the Buzzer-Master?

“Alabama Guy: Yes, that too.

“Justice Clarence Thomas: What about the Coke can with the fake pubic hair?

“Alabama Guy: That one doesn’t vibrate, so that one’s okay.

The case was refused hearing by SCOTUS, so:

Sherri Williams, who faces a $10,000 fine and one year of hard labor, called the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the law “further evidence of religion in politics.” She plans to sue again, this time on First Amendment free speech grounds.

“My motto,” she says, “has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up.”

A good read, and probably a great book.  Blue v. Red – the culture wars continue.

Authorities may not silence the sources of personal information they receive.

From Truthout:

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said the government orders must be subject to meaningful judicial review and that the recently rewritten Patriot Act “offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

The law had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which complained that the revised law allowed the FBI to demand records without the kind of court order required for other government searches.

The ACLU said it was improper to issue so-called national security letters, or NSLs – investigative tools used by the FBI to compel businesses to turn over customer information – without a judge’s order or grand jury subpoena. Examples of such businesses include Internet service providers, telephone companies and public libraries.

“The good news for civil libertarians is that the ruling puts this part of the Patriot Act into doubt,” said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. “The bad news is that the ruling almost certainly will be appealed to more conservative judges and that even if they also say the law goes too far, Congress retains the right to step back in again and tweak the rules.

The judge had already ruled that the letters themselves violated the 4th Amendment. The 1st Amendment and separation of powers figured into the more recent ruling as well.

This list is better than it’s been in recent years, where they had abandoned the original media story emphasis for a more sociological perspective of social issues they thought the media should spend more time on. Most of this list is stories you can sink your teeth into, which have definitely been downplayed and even ignored in the national media. Yes, it’s biased towards the stories of issues of interest to leftists, but Project Censored has never pretended to be otherwise.


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