Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ADF attorneys appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to protect school choice in Arizona

Tuition tax credit program under ACLU attack

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, asking it to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that declared portions of a tuition tax credit program for students unconstitutional. ADF attorneys argue that the program--which allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to private schools--is constitutional because the program involves individual, private choices and funding, not government action or money.

“Parents should be able to choose the right school for their children. Arizona’s tuition program lets parents decide what schools their children and money go to,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “This program involves private money that the government never touches and offers Arizonans a wide array of educational choices. The program is set up to allow any number of organizations to be created for the purpose of distributing donations to any and all types of students. There’s nothing unconstitutional about that."

Last April, the court stopped short of ending the tuition tax credit program as demanded by the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, the court stated that its constitutional concerns regarding the program are whether all school tuition organizations should be forced to fund both religious and non-religious organizations. The court stayed its decision while the case is on appeal.

In response to claims by the ACLU and its allies that the program limits parental choice, ADF attorneys contend that the program’s existing structure gives Arizonans a broad range of educational choices. ADF attorneys argue that school tuition organizations that fund only religious schools do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because they are private organizations that do not distribute any government money. They stress that Arizonans are free to choose other school tuition organizations that fund non-religious private schools, emphasizing that residents can even start such organizations on their own, if they so choose.

"School tuition organizations can legally fund any type of private school, whether religious or non-religious,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Such funding does not become unconstitutional just because non-religious organizations have not chosen to take advantage of the opportunity as readily."


Maine sickos consider banning "biology-based" restrooms in schools

'Transgender ID' in schools under scrutiny by human-rights commission. What harm does it do to anyone to go to the restroom that is best designed to suit their genital arrangements

A proposal by the Maine Human Rights Commission to establish a broad right for "transgender" boys to use girls restrooms in all Maine schools will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled by the commission March 1.

The plan, if given ultimate approval by the commission, will establish mandatory transgender restroom access rules for all Maine schools. The proposal was prompted by a decision last year that found a school in Orono, Asa Adams School, discriminated against a boy by denying him access to the girls' restroom.

Christian Civic League of Maine Administrator Mike Hein said it's worrying because he believes the draft of the proposed regulations was developed in a December closed-door session. "The Maine Human Rights Commission had a secret, closed-door session in December and the public wasn't notified. But Mary Bonauto (director of the Gay and Lesbian Activist and Defenders) was invited to the meeting and she was allowed to present a legal brief at that meeting," Hein said.

The commission said, in documents obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request by Maine's Christian Action League, the June determination that a school discriminated against a boy by not allowing him access to the girls' restroom was correct. "The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred in a complaint alleging that an elementary school had an obligation to allow a transgender student access to common bathrooms consistent with that student's gender identity, and the commission is a party to a court complaint in that case," the commission concluded.

Another document obtained in the same request details the proposal: "Transgender students must be allowed access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity or expression or, if they prefer, to existing single stall bathrooms."

It continues: "With respect to locker rooms and shower facilities that involve undressing in front of others, transgender students must be provided with accommodations that meet their needs and that take into account the legitimate privacy concerns of all student involved."

Bonauto has filed a brief with the commission that says the commission is acting properly in trying to deal with students' "identity" issues. "Practically speaking, making a transgender student with a female gender identity use the boys' restroom would be stigmatizing and have a serious, negative, emotional consequence for the student as well. It would be no less stigmatizing for that student to have to use the boys' room than it would be for any non-transgender girl to be singled out and made to use the boys' room," she claims.

Bonauto suggests restroom usage should not be based on biology. "Applying these rules, it is clear, for example, that an anatomy or biology-based rule for bathroom usage cannot be used to bar transgender students from using a facility consistent with their gender identity," Bonauto said. "Such a rule would fail to give effect to the non-discrimination mandate for gender identity, a result at odds with the plain meaning of the 'gender identity' portion of the statute," she said. "In addition, such a rule is at odds with the Human Rights Act as a whole, since the act seeks to remove obstacles to education, not to impose them. Finally, such a construction would render 'gender identity or expression' meaningless surplus usage with no intended consequences for how schools deal with transgender students," Bonauto said.

On the issue of sports, Bonauto supports rules that require the schools to open doors based on the students' sense of identity. "GLAD supports a rule that allows students the opportunity to play sports consistent with their gender identity, with no exceptions. The guidance provides this rule 'in most cases' and also states that, 'In very rare cases, legitimate questions about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports may need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis," Bonauto said. Bonauto did not respond to a request for comment.

But Hein said the proposals will have a derogatory impact on Maine's schools. "What it comes down to is that we are completely getting rid of the concept of gender. Gender is being stricken in all forms in Maine if this proposed guideline is adopted as is," he said. Hein says the issue of sports competition will be adversely impacted as well. "It completely turns on its head what we consider boys basketball, girls basketball. Gender normative sports will be completely erased under these guidelines. In addition, if the proposed guidelines are adopted, you will have biological boys in the middle school, high school or college setting showering with girls," Hein said.

The difficulties in sports are also a point of concern with the University of Maine. In a letter obtained through the FOAA request, University of Maine Office of Equal Opportunity Director Karen Kemble said the proposal raises some important questions. "As the current language acknowledges, there will likely be cases in which allowing a transgender student to participate in gender-segregated sports in accordance with the gender identity or expression will raise legitimate concerns about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports. Although such requests from transgender students may be very rare, among those, fairness of play may become an issue," Kemble said.

More here

When Free Speech Died

Of the many intellectual perversions currently taking root on college campuses, perhaps none is more contradictory to what should be one of higher education’s core values than the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barrage with vitriol, all at the hands of groups who give lip service the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view.

Coincidentally, just recently two Israeli officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon and ambassador to the United States Michael Oren had the unpleasant experience of confronting virulent anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Muslim students whose ideology on academic debate seems to be “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Ayalon, who spoke at Oxford University, had his speech interrupted by several audience members, including one who yelled incessantly and called Ayalon a “racist” and “a war criminal” while waving a Palestinian flag, another student who loudly read passages of the incendiary Goldstone Report, calls from one charming scholar to “slaughter the Jews,” the intrusion of a third student who remained standing for the entire balance of the lecture while she hurled anti-Israel invective, and another radical brat who threatened to Ayalon that “we will do to you what we did to Milosevic.”

The genteel, soft-spoken Ambassador Oren did not fare much better during his visit to the University of California at Irvine, a notorious hotbed of radical anti-Israelism by Muslim students. During the aborted speech to some 500 people about U.S.-Israeli relations, which was loudly interrupted ten times, boorish hecklers screamed over Oren’s talk such profound observations as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech,” “I accuse you of murder,” “How many Palestinians have you killed?” and “Israel is a murderer.” Even after he took a 20-minute recess to let the crowd cool off and regain its collective composure, he returned to the podium with more volleys of invective, shouting, and speech-stopping bombast from the Muslim students, eleven of whom―eight from UC-Irvine (including the Muslim Student Union’s president) and three from UC Riverside—were eventually escorted out of the hall and arrested.

The fact that UC-I’s habitually craven administrators, led by feckless Chancellor Michael Drake, were even motivated enough by the students’ errant behavior to have them ejected from the event is a promising sign. While the University has always claimed to be dedicated to encouraging debate and scholarly inquiry by letting the Muslim Student Union mount annual hate-fests to demonize and vilify Israel and Jews, the MSU has effectively hijacked all discussion of the Middle East on campus, and their odious events are not platforms at which opposing views are aired and discussed. In fact, these so-called pro-Palestinians seem to care very little about the actual self-determination and state building of the hapless Palestinians. As is frequently the case when speaking about the Israeli/Arab conflict, the discussion often glosses over the real problems of Palestinian culture, politics, and society (including its cult of death), and targets all criticism on the perceived defects of Israel, Zionism, and Jewish power.

Ambassador Oren is hardly what even his staunchest critics could consider an Islamophobe or even a rabid Zionist, perfectly willing to trample the Palestinian’s aspirations for their putative state. A Columbia and Princeton graduate, former Georgetown professor and fellow at Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, the American-born Oren is also the author of two seminal books on the Middle East, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East and Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, all of which clearly make him at least as qualified to speak about the Israeli/Palestinian situation as the raucous, boorish students who had decided, in advance of his UC-I appearance, that Oren was morally unfit to even appear on their campus.

This notion—that pro-Israel speakers and scholars do not even deserve, on a moral or intellectual basis, an opportunity to participate in scholarly debate is a very dangerous one, even if it comes from tendentious students. It starts with the assumption that Israel, because of its perceived moral defects and its oppression of the hapless Palestinians and the theft of their lands, does not even have the right to participate in intellectual debate, that academic free speech in Israel’s case can be modified and is not absolute. And while Muslim students and other campus radicals have, both at UC-I and other college campuses, seen to it that speech that they do not approve of, spoken by people with whom they disagree, is shut down with the “heckler’s veto,” they have never missed an opportunity to invite their own stable of slimy, anti-Israel, anti-American speakers. What is more, these speakers have never been shouted down, chased away, or jeered by those students and professors who might well have found their views to be repellant.

A closer look at the ideas tossed about by some of the MSU’s invited guests suggests both the moral incoherence and intellectual debasement that characterizes the human output of these events. Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali, for instance, former Nation of Islam member, convert to Islam, and cheerleader for Hamas and Hezbollah, has been a ubiquitous, poisonous presence on the Irvine campus who never hesitates to castigate Israel, Zionists, Jewish power, and Jews themselves as he weaves incoherent, hallucinatory conspiracies about the Middle East and the West. Speaking from a podium with an execrable banner reading “Israel, the 4th Reich” in May 2006, Malik-Ali referred to Jews as “new Nazis” and “a bunch of straight-up punks.” “The truth of the matter is your days are numbered,” he admonished Jews everywhere. “We will fight you. We will fight you until we are either martyred or until we are victorious.”

At a 2008 event, dubbed “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust,” Malik-Ali was at his hateful best once again, standing behind a banner that read “Death to Apartheid“ while he wildly contended that “The Islamic revival should only be feared by those who support imperialism, colonialism, racism, occupation . . . Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah” are not the real terrorists at all, he proclaimed. No, the actual “terrorists are the United States; the terrorists are Israel!”

Another odious guest speaker who regularly makes appearances on the hate-fest circuit is Muhammad al-Asi, an anti-Semitic, anti-America Muslim activist from Washington, DC who has written, among other notorious ideas, that “The Israeli Zionist are [sic] the true and legitimate object of liquidation.” At a MSU-sponsored event in February 2008, “From Auschwitz to Gaza: The Politics of Genocide,” which repulsively tried to draw parallels between the Holocaust and Hamas-controlled Gaza, al-Asi was a featured speaker. In his speech, he repeated the canard of Jewish control of world politics, suggesting that “Zionists or what some people call the Jewish lobby” had reduced the United States to playing “second fiddle to the Israeli government.”

Just months after 9/11, al-Asi had similar invective to utter towards Jews, in the context of Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Using his favorite image of the ghetto when describing Jews, he observed that “We have a psychosis in the Jewish community that is unable to co-exist equally and brotherly [sic] with other human beings. You can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Jew, and this has been demonstrated time and time again in Occupied Palestine.”

If ever there were utterances which deserved to be shouted down and drowned out with reason and fact, al-Asi’s hallucinatory ravings probably would qualify. But despite continual complaints from the Orange County Task Force on Anti-Semitism and other concerned UC-I stakeholders, the tenor and frequency of speakers at the MSU’s lurid hate-fests continue unabated, seemingly with the tacit approval of the university administration. The same Muslim students who could not abide even the presence of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, listen rapturously to the loathsome bloviating of Malik Ali, al-Asi, Norman Finkelstein, Ward Churchill, and any other ideological thug who have come to UC-I’s campus with the purpose of vilifying Israel and defaming Jews.

It is, of course, the MSU’s choice to hear whatever opinions they wish from whichever speakers to whom they choose to listen. What is not their choice, however, is to be able to prevent other views from being heard on campus, particularly the complex and thorny Israeli/Palestinian conversation, merely because pro-Palestinian students have decided that they will not recognize the very existence or legitimacy of a sovereign nation, Israel, nor hear that ideas of individuals who are able to defend it and explain the Israeli side of the argument. University officials must repeatedly make clear that campuses must allow many different views and perspectives, and should not try to exclude unpopular thought from being heard in the proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Concern for the long-suffering Palestinians may be a commendable effort, but the exclusion and demonization of Israeli speakers and government officials from the academic community as a tool for seeking social justice for that one group “represents a profound betrayal of the cardinal principle of intellectual endeavor,” observed commentator Melanie Phillips, “which is freedom of speech and debate,” something universities should never stop diligently defending. And they should certainly never abandon that pursuit to the baleful whining of ideological bullies intent on suppressing the views of others.


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