Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Public School Bans Religious Visitors‏

An Arkansas public school district has banned youth pastors and other religious groups from visiting during school hours after a Wisconsin group filed a complaint and called the practice “predatory.”

“We have temporarily suspended allowing these youth pastors and other faith based leaders to come in during the lunch hour and we are reviewing policy and the law,” Conway Public School Supt. Greg Murry told Fox News.

The school district has retained the services of Liberty Institute, a law firm known for handling religious liberty cases.

“Conway Public School District retained Liberty Institute to conduct an investigation of the issues regarding equal access for visitors to the school and make a report and recommendation to the District on or before February 12,” general counsel Jeff Mateer said.

The practice of allowing youth ministers to visit students during the lunch hour has been a longtime tradition in many Southern states. Murry, who became superintendent six years ago, said the practice had been in place long before he arrived.

And until recently, not a single person had complained.  That changed when the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that has a long history of targeting and threatening school districts that welcome religious activities.

“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for Conway Public Schools to offer Christian ministers unique access to befriend and proselytize students during the school day on school property,” attorney Patrick Elliott wrote the district. “No outside adults should be provided carte blanche access to minors – a captive audience – in a public school. This predatory conduct is inappropriate and should raise many red flags.”

The particular incident that drew the attention of the FFRF happened when a youth minister visited some of his young parishioners in a school cafeteria. The parents of a child who was also sitting at the table – but not a member of the church – took offense. “This youth pastor was sitting having a conversation with students from his church,” Murry said. “The parents found that offensive.”

The FFRF accused the school of violating the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“In many cases, we have found that the pastor uses the school to befriend students with the goal of spreading a Gospel message and recruiting members for his church’s youth group,” Elliott wrote. “This sort of entanglement between religion and public education is unseemly and inappropriate.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, blasted the “outlandish demand” of the FFRF and said they were “out to lunch.”

“Local ministers interacting with their membership at their local school may be a threat to their vision of a godless education system, but it is not a threat to the Constitution,” Perkins told Fox News. “Parents and local school officials need to aggressively push back against these anti-Christian groups that are seeking to restrict the rights of Americans.”

It’s not the first time the Freedom From Religion Foundation has attacked the Conway school system. Several years ago, they were successful in forcing the school to stop allowing The Gideons International from giving Bibles to students.

Ironically, the Gideons are allowed to distribute Bibles and share their message in Russian schools.

Supt. Murry said the threat of a possible lawsuit puts the district between a rock and a hard place.  “We obviously have a responsibility to do what we are legally authorized to do,” he said. “We will abide by the law.”

It’s unclear how long the lunch time visits will be suspended.

“We want to do what’s right and what’s legal and we also understand in our community it’s certainly by and large a very acceptable thing for this to happen,” Murry said.


Student to sue Oxford over ‘anti-poor’ rule that saw him ordered to find £20,000 before taking up his place

This does seem very authoritarian.  Students should be left to support themselves in their own way.  It's clearly an attempt to keep out the "riff-raff".  I worked to fund myself through two postgraduate degrees but that would not be good enough for St Hugh’s

A student is suing an Oxford college claiming it discriminates against the poor after he was ordered to find more than £20,000 before taking up a place.

St Hugh’s College is accused of ‘selection by wealth’ after asking for evidence that applicants for postgraduate degrees have funds to cover costs, including living expenses of £12,900 a year.

Damien Shannon, 26, claims he was forced to provide evidence of ‘resources totalling £21,082’ before he could begin an Msc in economic and social history.

He was granted a conditional place last March, depending on the financial requirements. Mr Shannon got a loan of £10,000, which would have covered fees and made a small contribution to living costs, but could not prove he had the full amount.

The student, from Salford, Manchester, says the university failed to allow him to take into account projected earnings from part-time work during the course.

He will take the college to court next month claiming its policy selects on the basis of wealth and discriminates against poorer students, breaching human rights.

The university is expected to argue that the requirements are necessary to allow students to complete courses without financial anxiety, the Observer newspaper reported.

Hazel Blears, the former Labour cabinet minister and Salford MP, is backing the student and has won a Parliamentary debate on postgraduate funding to be heard on Wednesday.

‘Oxford University’s demands for a guarantee on living costs are deeply unfair,’ she said. ‘They will price gifted students out of doing these courses and our country will lose out on some really talented individuals.

‘It is ludicrous that a student deemed to be of sufficient academic merit is deemed incapable of budgeting to ensure they have enough money to live on.  ‘Even in an expensive city like Oxford, a student can live on far less than £13,000-a-year with careful budgeting.

‘In any case, living costs should be a student’s personal responsibility and many get part-time jobs to help make ends meet.’

St Hugh’s, which counts Home Secretary Theresa May among its alumni, has hired a QC to defend it at Manchester county count, where hearings begin next month.

A college spokesman said: ‘The requirement that postgraduate students provide a financial guarantee in order to take up their course place at the University of Oxford is made clear to potential applicants.

‘The university and college have both made fundraising for postgraduate scholarships a key priority.’


Australia:  Childcare  chickens come home to roost

Working parents are waiting up to two years for childcare places as centres scrap care for babies.  Cutbacks in care availability are precisely what was predicted when PM Gillard  basked in the "higher standards" she mandated for childcare.  Socialism is always destructive

CHILDCARE centres are scrapping places for babies as working parents wait up to two years for day care.

Three in every four long day-care centres in Australia's capital cities do not have vacancies for babies, a new survey reveals. And two-thirds do not have places left for toddlers.

Brisbane parents are having to wait up to two years for a place, forcing them to quit their jobs, rely on grandparents or hire expensive nannies or unqualified babysitters.

The Greens survey of 231 private and community day-care centres nationally in the past week shows that vacancies for babies have fallen 10 per cent since 2010.  In Brisbane, nearly one in three centres has a waiting list for enrolments stretching one to two years.

Of the 36 centres surveyed, more than a quarter of these have waiting lists of six to 12 months.  Brisbane parents are paying an average of $76 a day for day care.

More than three quarters of the Brisbane centres do not have vacancies for babies and 61 per cent have no room for toddlers.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge yesterday said some Brisbane parents were putting their unborn babies' names down on up to 14 waiting lists at once.

But some centres were closing their nurseries because they cost too much to run.  Centres must employ one carer for every four babies and toddlers up to the age of two.

But for the over-threes, centres only need to employ one carer for every 11 children.

Ms Bridge said the Federal Government should pay parents a higher subsidy for babies to cover the higher fees.

"It is unviable for services to provide baby care with the same rate of (government) subsidy as older children," she told The Sunday Mail.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the survey showed the availability of day care for babies had fallen by 10 per cent over the past three years.  "Obviously there is a looming crisis in the sector," she said.

"The government needs to be doing far more to improve both the quality and availability of childcare while also helping mums and dads cover the costs."

The Federal Government will spend a record $4.4 billion on childcare subsidies and rebates to parents this financial year, Treasury budget papers show.

Federal Childcare Minister Kate Ellis has blamed the states and territories for the shortage of places, and demanded they fast-track planning approval for new centres.

Melbourne mum Belinda Galloway applied for a place while still pregnant - yet still had to wait 14 months for Louis to enrol at a Port Phillip council centre.

"I put his name on the list when I was pregnant and when I got back to work there was no spot for him," she said yesterday.  "It forced us into a situation of nanny-sharing with another mum from our mother's group for six months.  "It ended up costing us $400 a week each, so for six months I was pretty much earning half a wage."

Now Ms Galloway pays $50 a day in out-of-pocket costs for daycare.

The new mum hopes she can find a place for her two-month old baby, Archer, by the time she heads back to work part-time, managing a jewellery gallery, in September.

"I do have to go back to work because being a small business, they just can't afford to have me away too long because the position is quite specialised," she said.


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