Thursday, August 04, 2016

'After School Satan' Clubs To Be Offered to Schools

“After School Satan” programs may soon be offered to certain elementary schools across the country.

“The Satanic Temple (TST) has announced that this coming school year (2016) will find their organization operating in elementary schools across the nation where they will be offering their new After School Satan Club program to students,” a TST press release says.

“While the presence of a religious organization in public schools will no doubt be shocking to some, evangelical litigants — primarily the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) represented by lawyers from the Liberty Counsel — have solidly established the legal rights of religious organizations to operate clubs in public schools.”

The satanic programs are to be offered to schools that host, or have hosted, "Good News Clubs" by the Child Evangelism Fellowship program.

“To be clear, the pre-existing presence of evangelical after school clubs not only established a precedent for which school districts must now accept Satanic groups, but the evangelical after school clubs have created the need for Satanic after school clubs to offer a contrasting balance to student’s extracurricular activities,” the TST website says.

TST spokesperson, Lucien Greaves says, “School districts across the nation have received letters from The Satanic Temple explaining that we will be offering our clubs in their schools this coming school year, and parents in those schools can expect to be presented with a permission slip from their children in the first weeks of the Fall semester. All of the districts we’ve approached are nearby to local chapters of The Satanic Temple, and each school district has hosted, or is now hosting, Good News Clubs in their schools.”

The After School Satan program has been launched with a YouTube video featuring old film clips of school children tracked with backwards music, can be seen above.


Anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment Could Damage Nevada School Choice Reform

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening education choice in Nevada.

The lawsuit revolves around a century-old law with a “shameful pedigree” that the U.S. Supreme Court has said arose during “a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general.”

That law, known as a Blaine Amendment, has been used against the state’s new education savings account program, which the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice calls “the most sustainable, inclusive, equitable educational choice program in the country.”

The Nevada Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the case today, Duncan v. Nevada, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The court will also hear arguments in a separate but related case, Lopez v. Schwartz, which centers on school funding. As Leslie Hiner of the Friedman Foundation explains:

“Despite the litigation, thousands of Nevada families have applied for ESAs [education savings accounts] hoping the court will overturn the Lopez decision and uphold the Duncan decision, which would allow parents to access this new form of education funding in the 2016–2017 school year.”

The ACLU claims the education savings account program violates this law even as the Institute of Justice notes the language of the law does not apply to “publicly funded educational assistance programs like Nevada’s ESA Program” and “does not constrain the private choices of private individuals.”

As we concluded in our 2014 article in the Journal of School Choice, education reformers must contend with a set of ignoble, mostly 19th century laws—such as the one in Nevada—that have created a major roadblock to school choice programs.

The “Blaine amendments” derive their name from politician James G. Blaine. To supporters, Blaine was the great “Plumed Knight” and a leader, but detractors accused him of abusing the public purse for personal gain and being a cunning manipulator. Blaine’s political opponents used to shout the phrase, “Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The continental liar from the state of Maine!”

In 1875, Blaine unsuccessfully pushed for a federal constitutional prohibition of aid to “sectarian” schools. As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the 2000 Mitchell v. Helms decision, “Consideration of the amendment arose at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general, and it was an open secret that sectarian was code for Catholic” (Mitchell v. Helms, 2000, 120 S. Ct. 2530, 2551).

While the amendment to the U.S. Constitution failed, many states adopted such amendments, including Nevada. As we explain in the Journal of School Choice:

“The common schools were 19th century ‘agents of civic assimilation’ … ‘The common school and the vision of American life that it embodied came to be vested with a religious seriousness and exaltation. It became the core institution of American society,’ wrote education historian Charles Glenn. ‘In close alliance with, but never subordinate to the Protestant churches, the common school occupied a “sacred space” where its mission was beyond debate and where to question it was a kind of blasphemy.’ Catholics sought to establish their own schools, and proposed that funding should follow, as it had to the common school. Supporters of the common school movement perceived a threat to its mission in such proposals.”

So when he ran for president against Grover Cleveland in 1884, Blaine backed a federal constitutional amendment to prevent states from giving public money to “sectarian” schools. While the amendment passed the House, in the Senate it failed to gain the two-thirds majority necessary for a constitutional amendment to proceed.

Even before the effort for a federal Blaine Amendment in 1876, 14 states had included language in their constitutions restricting aid to religious schools. Congress also required territories in the process of crafting constitutions for admittance into the union to include the restrictions. By 1890, 29 states had such restrictions. All of these provisions (including those not codified in state constitutions but appearing elsewhere at the state and local level), were passed between 1835 and 1959, starting in Michigan and ending in Hawaii.

While Blaine lost the election and the constitutional amendment failed, numerous laws with similar language were passed at the state level. Today, 37 states have Blaine amendments on the books, and they have created a significant impediment to education reform.

Nevada’s education savings account program has been a watershed moment in school choice. The near-universal option will empower up to 93 percent of Nevada children to use state education funding to craft a completely customized education option, including private school tuition, online learning, special education services, and therapies, and more. Here’s hoping they have the chance to do so when they get ready to start school again this fall.


CA: Bill would prevent LGBT discrimination at religious schools

The conflict between religious freedom and gay rights has a new battleground - California's religious colleges and universities.

A bill moving through the Legislature would remove a longstanding exemption from anti-discrimination laws for religious institutions, potentially exposing the schools to civil rights lawsuits from students and employees.

Some schools call the measure, SB1146, an attack on their free exercise of religion and say the exemption allows them to craft campus policies in line with their faith.

Currently, religious institutions can assign housing based on sex, not gender identity, and discipline students for violating moral codes of conduct, which can include anti-transgender or strict sexuality provisions.

The bill tries to force schools to "change 2,000-year-old teachings to be in line with LGBT ideology," said Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido.

"It's no longer 'live and let live.' It's 'If you don't toe the line with us, we'll take you to court big time,'" he said.

The law faces an upcoming test in the state Assembly after passing the Senate.

Bill supporters say it would be the first law of its kind in the nation and would create a safe space for LGBT students.

Its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, argues that students who attend religious colleges or universities should have the same rights and protections as students who attend other schools.

"Opponents of LGBT equality have been using the pretext of exercise of religion to justify discrimination," said Rick Zbur, executive director of the advocacy group Equality California.

Under the proposed state law, schools would also have to disclose if they have been granted exemptions from federal Title IX rules against discrimination to prospective and current students, faculty and staff members.

Some religious school officials worry the measure would mean they wouldn't be able to sign an agreement with the state necessary to accept Cal Grant funding given by the state to low-income students. School officials say, in order to sign, they need the exemption to laws prohibiting discrimination.

"They're putting a gun to our head: 'Either change the way you believe and practice your faith, or you won't be able to participate in Cal Grant,'" said John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, which has campuses in Rocklin and San Jose. "We want a license to be faithful and don't want the state to have a license to discriminate."

Patti Colston, a spokeswoman for the California Student Aid Commission, said nothing in the bill would explicitly prevent a religious institution from voluntarily participating in Cal Grant. It would, however, create a path to legal recourse for allegations of discrimination.

Anthony Villarreal, 25, a former track and cross country athlete at William Jessup, is among those who say they would have benefited if the law were in place. He says the university dismissed him in 2013 after learning that he lived with his boyfriend.

The university maintains Villarreal violated a policy prohibiting violent behavior after being arrested and charged with domestic violence. Villarreal acknowledges he was arrested after a domestic violence call involving the home he shared with his boyfriend, but he says charges were never filed.

Villarreal now works three jobs to pay off student loans for an education he has yet to finish. It's too late for him to sue, but he supports the legislation.

"It isn't out to attack Christian universities or wipe them off the face of the planet," he said. "They shouldn't have the legal right or entitlement to discriminate against anyone."

Not all religious schools publicly oppose the bill or have been granted federal exemptions.

Of the estimated 32 faith-based higher education institutions in California, at least seven since 2009 requested exemptions from Title IX, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

A wave of requests nationwide came after the Obama administration applied Title IX protections to gender identity starting in 2013. Earlier this year, the administration sent a directive on the anti-discrimination policy's applications to transgender students and 11 states sued in response.

Erin Andrews, 35, a senior at Biola University who identifies as a gay Christian, organized a protest this year against her school's request for a Title IX exemption. She believes Biola is violating its own Christian principles by not being open and accepting, and she calls the bill a stepping stone for the LGBT community.

"We're at a Christian university, we're all sinners," said Andrews, who is president of the group Biolans' Equal Ground. "If you're going to protect a certain group of sinners, you need to protect us all."


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