A Minneapolis school district will pay hefty legal settlement fees of at least $100,000 following the decision of a federal appeals court, which ruled that the district committed viewpoint discrimination by not allowing a Christian club to remain a part of an elementary school’s after-school activities program, reports The Christian Post. The action could open the door for similar clubs to gather in the district’s schools as well. Although the fees are high, the district believes they could have been higher if it had waited for the court to decide how much it should pay. “To avoid the time and expense of further litigation, and without admitting any liability, the District is recommending the Board approve a stipulation that would allow the Good News Club to participate in the after school program on an equal basis,” Bernadeia H. Johnson, superintendent of schools, wrote in a recommendation to the school board. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 3-0 to overturn a district court’s previous ruling in favor of the school district. The court of appeals said the school district discriminated against the Good News Club, a program sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship, when it decided the club could no longer be a part of the after-school program at Jenny Lind Elementary School because of the club’s religious content. Other community partners that also participate in the after-school program include Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Boy and Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. CEF obtained a permit to host the club’s meetings at the school in 2000, court documents state. When, during the 2005–2006 school year, the school district re-formed its methods of screening groups that wanted to use its buildings for after-school activities, the club was given “community partner” status and was allowed to continue operating as it had before. During the 2008–2009 school year, however, new Site Coordinator Sandra McDonald overheard a prayer and mention of Jesus Christ during one of the club’s meetings, and the district began to question the legality of allowing such an organization to have a spot in its after-school activities program. The next year, the Good News Club was kept on as a community partner, but was denied its spot in the program, which meant it was also excluded from the district’s food and transportation services. As a result, the club’s attendance decreased from 47 students to just five over the course of two years. So, with the help of Liberty Counsel, the group filed for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages, stating that the school had violated its free speech and equal protection rights. “When the government targets a particular viewpoint taken by speakers on a general subject, the First Amendment is violated,” Circuit Judge C. Arlen Beam wrote in the court’s decision. The case in Minnesota is just one of a number of cases involving CEF and the issue of equal access in schools.

Other news:

  • Ahead of a Thursday night campaign rally in North Carolina, Mitt Romney made an impromptu stop to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin, at the evangelist’s home outside Asheville, reports Yahoo News. Romney didn’t officially land the elder Graham’s endorsement, but he reportedly “came pretty close.” The famed evangelist told Romney he would do whatever he could to “help” the GOP presidential candidate, according to a readout from the Romney campaign. The vow came at the end of a 30-minute meeting between Romney and the Grahams, who talked about issues including Afghanistan, religious freedom, and the growth of the Graham ministry in places like China, Sudan, and North Korea. Photographers and a television crew were allowed in during the final minutes of the meeting, where Graham was overheard asking Romney, “What can I do for you?” “Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me,” Romney replied. According to Mark DeMoss, a senior Romney adviser who was at the meeting, Graham then led a prayer for Romney after the cameras left the room. Graham also told the former Massachusetts governor, “I’ll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that.”
  • Islam has won a growing number of followers in Haiti, reports cnsnews.com, especially after the catastrophe two years ago that killed some 300,000 people and left millions more homeless. A capital where church attendance is so prevalent that the streets echo with Christian hymns on Sundays now has at least five mosques, a Muslim parliament member, and a nightly local television program devoted to Islam.
  • A church in Georgia has defeated Walmart in a battle over alcohol, reports cbn.com. A local law in the city of Marietta, Ga., prohibits alcohol sales within 600 feet of church buildings. But Walmart built its store closer than that to the 63-year-old Pine Grove Baptist Church. The retail giant asked the church to sign a waiver allowing beer and wine sales, but the church declined. “It’s like David and Goliath, I guess, but we’re fighting and we’re hoping we’re going to come out victorious over this,” Pine Grove’s Pastor Bobby Wood said. Walmart has been appealing the city ordinance, arguing that their customers complain that they can’t buy alcohol. But on Tuesday, Wood and his church pled their case to county commissioners who agreed with them, upholding the ban in a 4-1 vote. ”There’s a lot of problems caused by alcohol, a lot of traffic accidents,” Wood said. ”There’s a reason for [ordinances], and I don’t think they ought to be circumvented to please a major corporation like Walmart.”
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the end of his government Tuesday and called for early elections, reports cbn.com. Netanyahu’s announcement means elections could take place by mid-January or February. Despite a number of challenges, Netanyahu has led one of Israel’s most stable governments in recent years. He announced early elections now because his government could not agree on next year’s budget. Recent polls indicate Netanyahu’s Likud Party would win the most seats in the next parliament. That would ensure Netanyahu would continue to be prime minister. One wild card in the elections is whether or not former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert runs. If he does, he could represent Netanyahu’s strongest political challenge. According to pollster Mitchell Barak, the outcome of the U.S. elections will have a direct impact on the Israeli elections. “It has appeared over the past few years that the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is strained so if we’re talking about elections in January and Obama wins, then I think we’re going to see an issue of less people voting for Netanyahu based on the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” Barak told CBN News. “If Romney wins, Netanyahu might get a bump because of his relationship with Romney,” he said. In other news, Egypt’s foremost Muslim Brotherhood official called on the Arab world Thursday to replace negotiations with Israel with “holy Jihad,” claiming that if Jews are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount they will destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and supplant it with the third temple, reports worthynews.com. Mohammed Badie, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, declared in a public message published by Egyptian daily Al-Ahram that “the Zionists only understand force,” and that Arabs cannot hope to achieve justice from the Jews “through the corridors of the United Nations or through negotiations.”
  • The push to unseat an Iowa Supreme Court justice continues. The state bar association has issued Judge David Wiggins a report card—and it doesn’t look good. Because of a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling, homosexual marriage became legal in the state on April 3, 2009. In the 2010 retention election, three of the justices in that majority ruling were voted out, and now David Wiggins is on the ballot for a retention vote in November. Bob Vander Plaats of Family Leader told OneNewsNow the Iowa Bar Association puts out a score on the justices, and Wiggins has received a very low score. Wiggins is currently the focus of a campaign to vote him out office. “In the 50 years of this scoring mechanism, Justice David Wiggins rates the lowest scoring Supreme Court judge in the history of the state of Iowa—and not just by a few percentage points,” he says. “By just about double-digit percentage points, he was rated as the worst judge.” The Iowa Bar Association gave Wiggins a grade of 63 percent, which amounts to a D-minus. “It’s our full belief that when a court shows a propensity to go outside of its constitutional parameters, to legislate from the bench, to execute from the bench and even to try and amend the constitution from the bench, all while breaking Iowa law and Iowa code, that shows a justice who has no regard for the people, no regard for the constitution and no regard for the law,” Vander Plaats declared. He believes an educated electorate will go to the polls next month and vote Wiggins out of office.
  • A modern-day exodus from Egypt is occurring, reports The Wall Street Journal. “Visit any Coptic church in the United States and you immediately recognize the newcomers. You see it in their eyes, hear it in their broken English, sense it in how they cling to the church in search of the familiar. They have come here escaping a place they used to call home, where their ancestors had lived for centuries. Waves of Copts have come here from Egypt before, to escape Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalizations or the growing Islamist tide. Their country’s transformation wasn’t sudden, but every year brought more public Islamization. As the veil spread, Coptic women felt increasingly different, alien and marked. Verbal abuse came from schoolteachers, bystanders in the bus station who noticed the cross on a wrist, or commentators on state television. But life was generally bearable. Hosni Mubarak crushed the Islamist insurgency of the 1980s and ’90s. He was no friend to the Copts, but neither was he foe. His police often turned a blind eye when Coptic homes and shops were attacked by mobs, and the courts never punished the perpetrators—but the president wasn’t an Islamist. He even interfered sometimes to give permission to build a church, or to make Christmas a national holiday. To be sure, Copts were excluded from high government positions. There were no Coptic governors, intelligence officers, deans of schools, or CEOs of government companies. Until 2005, Copts needed presidential approval to build a new church or even build a bathroom in an existing one. Even with approval, state security often blocked construction, citing security concerns. Those concerns were often real. Mobs could mobilize against Copts with the slightest incitement—rumor of a romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman, a church being built, reports of a Christian having insulted Islam. The details varied but the results didn’t: homes burned, shops destroyed, Christians leaving villages, sometimes dead bodies. The police would arrive late and force a reconciliation session between perpetrators and victims during which everything would be forgiven and no one punished. What pained the Copts most was that the attackers were neighbors, coworkers, and childhood friends. Then came last year’s revolution. Copts were never enthusiastic about it, perhaps because centuries of persecution taught that the persecuting dictator was preferable to the mob. He could be bought off, persuaded to hold back or pressured by outside forces. With the mob you stood no chance. Some younger Copts were lured by the promise of a liberal Egypt, but the older generation knew better. The collapse of the police liberated the Islamists, who quickly dominated national politics but were even more powerful in the streets and villages. This is where the ‘Islamization of life’ (as Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat Al Shater called for) was becoming a reality.”
  • Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that allows federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research to continue, reports onenewsnow.com. Research scientists oppose the administration’s policy that authorizes the National Institutes of Health to use tax dollars to fund research that destroys human embryos and violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. “Americans shouldn’t be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments and violate federal law, especially in economic times like these,” contends ADF senior counsel Steven H. Aden. “Congress designed that law so that Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem-cell and other research.” Adult stem-cell research has already produced positive results for about 80 diseases and medical conditions, while human embryo research has produced nothing practical. ADF hopes the Supreme Court will accept the case and force obedience to federal law.
  • Three times more Protestant pastors plan to vote for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election, and Romney’s Mormon beliefs are a factor for only a small number of pastors, according to a new survey reported by Baptist Press. The survey conducted by LifeWay Research Sept. 26–Oct. 3 found that 57 percent of Protestant pastors plan to vote for Romney compared with 17 percent for Obama. Twenty-two percent are still undecided. The survey also found that Romney’s Mormon background has had little to no influence on pastors’ voting intentions. A majority of pastors (82 percent) who plan to vote for someone other than Romney say their decision is not at all related to his Mormonism. And 60 percent of undecided pastors say their hesitation has not at all been influenced by Romney’s religion. “The historical significance of the first Mormon candidate nominated for president does not appear to alter pastors’ political positions,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “It’s clear pastors are not selecting a spiritual leader for the United States when they vote for president,” McConnell said. “They are selecting the leader of the executive branch of government. The study shows a significant majority of pastors prefer the direction, policies, and values of Mitt Romney.” In related news, The Washington Post reports that evangelical leaders worried that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism could suppress conservative turnout on Election Day are intensifying appeals for Christians to vote. In poll after poll, evangelicals have overwhelmingly said they would back the Republican presidential nominee despite theological differences with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the margins could still make a difference.
  • Strokes are becoming more common in young adults, according to a new study by the University of Cincinnati, reports cbn.com. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, showed that strokes more than doubled in people under the age of 55 between 1993 and 2005. Researchers can only speculate on causes for the increase, but more people have developed the risk factors that lead to stroke, like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Researchers say if one is developing these ailments at an earlier age that person may have a stroke at an earlier age as well. “The good news is that some of the possible contributing factors to these strokes can be modified with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise,” lead researcher Dr. Brett Kissela, professor and vice-chair of neurology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said. “I hope this is a wake-up call that this is a problem that is getting worse in younger people and prompt them to go to the doctor to identify risk factors for stroke and modify them,” Kissela added.
  • Vice President Joe Biden lied in Thursday night’s debate concerning Libya, reports Townhall.com. Debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked about the ongoing cover-up of the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Vice President Joe Biden “immediately started lying about the situation, as the Obama administration and the Obama campaign have done since day one. 1. Biden said extra security was not requested. Documents, State Department cables and Congressional testimony just this week show more security for the consulate in Benghazi was requested as early as March . All three also showed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens received death threats from Al Qaeda in July . 2. Biden repeated the lie that there was a protest outside of the consulate prior to the attack, despite the administration knowing there was no protest and that the attack was an act of terror within 24 hours. Biden, as Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have in the past (remember the CIA prosecutions? remember the prosecutions of Navy SEALs?), threw the intelligence community under the Obama for America bus. 3. Biden accused Ryan of voting against consulate security funding, implying the attack happened as a result. This week, officials closest to the disaster in Libya said funding had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi on 9/11.”