A New York public school teacher who advised a school Bible study club has filed a civil rights lawsuit against her school district after she was forced to remove all religious content from her classroom. Joelle Silver, a veteran teacher in the Cheektowaga Central School District in western New York, said she received a “counseling letter” signed by her superintendent that ordered her to remove all religious-themed items from her classroom or else she could be fired. The eight-page letter informed the teacher that “your rights to free speech and expression are not as broad as if your were simply a private citizen.” Among the items that had to be removed were a poster with an inspirational Bible verse superimposed over an American flag and inspirational messages she had written on sticky notes kept on her desk, according to court documents obtained by Fox News. The school district also ordered her to remove a quote from former President Ronald Reagan, which read in part, “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.” The teacher, who advises the school’s Bible study club, was told she had to remove a “prayer request box” that was displayed by student members of the group. Robert Muise is the cofounder of the American Freedom Law Center and Silver’s attorney. He told Fox News he’s never seen such an egregious example of religious hostility in a public school. “It’s like they’re treating those posters and inspirational sticky notes like its some sort of pornography,” he told Fox News. “I find that offensive.” He said the sole reason they are attacking his client is because she is a devout Christian. “When they launched the investigation, they literally went through her classroom with a fine-tooth comb and removed anything that had anything to do with Christianity,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. Ms. Silver does not cease being a Christian nor does she shed her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.” Muise filed the lawsuit in federal court. He said his client received a letter saying that if she failed to comply with the school district’s religious cleansing she would face “serious disciplinary consequences, including the termination of [her] employment.” The Cheektowaga Central School District told television station WIVB they had received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion organization on behalf of a student. The group threatened to sue unless the teacher’s classroom was cleansed of any religious material.

Other news:

  • Washington National Cathedral announced it will allow gay and lesbian weddings inside the storied church that has been the site of presidential funerals, inaugural prayer services, and other services to mark national milestones, reports charismanews.com. Two reasons were given. One, the national Episcopal Church has approved formal rites for blessing same-sex unions; clergy will no longer have to adapt the traditional liturgy used for straight couples. Second, the Diocese of Washington includes four suburban counties in Maryland, where voters last November approved gay marriage. There was a sense in the diocese that its mother church shouldn’t do weddings for gay couples from D.C. if gay couples from Maryland couldn’t also join in.
  • A federal court in Colorado has barred the Southern Poverty Law Center from reckless endangerment of a pro-family advocate, reports OneNewsNow. SPLC has gained notoriety over the past couple of years for identifying pro-family groups that stand on the Bible as “hate” organizations, including groups such as Family Research Council and the American Family Association, groups that have taken a public stand against same-gender marriage. In response, SPLC filed suit against Public Advocate of the United States and its president, Eugene Delgaudio. The reason? Public Advocate released a type of voter guide listing candidates for office who support homosexual marriage and those who oppose it. In the lawsuit, SPLC listed Delgaudio’s home address and refused to remove it. “In our case we didn’t bring it up until now; but since they bring it up, we’re not going to be quiet about it,” says Delgaudio. “You know, we’re named specifically in their own documents where they don’t have to put our home addresses in documents; we have our office address available. They don’t have to recklessly endanger me personally and my family.” And he says the incident should be a warning to others in the traditional values movement. “People should be aware that there’s no end to their ways of harassing and trying to intimidate pro-family leaders,” he commented. The Colorado judge ordered that the document revealing Delgaudio’s home address be removed to prevent potential “politically motivated harassment or even violence.”
  • While a jailed Iranian pastor has been released, two other Christians remain behind bars and one is very ill. Youcef Nadarkhani, who spent over a thousand days in prison for his beliefs, has been released a second time and returned to his family. However, Attorney Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice told OneNewsNow that now someone else is paying a price: Nadarkhani’s attorney. “He has represented over 20 different individuals of the Christian faith who had been accused of apostasy, changing their faith from Islam to Christianity, and was able to get them all off the charges,” she noted. “But the moment that attention was sort of withdrawn from Youcef Nadarkhani’s case, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah—his lawyer—found himself in one of the most notorious prisons in Iran.” The attorney is serving a 10-year sentence and has been disbarred. Other human rights defenders are also in prison. Benham Irani, a member of Youcef Nadarkhani’s church, is in prison and is quite ill. “Many report that the regime would rather see him die of natural causes from lack of adequate medical care in the prison system than see him released because he had been doing so much for the work of God in Iran,” Barrans adds. Saeed Abedini, an American of Iranian descent, remains jailed in Iran. The ACLJ is encouraging people to sign a petition on their behalf on their website and write letters to them in care of ACLJ.
  • People are challenging a well-known writer and others who believe traditional marriage advocates are losing the gay-marriage battle, reports Baptist Press. With the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on same-sex marriage, George Will ignored polling data and ballot-box results—both support marriage as it has always been in America—to claim on ABC’s This Week that there is an “emerging consensus” in support of redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships. Will went further: “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.” “Despite our youthful reluctance to disagree with Will, we do,” said a counter report. “As two people born in the 1980s who work at the Heritage Foundation explaining what marriage is and why it matters, we’re happy to say that reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated. One of us (Ryan T. Anderson) released a book in December, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. One of his two co-authors is a 2008 Rhodes Scholar pursuing a law degree at Yale and doctorate in philosophy at Princeton. And last we checked, his health was just fine. . . . There is a parallel to the pro-life movement, as one of us (Anderson) argues in the forthcoming issue of Human Life Review. The day after Roe v. Wade was decided, a front-page headline in The New York Times declared: ‘Supreme Court Settles Abortion Issue.’ This headline, today, is embarrassingly false, shortsighted—an artifact of astonishing elite hubris. But it wouldn’t have seemed that way in the years just after Roe, when public opinion shifted strongly in favor of abortion access. With each passing day, it seemed, another pro-life public figure—Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, Bill Clinton—would switch to embracing abortion on demand. Elites ridiculed pro-lifers as being misogynists, on the wrong side of history. The pro-life ranks were aging; their children, increasingly against them. It looked like a losing battle. How easy it would have been just to give up and go home. But courageous Americans refused to sit silently. And now the pro-life side has turned the tide in key areas of the struggle. On the question of the humanity of the child in the womb, pro-lifers have won the intellectual battle decisively. Today, most Americans oppose most abortions, and pro-life state laws are making great progress.”
  • A pro-family activist says it’s absolutely outrageous that U.S. taxpayers must cough up $2.4 million to pay homosexuals who were kicked out of the service because of their sexual orientation. USA Today reports that the federal government has agreed to pay an average of $14,000 to 181 homosexuals who were discharged from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the pre-2011 law that banned homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. The ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that it was not fair for those individuals to receive only half of the standard separation pay. Peter LaBarbera, director of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, says this is just another negative consequence resulting from the lame-duck 111th Congress repealing the ban on same-sex oriented military service. “When the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal was first proposed, we didn’t hear anything about giving money to past soldiers who were let go under the policy of excluding homosexuals based on their homosexual behavior,” he told OneNewsNow. “Now we’re paying for discharged homosexuals as if we did something wrong. We did not do something wrong.” The family advocate points out those who were booted from the service violated the law.
  • Officials in one small Utah town plan to recommend that every resident own a firearm and learn how to use it, reports sltrib.com. Spring City Councilman Neil Sorensen said most residents of the Sanpete County town of just under 1,000 residents have expressed support for his proposed resolution, which he said protects their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The council is drafting a copy of the resolution, which it plans to present Feb. 7 and pass three weeks later, if all goes well, said Sorensen. Even if the resolution passes, Spring City wouldn’t be the first to embrace the concept of weapons for every citizen. The small Washington County town of Virgin has had a similar ordinance in place since 2000. Virgin requires residents to own a gun and ammunition, although the ordinance is not enforced, said resident Lenny Brinkerhoff. Brinkerhoff proposed the ordinance while serving on the town council in 2000. “There’s no penalty if you don’t want to have a gun,” she said. “It’s more of a statement we decided to do because of a number of factors protecting the Second Amendment in [people’s] homes.” More than a dozen years later, Brinkerhoff has no regrets about the ordinance and said residents have been largely supportive. There are built-in exemptions for people restricted by law from owning a gun or those who simply object to owning one. Brinkerhoff said she believes the gun-owning ordinance has helped deter crime. Sorensen said his resolution was inspired by the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed more than two dozen people, and President Barack Obama’s stated intention to press for more gun regulations. “I think we need to step up and support the Second Amendment,” he said. “Out of the 60 or 70 comments I have received [about our resolution], all but two were very positive.” He said there’s been so much interest in the proposed resolution, the city will offer a concealed weapons course at Spring City Hall. The cost is $50, but the city council has authorized funding for teachers and administrators at Spring City Elementary who want to attend.
  • Students at Illinois’ Wheaton College have begun experimenting with “going trayless,” reports The Wheaton Record. About three years ago, colleges across the U.S. began engaging in tray-elimination campaigns in order to reduce food waste in college dining halls. Going trayless has been found to significantly reduce waste in more than 300 colleges and universities in North America, according to a study by Aramark, a professional services company. Besides conserving supplies, going trayless also has resulted in cheaper meal plans. Students take less food when they are able to carry only one plate and one cup at a time. At Wheaton about 85 percent of the responses have been positive.
  • There have always been those who doubted the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the JFK assassination. Now they have an interesting ally: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., reports breitbart.com. Because 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s murder, events commemorating it have been scheduled. At one event in Dallas Friday night, RFK Jr. said that he thought a second gunman was part of the assassination. Kennedy said that his own father, Robert Kennedy, who had served his brother as Attorney General and prosecuted members of organized crime, called the Warren Commission’s report “a shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” Kennedy asserted that his father may have felt guilty because of the possibility that organized crime killed his brother out of revenge, saying of him, “I think that’s true. He talked about that. He publicly supported the Warren Commission report but privately he was dismissive of it.” After JFK was killed, there was a concerted effort by the Left and its allies in the press (notably James Reston) to perpetuate the idea that the assassination was the fault of the Right. This thinking conveniently ignored the fact that Oswald had defected to Soviet Russia and made an attempt to enter Cuba.