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by Wanda Kiger
Jan 26, 2005
Religious Speech Discrimination
Stopped in the Courts
Those who try to censor religious speech in America time and time again are being stopped in our courts. These cases are really a matter of equal access and hopefully it is sinking in that you cannot discriminate against religious speech simply because you do not like the content of the message. In Tucson, Arizona, a couple was denied permission to hold a National Day of Prayer event in a public facility which was always allowed to be used rent-free in exchange for trash removal. When the application was denied, the city said the applicants were categorically disqualified because their event was religious.
The attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) argued the case which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, where the case was lost. When ACLJ asked the Supreme Court to review the case, it was bumped by the Supremes back to the lower federal courts which meansÖ. hey, you made a bum decision here and you better make it right this time around. As a result the city of Tucson was ordered to pay more than $250,000 in attorney fees to the plaintiffs. Usually, once a city is educated about the law, they do the right thing and save themselves a lot of attorney fee dollars; but then, there are those who still stubbornly refuse to stop their discrimination and end up paying for it.
This next scenario took place in Florida and involved a government transit authority/transportation agency which contracted its advertising out to a private company which put paid ads on local bus shelters. When a traditional values family organizationís ad was rejected because of the religious viewpoint, the lawsuit was settled and some anti-discrimination policies were put in place.
In a kindergarten school near Portland, Oregon, a 7-year-old was prevented from passing out his Christmas cards because of its religious content. (Excuse me - what is Christmas all about?) ACLJ argued that this was the studentís free speech, not school speech. The case was settled and the little student was allowed to pass out his cards like everyone else.
In Washington, D.C. the city is making room for a new baseball stadium. By doing so, the city is planning on demolishing a collection of gay bars, bathhouses, porn theatres, strip clubs and X-rated video arcades. Sounds like a step up for the community. Thanks for tuning in and as these items come up, Iíll keep you posted.
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