STOP the War on Children

July 17, 2011

Santa Rosa Is Celebrating–So Should We!

by Karen Gushta                                                                                                                                       

“‘God bless you’ is no longer a dirty word in Santa Rosa County,” said Liberty Counsel lawyer Harry Mihet, to the enthusiastic crowd of nearly 600 gathered at the Pace Assembly Ministry church. The July 6th rally, which had another 5,500 people listening in on the Internet was “punctuated by prayer, music and passionate speeches,” according to the Florida Baptist Witness.

The event was originally scheduled as a prayer meeting for an impending court date, but turned into “a huge celebration” when it was announced that an agreement had been reached between the ACLU and the Santa Rosa School District. The agreement settled a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 24 students, teachers, parents and community members who challenged a Consent Decree between the district and the ACLU. The suit had been filed by Liberty Counsel—a non-profit that provides pro-bono assistance in religious liberty cases.

In October 2009, the Coral Ridge Hour (now known as Truth That Transforms) featured an interview with attorney Mat Staver, founder and president of Liberty Counsel. Giving some background on the case, Staver explained that in 2008 the ACLU announced that it had almost reached its goal of raising $300 million—in addition to its annual budget of between $70 – $100 million.

“With this new $300 million war chest they said they were going to put more resources on the ground in several key states, including Florida.” Soon after, the ACLU filed suit against the Santa Rosa County School District. According to Staver, their charge was that “some of the school officials were endorsing religion.”

The Coral Ridge Hour also interviewed Dr. Ted Traylor, the pastor of high school administrator Frank Lay, who was charged with criminal contempt as a consequence of the Consent Decree. Lay had asked the school athletic coach, Robert Freeman, to offer a prayer before a school booster luncheon. In Dr. Traylor’s view, when the ACLU filed its suit, “the school officials, intimidated by the cost of standing against the ACLU agreed to sign a Consent Decree in order to avoid fighting the ACLU.”

That Consent Decree hung like an albatross around the necks of the school district officials, teachers and students, prohibiting them from acting according to their personal faith and beliefs when they were on school property or involved in any school events. With the decree in place, it appeared that the ACLU had accomplished its purposes.

As Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, explained in an interview with FrontPage Magazine, “The ACLU desires a secular, faithless America where all memory of faith traditions and religion are absent from the public square, morals are relative, and where parental rights, religious freedom and the sanctity of human life…are nearly non-existent.”

Like Liberty Counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, which Dr. D. James Kennedy joined others in founding, is dedicated to seeing that the ACLU’s secular vision for America does not become reality. But, as Mr. Sears says, “This is the America we will get unless we stand up to the ACLU.”

“The ACLU has achieved many of its victories,” Sears notes, “because no one showed up in the courtroom – or those who did show up to oppose them were not those who cared most about the outcomes or were under funded and ill-prepared.”

But in Santa Rosa County, Liberty Counsel showed up and opposed the ACLU’s efforts to steam-roller over the religious liberties of school district officials, teachers and students. The new agreement, which has now been approved by the Santa Rosa County School Board, has put a roadblock in the path of the ACLU, and the residents of the county are celebrating their victory.

As Liberty Counsel attorney Mihet spoke at the July 6th rally, he noted that he is the son of an immigrant pastor “who survived the rigors of former communist Romania.” Therefore, he said, the fight for religious freedom in Santa Rosa County was personally significant to him. “In God we trust. In God we still trust. Tonight we are going to celebrate our country, our freedom, but most importantly—the freedom in Santa Rosa County Florida,” proclaimed Mihet jubilantly.

According to the ACLU, the Santa Rosa County School District shouldn’t be celebrating. In its press release, the self-proclaimed “guardian” of liberty stated that the agreement reached in early July resulted in “strengthening and clarifying the 2009 Consent Decree agreement that ended school sponsored religious activities by the district and its employees.”

Liberty Counsel, however, declared, “The Consent Decree that led to criminal indictments against school employees for prayer and banned ‘God Bless’ in Santa Rosa County schools will now be gutted and revised. The amended Consent Decree will restore dozens of constitutional religious freedoms that were previously denied.”

We can join the citizens of Santa Rosa County in celebrating their restored religious freedoms and their independence from the ACLU’s cramped concept of “freedom.”

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About Karen Gushta

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and in Christianity and Culture.

January 22, 2011

Watch What You Say! Free Speech at Risk on Campus

By Dr. Karen Gushta                                                                                                                        

When the Left ramped up its rhetoric, attempting to link the heinous actions of Jared Loughner to Sarah Palin and other conservatives, the issue of hate speech and hate crimes once again moved to center stage in American politics.

In the 2009 legislative session, Congress pushed through a hate crimes bill by inserting it into a defense spending bill. As Robert Knight observed, “‘Hate crime’ laws ensure unequal justice. They empower some groups of victims at the expense of others.”

Nowhere is “unequal justice” more apparent than on America’s college and university campuses, especially in regard to freedom of speech and religious liberty. Just ask Eden Jacobowitz. In 1993, when a group of rowdy black sorority sisters interrupted his late-night study by carousing under his dorm window, the Penn State University freshman made the mistake of yelling, “Shut up, you water buffalo,” in his effort to silence them.

The ladies did not take such an offense lightly—no doubt due to the more colorful epithets that rained down on them from other dorm residents disturbed by their late-night jubilation. None of these offenders came forward, however, when five of the 15 women, now self-identified victims of “racial harassment,” came through the dorm with campus police to look for their offenders. Consequently, only Eden was charged by the university’s judicial inquiry officer (JIO) with transgressing the University’s prohibition against “offensive speech.”

Under Penn State’s policy, Eden’s “offensive speech” had to consist of “slurs, epithets, hate words, demeaning jokes, or derogatory statements” that occurred “in a context such that an intent only to inflict direct injury may reasonably be inferred.” The university’s JIO apparently “reasonably inferred” that saying “Shut up, you water buffalo” to a group of raucous sororitarians met the policy’s criteria for offensive speech and verbal harassment.

This seemed strange to those who recalled that University president Sheldon Hackney had stated unequivocally that under the policy, calling a black with white friends an “Uncle Tom” or calling a white person a “f —– fascist white male pig” would not be categorized as “racial harassment.” Nevertheless, the translation of the Hebrew slang behema—commonly used at Eden’s former yeshiva to refer to a rowdy or thoughtless person—was judged cause for discipline.

“Weren’t you having racist thoughts when you said ‘water buffalo’?” asked the JIO, claiming that “it was important to take the women’s interpretation” of his words into account. Eden offered to apologize to the offended women to assure them that his words had no racial meaning, but was denied the opportunity. Instead he had the choice to accept a “settlement” or face a judicial hearing which could result in suspension or even expulsion.

You can read the rest of Eden’s story in the first chapter of Alan Kors & Harvey Silverglate’s book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses. Kors became Eden’s advisor after his first one recommended that he accept the proffered settlement. Silverglate is a lawyer specializing in academic freedom and student rights.

In Shadow University, they argue that America’s colleges are in a crisis of liberty. “The university in loco parentis—the university standing in the place of parents—has been given over to the self-appointed progressives to do with what they will. The result has been an emerging tyranny over all aspects of student life.”

“Universities have become the enemy of a free society,” state Kors and Silverglate. “It is time for the citizens of that society to recognize this scandal of enormous proportions and to hold these institutions to account.” To do so, they established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to free speech, individual liberty, religious freedom, and the rights of conscience.

The Alliance Defense Fund, founded in 1994 by Dr. D. James Kennedy and others to defend religious liberty in the courts, is also holding universities to account. Most recently, Speak Up, (ADF’s blog) exposed Vanderbilt University’s application policy, which would require students applying to it’s Women’s Health Track in the Nurse Residency Program to provide an “acknowledgement” that, if admitted, they would be expected to assist in abortions; applications without it would not be considered.

Thankfully, when ADF notified Vanderbilt that it had filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of a student who wanted to apply to the program, the university immediately amended its application packet to eliminate this requirement. It sent out an email to that effect to all of its applicants.

This does not mean that nursing students’ conscience rights are not in jeopardy. The Obama administration has threatened to repeal the regulations that allowed ADF to file the complaint with HHS. Nevertheless, in this case, it’s a victory for students’ rights at Vanderbilt University, and Christian students are no longer being sent the message that they need not apply.

If students’ right of conscience and religious liberty are not protected, campus tyranny will only grow. As Kors and Silverglate have written, “It is a tyranny that seeks to assert absolute control over the souls, the consciences, and the individuality of our students—in short, a tyranny over the essence of liberty itself.”

Note: You can obtain a copy of the FIRE Guide to Religious Liberty on Campus by clicking on this link.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

The War on Children by Dr. Karen Gushta Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.

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