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Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

WorldNetDaily has a report on the growing outrage, on both sides of the political aisle, over the recent DHS report given to law enforcement describing “rightwing extremists” as those who are pro-life, anti-gay, pro-guns, and anti-gay, among others.

Bipartisan team stunned by ‘extremism’ allegations

‘Veterans, families should not be viewed as a threat’


Posted: April 17, 2009
10:50 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2009 WorldNetDaily


U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

Members of both sides of the aisle in Congress are expressing outrage and seeking an investigation into a new Department of Homeland Security report on “extremism” that targets U.S. military veterans, opponents of abortion and supporters of other conservative causes.

U.S. Rep Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., was horrified at what he described as a “shoddy, unsubstantiated” document that was delivered to law enforcement across the nation.

“I am concerned at what appears to be a shoddy, unsubstantiated, and potentially politicized work product that has been disseminated to the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement as a finished intelligence product,” he wrote to DHS chief Janet Napolitano. “The report appears at best sloppy and unprofessional and at worst a representation of political bias being passed off as intelligence analysis by DHS.”

According to the Washington Times, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he was “dumbfounded” that the report was, in fact, released.

“This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans – including war veterans,” Thompson told Napolitano in a letter.

“As I am certain you agree, freedom of association and freedom of speech are guaranteed to all Americans – whether a person’s beliefs, whatever their political orientation, are ‘extremist’ or not,” Thompson said.

He said he was disappointed and surprised the report would be issued. And he demanded to know what types of further activities DHS had planned regarding the issue.

The federal agency’s report is called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

It already has generated a lawsuit by talk radio host Michael Savage.

As WND reported, a public-interest legal group submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the DHS demanding to know why it calls Americans who support the 2nd Amendment and dislike lax immigration “extremists.”

Now Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, is offering his criticism and  demanding to know why, as ranking member of the committee, “which is responsible for authorizing funding for this office,” he was not given a copy of the report but had to obtain it from open sources on the Internet.

“I would appreciate clarifications as to why this report was not provided to the committee and an understanding of what other reports DHS may be failing to provide to the committee,” he wrote.

He also wanted some clarifications:

“The report purports to analyze ‘rightwing extremism’ without defining the term or specifying by name a single group that falls into this category,” he said. “According to the imprecise analysis contained in the report, ‘rightwing extremists’ could include groups dedicated to opposing abortion or illegal immigration as well as those who may not agree with the new administration’s ‘perceived’ stance on several issues including illegal immigration and restrictions on firearm ownership.

“On their face, these statements may appear to cast legitimate viewpoints – in fact some viewpoints that recently constituted administration policy – in a suspicious light. Without any specific reporting to support such vague statements it is easy to see how they are offensive to many people,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the federal agency told WND today that the DHS would refuse to identify the actual authors of the report. The agency also would not comment on any procedures or actions it may take in response to the controversy over the report.

But to the Associated Press, a DHS official confirmed there were concerns by the agency’s office of civil rights about some of the language in the report.

It was issued anyway, the agency said.

Napolitano earlier described the charges in the report as assessments, “not an accusation.”

Hoekstra called on the ombudsman for the office of director of National Intelligence to investigate the report itself.

“Our nation’s veterans and hardworking families that may be facing tough times should not be viewed as a threat and neither should citizens who oppose out-of-control federal spending and tax hikes,” he wrote.

The congressman, who has sponsored a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of parents to raise their children, also was disappointed by the report’s assertion without substantiation that unemployed parents may foster “rightwing extremist” beliefs in their children.

“Beyond apologizing for its obviously offensive references, the administration needs to get to the bottom of how and why a report like this was written, and put standards in place to keep it from happening again,” Hoekstra said.

“I would also appreciate an explanation of the assertion, which is somehow tied to ‘rightwing extremists,’ that there is a ‘perception’ that illegal immigrants were taking away jobs from Americans in the 1990s because they were willing to work for lower wages,” the congressman wrote.

“Regardless of one’s view on immigration policy matters, it cannot be seriously disputed that the protection of the American workforce is one of the driving considerations for the current structure of U.S. immigration law. For DHS, which is charged with administering the immigration laws, to apparently not understand this core principle is shocking,” he added.

“When may we expect the office to start consistently producing quality intelligence products?” he wondered.

Savage teamed up with the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., to file a lawsuit against Napolitano over the report.

“It is a civil rights action brought under the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, challenging the policy, practice, and custom of the United States Government that targets for disfavored treatment those individuals and groups that are considered to be ‘rightwing extremists,'” the complaint said.

According to the federal government, characteristics of members of the suspect group of people include those who:

  • Oppose restrictions on firearms
  • Oppose lax immigration
  • Oppose the policies of President Obama regarding immigration, citizenship and the expansion of social programs
  • Oppose continuation of free trade agreements
  • Oppose same-sex marriage
  • Has paraonia of foreign regimes
  • Fear Communist regimes
  • Oppose one world government
  • Bemoan the decline of U.S. stature in the world
  • Is upset with the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and India

The case seeks a declaration that the DHS policy violates the First and Fifth Amendments, a court order permanently enjoining the policy and its application to the plaintiffs’ speech and other activities, and the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

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The Alliance Defense Fund reports that a lawsuit between Jews for Jesus and the City College of San Francisco has been settled.

Jews for Jesus now free to speak

ADF-allied attorney reaches favorable settlement with City College of San Francisco
Thursday, April 16, 2009, 7:55 AM (MST) |
ADF Media Relations | 480-444-0020


SAN FRANCISCO — The City College of San Francisco has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney on behalf of Jews for Jesus.  After arresting a Jews for Jesus employee for handing out literature on its campus without a permit, the college will now allow access for the ministry to distribute literature and express its Christian message on its campuses without unconstitutional permit requirements.

“Christians shouldn’t be arrested for expressing their beliefs on public college campuses,” said ADF-allied attorney Frederick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute.  “We are pleased that the City College of San Francisco will allow free speech on its campuses in accord with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

While distributing literature on several occasions at the City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus in 2007 and early 2008, Jews for Jesus employee Robert Wertheim was approached by campus security officers and district employees who demanded that he either show a permit to hand out literature or cease his activities.  Wertheim, who did not have the permit, left the campus each time.

When Wertheim returned to peacefully distribute literature in April 2008, campus police told him he couldn’t distribute literature without a permit and threatened him with arrest if he continued.  Believing the permit requirement violated his constitutional rights, Wertheim did not comply.  Police arrested and handcuffed him before detaining him for more than an hour at the campus police department, where officers confiscated his literature, wallet, watch, and wedding band.  He was then transferred to San Francisco County Jail and placed in a holding cell for three hours.  The charges were dropped the next day.

  • Judgment issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Wednesday in Jews for Jesus v. City College of San Francisco
  • Map of CCSF Ocean Campus areas now open for literature distribution and free speech
  • Preliminary injunction order issued by the court on Jan. 12

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

www.telladf.org

Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.

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The Alliance Defense Fund has won a case against the town of Oyster Bay, NY, when the town’s ordinance code requiring permits for free speech activities was declared unconstitutional for the second time.  In 2006, the code was also declared unconstitutional; the town “revised” the code, but it has, again, been found to prohibit First Amendment rights.

NY court finds town’s permit-for-free-speech rule unconstitutional, again

ADF-allied attorney receives favorable decision on behalf of Jews for Jesus member arrested for sharing faith
Friday, March 20, 2009, 8:15 AM (MST) |
ADF Media Relations | 480-444-0020


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — A New York court has dismissed charges against a Christian woman represented by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney after she was arrested for verbally sharing her faith and distributing literature at an outdoor public park concert.  In a ruling Tuesday, the court found a recently revised town of Oyster Bay code requiring permits for free speech unconstitutional, just as it did the original version.

“Christians shouldn’t be arrested for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF-allied attorney Frederick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute.  “We are pleased that the court not only has dismissed the charges against our client, but has also recognized that the newly revised town code violates the First Amendment.”

Susan Mendelson was charged with violating an Oyster Bay town code for handing out literature without a permit at John J. Burns Park in August 2006.  The city settled the resulting lawsuit filed by Nelson on behalf of Mendelson and other Jews for Jesus members prohibited from exercising their First Amendment rights at the park.  The next year, the town revised its code, which still required a permit from the parks commissioner in order to distribute literature.  Further adding to its code in June 2008, the town also banned the distribution of any “sign, placard, notice, leaflet, declaration or appeal of any kind” without the issuance of a permit by the commissioner.

A month after the latest revision, Mendelson went to a public outdoor concert at the park with a friend to hand out Jews for Jesus leaflets and speak with attendees willing to hear their message.  A public safety official and Nassau County police officers told Mendelson that she could not distribute literature without a permit.  After explaining that a permit is not required for her to exercise her First Amendment rights and that she would not, therefore, be applying for a permit, Mendelson was arrested and charged with trespassing and violation of the permit ordinance.

  • Opinion issued in People of the State of New York v. Mendelson from the New York District Court of Nassau County, First District

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

www.telladf.org

Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.

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WorldNetDaily has been covering a story where a businessman in Clearwater, Fl, is being fined $500/day for displaying a banner of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

It started with the owner, Herb Quintero, hiring an artist to paint fish on his tackle shop.  The City told him it was signage because it depicted a product the business sold, even though the business doesn’t sell fish, and he was fined.  They told him to paint over the fish, but he refused and placed the banner with the First Amendment on it.  The city is fining him $500/day for the banner.

The City admitted that if he had put up an American flag, they would not be fining him; however, the City had lost a previous lawsuit where they fined a business for flying too many American flags.

City: American flag OK, but Constitution illegal

Businessman fined $500 a day for displaying Bill of Rights, artwork


Posted: March 04, 2009
8:59 pm Eastern

By Joe Kovacs
© 2009 WorldNetDaily


Herb Quintero says a mural of marine life on his store is artwork, not a sign, and he’s now suing Clearwater, Fla. He has since posted a banner of the First Amendment over the game fish. (courtesy Tampa Tribune)

CLEARWATER, Fla. – City officials here apparently don’t have a problem with flying the American flag, but posting the text of the U.S. Constitution is a very different story.

A federal judge is now deciding if government officials are going overboard in fining a Florida bait and tackle shop owner $500 a day for displaying the First Amendment atop a mural of marine life on his building.

U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Jenkins today heard initial arguments in a federal lawsuit as the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking an injunction to stop the city of Clearwater from fining businessman Herb Quintero.

Under questioning by Quintero’s team, the city’s lone witness, Planning Director Michael Delk, was forced to admit that if the business had posted a U.S. flag instead of a First Amendment banner, it’s likely the Quintero family would not have been cited for violating the sign code.

Ironically, in 1993, Clearwater lost a case that began when it fined a car dealership for flying too many American flags. A federal appeals court ruled against the city, invalidating the city’s sign ordinance as “facially unconstitutional.

WND first brought the plight of Herb Quintero to national attention last week, and the story struck an immediate chord with Americans fed up with what they perceive to be government overstepping its authority. Comments of outrage from across the nation and world have since been flooding in.

“They’re very abusive, profane, insulting e-mails,” City Manager Bill Horne told the St. Petersburg Times. “People are passionate about the First Amendment, and rightfully so. I happen to believe we did the right thing.”

One letter from a U.S. captain serving in Iraq was read into the court record today, as he berated city officials: “You have no right to override the Constitution and the principals for which so many men and women have fought and died to uphold.”

The tale began in December 2007 when Herb and Lori Quintero invested their life savings to purchase and renovate a dilapidated building they turned into the Complete Angler, a shop selling fishing accessories such as rods, reels and live and frozen bait.

To help spruce up the building’s image, they hired an artist who began a giant mural of marine life featuring a half-dozen game fish such as snook, dolphin, grouper and sailfish. The artwork was halted, though, because the city claims it violates the strict sign code prohibiting murals on businesses that depict a product the company sells. However, the Complete Angler does not sell game fish.

According to the lawsuit, city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli was quoted as saying the artwork “depicts what he’s selling and that’s considered signage. If it was a mural of kids playing in a park, that would be acceptable.”

Clearwater began to fine Quintero, and he initially pleaded no contest, agreeing to pay $690.

But the businessman refused the city’s demand to paint over the fish, and in protest, he posted a giant banner with text of the First Amendment in front of the mural.


A giant banner promoting free speech right is posted in protest on top of Herb Quintero’s marine life mural in Clearwater, Fla.

The large banner is what prompted the city to hook Quintero with fines of $500 a day.

How can Americans take back their nation? Learn how to revive freedom, decency and justice. Get Joseph Farah’s “Taking America Back” – autographed exclusively at WND!

Among the ACLU attorneys on Quintero’s side is James Green, perhaps best known for helping Donald Trump fight $1,250-a-day fines for flying a large American flag at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Early in today’s proceedings, the judge did not appear to be impressed with attorneys from the city or the ACLU.

“I will say I’m somewhat disappointed in both sides by your arguments,” Jenkins said. “I expected more.”

After asking for a “higher level of advocacy,” the magistrate said, “I just really don’t feel that this case has been articulated very well.”

Judge Jenkins said she’d take the matter under consideration before making her recommendation, though she didn’t specify when that might be.

“We are hoping for a swift ruling that grants the Complete Angler’s request for preliminary injunctive relief and confirms their First Amendment rights,” ACLU spokesman Brandon Hensler told WND.

On the St. Petersburg Times website, news photographer Jim Damaske has posted a gallery of similar murals found throughout Clearwater.

Business owners and citizens in the Clearwater area have created a website called KeeptheFish.com to help Quintero. The site says in the wake of WND’s exposure, it has been inundated with “tons of comments from all over the country” that were sent to Jeff Kronschnabl, the director of code enforcement, and other Clearwater officials.

Some reader comments posted online today about the dispute include:

  • Your tax money at work. Time to oust all the Clearwater city clowns.
  • Please throw these morons out of office! They are trying to raise money for their bloated salaries, budgets and benefits. We need to get rid of the Nazis in our government. Idiots!
  • Ridiulous case. The Pinellas County Maintenance Dept. on 509 East Ave., two blocks from the downtown Clearwater courthouse has fish murals on multiple buildings. Government buildings are OK, but business owners must pay!

I think Clearwater clearly made a mistake by issuing the fines in the first place. Now they are too red in the face to admit it. I do enjoy the fact that the sitting judge essentially told both sides’ counsel that they suck at their jobs. Good times.

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Fox News is reporting that an appeals court in the Netherlands had decided to pursue charges against Dutch politician Geert Wilders for his short film “Fitna” after private citizens petitioned the court, despite the fact the prosecutors declined to charge Wilders.  Wilders made the short in 2008 that is “so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute Wilders” because it could “incite hatred”.

Wilders is receiving help from the Legal Project, a nonprofit founded by Daniel Pipes, a Middle East scholar, which helps those sued for alleged “hate speech” against Muslims or Islam.

I wonder if they do the same for people who “insult” Christianity or homosexuality?

Dutch Lawmaker, Charged With Insulting Islam, Fears Prison Sentence

By Joel Mowbray

An appeals court on Wednesday overturned a previous decision by prosecutors not to charge Geert Wilders, and ordered that he stand trial.

“The decision of the court today was so strong that there is a real chance unfortunately that there will be a guilty verdict,” Wilders told FOXNews.com. “In fact, it was so bluntly motivated that it already looks like a verdict instead of just ordering the public prosecutor to start a trial.”

Wilders, who produced a controversial film that was highly critical of the Koran last year, says he faces a maximum of two years in prison if convicted. He said he had expected to be charged, and he has retained legal assistance from a U.S.-based nonprofit to help him defend himself.

Prosecutors initially declined last year to charge the right wing politician after he issued his short film, “Fitna,” which juxtaposes Koranic verses over footage of violence committed by Islamic terrorists.

But, the Netherlands allows private citizens to petition the courts to compel prosecution. In Wilders’ case, eight parties, including a politician from an opposing party, asked the courts to force prosecutors to bring criminal charges.

A three-judge appeals panel on Wednesday ruled that Wilders’ insults to Islam were so egregious that the principle of free speech was not sufficient defense.

“The court considers [Wilders’ film] so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute Wilders,” a summary of the court’s decision said. The court explained that Wilders’ claims in “Fitna” and other media statements were “one-sided generalizations … which can amount to inciting hatred.”

Wilders on Wednesday defiantly stood by the public statements that could put him in prison.

“I lost my freedom already four and a half years ago in October 2004, when my 24-hour police protection started because of threats by Muslims in Holland and abroad to kill me,” he said.

“So of course I don’t want to go to jail as a criminal, but I don’t fear losing my freedom since I already lost my freedom in 2004.”

For several months, Wilders has been receiving pro bono assistance from a U.S.-based nonprofit called the Legal Project, whose aim is to protect free speech in what it says is a worldwide campaign to silence critics of “militant” Islam.

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes founded the Legal Project following a slew of cases in which authors and activists were sued for alleged hate speech against Muslims and Islam, including several cases in the United States.

“The Legal Project helped me when I was in the United States, arranging meetings with important legal scholars and elected officials,” Wilders told FOXNews.com. “They also helped bring public attention to my case, which hopefully will help me raise money for my legal defense fund.”

Brooke Goldstein, a human rights attorney and director of the Legal Project, said Wilders’ case indicates that free speech is increasingly under assault. “Geert Wilders could be going to jail for making admittedly harsh criticisms of Islam that actually echo statements made by Muslims,” Goldstein said.

“Even if he prevails at trial, the damage to free speech will be done. Who wants to risk the time, cost and public harassment of a criminal trial?”

Goldstein said criminal prosecutions for hate speech or incitement are unlikely in the U.S. because of the First Amendment, but she said the mere threat of a lawsuit can stifle speech, especially when they concern corporations that must focus on turning a profit.

Even individuals participating in what they consider basic free-speech activities can find themselves in legal crosshairs, Goldstein said.

One Legal Project client is former CIA official and NYPD counterterrorism consultant Bruce Tefft, who was sued by a Muslim police officer for “workplace harassment” after he allegedly sent anti-Muslim e-mails to a voluntary recipient list of police officers.

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