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WorldNetDaily reports that a federal judge is demanding the ACLU and the Santa Rosa School District release the names of plaintiffs covered in a consent decree that prevents teachers at the school district from openly practicing their faith.  The ACLU and the school district have so far refused to identify the subjects so that they can keep enforcing the decree even though the plaintiffs no longer attend the school district, which would make the decree moot.

Judge to ACLU: Where are plaintiffs?

School district’s policy has forced teachers to pray in closets


Posted: March 31, 2010
11:50 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily


Teachers say they are literally forced to pray in school closets to avoid contempt charges

A federal judge handling a case brought by the ACLU against a school district that has forced teachers to hide in closets if they want to pray now is demanding documentation about the status of the plaintiffs, whose identifies have been kept secret.

That’s because the case never was certified as class action, which means unless those for whom the case was brought remain in peril over the school’s actions, there are valid questions about “this court’s continued enforcement jurisdiction over the consent decree,” the judge wrote.

WND has reported on the case, which has included an order crafted by the ACLU requiring employees in the Santa Rosa School District to act in an “official capacity” whenever they are at a “school event” – including breaks, after-school events on or off campus and private events held on campus.

Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit Florida law firm, alongside Christian Educators Association International, is seeking to overturn the court order, which has resulted in three school officials being charged with contempt.

According to Liberty Counsel, school officials are strictly prohibited from showing agreement with anyone “communicating with a deity,” such as “bowing the head” or “folding hands.” “School officials” must also prohibit “third-parties” from praying, Liberty Counsel said.

Now, according to Liberty Counsel, the “anonymous plaintiffs” probably have “long since graduated.””But the plaintiffs’ permanent loss of legal standing hasn’t stopped the ACLU and the school district from continuing to defend the consent decree that has become irreversibly moot,” LC said in an announcement today.

“Having failed in its attempts to fine and jail school officials for praying, the ACLU, aided by the school district, has been opposing the efforts of Christian Educators Association International, represented by Liberty Counsel, to have the consent decree declared unconstitutional,” Liberty Counsel said.

The only problem is that the decree became legally moot – or of no consequence whatsoever – “on the day the ACLU’s clients graduated, less than four weeks after it was issued.

“Moreover, without clients that have a legal interest in the litigation, the ACLU was legally barred from continuing to litigate against the people of Santa Rosa County. The ACLU and the school district knew this but conspired to hide the fact that the two anonymous plaintiffs graduated. In the consent decree they jointly submitted to the court, they inserted provisions purporting to require the court to retain jurisdiction for at least five years, thereby inferring that their anonymous clients were much younger. They also asked the court to conceal the plaintiffs’ identity for another five years, so that no one would know they graduated,” according to Liberty Counsel’s report.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers now has ordered that the participants “shall submit memoranda to the court by the close of business on April 7, 2010, advising the court on the status of the named plaintiffs’ continued interest in this litigation, the continued validity of the injunctive consent decree, and the basis for this court’s continued enforcement jurisdiction over the consent decree.”

The plaintiffs have always been identified only as “Minor I Doe” and “Minor II Doe.”

“It has been brought to the court’s attention that the two plaintiffs may have graduated from high school and thus no longer suffer a threat of harm from the school board’s policies and practices,” the judge warned.

This, he said, “raises questions regarding the court’s continued enforcement jurisdiction over the decree as well as the validity of the continuing nature of the injunctive relief provided by the consent decree. This case was not a class action. Even though the plaintiffs prevailed on the merits of their cause oef action … if the named plaintiffs no longer have a continuing interest in the suit, there is a genuine issue regarding mootness … which must be addressed.”

Liberty Counsel’s report said, “The ACLU’s conspiracy is now unraveling. Liberty Counsel raised the issue of mootness last year and then again in the motion earlier this year. The federal court that entered the consent decree, which has literally forced teachers and staff to hide in closets to pray, has now demanded an explanation from the ACLU and the school district as to why it should continue to enforce that consent decree.”

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, “The errors in judgment by the ACLU and the school district are stunning. The school district agreed to enter into an unconstitutional consent decree that was legally effective for less than one month, then agreed to pay the ACLU a whopping $200,000, and then expended a great deal of additional resources to oppose Liberty Counsel’s intervention and defend the unconstitutional and moot consent decree.

“From the beginning, our position has been that this order should be set aside. We will not rest until that happens. If the school board does not come to its senses and seize the opportunity before it to make things right, the voters of Santa Rosa County will hold them accountable in the next election.”

As WND reported, Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant, earlier faced contempt charges after her husband read a prayer at a private banquet held at a Naval base to honor noninstructional school-district employees. The judge eventually found that Winkler’s husband’s prayer at a voluntary gathering outside of school did not violate any court order.

During her testimony, Winkler broke down on the witness stand as she told a story about how her co-worker sought comfort from her after losing her 2-year-old child.

The two hid behind a closet door to pray, for fear they would be seen and held in contempt of the court order.

Denise Gibson, an elementary teacher for 20 years, testified that the order requires her to inform parents that she cannot respond if they mention church or their faith. She said she is prohibited from replying to e-mails from parents if they contain Bible verses or even “God bless you.” Instead, she said, the district has instructed her to open a separate e-mail to answer the parents rather than hit “reply.” The district calls for the action to eliminate any trace of religious language in school communication.

Liberty Counsel earlier successfully defended Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman against criminal contempt charges after the ACLU complained when Freeman gave a 15-second blessing for a lunch meal for 20 adults with no students present.

The men had faced penalties of up to six months in jail and $5,000 in fines each.

The case began in August 2008 when two anonymous students sued with the help of the ACLU over longstanding practices at the school allowing prayer at some events. The school’s separate counsel had agreed to a consent decree that “essentially bans all Santa Rosa County School District employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities,” Liberty Counsel reported.

Members of the 2009 graduating class at Florida’s Pace High School expressed their objections to the ACLU restrictions on statements of religious faith at their school by rising up en masse at their ceremony and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Nearly 400 graduating seniors at Pace, a Santa Rosa County school, stood up at their graduation, according to Staver. Parents, family and friends joined in the recitation and applauded the students when they were finished, Staver told WND.

“Many of the students also painted crosses on their graduation caps to make a statement of faith,” the organization reported.

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WorldNetDaily brings us news that a federal judge has ruled that the Secret Service illegally seized gospel tracts from The Great News Network.  The tracts are made to look like a million dollar bill, which does not exist.

Judge says seizing ‘Million Dollar Bill’ tracts illegal

Tactics against Ray Comfort message brought ‘disrepute’ to law enforcement


Posted: March 31, 2010
11:50 pm EasternBy Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

A federal judge has ruled the seizure of thousands of Gospel tracts from a Texas ministry by U.S. Secret Service agents not only was illegal, it violated Fourth Amendment protections against an overbearing and intrusive government.

The decision yesterday by Judge Jorge Solis of the Northern District of Texas came in the long-running dispute over a tract deliberately made to look like a $1 million bill.

The Million Dollar Bill tract was created by evangelist Ray Comfort, who also is author of “Nothing Created Everything: The Scientific Impossibility of Atheistic Evolution,” and “You Can Lead An Atheist to Evidence, but You Can’t Make Him Think.”

“The Million Dollar Bill, taken as a whole, poses no reasonable risk of deceiving an honest, sensible, and unsuspecting person,” the judge wrote. “First and foremost is the fact that the Million Dollar Bill purports to be worth a million dollars. There is no genuine currency in this amount.


“Million” Dollar Bill tracts

“More importantly, the amount the bill purports to be worth would lead any unsuspecting, honest, and reasonable person to become suspicious of the [bill’s] genuineness. Though many people would readily accept a one-hundred dollar bill without thinking there was a need to even give the bill a cursory examination, a reasonable and honest person would suspect that a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars is not genuine.”

Further, the judge ruled that the agents who confiscated 83 packets of the Gospel tracts from the Denton, Texas, offices of the Great News Network violated the U.S. Constitution.

Solis noted that the agents went to the office and confronted workers, demanding the tracts. The workers told the agents ministry leader Darrel Rundus was the only person who could give them permission to take the privately owned property. Rundus had said he would cooperate if the agents got a warrant or a court order, which they had chosen not to do.

According to the court’s opinion, the agents then threatened arrest if the workers did not cooperate.

“Agent [Mickey] Kennedy was not subtle in the manner by which he implied that he was taking the Million Dollar Bills with him no matter what – even if it meant arresting Mr. [Timothy] Crawford in the process. The facts and circumstances surrounding Agent Kennedy’s statements to Mr. Crawford on June 2, 2006, leave no doubt that Mr. Crawford believed he would be arrested if he did not retrieve the Million Dollar Bills from the closed closet in which they were hidden out of the agents’ sight,” the judge ruled.

“Agent Kennedy’s coercive tactics not only resulted in an unconstitutional search and seizure, it also resulted in bringing disrepute to the noble profession of law enforcement,” Solis wrote.

Further, the judge concluded that the agents involved in the seizure later “conspired together to cover up the actual events that took place at GNN’s office.

“Agents Kennedy and [Erin] Erdman persisted in covering up these events by being untruthful when they took the witness stand during the bench trial for this case,” the judge concluded.

WND contacted Secret Service offices in Dallas and in Washington, but no one would comment on the case.

Rundus told WND he was pleased with the outcome, and his attorney, Steve Crampton, said he was pleased with the ruling, given the stonewalling and coverup that appeared to have taken place throughout the government’s case.

“Hopefully, they will go back and rethink their big-picture strategy,” Rundus said.

The tracts at issue invite a recipient to answer the “million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven?”

The case was brought on behalf of the Great News Network, which was distributing the tracts. Crampton argued the case on behalf of the Florida-based non-profit legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel.

The tracts clearly state they are not legal tender and contain the Gospel message.

They are published by the Living Waters ministry of evangelist and author Ray Comfort, who says he has distributed millions over the years.

Rundus sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for violations of the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unlawful search and seizure. The judge wrote that because he decided the tracts are not illegal, he didn’t have to reach a conclusion whether the statutory provisions the government alleged were being violated were constitutional.Rundus has reported the tracts are extremely effective. He uses them to share his faith with others. While the front of the tract has markings similar to paper currency, it states “This bill is not legal tender,” “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and “Department of Eternal Affairs.”

The judge noted those are among the indicators, along with the biblical quotations, that would tip off a “reasonable” person, along with the fact there is no such bill.

The dispute arose when a North Carolina bank brought the bill to the attention of local Secret Service agents. The agents contacted the Dallas office, which dispatched agents to the GNN ministry offices.

The confiscation drew local news coverage:

“There is no reasonable risk that an unsuspecting, reasonable, and prudent person would accept the Million Dollar Bill as genuine U.S. currency,” the judge wrote.

The judge noted that government attorneys repeatedly tried to convince the court that it could be mistaken for real currency when viewed from a distance. But the judge wondered who would figure a $1 million bill – viewed from a distance – was real.

“The problem with the government’s argument is that it is impossible to believe that any reasonable person would accept a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars under the circumstances counsel for the government tried to create. … Any person that would accept a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars without holding it or at least looking at it from closer than five-feet away is not a reasonable person,” he said.


The Barack Obama “million” dollar bill tracts

Besides the original million-dollar tract, Comfort also now offers tracts featuring caricatures of celebrities and the image of President Obama. Another has President Lincoln, with the amount of $1 trillion.

“An easy tract to give out with all the talk about ‘trillions’ of dollars in the news,” says the description.

The million dollar tract bears the message: “The million-dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.”

A website called Prank Place says its currency for sale “looks and feels real. Great conversation tool. Our funny money and fake million dollar bills look just like real U.S. Currency. These are very high quality, designed by an incredibly talented artist. Our fake money make great gifts, additions to greeting cards, or even sales promotions and sales tools.”

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CNSNews has two different stories here and here saying that the lawsuits against the U.S. Government are about to begin as soon as Obama signs the health care legislation (H.R. 3590) into law.  The lawsuits are an attempt by States and other agencies to strike down the required health care insurance law in the latest bill.

Update (1/22 @13:29): Reuters reports that 11 Attorneys General are geared to sue the Government after it is signed.  The full story is at the bottom.

Health Care Legislation: Here Come the Lawsuits

Monday, March 22, 2010
By Susan Jones, Senior Editor

(CNSNews.com) – The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil liberties group, says it is preparing to file a federal lawsuit challenging the “flawed” health care package that passed the House 219-212 on Sunday night.

The law “fails the American people and does not provide permanent protections for the life of the unborn,” the group said in a Sunday night news release.

The ACLJ said it would file a lawsuit “soon” in federal court, challenging the forced mandate that penalizes Americans who choose not to participate in universal health care. “That is unconstitutional, and we believe ultimately it will be overturned by the courts,” it said.

“The fact remains that the actual health care bill just approved does fund abortion,” ACLJ said.

“Those self-proclaimed pro-life Democrats put their trust in an executive order — subject to being rescinded by the president — a move that is not only short-sighted but does not provide the guarantees and pro-life protections secured by statutory language in a law approved by Congress.”

Which President Obama do you believe? ACLJ asked: The president who repeatedly and publicly opposed the pro-life language in the earlier House-passed bill, or the president who now promises an Executive Order to secure the votes he needed to pass a very dangerous health care package?

ACLJ noted that an executive order “is not a legislative fix and does not carry the force of congressionally approved legislation.  It does not supersede law.  It can be rescinded.”

Another concern, the group said, is that the executive order promised by President Obama will put Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in charge of the funding process – and she is a cabinet member “who has a long and documented history of supporting abortion.”

also:

Virginia Is First to Announce Lawsuit Over Health-Care Bill

Monday, March 22, 2010
By Bob Lewis, Associated Press

Richmond, Va. (AP) – Less than eight hours after Congress passed sweeping healthcare reforms, Virginia’s Attorney General became the first to announce a legal challenge against it.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli said early Monday that he will file a court challenge against what he and other conservatives decry as an unconstitutional overreach of federal authority.

Cuccinelli said he would file the lawsuit as soon as President Barack Obama signs the bill passed Sunday night into law.

Earlier this month, Virginia became the first state to finish legislative passage of a law that bucks any effort by President Barack Obama and an allied Democratic Congress to impose federal health care reform in the states.

Similar measures were filed or proposed in 34 other state legislatures.

Cuccinelli is expected to argue that the bill, with its mandate that requires nearly every American to be insured by 2014, violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. The attorney general’s office will file suit once President Barack Obama signs the bill into law, which could occur early this week.

“At no time in our history has the government mandated its citizens buy a good or service,” Cuccinelli said in a statement Sunday night.

Word of the impending legal action came as the U.S. House debated late into the evening and passed the landmark reform legislation, 219-212.

Update from Reuters:

States launch lawsuits against healthcare plan

CHICAGO
Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:21pm EDT
Opponents of the proposed U.S. health care bill are pictured  during a rally outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, March  21, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Less than 24 hours after the House of Representatives gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul of healthcare, attorneys general from several states on Monday said they will sue to block the plan on constitutional grounds.

Republican attorneys general in 11 states warned that lawsuits will be filed to stop the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers and usurping states’ sovereignty.

States are concerned the burden of providing healthcare will fall on them without enough federal support.

Ten of the attorneys general plan to band together in a collective lawsuit on behalf of Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

“To protect all Texans’ constitutional rights, preserve the constitutional framework intended by our nation’s founders, and defend our state from further infringement by the federal government, the State of Texas and other states will legally challenge the federal health care legislation,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, in a statement.

The Republican attorney generals say the reforms infringe on state powers under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, who plans to file a lawsuit in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, said Congress lacks authority under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce to force people to buy insurance. The bill also conflicts with a state law that says Virginians cannot be required to buy insurance, he added.

“If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce,” Cuccinelli said in recorded comments. “If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?”

In addition to the pending lawsuits, bills and resolutions have been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures seeking to limit or oppose various aspects of the reform plan through laws or state constitutional amendments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

So far, only two states, Idaho and Virginia, have enacted laws, while an Arizona constitutional amendment is seeking voter approval on the November ballot. But the actual enactment of the bill by President Barack Obama could spur more movement on the measures by state lawmakers.

As is the case on the Congressional level, partisan politics is in play on the state level, where no anti-health care reform legislation has emerged in Democrat-dominated states like Illinois and New York, according to the NCSL.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate running for governor, said the mandate would cost Florida at least $1.6 billion in Medicaid alone.

All states would receive extra funding to cover Medicaid costs that are expected to rise under the reform, including 100 percent federal coverage for new enrollees under the plan through 2016.

Medicaid is the healthcare program for the poor jointly administered by the states and federal government.

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CNSNews reports that a lawsuit has been brought against Lower Merion School District after families learned that school officials were using the webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students while they were at home.

Lawsuit Accuses School of Spying on Students at Home by Webcam

Thursday, February 18, 2010
By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press

Philadelphia (AP) – A federal lawsuit accuses a suburban Philadelphia school district of spying on students at home through school-issued laptop webcams.

The suit says Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams remotely without students’ knowledge. The lawsuit alleges the cameras captured images of Harritan High School students and their families as they undressed and in other compromising situations.

Families learned of the alleged webcam images when an assistant principal spoke to a student about inappropriate behavior at home.

Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

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Spore DRM – EA Responds, Lawsuit Filed

Today EA responded to the DRM issue surrounding Spore:

“Two weeks ago EA launched SPORE – one of the most innovative games in the history of our industry. We’re extremely pleased with the reception SPORE has received from critics and consumers but we’re disappointed by the misunderstanding surrounding the use of DRM software and the limitation on the number of machines that are authorized to play a single a copy of the game.

We felt that limiting the number of machine authorizations to three wouldn’t be a problem.

· We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.
· We have found that 75 percent of our consumers install and play any particular game on only one machine and less than 1 percent every try to play on more than three different machines.
· We assured consumers that if special circumstances warranted more than three machines, they could contact our customer service team and request additional authorizations.

But we’ve received complaints from a lot of customers who we recognize and respect. And while it’s easy to discount the noise from those who only want to post or transfer thousands of copies of the game on the Internet, I believe we need to adapt our policy to accommodate our legitimate consumers.

Going forward, we will amend the DRM policy on Spore to:

· Expand the number of eligible machines from three to five.
· Continue to offer channels to request additional activations where warranted.
· Expedite our development of a system that will allow consumers to de-authorize machines and move authorizations to new machines. When this system goes online, it will effectively give players direct control to manage their authorizations between an unlimited number of machines.

We’re willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we’re hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.

  • “We assumed that consumers understand piracy is a huge problem – and that if games that take 1-4 years to develop are effectively stolen the day they launch, developers and publishers will simply stop investing in PC games.”

The problem with this is that DRM does not, and has never, stopped people from copying games or other software.  Spore was available for download, without DRM, on torrent sites days before it was released on the retail market.  Not one piece of software hasn’t been copied that had some form of copy protection.  DRM for copy-protection simply does not work.  What DRM does do is hinder the person who has legally purchased a copy.

  • “We have found that 75 percent of our consumers install and play any particular game on only one machine and less than 1 percent every try to play on more than three different machines.”

It isn’t necessarily that people are installing Spore in different machines, but that the SecuROM protection requires reactivation when you do things like re-install your operating system or even cases of changing out hardware.  I have several really old games that I’ve bought and played in the past and have re-installed on my newer system to play them again.  What happens when the Spore activation server is unavailable?   What happens in 3, 5, or 10 years?

  • “We’re willing to evolve our policy to accommodate our consumers. But we’re hoping that everyone understands that DRM policy is essential to the economic structure we use to fund our games and as well as to the rights of people who create them. Without the ability to protect our work from piracy, developers across the entire game industry will eventually stop investing time and money in PC titles.”

DRM is absolutely not essential.  Before digital distribution, games made a lot of money.  You can’t tell me that the original DOOM didn’t make id Software a ton of money and a franchise to build on.  Just because you add some copy-protection doesn’t mean that the rights of the people who create games magically goes poof.  People will buy good, fun, and entertaining games hand over fist.  DRM encourages pirating because of the way it works, putting a drain on the system and becoming near impossible to get rid of.  Valve’s DRM scheme is fairly functional, but is still moot when you can still get DRM-free copies of their software over the Internet.

DRM doesn’t stop copy protection, and it never will. It will only create more headaches for developers, increase the costs for production, and rile up customers.  DRM doesn’t work; ask the music industry.

Update 9/24/08: Looks like EA has attracted a class action suit for its use of SecuROM.  Details are at the PDF on the bottom of the page.

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