Scouting Policy Suffers First Setback. (Church-State Update)

By Flynn, Tom | Free Inquiry, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Scouting Policy Suffers First Setback. (Church-State Update)


Flynn, Tom, Free Inquiry


Church-State Update tracks continuing developments in important federal, state, and local church-state issues. Each item is preceded by an up arrow # or a down arrow @ based on the story's implications for separation of church and state and the rights of the nonreligious.

# Boy Scouts Lose First Major Case. An Oregon judge ruled that Portland city schools discriminated against atheist students by permitting the Boy Scouts to recruit during class time. The judge ordered state school superintendent Stan Bunn to rewrite an earlier decision requiring public schools to let Scouting recruit during the school day

@ Supreme Court Lets Florida Graduation Prayer Stand. Without comment the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling upholding a Duval County Florida, graduation prayer scheme. Graduating public-school seniors choose a classmate to give a commencement message that may include prayer. Fortunately, the ruling applies only in the Eleventh Circuit: Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

@ Thompson Declares Fetuses "Unborn Children." Secretary of Health and Human Services and longtime abortion foe Tommy Thompson has permitted states to classify each developing fetus as an "unborn child." That way a federally funded, state-administered program that funds poor childrens' health care can be extended to pay for prenatal care and the care of pregnant women as well. Abortion rights defenders fear the decision will create a precedent for treating fetuses as citizens with a legal "right to life," something courts have consistently refused to grant. Look for pitched battles in more progressive states over whether to gnaw this particular federal carrot.

@ Istook's Ba-a-a-a-ack! Representative Ernest Istook (R.-Okla.) has launched another effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to legalize school prayer. His School Prayer Amendment, a toned-down version of his unsuccessful 1999 Religious Freedom Amendment (RFA), defends "the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience" and the "right to pray and recognize... religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property including schools."

? Mission Unclear, Mandate Drooping, Faith-Based Office Gets New Head. Jim Towey, a political insider and Roman Catholic who once served as counsel to Mother Teresa, has been named by President Bush to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The post lay vacant since August when founding director John J. Dilulio resigned. Now for the good news: the controversial "faith-based initiative" keeps shrinking. …

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