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Get Religion: But there’s a lot of questions unanswered. Where is the school district’s attorney in this? Did anyone bother to call him or her? And why wasn’t there a quote from the school superintendent about the cancellation? Why did the superintendent cave so quickly upon getting just one letter? Why didn’t the district call Alliance Defending Freedom or similar groups that have taken on AU more than once? And what about that script for the “secular” tour? Might the reporter have actually quoted some of the language from that text, just to establish facts about the dangerous material presented to the students?
Religion Clause: In Missoula, Montana this week business owner Michael Burks filed suit against a local mall because it refused to allow him to open a Christian bookstore in retail space he was leasing.
Courthouse News Service: Montana may defend the constitutionality of two laws that require notification and consent from parents before a minor can have an abortion, a federal judge ruled.
The Washington Times (AP): A Roman Catholic bishop says a central Montana parish is about evenly divided over a new priest’s decision to prohibit a same-sex couple from receiving Communion unless they divorce, live separately and write a statement affirming that a marriage is between a man and a woman.
Billings Gazette: Saying he doesn’t believe Billings is ready for a nondiscrimination ordinance, Mayor Tom Hanel cast the decisive vote just past 3 a.m. Tuesday to defeat the long-debated measure.
Associated Press: Montana’s attorney general asked a federal court Thursday to uphold the state’s constitutional marriage law in response to a lawsuit that seeks to overturn it.
Billings Gazette: Joseph P. Infranco, senior counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group, will speak Friday in Billings on how religious freedom can be impeded by the city’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.
The Washington Times: A federal lawsuit filed by four gay couples in Montana leaves just two states – North Dakota and South Dakota – with gay marriage bans and no legal challenges aiming to overturn them. But that’s likely to change as same-sex marriage advocates there gear up for a fight.
Religion Clause: “In New Hope Lutheran Ministry v. Faith Lutheran Church of Great Falls, Inc., (MT Sup. Ct., March 12, 2014), the Montana Supreme Court held that members of a Lutheran congregation– Faith Lutheran Church– that voted to break away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over ELCA’s policy of ordaining gays and lesbians are not entitled to the church’s property.”
The Montana Standard: “An assistant softball coach at Billings Central Catholic School said she was dismissed Monday because of her work at Planned Parenthood.”
The Republic: “A Helena judge says the attorney general’s office can’t defend a state law requiring girls under 18 to receive their parents’ permission before seeking an abortion because the matter was ruled unconstitutional 15 years ago.”
The Montana Standard: “The Helena Diocese has fired an unmarried Butte Central teacher for getting pregnant, its superintendent said Tuesday. . . . The diocese’s teacher handbook makes clear that employees must follow the teachings of the Catholic church, both in their professional and personal lives.”
Greenfield Reporter (AP): “The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal judge’s decision that allowed the U.S. Forest Service to renew a 10-year permit for a statue of Jesus that was placed on a northwestern Montana ski hill six decades ago.” | FFRF Press Release
Washington Times: “The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request to review a ruling against a Montana law that attempts to exempt guns made and kept in the state from federal regulation, but the so-called Firearms Freedom Act isn’t dead yet.”
WorldNetDaily: “By abandoning any meaningful standard for the substantiality of an intrastate activity’s effects on interstate commerce, this court has enabled the Congress to ‘draw the circle broadly enough to cover’ activity, that when viewed in isolation, would have no substantial effect on interstate commerce at all,” representatives for the 12 states have told the high court.
David Andrusko at LifeNews: A decision is expected next month in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood challenging Montana’s parental consent and parental notification laws. LR-120 passed on the 2012 ballot. The measure requires minors under the age of 16 to notify their parents before getting an abortion.
Bob Kellogg at One News Now: At lot of times, says Tedesco, these atheists groups do not intend to back up their bluster with any real action. “They send letters lots of times when they have no intention to sue, it seems to me,” he tells OneNewsNow. Their purpose, Tedesco adds, is to scare school officials with the threat of a lawsuit. [more]
The New American: The conservative legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) went to bat for the districts, noting that student choirs may not be barred from voluntarily performing at such religious-themed events. The ADF later sent a letter to the districts commending them for standing up to the atheist bullies. “Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow choirs to participate in community Christmas events,” said ADF attorney Rory Gray. “Courts have unanimously allowed students to sing Christmas carols at school. Nothing changes when they sing the same Christmas songs at a community festival instead. We commend the districts for rightly ignoring the baseless threats delivered by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco added that “a handful of misguided complaints and a misunderstanding of First Amendment law should not be allowed to harm students and deprive them of educational experiences that serve the community. We hope other school districts will follow Kalispell’s and Whitefish’s example and reject the religious discrimination these groups promote.”
Alliance Defending Freedom sent Kalispell and Whitefish Public Schools a letter commending the school districts for rejecting two secularist groups’ attempts to stop student choir members from voluntarily participating in a community Christmas festival held at a local church.
Charisma News: Schools should not have to think twice about whether they can allow choirs to participate in community Christmas events,” said Litigation Staff Counsel Rory Gray. “Courts have unanimously allowed students to sing Christmas carols at school. Nothing changes when they sing the same Christmas songs at a community festival instead. We commend the districts for rightly ignoring the baseless threats delivered by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.” . . . “A handful of misguided complaints and a misunderstanding of First Amendment law should not be allowed to harm students and deprive them of educational experiences that serve the community,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope other school districts will follow Kalispell and Whitefish’s example and reject the religious discrimination these groups promote.”
Billings, Gazette: The Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners has asked the county attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The council approved the motion Wednesday.
Fox News: A Montana school choir is set to perform at a church despite calls from the American Civil Liberties Union and an atheist group to cancel the show, arguing that it violates the separation of church and state.
Missoulian: High school choirs from Kalispell and Whitefish plan to participate in a Christmas concert at the Mormon church in Kalispell despite protests from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
PolicyMichttp://www.policymic.com/articles/73355/montana-s-plan-to-set-gender-quotas-for-state-legislature-could-be-a-model-for-the-nation: John Marshall of Hot Springs, Mont. wants more women in government. In fact, he wants 50% of his state legislature to be comprised of women, and submitted a constitutional amendment for the 2014 ballot that would require a 50-50 gender split in each house of Montana’s state legislature.Montana’s Plan to Set Gender Quotas For State Legislature Could Be a Model For the Nation
The Hill: Democratic Senate candidate John Bohlinger supported some legislation to restrict abortion rights in Montana, according to a local blog, votes that don’t match his rhetoric.
Boston Globe (AP): U.S. Rep. Steve Daines announced Wednesday that he will run for Senate in 2014, giving Montana Republicans a candidate they believe has a strong chance at winning the state’s first race for an open Senate seat in decades.
AP: Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh said Thursday he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014, giving Democrats the high-profile candidate they’ve been scrambling for in a bid to keep the seat they’ve held for decades.
TwinCities.com (AP): A Wisconsin-based atheist and agnostic organization is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that a 6-foot-tall statue of Jesus can remain on Forest Service land on a northwestern Montana ski hill.
The Hill: Three state-based Planned Parenthood affiliates will receive a total of about $655,000 from the federal government to help consumers navigate their insurance options under ObamaCare.
ACLU: Amended complaint challenges discriminatory statutes governing police benefits, worker’s compensation, end-of-life decisions and more
Becket Fund (June 24th): Today, a federal district court in Montana dismissed a lawsuit by Freedom From Religion Foundation seeking to force the U.S. Forest Service to remove a privately designed and maintained monument to soldiers who gave their lives in World War II. Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that the 60-year-old monument—which stands in the middle of Big Mountain ski resort in Whitefish, Montana—could not be displayed on government-owned land. District Court Judge Dana Christensen, who was appointed in 2011 by President Obama, rejected these arguments and held that the monument did not violate church-state separation.
AP: A Montana judge says a 6-foot-tall statue of Jesus that was placed on federal land on Big Mountain near Whitefish nearly 60 years ago can remain. KAJ18.com: Judge rules Big Mountain Jesus statue will stay A federal judge has …
DOJ Bans ‘Unwelcome Speech’ on Montana Campus — and Wants to go Nationwide | Kevin Theriot at Townhall
Kevin Theriot at Townhall: “Unwelcome speech” is hard to define. Someone could label even the most innocent of comments from someone else as “unwelcome” on any given day. Someone in a bad mood or with ill intent could charge someone else with using “unwelcome speech” with very little trouble at all.
9th Circuit: MT ban on endorsements and expenditures for judicial candidates is unconstitutional, contributions ban still undecided
The panel therefore remanded to the district court with instructions to revise the permanent injunction so that it enjoined only the statute’s ban on endorsements and expenditures, and not the statute’s ban on contributions.
LifeNews: This week, in Montana District court, Judge Mike Menahan heard arguments involving doctor-prescribed suicide. At issue is the effort by Montanans Against Assisted Suicide to strike the state Board of Medical Examiners’ permissive policy that guides physicians on doctor-prescribed death.
World Net Daily: SAVE has published a list of 13 organizations that have issued letters calling on the department to rescind its sexual assault directive, including the American Association of University Professors, the American Council for Trustees and Alumni, the National Association for Scholars, Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University, eight civil rights scholars, Accuracy in Media, the Heartland Institute, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Feminists for Free Expression.
Jeremy Tedesco appeared on the Zeb Bell Show to discuss this: Benefits Restored To Montana’s Disabled Children Of Faith. | MP3 audio 10:34 mins
LifeNews: With Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on a bill the state legislature approved, Vermont today becomes the third state after Oregon and Washington to legalize assisted suicide.
Disabled children attending faith-based schools who qualify for aid under a federal program will now be eligible to receive tuition aid in the wake of an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit against the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
NBC Montana: The 2013 legislative session wrapped up in Montana at the start of the weekend, and now Planned Parenthood of Montana says they’re planning to sue the state over a bill passed that requires anyone under 18 to get parental consent for an abortion.
Jeremy Tedesco appeared on the Zeb Bell Show to discuss this: Montana wrongly discriminating against disabled children of faith. | MP3 audio 10:08 mins
The Hill: The other retiring Democrats are Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.).
National Review: On Monday, the Montana state senate voted 27–23 to defeat a bill that would have definitively outlawed doctor-assisted suicide in the state.
Boston Globe: Senate Bill 107, the measure that strikes from the state code the obsolete language criminalizing gay sex as deviate sexual conduct, passed its final legislative hurdle Wednesday with a 65-34 vote in the House.
Missoulian: After a half-hour of emotional debate, both for and against the measure, the House voted 64-36 to endorse Senate Bill 107 – one day after House members narrowly voted to remove it from the House Judiciary Committee, where it had been tabled on a party-line vote with Republicans in favor.
Billings Gazette: Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, who has been under a misconduct investigation for forwarding a racist joke email last year and who went on senior status last month, will leave the federal bench on May 3, said Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on Tuesday.
Alan Sears at Alliance Defending Freedom: One of the quieter – though equally intense – battles for religious freedom in America is being fought almost daily on behalf of young school children. This week, two cases from two different parts of the country spotlight the obstacles being placed before people of faith, like you, who want nothing more than to select a school that best meets the needs of their children and grandchildren.
HutchNews (AP): The Wilsons, backed by the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, say refusing to provide tuition assistance to attend a religious school is unconstitutional.
KFBB.com (AP): The Wilsons, backed the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, say refusing to provide tuition assistance to attend a religious school is unconstitutional.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit late last week against the Montana Office of Public Instruction and Columbus Public Schools on behalf of a hearing-impaired preschooler. State and school district officials denied the young girl disability benefits for tuition payments because her parents enrolled her in a Columbus faith-based preschool.
LifeNews: We are 112 Montana physicians who have joined together to support HB 505. House Bill 505 is a short and simple bill that will clarify the law of physician-assisted suicide by clearly providing that physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.
Citizen Link: Last November, Montanans voted for the Parental Notification Act by a 71 percent margin. This law requires abortion providers to notify at least one parent of a minor under the age of 16 prior to performing an abortion.
The Montana Standard: The Montana Democrat will recommend that District Judge Susan Watters take U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull’s Billings seat and that Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris replace U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon of Great Falls.
LifeNews: House Bill 505 will end the confusion over assisted suicide in Montana. The bill’s other purpose is to prevent the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
Major Push To Get Christians To Voting Booth: 12 states ID’d as key to restoring Judeo-Christian heritage
World Net Daily: They’re targeting 12 key states: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia. The strategy was profiled Monday by David Brody of CBN News. Brody said the groups – led by the American Renewal Project – are planning briefings for evangelical pastors, voter-registration drives and other events in an attempt “to restore American to its Judeo-Christian heritage.”
San Francisco Chronicle: Abortion foes, coming off a successful ballot initiative campaign requiring parental notification before teens undergo the procedure, launched into their legislative requests Tuesday with a renewed proposal to criminalize the killing of a fetus.
Religion Clause Blog: In Big Sky Colony, Inc. v. Montana Department of Labor and Industry, (MT Sup. Ct., Dec. 31, 2012), the Montana Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision upheld against constitutional attack amendments to the state’s workers compensation law that brings Hutterite Colonies within the definition of those covered when their members perform agricultural, manufacturing or construction services even though members do not receive wages. Instead Hutterites receive food, shelter, clothing and medical care from the Colony.
Matt Sharp appeared on the Vicki McKenna Show to discuss this: Montana school accused of bullying for including Christmas carols in school performance. | MP3 audio 11:42 mins
The Hill: Sen. Jon Tester was helped in his reelection bid by $10.2 million in spending from liberal outside groups, nearly twice as much as that spent by conservatives, according to a report from ProPublica. About $4.2 million of that was “dark money,” funds that come from organizations that are not required by law to disclose their donors.
World Magazine: Matt Sharp of Alliance Defending Freedom said, “Courts have responded in favor of schools playing Christmas music, as long as it serves an overall educational purpose.” Candi Cushman, an education analyst with CitizenLink, which is associated with Focus on the Family, said, “From what we’ve seen, the school appears to have chosen a perfectly reasonable, balanced mix of songs like ‘Up on a House Top’ and ‘Joy to the World’ and has correctly emphasized that the musical program serves an educational purpose, reflecting long-standing, nationwide traditions.” I can respect the fact that Christmas songs might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if this is bullying, then no public expression of Christianity, no matter how banal and innocuous, is safe from censure.
Daily Caller: If the threatened lawsuit by the unnamed parents materializes, it would face substantial legal hurdles according to David Cortman, an attorney who specializes in the First Amendment at Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative-leaning nonprofit. “It doesn’t create a constitutional crisis to sing Christmas songs at Christmastime,” Cortman told the Daily Mail. “If every time there was a piece of art or classical musical with a religious theme, we censored it, we would be eliminating much from the students’ education.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys sent a letter Wednesday to Missoula County Public Schools after the district faced complaints that certain religious songs should not be included in a Christmas performance by children at Chief Charlo Elementary school.
Todd Starnes at Fox News: “For them to include traditional religious Christmas carols is perfectly constitutional,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. “The courts have clearly held that it’s constitutional for schools to include traditional religious carols as part of a secular educational music program.” The ADF said they sent a letter to the Missoula, Mont. School district advising them of their rights under the law and offered to give them legal support in the event of a lawsuit.
William Duncan at National Review: I’m not making this up and these are only some of the more colorful passages. There’s plenty more ad hominem and amateur theology on display throughout the opinion.
Missoulian: A group of parents at Chief Charlo Elementary School are so upset over the selection of songs for the school’s holiday music program they are considering legal counsel.
“Society should protect and strengthen marriage, not undermine it. This lawsuit sought to undermine Montana’s legal definition of marriage as a man and a woman by eliminating the state’s ability to distinguish between married and unmarried couples for the purpose of benefits. Marriage expresses the truth that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life. The state is on firm ground to recognize and promote that ideal for the good of society.”
KTAR.com (AP): The Montana Supreme Court on Monday rejected an “overly broad” request that gay couples be guaranteed the same benefits as married couples. The court wrote in Monday’s 4-3 decision Monday that a lower court was within its discretion when it earlier dismissed the request. But the Supreme Court left the door open for the gay couples to modify their request and try again. | Donaldson v. Montana
NECN.com: Helena’s city commissioners have given initial approval to an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Tuesday’s 5-0 vote sets a public hearing on the measure for Dec. 17.
No disability benefits if you go to a religious school in Montana | Jeremy Tedesco on the Zeb Bell Show
Religion Clause Blog: In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Weber, (D MT, Nov. 27, 2012), a Montana federal district court held that an advocacy organization has standing to bring an Establishment Clause challenge to the decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow the continued presence of a statue of Jesus on National Forest Service land within Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Ed News: If Clayton Fiscus, a new Republican member of the Montana House of Representatives, has his way, intelligent designwill soon be taught alongside evolution across the state.