Schools have the right to limit free speech. But how much should they?

Ellen K. Boegel
America (Jesuit) Magazine

From Halloween costumes to prom dresses, Facebook posts to commencement addresses, school administrators are required to make difficult decisions regarding appropriate limits on free speech and expression. For the educational community, the summer is a good time to review, reflect on and possibly revamp current policies.

Dress codes

Headdresses, tattoos and form-fitting clothing present increasingly complicated challenges for school administrators seeking to balance the values of fun, comfort and fashion with individual and community sensitivities, educational and social propriety, contractual and statutory provisions and, for public educational institutions, constitutional requirements.

As evidenced by the 2015 Yale controversy and the 2016 creepy clown scare, Halloween costumes create problems at all educational levels. In addition to safety concerns regarding weapons and dangerous props or materials, codes of conduct at many schools prohibit “offensive” or “hostile” conduct.

Application of conduct restrictions to one-time occurrences, such as the wearing of an insensitive costume, is problematic. Public and private school students have due process and/or contractual rights (based on student registration and tuition payments) that require clearly articulated dress codes; vague and subjective terms are unenforceable. In addition, public school students enjoy First Amendment rights that protect expressive clothing.

Restrictions on the speech of public college-level students must be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest.” Public secondary and elementary school students are granted less extensive free speech rights. Apparel that “materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others” may be prohibited. Clothing with lewd or sexually explicit messages and those that are viewed as encouraging illegal drug use also may be banned in secondary and elementary schools.

Nevertheless, school administrators should use their authority sparingly lest they become enmeshed in even more disruptive (and expensive) litigation. In Pennsylvania, for example, a middle school’s unconstitutional prohibition of “I ❤ Boobies” cancer awareness bracelets engendered a lawsuit that lasted four years and cost taxpayers close to $400,000 in legal fees.

Gender-conforming clothing requirements at public schools are prohibited by the Equal Protection clause, but reasonable restrictions may be placed on feminine and masculine attire. This means a female student should not be forced to wear a skirt or dress and a male student should not be prohibited from wearing a skirt or dress, but restrictions can be placed on skirt and dress lengths. Dress code restrictions are more common on feminine attire, which has led to the #iammorethanadistraction movement.

Private schools that accept federal funds must abide by Title IX gender discrimination protections, but religious schools with religious objections are exempt. Thus, religious schools can impose gender-specific clothing restrictions but that does not shield them from student discontent and publicized controversy, often involving prom attire.

Legal rights are not self-enforcing; many unlawful codes and enforcement practices persist. Students and parents who object to overly restrictive policies must comply, negotiate or sue. A recent CNN story highlighted the ingenuity of one family who used a marker to disguise their son’s non-complying decoratively shaved hair. School officials who want to avoid conflict and litigation should dispense with judgmental and gender-biased rules and then collaboratively create and uniformly apply standards designed solely to promote safe and effective learning environments.

Campus Speech

Public college and university students enjoy full free speech rights. Federal and state anti-harassment laws only may be used to limit public university speech when it is so objectively severe or pervasive that it reasonably can be determined to interfere with another student’s ability to learn.

University officials also may place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on student speech and may impose additional restrictions on spaces considered limited public fora, such as lecture halls reserved solely for curriculum-related events. Nevertheless, students and student groups with myriad controversial viewpoints must be given equal access to campus facilities. The twice-cancelled appearance by Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley, illustrates the difficulty of meeting these constitutional requirements while protecting the safety of the entire campus community.

The “special characteristics of the school environment” enable secondary and elementary public school administrators to regulate classroom speech and school-sponsored speech to a greater extent than permitted on public college campuses. Most states have anti-bullying laws that promote inclusiveness and prohibit harassment. As with dress codes, non-disciplinary discussions that lead to cooperative compliance are better than banning speech that does not pose a realistic threat or is objectively harmful or disruptive. One public high school teacher learned this lesson the hard way when he lost a lawsuit brought by a student disciplined for stating, “I don’t accept gays because I’m Catholic.”

Private school students are not protected by the First Amendment and are subject to all clearly articulated speech restrictions. Moreover, private schools may prohibit or invite any speaker to a school forum. As was evidenced by student protests during Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, however, freedom from government involvement does not eliminate controversy. Private schools that accept federal funding are subject to civil rights laws and, except when based on religious considerations, may not permit harassment of students based on disability, race, gender, religion or national origin. State anti-bullying laws generally do not apply to private schools.

Social media posts

Out-of-school expression on social media is of growing concern to public and private school administrators. Although the forum is different, the same legal principles apply.

Public universities may impose disciplinary action when restrictions are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest. Protecting fellow students from discriminatory or harassing conduct is a significant government interest, but derogatory social media posts may be prohibited only when they amount to an actual threat or objectively impair the educational environment. Posting bomb threats on the internet may be prohibited, but lewd online behavior and off-campus criticism of teachers and principals should be tolerated. Private schools may adopt whatever restrictions are deemed appropriate and clearly communicated to students and parents.

Teachers understand the tremendous risks and benefits of free expression, and administrators understand there is no pleasing some people (parents, students or teachers). The best-reasoned and most clearly written code of conduct will not prevent every controversy nor quell every protest, which, in a free society, should not be the goal. Education, rather than litigation, is the best tool we have to create respectful environments for the free exchange of ideas. Town hall meetings, student-designed codes of conduct, inclusive lesson plans and academic presentations may do more to achieve compliance with reasonable guidelines than threats of discipline.

Making student buy-in a priority does not guarantee unanimity, but it does increase understanding of school policies and defeat claims of ignorance, which is, after all, an important educational goal.




Donald Trump, Pope Francis Meet, Vow to Fight for ‘Life, Freedom of Worship’

The Christian Post

President Donald Trump and Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis met on Wednesday at the Vatican where they spoke for 30 minutes in private, and vowed to fight together for life, peace, and freedom of worship.

“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” Trump posted on Twitter following the meeting.

BBC News reported that the two world leaders held a 30-minute private meeting, with the Vatican later explaining that they talked about their shared commitment to “life, freedom of worship, and conscience,” and expressed hope that they can collaborate “in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to migrants.”

They also reportedly talked about the “promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue,” along with the need to protect Christian communities in the Middle East, which are suffering at the hands of Islamic extremists.

Catholic News Service noted that Francis presented Trump with a split medallion held together by an olive tree, symbolizing peace.

“It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace,” Francis said, to which Trump replied: “We can use some peace.”

The Vatican leader also gifted copies of his documents “The Joy of the Gospel,” on the family, and “Laudato Si.'” on the environment, which the billionaire businessman promised to read.

Trump presented Francis with a box containing five of Martin Luther King Jr.’s books, including a signed copy of The Strength to Love.

Francis and Trump have clashed on some issues in the past, such as the president’s vow during the 2016 election campaign to build a massive wall at the Mexican border in order to keep illegal immigrants and traffickers out of the country.

Francis went as far as to say that building such walls is “not Christian,” but did not comment on the border fence that already exists between California and Mexico that was built during former president Bill Clinton’s administration in 1993. Trump, who is Presbyterian, previously said it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith.

There appeared to be no sign of major disagreements during Trump’s visit, with the U.S. President calling it a “fantastic meeting.”

When saying his goodbyes with Francis, Trump said: “Thank you, thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

Reuters reported that he later told reporters about how meeting the pope went: “Great. He is something. He is really good.”

Trump’s visit to the the Vatican is part of a nine-day foreign tour, which has already seen him deliver speeches in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.




Villains in Upcoming Video Game are White Christian Right-wing Extremists from Montana

Adan Salazar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLqeAH5D1uo

A graphic for the latest installment of the video game series Far Cry indicates white Christian Americans from Montana will be the antagonists.

Far Cry 5 will tell the story of a militant Christian cult, if a piece of artwork released today by publisher Ubisoft is any indication,” reports gamer site Polygon.

A shocking promotional illustration features a group of flannel-wearing bearded rednecks sat around a table in poses similar to that of “Jesus’ Last Supper.” 

The characters are armed and a slew of guns are strewn across the table with apple pie, a bible and red meat nearby. A bound and beaten man with the word “SINNER” carved into his back sits in front.

“The image calls to mind the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Range, in which armed militants in cowboy hats and rugged button-downs seized the headquarters of the park located in Harney County, Oregon,” writes The Verge. “Though it’s likely work began on Far Cry 5 before the incident, as video games takes years to conceptualize, greenlight, and develop.”

Far Cry 5 stands out as it’s the first in the series to let gamers mow down Americans (albeit fictitious), not mutants or foreigners.

“Previous Far Cry games have been set in remote locales crawling with fictional villains (and even mutants at one point—how far it’s all come) and were easy to dismiss as pleasantly distant and fully fictional,” PC Gamer notes.

The latest Far Cry follows a growing trend in video games to cast Americans as the enemy, according to The Verge:

Resident Evil 7 sets its hero against a pseudo-zombified white family in the American bayou, while Outlast 2 draws horror from an American religious cult. Mafia 3 follows Lincoln Clay, a mixed-raced Vietnam vet, who takes revenge on the Italian mob in 1970s Louisiana after the assassination of his father figure, the leader of the black mob. And an episode of Hitman, called “Freedom Fighters,” has the titular killer assassinating targets on a Colorado compound that seemed to take at least some inspiration from the real-world incident in Harney County.”

The game is set to be fully revealed on Friday.

 




Donald Trump, Pope Francis Meet, Vow to Fight for ‘Life, Freedom of Worship’

Christian Post

President Donald Trump and Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis met on Wednesday at the Vatican where they spoke for 30 minutes in private, and vowed to fight together for life, peace, and freedom of worship.

“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” Trump posted on Twitter following the meeting.

BBC News reported that the two world leaders held a 30-minute private meeting, with the Vatican later explaining that they talked about their shared commitment to “life, freedom of worship, and conscience,” and expressed hope that they can collaborate “in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to migrants.”

They also reportedly talked about the “promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue,” along with the need to protect Christian communities in the Middle East, which are suffering at the hands of Islamic extremists.

Catholic News Service noted that Francis presented Trump with a split medallion held together by an olive tree, symbolizing peace.

“It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace,” Francis said, to which Trump replied: “We can use some peace.”

The Vatican leader also gifted copies of his documents “The Joy of the Gospel,” on the family, and “Laudato Si.'” on the environment, which the billionaire businessman promised to read.

Trump presented Francis with a box containing five of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s books, including a signed copy of The Strength to Love.

Francis and Trump have clashed on some issues in the past, such as the president’s vow during the 2016 election campaign to build a massive wall at the Mexican border in order to keep illegal immigrants and traffickers out of the country.

Francis went as far as to say that building such walls is “not Christian,” but did not comment on the border fence that already exists between California and Mexico that was built during former president Bill Clinton’s administration in 1993. Trump, who is Presbyterian, previously said it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith.

There appeared to be no sign of major disagreements during Trump’s visit, with the U.S. President calling it a “fantastic meeting.”

When saying his goodbyes with Francis, Trump said: “Thank you, thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

Reuters reported that he later told reporters about how meeting the pope went: “Great. He is something. He is really good.”

Trump’s visit to the the Vatican is part of a nine-day foreign tour, which has already seen him deliver speeches in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.




What common ground could Trump and Pope Francis find?

Elsie Harris
Catholic News Agency

When Pope Francis was asked last week about his upcoming meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump, he made headlines for answering that he always tries to look for common ground.

Given that they have vocally disagreed on prominent issues in the past, what will the areas of shared agreement be?

The two are set to meet at the Vatican Wednesday, May 24, at 8:30 a.m., before Pope Francis’ weekly general audience.

President Trump arrives to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip, which lasts nine days. He will also attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26.

Perhaps the most prominent area of disagreement between Trump and Francis is immigration.

During a Feb. 18, 2016, in-flight press conference, the Pope was asked to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand, particularly his threat to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pope Francis responded saying “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” However, he also said that he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate.

One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States.

After the fact, then-Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy: bridge-building.

During Trump’s time in office so far, U.S. bishops – who have Francis’ full backing on the issue – have been critical of Trump’s moves on immigration, criticizing the “ban” he implemented in his first week in office halting refugee admissions for 120 days – indefinitely for Syrian refugees – and temporarily banning visa permissions for people seeking entry to the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Trump and Francis also have very divergent opinions on climate change. Francis insisted on the need to protect creation in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, saying problems such as global warming are caused by human activity.

The Pope gave his full support of the Paris Climate deal in 2015, sending Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 summit as his personal delegate to the gathering.

Trump later threatened to back out of the deal, but delayed the process until after the G7 summit he’ll be participating in this week.

While there will certainly be these and other points the two disagree on, there are several issues – other than their shared disregard for formal protocol – that could actually bring the two together.

These, to name a few, could be: pro-life issues, above all defense of the unborn; religious freedom, particularly for Christians in the Middle East; and the push for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Since his campaign days, Trump has identified himself as pro-life, and even gave a shout-out to the Jan. 27 March for Life in Washington D.C. in a clip of an interview with David Muir of ABC.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence became the first vice president to participate in the event, giving a keynote speech that stressed the “sanctity of life.”

Pro-life issues are likely to be at least one strong point of union for Trump and Francis, who has often spoken out against abortion and other concerns such as euthanasia, calling them in one audience in 2014 “sins against God.”

He has also encouraged the use of conscientious objection based on religious convictions, at one point describing it as “a basic human right.”

When it comes to the Trump administration, the pro-life issue remains a big issue for many U.S. Catholics, who praised the president’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibits U.S. funding of non-government organizations that either promote or perform abortions through family-planning funds.

Trump was also lauded for his appointment of Niel Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last year. Gorsuch has been praised not only for his pro-life stance, but also for his commitment to religious freedom.

Pope Francis and Trump are also likely to share concern for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

Both Trump and Francis have called for greater solidarity and protection of persecuted Christians.

Francis has repeatedly spoken out on modern persecution, saying there are more martyrs today than in the early Church, with the “ecumenism of blood” having become a watermark phrase of his pontificate.

Trump himself said during his campaign that protecting persecuted Christians would be a priority. As evidence of this intent, at a May 11 summit on persecuted Christians U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, “We’re with you, we stand with you,” and assured of both his and Trump’s prayers.

As with any political figure, questions still loom as to how much Trump will actually do, especially if differing political opinions get in the way. But overall, the topic will likely be a point of agreement and collaboration with the Vatican.

And while Trump’s previous rhetoric on Islam is something Francis would likely hastily disagree with, a recent shift in the president’s tone is something the Pope would certainly welcome.

During his election campaign, Trump called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and voicing his opinion that “Islam hates us.”

However, so far Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims has cooled during his first international trip abroad.

In his May 21 speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Ridyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump avoided the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” referring instead to “the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.”

“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country and, frankly, for their families and for their children,” Trump said, speaking to leaders from more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries.

The choice is “between two futures,” and “it is a choice America cannot make for you,” he said, adding that “a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.”

He said he didn’t come to “lecture,” but to seek an end to terrorism and the beginning of peace in the Middle East region, noting that roughly 95 percent of terrorist victims are themselves Muslim.

The president said he wants a partnership with people who share the same “interests and values” as the U.S., calling Islam one of the “great faiths” with an “ancient heritage” that has served as the “cradle of civilization.”

In addition, Trump said the problem of terrorism is not “a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it…This is a battle between good and evil.”

The U.S. president’s more moderate tone on Islam, and indeed his unprecedented praise of some aspects of Muslim culture, is something Pope Francis would likely appreciate. The Pope has on multiple occasions warned against “Islamophobia,” insisting that not all Muslims are terrorist.

However, while the two might have new-found common ground in terms of how they refer to the Muslim community, at least in the public sphere, Francis will likely take issue with the weapons deal signed by Trump and Saudi King Salman.

The deal guarantees the Middle Eastern powerhouse some $350 billion in weapons over the next 10 years, with $110 billion going into effect immediately.

Francis has consistently called for an end to the arms trade, criticizing nations that sell weapons to warring countries in order to keep the conflicts going that line their own pockets. The Pope has used almost countless occasions to insist for an end to this “scourge.”

Saudi Arabia has also been criticized by many other Middle Eastern nations for funding ISIS, most directly through weapons sales.

But regardless of the deal, terrorism is sure to be one of the key topics discussed, and if Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia is an indication of how he intends to address the issue from here on out, the two just might be able agree on this point.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, Trump flew to Israel for an official visit in a bid to cement Israeli ties and help move forward on a peace deal with Palestine. After arriving this morning, he voiced hopes to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin of a broader peace deal in the region.

“You have a great opportunity right now. Great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East. People have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing. I think we’re going to start see things starting to happen,” he told Rivlin.

In a speech to Israeli Prime Minister on the tarmac, Trump said: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way.”

In a previous encounter, Trump had asked Netenyahu to “hold off” on building more settlements in order help give space to further peace discussions in the region.

Earlier this month Trump met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, telling him that when it comes to a deal that pleases both parties, “we will get it done.”

The commitment to a two-state solution has been a longstanding priority for the Vatican, which was reinforced during a recent 2015 agreement between Palestine and the Holy See to promote religious freedom in the area.

Trump himself, however, has said his administration is not married to the idea of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict, deviating from previous administrations on the issue.

While the Vatican and Trump might not agree on what exactly a peace deal looks like, it’s likely to be a shared concern.

Another topic that could be a point of union between the Pope and the president is human trafficking; not necessarily because Trump himself has been a hardliner on the issue, but more likely because the president’s daughter and high-profile adviser Ivanka Trump has made a commitment to it.

It is in this capacity that she is participating in each of the nine days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, including the public portion of his meeting with Francis.

While in Italy, Ivanka is also set to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio, a group often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, to discuss putting an end to human trafficking.

During the meeting, the Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.

So while there are clearly many areas in which Pope Francis and Trump diverge, the meeting will likely find both men seeking to find common ground.

Francis himself during his May 13 press conference refrained from making a premature evaluation of Trump, saying “I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this.”

When the two finally meet, “things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

Peace and friendship are things that can’t be forced, he said, explaining that they take daily effort and are “handcrafted.”

“Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together,” he said. Even if someone thinks differently, “be very sincere,” and respectful.




Immigration, religious liberty and synod on agenda for bishops’ meeting

Rhina Guidos
Crux

The agenda is set for the U.S. bishop’s spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis. At the meeting the bishops will cover a vast array of issues spanning from immigration to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, as well as the upcoming Synod of Bishops on youth and religious freedom.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The proverbial plate is full of issues for U.S. bishops to tackle at their upcoming spring assembly June 14-15 in Indianapolis.

They will discuss issues ranging from immigration to religious freedom, as well as the Synod of Bishops on youth and the Fifth National Encuentro gathering, both coming up in 2018.

“We’re certainly going to talk about the upcoming convocation in Orlando, some of the specific plans,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, referring to the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. “Other topics of interest for all of the bishops have been the fifth Encuentro, coming up in 2018, how things are developing in that.”

Cantu, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will address the persecution of Christians abroad.

“With regard to our bishops’ meeting, there is the concern of the plight of Christians in parts of the world where they’ve been persecuted, whether it’s in Africa or Syria or in any other part of the world,” he said.

Cantu said he will give updates about the work of his committee, which has taken him to see some of the hardships Christians face in places like Asia and the Middle East. After making his annual trip to the Holy Land in January, Cantu said he traveled to Iraq and Kurdistan. He witnessed some of the work by church members, which included the building of schools, churches and universities for displaced communities of Christians forced to leave their homelands.

“The archbishops have done heroic work,” he said.

For example, Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Irbil, Iraq, built a university so that young people who were displaced from Mosul could continue to study, said Cantu.

“He did that in very short order. He talked to me about that two years ago, that he wanted to create a university and so when I was there in January, I asked him how those plans were going. He said, ‘Oh, we’ve been up and running for a year and half.’ I was just absolutely astounded. He’s got this, a vision, this ‘do it’ mentality. They’ve just been working constantly to give Christians every opportunity and every reason to stay in Iraq.”

Another archbishop had access to a small plot of land, and there, he built a church, he built an elementary school and a university.

“It’s amazing, just absolutely amazing, what they’ve done in such a short time and to keep their people together and to give them a sense of identity and of support,” he said.

Cantu also met with church members in dangerous zones to talk about what Americans have been advocating, particularly for establishing safe zones for Christians in Syria and Iraq, on their behalf.

“They said they don’t like that idea. They don’t think it’s a good idea to have a specifically Christian zone because that would make them a target for their enemies,” he said. “They want to live in an integrated society with proper security and full citizenship … that’s what they believe will give them the greatest security, so we wanted to clarify that, as a point for safety for them, a clarification for their voice.”

The bishops also will discuss the 2018 Synod of Bishops, in which the pope wants discussion about “young people, faith and vocational discernment,” as the theme of the gathering.

The bishops also will discuss and vote on whether to establish the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty as a permanent USCCB committee. They also will consider for discussion and votes revised Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments With Persons With Disabilities; a collection of blessings in Spanish; and a new translation of the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism.

The public sessions of the bishops’ assembly will be all day June 14 and half a day June 15. An executive session may include “the inroads we have made into having a relationship with the new administration” in the White House, as well as the challenges, said Cantu, who also may give an update on his March meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“We certainly expressed our concern last November about the attitude and the plight of immigrants,” he said.

The bishops also may receive an update on President Donald Trump’s executive orders dealing with his travel ban, which is tied up in the courts, yet is affecting refugees coming into the country. The bishops have issued statements opposing the original order and its revision.

 




Christian Company Does Not Have to Make Gay Pride T-Shirts, Kentucky Appeals Court Rules

Michael Gryboski
The Christian Post

Kentucky-based Christian business does not have to make T-shirts for a gay pride event, declared a three judge panel of the state’s court of appeals.

A three judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Friday that Hands On Originals could not be forced to make T-shirts for an event its owner was morally opposed to on religious grounds.

The panel upheld an earlier decision from the Fayette Circuit Court in favor of HOO and against an LGBT group and the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission.

“Nothing in the fairness ordinance prohibits HOO, a private business, from engaging in viewpoint or message censorship,” read the panel’s decision.

“Thus, although the menu of services HOO provides to the public is accordingly limited, and censors certain points of view, it is the same limited menu HOO offers to every customer and is not, therefore, prohibited by the fairness ordinance.”

In his dissent, Judge Jeff Taylor concluded that HOO had indeed violated the local ordinance and thus engaged in unlawful discrimination against homosexuals by refusing to print the shirts.

“The facts in this case clearly establish that HOO’s conduct, the refusal to print the t-shirts, was based upon gays and lesbians promoting a gay pride festival in Lexington, which violated the Fairness Ordinance,” argued Taylor.

“Finally, it is important to note that the speech that HOO sought to censor was not obscene or defamatory. There was nothing obnoxious, inflammatory, false, or even pornographic that GLSO wanted to place on their t-shirts which would justify restricting their speech under the First Amendment.”

In 2012, Gay and Lesbian Services Organization asked Hands On Originals to make t-shirts for their gay pride event in Lexington.

The company refused to do the order, citing their religious objections to homosexuality and the concern that by making the shirts they were in effect endorsing the event.

Hands On Originals was sued and in 2014 found guilty of discrimination by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission.

In April 2015, Fayette Circuit Court Judge James D. Ishmael Jr. overturned the Human Rights Commission’s ruling, arguing that Hands On Originals did have a right to refuse the order.

“The Commission in its oral argument says it is not trying to infringe on the Constitutional Rights of HOO its owners but is seeking only to have HOO ‘ … treat everyone the same.’ Yet, HOO has demonstrated in this record that it has done just that,” wrote Judge Ishmael in 2015.

“It has treated homosexual and heterosexual groups the same. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, HOO declined to print at least thirteen (13) orders for message based reasons. Those print orders that were refused by HOO included shirts promoting a strip club, pens promoting a sexually explicit video, and shirts containing a violence related message.”

Regarding the Circuit Court’s decision, the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council heralded the decision as a victory for religious liberty.

“This ruling affirms our nation’s long history of protecting Americans from being compelled by the government to advocate a message to which one objects,” stated FRC President Tony Perkins on Friday.

“We hope to hear soon that the U.S. Supreme Court will accept the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and ensure that the owner, Jack Phillips, will be free to follow his religious beliefs without fear of punishment by the government.”