Cop says Red Cross told him not to pray with flood victims

A law enforcement officer said he was asked to leave a Red Cross shelter in Lafayette, Louisiana after he prayed with several flood victims.

Clay Higgins, a reserve city marshal and a local legend, dropped by after work to minister to evacuees at the Heymann Performing Arts Center on Aug. 19.

“I was not proselytizing,” he told me. “I was just there to thank volunteers and offer prayers and encouragement.”

Higgins, who is also running for Congress, was dressed in uniform and was holding a Bible.

At some point during the visit a volunteer approached Higgins and mentioned there was a problem.

“He said the Red Cross had an issue with me being there,” Higgins said. “So I asked him what the problem was. He looked down at my Bible and he gestured and said, ‘They have a problem with that.’”

Higgins said he was escorted to a Red Cross supervisor who asked him to leave.

“I was told that the Red Cross does not allow spiritual counseling in their shelters,” he said. “The supervisor told me the Red Cross is not a religious-based organization and they don’t allow religious interaction with the residents.”

Original Publication

Federal Transgender Bathroom Access Guidelines Blocked by Judge

A federal judge on Sunday blocked the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines that were intended to expand restroom access for transgender students across the country.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas said in a 38-page ruling, which he said should apply nationwide, that the government had not complied with federal law when it issued “directives which contradict the existing legislative and regulatory text.”

Document: Preliminary Injunction Order
Judge O’Connor, whom President George W. Bush nominated to the federal bench, said that not granting an injunction would put states “in the position of either maintaining their current policies in the face of the federal government’s view that they are violating the law, or changing them to comply with the guidelines and cede their authority over this issue.”

The judge’s order, in a case brought by officials from more than a dozen states, is a victory for social conservatives in the continuing legal battles over the restroom guidelines, which the federal government issued this year. The culture war over the rights of transgender people, and especially their right to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identities, has emerged as an emotional cause among social conservatives.

The Obama administration’s assertion that the rights of transgender people in public schools and workplaces are protected under existing laws against sex discrimination has been condemned by social conservatives, who said the administration was illegally intruding into local affairs and promoting a policy that would jeopardize the privacy and safety of school children.

The ruling could deter the administration from bringing new legal action against school districts that do not allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

“We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama administration’s latest illegal federal overreach,” Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas said in a statement on Monday. “This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform.”

Original Publication

Air Force officer faces investigation over Bible on his desk

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is demanding an Air Force major be “aggressively punished” for having an open Bible on his desk at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“It [the Bible] is very obviously a statement of Christian preference, Christian primacy,” MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein told me. “Had that been the Book of Satan or the Koran there would be blood in the freaking streets.”

He accused Maj. Steve Lewis, a supervisor at the Reserve National Security Space Institute, of “harboring and encouraging a truly abhorrent example of First Amendment civil rights violations.”

Mr. Weinstein is a fussy little fellow, isn’t he?

Col. Damon Feltman, the commander of the 310th Space Wing, told me they are reviewing the incident involving the Good Book.

“He has removed the Bible voluntarily because he didn’t want this to cause attention or disruption to his unit,” Col. Feltman said. “I’ve performed a walk-through of the office and everything seemed to be in compliance with Air Force regulation.”

So when will Maj. Lewis be able to return the Bible to his desk?

“I’m waiting on the unit commander’s review of the situation before making a final assessment,” the colonel said.

Original Publication

State senator drops proposal that angered religious universities in California

Faced with intense opposition from religious colleges in California, a state Senator said Wednesday he has decided to amend a bill by dropping a provision that would have allowed gay and transgender students to more easily sue private universities for discrimination if they are disciplined for violating church teachings.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is removing a provision of his bill that sought to take away the exemption of religious schools to anti-discrimination laws. Instead, he will press forward with the amended bill that would still require such schools to disclose if they have an exemption and report to the state when students are expelled for violating morality codes.

“The goal for me has always been to shed the light on the appalling and unacceptable discrimination against LGBT students at these private religious institutions throughout California,” Lara said.

“I don’t want to just rush a bill that’s going to have unintended consequences so I want to take a break to really study this issue further,” the senator said. He said the requirement for schools to report expulsions based on morality codes to the state Commission on Student Aid will give him information on how common such cases are.

The senator said he will pursue other legislation next year, possibly including the provision dropped Wednesday.

Lara’s decision came after a half-dozen universities formed a new committee called the Assn. of Faith Based Institutions and contributed $350,000.

The group has flooded the districts of members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, including Chairwoman Lorena S. Gonzalez (D-San Diego), with mailers saying the bill violates religious freedoms and urging voters to contact their Assembly person.

“Stop state control of private education,” says one mailer to Gonzalez’s constituents. Her committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.

The institutions include Azusa Pacific University, Point Loma Nazarene University and William Jessup University.

After Lara’s announcement, the universities released a letter to the Senator that said “Pending review of this new language, we are pleased to change our position on this legislation from “oppose unless amended” to `support.’ “

The new flexing of political weight is in addition to lobbying that has been done on behalf of 32 universities by a group called Assn. of Independent California Colleges and Universities.

Association President Kristen F. Soares said she wants to see the final language before making a firm statement but said the group will likely end up supporting the bill as amended.

“It’s a positive development,” Soares said. “This gives us time to really work on the issue the senator is trying to address.”

Jessup President John Jackson said his university “can support a bill that includes the disclosure requirements of SB 1146 as previously written.”

As originally written, the bill would have allowed lawsuits from students who allege discriminatory treatment because they are in same-sex relationships or because they are required to use restrooms, locker rooms and student housing that do not correspond to the gender with which they identify, college officials say.

Just last week, opposition was voiced by Los Angeles Catholic Archbishop José Gomez and Bishop Charles Blake of the Church of God in Christ.

“As it is written today, SB 1146 would violate the religious freedom of faith-based colleges and could jeopardize higher educational opportunities for the tens of thousands of Californians they serve, including many who are black, Latino, Asian and low-income,” the two religious leaders wrote.   Original Publication