The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed a lawsuit with the Internal Revenue Service that raises an interesting question. The group challenges the government’s different treatment of religious and non-religious non-for-profit organizations. While tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations must file a detailed application form, fee and annual information to obtain and maintain their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious organizations are exempted from the requirement to file the reports and fees. The lawsuit alleges that the added expensive and detailed paperwork is a form of discrimination against non-religious groups.
Archive for December, 2012
People are hoping to see less of Robert Moore, 48, but a court released the defendant who was arrested in Plymouth after “spraying urine to and fro into the flower beds while making noises like an elephant.” Despite his lawyer admitting that Moore has a “raging alcohol problem” and exposing himself of children, he was released and given another chance to tackle his drinking.
There is rising concern in Zanzibar that it is poised to be the next the next country to fall to extreme Islamic rule. While long a favorite for tourists for its beaches and resorts, the Saudi-based Wahhabi movement has established hundreds of schools and programs with money from Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The result is rising criticism of what Suleiman Ali, director of Radio Al-Noor, called the outbreak of “social freedoms.”
I suppose the good news for the Church of Scientology is that Belgium is no longer calling it a cult. The bad news is that it has moved on to calling is a criminal organization in a comprehensive set of charges ranging from extortion to fraud to privacy breaches to the illegal practice of medicine. The charges follow years of investigation into labor contracts that led to raids on Church properties in 2008. In 2009, Scientology was convicted of fraud in Paris and fined almost $1 million.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
If you are like me, you remember the violent response by the FBI, DHS and local police forces to the many “Occupy” movement protests last Fall. In those protests, the police used incredible force and firepower to break up peaceful protests and make a mockery of the First Amendment. The police responses always seemed to be coordinated from city to city and there were allegations that the FBI and other governmental agencies were aiding the local authorities in stamping down the First Amendment rights of the Occupy protestors. Now, a treasure trove of documents was released pursuant to a Freedom of Information request by a group called The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. Those documents expose a level of governmental intrusion into the privacy of protestors and governmental and private bank partnerships designed to crack down on legal protestors. (more…)
or Killers, Media and (Unintended?) Celebrity
by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
Did that headline get your attention? It was meant to do so. Sex and violence sells.
In my usual perusal of the news, I came across a death notice for someone who was famous for no other reason than she killed her wealthy lover. My immediate response was, “Why does anyone care?” She’s simply a murderer and as such her memory (as opposed to remembering the victim) and her passing should be lost in the sands of time. The manifest answer for her receiving attention was celebrity. This person was made famous by the media exposure her crime, trial and conviction created. The operative term there being “made”. Her celebrity was manufactured. The notice of her death was just another example of the business of media trading off of the celebrity they helped manufacture. Her celebrity was manufactured by an industry that was once and ideally still is primarily in the information business – journalism. Not all journalism is created equal though. Indeed, there is more than one recognized form of journalism. Good investigative and basic factual journalism is based on the simple structure of the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how” and occasionally the ancillary commentary of “why”. A focus on”why” is often coupled with “what to do about it” in the form of advocacy journalism. Advocacy journalism often strays from imparting information and persuasive speech into outright propaganda. That is its nature. Increasingly news media is less about information and more about sensationalism. Tabloid journalism (writing which uses opinionated or wild claims) and yellow journalism (writing which emphasizes exaggerated claims or rumors) are becoming more the norm rather than the exception. Many items that pass for “news” are in reality little more than long form advertisements for some product or service. As the essence of communicating important information has been watered down by the solvents of sensationalism and advertisement, our society has become overwhelmed with what is now colloquially called the neologistic portmanteau of “infotainment”.
Is this shift from news to infotainment in part responsible for a culture that makes celebrities out of killers? Or is it human nature that prompts such sensationalism and misplaced celebrity? Can anything be done to mitigate these circumstances and minimize the potential celebrity of killers?
For months, I have criticized the tax policies of France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, particularly the confiscatory 75 percent tax rate for the wealthiest French. In addition to being in my view unfair, it is extremely bad economic policy. France’s Constitutional Council now appears to agree — at least on the equitable side. On Saturday, the Council rejected a 75 percent upper income tax rate on annual income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million) as an unfair treatment of different households. Popular figures like French actor Gerard Depardieu have opposed the tax and even left the country. The French experience should get some in the United States to dial down on our own over-heated rhetoric on economic policy. (Yes, I will now vent a bit on economic policy).
Submitted By: Mike Spindell. Guest Blogger
Mythology can be seen as the social glue of diverse groups. It is the accumulation of tales, beliefs, moral strictures and mores that gives a specific population a sense of homogeneity, allowing it to exist with synergy. This is true of nations, ethnic groups, religions and even political movements. One of the defining conditions in our nation is that we are one of the most diverse on this planet when it comes to religions and ethnicities. All of our original thirteen states came into existence via individual peculiarities of settlers, religious sects, slavery, climate and the spoils system of colonialism. About a third of the citizens of those thirteen colonies, of the nascent United States, chafed under foreign domination and engendered a rebellion against the British Empire’s exploitation. Among that fractional populace, there fortunately resided a group of the colonies wealthiest citizens and greatest minds. The rebellion succeeded and a decade later a government emerged created by the novelty of a Constitution delineating how it was to be run.
As improbable as the rebellion against the world’s greatest power might have seemed, the ongoing success of this enterprise is even more of an improbability. From the beginning most citizens saw themselves as attached more to their individual states, than to the Federal Government. The subsequent history of this country is well-known, but what I think often gets missed is that the history as we know it is mostly a creation of an American mythology, which has given consistency to this diverse enterprise and served to inculcate waves of immigrants into seeing themselves as part of America. While a nation’s mythology may serve it as “social glue” it can also contain within it seeds of social dysfunction. What follows is my take on the American Myth of the “Rugged Individualist” and why though it may have had initial utilitarian value; it has become cancerous within our country and may lead to the disintegration of America as we know it. (more…)
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Duke neuroscientist, Michael Platt, has an intriguing theory. What if altruism isn’t just learned at your mother’s knee but is really a result of evolved brain chemistry? In a study he co-authored and published in the journal, Nature Neuroscience, Platt wondered why certain primates act unselfishly. Animal behaviorists have long known that monkeys will go without food rather than see a member of their species shocked, and mice will starve to avoid hurting other mice. Major news stories around the world have told the tales of animals risking their own safety to protect humans and other animals. In one recent episode, Binti Jua, a female gorilla saved a three-year-old boy from other gorillas when he fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Brookline Zoo. In another, a dog in Chile dodged traffic on a busy freeway to drag his canine companion to safety after it had been struck and rendered unconscious.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Poly Prep Country Day School (known familiarly as “Poly Prep”) is an elite K-12 private school located in Brooklyn, New York. In 1966, Poly Prep hired Phil Foglietta as a phy-ed teacher and coach of its woeful football team. The complaint, filed with the U. S. District Court Eastern District of New York, alleges that Foglietta sexual abused of dozens if not hundreds of boys.
Voters in Idaho just got over the scandal involving Larry Craig and a certain airport bathroom. Now, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) has been arrested for DUI in Alexandria, Virginia. A DUI would appear to be less of a political threat than an alleged attempt at a homosexual bathroom tryst. However, Crapo is a Mormon and told police that he had three shots of vodka that night. In a state with the second highest Mormon population in the United States, such an admission is not going to be well received. It may be that the image of being a “Jack Mormon” could be a lasting problem for Crapo.
We have been following the growing protests over rapes in India this month. This includes a brutal gang rape on a city bus and an alleged rape of a victim by police officers. Now, a 17-year-old Indian girl who was gang-raped has committed suicide after she claimed that police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.
I have previously written about the criminalization of America as politicians turn every objectionable act into a crime. I have criticized this trend in columns (here and here) and numerous blogs on the criminalization of using artificial turf to growing vegetable gardens to eating french fries in the subway. Now owners of an old-fashioned soda shop in St. Paul, Minn. were threatened with fines and a misdemeanor citation unless they stopped selling novelty candy cigarettes. Lynden’s Soda Fountain was unaware that it was committing a crime by selling the long-common items.
We have yet another case of a police shooting of a family dog. This case involved a particularly tragic
occurrence on Christmas Day. Kobi, a 70-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback mix was shot dead by a Chicago police officer. Chicago has previously appeared on these pages for dog shootings. The family says that the police opened the gate to the backyard where Kobi was being kept and then shot him when he came out. They were looking for a suspect. The police department insists that the officers acted appropriately.
In one of the more novel federal disciplinary actions that I have encountered, a federal employee in Baltimore was given a formal reprimand for excessive workplace flatulence — a reprimand that involved a remarkably wide range of reviews and supervisory interventions. The 38-year-old Maryland employee, who insists that he is lactose intolerant, was the subject of an actual log recording his “release [of] the awful and unpleasant odor.”
German scientists from Kiel University and the Hamburg University of Technology have created the world’s lightest material, aerographite — a material six times lighter than air and 5,000 times less dense than water. This experiment shows the material Aerographite attracted by a charged polymer rod.
On Christmas Day, people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama got an unwelcomed visitor with the arrival of 34 tornadoes. This surveillance from a Walgreen shows the sudden and destructive appearance. At least 100 homes and businesses were damaged. It is a perfectly awful thing to have to deal with on Christmas but fortunately there is no reports of deaths.
YouTube has resulted in a range of arrests, singing contracts, and other recognitions for their virtual celebrity status. However, Havard Rugland may be the first to get a NFL tryout from a YouTube posting. The Norwegian posted this video showing his incredible kicking skills. It went viral and now he has had a tryout with the New York Jets.
As the government deals with ongoing scandal and protests over the gang rape of a student in New Delhi, another woman has come forward with an equally horrific account: she was allegedly raped by the police inspector after she went to report a rape. Maan Singh, a senior sub inspector (SSI) posted at Akbarpur police station in Ambedkar Nagar has now been arrested.
NBC is dealing with an unexpected legal problem after a segment by David Gregory, who displayed what he said was a high-capacity ammunition clip on “Meet the Press.” D.C. law prohibits the possession of high-capacity ammunition clips. This may have been a case where a picture — or consultation with counsel — might have been in order. There is no exception for the media in such possession cases.
The police in Toms River have an intriguing crime on their hands involving a mysterious woman, a chicken, and a diamond ring. A married man met a woman at a bar and took her home where he offered her some chicken and gave her $20. She gave him a piece of paper with her telephone number on it. However, after the man fell asleep, he woke to find the paper gone along with $55, his necklace, and his wife’s diamond ring.
Posted in Academics, Animals, Bizarre, Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal law, Environment, Free Speech, International, Justice, Lawyering, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, Supreme Court, Torts on 1, December 25, 2012 | 58 Comments »
Women in Swaziland can now be arrested for wearing mini-skirts or cropped tops because they are responsible for provoking their own rapes. The government has announced that it will now enforce an 1889 law banning “immoral” dressing. Of course, the same week an Iowa court held that employers could fire attractive women who may be too great a temptation for them.
A Saudi court has ordered the editor of a Saudi Arabian website to be tried for apostasy, and possibly executed, due to his criticism of the role of religion in the Saudi Kingdom. Raif Badawi, the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June and originally charged with insulting Islam. The court has now upgraded the charge to apostasy.
Another religious group this month made a moral statement through an act of unspeakable violence. In Southern Pakistan, a mentally ill man was accused of burning a copy of the Koran. A mob proceeded to storm a police station and grab the man, beat him to death, and burn him to death.
Life under Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to return to the old Soviet standards this month after a Chechen newspaper was closed following an embarrassing comment by the editor-in-chief in the presence of the Russia strongman. Worse yet, people actually laughed when Belkis Dudayeva, the editor-in-chief of Kadyrov’s Path, asked a question that began with “Thank God that Chechnya has now become a region of peace and prosperity…”
We have previously discussed the disturbing fondness of some Russians for the memory of Josef Stalin — one of history’s greatest tyrants. Villagers in Georgia have taken that hero worship a step further by storing a statue commemorating Josef Stalin in his (appropriately named) birth town of Gori and are planning a monument to the dictator. Activities celebrating the “happier times” under Stalin ignore the hundreds of thousands of Russians, particularly intelligentsia, killed under this orders and the millions lost due to this policies. Gori however appears happy to have its favorite son in the tyrant’s chair. The story this month truly filled me with disgust and it was particularly poignant that these Georgians would use the Christmas season to honor one of history’s mass murderers.
It appears that “debonding” is now both a permissible legal as well as dental procedure. The Iowa Supreme Court handed down a controversial ruling on Friday that a dentist, Fort Dodge Dr. James Knight, could fire an assistant due to an “irresistible attraction.” Melissa Nelson was fired because Knight and his wife viewed her as a threat to their marriage. Justice Edward Mansfield wrote for a unanimous court that such a firing does not violate the Iowa Civil Rights Act even if the employee does not engage in flirtatious behavior.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
Lost in the headlines about the Fiscal Cliff and the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, was the gubernatorial appointment to the United States Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint. Sen. DeMint was arguably the Tea Party’s Senator and his impending departure from the Senate to accept the position to head up the Heritage Foundation would have left a gaping hole in the Tea Party’s influence in the Senate. There is nothing to worry about because South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley named Tea Party Congressman Tim Scott to replace DeMint in the Senate. Rep. Scott was just elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and has already made a big name for himself in the Tea Party world by suggesting that President Obama should be impeached if Obama attempted to go around the House of Representatives during the last debt ceiling fiasco! (more…)
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Before we commercialized and infantilized every aspect of our culture, we used to understand the power of symbols. Our government was regarded as a benevolent uncle named Sam bidding us to do our part. Our soaring strength and spirit of ever climbing higher was embodied in an eagle. A bell in Philadelphia announced to the world that while our society was far from perfect it remained free of the Old World’s pretenses and encumbrances. A statue in a harbor welcomed even the wretched to a land promising both opportunity and hard work. Symbols define our ideals about life, desires, and even ourselves.
And regardless of your religious affiliation or if you have none at all, the symbol of Christmas remains one of life’s enduring icons of what is best in all of us. The holiday is personified by a fourth century clergyman, Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Myra lay in the Roman province of Lycia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Almost nothing is known about Nicholas except that he was born sometime around 260 CE and died after 333 CE. Most of his good works in Lycia are obscure and his piety is presumed but never verified. He stands as a part of history based on one story told and retold throughout the centuries.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
I don’t know about you but I was certainly happy that I woke up this morning. For a few years now there has been great speculation that the world was going to end yesterday. As I fell asleep about 1:00pm last night it was with knowing that in Mexico it was three hours earlier and so that the dread prediction of the world’s end by the Mayan Calendar still may have been possible. The whole idea was a blatant misrepresentation of Mayan belief and hoax-like, yet that didn’t prevent many from making this non-story into yet another way to frighten people. Frightening people with made-up nonsense seems to be a human trait and certainly has been exploited throughout history for one sort of gain or another.
Fear not though, because just as the collective We has just bitten one bullet, another comes along to frighten us once again with disaster and that “disaster” will occur on December 31, 2012, as we come to the end of another turmoil ridden year in societal intercourse. I’m writing, of course, about the “Looming Fiscal Cliff” that has been so very prominent in what our mainstream media calls “news and commentary” and our leaders of both parties call governance. My opinion and that of many others with far more economic expertise than myself, is that the “Fiscal Cliff” is a mere “bogeyman”, used by those politicians on the Right and the Left as leverage to accomplish their particular political agendas.
Since one of the interests of this blog is the Constitution and the consequent Rule of Law that should be its’ result, this comes within our purview because serious issues of national interest are being driven by false mythology grown to myth like proportion. Let’s look at what is behind this mythology and its propaganda. (more…)
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The 5-4 Supreme Court case of Rosenberger v. University of Virginia has been cited by those arguing that the government may not impose viewpoint-based restrictions by revoking the tax-exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church. The case involved the University’s refusal to use the Student Activities Fund (SAF) to pay for a Christian student newspaper, Wide Awake. The University argued that an SAF Guideline prohibited funds going to an activity that “primarily promotes or manifests a particular belie[f] in or about a deity or an ultimate reality.” The District Court ruled for the University, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit disagreed saying that there is a “presumptive violation of the Speech Clause when viewpoint discrimination was invoked to deny third party payment otherwise available.”
The Pope has again launched into what is becoming a disturbing mantra: gay marriage is threatening the future of mankind. Now that the Mayan apocalypse has passed, it appears the Pope is ready with a substituted menace of loving gay couples marrying. Pope Benedict XVI insisted that gender theories supporting homosexuality are false and that the world must confront “the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men.”
We have previously seen tragic cases of cancerous organs being used for transplants. The latest transplant victim is Jennifer Wederell, 27, of Essex England, a woman
born with cystic fibrosis. She was given a lung transplant, but it appears the donor was a smoker. Wederell then died from lung cancer on August 24 — 16 months after received the diseased lung.
We previously discussed the lawsuit over what was described as a roadside cavity search conducted on two women by a Texas police officer in search of marijuana possession. The Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Kelly Helleson has now been suspended with pay as the police investigate the matter, which was caught on videotape. What I fail to understand is why, once again, nothing happened until the public rose up in anger over the absurd actions of the police. Moreover, there is no mention of the first officer who used the fact that Angel Hobbs, 38, had thrown a cigarette butt out of her window to interrogate the two women on possible pot use and then searched their car.
We previously discussed the horrific gang rape and beating of a young woman on a city bus in Delhi, India. A senior law enforcement official in India sparked outrage Thursday after his comments on preventing rape amid widespread protests following the brutal gang rape of a student on a public bus. The rape and beating was so severe that the woman is on a ventilator and her intestines were so severely ruptured that doctors had to remove them to prevent gangrene. Now, Commissioner KP Raghuvanshi, head of police in Thane, has come forward with a solution: women should not go out at night and, when they do go out, they should carry chili powder to throw at rapists. Women in India have responded angrily to the idea of fighting off gangs of rapists with chili powder.
Oakland, California is in the midst of a crime wave and remains the fifth-most crime ridden city in America. Nevertheless, the city fired one-fourth of its police department — over 200 officers. However, in the latest example of the lunacy of public subsidies for professional football and baseball teams, the city is forking over $17.3 million for the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders and Major League Baseball’s Athletics. These owners are racking in huge profits but Oakland and other cities continue to subsidize the teams despite studies (here and here) showing that these teams do not bring in enough revenue to pay for the huge debt associated with new stadiums. However, the teams grab of millions from an economically crippled city explains why the team is called “the Raiders.”
If you are reading this blog, it means that once again we have been duped. I woke up this morning to find civilization continuing and all of my court filings and exam grades still due. I was counting on the apocalypse and frankly I will never trust an ancient Mayan again. I was a bit suspicious when they failed to foresee their own destruction in the 9th Century.
There is a new disturbing video (below) showing police abuse this week. The video shows a Texas state trooper performing what was claimed to be a cavity search on the roadside on suspicion of possession of marijuana. It appears that while states like Colorado are legalizing marijuana, Texas is allegedly doing cavity searches to find someone in possession of weed. I guess it should be no surprise when you are driving on the George Bush Turnpike. The two women — Angel Dobbs, 38, and her niece, Ashley Dobbs, 24 — subject to the humiliating search are now suing the police.
We have repeatedly discussed the absurdity of U.S. copyright laws and how law firms have become virtual thug patrols threatening average citizens with ruin over small copyright violations. President Obama has been repeatedly criticized for being in the pocket of “copyright hawks” and lobbyists who have used the Administration to increase the penalties and scope of these laws. The Congress has also been a virtual extension of industry groups and lobbyists in the area. For that reason, many people were shocked when Rep. Jim Jordan published a critical report entitled RSC Policy Brief: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it.” It was a strong condemnation of how these laws are not stifling creativity and various industries. It was the first such report anyone could remember that was not written by lobbyists for draconian copyright laws. Then it was gone. Gone. According to various sites, the eight page document was removed from the website. Some sites opined that the various industry groups saw it and quashed it — but not before some sites like the one below copied it.
We have another horrific gang rape committed overseas by men who claim to be teaching a woman good morals. The physiotherapy student was attacked on a city bus in Delhi after watching a movie with a male friend. Six drunk men got on the bus and reportedly attacked the woman for being out at night with a man and decided to “teach her a lesson” by beating them both and repeatedly raping the woman. The rape and beating was so severe that the woman is on a ventilator and her intestines were so severely ruptured that doctors had to remove them to prevent gangrene.
There is an interesting and tragic case out of Northern Illinois University in Dekalb where 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity have been criminally charged in the death of student David Bogenberger, 19, after a frat event with excessive drinking. It is one of the largest such prosecutions, if not the largest, that I have seen for a hazing or frat drinking death. The question is whether this is a matter that should be addressed on the criminal opposed to the civil docket as well as school proceedings for expulsion.
We have previously discussed the curious definition of prostitution in this country. Many libertarians and others believe that consenting adults should be able to consent to such arrangements. My long-standing interest is the legal definition (and fairness) of the criminal code in defining prostitution. If someone agrees to have sex for money, they are arrested as a prostitute. However, if you accept money to have sex with multiple people in a porn movie, you are an actress. Now, Cheryl Cohen Greene, a 68-year-old grandmother and cancer survivor, adds another possible exception. She is a “sexual surrogate” who works with men who are sick or disabled in ‘sexual therapy.’
We previously discussed the suggestion by a member of Congress that the Connecticut massacre could have been avoided if only teachers were carrying M-4 assault rifles. Now the Governor of Michigan is considering bringing that a little closer to reality with a bill that would allow concealed guns in public schools. Referring to the Connecticut massacre, Senator Tom Casperson, the Republican sponsor of the bill, said “to me it gives [teachers] a chance.” [Update: the Michigan Governor Rick Synder has vetoed the legislation]