The Week in Review: April 3 thru 9

Yet Another Blogger in Bangladesh Has Been Brutally Murdered for Criticizing Islam on the Internet; Al-Qaeda Affiliate Claims Responsibility

by Sugam Pokharel, Ivan Watson, and Yuli Yang at CNN

Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladesh division of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, has claimed responsibility for the recent killing of blogger Nazimuddin Samad, the jihadist monitoring group SITE reported Friday.

Machete-wielding attackers in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka killed Samad, 26, the sixth secularist writer or publisher to be killed in the city in the last 14 months.
Police said the attack late Wednesday on Samad, a master’s student at Jagannath University, was planned.

“He was on his way back home from his evening classes when he was circled by a group of three to four people,” said Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Nurul Amin of the Dhaka Police.

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And in Response to This Latest Murder, the Bangladeshi Government Announces They Will Scrutinize His Writings to See If He Had Written Anything Objectionable About Religion

from The Daily Star

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal today said that the write-ups of the slain secular activist Nazimuddin Samad are needed to be scrutinized to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion.

He underscored the need for scrutiny in an interview with BBC Bangla Service while asked about possible cause behind the killing. Unidentified assailants hacked and shot Samad, 26, a law student of Jagannath University, to death in the capital’s Hrishikesh Das Lane last night.

“I cannot say right now why it happened or what exactly happened. I need to gather information first,” the minister responded, when asked about the murder that took place Wednesday night.

“It is needed to see whether he has written anything objectionable in his blogs.”

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An Indiana State Police Officer Was Fired Because He Couldn’t Stop Proselytizing During Traffic Stops

by Greg Margason at Fox 59

Indiana State Police terminated a trooper Thursday after a second complaint in 18 months that he was preaching to citizens after stopping them for traffic violations.

State police say this was in direct violation of an August 2014 counseling statement where Senior Trooper Brian L. Hamilton, 40, was told in writing, “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.”

The most recent traffic stop happened in January of this year, but Hamilton was sued in September of 2014 in a similar case, which was settled.

The ACLU filed a claim Tuesday on behalf of a Fayette County woman, Wendy Pyle, saying her constitutional rights were violated.

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U.S. District Judge Orders Chino Valley School Board to Cover the Court Costs for Plantiffs That Sued Them to Stop Prayers/Proselytizing During Meetings

by Beau Yarbrough at The Sun

Almost two months after the Chino Valley Unified school board was ordered to cut out the heavy use of prayer during meetings, the same federal judge is ordering four board members to pay for the legal fees of the winning side.

On Feb. 18, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal ordered the board to end its years-long tradition of “reciting prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing at board meetings.” The school board has been opening its meetings with religious invocations since November 2013. On March 7, the board voted to hire the Murrieta-based law firm Tyler & Bursch to handle their appeal.

In the meantime, Bernal wants the three board members leading the spiritual charge in the district to pay the legal fees of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Wisconsin-based group that sued the district over the prayer issue, along with anonymous district staff, students and community members.

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A Mississippi RV Park Owner Evicts an Interracial Couple Because His Church Doesn’t Condone Interracial Marriages

by Jerry Mitchell at The Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi RV park owner evicted an interracial couple because of the color of their skin.

“Me and my husband, not ever in 10 years have we experienced any problem,” said Erica Flores Dunahoo, who is Hispanic and Native American and whose husband, a National Guardsman, is African-American. “Nobody’s given us dirty looks. This is our first time.”

More than a half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination on the basis of race, Gene Baker acknowledged asking the interracial couple to leave his RV park near Tupelo.

Baker, who lives in Aberdeen, said he only did it because “the neighbors were giving me such a problem.”

The NAACP is investigating.

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Speaking of Mississippi, They’ve Now Made It Legal for Businesses to Discriminate Based upon Religious Beliefs

by Eliott C. McLaughlin at CNN

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a controversial religious freedom bill Tuesday, a piece of legislation that gay rights groups and the state’s businesses have decried as discriminatory.

Protesters had urged the governor not to sign it, saying it enables discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
But Bryant said he signed the bill into law “to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government.”
The legislation does not challenge federal law — “even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution” — and reinforces First Amendment rights, a statement from the governor said.
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Idaho Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Allowed the Bible to Be Used in Classrooms

from CBS News

Idaho Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have expressly permitted the use of the Bible in public school instruction, calling the measure unconstitutional.

In the veto’s accompanying letter Otter said he respected the Bible, but the measure would result in costly litigation for Idaho’s public schools. He said the measure directly contradicts Idaho’s Constitution.

The bill stated the Bible could be used for reference purposes in subjects like literature, history, music and world geography in public schools, but not scientific subjects.

Schools are already allowed to reference the Bible and other religious texts, but this legislation specifically mentioned the Bible.

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Muslim Men in Pakistan Are Fighting for Their “God-Given Right” to Beat and/or Kill Their Daughters and Wives

by Gavin Fernando at The New York Post

Groups of hard-line, right-wing Islamic extremists across Pakistan have banded together in protest to reclaim the right to abuse and kill their wives and daughters.

The country has finally taken a progressive step forward on gender equality, but some men still believe the mistreatment of women is their divine, God-given right.

The controversy began when the Pakistani government introduced the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, which effectively criminalizes violence against women in Punjab — the country’s most populous region.

Before the law was officially enacted on March 1, die hard extremists attempted to block the legislation, saying it would “destroy the family system in Pakistan” and “add to the miseries of women.”

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U.S. District Judge Blocks Attempt to Add Christian Cross to Los Angeles County Seal

by Johnathan Lloyd at NBC News

A judge sided with plaintiffs Thursday who claimed it was unconstitutional for Los Angeles County to restore a cross on its seal, marking a victory for a civil rights group in a long-running legal battle.

In 2014, the LA County Board of Supervisors chose to reinstate the cross on top of a representation of the San Gabriel Mission on the seal. The mission and other images appear on the symbol, first adopted in January 1957, modified in 2004 and again by the Board of Supervisors in 2014.

The ACLU of Southern California then filed a lawsuit challenging that decision, claiming adding the religious symbol violates the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state. The original seal had a cross over the Hollywood Bowl, but it was removed when the seal was redesigned in 2004 after the ACLU threatened legal action.

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Hemant Mehta Debunks the Christian Persecution Cases That Inspired the ‘God’s Not Dead’ Films

by Hemant Mehta at Patheos

One of the biggest complaints critics have of God’s Not Dead and its sequel is that both films suggest a kind of Christian persecution that just doesn’t exist in real life.

No philosophy professor would ever force you to say God doesn’t exist, just like no atheist group would sue a teacher over a harmless mention of Jesus in the classroom.

But the filmmakers insist this sort of anti-Christian discrimination happens all the time. Just to prove it, in both films, the closing credits include a list of court cases supposedly documenting this very thing.

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Americans United File ‘Friend-of-the-Court’ Brief Against Jewish Couple Who Wants Taxpayers to Pay for Their Child’s Religious-Based Education

from Americans United for Separation of Church and State

An Orthodox Jewish family in Maryland does not have the right to a publicly funded religious education for their special-needs child, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed yesterday, Americans United and its allies told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that while all special-needs children have the right to a quality public education, none has the right to taxpayer-funded religious instruction.

 “All children deserve a strong public education,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Maryland education officials were fully willing to accommodate this youngster, yet his parents were unsatisfied because they want the child to receive religious lessons. That is their right, but they must pay for it themselves.”
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