Government

January

Washington, DC – Members of Congress received a letter from the leagueopposing the nomination of James Hormel as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. Theleague’s objections were based on Mr. Hormel’s tacit endorsement, during the1996 San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade, of the Sisters ofPerpetual Indulgence—a group of gay men in nuns’ habits who have been mockingthe Church for years. When invited by Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas to repudiate theantics of this group, nominee Hormel failed to do so.

March

Frederick County, MD – Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Mary AnnStepler issued a preliminary injunction ordering St. John’s Literary Institution, aCatholic high school, to reinstate two students who had been expelled for a sexualencounter in a school hallway. The students’ parents had sued the school and JudgeStepler, apparently unconcerned about separation of church and state, mandated that thestudents be allowed to continue attending the school pending the outcome of the lawsuit.Fortunately, when the school appealed, a U.S. District Court judge overturned theinjunction, upholding the school’s right to expel the students.

March 18

Albany, GA – An instructor licensed by the state of Georgia to conduct itsrequired course in Professional Ethics for licensed insurance agents used the course tooffer a biased, totally one-sided view of the Protestant Reformation. The instructordemeaned Catholicism, leading Catholic students to protest.

April

Providence, RI – A bill was introduced in the Rhode Island statelegislature that would force priests to break the seal of confession in cases of childabuse or neglect. The legislation would amend the “Privileged Communications toClergymen” law which stipulates that religious officials cannot be forced to revealthe contents of private conversations without the other person’s consent. A spokesmanfor the Diocese of Rhode Island warned that this bill does not distinguish between apriest who gives advice and one who hears a confession.

June

Washington, DC – The Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Patent and TrademarkOffice included St. Paul in a listing of homosexuals on fliers publicizing its FirstAnnual Gay Awareness Month Celebration. Asked by the league for the source by which St.Paul was so identified, the Patent and Trademark Office—after several days ofdelay—finally identified its sources as “the internet” and several unnamedbooks. Acknowledging that all information on the internet is not necessarily reliable, agovernment spokesman assured the league that St. Paul’s name had already been deletedfrom the electronic version of the flier, and would not again appear in print.

July 17

Hempstead, NY – A New York State employee charged that she was subjectedto a slur against Irish-Catholics by an administrative judge. The woman reported to theleague and to state authorities that while she and several other employees watched a videoof Irish stepdancing during their lunch hour, the judge entered the room, saw what theywere watching, and commented, “Those Irish Catholics are stupid.” When shechallenged him, she reported, he repeated the comment twice more, as well as “othercruelties” that she said she was too upset to remember verbatim. An investigation bystate authorities has been ongoing.

August

Raleigh, NC – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an arm of theUnited States government, sought to intervene to dictate the personnel practices of theDiocese of Raleigh. Ignoring separation of church and state, the EEOC ordered the dioceseto rehire Joyce Austin, whom the diocese had fired as its director of music ministry. TheEEOC also mandated that all diocesan employees undergo training in Title VII of the CivilRights Act. The diocese refused to cooperate, insisting that the EEOC had no authority tomake such a ruling.

September 24

Mesa Verde National Park, CO – A national park ranger, explaining thetransformation of the Pueblo Indian culture from matriarchal to patriarchal, attributed itto the incursion of Europeans in the 1540s. In trying to “do away with their cultureand assimilate them into the Spanish society,” the ranger declared, the Europeanscommunicated to the natives that “you’re Catholic or you’re dead.”

October 4

Queens, NY – U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato, running for re-election,gave a highly partisan speech from the pulpit of Rev. Floyd Flake’s AME Church. Rev.Flake, a former Congressman, also made partisan political remarks, and promised that hewould soon issue an endorsement of either Sen. D’Amato or his opponent, Rep. CharlesSchumer (Flake ultimately endorsed D’Amato). There was no outcry about separation ofchurch and state, no saber-rattling about the church’s tax exempt status—asthere is whenever a Catholic religious leader even dares to touch upon a public policyissue.

November

Salem, OR – The Oregon Office of Public Instruction ignored repeated callsby the league to investigate a Halloween incident in which faculty and staffat Tillamook High School ridiculed the Catholic Church. Dressed as a priest and nuns (infull habit complete with huge rosary beads), faculty and staff were pictured in a localnewspaper pointing large rulers at a student who crouched before them. The league demandedthat separation of church and state—which make it impermissible for real priests andnuns to wear their religious garb into a public school in order to promote the Catholicfaith—be applied equally to those public school employees who wear Catholic religiousgarb into their school in order to ridicule the Church. After the Oregon Office of PublicInstruction repeatedly failed to respond to this matter, the league took its complaint tothe U.S. Department of Education.

November 2

President Clinton and New York Congressman Charles Schumer, at the time a candidatefor the United States Senate, gave highly partisan political speeches in Protestantchurches just two days before the election—and no outcries of separation of churchand state were heard.

November 7

Marrero, LA – After Archbishop Shaw High School suspended two students whohad been arrested for attempted rape, a Louisiana district court judge issued a temporaryrestraining order against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archbishop Shaw High School andits principal, Father Richard Rosin. In a flagrant violation of the principle ofseparation of church and state, Judge Robert A. Pitre not only blocked the Catholic schoolfrom suspending the students, but also mandated that they be permitted to continue playingon Archbishop Shaw’s football team. The two students subsequently transferred out ofthe school voluntarily, leaving the judge’s violation of church-state separationunresolved legally.

November 30

Pittsfield, MA – The city Parks Commission denied permission for a privatecitizen to erect a 3-by-5-foot crèche in Common Park, a public park which is open todisplays by private citizens. Two weeks later, apparently realizing that this decision wasin violation of Supreme Court rulings protecting private religious expression in suchpublic settings, the commission reversed itself and allowed the crèche to be displayed.

December

Cortland Manor, NY – The Cortland Community Center, whose holiday displayincluded a religious symbol, a menorah, along with such secular symbols as a Christmastree and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, at first rejected a request to add a nativity scene.However, after the league explained that it is legally permissible, the Community Centeragreed to permit a crèche to be displayed.

December

Las Vegas, NV – McCarran Airport continued its holiday tradition ofdisplaying a menorah, while refusing to allow space for a privately sponsored nativityscene.

December

San Diego, CA – The San Diego Metropolitan Development Board (MTDB)ordered the removal of Christmas ads which had been placed on its buses by the MissionValley Christian Fellowship. The ads, which read, “A gift to die for. Jesus did”and “The gift that keeps on forgiving. Jesus” were deemed in conflict with anMTDB policy which bars advertisements that “might be offensive to any religious,ethnic, racial, or political group.” Following a letter to the MTDB from theleague’s San Diego chapter, and an address at an MTDB meeting by Mission ValleyChristian Fellowship senior pastor Leo Giovinetti, the MTDB voted 14-0 to restore the adsand revisit their advertisement policy.

December

Nyack, NY – The village of Nyack’s official newsletter, in an articleon the “Common Thread” running through the December holidays, described thespiritual significance attributed to Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The description of Christmas,however, focused on brightly lit Christmas trees and candles in windows—with nomention of its spiritual basis. The newsletter’s December calendar also illustratedthe start of Hanukkah with a religious symbol—the Star of David—while Christmas


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Written by Bill