By Staff, World News Magazine
NEW ORLEANS – When the City of New Orleans passed a ban that kept Troy Bohn’s ministry from preaching in the famous French Quarter, the group found an unlikely ally – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Months after the ministry’s initial run-in with New Orleans police, city council members recently lifted the ban. Raven Ministries has worked on Bourbon Street since 1960. But in October 2011, the city passed a ban on disseminating “any social, political, or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise.”
Even so, the ministry continued holding “street church” on Friday and Saturday nights. They don’t “chase people,” Bohn said. They set up shop, and talk to people who are interested.
Trouble didn’t come until this past September, when police showed up and arrested Bohn and two of his coworkers. Bohn called the ban “a blatant violation of First Amendment speech.” Police gave the evangelists a citation and held them for a couple of hours.
Bohn told officers people needed to hear his message and insisted he would be back the next day. That’s when the ACLU contacted the ministry, and said it wanted to take the case. Bohn said the man on the phone admitted he didn’t agree with the ministry, but said the city’s ordinance was a violation of the First Amendment.
The ACLU won a restraining order against the ban in late September, and Bohn and his group have continued preaching since then.
GAO Takes Step Toward Holding Planned Parenthood Accountable
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood and related organizations, a move some lawmakers are calling the first official look into abortion providers’ use of federal subsidies.
Direct funding of abortion is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the government from being Planned Parenthood’s largest source of funding. Counting Medicaid reimbursements, Planned Parenthood received $542 million in taxpayer money in the fiscal year that ended in June 2012. That’s 45 percent of the organization’s budget, giving it financial stability to continue or expand abortion services through other funding sources.
“Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions clearly benefit from Uncle Sam,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La, said in a statement. “But there’s no accounting to prove how they actually use that money.”
Oregon Business Fights Half-Baked Discrimination Complaint
GRESHAM, Ore. – Two lesbians have filed a discrimination complaint in Oregon against a bakery that refused in January to make their wedding cake.
Aaron and Melissa Klein own Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., and say their Christian beliefs prevent them from baking wedding cakes for homosexual couples.
WORLD reported in February that Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer requested a cake, but the Kleins said they would not participate in something they “strongly disagree” with.
Bowman and Cryer ordered their own cake in January. When they came for the consultation, Aaron Klein apologized and told them the bakery wouldn’t bake their cake.
Melissa Klein said they have turned down several other homosexual couples, but this is the first complaint anyone has ever filed against them. “Pretty much everybody understood, and they went somewhere else,” Klein said.
The official complaint, filed with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, arrived on Tuesday. The Kleins have 14 days to respond. “I honestly don’t know what comes after that,” Klein said.
According to the Oregon Constitution Article XV, section 5a, “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.” But the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 protects LGBT people from discrimination in areas including employment, jury service, and public school education.
The complaint will go to an investigator, who may recommend the case go to court. If it does, the judge may hand it over to the state’s labor commissioner, Brad Avakian, for a final decision.
“The goal is never to shut down a business,” Avakian said. “The goal is to rehabilitate.”
Not in This House
Another Christian wedding industry business is facing potential legal action over its owners’ belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Dick and Betty Odgaard run The Görtz Haus Gallery, a popular spot in Grimes, Iowa, for wedding ceremonies. But the Odgaards declined to rent it to two men for their wedding ceremony, saying they could not in good conscience host the event.
“To us, [marriage] is a sacrament” that exists only “between a man and woman,” Betty Odgaard said. She said she was happy to work with the couple and willing to let them use the gallery for everything but the actual exchange of vows.
But the gay couple filed a legal complaint before the Iowa Human Rights Commission. They said the business was a public venue that must allow couples to use it regardless of their sexual orientation or the business owners’ beliefs.
Several businesses have faced similar retaliation for their beliefs about same-sex marriage. Gay couples have charged businesses providing wedding cakes, flowers, and photography with violating “anti-discrimination” statutes. Several have faced fines or court orders to work with gay couples.
Utah businessman wants
to protect churches
Although churches have yet to face legal challenges for not conducting or allowing their buildings to be used for same-sex wedding ceremonies, one Utah businessman believes they soon will be.
According to Utah’s Deseret News, Jonathan Johnson, executive vice chairman of the online retailer Overstock.com, has started a movement to protect churches from lawsuits by people demanding their services.
Johnson has proposed an amendment to the Utah constitution that would prohibit requiring a religious organization to “solemnize, officiate in, or recognize any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its beliefs.”
Johnson said he is fine with the state defining marriage how it chooses, but is worried about recent court rulings that continue to interpret “equal protection” in favor of gay rights.
“At the end of the day, when equal protection and First Amendment free exercise of religion rights butt up against each other,” Johnson said, “then churches should be able to practice what they preach and believe.”
To get the amendment on the ballot next year, Johnson will have to persuade both chambers of the Utah legislature to support it. He had wanted to include businesses in the amendment’s protective language but feared that might hinder its chances for success.
Hempfest Celebrates Legalized Marijuana
Hempfest, a three-day festival that attracted an estimated 85,000 people per day, took place Aug. 16 in Seattle. It is he first year of the festival since Seattle legalized marijuana, though cops have long been lenient about use of pot during the festival.
This year, though, the police went one step further: They passed out bags of Doritos with messages attached explaining the new marijuana law, which still (supposedly) prohibits use in a public space. The message does not, however, mention that marijuana causes memory loss, intoxication, and dependence.
“Hook Up Culture” Study Reveals Generational Changes
A new study on the “self-reported sexual behavior” of college students offers some troubling results.
The study, by University of Portland Professor Michael Monto, compares the sexual behavior of students who attended college between 2002 and 2010 with students who went to college between 1988 and 1996.
About 59 percent of today’s students say they have sex at least weekly. That compares to 65 percent of the earlier era’s students. About 77 percent say they have had a “regular sexual partner” in the past year.
Today’s students are also more likely than their predecessors to have had sex with a friend, casual date, or other non-regular partner in the past year, as compared to college students of the past, by a small but significant margin. Self-reported sexual behavior from teenagers is notoriously inaccurate, and this study has not yet been peer-reviewed.