In February, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled homeschooling illegal in California and then swiftly granted a rehearing. Since then, numerous friend-of-court briefs have poured in ahead of new oral arguments slated for June 23. The California Teachers Association (CTA) argued that allowing parents to homeschool without a teaching credential will breed "educational anarchy." But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger disagreed, saying "homeschooling has a long and positive history in California and across the nation."
Conservatives do not regard Schwarzenegger as an ally, which is why his "strong opinion in favor of homeschooling shows just how mainstream the pro-homeschooling opinion really is," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which is representing the homeschooling program at issue in the case. The CTA opinion, Dacus added, "makes it very clear that the teachers union has absolutely no respect for the rights of parents."
The same four California justices who in May legalized gay marriage on June 4 denied a motion to stay their ruling pending the outcome of a November ballot initiative that would make such marriages illegal. The conservative Alliance Defense Fund had asked the court to halt gay weddings until voters decided on an initiative that would amend the state constitution to recognize only traditional marriage.
Attorneys general from 10 states had filed a friend-of-court brief arguing that a failure to grant the stay would lead to legal chaos surrounding the recognition of gay marriages in other states, particularly if California moves ahead with such weddings only to have voters reject them in November. But the majority disagreed and denied the stay without elaborating on its reasons. That means California clerks will begin issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples on June 17.
With a June 27 election runoff approaching, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe lashed out last week at Western aid groups. The aging dictator accused some groups, CARE International in particular, of interfering in the country's politics and ordered CARE to suspend aid operations that reach about 500,000 Zimbabweans.
Kenneth Walker, CARE's Africa communications director, denied the charges of political meddling, telling the Associated Press, "We have a very strict policy against political activity." Smaller aid groups reported a similar crackdown.
The Mugabe regime also briefly jailed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, his rival in the presidential election. "Mugabe is determined to turn the whole country into a war zone in order to subvert the will of the people and steal the June 27 election by any means possible," Tsvangirai said during a campaign stop before his arrest.
Sen. Barack Obama credits a sermon by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as the inspiration for the title of his 2006 political memoir The Audacity of Hope. But it was the audacity of a Catholic priest that proved the last straw in Obama's 20-year relationship with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Obama withdrew his membership from Trinity on May 30, several weeks after distancing himself from Wright and his incendiary preaching. He permanently severed ties with the church after Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest and Chicago activist, railed against Sen. Hillary Clinton from the church's pulpit in mid-May.
Pfleger said Clinton thought she was entitled to the Democratic presidential nomination because she's white. He added that racism is America's greatest addiction, and that "America is the greatest sin against God."
Obama-who invited Pfleger to a faith forum on the campaign trail last year-withdrew from Trinity, saying: "Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views." The senator rejected calls to denounce the church, saying: "It's not a church worthy of denouncing."
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, the senator clinched enough Democratic delegates on June 3 to gain his party's nomination. Now Obama faces a host of major decisions, including whether to give defeated rival Hillary Clinton the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket, as a new phase of the campaign begins.
Premier Exhibitions, a company that has made millions of dollars through its plasticized human "Bodies" exhibits, agreed May 29 to stop using bodies of undocumented origins in its New York display after an investigation found that some of the bodies may have been prisoners who were tortured and executed in China.
According to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, "despite repeated denials . . . [Premier Exhibitions] had no way of knowing the true source of their human exhibits and no meaningful documentation to support their claims that the bodies had been donated for such a use." As part of the settlement with Cuomo's office, Premier will refund those who paid to see the New York City exhibit.
Biofuels are contributing to a global food crisis. The earth has cooled substantially over the past 16 months. And government-imposed carbon caps are failing throughout Europe. Nevertheless, earnest debate over a cap-and-trade climate bill kicked off in the Senate last week. Leading Democrats contend the legislation is of utmost necessity to avoid environmental catastrophe. Republican critics say the proposed solution would cause more harm than the problem, draining the American economy of $6 trillion over the next 40 years.
President George W. Bush likewise has voiced concerns over the bill's economic impact, a line of argument with considerable sway given the country's current state of runaway gas prices and general financial pain. Though much of the nation remains convinced that government caps on emissions are critical to maintain life as we know it, one sizable voting bloc remains unconvinced: evangelicals.
A Madison, Wis., student who was penalized for including a John 3:16 reference on an art assignment won a settlement with the school district on May 20. Tomah High School officials had told the student in March to remove or cover up the Scripture reference in his artwork due to a school policy banning depictions of "blood, violence, sexual connotations, [or] religious beliefs." When he didn't comply, he was assigned a "zero" and penalized with disciplinary action.
According to a settlement reached by the Alliance Defense Fund, the district agreed to end its religious expression ban, clean the student's disciplinary record, and fairly grade the assignment. "Christian students shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs, so we're pleased that this settlement will make sure that no longer happens," said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman.
New York Gov. David Paterson told state agencies in a May 14 memo to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in places where they are legal. The order follows a February state appeals court ruling that same-sex marriages conducted legally in other jurisdictions should receive recognition in New York. The Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit June 3 to stop the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.
A Columbia, S.C., high-school principal garnered national attention last month after announcing he would resign due to the formation of a gay club at his school.
Just days after receiving a May 14 email directing him to allow the creation of a student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance Club, Irmo High School Principal Eddie Walker submitted his resignation to the Lexington-Richland School District 5 school board. "My decision to resign is a personal choice based on my professional beliefs and religious convictions," he wrote. "I have prayed about the decision for a period of time and I have a peace about it. I would ask that you respect my choice as I respect your choice to disagree with me on this issue."
According to Walker's resignation letter, he objected to a club based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, and sexual activity, citing the school's abstinence-based sex-education curriculum. District officials, however, said that the school has little choice in allowing the new club, arguing that because the school permits non-academic extracurricular clubs, it must uphold the federal Equal Access Act. The 1984 act, which Congress passed to assist religious groups that wanted to meet on school campuses, prohibits schools from discriminating against a student club based on the club's viewpoint.
"We understand the concerns of the community and Principal Walker, but we also fully recognize what the law says and we are bound to abide by the law," district spokesperson Buddy Price told WORLD. "Our challenge is to find a solution that is most acceptable by the community."
During its May 27 meeting, the school board began seeking that solution by reviewing the district's policies for school clubs. Price said the board is gathering input from the community and plans to review the feedback at the next meeting on June 9. At that time, the board may make a decision about the district's relationship with student-sponsored non-academic clubs.
For now, Walker is wrapping up his fourth year at Irmo High School. Citing his contractual commitment to return for the 2008-2009 school year, his resignation won't take effect until June 30, 2009. Prior to the May 27 school board meeting Walker had indicated he would talk with WORLD about his resignation, but afterward he declined an interview: "I don't plan to comment at this time as I do not want this issue to continue to be a distraction for our students."