Posted to WIDK by Jenn Flanagan
(Daily Mail) – A national association that says there’s no proof for the existence of God is managing a scholarship fund set up for a teenage atheist at the centre of a dispute over a prayer banner at a Rhode Island school.
The American Humanist Association says 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist was targeted with online threats after she challenged the constitutionality of the display at Cranston High School West.
It says she stood up against her critics ‘with class and style’.
On January 11, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux ordered the banner removed.
Judge Laguex ruled that the presence of the 49-year-old banner violates the separation of church and state according to the Constitution’s First Amendment while displaying a passage written by a former student titled: school prayer.
The banner was covered by a tarp as the Cranston School Committee planned a hearing to decide whether or not to challenge the ruling.
On Thursday, the committee decided not to appeal by a vote of 5-2.
Since Miss Ahlquist sued the school for the prayer banner’s removal, protesters have expressed their anger through online commentary, cruel messages, thwarted yet planned student walk outs, and even t-shirts supporting the banner’s display though also expected removal.
One woman posted her reaction to Miss Ahlquist’s efforts over Twitter writing: ‘I hope there’s lots of banners in Hell when you’re rotting in there you atheist f***.’
Another sent her a message saying: ‘How does it feel to be the most hated person in RI? You’re a puke and a disgrace to the human race.’
An investigation led by school officials working with local police over several harassing messages resulted in one student’s internal discipline, according to The Providence Journal.
Combating the ruling’s criticism, blogger Hemant Mehta started a campaign at the Friendly Atheist website to raise money for Ahlquist.
The Friendly Atheist says the fund has brought in more than $40,000 through tee-shirts reading ‘Evil Little Thing.’
Those three words were used to describe her in a recent radio talk show by Democrat Cranston Representative Peter Palumbo, according to WPRO.
Pro-banner supporters have released their own t-shirt designs as well, selling for $5 for the banner’s possible removal and preservation which is described as being glued to the wall, similar to a fresco-style of artwork, according to t-shirt designer Bobby Bach of Bobby Bach Events who spoke with a contractor examining its removal.
Mr Bach told MailOnline they have already sold hundreds in the past two weeks chipping in toward an estimated cost of $15,000 for its safe removal, according to Mr Bach.
The fundraiser for Miss Ahlquist runs through the end of February.
(Daily Mail) – A white sixth grade teacher is suing his Chicago school district, school and principal after he was suspended for using the N-word in front of his students.
Lincoln Brown, a teacher at Murray Language Academy, claims the word was used to confront racism following the interception of a rap song written by one student to another calling her the N-word.
He saw it as an opportunity to turn an inappropriate moment into ‘a teachable’ one.
‘The whole lesson basically was about racial profiling, racism and also being very careful about how you use words in public,’ Mr Brown told ABC.
‘I looked at it and it had some words in it that were very offensive to me and that’s when we came into this discussion of the N-word,’ he said.
Mr Brown instead used the word in full as part of the discussion.
He defends his lesson as coming directly from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that fights hate and bigotry, borrowing their curriculum that advises how to address problems like the one he was having.
He said he thought it best to address the situation rather than avoid it.
During the discussion which he said thoroughly engaged all his students, his principal, Greg Mason, entered the room staying for about 10 minutes before stepping out.
He was gone for about another 10 minutes when he returned again right where the students’ discussion had turned to racial stereotypes in movies.
‘I brought up Spike Lee’s comments about rap music and racial profiling in movies and, ironically, I thought I was being fully supported [by Mr Mason],’ Mr Brown said.
His students told him they enjoyed the class and for two weeks, he never heard a comment following from his principal.
Then Mr Brown was called into his office.
He was accused of misconduct, abusing language in front of his students among other charges and told he would be suspended from his position for five days as punishment.
Unsuccessfully appealing to the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education following the notice of suspension in November, Mr Brown still wouldn’t back down, choosing next to file a lawsuit against the school district on Thursday.
‘It’s something I can’t accept and can’t have on my record and more importantly, it’s not who I am,’ he said.
Mr Brown says he grew up as the racial minority in his own schools and went on to teach at predominantly black schools for over 25 years.
With his parents deeply involved in the civil rights movements, his first name’s the namesake of the American president, Abraham Lincoln.
On Friday Mr Brown began serving the first day of his five-day suspension.
‘The teacher has received sufficient due process,’ district spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler told ABC in a statement following his appeal to the Office of Employee Relations.
‘In our opinion,’ she said in her statement, ‘his federal lawsuit is without merit.’
‘This can not be part of who people think I am,’ Mr Brown said in a press conference following, appearing emotional. ‘My character has been assassinated.’
(Daily Mail) – A mother of four has spoken out about her ordeal at the hands of an Orthodox Jewish community- saying she was trapped in an abusive arranged marriage for six years.
Pearlperry Rich, 30, says she was pushed into an arranged marriage with Sinai Meir Sholz in her home of Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York and had ‘issues’ right from the start.
She is still fighting to finalize her divorce as her husband fights her all the way – saying she acts improperly by wearing pants and accusing her of ‘promiscuous’ activity.
Ms Reich talked to MailOnline about what she describes as an emotionally and physically abusive marriage.
She claims her husband called her a ‘slut’ in front of her children, cut up one of her $4,000 wigs and warned her that she was ‘playing with fire’ by seeking to leave the Orthodox community.
Ms Reich, who is launching a modeling and acting career, says that her husband is trying to portray her as an unstable and promiscuous woman in order to retain custody.
She paints a very different picture, however, saying that she will continue to raise the children in a Orthodox environment even though she no longer respects the Orthodox teachings herself.
One of the most poignant points of contention in the battle is whether or not Ms Reich, 30, is sufficiently strict, and her wearing of pants is a big issue.
‘My dressing in pants and being openly non-conforming to their standards is NEVER in front of my children,’ she wrote in an email to MailOnline.
Considering the brouhaha that her pants have caused, she may be in for some more problems as some of her model photos are sexually suggestive.
Her ex, who she says was both physically and emotionally abusive during their marriage, still refuses to grant her a legal or Jewish divorce until she agrees to abandon custody of her children.
During their marriage, he cut up her $4,000 wig and insulted her in front of their children.
On at least one occasion, he told their daughters that she was a ‘sl**’.
Ms Reich told MailOnline that her husband was abusive but would not detail the extent of that abuse. It clearly was serious, however, as she received a restraining order against her ex after he sent a threatening text message.
‘You are playing with fire and by the time you realize it will be too late,’ the text said.
Since she left him five years ago, she has moved from Brooklyn to Lakewood, New Jersey because she feels it is more accepting.
‘I vary considerably from the accepted orthodoxy level in the Lakewood community and have since become a lot more liberal and open minded,’ she told MailOnline.
She also has a boyfriend and her ex’s lawyers say that she is behaving inappropriately by kissing her boyfriend in front of their four children.
She said that while she may not follow the religion’s rules all of the time, she is very clear to do so while her children are present.
‘I keep my home 100 per cent Kosher in regards to the kids,’ she said.
She also said that since she left her husband five years ago, she has done the lion’s share of the child rearing for all four of their children- ages 5, 7, 8 and 9 years old.
Complicating the legal matters of the case, the couple agreed to a beth din- a special contract issued in rabbinical courts- that said they would share custody and she would raise the children in accordance with Orthodox teachings.
She now argues that she was not aware of what she was signing, hoping to repeal the decision.
Because she left the tight-nit religious community, she has been very alone throughout the ordeal, with even her parents ganging up against her.
‘My father gave me a very hard time. He didn’t want me to get divorced, period,’ she told The New York Post.
‘They discouraged me from making police reports about abuse — my father, the rabbis and my husband’s family . . . His parents made a meeting with my parents. They called me a bitch and a whore, and my parents accepted it.’
Now, she just hopes that her case earns enough attention and sympathy to overturn the agreement that she signed in rabbinical court which allows her husband joint custody.
‘It’s more than emotionally draining- it’s psychological, mental,’ she said.
Ms Reich’s plight comes just a week after the announcement that another woman named Deborah Feldmen who left the Orthodox lifestyle has penned a memoir about her time in her ultra-conservative marriage.
Rather than writing a book, Ms Reich is using social media as a way to tell her story.
Her Facebook support group already has over 2,000 followers and she has launched a Facebook Causes page to help her raise money to pay for the ensuing legal battle.
(Daily Mail) – A mother-of-two has claimed she was fired from her role as a Girl Scout troop leader for her connection to a ‘satanic’ website.
Stacy Hintz, 28, led the West Bend troop in Wisconsin Southeast for four years and claims to have an impeccable record in the role.
Yet her husband runs wisconsinsickness.com, which features scantily-clad women in provocative poses and discusses porn stores and serial killers.
The subjects – which also include ghosts and heavy metal music – are at odds with the Girl Scout message and teachings, its leaders claim.
On the website, Hintz’s husband Charlie wrote that Stacy’s co-leader at the troop found the site and asked her to resign.
When she refused, she received an email from Mary Black, the Chief Program Officer of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast.
It said: ‘Following an internal review, we are reaffirming the notice of February 9, 2012 removing you from all of your volunteer positions with Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast.
‘This action is being taken due to violations of policy, including your endorsement, while in a Girl Scout capacity, of a website service that does not live up to the Girl Scout standards and principles.’
The mother-of-two posted 14 videos to YouTube to complain about the treatment. In the clips, she explained how her co-leader eventually stepped down and how five children were pulled from the troop.
Her husband Charlie ranted about the dismissal on the website.He wrote: ‘[The co-leader] claims that, as a big a part of her life as Wisconsin Sickness is, it must ripple into all other parts of life, though she could not name anything in particular besides being late to two meetings… Poor punctuality is not the work of the devil.’
He continued that they are ‘good people leading good lives, teaching our children to be strong, compassionate and well-mannered individuals.
‘My family is ridiculously poor, yet we continuously strive to help others, living our lives selflessly in pursuit of some greater good.’
Hintz was reportedly well liked by parents and staff, even being chosen to represent the group at a 100-year anniversary convention held in Austin, Texas.
But on one of the videos, she says the mothers are now ‘in fear’ of her spending time with their children ‘all of a sudden’.
Hintz told Wisconsin’s Afternoon News that the website should not be the reason for her being forced from the job.
‘The only thing that in my personal opinion, I feel should be looked at in this situation, and that should be my performance within Girl Scouts. And it has been completely spotless,’ she said.
‘I have never once exposed the girls to anything even remotely close to having to do with this other realm of my life.’
But Tracy Wayson, spokesperson for Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast said that Hintz’s achievements on the job was not important.
She said: ‘We didn’t look into her performance at all…That was not the focus of our fact finding mission.’
Wayson said Hintz was removed from her position as she included links to Wisconsin Sickness in emails about official Girl Scouts business.
‘What we really need to step in on is when those personal activities seep into their role as a Girl Scout volunteer, and in this case, that’s what happened,’ she said.
(Daily Mail) – Photographs of women posing sexily as nuns and in various stages of undress wearing Catholic symbols have sparked outrage and complaints of blasphemy from Catholic and conservative groups after they were displayed at an exhibition on Thursday.
‘Obscenity’, an exhibition of 50 photographs by the Canadian artist Bruce LaBruce, opened in Madrid, Spain, yesterday to much protest.
The exhibition includes a portrait of Spanish actress Rossy de Palma in a black and white habit and see-through corset with a rosary between her teeth.
Another shows Alaska, a singer well known in Spain, dressed as a sexy saint in black with a communion wafer on her tongue.
The singer’s husband, Spanish singer Mario Vaquerizo has allegedly been fired from his job at the Catholic church-managed radio station Cadena COPE after a photograph of him with Alaska simulating a representation of the figure of ‘Piety’, where he is seen nuzzling into her breast ,was displayed.
The show, which opened Thursday at the Fresh Gallery in Madrid, drew condemnation from the Eucharistic Ministry, a Catholic group, which called for a demonstration ‘against blasphemy’ outside the venue on Friday.
It said the protest would be held ‘in defence of our Christian roots and the Catholic faith’.
‘Blasphemous provocation threatens again,’ a conservative campaign group, Make Yourself Heard, said on its website.
The Francisco Franco Foundation, a group that campaigns to preserve the memory of Spain’s former dictator, branded the exhibition ‘a virulent and morbid attack on the Catholic religion’.
LaBruce, 48, whose work has often sparked protests and censorship, wrote on the gallery’s website that ‘the lives of the saints are full of ecstatic acts of sublimated sexuality”.
‘Obscenity presents a series of portraits that illustrate this most holy convergence of the sacred and the profane.’