Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pregnancy Discrimination Act Includes Abortion

On May 30th a unanimous decision was returned by the three Judges of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals which effectively overruled the lower court decision that granted summary judgment for the defendant C.A.R.S. Protection Plus Inc.; Fred Kohl and disagreed with the lower courts finding that the defendant, identified as “Jane Doe,” failed to show that her firing was connected to her decision to have an abortion.

In May of 2000 Jane Doe learned she was pregnant and promptly told her boss Mr. Kohl, the Vice-President of C.A.R.S. Protection Plus Inc. On August 7, 2000 Doe’s doctor called to tell Doe that problems were detected in a recent blood test and an amniocentesis was scheduled for the next day. Notification was given that Doe would not be in the office for the next two days while tests were performed. Kohl approved these absences. The fetus was found to have had severe deformities and Doe chose to terminate the pregnancy and the procedure was scheduled. Doe’s husband again telephoned requesting a week’s vacation and Doe’s husband testified that Kohl approved the vacation. The pregnancy was terminated on August 11th and a funeral for Doe’s baby was on Wednesday August 16th. Kohl gave Leona Dunnett, the office manager and the baby’s aunt permission to take an hour off work to attend the funeral and as she was preparing to leave for the funeral she noticed someone packing up Doe’s personal belongings from her desk. Leona told Doe what she had seen after the funeral. Doe called Kohl who told her she had been discharged. Kohl also remarked that Doe “did not want to take responsibility,” allowing the court to infer that Kohl was referring to Doe’s choice to terminate her pregnancy.

In the written decision released by the 3rd Circuit Judge Nygaard found that the written language of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, along with previous court decisions, supports a persons right to freely express support of a women’s right to choose as well as supports a woman’s right to receive an abortion without fear of discrimination, reprimand or termination in the work place. Judge Nygaard further writes that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act extends to women who have elected to terminate their pregnancies and applies to all situations in which women are “affected by pregnancy, child birth and related medical conditions.” Judge Nygaard holds that the term “other medical conditions” includes abortion.

Jennie, Duvall Intern

Click on link to read about a Republican hypocrite in Oregon:

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Monday, June 23, 2008

A moment of silence please for one of the greats...

In honor of the late George Carlin, who died Sunday night at 71, the Washington Post's Gene Weingarten is hosting a blog discussion of the comedian and social satirist's best lines.

I admit, I'm a bit partial to this one:
So I say, "Live and let live." That's my motto. "Live and let live." Anyone who can't go along with that, take him outside and shoot the mother------. It's a simple philosophy, but it's always worked in our family.

Here's one from a monologue he did on Saturday Night Live in 1984. (It's so brilliantly straight to the point that I have to think even the dominionists should be able to appreciate the logic.)
I'm not really sure how this church and state separation stuff is gonna
work out. Ah, personally, I'm in favor of the separation of church and
state. My feeling is that either one of these institutions screws you up
bad enough on its own. ... You put them together and you got certain

Lauri in York

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Friday, June 20, 2008

When little constitutional violations become big ones

There were folks, including the Dover school board's attorney Richard Thompson, who called the entire Dover case a "tempest in a teapot." Trying to downplay the religious significance of what they were trying to pull, they said the entire First Amendment case was based on a mere four-paragraph statement, one that only mentioned the concept of intelligent design.

But of course, there is no such thing as a "little constitutional violation" and the following case exemplifies why. Because if ignored, if accepted in the name of tolerance, these little unchecked constitutional violations almost certainly grow to become something much more ugly.

This week, Ohio parents filed suit against their 8th grade son's science teacher John Freshwater and the Mount Vernon School District. The reason? According to an independent consultant's report, in addition to a long list of brazen disregard for his students' First Amendment rights, the teacher used an electro-static device to burn a cross into their kid's forearm.

Yup. You read that right. But don't take my word. Read the story in the Columbus Dispatch and look at the picture.

More importantly, read the consultant's report (PDF). Read all of the report. The much-awaited results of the investigation conducted at the behest of the school district provides details that say Freshwater "undermined science instruction in the public school district by discrediting evolution in his classroom and focusing on creationism and intelligent design." He had been proselytizing and teaching students creationist ideas for as long as 11 years. District administrators had received numerous complaints over the years, but other than asking him to stop, nothing was ever done.

From the report,
"a teacher who was present in Mr. Freshwaters' classroom on a substitute basis for one period in either 2006 or 2007 (The teacher could not recall which year) stated in a written statement (Copy as Attachment 15): "The lesson of the day had been on the creation of the universe. John talked about how the textbook could be wrong. He said, 'Let me give you an example of how science can be wrong.' He then went on to say that an article in Time magazine a few years back stated that scientists had found a genetic link to homosexuality. 'In that case science is wrong because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin' and so anyone who is gay chooses to be gay and therefore is a sinner. My reaction was one of disbelief that he was saying these things to eighth graders. I thought of how those two or three students in that classroom who might be struggling with their sexual identities would be feeling, hearing that they were sinners from a teacher. ... I was surprised at how comfortable John was talking about the Bible stating that homosexuality is a sin, and that anyone who is gay makes a conscious choice to be so. ... He had no problem declaring that not only can science be wrong by the example he gave, but heavily implied that the students' textbook was wrong as well on how the universe was created."

It's hard to believe, but the report concluded:
Mr. Freshwater did improperly use an electrostatic device on the student who filed the complaint and other students in his science class in a manner that was not in compliance with the manufacturer's instructions. While there did not appear to be any intent by Mr.Freshwater to cause injury to any student, he was not using the device for its intended purpose. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater's statement he simply made an "X" not a "cross," all of the students described the marking as a "cross" and the pictures provided depict a cross."

According to USAToday, quoting from The Mount Vernon News, described how the family, who is remaining anonymous in the suit, sent a fax to the newsroom through their attorney, Jessica Philemond, that said:
"We are religious people, but we were offended when Mr. Freshwater
burned a cross onto the arm of our child," they wrote in a faxed comment
released by their attorney. "This was done in science class in December
2007, where an electric shock machine was used to burn our child. The
burn was severe enough that our child awoke that night with severe pain,
and the cross remained there for several weeks."

They say they were offended, not outraged? And they qualify their reaction by pointing out they are religious people? As if objecting to a teacher burning a religious emblem into your kid's flesh could be misconstrued as, perhaps, intolerant?

But, sadly, in the next paragraph, they reveal the insanity of this situation when they explain their hesitancy to come forward:
.... We have tried to keep this a private matter and hesitate to tell
the whole story to the media for fear that we will be retaliated

Panda's Thumb has the latest updates.

Lauri in York

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FISA, done. Fourth Amendment next.

I just called my rep, Tim Holden, and asked him to support an effort to repeal the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. After all, after this vote today, they might as well do that next. The woman on the other end chuckled, and I said, "Obviously, I'm not happy about his FISA vote today."

Here's national ACLU's press release on it. Here's the roll call vote to find out where your rep came down ("nays" are for the Constitution and "yeas" are against it). Here is Glenn Greenwald's reaction.
Surrendering and fearful: that's the face of the Democratic Party. It's how they show they're not weak.

And here's Countdown's segment on this from last night, in which law prof Jonathan Turley says that the Dems are doing this because they knew about the warrantless surveillance (and torture, too) years ago. The Dems are co-conspirators.

Of all days to receive a solicitation in the mail from the Democratic National Committee. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, my money goes to the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, and other organizations who actually care about the Constitution.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pride, marriage and much, much more...

Hooray! The recent decision in California that guarantees the right to marry for two individuals of the same sex, regardless of sexual orientation, gives many reason to celebrate. In light of pride month (and in conjunction with the decision) the ACLU is hosting an online symposium on LGBT pride this week.

It is important to remember, however, that marriage is but one forum where discrimination must end. Here's an interview from Here and Now on WBUR--NPR Boston that highlights the importance of equal access and the long road that is still ahead.

Ellen, Duvall Intern

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Heard on the hill

I was at the state capitol today, and the California same-sex marriage situation came up in conversation with some lobbyist allies. One of them poignantly asked, "Who are these two little old ladies hurting?"

The answer, of course, is no one.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We are all in serious trouble

Pop quiz! Who said this?
"(O)nly those with reason to be concerned should be concerned."

Is it:
A) DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff
B) Rush Limbaugh
C) Lakers guard Kobe Bryant
D) Chuck Ardo, spokesman for Governor Rendell

If you guessed C, you are wrong. Nope, this was said by Chuck Ardo, spokesman for Governor Rendell. To be fair, it's not an exact quote. This is how it was paraphrased by KYW radio in Philadelphia. Ardo was responding to a press conference held yesterday by Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-Berks County) in which Rohrer revealed that PennDOT has begun using facial recognition technology when issuing drivers' licenses. Rohrer considers this a form of biometrics, like DNA or finger prints, because your face print is a unique bodily feature and believes that PennDOT started using this technology in response to the federal Real ID Act.

When the Rendell administration starts sounding like the Bush administration, we are all in serious trouble.

Meanwhile, the PA General Assembly is considering not participating in Real ID. Today a House committee unanimously passed HB 2537, which would bar Pennsylvania from seeking certification in Real ID.

Of course, as the case of Dr. Moniem el-Ganayni makes clear, even those who have no reason to be concerned should be concerned. Dr. el-Ganayni is an Egyptian nuclear physicist who has lived in the states for almost 30 years and has been a citizen for since 1988. He's brilliant and, as a prison chaplain, is a good citizen, to boot. So how does the government choose to treat him? By revoking his security clearance. Dr. el-Ganayni has the great American immigration story, but the government turned it into a nightmare after he had the nerve to disagree with state prison officials. He's never been arrested for a single crime.

The Committee of Concerned Scientists has an action alert on his case.

I have plenty of reasons to be concerned. And I'm concerned.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Government Accountability? What a novel idea.

Accountability. Now this a word I have heard time and again. I know the concept mostly in reference to law enforcement, particularly their response to sexual assault and intimate partner abuse. So, why hasn't it surfaced in other contexts of reproductive health, specifically abortion, contraception and sex education? In her latest blog post, Cristina Page suggests that politicians should hold the "pro-life" and "right to life" movements accountable. Accountable for what? For their failure to reduce the high rates of unintended pregnancy and reported abortion. The movements have successfully campaigned against access to safe abortion procedures while also decreasing access to contraceptives and accurate, life-saving information. Page suggests the upcoming election will provide a national forum where candidates can bring light to the contradictions of these policies.

Why wait until the election to ensure accountability? In truth, I don't think we have waited. A variety of initiatives are percolating across the states that ensure accurate information be provided in sexual health education classes, for example, the Responsible Education About life Act. In 2004, the March for Women's Lives brought together thousands who marched in Washington DC to demand political and social justice for women and girls. This brought us from the concept of "choice" that has been a myth due to the cut of federal funding for abortions, government bans placed on a variety of abortion procedures and the fact that nearly 87% of US counties lack an abortion provider, to the recognition of bodily integrity and the need to restore rights in order to stay healthy.

Activists know that those working in favor of reproductive justice do more in one day to prevent unplanned pregnancies than the "pro-life" movement has done in a generation. This includes dispensing birth control, condoms and emergency contraception and providing people with accurate information about biology and reproduction. However, the messages sent by those in opposition to these methods have been extremely successful in overshadowing these successes and restricting rights.

Page points out that under the current administration we have more than enough reason to demand accountability. However, we don't seem to be too enthusiastic about it. We have continued to let the government lie to us about the reality of the war in Iraq while simultaneously allowing them to strip us of our civil liberties.

Demanding the right to health is something that clearly goes past the lines of pro-choice, pro-life and anti-abortion (to name a few). It simply comes down to justice and human rights, which are not up for debate.

Ellen is an intern at the Duvall Project

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Creationism 3.0

For awhile, it looked like Florida would be the likely contender. Missouri, Michigan and Alabama all vied for the honor. But now, it looks like the title of Most-Likely-To-Violate-The-First-Amendment-In-The-Interest-Of-Forcing-Creationism-
Into-Science-Class will go to ...

May I see the envelope, please...


Barbara Forrest, the expert witness in the 2005 trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board whose testimony exposed intelligent design's creationist roots, is now battling the anti-evolutionists again. This time on her own turf.

Proving that evolution does occur, the creationists, in the face of each defeat, have once again changed their tactics. The latest ruse goes by the name of "academic freedom," which Forrest says is a code for allowing educators to teach kids that evolution is a lie.

The state House just passed a bill this week that purports to "promote[] critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

The National Center for Science Education has the details.

The Discovery Institute, which has been pushing the legislation and has long been trying to push creationism into science class under the guise of intelligent design, is shocked (Shocked, I tell you!) that anyone would accuse them of pushing a religious agenda. But state Rep. Ben Nevers, told the Hammond Daily Star that the Louisiana Family Forum, which is also lobbying behind the scenes, "believes the scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory."

The Louisiana Science Coalition has put out a news release urging state senators to vote against a version of the House Bill that was passed 94-3. The plea will likely fall on deaf ears. The state Senate unanimously passed a similar bill. The site provides plenty of background on exactly what is going on in Louisiana and what we might expect in other states if this bill becomes law.

But as has been said about Forrest, she is Kryptonite to creationists. And even as she has been fighting the bill, she has also no doubt been documenting the evidence should this become a lawsuit.

Already the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State have warned that, as the AU's Barry Lynn said, there will be legal action if the measure is used "to promote religion in Louisiana public schools."

Stay tuned...

Lauri in York

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What once was lost now is found

The U.S. Supreme Court found Habeas. He was hiding in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Reactions to the ruling have been rolling in. National's Blog of Rights is all over it, including this from legal director Steve Shapiro:
Today’s decision forcefully repudiates the essential lawlessness of the Bush administration’s failed Guantánamo policy. It should also mark the beginning of the end of the military commission process, which permits the use of coerced evidence and hearsay and thus cannot survive the constitutional scrutiny that today’s decision demands. It is time to close Guantánamo, end indefinite detention without charge and restore the rule of law.

And, of course, Glenn Greenwald has plenty to say:
The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was -- and remains -- one of the great stains on our national political character. It was passed by a substantial majority in the Senate (65-34) with the support of every single Senate Republican (except Chafee) and 12 Senate Democrats. No filibuster was even attempted. It passed by a similar margin in the House, where 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans to enact it. One of the most extraordinary quotes of the post-9/11 era came from GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who said at the time that that the Military Commissions Act -- because it explicitly barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees -- "sets back basic rights by some 900 years" and was "patently unconstitutional on its face" -- and Specter then proceeded to vote for it.

The greatest victim of the 9/11 attack has been our core, defining constitutional liberties. Of all the powers seized by this administration in the name of keeping us Safe, the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges and no real process is the most pernicious.
The Supreme Court today did what the Founders envisioned it should do: it protected our basic constitutional guarantees from erosion and assault by a corrupt majority within the political class. In so doing, the Court took a mild though important step in reversing some of the worst and most tyrannical excesses of the last seven years.

So what does this mean going forward? Analysis from today's Philadelphia Inquirer:
But Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Post that the limited information made public so far about the detainees' cases had been unconvincing.

"I think that while there are still tremendous concerns about a terrorist threat, the administration has not made its case that the people in Guantanamo really are threats," he said.

In the habeas corpus hearings, the burden will be on the government to show that it has sufficient evidence that the men are enemy combatants and can be charged with crimes. While it is unlikely any of the detainees will appear at the hearings, they will be able to offer exculpatory evidence. Judges can settle on remedies that include ordering release.

"My guess is we're going to see a high number of people who the government will have to release," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Yesterday was a good day for liberty.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Treating people with dignity and respect is a GOOD thing

Every once in awhile, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe comes out with a whopper. Today he introduced legislation to financially punish Pennsylvania cities that adopt sanctuary policies for illegal alien invader martian foreign strange-looking funny-talking people. And how many PA cities have such policies?

Although there are currently no official sanctuary cities in Pennsylvania, over the last two years city officials in both Allentown and York introduced, but did not enact sanctuary ordinances. In June 2007, several Pennsylvania mayors, including John Brenner (York), Chris Doherty (Scranton), Richard Friedberg (Meadville), Richard Gray (Lancaster), Ed Pawloski (Allentown), Luke Ravenstahl (Pittsburgh), Brian Sanford (Titusville) and Rick Vilello (Lock Haven), went on public record at in opposition to Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta’s city ordinance to criminally penalize individuals caught providing jobs, housing or other taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens.

Is that a reference to SF in a press release from a state legislator? That, my friends, is a first, as far as I know. The post in question actually linked to a story in The Standard Speaker of Hazleton.

Metcalfe continues to use his "Invasion PA" report. This report was debunked by conservative columnist Dimitri Vassilaros of The Pittsburgh Tribune Review. In that column, Northampton County DA John Morganelli distanced himself from the report, after he was one of the featured speakers at the report's release. (Morganelli is the Democratic nominee for Attorney General.)

The ACLU has no position on sanctuary cities, but we encourage governments- local, state, and federal- to implement policies that discourage discrimination, welcome immigrants, and carry out the basic American value of fairness. Only Rep. Metcalfe could think that treating people with dignity and respect is a bad thing.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Friday, June 06, 2008

And more surveillance...

Every time we comment on the 2008 elections here at SF, keep in mind we are a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates. I will say that every time news comes up on civil liberties and civil rights issues in relation to the 2008 elections. Frankly, most of what you will see here on the elections will probably be criticism of the candidates. No one's perfect.

An adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain says that Senator McCain supports warrantless surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment, errr, for protection of the country. The New York Times today and Glenn Greenwald earlier in the week have both reported on McCain's flip-flop from his responses on the issue in December to a candidate survey conducted by The Boston Globe.
Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power.

In an interview about his views on the limits of executive power with The Boston Globe six months ago, Mr. McCain strongly suggested that if he became the next commander in chief, he would consider himself obligated to obey a statute restricting what he did in national security matters.

Mr. McCain was asked whether he believed that the president had constitutional power to conduct surveillance on American soil for national security purposes without a warrant, regardless of federal statutes.

He replied: “There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.”

Following up, the interviewer asked whether Mr. McCain was saying a statute trumped a president’s powers as commander in chief when it came to a surveillance law. “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law,” Mr. McCain replied.

This isn't completely news. In February, McCain voted with the administration on the FISA revision bill, as documented here at SF.

Of course, no one is going to confuse McCain with a constitutional scholar. This cat thinks the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation. Senator, where in the Constitution are the words "God" and "Christian"? My copy doesn't have the G word or the C word.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Virtual strip search machines, coming to an airport near you

Another brick in the building of a surveillance society. The USA Today reports today that 10 airports will install or have installed body scanning machines that show images underneath a person's clothing. You can see what it looks like here.

In our region, airports on the list include Baltimore-Washington International- a popular airport among folks here in south central PA-, JFK in New York, and National in Washington. I've been flying out of Harrisburg International Airport a lot lately, and it is suddenly looking all the more inviting. I can see that next marketing scheme: "HIA: Where we don't ask to look under your clothes!"

The ACLU responded:
The TSA effort could encourage scanners' use in rail stations, arenas and office buildings, the American Civil Liberties Union said. "This may well set a precedent that others will follow," said Barry Steinhardt, head of the ACLU technology project...

Steinhardt of the ACLU said passengers would be alarmed if they saw the image of their body. "It all seems very clinical and non-threatening — you go through this portal and don't have any idea what's at the other end," he said.

Passengers in line at these airports should recite the Fourth Amendment while waiting for screening: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

Andy in Harrisburg

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