Roundup: Schools shouldn’t prevent flagpole prayer, says Alabama official

Tuesday, September 19, 2000

School officials should not interfere with students planning to hold prayer meetings at flagpoles tomorrow, state Attorney General Bill Pryor said. Pryor sent a letter to public school superintendents across Alabama yesterday saying the prayer meetings are protected by the U.S. Constitution. The prayer meetings are part of a national event called “See You at the Pole,” in which students are encouraged to pray at school flagpoles before the start of classes tomorrow. “Just as public school officials should not encourage, organize, or direct 'See You at the Pole' gatherings, they should do nothing to prohibit or discourage 'See You at the Pole' gatherings,” Pryor said in his letter to the superintendents. Pryor said the recent Supreme Court ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe — which prohibits prayer over school loudspeakers at football games because such prayers would appear to have the school's support — specifies that voluntary prayer by students is protected by the Constitution. John Giles, state president of the Christian Coalition, said Pryor's letter was needed because some school officials were confused by recent court rulings concerning school prayer. Associated Press

District of Columbia: Clinton, AOL chief to tackle entertainment violence

Three days after a federal report said the entertainment industry aggressively markets violent, adult-rated products to young people, President Clinton pushed the industry to get more involved in tackling youth violence. The president's words were echoed by America Online chairman Steve Case at a luncheon Sept. 14 hosted by the National Campaign Against Youth Violence, established at a White House summit in 1999 by U.S. business and political leaders. Case, who serves on the campaign committee, pledged to do more considering his company's proposed merger with entertainment giant Time-Warner. Case said that would include re-evaluating marketing practices to restrict children's access to violent content as well as helping to give parents the tools they need to determine what movies, music and Web sites their kids should or shouldn't be seeing. The FTC report said that even movies rated R, which require an adult to accompany children under 17, and video games that carry an M rating for 17 and over are routinely marketed toward younger people. Associated Press

California: Judge strikes down work-solicitation ban

A federal judge has struck down a 1994 Los Angeles County ordinance barring day laborers from soliciting work on the streets. U.S. District Judge George King said the law was unconstitutional on grounds it violated the workers' rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. The law barred day laborers from soliciting work on public rights of way within 500 feet of churches, schools and neighborhoods. It was challenged by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. Associated Press

Idaho: City approves parade permit for white-supremacist group

City officials in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Sept. 14 approved a permit allowing the Aryan Nations to march through downtown on Oct. 28. This will be the third year in a row the neo-Nazi group has marched down the streets of this lakeside city. Past efforts to stop the parades failed because of free-speech protections. Also, Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson said his officers would move to seize the Aryan Nations rural compound on Sept. 29 to satisfy part of the $6.3 million civil judgment a woman and her son won recently against the white supremacist sect. Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler this week filed an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court. That appeal will not delay the seizure because Butler did not post a bond needed to prevent the sale. Associated Press

Idaho: Former congressional candidate settles libel suit

Dennis Mansfield has settled his $1 million libel lawsuit against The Idaho Statesman. The former congressional candidate said the settlement gave him a rebuttal and includes a “financial side.” The Gannett-owned newspaper contends that a published rebuttal is all Mansfield got and that columnist Dan Popkey's article two days before the GOP primary election in May was protected by the First Amendment. Mansfield, the former Idaho Family Forum chief, had charged that he was defamed by a Popkey column about his son's marijuana charge and the press conference the family held about the case. Statesman attorney Craig Storti argued in court that the lawsuit was baseless because the column is an opinion piece and is protected speech. Mansfield's rebuttal, which ran on the paper's editorial page Sept. 14, contended that the Popkey column cost him the election. Associated Press

Pennsylvania: GOP convention protesters begin court process

Status hearings began Sept. 15 for 300 people charged with misdemeanors in protests during the Republican National Convention, and most were offered plea agreements that would result in probation, a $300 fine and a clean record. Most defendants were scheduled for another status hearing Sept. 30 at which they will accept that offer or plead innocent and go to trial. Many of those appearing in court then joined about 50 people protesting a block away at City Hall against the high bails and serious charges lodged against many of the almost 400 activists arrested during the July 31-Aug. 1 GOP convention. City officials have said the high bail and serious charges were intended to crack down on demonstrators who travel to different cities planning disruption. Associated Press

Texas: Board of Education adopts student-speech resolution

The State Board of Education on Sept. 15 adopted, 9-6, a nonbinding resolution urging schools to review their student speaker policies after the Supreme Court ruled last June that prayer over school loudspeakers at football games was unconstitutional. The resolution said that the high court, ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, did not forbid all student prayer, only officially sponsored school prayer. But some board members like Will Davis, D-Austin, worried the resolution could unintentionally put the board in the middle of the heated school prayer debate. Associated Press

Oklahoma: Defendant fights attempt to open juvenile records

The Tulsa World, seeking to obtain juvenile records of an Oilton man accused of killing a 7-year-old girl and raping a 12-year-old girl, says the defendant is overlooking the public's right to have access to materials that are open under the First Amendment. The World filed its response Sept. 14 to a motion by defense attorney Craig Corgan that argues that the World has no standing in the case. The newspaper is asking for juvenile and law enforcement records for the accused, Robert Wayne Rotramel, 19. Authorities have declined to verify that Rotramel has a juvenile record, citing state law that says juvenile records cannot be opened without court action. But a former counselor at the Lloyd E. Rader state juvenile facility in Sand Springs said Rotramel was treated there for sexual offenses. The World sought the records under a 1996 law that allows the release of juvenile records under certain circumstances. The newspaper says the intent of the law is to provide access to juvenile records when adults are charged with crimes such as murder, kidnapping and first-degree rape. Special Judge Russell Miller is scheduled to hear the motions, but a date hasn't been set. Associated Press

California: Governor rejects records bill

Gov. Gray Davis has vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, which would have required state agencies to list any reports they have done on the Internet. Davis said the legislation was too confusing to implement and didn't spell out “how the public is to access the reports.” Papan wasn't available for comment. But Terry Francke of the California First Amendment Coalition said he was surprised by the governor's rejection of a bill that would have allowed greater access to public documents. “If all that work is done to establish certain facts, the study itself should be public,” he said. “Putting it on the Internet is about the cheapest way possible to get it out there. It escapes me why it failed.” Associated Press

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