Friday, August 25, 2006

I may live to regret this, but...

Okay, it's a Friday afternoon, and I got nothin' for you. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. So if you have questions you've been dying to ask the ACLU of PA, now's your chance.

Sara in Philly

17 Comments:

Blogger Paul William Tenny said...

Which loss stings the most?

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Atheism Quotes said...

An article in the NY Times reports that:

"A U.S. Baptist preacher has publicly defended himself for firing a female Sunday School teacher after more than 50 years on the job because he believes the Bible bans women from teaching men. "

Of course, he says there are other, private reasons for the firing, too, but won't say what.

I was wondering:

How far does religious freedom go in discrimination? Can a church fire someone based on religion or gender if it's based on religious beliefs, even though it's illegal?

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I joined the ACLU as a way of showing my support after the tremendous job they did in the Dover, PA evolution case. Shortly after I joined, I got such a high-pressure telephone call from ACLU for more contributions that it put the old telemarketers to shame. Although I will continue to support ACLU and its work (non-monetarily), I'm not going to renew my membership. I would think you would be interested in attracting new members, rather than driving them away. Who is responsible for such self-destructive fund-raising tactics in the ACLU?

4:48 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Here's an answer for Atheism Quotes. I checked in w/our Religious Liberty Project for the answer.

Non-discrimination laws, including New York's law, typically include an exemption for religious institutions. Houses of worship and other religiously affiliated institutions, unlike other private and public employers, are allowed to make employment decisions on the basis or religion. In many cases this makes sense -- you wouldn't want to require a Catholic church to hire a Presbyterian minister as its priest, for example. In some cases, there is a grey area. Some courts have found that religious institutions may not use religion or religious doctrine as a pretext for employment discrimination on other grounds, like gender. The example given is probably (but not definitely) legally defensible -- if in fact the church made this employment decision on the basis of religious doctrine, it is allowed to do so.

The area where we are most concerned about discrimination by religious institutions isn't in this instance, but rather in efforts by some lawmakers to allow government-funded programs to discriminate on the basis of religion. Currently, religious institutions that accept government funds to administer public programs, like Head Start, drug rehab, or job training programs, must observe the same civil rights laws as any other employer. Some members of Congress are trying to pass legislation that would grant religious social service providers - who have long provided admirable and essential services to America's communities -- the right to discriminate, proselytize and play by different rules than other charities while spending tax dollars. If successful, such efforts would mean that social workers, psychologists, counselors and others seeking to work in tax-funded social service programs could be denied jobs solely because of their faith. This would be clearly unconstitutional.

More information about the ACLU's opposition to government-funded religious discrimination is available here: http://www.aclu.org/religion/govtfunding/

General information about the ACLU's work on religion issues is available here: http://www.aclu.org/religion/index.html

For reference, here's the relevant religious exemption in the New York Human Rights Law, which sets out employment non-discrimination protections in the state:

"Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to bar any religious or denominational institution or organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, from limiting employment or sales or rental of housing accommodations or admission to or giving preference to persons of the same religion or denomination or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained. " (see: http://www.nysdhr.com/hrlaw.html#296)

5:41 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Answer about which loss stings the most:

I'm sure each staff member has his or her own feelings on that one! (I've asked our lawyers - I'll let you know if they answer.)

For me, it's a case that we ended up winning eventually, but the losses up to that point were truly heartbreaking. It was the case of Amanda Kolle, a 19-year-old woman who suffered from post-partum depression after her baby was born. She asked a family friend to watch the baby while she checked into a hospital for treatment.

When she came out a week later (it might have been two weeks), her "friend" had given the baby away to a couple in another county. The judge, a friend of the couple's, terminated Amanda's parental rights without her consent and without providing her with an attorney.

Over a year later we won the case and Amanda was reunited with her son, but the damage done was incredible. Her son had no idea who she was, as the couple would not allow Amanda to visit while the case was working its way through the court system. (Visitation was eventually ordered a few months before the case was decided.) Her son was taken away from the only parents he remembered, although as he was so young, he did adjust fairly quickly.

As I said, a truly heartbreaking case.

5:51 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Anonymous:

I am really sorry to hear about your high pressure sales call from the ACLU. Personally, I hate those calls, and we don't do them out of our office in PA. The national office handles them.

That said, I guess the reason they do it is because it works, or at least it works well enough that it's worth it. (My own parents actually increased their ACLU contribution in response to a telemarketing call! I was very surprised.)

If one of our members asks specifically not to be called, however, the ACLU does honor their wishes and takes them off the call list from that point on.

Again, I'm really sorry about your bad experience. Thanks for continuing to support us in other ways, though!

Sara

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must receive hundreds of calls each week requesting help. Can you describe some of your least favorite types of requests, and why? Also, are there any funny ones you can remember that provided some comic relief?

9:28 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

I've only been here twenty months and don't have the experience of Sara or Vic Walczak or Larry Frankel. But the loss that stings the most in those twenty months for me was not a court loss but a legislative loss: The renewal of the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act so blatantly flies in the face of what American freedom is all about that 400 municipalities and seven states passed resolutions calling for reform. It allows law enforcement to search your home when you're not there, search your belongings, and take things without showing any evidence of why you are a suspect or telling you they were there. It allows law enforcement to seize your medical, library, gun-shop, etc. records again without showing "probable cause" (that pesky 4th amendment technicality).

For Congress and the president to renew that bill without reforming it was unconscionable. It can only lead one to believe that they do not believe in American freedom. To make matters worse, the Senate unanimously passed a reformed bill in July and the Dems and a handful of Republicans stood up for reform in December, only to fold like a cheap suit two months later.

Most of my first year with ACLU-PA was spent on the PATRIOT Act. I'm still sore over that one. :(

Andy

2:09 PM  
Blogger ACLU of Pennsylvania said...

Least favorite types of request-

A good many of our requests are from prisoners. I have a hard time with the requests because many 'sound' like legitimate complaints, but we simply do not have the resources to investigate them individually, except in very rare cases where the facts are clearly not in dispute. We refer them as best we can, but by and large the inmates are out of luck, best I can tell. And it is hard to repeatedly tell them that.

Comic requests-

I don't want to piss off our lawyers by giving away too many details, as there are confidentiality issues. That said, we have received some pretty novel complaints against the PA Game Commission. We also have been known to receive dead critters in the mail, not as a statement against the ACLU (to be expected), but as part of a complaint.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Atheism Quotes said...

Just in case there may be one more response in the wings, I was wondering, as a follow-up to my question about terminating the woman teacher for *being* a woman, what are the limits for religious exemptions? What otherwise illegal activities are illegal no matter *what* religious beliefs someone professes?

What qualifies as a religion? There's a case of a child molester who insists his religion demands that he have sex with children. I know children can't consent, so that's an issue, but where is the line drawn between what's protected and what is enforceable?

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is with You people in this ACLU???? You all seem to care more for the rights of Criminals,Gays,and Absolutely Every single person that is Non-Christian than anything. Why don't You all just come out and say it...You're Devil Worshipers!!!!! I mean what Else Could you be? You want to take away All of the Christians Rights and turn our World over to Murders, Rapists, Child-molesters,Gays, Anyone who is a Non-Christian.
Our Nation was Built on the Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Christian Men and Women who have FOUGHT and DIED to have Christianity as our Main Belief System!!! The Ones Who have Fought and DIED were Christians!!These are the same ones who Fought and Died so that You could live in a Protected Nation,where You (unfortunately)have the Right to belly-ache,and whine about the Stupidest Topics I've ever heard of. You talk about the Right to keep GOD out of our Schools, But What about the RIGHTS of our Christian Children? AND the FACT that Christian Mothers and Fathers are paying School Taxes too!!!! I Believe I have the RIGHT to have GOD in our Schools and the Right to tell people like you all that,"If you don't like the way this Country has been Originally set up, Go somewhere else! Do You Really think You would like Any other Country Better? How about some of the Other Countries where you get Killed for Not believing Their Way!!!! You People are Pathetic and You make me Sick!!!
You're Not fighting for Me or for anyone else who Truely CARES about this country You're fighting for the Devil. Hope you like Heat!!!!!
Christine Neff(Mo.)

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Atheism Quotes said...

Wow! So many inaccuracies, falsehoods, and common misperceptions, there are just too many to respond to!

It's not worth posting a list of valid links to disprove your generalizations since you won't believe facts anyway.

I love how people like you post anonymously so you don't have to take responsibility for your ignorance!

10:25 PM  
Anonymous The Mad Scotsman said...

Hi Christine Neff(Mo.)

The fact is, the founding fathers deliberately created a secular society, not a Christian society. They created the Constitution to ensure that the State would not impose any religious views on the inhabitants of these fair lands.

That means you are free to pursue your religious beliefs. You are free to educate your children in your religious beliefs. However, the State must remain religiously neutral.

What that means in practice is that you are free to send your kids to a religious school. That school may not be funded by tax payer money though, since that would be State sponsored religion.

I hope this explanation helps relieve some of the hatred you appear to have in your heart. What do you think Jesus would do? Do you think he would be pleased that people are allowed to worship their own God in their own way, or would he require that all Christians like yourself force their views on others?

Remember, he used humility to persuade people to his viewpoint. He did not try and force his beliefs on anyone.

Cheers, Neil.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Christine Neff(Mo.)

I'm a father and uncle with several children in Missouri public schools. I, my father, and my father's father and all of our brothers and sisters have fought (and some have died) defending our rights and freedoms. That includes our freedom of, and from, religion.

Keep your religious views away from my children. I'm not done fighting, and my kids are worth fighting for.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous paula j said...

This is great! I haven't seen this much dialog since Dover. Keep asking & resonding! It's a great read, and informative, too.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a small town alderman in rurual america. We have a local church that is stirring up a lot of trouble for another church that is a very private congregation. The church that is causing all of the fuss wants to run the other congregation out of town. They have been told that legally the other congregation has the right to live here and they must stop causing problems.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the alderman in rural america again. Is there any solution to getting the community unified as one and resolve their differences?

5:25 PM  

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