Indiana's Senate unanimously passed a bill last week that would protect the celebration of Christmas in the state's public schools, allowing students to decorate Christmas trees and share traditional holiday greetings such as "Merry Christmas" with their pupils.
Senate Bill 326, if passed into law, would specifically allow teachers and students to say traditional seasonal greetings such as "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," and "Happy Holidays" while at school. Additionally, it would allow classrooms to display "symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah, Christmas tree, Nativity scene or other religious symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations," as long as more than one religion is represented or a secular symbol accompanies a religious one.
The state senate passed the bill unanimously last week, with the legislation's co-author, Sen. Jim Smith, saying the purpose of the bill was to avoid the lawsuits that have taken place in other states regarding religious expression during the holiday season. "Christmas is under attack," Smith said in reference to the bill, according to The Associated Press. "That's just crazy that we even have to move a bill like that, but I think it's very well needed in the state and in every state." more >>
North Korea has turned back on its decision to discuss the possible release of imprisoned Christian missionary Kenneth Bae by rescinding its invitation to an American special envoy, blaming a planned joint military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea.
"We are deeply disappointed by the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea's] decision – for a second time – to rescind its invitation for Ambassador [Robert] King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae's release," an unnamed State Department official told Fox News.
"We again call on the DPRK to grant Bae special amnesty and immediate release as a humanitarian gesture so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care. We will continue to work actively to secure Mr. Bae's release. Per our long-standing offer, we remain prepared to send Ambassador King to North Korea in support of Mr. Bae's release." more >>
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will not be participating in the city's historic St. Patrick's Day parade in March because of its policy prohibiting LGBT groups from carrying pro-gay banners. His decision has struck the ire of some public figures in the city who argue the politician is opting out of an important and historical tradition.
De Blasio, who was elected to his post in November 2013, is the first NYC mayor in 20 years to not participate in the famous march down Fifth Avenue that is considered to be the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in the nation. When de Blasio served as public advocate for the city, he participated in an alternative St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens that allowed LGBT participants to carry signs.
"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city," de Blasio said at a press conference earlier this week, adding, "But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade." more >>
An atheist group has filed an appeal against a ruling that allowed the "Big Mountain Jesus" statue at Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort in Montana to stay in place.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a brief on Jan. 28 with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to overturn a June ruling by a federal judge that allowed the U.S. Forest Service to renew its 10-year permit for the Big Mountain Jesus Statue, which has stood atop Whitefish Ski Resort in Montana for the past six decades as part of a World War II memorial. The Whitefish Ski Resort is located in the Flathead National Forest, which is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, a government entity.
In its brief filed last week, the FFRF described the six-foot statue as "a permanent Catholic shrine on public land," saying that such a religious shrine is "prohibited by the Establishment Clause, every bit as much as a Catholic church would be." more >>
A local community in North Carolina is rallying behind its high school football coach, who was recently banned from praying at school football games after an atheist group complained.
Hal Capps, the head football coach for the Blue Devils at Mooresville High School, was banned from leading players in the Lord's Prayer prior to school football games after a parent complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation that in turn issued a letter to the Mooresville Graded School District demanding they cease the practice.
"It is a violation of the Constitution for the Mooresville High School football coach to organize, lead, or participate in prayers or other religious proselytizing before, during, or after games and practices," Patrick Elliott, an attorney for the Madison-based FFRF nonprofit group, said in a letter to school district lawyer Kevin Donaldson last fall. "It is well settled that public schools, and by extension public school officials, may not advance or promote religion." more >>
A Christian college in Wisconsin has changed its "Crusaders" school mascot after nearly half-a-century in order to adapt to changing times.
Matt Davis, executive vice president of Maranatha Baptist University located in Watertown, says that the university chose to change its nickname because it has become a more "global society." The school also changed its name from Maranatha Baptist College in December, and Davis says the latest change is in compliance with the school's makeover process.