Dallas Homeowner Again Suing Orthodox Neighbors, This Time Over a Sukkah

Categories: Courts, Religion

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Bachrach44, via Wikipedia
A sukkah, much like the one erected behind 7104 Mumford Court last October.
While Congregation Toras Chaim fights the city of Dallas for the right to operate out of a Far North Dallas house -- and thus to continue existing -- another peculiar legal tussle over the rites of Orthodox Judaism is playing out directly across the street.

Last October, the residents of 7104 Mumford Court observed the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot by erecting a ceremonial structure known as a sukkah in their driveway. It was a makeshift thing, somewhere between a tent and a shed, meant to stand in for the fragile dwellings the Israelites sheltered under during their 40 years in the wilderness. During the holiday, Jews will take meals, and often sleep, in the sukkah.

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Far North Dallas Synagogue Fights Back Against Dallas Lawsuit

Categories: Religion

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Eric Nicholson
Rabbi Yaakov Rich speaks to reporters following Congregation Toras Chaim's legal victory over a local homeowners assocaition.
Early last month, a few weeks after members Congregation Toras Chaim partook of a dessert reception to celebrate their victory in a lengthy court battle with the Highlands of McKamy Homeowners Association, Rabbi Yaakov Rich realized the synagogue's legal tribulation had only begun. On March 3, the city of Dallas, a bureaucracy far more formidable than the 247-home HOA, sued to stop the synagogue's members from worshiping in the home at 7103 Mumford Court, at least until the synagogue met city code requirements for parking, handicapped accessibility and fire safety.

On Monday, the congregation and its attorneys at the Liberty Institute fired back, arguing in court documents that the city's requirements place an illegal burden on their free exercise of religion.

Their argument is essentially the same as the one that successfully beat back the HOA's attempt to enforce deed restrictions requiring that houses in the neighborhood be used only as single-family. In that case CTC contended -- and Collin County District Judge Jill Willis agreed -- that the synagogue was protected from the HOA's deed restrictions by the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and its state-level parallel, Texas' Religious Freedom Restoration Act, both of which are designed to protect religious practice from potentially discriminatory zoning laws and other forms of government interference. In the current case, CTC argues that the same laws protect it from Dallas' certificate-of-occupancy requirements.

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Fort Worth Diocese Interrogated Sex Abuse Victim and His Mother in a Starbucks: Lawsuit

Categories: Religion

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jason john paul haskins
St Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth.
By 2013, the stories of child molestation in the Catholic church, along with the archdiocese's attempts to sweep the allegations under the rug, were old news. In that year alone, sex abuse cases cost the Catholic church $108,954,109, according to a report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops acknowledged the church's failings and laid out a series of recommendations to prevent more abuse and abuse cover-ups. "We pledge that we will work toward healing and reconciliation for those sexually abused by clerics," they wrote.

But that same year, the Fort Worth Diocese was working to cover up a new claim of sexual abuse, a lawsuit filed this week claims. The man identified in court documents only as John Doe 117 says he was the victim of sadistic "punishment" by Father John H. Sutton when he was a student at Wichita Falls' Notre Dame Middle-High School in the early 1990s.

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Garland Church Should Have Known Youth Ministers Were Child Sex Abusers, Suit Says

Categories: Religion

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Screengrab/Google Maps
The Arapaho Road Baptist Church.
Even before Joshua and Jordan Earls were formally charged with making child pornography and child molestation in 2013, it should have been obvious to the Garland church where they worked that something was awry, one of their victims says.

Josh moved to Texas to work as a youth minister at the Arapaho Road Baptist Church in 2008, and his brother "Jordy" followed him the next year. They quickly fell into favor with the kids in the youth group and their parents. They paid particularly close attention to several teenage girls, attention that would eventually lead to criminal charges.

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Ted Cruz Almost Got It Right on Vaccines Until He Totally Didn't

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Jenny McCarthy at E3 2006 by Gamerscoreblog. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Ted Cruz joins the list of deep thinkers who don't know when to stop talking about vaccinations. That's him on the left.
As the vaccine "debate" has gained speed in the aftermath of a measles outbreak centered on Disneyland in California, reaction from the libertarian right has been fascinating. Senator Rand Paul stuttered something about vaccines needing to be voluntary and walked up to the thoroughly debunked "vaccines can cause mental disorders" line. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who isn't a libertarian but likes to pander to them, insisted that there must be an element of parental choice in whether or not kids get vaccinated from life threatening diseases. DFW's own Glenn Beck, who's really more of an anarchist than anything, stoked the anti-vaccination flames. After rehashing the thoroughly debunked link between certain vaccines and autism, he said that anti-vaxxers were subject to undue persecution.

"Where is anybody saying, 'My gosh, we're living in the days of Galileo!' The church has become the state. And if you don't practice their religion exactly the way they tell you to practice it, you're done. How many people have lost their jobs, have lost their credibility? We have got to unite. We've got to stand together," he said Tuesday on The Blaze, his TV network.

It was only a matter of time before Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who actually thinks he has a legitimate shot at being president, had to weigh in. He started off reasonably.

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Motorcyclists May Bring Guns to Garland Protest Against Religious Violence, Islam

Categories: Religion

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Facebook/Screengrab
This weekend, a religious media company is hosting a huge event in a taxpayer-funded building. Sounds like another day in the life of Texas, but it's not because, in this case, the religious conference is a Muslim one. Just a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the Chicago-based Muslim organization SoundVision is leasing space from Garland ISD to host "Stand with the Prophet Against Terror & Hate," a conference whose stated mission is to combat Islamophobia:

The fight in defense of our Prophet against the $160 million Islamophobia machine is continuous, and groups like ISIS and Boko Haram only increase the media's ammunition to incriminate Muslims.

The backlash has been swift. The Garland Tea Party is speaking out against the event to local news and conservative blogs, and the so-called American Badass Coalition, a Facebook page run by a motorcyclist named John Harrington, is organizing a protest motorcycle ride "to STOP Islamofascists," or so they say.

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Flower Mound's Year of the Bible Was a Flop

Categories: News, Religion

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Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño
The product tie-ins were a disaster.
Twelve months ago, Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden left his seat behind the Town Council table, stood before the unusually robust audience and issued a bold call for unity. Flower Moundians -ites residents, regardless of their creed, should set aside their differences and spend the next year carefully studying the Word of God.

And so Flower Mound's Year of the Bible was born, as was the official Year of the Bible website which, to avoid any suggestion that municipal government was unconstitutionally endorsing a particular religion, was run by a local church. "The idea of this," Hayden said at the time, "is to encourage our community to discuss the Bible -- to discuss it with your kids, to discuss it as a family."

So, with a new year approaching and 2014 drawing to a close, we have to wonder: Was it a success? Were old divisions healed? Did scales fall from eyes? (Side question: Did anyone think that, Dear God, maybe this isn't appropriate to discuss with my kids?

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Christian Plaques Midlothian ISD Parents Love So Much Not Coming Down Yet

Categories: Courts, Religion

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WFAA via Twitter
Their life here on Earth is not yet complete.
As they have since Midlothian ISD first received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the overtly Christian plaques that adorn two of its elementary schools, community members at a school board meeting this week supported the plaques with a unified voice.

See also: Midlothian Parents Protest Removal of Hilariously Unconstitutional Plaques

After hearing the speakers, board president Todd Hemphil, said that "the plaques are not covered and we do not plan to take further action to cover them up again," according to The Dallas Morning News reported.

Some might call that a pretty strong sign that Midlothian isn't going to take the plaques down unless someone, a judge perhaps, tells the district it must. The questions is, who's going to get a judge to do it?

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Rowlett Atheists Want to Give City Council Invocation; Mayor Says No "Spaghetti God"

Categories: News, Religion

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City of Rowlett
Mayor Todd Gottel is defending a Rowlett policy that says invocation leaders must be religious, but he may soon have to let Metroplex Atheists in on the fun.

Metroplex Atheists, with the legal aid of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) delivered a letter last week to the Rowlett City Council requesting that they be added to the list of invocation leaders. It's not the first time the group has sought recognition with the City Council, but this latest move may be the closest they get to victory.

In 2010, Metroplex Atheists first requested that the invocation be eliminated altogether. After Metroplex Atheists were denied, the City Council re-evaluated the invocation policy, and began reaching out to local religious institutions to expand the diversity of the invocation list. City policy currently dictates that invocation be led by a religious leader, and that their institution be located in Rowlett.

Rowlett Mayor Todd Gottel is defending the policy, saying the city offers invocation slots to every religious institution in Rowlett. Because there are no synagogues, mosques, temples or other non-Christian religious place of worship in the city, that means a Christian generally delivers the invocation.

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Glenn Beck Spoke at a Christian College, and Evangelicals Are Mad Because He's a Mormon

Categories: Religion

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Via.
There are several thousand reasons one might credibly object to Westlake resident Glenn Beck delivering a university commencement address. One is that he represents the antithesis of facts and learning and reasoned debate, i.e. pretty much everything an institution of higher learning holds dear. Another is that he's a fearmonger who's built a media empire by playing on the most vile racist/xenophobic/Islamophobic/partisan impulses of his audience.

Beck's appearance late last month at ultra-Christian Liberty University in Virginia has become controversial for an entirely different reason: because he's a Mormon.

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