Morning-After Pill, Good News Club, Sky Angel & Sudan

Morning-After Pill, Good News Club, Sky Angel & Sudan

In Today's Edition:
  • ACLJ Wins Religious Discrimination Case Over "Morning-After" Pill
  • Sky Angel Corrects Misleading Statements in Merger Petition
  • Factfinding Report Confirms Sudan Slavery
  • Good News Club Allowed Back On Campus Over Principal's Objection
  • Other Headlines at a Glance

ACLJ Wins Religious Discrimination Case Over "Morning-After" Pill  ... A U.S. District Court jury in Riverside, Calif., has found that Riverside County violated the constitutional rights of a nurse who was fired from her job after she refused to dispense medication known as a "morning-after" pill. The case began in December 2000 when the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) filed suit against the Riverside Neighborhood Health Center on behalf of Michelle Diaz, who worked as a Clinic Health Nurse at the center.

The suit contended that Diaz was fired after she told her supervisor that her deeply held religious beliefs prevented her from distributing medication designed to end pregnancies because she believed she would be participating in an abortion. The suit contended that she was fired from her job in June 1999 shortly after she talked to the news media about the "morning-after" pill controversy and explained her position.

Following a four-day trial in federal court that ended May 24th, the jury found the county was liable on all three counts presented: violated her First Amendment rights of free speech; violated her rights of freedom of religion; and, failed to reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs. The jury also awarded damages totaling more than $47,000 - including $19,000 in damages for back pay, and more than $28,000 in damages for emotional distress. The ACLJ was assisted in the trial by attorney Robert Tyler of the firm, Tyler & Dorsa in Temecula, Calif.

Sky Angel Corrects Misleading Statements in Merger Petition ... A petition campaign organized by several well-known Pentecostal television ministries opposing the merger of two satellite TV companies has forced the nation's only Christian satellite TV provider to launch its own campaign. In an effort to "remedy misleading statements and false impressions" created by the petition campaign, the Dominion Sky Angel DBS Television & Radio System has initiated a media effort, purchasing ad space in Christian print media for placement of an "Open Letter to the Christian Community."

"In the process of opposing the proposed merger of satellite TV operators DISH(tm) Network and DirecTV(r), this petition campaign has provided people with the wrong impression that Sky Angel doesn't exist or will go away should a merger occur," said Robert Johnson, Sky Angel's founder, chairman and CEO. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

The petition wrongly states that "If EchoStar wins this fight (the merger), religious broadcasters will not be able to reach satellite viewers." It goes on to say, "In rural areas, and other parts of the country not reached by cable, TV viewers would no longer have a choice between two providers of satellite TV, as they do today. A monopoly would dramatically affect the availability of religious programming in every rural area in America." The petition is being mailed and e-mailed by the participating ministries to their supporters and was also published as an open letter to President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell in the form of a full-page ad in The Washington Post on April 10.

Sky Angel, DISH(tm) Network and DirecTV(r) are the only three national, high-power (subscribers use an 18-inch dish to receive programming) direct broadcast satellite (DBS) television providers operating in the United States; Sky Angel is the only provider offering a complete lineup of channels based solely on Judeo-Christian values. While Sky Angel subscribers throughout the Continental U.S. use the DISH(tm) Network-brand satellite equipment to receive the Sky Angel programming, Sky Angel and DISH(tm) Network are two separate companies, each licensed by the FCC to own and operate their own DBS systems.

Since the start of the petition campaign approximately six weeks ago, Sky Angel has been receiving e-mails and telephone calls from subscribers concerned that they may lose their Sky Angel programming service. Johnson has written two letters to the head of one of the participating ministries apparently spearheading the campaign asking him to correct the misstatements; while the correspondence was acknowledged as received, a response was never given. "We're not objecting to these ministries' right to oppose the merger," added Johnson. "Sky Angel hasn't taken a position on the merger. But what we do object to are the misleading statements they are using to voice their concerns and dismay about the proposed merger, continuing to negatively affect Sky Angel in the process."

Factfinding Report Confirms Sudan Slavery ... Freedom House on May 23 announced the findings of a major fact finding mission to Sudan that confirmed the issue of slavery, abductions, and forced servitude in the war-ravaged country. The authoritative investigative report, titled "Slavery, Abduction and Forced Servitude in Sudan," was prepared by the International Eminent Persons Group, acting with the encouragement of the U.S. State Department. The report confirms the existence of slavery in Sudan, a practice used in conjunction with attacks carried out against civilian populations in rebel-held areas by pro-government militias.

It also describes a range of human rights abuses, including what under international law is considered slavery that takes place under the authority of the Government of Sudan. It outlines a far-reaching set of steps the Sudanese Government must take to eliminate these abuses and provide remedy to the victims, and actions the international community could take if such steps were forthcoming. The report calls upon the opposition Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA) to address abductions and forced servitude that take place under its authority.

"This report definitively establishes that the Sudanese regime is condoning the practice of slavery," said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "It makes it all the more imperative that the US assume a central role in negotiating a just peace that adequately protects the rights of the beleaguered animist and Christian populations in the south of Sudan," she said. The Center for Religious Freedom operates a substantial public awareness program on the civil war and issues of religious freedom in Sudan. The full report is available online at:

Good News Club Allowed Back On Campus Over Principal's Objection ... After being evicted from conducting after-school meetings at the White Rock Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisc., the Good News Club will now be able to meet again on the elementary school campus. The Good News Club reaches out to elementary-age students and teaches morals and character development from a Christian viewpoint. The Club had previously been meeting after school at the White Rock Elementary School, but Principal Dorothy Smith disagreed with the doctrines taught by the club, especially the doctrine of sin. The principal then cancelled the meetings.

On April 17, 2002, Liberty Counsel faxed a letter to the Waukesha School District superintendent and all of the school board members, including Principal Dorothy Smith. The letter informed the School District about the United States Supreme Court ruling handed down last year in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that a school district could not deny the Good News Club from meeting on campus at an elementary school after school hours. Liberty Counsel's letter demanded that the School District immediately allow the Good News Club to meet on campus, and that the parents of the elementary children be notified that the Club was available as an after-school program.

Other Headlines at a Glance: