Religion in the news: Indiana vouchers cleared

Associated Press
Posted8/20/2011 6:07 AM

Indiana school voucher program wins in court

INDIANAPOLIS -- A judge declined to halt Indiana's broad new school voucher program, allowing the law to remain in effect while a group of teachers and religious leaders challenge it.


Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele sided Monday with the state in denying a temporary injunction.

Attorneys for the state argued that granting the injunction could have forced students who received vouchers to leave their private schools just as the academic year was beginning and to scramble to re-enroll in public schools.

Keele ruled only on the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Their complaint challenging the law hasn't gone to trial yet.

The law allows even middle-class parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private secular and religious schools.

The measure passed this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels is the nation's broadest private school voucher program. A group of teachers and religious leaders backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association is challenging it.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, John West, argued the new law violates the state constitution because it provides public money to schools whose main purpose is to promote religion. He said that vouchers helped religious schools recruit new students -- and potentially new members -- they otherwise wouldn't have reached.

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About 2,800 Indiana students have been approved for the state-funded scholarships. Attorney General Greg Zoeller said more than 150 of them used the vouchers to enroll in private schools that started last week.

Sheriff revises rules to allow religious headgear in courthouses, jail

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Davidson County Sheriff's Office is changing its policies regarding religious head coverings at the courthouses or in jail.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said in Tuesday that the sheriff's office rewrote its policies after the ACLU contended current practices violate the First Amendment and federal and state law.

Weinberg said a Muslim woman was required to remove her headscarf for a booking photo and a Muslim man was ordered to remove his head covering before entering a courthouse.


Karla Weikal, a sheriff's spokeswoman, said two booking photos can be taken, one including head coverings and one with only veils removed. The second change allows people visiting the courthouse to wear religious head coverings after a security screening.

Ohio county fair's 1st-ever beer sales said to be profitable

MANSFIELD, Ohio -- An Ohio county fair's first beer sales were profitable and problem-free, despite criticism ahead of the event about selling alcohol, organizers said

Religious leaders and others had objected to the beer garden that was part of this year's Richland County Fair. Its weeklong run ended last Saturday in north-central Ohio.

Dean Wells, manager of the fair, said the beer concession made a net profit of about $6,000 and caused no trouble.

The Richland Community Family Coalition led opposition to the beer sales, thought to be a first in the fair's 160-year history. Ben Mutti, a spokesman for the coalition, said several businesses won't sponsor next year's fair over the issue.

Wells said the fair benefited from free publicity over the controversy.

School district rejects offers to buy land for seminary

DRAPER, Utah -- A Utah school district won't be selling land next to a new high school to either the Mormon church or the religious group Summum.

The Canyons School Board met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss offers from both groups to buy the property in Draper and build seminaries.

A school district spokeswoman said the community is growing quickly and the district wants to save the space for future expansion. The school is set to open in fall 2013.

The school's site plan had labeled a one-acre plot of land next to the campus for a seminary. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had planned to use it for released-time religious instruction, district officials said.

Summum is a religious organization incorporated in Utah in 1975. The group practices meditation and mummification.

Massachusetts barbershop closed amid animal sacrifice allegations

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- A New Bedford barbershop has been closed after city officials found evidence of ritualistic animal sacrifice at the site. The owner said the shutdown violates his religious rights.

Animal control officers removed two chickens and four roosters, one dead, from the shop's basement Tuesday, after fire and building inspectors found the birds during a routine safety inspection.

Emanuel Maciel, the animal control officer, said the chickens and roosters were kept in two pens next to a religious altar of candles, saint statues and hand-drawn religious symbols.

The barbershop's owner, William Camacho, faces animal cruelty charges.

Camacho said he practices Palo Mayombe, an Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Santeria, and his religious freedoms have been violated.

He said he does not sacrifice animals at the barbershop but only at religious ceremonies in rural settings.