ACLU loses case against awards banquet prayer

SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Florida — After a 7½ hour hearing in federal court, federal District Judge Casey Rodgers told Michelle Winkler that she would not be held in civil contempt over her husband’s prayer at an awards banquet. Ms. Winkler, who is a clerical assistant for the Santa Rosa County School District, is represented by Liberty Counsel. Senior Litigation Counsel Horatio Mihet and David Corry defended Winkler against the ACLU last Friday. On September 17, Liberty Counsel will be back in court defending Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman on charges of criminal contempt over a blessing of the meal at a separate luncheon to honor private contributors to the athletic program.

Last year the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Santa Rosa County School District. Judge Rodgers entered a broadly worded injunction in January 2009 regarding prayer and religious activities of school employees. Winkler attended a privately funded event off campus at a nearby Naval base, held after school hours to honor noninstructional employees of the school district. She invited her husband, who is not employed by the school, to read a beautiful prayer blessing she wrote for the honorees. The ACLU ran to court, claiming that Winkler should be held in civil contempt of the court order. The ACLU claimed they had a “rock-solid case” against Winkler, but after 7 ½ hours, the ACLU had no case. Judge Rodgers ruled against the ACLU, concluding that Michelle Winkler’s husband’s prayer at a voluntary gathering outside of school did not violate the court’s order.

Upon hearing the ruling, Ms. Winkler hugged Liberty Counsel attorney Horatio Mihet and was overjoyed with the result. The courtroom was packed with people, who sat through the long ordeal to support Ms. Winkler. Dozens of additional supporters spent the day waiting and praying outside the courthouse.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The wheels came off the ACLU’s steamroller. While we are pleased with the ruling, we are saddened that a wonderful woman had to spend a day in court, with the ACLU’s crosshairs aimed at her back. Prayer is neither contemptuous nor criminal. It is outrageous that the ACLU sought civil contempt charges against an outstanding woman whose husband prayed a beautiful prayer at a privately sponsored event held off campus. The ACLU needs to take a good dose of the First Amendment and call us in the morning.”

Contact: Liberty Counsel Public Relations Department, 800-671-1776

Source: Christian Newswire

Florida H.S. principal, A.D. face contempt charge for praying before lunch

From Lodi, Calif. to Pace, Fla., the right to pray in public settings remains on center stage this week as a legal issue.

While the Lodi City Council puts using “Jesus” name on hold in its invocations, many in the community of Pace struggle to understand why prayer is being outlawed.

Fox 10 News in Florida reports that it’s all because of a blessing before a school luncheon. Now, a high school principal and athletic director have criminal contempt charges to answer to. FULL STORY AT LA CHURCH & STATE EXAMINER


Voting Out Alex

A Port St. Lucie, Florida kindergarten teacher Wendy Portillo left us dumbfounded this week, leaving us to ask “why?” If it wasn’t for consistency’s sake This Week’s Top Scrooge would be crowned This Year’s Bonehead.

This Week’s Top Scrooge – May 30, 2008


Prompted by Portillo, Alex Barton’s Morningside Elementary School classmates were allowed to say what they didn’t like about him and take a vote about whether they wanted him in class or not. By a 14 to 2 margin, 5-year-old Alex lost.

Alex is being evaluated for Asperger’s syndrome — an autism spectrum disorder. Guess how Portillo thought it best to deal with an apparently very trying day with Alex…not just send him out of the classroom to school aides, but to have his classmates rag on him when he came back.

Why? The Chicago Sun-Times reports:

“Portillo said she did this as she felt that if (Alex) heard from his classmates how his behavior affected them that it would make a bigger difference to him, rather than just hearing it from adults,” according to a report released Thursday morning by the Port St. Lucie Police Department.

For a video interview with Alex’s mom, Melissa Barton with Alex, go to the story at

More from the Sun-Times:

Alex told the officer Portillo called his classmates’ names out and they said “disgusting” things about him.

“I asked (Alex) what the students said, and he said the students said he eats paper, picks boogers and eats them on top of the table and bites his shoelaces,” the report said. “He told me Mrs. Portillo said, ‘I hate you right now. I don’t like you today’.”

The officer asked Alex how the incident made him feel.

“He said it made him feel sad,” Alex said according to the report.

Today’s children face challenges of unprecedented nature. Biblically speaking, a fallen world seems to be falling faster. A kindergarten teacher need not introduce and fascilitate additional negative forces into children’s lives.

I pray for the speedy recovery of all those involved…the classmates, their families, the teacher, Alex’s family, and of course, little Alex.

Not Special: Support Alex Barton includes a full list of contact and support information. Go there!



DIGG story

Pizza Chain Chaplain


This from the NY Times:

Staff Chaplain Sets a Restaurant Chain Apart

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Midway through the dinner rush at the Loop Pizza Grill on a November night, the Rev. Becci Curtis, graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., pulled a disposable glove onto her right hand and plunged it into a container of shredded romaine. Her mission, at the moment, was to assemble a Gorgonzola salad.

As she worked, adding the croutons and cheese, Ms. Curtis chatted with the waitress beside her, April Mechler. They talked about the Thanksgiving just past, about how Ms. Mechler’s homemade mac-and-cheese had turned out. Then they talked about Ms. Mechler’s dream of becoming a journalist and her application for a summer internship at The Florida Times-Union, the daily paper in nearby Jacksonville.

Ms. Mechler stepped away from the salad station to deliver an order, and Ms. Curtis walked through the swinging door into the kitchen, spotting Richard Calalang amid the grills and deep fryers. She knew his dream, too: to move to California and work for a catering company that serviced film studios and even the Playboy Mansion. She also knew his private worry about fitting in on the West Coast: He did not know how to surf.

It was all part of Ms. Curtis’s job, the conversing and the confiding and the salad-making, too. A lifetime as an observant Christian and a top-rank education in divinity had led her, improbably or providentially or both, to being the spiritual leader of a pizza joint. She worked four hours a week for $10 an hour, plus the occasional tip, and on her flowered blouse she wore a name tag that identified her official position: chaplain.

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Florida 5th Grader Arrested for Using Knife to Cut Food


Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to reason. Can somebody write a song, “The Day Reason Died?” I’ll start….and they were singing bye bye Miss American pie, drove my Chevy to the levee and the levee was dry…and so on.

You know, they call themselves educators, but sometimes school officials are less than educated…especially when it comes to taking actions that are far from wise.

This from FOXNews:

Girl, 10, Arrested for Using Knife to Cut Food at School

A 10-year-old Florida girl faces felony weapons charges after bringing a small steak knife to school to cut up her lunch, according to a report on

School officials say the Ocala 5th grader had brought a piece of steak for her lunch, and had brought a steak knife. According to the report, a couple of teachers took the utensil and called authorities, who arrested the girl and took her to the county’s juvenile assessment center.

“She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn’t pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature,” explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian, who added that it made no difference what the knife was being used for, they had no choice but to call police.

“Anytime there’s a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don’t want to take any chances, regardless,” Christian said.

The girl now faces a felony charge for possessing a weapon on school property and has been suspended from school for ten days. The parents of the girl could not be reached for comment, reported

HUD Visited By the Ghost of Christmas Emails

Even Ebenezer Scrooge had an awakening.

Angel in Christmas tree

This Week’s Top Scrooge – November 10, 2007


Although it took the visits of three ghosts for Scrooge to change from his miserly and anti-Christmas ways, it apparently only took the miracle of the internet to change the minds of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Earlier this week, HUD was at the center of a controversy surrounding a directive it issued banning “any religious symbols or religious words associated with Christmas.” Under the guidelines issued by HUD, an elderly Florida grandmother living in a mostly seniors apartment complex was directed not to place a small Christmas tree outside her door if it contains any religious symbols or religious words…and as the American Family Association alerted…”even an angel!”

Well, lo and behold, the AFA responded with a petition drive to overturn the decision. The family advocacy group set up a link to allow constituents to send e-mails to the HUD secretary or President Bush expressing their objections to the policy. And as WorldNetDaily reports, within a day, the response was forthcoming.

This from WorldNetDaily:

“I am pleased to report that the Plant City Living Center’s recent newsletter regarding holiday decoration policies has been rescinded,” said a statement issued by a spokesman concerning the issue at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development facility.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guarantees the rights of citizens to display religious symbols in public. We support that guarantee,” the statement added.

“I want to take this opportunity to reiterate to you … that Plant City Living Center respects the religious beliefs of all of its residents. In furtherance of that policy, Plant City Living Center allows residents to decorate their apartments and the exterior areas of their apartments in any manner they choose,” the statement said.

The point is that this story about HUD, Plant City Living Center, and 85-year-old Mrs. Arnold shows how far the separation of church and state paranoia has come. Its come to the point where even an innocent angel decoration could be looked at as offensive. Never in a million years did I think I would live to see the day when the U.S. government was was trying to hide religious expression to such an absurd degree.

I’ve only read and heard about this sort of thing in oppresive regimes in other parts of the world.

The “War on Christmas”, is it real or just a catchy slogan? One thing is very real, and that is the spiritual battle all of us face everyday, individually and as a country. If it takes emails to fight the battle, so be it.

Apparently, it wasn’t ghosts that visited HUD and awakened This Week’s Top Scrooge, but a deluge of e-mails…or could it have been something else?


Related: Living Center’s ‘Holiday Hint’: No Angel On Your Christmas 



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Senator’s Letter Includes Questions About White’s Possible Use of Church Money for Homes, Cosmetic Surgery

While more news of a government probe into the “Big 6” televangelists for alleged tax-exempt donation abuse is still breaking, The Tampa Tribune is filling in more details about the inquiry into Paula White.

Paula White (Without Walls)

White, recently divorced from her husband Randy, remains as the leader of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries.

This from the Tribune:

Letters were faxed Monday by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, requesting ministry leaders respond by Dec. 6 to a wide range of questions regarding their personal and organizational finances. The senator expects full cooperation, he said in a statement released by his staff.


In a five-page letter to Randy and Paula White, Grassley asked for detailed information on 28 areas of church and personal finances, mainly from the years 2004 to present. Some of those include:

• A detailed explanation of the compensation paid to the Whites, as well as cash and noncash gifts, housing allowances and personal use of assets.

• A detailed list of any expenses paid for by their church or ministries toward the purchases and monthly maintenance of their residences on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, and in New York, San Antonio and Malibu, Calif.

• Credit card statements for expenses paid by the Whites’ tax-exempt entity, including a list of all expense account items such as clothing and cosmetic surgery.

• A list of all domestic and overseas bank accounts and investments belonging to their organizations.

• A list of all vehicles purchased, leased or maintained by their tax-exempt organizations.

• Copies of flight records of any aircraft leased or owned by their ministries, as well as flight itineraries for both the Whites.

• A copy of the bill of sale, type of payment used and an explanation of the reported tax-exempt purchase of a Bentley convertible as a gift for Bishop T.D. Jakes.

• A detailed accounting of $871,000 worth of items reportedly sold to the church since 2005 by two of the private businesses owned by the Whites, and an explanation as to who determined that the church would purchase these items.

• An explanation of who determines how the funds of Without Walls and Paula White Ministries are spent, copies of all board minutes and whether any of the decisions, both operational and financial, are subject to oversight by an elected or appointed body.

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Related: Hinn, Dollar, White Among 6 Televangelists Under Senate Scrutiny for Alleged Donation Abuse