The justices, without comment, turned away arguments that the arrangement violates the constitutionally required separation of church and state.
Located in southwest Minnesota, Independent School District No. 640 operates public schools in an agricultural area that includes the towns of Vesta and Wabasso.
The district closed down a Vesta elementary school and sold the building in 1984, and children from Vesta then attended the Wabasso elementary school about 14 miles away.
Lloyd Paskewitz bought the old Vesta school building in 1991, and the next year offered to rent it to the school district.
Paskewitz is a member of the Brethren, a Christian sect that seeks to avoid the use of technology such as televisions, radios and computers. About one-third of Vesta's residents are Brethren members, according to court documents.
The rental proposal, contained in a letter to the school district superintendent, requested that the Vesta school be multi-age and not contain technological equipment. Paskewitz said about 20 Brethren children would be interested in attending the school.
When Brethren children attended the elementary school in Wabasso, they had been excused from participating in classes or activities that used modern technology.
The district's school board unanimously approved of renting the Vesta school. Members cited savings in transportation costs, space efficiency and avoiding the loss of state aid if Brethren families opted for home-schooling.
School district taxpayers Matthew Stark and Marcia Neely sued, seeking to block operation of the Vesta school and contending that it would amount to state-sponsored advancement of religion.
A federal judge agreed with them and ordered the school district not to open the school. But a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling by a 2-1 vote and said the school district could operate the school.
"The district here decided, for secular reasons, to open a public school ...open to all students regardless of religious affiliation," the appeals court said. It noted that the school district routinely grants parental requests for curricular exemptions "regardless of religious affiliation" and that no non-Brethren child had been prevented from attending the school.
In the appeal acted on today, lawyers for Stark and Neely said the appeals court ruling conflicts with several past Supreme Court decisions that "prohibit the tailoring of public school curricula for religious believers to satisfy their religious objections to curricula components."
The appeal added: "Even if groups other than religious believers could count on receiving treatment equal with the Brethren, the 8th Circuit's decision approves the balkanization of public schools along religious lines and the undermining of cohesion that is a historical hallmark and goal of the American public school."
The school district's lawyers urged the justices to reject the appeal. They accused the other side of making "fantastic suggestions" of a religious school and called them "all falsehoods."
The case is Stark vs. Independent School District No. 640, 97-1381.
ON Oct. 5, 1993, Bruce Lindsay told his best friend, President Bill Clinton, the explosive news: The Justice Department was about to make Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker a target in a criminal probe over the collapse of the Madison Guarantee Savings and Loan. On Oct. 6, Clinton and Tucker met for their first White House rendezvous of the administration. The next day, the White House secret police appear to have swung into action. Newly available Secret Service logs show that on Oct. 6, 12 and 14, 1993 top Clinton damage-control specialist Betsey Wright held a White House summit meeting with Craig Livingstone - the keeper of the FBI files.
Wright, a longtime Clinton confidante, employed private detectives to check out leads on the women and state troopers said to be bad-mouthing Clinton. Her operatives dug up embarrassing information to intimidate those witnesses into silence or to discredit them if they went public. Craig Livingstone's day job was to be the liaison between the White House and the FBI for background investigations of potential appointees. His apparent side job was overseeing the illicit procurement and scrutinizing of the FBI files of prominent Republicans.
What did Wright and Livingstone have to talk about? Whatever it was, it must have been urgent. One meeting was at midnight. Another pow-wow took place in the offices usually used by the First Lady's staff in the Old Executive Building.
These three meetings of the secret police chieftains were the only meetings between the two that the White House logs indicate for the entire Clinton administration.
Word that the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) had sent Justice a criminal referral suggesting a probe of Tucker's role in Madison was explosive news. Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr eventually got Tucker convicted on 13 counts in the matter - and then got Tucker to testify against the Clintons. That testimony is thought to be a key element in the Whitewater probe.
Betsey Wright was a private lobbyist at the time of these meetings. She would have had no professional reason to meet with Livingstone. But Betsey was the institutional memory of the Clintons' Arkansas years. She had been Gov. Clinton's chief of staff, campaign manager and general protector. In any Arkansas-based crisis, it was natural to contact her to learn what might come out.
The pattern of the subsequent Wright-Livingstone meetings suggests that the initial Oct. 6 meeting may have led to operational assignments for Wright. How else to explain the White House entry logs for Oct. 12, which indicate that Betsey Wright was waived in for a meeting with Livingstone at "00:00"?
Apparently, whatever she was doing came to a conclusion on Oct. 14, when she met with Livingstone's sidekick, Anthony Marceca. According to the logs, it was her last meeting with either man.
Was the timing of the meetings coincidental, or were they linked to the RTC referral? Were the conferences part of an orchestrated effort to see where the criminal probe might lead? Was Wright working on buttoning up leads which might prove embarrassing to Clinton in the Tucker probe?
Did Livingstone share with her any information from FBI files which might assist her in damage control? Did any White House higher-up suggest to Livingstone that he bring Betsey in? At the time, Wright was unpopular with the White House staff; it's unlikely that he would have reached out to her on his own.
Perhaps coincidentally, Livingstone also met with Carol Tucker Foreman, the governor's sister, several hours after her brother met with the president.
What was Craig Livingstone doing meeting with Foreman hours after the Clinton-Tucker chat? There may be an innocent explanation: Perhaps the Foreman-Livingstone meeting involved her effort to win a top-level job. But, if so, it was the only time White House logs reflect a direct encounter between a high-level job applicant and Livingstone.
These White House entry logs, obtained under subpoena by the conservative group Judicial Watch, show a clear need for further questioning of Livingstone.
Until now, Livingstone has refused to answer congressional inquiries, citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, should see if special prosecutor Starr would object to granting Livingstone immunity to in exchange for his testimony. Starr has jurisdiction over the FBI file scandal, but seems more focused these days on Whitewater and on the Lewinsky scandal. (In fact, Livingstone's attorney has recently boasted that his client is out of any legal danger.) If Starr doesn't have Livingstone in his sights, the national interest would surely be served by granting him immunity to gain his testimony on the file scandal.
Some additional areas for inquiry: The White House entry logs show that Livingstone entered the "residence" on Dec. 7, 1993, at 7:23 p.m. to meet with POTUS - the president. It was evidently not a social occasion: In another entry, when he was waved in to attend a party, he was listed as visiting the "state floor," not the "residence."
On Oct. 18, 1994, Livingstone met with the vice president at 1:42 p.m. and with the president at 4:18 p.m. What were these meetings about?
Each new revelation puts the operations of the secret police - the off-the-shelf operatives hired by the Clinton administration - closer to the heart of this presidency. Congressional hearings are the only way to learn the full scope and breadth of the secret police's role.
Even though murder defendant Terry Campbell is white, he still can raise his claim that blacks were unlawfully prevented from serving as grand jury foreman, the court said. The unanimous ruling lets Campbell challenge the charges filed by the grand jury.
Campbell, "like any other white defendant, has standing to raise an equal-protection challenge to discrimination against black persons in the selection of his grand jury," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.
"Regardless of his or her skin color, the accused suffers a significant injury in fact when the composition of the grand jury is tainted by racial discrimination," Kennedy said.
Campbell's lawyer, Dmitrc Burns, said that while it already was clear that black defendants could raise a challenge that blacks were unfairly excluded from a grand jury, it was not certain whether white defendants could assert the same claim. "Now there's no question about it," he added.
Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub said that for Campbell to win reversal of his conviction, "he will have to offer proof that there was in fact discrimination in the selection of this grand jury." Ieyoub added that three members of the grand jury that indicted Campbell were black.
In Louisiana, grand jury foremen are chosen by the judge, separate from the random selection of the other 11 grand jurors, and therefore the choice of foreman affects the makeup of the panel.
Four other states - Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia - use similar procedures. In federal courts and other states that use grand juries, the foreman is chosen from the grand jury panel.
In other action:
The court gave the Internal Revenue Service a multimillion-dollar victory in a dispute over federal taxes owed by property and casualty insurance companies for 1987. The ruling upheld the tax agency's method of calculating the insurance companies' tax liability.
The justices barred some homeowners facing foreclosure from trying to cancel the mortgage loan on grounds the lender violated a federal truth-in-lending law.
Justice Clarence Thomas refused to block Whitewater witness David Hale's trial in an Arkansas state court on charges of lying to insurance regulators. Hale contended a plea agreement and immunity granted by federal Whitewater investigators should protect him against prosecution in the state case.
The ruling in the Louisiana case follows a series of decisions since 1986 in which the Supreme Court barred lawyers from excluding prospective trial jurors because of their race or gender. In 1991, the court said criminal defendants can object to race-based exclusions of trial jurors even if the defendant and the excluded jurors are not of the same race.
However, the Supreme Court also ruled in 1984 that a defendant could not challenge the selection of a foreman from the members of a federal grand jury because the selection did not change the panel's composition.
Campbell was convicted of murder in the January 1992 shooting death of James L. Sharp and sentenced to life without parole. He challenged his indictment, saying blacks were systematically kept from serving as grand jury foreman in Evangeline Parish.
The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld Campbell's murder conviction, saying that because he was white, he had no legal standing to challenge the exclusion of blacks as grand jury foremen. The court also said the foreman's role appeared to be mainly "ministerial," and therefore, the selection would have little effect on a defendant's rights.
Kennedy wrote that the Louisiana court was wrong because the selection of a foreman in that state affected the grand jury's makeup.
His opinion was joined in full by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented from the part of the court's ruling that said white defendants could assert the right of blacks to be free from bias in choosing grand juries.
"I fail to understand how the rights of blacks excluded from jury service can be vindicated by letting a white murderer go free," Thomas wrote for the two. But Thomas and Scalia agreed Campbell could challenge the indictment on grounds his due-process rights were violated.
The law also provides $5 million per-year grants to states that want to participate in three pilot ID programs. One of these programs is the "Criminal Alien Identification Program," which is to be used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to record fingerprints of aliens previously arrested.
The author of the national ID law, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), stated in a Capitol Hill magazine that it was her intention to see Congress immediately implement a national ID system whereby every American would be required to carry a card with a "magnetic strip on it on which the bearer's unique voice, retina pattern, or fingerprints is digitally encoded." Congressman Dick Armey (R-Texas), among others, has strongly denounced the new law, calling it "an abomination, and wholly at odds with the American tradition of individual freedom."
I attended the general management meeting yesterday in Ann Arbor at the Cobblestone Farm Center. The meeting was hosted by the National Park Service. First, let me give you the facts. "Isle Royale was designated in 1980 as an International Biosphere Reserve under the United Nations' Man and the Biosphere Program. This program is an international effort to protect examples of major ecosystems that provide a baseline of conditions against which human impact can be assessed. Isle Royale is one of 50 U.S. reserves, a majority of which are found in the NPS units. There are ongoing efforts in the broader Lake Superior basin to extend the biosphere reserve to include all or part of Lake Superior. Isle Royale would serve as an integral role in such a reserve as a core protected area within the broader managed landscape."
The above disturbing information was taken directly from the text of the General Management Plan Environmental Impact Study for Isle Royale. I obtained the draft copy from the US Dept. of Interior - National Parks Service.
The NPS's purpose for the meeting is to have public imput for a management plan for the next 15 - 20 years. There are currently 5 plans with the forerunner being called the "proposed action plan". Not one time during the NPS meeting of 3 hours was there ever mention of the UN or the designation of the Biosphere Reserve.
I spoke with Park Superintendent, Mr. Doug Barnard, about the UN designation and he assured me that "the designation is just a symbolic issue, and that in the 4 1/2 years that he has been superintendent, the UN has never infringed or imposed any rules for the management of the park". I told him that if the designation was strictly symbolic and served no creedence, that he tell his congressional supervisors to eliminate the UN Biosphere Reserve designation. He informed me that in order to do this I must fill out a comment card and send it in. Well here we go, send a note to all your congressman in Washington, letting them know that we, as American citizens, do not need to have the UN in OUR National Parks Service.
Mr. Barnard's telephone number is: 906-482-0984.
Comments on this plan will be accepted through May 15, 1998 and should be mailed to:
Isle Royale General Management Plan Project Leader
National Park Service, Denver Service Center
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225
I would encourage re-distribution of this note and encourage everyone to write in with their comments and suggestions. More information to follow. We must stay vigilant.
"The government cheats African-Americans out of their Social Security payments; routinely harasses them for DWB (Driving While Black); and disproportionately arrests them for drug crimes," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national chairman.
"In other words, government policies keep black Americans poor, afraid, and in jail," he said. "That's why the government -- at the federal, state, and local levels -- is the worst friend that black Americans ever had."
Sound like hyperbole? It's not, said Dasbach: The statistics bear it out.
* Social Security is a "sucker's game" for African-Americans:
According to a new study by the Heritage Foundation, the average black man actually earns a negative rate of return on his lifetime of Social Security payments -- getting back less than he paid in.
Why? Because African-Americans have a lower life expectancy than whites.
"By dying at such a young age, the average black man essentially transfers $10,000 of wealth to white women [who live much longer]," reported USA Today. And Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) said, "The average black male pays into the system for his entire life, collects eight months, and dies."
But it's not just black men: Black women get a lower rate of return than do white women, and black families get less than white families, reported the Heritage Foundation.
* Black skin and driving is a dangerous mix: It's a "crime" called Driving While Black -- and results in African-Americans being stopped by police for alleged traffic violations far more frequently than white drivers.
Some examples: Between Baltimore and Delaware, 73% of the police traffic stops involved African-Americans, who made up only 15% of the drivers. In one town in Pennsylvania, 96% of the drivers stopped by police were black or Hispanic. And in Florida, black drivers were stopped 650% as often as white drivers.
It's gotten so bad that Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) -- who has asked the Justice Department to conduct a nationwide study to determine whether minority drivers are disproportionately stopped by police -- said, "There are virtually no African-American males who have not been stopped one time or another for an alleged traffic violation, namely driving while black."
* Black Americans bear the brunt of the War on Drugs: More blacks are being arrested at a faster rate on drug charges, says the Center for Substance Research. Since the early 1980s, the arrest rate for African-Americans on drug charges has soared by 156%, compared to a 49% increase for whites.
As a result, 36.9% of Americans now arrested on drug charges are black -- a percentage that's three times higher than their proportion of the general population.
And when they're arrested, they serve longer in jail because of the disparity of sentencing requirements for different drugs, reported the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
For example, drug dealers are punished 100 times more harshly for selling crack cocaine than powder cocaine, even though the two drugs are essentially the same.
"It's no coincidence that 90% of prisoners convicted of crack crimes are black, while powder cocaine is considered more of a white person's drug," said Dasbach.
What can be done to reverse this government inequity -- in
Social Security, driving harassment, and drug arrests?
It's obvious, said Dasbach: Reduce the power of government.
"Freedom would be a better friend for African-Americans than government," he said. "Government likes to masquerade as the friend of minorities. But the more power government gets, the more damage it can do to America's minority communities."
Specifically, said Dasbach, "We should give black Americans the freedom to invest their own money for their retirements -- instead of relying on a rigged government Social Security scheme. We must curb arbitrary police power and allow blacks the freedom to drive without constant police harassment. And we should end Drug Prohibition, so the black community will be free of the specter of unfair arrests.
"The great thing about freedom is that it's color-blind -- unlike the government."
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