CULTURE DIGEST: Teacher wins right to withhold union dues because of beliefs; ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Just as the left-leaning National Education Association geared up for its annual meeting in Philadelphia, a teacher in Ohio won the right to withhold her dues because her religious beliefs conflict with the labor union's political positions.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost ruled June 22 that an Ohio law violated the First Amendment rights of Carol Katter, a Roman Catholic mathematics and language arts instructor who opposes abortion.

The state law had limited the category of employees who may opt out of unions because of religious beliefs to those who have "historically held conscientious objections," including Seventh-day Adventists and Mennonites. But Frost said the law discriminated against Katter because of her religion.

With 3.2 million members, the NEA has for some time been known for its support of a liberal agenda, including abortion on demand and homosexual activism, and the group's more conservative members have sought to change the leadership direction or withhold their mandatory dues.

"There are a lot of employees and teachers who do not know about this and have always thought that they just had no choice but to pay their dues," Katter told "I'm thrilled about what it means for us to have the freedom not to support something we object to on moral grounds."

A group of pro-life educators peacefully picketed the opening day of the NEA convention July 1 in Philadelphia, where 9,000 delegates were expected to meet until July 5, and similar groups protested NEA affiliates at their state capitals the following day.

"We are taking to task the leadership of America's largest and most socio-politically meddlesome union, for essentially misrepresenting many teachers on the abortion issue," Bob Pawson, coordinator of Pro-Life Educators and Students, said in a news release. "... We resent having our dues monies and good names used to misrepresent us on moral, social or political issues."

The NEA, Pawson said, should cease its involvement in political issues and focus on collective bargaining and classroom conditions. He wanted to call attention, he said, to the fact that a resolution adopted by the educators' union in 1985 and reaffirmed at each subsequent annual convention promotes "the right to reproductive freedom."

In 1990, the NEA adopted another resolution opposing "any legislation which will erode the status of Roe v. Wade," and the group worked with Planned Parenthood and similar organizations to hold pro-choice rallies in Washington in 1989, 1992 and 2004.

"The NEA leadership is one of Planned Parenthood's primary advocates," Pawson told The Evening Bulletin in Pennsylvania.

EHARMONY.COM SUED FOR EXCLUDING HOMOSEXUALS -- A Los Angeles woman has sued the popular online dating site, claiming she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation when the website refused to pair her with another woman.

eHarmony was founded in 2000 by Neil Clark Warren, an evangelical with ties to Focus on the Family, and it has grown to more than 12 million registered users, according to Reuters.

The lawyer for the woman, Linda Carlson, said the lawsuit was "about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love." Carlson is urging fellow homosexuals to join the class action lawsuit geared toward forcing eHarmony to change its policy.

"The message coming from the liberal, pro-homosexual activists here is simple: You can have your beliefs in your church or synagogue or home (for now ...), but don’t you dare try to live them out in the public square," Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, said.

"They are telling us: Retreat into your church closet. All of America -- our schools, corporations and our laws -- must now affirm homosexuality," LaBarbera added. "It's become all too clear: No special interest group threatens our basic freedoms like the homosexual and gender confusion ('transgender') lobbies."

Debra Saunders, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote June 12 that attacking conservative Christians for their beliefs is "the new McCarthyism."

"Having been rejected, Carlson could have decided to go to a dating site that accommodates lesbians," Saunders wrote. "That would have been the tolerant thing to do."

Instead, Carlson is seeking legal action to make others conform to her point of view.

"[T]here is no getting around the selective intolerance of a lawsuit that targets a heterosexual dating service, while gay and other niche dating services abound," Saunders wrote.

TEXTBOOK COMPARES EVOLUTION ARGUMENTS -- A new textbook for teachers, parents and otherwise interested adults explores the arguments on both sides of the evolution debate with a goal of giving readers the chance to compare the two and make an informed decision about their beliefs.

"Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism," is co-authored by two state university biology professors, two philosophers of science and a science curriculum writer, and it examines five areas of biology relating to evolution: fossil succession, anatomical homology, embryology, natural selection and mutation.

For each area of study, the textbook explains the arguments used to support Darwin's theory and then examines the evidence that leads scientists to question the theory. Each chapter ends with a section exploring the current state of the discussion, a news release said.

"Explore Evolution brings to the classroom data and debates that already are raised regularly by scientists in their science journals," Casey Luskin, a science education policy analyst for the Discovery Institute, said. "Exposure to these real-world scientific debates will make the study of evolution more interesting to students, and it will train them to be better scientists by encouraging them to actually practice the kind of critical thinking and analysis that forms the heart of science."

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