Virginia » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’
January 27, 2014 2

Legislation Pending in Virginia Threatens Religious Liberty

It is early in the 2014 ses­sion of the Vir­ginia Leg­is­la­ture, but its Sen­ate has already passed a back­door school prayer bill – Sen­ate Bill 236 – and a House com­mit­tee has passed a sim­i­lar mea­sure – House Bill 493.  Also intro­duced this year and in a House sub­com­mit­tee, is an anti-evolution bill – House Bill 207 – which would open the door to pub­lic school sci­ence edu­ca­tors teach­ing cre­ation­ism, cre­ation sci­ence or intel­li­gent design, a repack­aged form of creationism.virginia-state-seal

Given the speed at which the school prayer bills are mov­ing and the socially con­ser­v­a­tive bent of the Vir­ginia leg­is­la­ture,  ADL sent a let­ter to the new elected Gov­er­nor urg­ing him to veto any of these bills should they reach his desk.

Char­ac­ter­ized as pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against “a student’s vol­un­tary expres­sion of a reli­gious view­point,” the school prayer bills would actu­ally allow reli­gious coer­cion in pub­lic schools of chil­dren as young as five by autho­riz­ing stu­dents to give overtly sec­tar­ian prayers or pros­e­ly­tiz­ing mes­sages at manda­tory and non-mandatory school assem­blies or in oral pre­sen­ta­tions within the classroom.

Vir­ginia is not the only state to con­sider such leg­is­la­tion.  Texas passed a sim­i­lar law back in 2007, and 2014 bills have already been filed in Alabama, Geor­gia, Mis­souri, New Hamp­shire and Tennessee.

The anti-evolution bill appears to be a rein­car­na­tion of so-called “Aca­d­e­mic Free­dom Acts.”  Although it never specif­i­cally ref­er­ences evo­lu­tion, cre­ation­ism, cre­ation sci­ence, or intel­li­gent design, the leg­is­la­tion speaks in terms of “sci­en­tific con­tro­ver­sies in sci­ence classes” and it autho­rizes teach­ers to help “stu­dents under­stand, ana­lyze, cri­tique, and review in an objec­tive man­ner the sci­en­tific strengths and sci­en­tific weak­nesses of exist­ing sci­en­tific the­o­ries cov­ered in sci­ence classes.”

The sci­en­tific con­tro­versy phrase is well-known code for evo­lu­tion.  Of course evo­lu­tion is a sci­en­tific the­ory and the strengths and weak­ness lan­guage is an estab­lished vehi­cle for intro­duc­tion of reli­gious expla­na­tions for life on earth into the pub­lic school sci­ence classroom.

Louisiana and Ten­nessee have passed sim­i­lar mea­sures over objec­tions from state and national orga­ni­za­tions of sci­en­tists and of sci­ence teach­ers.  And a call for the repeal of Louisiana’s law has been sup­ported by over sev­enty Nobel laureates.

Both bills raise seri­ous con­sti­tu­tional issues of reli­gious coer­cion and endorse­ment.  If enacted, they will undoubt­edly result in costly lit­i­ga­tion for the State and school districts.

Tags: , , , , , ,

December 20, 2013 1

Virginia Neo-Nazi Indicted On Threat Charges

On Decem­ber 11, a fed­eral grand jury in Orlando, Florida, indicted Vir­ginia white suprema­cist William “Bill” White on charges of threat­en­ing a Florida judge, a for­mer state attor­ney, and a law enforce­ment offi­cer. The six count indict­ment includes five counts of mak­ing threats over the Inter­net and one count of unlaw­ful use of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion information.bill-white-threat

The charges stem from e-mails allegedly sent by White to the vic­tims and from posts allegedly made by White on the com­ments sec­tions of sev­eral web­pages, includ­ing one belong­ing to the Anti-Defamation League.  The com­mu­ni­ca­tions fol­lowed on the heels of the May 2012 arrests of 14 mem­bers of the racist skin­head group Amer­i­can Front on con­spir­acy and other charges—the vic­tims all had some involve­ment in that case.  Iron­i­cally, almost all of the charges against the Amer­i­can Front mem­bers would later be dropped.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tions alleged to have been sent by White threat­ened to kid­nap, tor­ture, rape, and kill the recip­i­ents, their spouses, and their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.  Some of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions made pub­lic the home addresses of the victim.

In the threat­en­ing com­ment made on the Anti-Defamation League’s Extrem­ism & Ter­ror­ism blog, the poster (iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as “Joe Tomassi, Charles Man­son and Son of Sam”) wrote that “we are at your house, we are at your kids houses we are at your grand­kids houses and we are sit­ting out­side their schools” (punc­tu­a­tion as in orig­i­nal).  The mes­sage then pro­vided the home addresses of the vic­tims.  It demanded that author­i­ties release the arrested white suprema­cists “or we will be send­ing you a mes­sage writ­ten in blood.”

White is cur­rently in cus­tody in Vir­ginia serv­ing a sen­tence for a 2011 fed­eral con­vic­tion on threat charges.  He also awaits sen­tenc­ing on a more recent con­vic­tion of threat­en­ing his estranged wife. White also pre­vi­ously served two years in fed­eral prison fol­low­ing a 2009 con­vic­tion on threat and wit­ness intim­i­da­tion charges.  In that case, White used his web­site to encour­age vio­lence against the fore­man of a jury in Chicago that con­victed Matt Hale, a promi­nent white suprema­cist, of solic­it­ing the mur­der of a fed­eral judge.

White, a long time white suprema­cist, is the for­mer head of the now-defunct Amer­i­can National Social­ist Work­ers Party, a small neo-Nazi group; prior to that, he was a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi National Social­ist Movement.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,