SEPTA Loses Round in Anti-Islam Bus Ad Battle

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SEPTA has lost an early round in its battle to keep an anti-Islam advertisement off of its buses. A federal judge last week ruled the agency cannot present testimony that the ad is false — saying the First Amendment protects political speech even when it’s incorrect.

“Long standing Supreme Court precedent instructs that political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because the listener believes that it is false or disagrees with the message it advances,” Judge Mitchell Goldberg wrote in his ruling. (See the full ruling below.)
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96-Year-Old Pastor Has Credentials Revoked After Officiating Gay Son’s Wedding

An all-too-familiar, all-too-unfortunate story:

Chester Wenger has dedicated 65 years of his life to the Mennonite Church USA, serving as a pastor, missionary, and church leader based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania since 1949. That all came to an end recently, however, when he officiated the marriage of his gay son, who, it should be noted, was excommunicated from the church 35 years ago for being gay. More from Think Progress:

Chester Wenger and his wife Sara Jane | Photo from The Mennonite

Chester Wenger and his wife Sara Jane | Photo from The Mennonite

Wenger “grieved deeply” about the church’s decision to expel his child, but when same-sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania in May, his son asked him to officiate his wedding to his partner of 27 years. The retired pastor “happily agreed,” openly defying the established rules of his tradition in order to perform the union on June 21.

After he reported the marriage to the Lancaster Mennonite Conference credentialing committee, however, church authorities convened on September 10 and formally retired Wenger’s ministerial credentials. They argued his actions violated established church guidelines, which read “Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant ceremony.”

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GAY NEWS FLASH: Defrocked Reverend Frank Schaefer Refrocked By Methodist Church

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Reverend Frank Schaefer, the man who was defrocked by the Methodist Church for officiating the marriage of his gay son, received some good news this morning. The Judicial Council of the Methodist Church has affirmed his appeal, which asked that he be reinstated to ordained ministry. Read Schaefer’s reaction on GLAAD’s site:

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Philadelphia Has a Burqa Crisis?

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[UPDATE: Daniel Pipes has responded to Joel Mathis in the comments.]

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it was a dude dressed like a nun who tried to rob a Philadelphia Wells Fargo Bank this week. What would be the reaction?

Would we become scared of Catholics? Would we consider curtailing their rights and religious practice? Would we call for a full ban on veils and habits?

Or would that all just be a silly, massive overreaction?

Remember your answer. And keep that in mind next time you hear from Daniel Pipes — which will probably be soon.

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Penn Professor: Many Faith-Based Colleges Shouldn’t Be Accredited

In an essay Monday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Penn English and education professor Peter Conn writes of “The Great Accreditation Farce.” His take: Colleges that require professors to sign a “faith statement” — one that, say, requires faculty to believe in intelligent design — do not deserve to be accredited.

A little background on college accreditation: The U.S. Department of Education recognizes many accreditation boards that accredit colleges and universities “to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” The process, which Conn writes schools spend millions of dollars and tens of thousands of person-hours on, involves reports generated by the school and on-site visits by accreditation teams.

Accreditation is supposed to confer legitimacy on a school, but it’s not like an independent board needs to tell anyone that Penn or Temple provides you with an education at or above acceptable standards. The secondary reason for accreditation is the more important one: Students attending unaccredited schools cannot receive federal financial aid. A-ha!

Conn, who was on a site-visit at a Johns Hopkins accreditation in 2004 and led Penn’s accreditation self-study in 2003, has issues with the process. His complaint in the Chronicle essay: Many colleges that require faith statements do not meet acceptable standards.

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Methodist Church Lets Frank Schaefer Return to the Pulpit

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Schaefer stands in front of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

Great news: This morning, The United Methodist Church voted to let Lebanon, Pennsylvania Pastor Frank Schaefer return to the pulpit. Schaefer was famously defrocked last winter for officiating the marriage of his gay son. The decision comes after Schaefer appealed the Church’s ruling last week. The Republic has more:

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PA House Passes “In God We Trust” Bill

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“Legislation that would allow schools to display the national motto “In God We Trust” and the Bill of Rights passed the state House on Monday by a 172-24 vote,” the Patriot-News reports. “The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, doesn’t carry any mandate for schools. But Saccone said it informs schools that they would have the state’s permission to post these patriotic displays.”

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