No More “God Bless America” Allowed in South Jersey School

Morning headlines: Haddon Heights school ends post-9/11 ritual after ACLU intervention.

Photo by Jnn13, Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Jnn13, Wikimedia Commons.

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know today:

God Bless America? Not at Glenview Elementary — not anymore, at least.

Students at the school in Haddon Heights, N.J. start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, then follow that up with the invocation: “God Bless America.” KYW reports that ritual is over now, thanks to a challenge from the ACLU. School officials says they were just trying to honor 9/11 first responders. “It never, to us, invoked any type of religious intentions. It was basically a patriotic gesture that the boys and girls were doing,” Principal Sam Sassano said. But NBC10 reports that the ACLU of New Jersey says parents — not public schools — should direct a child’s expressions of faith. Says an ACLU rep: “If they’re looking for something patriotic there are a number of ways, including the phrase ‘United We Stand,’ that can do that, without having the requirement of children as young as kindergarten to make this daily recitation asking for God’s blessing.”

One of Mayor Jim Kenney’s first acts was to reverse one of Mayor Nutter’s last acts.

Just a few weeks after then-Mayor Nutter signed an executive order promising the city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities in some circumstances, new Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order reversing that decision — on his very first day in office. NewsWorks reports that the step preserves Philadelphia’s status as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. Pro-immigrant groups praised Kenney’s action.

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking a closer look at Ronald Castille’s role in a death penalty case

Terrance Williams was convicted of killing a man with a tire iron in 1986; Castille — then Philly’s D.A. — approved seeking the death penalty in the case. Then, in 2014, Castille was part of a unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that rejected Williams’ appeal. The New York Times reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether Castille, as justice, should’ve recused himself from deciding the case because of his earlier involvement. Castille says he had no reason to back off. “I didn’t try (Williams’) case,” he told the Times. “I wasn’t really involved in the case except as the leader of the office.” But Williams’ supporters say he deserved an entirely unbiased panel to decide his case. The court hears the case, Williams v. Pennsylvania, on Feb. 29.

A 6-year-old boy was sleeping in his family’s car when it was stolen early Tuesday morning — but he was soon reunited with his parents.

6ABC reports that a 30-year-old man left his stepson sleeping in the car — and left the car running — while he ran into a Northeast Philadelphia 7-11 just before 2 a.m. today. While the stepfather was in the store, an unidentified suspect jumped into the car and took off towards Roosevelt Boulevard. The vehicle, still running and with the boy still inside, was found a half-hour later in the 4300 block of Leiper Street. The boy reportedly slept through the entire event; he was quickly reunited with his parents.

Break up the Sixers! They’re now 3-3 since trading for point guard Ish Smith.

Philly Mag’s Derek Bodner reports on the Sixers 109-99 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves: The Sixers were led by Ish Smith, who rebounded from a couple of tough outings in Los Angeles to record 21 points on 9-16 shooting from the field to go along with 11 assists. Smith was big for the Sixers down the stretch, recording 8 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of tough pull-up jump shots to help the Sixers pull away. “He just brings a different level of intensity and confidence to our team,” rookie big man Richaun Holmes said about Smith after the game. “He is comfortable with the ball in his hands, is comfortable making plays, and he makes the game so much easier for everybody else.”

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