Judicial

Bill Graves: Old but not Blind

ImageIn 1985 Joann Bell filed a suit against the Little Axe Independent School district after her child was forced to wait in the cold outside of the school for 30 minutes while a group of students known as the Son Shine Club gathered to pray indoors.  She was immediately met with hatred and violence in her community.  Her son’s prize-winning goats were slaughtered by knife-wielding trespassers, her home was burned to the ground by a fire-bomb and eventually, she was assaulted by a cafeteria worker who smashed her head against a car door, hospitalizing her.  The cafeteria worker was fined a mere $10 and instructed to pay for Bell’s medical expenses.  The attorney for the school board was Bill Graves.

Read more about this case (Bell v. Little Axe):

https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/hell-in-little-axe-an-oklahoma-moms-chilling-battle-with-religious-bigotry

http://openjurist.org/766/f2d/1391/bell-v-little-axe-independent-school-district-no-of-cleveland-county

So what ever happened to the man who fought on the side of such a despicable community of people?  Well aside from having been a Republican state lawmaker, he is now a district judge for Oklahoma County.  His name has recently echoed in the legal community for a 2012 ruling that refused a name change for a transgender citizen on the basis that Genesis clearly defines only male and female genders, that God does not recognize transgender people and that to change one’s name to that of a female is an act of fraud.  The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals did not share Graves’ perspective.  They recently unanimously reversed the decision and allowed James Dean Ingram to legally change her name to Angela Renee Ingram.

 An Oklahoma state judge named Bill Graves has had his decision to deny a transgender woman a legal name change overturned by an appeals court. Graves actually quoted the Bible in his ruling and the appeals court ruled that he abused his discretion in denying the name change.

An Oklahoma appeals court ruled Friday that a woman who became female through gender-reassignment surgery has the right to change her name in spite of a district judge’s opinion that to do so “is fraudulent.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals handed down the ruling in an application filed by James Dean Ingram for a change of name to Angela Renee Ingram.

The ruling reversed a decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves, who denied the application in a November 2012 ruling that said sex change surgery “is a counterfeit” and does not change a person’s DNA.

“Thus, based on the scientific evidence of DNA, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man,” the ruling said. “To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent.”

The case is the second in the past two years in which the appeals court has reversed Graves on a name change issue. In a separate 2012 case, Graves rejected an application from a person seeking a name change from Steven Charles Harvey to Christie Ann Harvey.

In both cases, Graves cited passages from the Bible including verses from the book of Genesis that read in part: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

“The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female,” Graves ruled in the Ingram case.

You probably don’t know who Bill Graves is, but I do. He was the attorney who represented the school board in Little Axe, Oklahoma when Joann Bell filed suit against the school for violating the Establishment Clause (she was assaulted by a school employee, put in the hospital and had her house firebombed for it). He’s also a Christian Reconstructionist who called RJ Rushdoony to the witness stand in that case. And he still doesn’t get it:

Graves, a former Republican state lawmaker, said Friday that the latest appeals court ruling is “very disappointing.”

“We can’t change our sex, the way God made us. These things are really counterfeit,” the judge said. Nevertheless, Graves said he will grant the name change application as instructed by the appeals court.

“I’ll have to follow what they say,” he said.

via Appeals Court Overturns Appalling Bill Graves Decision » Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

 Bill Graves is yet another example of a man who views religion and political institutions as inseparable.  His remarks in the court decision that reference and directly quote the Bible further demonstrate how difficult if not impossible it is for some judges to leave their beliefs out of the court of law.

 

Who is this woman and why she is blindfolded?

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Federal Judge Says “No” to Religious War Memorial

memorial

This story comes from an online article printed by The American Humanist Association.  A planned war memorial at a baseball park in Lake Elsinore became the target of a lawsuit because many members of the community along with organizations interested in civil liberties voiced outrage for the narrow depiction of a single faith to be depicted on the face of the monument.  An attorney had previously warned the council that the design would be interpreted as unconstitutional, but the city moved forward as a symbolic show of support for their Christian principles.  Were this monument privately funded would the court have reached a similar ruling?       

“(Los Angeles, CA—Feb. 27, 2014)—A federal judge has ruled that a planned religious war memorial by the city of Lake Elsinore, CA at the city-owned baseball stadium can’t be built because it “violates both the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause and California’s Establishment and No Preference Clauses.” The planned monument depicts a soldier kneeling in prayer before a Christian cross.

The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in May 2013. A preliminary injunction against the city was issued by US District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson in July 2013 and stopped activity until the final ruling was handed down. Among other things, the judge ruled that the planned monument lacks a secular purpose and has the unconstitutional effect of endorsing religion over non-religion.

“I’m pleased Judge Wilson decided to uphold the valuable principles contained within the First Amendment,” said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Director David Niose. “I hope that if members of the city council still want to honor veterans, they will move forward with a monument design that represents everyone who fought for our freedoms.”

The suit and an earlier letter sent to the city contain details about the times several city officials and supporters of the proposed monument publicly declared the Christian symbolism was at least part of the reason they supported its construction. Despite the clearly sectarian motivation for spending public money—and a warning from the city’s attorney that the monument as approved is likely unconstitutional—the city council unanimously voted to approve the monument anyway, saying that they were “taking a stand” for Christianity and against the separation of church and state.

Officials from the City of Lake Elsinore have the option to appeal the ruling.”