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Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Suit Claims College Volleyball Coach Required Team Members To Attend Church

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“The Wilmington News Journal and Courthouse News Service report on a lawsuit filed this week in federal district court in Delaware by a former Delaware Sate University volleyball player who says she lost her scholarship because she objected to the volleyball coach’s requirement that players attend church and participate in other religious activities.  The suit filed by Natalia Mendieta, a Catholic, against former coach LaKisya Killingsworth and former athletic director Candy Young claims that in 2013 the coach required players to attend Sunday services with her at Calvary Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church. The coach also had the team pray before each match, distributed Bibles to the team and urged players to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In 2014, the coach made religious activities optional, but still listed church on the team’s schedule and favored those who attended.  The suit claims that after plaintiff objected to the church attendance requirement, the coach used plaintiff’s violation of a curfew by a few minutes as an excuse for revoking her scholarship for the 2015-16 school year.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Books about songwriting

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Sometimes putting a song together is easy — like when you beatbox to your pets as you put out their food. (Don’t worry, we don’t judge and they don’t judge… unless they’re cats, because, you now… cats.)

But if you want to put something together that will please more than Mr. Wooferson’s floppy ears, a little research is recommended. Songwriting is an art and a science, and you can study it just like any other art form. Anytime you’re reading about writing (songs, or novels, or scripts), you’re learning and getting inspired. You can’t stop it; your brain loves this stuff!

Here are three books that we’ve found particularly useful and inspiring when it comes to country music, but to be honest, most of what you’ll find here could apply to any kind of musical storytelling.

First up, we have Writing Better Lyrics, by Pat Pattison.

Writing Better Lyrics

This is a sharp…

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NEARFest 2012 – Apocalypse: Photos and Memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest), more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2012 – Apocalypse was (including Friday night):

This NEARFest featured two stalwart prog rock artists (and NEARFest alumni), namely Mark Wilkinson and Roger Dean, each of whom designed a logo:

Roger Dean’s:

Mark Wilkinson’s:


This was the thirteenth NEARFest and my twelfth consecutive Festival.  This Festival was the tenth Festival, and eighth consecutive Festival, to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Sadly, this was the last NEARFest.  NEARFest attempted to modify its approach for its 2011 edition which resulted in its cancellation due to a lack of ticket sales for the first time since its inception.  The Festival organizers appeared to be growing weary of the annual responsibilities of putting on the Festival so, in light of the 2011 cancellation, their fatigue, and, no doubt, their increasing familial responsibilities (the marriages and children occurring since 1999), they decided to make the 2012 edition the final Festival, and to go out with a bang!

At the outset, as noted above, they invited both Dean and Wilkinson, and both designed a logo for the 2012 Festival.  Dean designed the logos for NEARFests 2001 – 2008 and Wilkinson designed the logos for NEARFests 2009 and 2010.  I, once again, got a chance to meet them both.

In addition to the artists, this Festival also saw the invitation of multiple Festival musician-alumni, specifically Eddie Jobson (i.e.: U.K.), Van Der Graaf Generator, Änglagård (see here), Mike Keneally Band, and Annie Haslam.  Technically, NEARFest 2012 featured Jobson’s Ultimate Zero Project (U.Z.P.) (see here), but, quite honestly, the musical selection U.K. offered was extremely similar except that U.K. was a four piece which featured its singer and bass player John Wetton, and did not include the additional musicians the U.Z.P. featured.  My impressions of U.K. were similar to that of the U.Z.P. (see here) except this had the added thrill of having the legendary U.K front man John Wetton in the band, making this band a much more authentic experience of U.K. than U.Z.P.  He was in great voice, and not only did he bring the U.K. songs to life, when they played his King Crimson material, it brought chills to my skin as that music is so incredible and I would never have thought to have the opportunity to hear it live with its original singer and bass player (Wetton) and contributor (Jobson).  A stalwart and classic prog rock band with legendary prog rock musicians was a fitting way for the Festival to go off into the eternal night.

My thoughts on Van Der Graaf Generator are the same as when I saw them at NEARFest 2009 so, instead of repeating it in this post, see here instead.  The same goes for the Mike Keneally Band, who I saw at NEARFest 2004, which can be seen here.  Let me just say here that I will forever be impressed by ambidexterity and Keneally playing guitar and keyboards at the same time blows me away.

The other “big name” at this Festival was Renaissance, which was, of course, fronted by the princess of prog rock, Annie Haslam.  Now, this was the first time Renaissance appeared at the Festival, and it was Haslam’s first time there as a performer, but she attended prior Festivals in order to promote her music and sell her artwork (see here for her 2004 Festival appearance and here for her 2007 Festival appearance).  I always thought it weird Renaissance never appeared before this Festival because Haslam lived (and may still live) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (about an hour-and-a-half’s distance from the Festival), so it seems obvious the band would appear, and I was surprised it took them this long to do so.  Renaissance played their classics (though at this point their lineup had been reduced to just Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford from their classic era).  Dunford was a long time member of the band (he joined for their second lineup in 1970), and was one of their primary contributors in terms of composition and sound.  He died not long after this show and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see them while he was still alive and playing well.  The band sounded tight and as beautiful as always.  They employed a second keyboardist, in addition to their classic piano approach to the music, in order to replicate their lush orchestral sound.

As always, this Festival had a stand out “unknown” band which quickly endeared itself to me.  For this Festival, that honor went to Aranis.  What a great band with an unusual sound for one placed in a “rock” genre.  They feature violins, accordion, upright bass, flute, piano, and, of course, guitar.  They play instrumental music which is acoustic in nature and presents a fusion of rock and jazz music in the style and approach of chamber music.  Wonderful.  They are sometimes placed in the RIO sub-genre, but I think that is a mistake and simply reflects the difficulty in pigeonholing them.  RIO generally features relentlessly dissonant and/or amelodic and/or arhythmic music, and Aranis features none of those things.  Aranis’ music is beautifully melodic and pleasant to the ears, and any dissonance or the like they may play merely serves as a momentary contrast and/or to build drama and emotion.  I highly recommend this band to my readers.

The 2012 Festival was fantastic and the Festival over the years presented amazing music and, quite honestly, represents some of my most favorite weekends in my life.  I was, and still am, sad to see it end, and rather forlorn that nothing has been able to really replace it in presenting quality prog rock in the Philadelphia area on the level the Festival was able to accomplish.  I am extremely happy I was blessed by the Festival over the years and able to see all but one of them (the first).

Thanks to NEARFest and thanks most of all to its founders and organizers for bringing so much phenomenal music to my life.  I will be forever grateful and will never forget it.


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Court Orders Religious Accommodation For Sikh Student Seeking To Enter ROTC Program

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Singh v. McHugh, (D DC, June 12, 2015), the D.C. federal district court ordered the Army to grant a religious accommodation to dress and grooming requirements to allow a Sikh college student to enroll in the ROTC program at Hofstra University.  The court relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s decision this term in Holt v. Hobbs in refusing to completely defer to military judgment, saying in part:

The Court finds that defendants have failed to show that the application of the Army’s regulations to this plaintiff and the denial of the particular religious accommodation he seeks further a compelling government interest by the least restrictive means. Therefore … judgment will be entered in favor of the plaintiff. The Court accords substantial deference to the Army’s judgments concerning the essential role that uniformity plays in military training and effectiveness. But given the tens of thousands of exceptions the Army has already made to its grooming and uniform policies, its successful accommodation of observant Sikhs in the past, and the fact that, at this time, plaintiff is seeking only to enroll in the ROTC program, the Army’s refusal to permit him to do so while adhering to his faith cannot survive the strict scrutiny that RFRA demands. This decision is limited to the narrow issue presently before the Court – plaintiff’s ability to enroll in ROTC with his turban, unshorn hair, and beard – and it does not address plaintiff’s eventual receipt of a contract or an Army commission.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Christian Bible or Nothing, Philadelphia Family Court Says

In the recent custody matter of Musaitef v. Musaitef, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Case No.: 0c1202189, the Judge ruled that a Muslim woman may not swear on a Koran while taking the oath before testifying at a hearing.

At a hearing in the Musaitef matter, the Mother, a Muslim, requested that she be sworn in by putting her hand on a Koran instead of a Christian Bible when taking the oath before testifying. The Father in the matter, who interestingly is also a Muslim, objected to the use of the Koran, arguing at the hearing and subsequently in a brief (discussed below), that it served as witness intimidation in that a Koran is not statutorily permitted to be used for administering oaths at a hearing. The Mother remained resolute in wanting to use the Koran so the Judge asked the parties to brief the issue of whether the use of a Koran for swearing in at a hearing is legally permissible.

Father first argued that Mother’s request was a pretext for witness intimidation. Evidently, the alleged implication from Mother was that Father’s Islamic faith included the belief that oaths taken on religious books outside of Muslim belief would not bind the speaker to tell the truth. Therefore, the witness intimidation was Mother’s subtle suggestion that Father’s use of a Christian Bible instead of a Koran for his oath, as contrasted by her insistence on using a Koran, indicated that Father was going to lie during his testimony.

The primary arguments between the parties centered on 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 which states the following: “(a) General rule. — Every witness, before giving any testimony shall take an oath in the usual or common form, by laying the hand upon an open copy of the Holy Bible, or by lifting up the right hand and pronouncing or assenting to the following words: ‘I, A. B., do swear by Almighty God, the searcher of all hearts, that I will[_______], and that as I shall answer to God at the last great day.’ Which oath so taken by persons who conscientiously refuse to take an oath in the common form shall be deemed and taken in law to have the same effect as an oath taken in common form.

(b) Right to affirm.–The affirmation may be administered in any judicial proceeding instead of the oath, and shall have the same effect and consequences, and any witness who desires to affirm shall be permitted to do so.”

Father argued that the statutory language is plain, clear, and unambiguous: it allows for two options for taking an oath before testifying: (1) swearing on a Bible or (2) affirmation. It simply does not provide for the use of a Koran. Therefore, according to Father, if Mother does not want to use a Bible for her oath, she can simply affirm. Further, Father also argued that as both parties will be using a language interpreter, who used the statutory form for his oath, it would create confusion if different and innovative non-statutory oaths were used for one party but not others. Father pointed out that 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5902 prohibits inquiry into Mother’s religious beliefs in order to assess her credibility, so he cannot explore with her the potential religious and/or other implications for using a Koran over a Bible for the purposes of taking an oath at a hearing.

Mother’s brief, by contrast, focused on religious liberty. Mother asserted that 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 must be read broadly enough to allow for the use of the Koran, otherwise it unconstitutionally prefers Christianity over other religions in violation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Mother pointed out that the affirmation option in the statute noted above is provided for people who do not wish to invoke the Christian God or Bible and/or employ religion for the oath and/or object to taking “an oath” (as opposed “affirming”). The obvious purpose of the oath, per Mother, is to impose the significant nature of the proceedings on a witness and to ensure the truth of testimony. As a corollary, per Mother, a way to impose the significant nature of the proceedings onto a witness is to allow that witness to swear upon something that witness respects and takes seriously, such as her preferred religious text; indeed, why else would the Bible be required for the oath if it did not reflect the prevailing significance of Christian beliefs when the statute was written and how they relate to not bearing false witness? From Mother’s point of view, if Christians receive the benefit of, and respect for, their religious beliefs when taking the oath on their Bible, ought not other religionists, in this case Muslims, receive the same benefit and respect and be permitted to take an oath on their Koran?

Due to the dearth of case law in Pennsylvania on this issue, Mother relied upon case law in North Carolina which ruled that oath statutes are flexible enough to allow for the use of religious books other than the Bible, per the religious preference of the witness, in order serve as a mechanism to ensure honesty for a witness’ testimony (it should be noted that the language of the North Carolina oath statute is vaguer than 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 and, therefore, more able to be read and understood more broadly).

Mother also argued that understanding 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 as restricting oaths to exclusively the Bible (or non-religious affirmation) is unconstitutional. Mother pointed out that by allowing for the use of the Bible but no other religious book for an oath, Pennsylvania impermissibly favors Christianity over other religions and, therefore, serves as an unconstitutional endorsement of Christianity over other religions.

The Court held a subsequent hearing and ruled that the precise language of the statute applies: either Mother is to take her oath on the Christian Bible or non-religiously affirm. The Court made no allowances for other religions, for the potential to understand 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901 as merely requiring a religious book weighty enough to persuade a witness to testify truthfully (as opposed to strictly a Bible), and/or the potential Constitutional issues described above.

As an aside, there seems to be no discussion in the case of the curious final sentence of 42 Pa.C.S. Section 5901(a): “[w]hich oath so taken by persons who conscientiously refuse to take an oath in the common form shall be deemed and taken in law to have the same effect as an oath taken in common form.” This sentence would seem to imply that the statute ought to be read expansively as it appears to allow another form, other than the “common form”, to have the same effect as the common form. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this angle was explored in the case.

This case is still in progress and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Originally published on December 23, 2014 in The Legal Intelligencer which can be seen here and reprinted by the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer in its Volume 37, Issue No.: 1, March 2015 edition which can be seen here.

A New Milestone! We’ve exceeded 25,000 views!

Thanks to all of my readers for helping this blog reach the mark of 25,000 views!  As of this post, this blog has received 25,236 views!  I am humbled by the dedication of my readership.  Thanks so much for all of your loyalty to this blog, it is very much appreciated, and I hope to continue providing material worthy of your interest and readership!

WordPress (the platform for this blog) sorts posts into “categories.”  These categories can be created by the blogger, and, because I have OCPD tendencies, I have ensured the categories are many, descriptive, and comprehensive.  This is somewhat unusual, but in light of the new milestone I have decided to list all of my blog categories below for you to peruse.  Please take a few minutes to browse through them as I am sure you can find something worth checking out!

Thanks again to all of my readers and enjoy!



My Yes Tickets Through the Years!

Here is another addition to my series of Yes music posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I have seen Yes every time I have had the opportunity since 1994.  I have posted my reviews and photographs of those shows here.  After posting my NEARFest tickets (see here) – and seeing the positive response it got – I thought it would be fun to post my Yes tickets too, so here you go!

After going through all these tickets I would have to say that the computer printouts were a terrible idea.  They are so impersonal and not particularly worthy of being a “keepsake.”  Their convenience pales in comparison to the significance of receiving and keeping an actual ticket.  So, needless to say, after doing it a couple of times, I am glad I abandoned the practice.  The tickets below include the ticket to the 1998 Yestival (see here and here and here), as well as both of Yes’s movie theater simulcasts from the mid-aughts.




















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  • I cannot for the life of me remember which show this form accompanied the ticket.



Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!


There is currently a war being waged in the media by various elements of our society, and some institutions, against people who are poor, disabled, and often elderly. These people are often portrayed as liars, laggards, and frauds. One of the agencies under attack is the Social Security Administration, particularly because it awards disability benefits. Not only are the recipients of these benefits under attack, but the administrative law judges who grant benefits if the recipients have been denied at an earlier stage have also come under attack, primarily from third parties. In response to this attack, the Social Security Administration is clamping down on judges, who are perceived as being too liberal and too generous in awarding benefits. The reality is the reverse, for the most part. It is not easy to be awarded disability benefits, and there has to be some strong medical evidence supporting these claims.


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6th Circuit: County’s Use of Religiously Sponsored School For Alternative Program Did Not Violate Establishment Clause

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Smith v. Jefferson County Board of School Commissioners, (6th Cir., June 11, 2015), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing the trial court, held that a Tennessee school board did not violate the Establishment Clause when, in the context of a budgetary crisis, it contracted with Kingswood, a private Christian school, to provide a state-mandated alternative program.  District students who had been suspended or expelled from their regular middle- or high-school were enrolled in Kingswood’s “day” (as opposed to its more religious “residential”) program. In a suit brought by two teachers who lost their jobs when the prior the board-run alternative school closed, the court said in part:

Here, a reasonable observer would not interpret the School Board’s relationship with Kingswood as a governmental endorsement of religion. Parents and students, for example, encountered only de minimis religious references in Kingswood’s day program. The evidence indicates that students in the day program were not exposed to any religious instruction, prayer, or any mentions of religion at all. Their school building was devoid of any religious imagery. Their assemblies in the chapel were as close as the day students came to religious exposure, and yet those assemblies were completely secular activities.

Perhaps the most overt religious references were the Biblical quotes on the report cards, family-feedback forms and—for those who sought them out—the annual report and school improvement plan.   But a reasonable observer would view all of these in the specific context of the arrangement that Kingswood had with Jefferson County. A budgetary crisis forced the Board to close its alternative school and, needing to accommodate the alternative-school students on short notice, the Board selected a high-performing, state-certified alternative school…

An ACLJ press release discusses the decision.

UPDATE: In the case, Judge Batchelder filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the result, but saying: “I cannot agree with the lead opinion’s dismissing as irrelevant last year’s Supreme Court opinion in Town of Greece.” She said that while lower courts are required to follow Supreme Court decisions invoking the “endorsement” test until the Court explicitly overrules them, the Supreme Court appears to have rejected that test in favor of the historical “coercion” test.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Songwriting and storytelling

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

We’ve focused a lot on movies and novels in previous posts, but there’s another kind of storytelling that drives a lot of what we do: songwriting.

Writing a song

We love all kinds of music, whether it’s the beautiful inventive craziness of pop, the gritty edge of rap, the straight-up epic-ness of soul, or the gorgeous storytelling and soul-baring of country music. The through-line for us is songs that tell us stories, whether it’s a verse by verse evolution of things happening, or the evocation of an emotional moment in time. That kind of songwriting is a very precise form of storytelling, even more so than a short story, which is one of the most precision-based ways to get a story across, given the lack of time and space. Characters, situations, emotions, arcs, set-ups and pay-offs all need to happen immediately. Just as with short stories, there’s no runway with a song; you…

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