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American Scene: Suit claims ‘Year of the Bible’ resolution unlawful

- - Monday, March 26, 2012

PENNSYLVANIA

HARRISBURG — An organization that includes atheists and agnostics is suing over a Pennsylvania House resolution that declares 2012 the "Year of the Bible," saying the measure violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the measure's main sponsor, the House clerk and the House parliamentarian Monday over the resolution, which passed unanimously in January.

The foundation is asking a federal judge to order the defendants to stop publishing and distributing the resolution and to rule that state government is not Judeo-Christian.

The resolution notes the Bible's "formative influence" and says there's a "national need to study and apply" Scripture.

The prime sponsor is Allegheny County Republican Rep. Rick Saccone. He said his resolution recognizes the important role the Bible has played in state history.

HAWAII

Cops: Speed, alcohol factors in fatal crash

KIHEI — Police suspect speeding and alcohol were factors in a crash that killed five people ages 19 and 20 on a Maui highway over the weekend.

Police say a car driven by a 21-year-old man and carrying five passengers lost control Sunday and spun into oncoming traffic on Kula Highway. It collided with a sedan carrying three people.

The impact of the collision tore the car in half, and all five passengers were ejected and killed. Police say only the driver was wearing a seat belt.

Those killed were identified as Remington Taylor, Steven Shaw, Annastachia Cruz-Kalua, Ambrose Momoa and Karl Barrack. All were ages 19 and 20.

The driver is hospitalized in stable condition, as is a 55-year-old passenger in the sedan.

NEW YORK

Judge: City overreached in transgender case

NEW YORK — A judge says New York City asked too much of a transgender man trying to get his sex changed on his birth certificate.

A recent ruling says the city overreached by seeking a psychiatric report and detailed surgical records. The decision orders the Health Department to re-evaluate the man's request.

It marks a victory for advocates seeking to make it easier for people who have changed gender to change their identity documents.

City officials have said they need robust proof of a permanent sex change. They want to ensure safeguards on changing crucial ID records.

The man said the requests invaded his privacy. He said he had already provided enough information to satisfy a regulation requiring proof of the surgery.

City attorneys are considering what to do next.

PENNSYLVANIA

Student charged after taking traffic-stop photos

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia police violated a college student's First Amendment rights by arresting him as he took photos of a traffic stop outside his house, a journalism advocacy group said Monday.

Temple University photojournalism student Ian Van Kuyk has been charged with obstruction, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in a case described as a "miscarriage of justice" by an attorney for the National Press Photographers Association.

"He was just taking pictures, as is his right, [as is] every citizen's right," attorney Mickey Osterreicher said Monday.

Police Lt. Raymond Evers said Mr. Van Kuyk and his girlfriend were arrested for other offenses, not for taking pictures.

"It's very clear the officers were aware of their First Amendment rights to take photos," Lt. Evers said, citing a police report. "Other things happened that caused them to be arrested."

Lt. Evers said the department is investigating internally and that he could not release further details about the case, or the police report on the March 14 arrest.

Mr. Osterreicher laid out the student's version of events in a written complaint to police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

Mr. Van Kuyk was sitting on his front steps in the city's Point Breeze section when police pulled over a vehicle. The student began taking pictures to fulfill a course assignment for shooting at night. He was not using a flash and obeyed one police command to move back, Mr. Osterreicher said.

But officers then asked Mr. Van Kuyk to stop taking photos. When the student asserted his right to use the camera on public street, one officer reportedly said: "Public domain, yeah we've heard that before." Police allegedly pushed, shoved and threw Mr. Van Kuyk to the ground before handcuffing him.

CALIFORNIA

Storm leaves outages; motorist rescued

LOS ANGELES — Californians cleaned up Monday from a storm that hit many areas in frenzied bursts, flooding streets and freeways, cutting power, and toppling trees and utility poles.

Crews rescued an injured driver whose pickup truck plunged 300 feet off a snow-covered Southern California mountain highway.

After the truck was spotted on a snow-covered slope below Angeles Forest Highway early Monday, the woman was airlifted to a hospital.

Los Angeles County sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said the driver had what appeared to be critical injuries.

About 6,500 people in Southern California were still without power Monday.

The rain ended Sunday's Auto Club 400 NASCAR race in Fontana 71 laps early. There wasn't a single crash in the race, but the crowd found plenty of mishaps on freeways around the raceway as they headed home.

The storm dumped nearly an inch of rain in downtown Los Angeles and up to 3 inches in Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains.

CALIFORNIA

Slaying suspect deported by judge six years ago

SAN FRANCISCO — The suspect in last week's slayings of five people in San Francisco had been ordered to be deported by an immigration judge six years ago, after he served a prison sentence for armed robbery, federal officials said Monday.

But they said he remained in the U.S. because the Vietnamese government declined to provide the travel documents that immigration authorities needed to process his removal.

Suspect Binh Thai Luc, 35, a Vietnamese citizen, was contacted by ICE agents while he was serving his sentence for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon at San Quentin State Prison.

After he was ordered to be deported, the agency sought the official documents it needed to return him to Vietnam, but never got them, said Gillian Christensen, ICE's deputy press secretary.

U.S. law establishes that all aliens who face a deportation order can't be held for more than 180 days. After that, if they can't be removed from the country within the reasonably foreseeable future, ICE has to release them, she said.

MISSOURI

Rare Honus Wagner card could fetch $1.5 million

ST. LOUIS — Bill Goodwin of suburban St. Louis has been in the collectibles business for a quarter of a century, but he said the 102-year-old baseball card he is putting up for auction is about as good as it gets.

Mr. Goodwin will begin an online auction for a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of the most sought-after sports collectibles in the world. Mr. Goodwin expects the card to fetch at least $1 million and perhaps as much as $1.5 million.

The card is owned by a Houston businessman who has asked not to be identified. The auction starts Tuesday and continues through April 19.

It isn't the only valuable card that is part of the auction. Mr. Goodwin is also auctioning a rare Eddie Plank card that could be worth up to $500,000.

From wire dispatches and staff reports