- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2006

Army appoints first black to head school

FORT JACKSON, S.C. — The Army’s school for chaplains has selected the first black man to serve as its commandant.

Col. Clarke McGriff, 51, whose father served in a segregated Army, was named head of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School. He’s a 25-year military veteran.

Col. McGriff said he draws inspiration from the school’s students, who have volunteered to become chaplains at a time when many know they are heading into combat.

“A good number of them will be in Iraq or Afghanistan before December. That’s the reality of the time. They know that, and they still come,” he said.

The school, with its staff of 30 civilians and 73 teachers and administrators in uniform, trains civilian clergy and seminarians to serve in the Army. It also conducts basic and advanced officer training for active duty and Army Reserve chaplains. Enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers may attend the school to become chaplain assistants.

Muslims accuse coach of discrimination

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Three former New Mexico State University football players, all Muslims, have sued the university and coach Hal Mumme, charging they were dismissed from the team because of their religious beliefs.

The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Mu’Ammar Ali and brothers Anthony and Vincent Thompson. The lawsuit charges religious discrimination and violations of the athletes’ right to freely exercise their religion.

The lawsuit said Mr. Mumme had players recite the Lord’s Prayer after each practice and before each game. Mr. Ali and the Thompsons said that practice made them feel like outcasts and caused them to pray separately from the other players.

According to the lawsuit, not long after Mr. Mumme learned that Mr. Ali and the Thompsons were Muslim, he prohibited the Thompsons from attending the team’s spring 2005 training camp and questioned Mr. Ali about his attitudes toward al Qaeda.

The lawsuit says the Thompsons were dismissed from the team on Sept. 2, 2005, reputedly because they moved their belongings to an unapproved locker and were labeled “troublemakers.”

Spiritual counselor fights statue removal

GREENSBORO, Ga. — A Greensboro spiritual counselor is considering suing the city after workers confiscated a 6-foot-tall, half-ton statue of Jesus from his front yard.

City officials say the life-size statue violates zoning restrictions and threatens public safety.

Owner Nickie Marks, though, calls it an expression of his faith. He and his attorney argue that by removing the statue, the city is violating his free-speech rights.

“I just want my statue back in my yard,” Mr. Marks said. “Why would they move it? It wasn’t hurting anybody. People actually liked it — they have been very supportive of our case.”

The statue was removed from Mr. Marks’ front yard and kept as evidence at a city storage lot. It was returned to him covered with red clay and a broken hand.

“It really was like someone just taking a Bible and throwing in the dirt,” he said of the statue, which he’s since moved to his back yard.

Greensboro City Manager Larry Postell said the city has an ordinance prohibiting signs without words in residential areas. The ordinance was meant to keep business owners from welding cars to the tops of large poles as advertisements, but he said it also applies to Mr. Marks’ statue.

“He’s a spiritual counselor, and he’s got a spiritual icon in his front yard,” Mr. Postell said. “I think it constitutes a sign.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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