National Roundup

Massachusetts
Judge rules against school in hiring retraction

BOSTON (AP) — An all-girls Catholic prep school in Massachusetts violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex marriage, a judge ruled.

Matthew Barrett was offered a job as Fontbonne Academy’s food services director in 2013, but the offer was withdrawn days later after he listed his husband as his emergency contact.

Barrett sued, alleging that the Milton school discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and gender. Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins agreed, rejecting Fontbonne’s claim that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage to a man as incompatible with its religious mission.

The judge said Barrett’s duties as a food services director did not include presenting the teachings of the Catholic church.

“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message. It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesman for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage,” Wilkins wrote in a ruling issued Wednesday.

The judge also found that a religious exemption to the state anti-discrimination law applies only if a religious organization limits admission to people of a certain religion. Fontbonne is open to students and employees of all faiths, with the exception of its administration and theology faculty.

It was not immediately clear if Fontbonne plans to appeal the ruling. In a statement, the school said it is considering its options.

Fontbonne’s attorney, John Bagley, did not immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

Barrett’s attorney, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the judge has found that Fontbonne is liable to pay damages to Barrett for lost wages and compensatory damages for discrimination. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

“Marriage equality has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade and it is now the law of the land. But you can’t have equality if you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday,” Klein said.

Since the legalization of gay marriage, there have been cases around the country of Catholic institutions firing employees in same-sex marriages.

In June, the director of religious education at a Catholic elementary school outside Philadelphia was fired after two parents complained about her marriage to another woman. Margie Winters said she had told administrators at the school about her marriage when she was hired in 2007. The school’s principal said in a letter to parents that the school must comply with Catholic philosophy.

In August, a Catholic college preparatory school in Macon, Georgia, settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a music teacher who said he was fired in 2014 because of his plans to marry his partner.


New York
Pizza shop owner admits trying to recruit for IS
A New York pizza shop owner admitted Thursday he tried to recruit fighters for the Islamic State group in Syria.
Mufid Elfgeeh, 31, a naturalized U.S. citizen, helped arrange travel and funding and put one recruit in touch with an English-speaking Islamic State contact in Iraq via Facebook, authorities said.
Elfgeeh pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization under a plea agreement that recommends a sentence of just under 22 ½ years in prison.
The Yemen-born Rochester resident was arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in May 2014 after buying two handguns and silencers that investigators say he planned to use to kill returning U.S. soldiers. U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said Elfgeeh was one of the first Islamic State recruiters ever arrested in the United States.
“Elfgeeh wanted to be a source of support for violent jihad and serve as a facilitator for violent jihadists who wanted to travel overseas and fight,” the plea agreement said. “In Elfgeeh’s own postings and messages on social media and statements ... Elfgeeh stated that a person who helps or sponsors a fighter to engage in violent jihad obtains the same religious rewards from Allah (God) as the fighter himself.”
Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of attempting to kill military members and weapons counts, as well as charges of assaulting three sheriff’s deputies while in custody.
Sentencing was scheduled for March 17.
While running his Rochester pizza shop, Elfgeeh used Twitter, WhatsApp and 23 Facebook accounts to seek donations and declare his support for violent jihad and allegiance to the Islamic State and its leaders, court documents said.
He bought a laptop computer and camera for two recruits for a planned 2014 trip and paid $240 to help one of them get a birth certificate and expedited passport, authorities said. He wired $600 to a third person in Yemen to help pay for the person’s travel to Syria. Two of the recruits were FBI informants. One had been encouraged by Elfgeeh to join in fighting overseas in 2013, the plea agreement said.

Nevada
Art dealer gets prison in black rhino horn case
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A San Francisco art dealer was sentenced in Las Vegas to a year in federal prison for illegally selling black rhinoceros horns to an undercover agent for $55,000.
The U.S. Department of Justice says Lumsden Quan also was sentenced Wednesday to three years of supervision after prison, fined $10,000, and banned from working in the art and antique business for three years.
Quan’s attorney didn’t immediately respond Thursday to messages.
Quan was arrested in March 2014 and pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to violate endangered species and wildlife transport laws.
A co-defendant, Edward Levine, is due for trial March 7 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas.

Oregon
Wife files suit after husband crushed by truck
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A Medford woman has filed a lawsuit against two construction companies after he husband was crushed to death by a dump truck in a construction area on Interstate 5 near Cottage Grove.
The Mail Tribune reports that Karee Battenfield on Wednesday filed a $7.9 million lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Her husband, Layne Battenfield, was a construction worker and longtime supervisor. On May 1 he was killed when struck by an asphalt dump truck that was backing up in the construction area.
The driver wasn’t cited after investigations by the Oregon State Police and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division. A trooper found no criminal intent or recklessness, and an OSHA inspector found no safety or equipment violations.

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