From the daily archives: Thursday, July 1, 2010

Florida School Tries to Ban Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

Fort Myers, FL – Today Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit to overturn a recent ban on distributing Bibles on the public school campuses of Collier County, Florida. For years, the school board allowed World Changers to distribute free Bibles to interested students during off-school hours on Religious Freedom Day, but now the school officials claim that Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and the distribution should stop.

Ft Myers  District Courthouse PhotoThe Collier County School District policy specifically allows the distribution of literature by nonprofit organizations, but only with the approval of the superintendent and the Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent. Approval was denied to World Changers, despite the fact that its distribution included a disclaimer of any school endorsement or sponsorship and that receiving a Bible was purely voluntary. The district, nevertheless, censored World Changers’ message simply because it included the Bible.

The school district, like many others, suffers from a misunderstanding of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit private religious speech or literature; under Supreme Court case law, it prohibits only government religious speech. The distribution of Bibles by World Changers is private speech. As the Supreme Court has stated: “There is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.” Collier County does not appear to understand this crucial difference.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “How sad that on the eve of Independence Day, when we celebrate the religious and political freedom our forefathers won for us at the cost of much blood and great sacrifice, we are compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to students in public schools. Many of our founding fathers were taught to read using the Bible. If it had no educational value, then many of them would have been illiterate. The distribution of religious literature in a forum opened for secular literature is constitutionally protected.”


Forty-six packages of marijuana were concealed in these barrels and uncovered by CBP officers inspecting the vehicle.

Calexico, Calif. – U. S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the downtown Calexico port of entry prevented more than 807 pounds of marijuana with an estimated value of $807,860 from illegally entering the country on June 29.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, June 29, a 1989 Ford F-150 driven by a 24-year-old male Mexican citizen applied for admission in the U.S.

The CBP officer in the primary vehicle area referred the vehicle for a more intensive inspection after noticing suspicious documentation. The vehicle was screened by a narcotic detector dog which alerted to the rear of the vehicle.

After further inspection of large barrels in the bed area of the truck, CBP officers discovered 46 packages of marijuana concealed underneath various used goods such as hairdryers, purses and clothing.

According to Port Director Billy Whitford, a seizure of this significance is a testament to the professionalism and keen sense of awareness that CBP officers possess.

“Our CBP officers are trained to be aware of the various smuggling techniques used by criminals,” he said. “They are always maintaining a heightened situational awareness as these attempts evolve.”

The narcotics, goods and vehicle were seized by CBP and the driver was arrested and turned over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for further investigation.


Officials with the Federal Management Agency ( FEMA ) and the California Emergency Management Agency ( Cal EMA ) have wrapped up initial meetings with 31 Public Assistance Program applicants in Imperial County, to discuss recovery needs associated with the April 4 earthquake.

The meetings, called Kickoff Meetings, represent a milestone in the recovery process. They provide applicants for Public Assistance ( PA ) grants the opportunity to sit down with both FEMA and Cal EMA to discuss in detail disaster related damages and repair strategies. They also offer the applicants the opportunity to learn about eligibility requirements and what documentation is necessary to support grant requests.

Among the agencies and organizations from Imperial County having Kickoff Meetings with federal and state officials to discuss PA grants were nine school districts, six cities, five special districts and the county.  Two private non-profit organizations were referred to the Small Business Administration following their Kickoff Meetings to apply for low interest loans.

Another critical goal of the Kickoff Meeting is to reaffirm statutory deadlines intended to ensure timely progress toward project completion. The next step in the recovery process is project formulation, which documents the damage, identifies the eligible scope of work to repair the disaster caused damage and calculates an estimate of costs for that work.

“These meetings are critical to ensuring eligible agencies and organizations get the assistance and advice they need for a timely recovery in the aftermath of the earthquake,” according to Federal Coordinating Officer Sandy Coachman. These meetings also cement the working relationships needed for a smooth recovery.

“Getting together with the applicant helps facilitate the reimbursement process by providing everyone – the applicant, Cal EMA and FEMA – a clearer picture of the damages and response costs, including special considerations such as historic and environmental, that could impact recovery,” said Cal EMA Secretary Matthew Bettenhausen.

There are two types of work eligible for reimbursement through a PA grant: emergency work and permanent work.  Emergency work may include reimbursement for debris removal and emergency actions taken to protect lives or property. Permanent work may include reimbursement for repair of public facilities such as roads, bridges and public buildings to its pre-disaster design, function and capacity.

Eligible applicants include state and local governments, tribal nations and certain private nonprofit ( PNP ) organizations that provide an essential governmental service.

The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Easter Sunday is estimated to have caused more than $90 million in damage to public facilities, according to preliminary damage assessments conducted following the quake.

FEMA reimburses successful applicants 75 percent of their approved eligible work. Cal EMA covers an additional 18.75 percent of the eligible costs incurred by city and county agencies and special districts, leaving those applicants to pay 6.25 percent.

A complete list of applicants completing Kickoff Meetings can be obtained by calling the FEMA/Cal EMA news desk at ( 626 ) 431-3910.

The California Emergency Management Agency ( Cal EMA ) coordinates overall state agency preparedness for, response to and recovery from major disasters. Cal EMA also maintains the State Emergency Plan, which outlines the organizational structure for state management of the response to natural and manmade disasters.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.


City of Holtville


June 28


A male subject was assaulted by another male subject sometime last night; the victim was not seriously injured. No witnesses were found at the scene, the victim received medical aid, and a full report was taken.


A male victim was being attacked by two vicious dogs, the caller was not hurt, and the dogs were retrieved by its owner. The owner was advised to keep his dogs secured at all times, a full report was taken of the incident.


Three subjects were paying close attention to the caller’s vehicle as he was getting ready for bed. The male subjects were not from the area, according to the caller they did have their own vehicle, and the three men were gone before an officer could make a round around the place.


June 29


The caller wants to place a restraining order on his own brother for making a big mess at his home. Both subjects were contacted and both gave a different story that denied each other’s claims, the officer advised them to take their matters into a civil court, should the problems persist.


It was reported that a homeless subject was in the area, by a local gas station. The subject was asked to leave on several occasions but he refused though he did eventually leave before an officer arrived, the caller was advised of his options should he return.


A newer model Ford F-150 struck the caller’s vehicle sometime early in the morning, the caller’s vehicle sustained minor damage. The caller was unable to get any further information on the truck other than its color, black. The caller was advised of his options.


June 30


The caller’s electric blower was stolen sometime last night from the storage room in the backyard. It’s unknown if anything else was stolen with the blower, the victim stated that it might have happened last night, the caller was advised on his options and to lock up his storage room.


A teenage male and female sibling couple were arguing in plain view of the public which quickly escalated into a pushing and shoving fight. When contacted they both admitted to just horsing around, they were counseled on the dangers of horsing around in public.


A male subject was up early playing a series of Tex-Mex tunes while he worked on his vehicle, the caller stated that he works the night shift and that he’d ask his neighbor to turn it down. The neighbor refused, but ended up complying soon after, the caller was advised to call back should it happen again.

City of El Centro

June 25


The caller’s neighbors down the street are having a loud party. When contacted, the neighbor started that they are having a birthday party. The host was finally persuaded to turn the volume down since the caller has work in the morning.


A male subject is under the influence of illegal drugs. He was causing problems with the people around him. Though he was asked to leave multiple times, but he simple refused. An officer arrived on the scene, but the subject was gone. The caller was asked to call back should he return.


An unknown male trespasser was in the caller’s backyard prowling around. The caller stated that he did not know the subject, nor did he appear to be stealing anything. An officer was sent to the locale to investigate, but the suspect was not found in the area. The caller was asked to call back should he decide to return.


June 26


A male suspect was hiding behind the caller’s home sometime early in the morning. The caller then saw the suspect kick her dog when the dog started barking at him. He fled the scene before an officer arrived. The dog appeared to be alright.


The caller and his neighbor have just gotten out of an argument. When contacted, the caller stated that he believes his neighbor is vandalizing his home with graffiti. It’s an on going problem between both parties. Both were counseled and advised of their options.


June 27


The caller’s sister was at the location. The caller stated that she is not wanted there. They have had problems in the past but do not wish to resort to extreme measures such as a restraining order. The subject left the area in a blue mini-van. The caller was advised to call back should she return.


The caller’s 21-year-old son wants to hit her husband. The caller stated that she didn’t know why their son was feeling this way. He had left the residence to go stay at a friend’s house. The caller’s son would be counseled at a later time.


June 28


An unknown suspect has been breaking into the caller’s shed. The thief took two bikes, a weed whacker, a leaf blower, and a couple of rotation saws and a box of miscellaneous tools. The caller was advised to lock up the shed. A report was taken.


The caller stated that someone tried to break into the caller’s residence. They were able to fend off the intruder. The back door was fully kicked in by this male subject. A report was taken of the incident and the caller was advised of his options.


June 29


The caller’s boyfriend came to her residence drunk. The caller stated that he was out of line and would like him to be sent home. The subject left on foot, though its believed that he was picked up by a friend. The caller was advised to call back should he return.


The caller’s girlfriend is in his residence and is refusing to leave. After a brief argument the girlfriend was sent on her way. The caller was advised to attain a restraining order and or to call back should she come around looking for trouble.


A subject was in the area and refused to leave. The caller described this subject as a tall Caucasian male, wearing long jean shorts, short buzzed hair and a goatee. The subject took off running, the caller was advised to call back should he decide to come back.

City of Brawley


June 25


A group of subjects vandalized the caller’s house sometime last night. Upon inspection, it was found that someone had broken the caller’s windows. The caller  suspects a group of kids whom were loitering behind a brick wall. The young kids were not found in the area. The caller was advised of his options.


A mother and daughter pair were having a loud argument. When contacted, it was found that the mother had been drinking a little more then she should. The mother was counseled and put to bed. The daughter was advised of her options and to call should any problems arise.


June 26


Two homeless males were in the area making a mess in a dumpster. The caller asked them to pick up their scraps and go away. The two men simply ignored him and went about their trash digging. An officer was able to send them on their way. The caller was advised of his options.


A father and daughter couple was having an intense argument. The caller stated that they seemed to be having a lot of issues lately. An officer came by to check on them and they resolved their issues. The caller was advised.


It was reported that a male subject in his mid twenties was over at his house some time last night. The caller stated that he subject had broken a few windows to his residence before driving off in an older model F150. A report was taken and the caller was advised of his options.


June 27


The caller’s neighbor’s dog is at it again, dragging dirt onto her yard. The caller requested some kind of intervention. She was advised of her options, and the neighbor was asked to keep his dog on a leash or in the backyard, locked up safely.


A prowler was heard around her home. The caller then stated that the subject is on the roof of her home. The area was checked for intruders, but no one was found. The caller was advised of his options.


June 28


A fight between two friends had broken out at the caller’s apartment. The caller was able to keep them from making a big mess. An officer did arrive on the scene to find that the two friends were sharing a beer and talking. The party was counseled. The caller was advised to call back should they start up again.


An unknown subject attempted to climb through one of the open windows to the residence. The caller stated that he saw a subject trying to slither up the wall of his neighbors home. The subject did leave soon after giving a few tries. The caller was advised of his options and the resident owners will be contacted at a later time.


June 29


It was reported that the caller’s home’s window was broken, and a few electric items were taken. The caller has no idea who could have done this. A report was taken on the incident. The caller was advised of his/her options.


An unknown, undetected subject tried to enter the caller’s residence sometime last night while the house was empty. Though no windows were broken, the door was found to be damaged. Damage was found around the hinges and door knob. The caller was advised of his options and report was taken of the incident.

City of Calexico


June 25


A male subject broke into the caller’s vehicle by smashing the driver’s side window. The subject was able to run off with a few valuable items including a bass woofer, an Ipod charger and a few documents from the glove box. The caller was advised of his options.


A verbal dispute broke out between the caller and her ex-boyfriend regarding the caller’s mother. The caller stated that the ex-boyfriend was also threatening on a few subjects regarding child custody. An officer was able to separate the two people and counsel them.


June 26


A hit and run incident occurred earlier in the day when the caller’s vehicle was rear ended while the caller was taking a nap. The damage was moderate. Though there were no witnesses, it is believed that the vehicle in question was a small car, due to the damage. The caller was advised of his options.


The caller’s step son is at the location and is a bit tipsy and up to no good. He was asked to leave on several occasions but he refused. He was finally sent on his way by an officer. The family was asked to call back should the young man decide he wants another round with the family.


An unknown subject broke the caller’s driver side window, but nothing was missing from the vehicle. The caller did see a large, black van drive off soon after the incident. The caller did not recognize the van. He was asked to call back should the van return, or should he notice any suspicious activity.


June 27


A young couple was having an intense argument, though it wasn’t known what the argument was about. Both seemed to be getting very aggressive. An officer was able to intervene between the two. They were both counseled and advised to take their matters to a civil court, should they be unable to fix their problems.


A few subjects in an old beat up truck are playing loud music and drinking while parked in front of someone’s apartment sometime late last night.  When the caller asked them to turn it down or leave. They told him to shut up and go home. The group was gone when an officer arrived. The caller was advised to call back should they return.


June 28


A subject is under the influence and is causing a disturbance in the area. The subject, who was asked to keep it down, only got louder and reacted rudely. The subject was asked to turn in, which he did.


A young man was in the area causing all types of ruckus which included yelling, knocking on doors and laughing very loudly. The caller stated that the young man is at least 18-years-old and he doesn’t live in the area. The caller was advised to call back should he return.


June 29


The caller’s mother locked his brother out of their home. The son, who was under the influence, was causing a disturbance. The young man was eventually picked up by a friend whom he will be spending the night with. The caller was advised of her options.


The caller’s ex-boyfriend was throwing items at the caller’s windows late last night. No damage was done to the windows or the house itself. The caller wished to take care of the problem she just wanted this incident documented for future use.


By Luke Phillips

According to Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva, this past weekend was one of the busiest ever for the Holtville Fire Department.

Silva addressed the Holtville City Council Monday to brief them on the fire department’s activity over the weekend.

“We had a rather busy weekend for us, throughout the valley,” Silva told the council. “We normally average two calls a day, roughly, in Holtville. From Friday to Saturday we had 12 calls, and of those 12 calls seven of them were significant.”

Silva says the action started Friday afternoon when the fire department was called to put out a shed fire. Shortly after that they were called to a vehicle accident on Heber Rd.

Half an hour after leaving the scene of the accident, Holtville crews were called to Brawley to help fight a 700 acre river bottom fire near the Cattle Call Arena. While en-route to Brawley, the engines were diverted to Seeley to assist with a large hay barn fire.

Silva says that while all this was happening, one of his reserve firefighters showed up at the station wanting to help. Silva sent the firefighter, along with an engine, to help in Brawley and also served as a chief officer at the Brawley fire, directing five engines from all over the region.

“There were engines from every single station in the valley, Yuma, Winterhaven, Westmoreland, every where,” he said.

All Holtville firefighters were released from the Brawley and Seeley fires by 8 p.m. Saturday night, but had more trouble waiting for them back in Holtville.

At approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Holtville firefighters responded to a hay stack fire on Towland Rd. on the eastern edge of the city.

Silva reported that the 500-foot hay stack was burning from both ends when the fire department arrived, and that he suspects that the fire may have been set on purpose.

“It is potentially arson,” Silva said. “It had two different places of origin on the fire when we got there. Somebody drove by at one o’clock and didn’t see anything, then 45 minutes later there’s two places where it had caught on fire. We’re not quite calling it 100 percent arson, but we’re looking at suspicious activity going on there.”

Silva says that instead of attempting to put the fire out, fire crews let the blaze burn to prevent creating a big mess.

“If we dump water on it, you’re just going to have a large amount of wet, burned grass,” Silva said.

Silva says the fire department watched the fire all night and kept two personal in the area to keep any pedestrians from being hurt.

Silva says that the owner of the haystack showed up Monday with his own water tender to relieve the firefighters. Silva reports that little damage was done to the surface of the street or the Pear Canal, which runs alongside Towland Rd.

“In my 18-and-a-half years here, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a weekend like that.”

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