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News in Brief: Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Westboro Baptist Church, and More

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Westboro Baptist Church

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Westboro Baptist Church

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that The Westboro Baptist Church is not violating the First Amendment when they protest military funerals, The Advocate reports. The case, Snyder v. Phelps, was closely watched throughout the nation because of the group’s controversial signs and stances. Specifically in this case, “the church’s 2006 protest of the funeral of a soldier who was killed in Iraq did not disrupt the service, and that Westboro ‘addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials.'” The Westboro Baptist Church been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is monitored by the Anti-Defamation League.

Court Considers Ashcroft’s Liability in Terror Case

NPR reports that the Supreme Court is to take up a case on Wednesday pertaining to whether or not George W. Bush’s first Attorney General John Ashcroft is “entitled to immunity from a lawsuit claiming he misused the law to arrest a U.S. citizen under false pretenses.” The case centers on Abdullah al-Kidd, “a former star running back at the University of Idaho,” who converted from Christianity to Islam while in college. His lawyer contends that the Bush administration, and specifically Ashcroft, “used the material witness statute for something Congress specifically refused to authorize: Preventive detention, or arrest without evidence of a crime.”

Amid Protests, Ohio Senate Committee Approves Anti-Collective Bargaining Bill

Union supporters converged on Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday in their largest demonstration yet against Senate Bill 5 (SB 5), that state’s anti-collective bargaining bill, according to The bill, which is “the first rewrite of Ohio’s collective bargaining law in 27 years,” eliminates most collective bargaining for public-sector unions.

SB 5, championed by Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich, was approved by a Senate committee on a 7-5 vote late Wednesday morning, reports the AFL-CIO NOW blog, after a chief Republican critic of the bill was replaced by the House Speaker.

Former Goldman Sachs Director Charged With Insider Trading

On Tuesday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused “Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman director who previously led consulting firm McKinsey & Co., of participating in a vast illegal insider trading scheme” involving his firm as well as Proctor & Gamble, The Globe and Mail reports. While “no allegations have been proven” against the “trusted counsellor to the biggest names in corporate America,” the SEC charges “he betrayed that trust by disclosing their most sensitive and valuable secrets,” said Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s director for the Division of Enforcement.

Newt Gingrich Set to Launch Presidential Exploratory Committee

Disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is set to announce on Wednesday that he is setting up a presidential exploratory committee, The Guardian UK reports. Gingrich, “a volatile figure, with a tendency towards unguarded and provocative comments that could be damaging on the campaign trail,” would be the first high-profile candidate to announce his bid for the Republican nomination, beating out other GOP candidates, including Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Recent polling puts Gingrich in fourth place, behind Romney, Palin and Mike Huckabee.

Pakistan’s Sole Christian Cabinet Member Assassinated

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minority affairs minister and sole Christian cabinet member, was assassinated outside of his home in Islamabad on Wednesday, reports The Los Angeles Times. Bhatti’s death marks the death of the second “top Pakistani official who had opposed the country’s controversial blasphemy law,” which “makes it a crime to utter any derogatory remarks about, or insult in any way, the prophet Muhammad, the Koran or Islam.” A researcher for Human Rights Watch called Bhatti’s assassination “a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism and respect for human rights in Pakistan.”