Archive for May, 2011

Houston Pastor Prevails In Battle To Say “Jesus Christ” In Prayer
May 27, 2011

Pastor Scott Rainey, who heads the Living Word of The Nazarene Church, is celebrating a huge victory before Memorial Day.

He’s no longer being asked to remove the words “Jesus Christ” from the prayer he prepared to give during a ceremony at Houston’s National Cemetery, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The cemetery’s director asked Rainey to remove the words to make the service more “inclusive” and non-denominational.

The Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Pastor.  Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill also urged followers to call the cemetery and register their displeasure.

Federal Judge Lynn Hughes issued a temporary restraining order Thursday evening.

In court Friday, the VA and cemetery director backed down.

However, Judge Hughes left the TRO in place to ensure there wouldn’t be any problems when the special observance for fallen solders is held on Monday.

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Lawsuit Filed: Houston Pastor Says He Was Banned “From Referencing Jesus”
May 26, 2011

UPDATED WITH RESPONSE FROM THE DIRECTOR OF THE HOUSTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
“Our National Cemeteries are places for all Veterans, of all beliefs. We cannot be exclusive at a ceremony meant to be inclusive of all our Nation’s Veterans.  Due to ongoing litigation, we cannot discuss this matter further.”
Any further inquiries should be directed to the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District. Thank You.”
 
Arleen Ocasio
Director
Houston National Cemetery

 

(News Release)

Lawsuit Filed Against VA for Banning Invocation That Mentions Jesus at Memorial Day Event at Houston National Cemetery;

Lawsuit Filed to Combat Government’s Censorship of Pastor’s Prayer

HOUSTON, Texas, May 26, 2011 – Today, Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its Director of the Houston National Cemetery from prohibiting Pastor Scott Rainey from referencing Jesus during his invocation at a Memorial Day ceremony sponsored by the National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston where he was invited to speak.

 “By censoring Pastor Rainey’s prayer, the VA and its Director of the Houston National Cemetery are unconstitutionally discriminating against him based upon his religious viewpoint,” said Jeff Mateer, General Counsel of Liberty Institute. “Our veterans fought and many died for our religious freedom, and to have it stripped away under the façade of inclusiveness is the height of offense to those who have served our country. We are confident that a judge will agree and permit Pastor Rainey to pray as he sees fit without government censorship.” 

The lawsuit states that the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Director of the Houston National Cemetery are engaging in religious viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibit the government from controlling and directing citizens’ prayers. The lawsuit was filed after Ms. Arleen Ocasio, director of the Houston National Cemetery, refused to permit Pastor Rainey to pray at the upcoming Memorial Day ceremony unless he removed a reference to Jesus, even after Liberty Institute sent a demand letter outlining the law. 

Ms. Ocasio required that Pastor Rainey’s prayer be pre-approved by her prior to Monday’s Memorial Day Ceremony.  Although Pastor Rainey has given the invocation for the past two years, this is the first time he had to submit his words for prior approval by the government. Pastor Rainey’s prayer recognizes those who have given their lives in service to our nation and commended the military for its efforts. While his thankfulness for our country’s freedom was allowed, his own freedom to reference Jesus was not, in violation of the First Amendment.

“I am very disappointed that the Houston National Cemetery would take such an anti-freedom stance,” said Pastor Rainey of Houston’s Living Word Church of the Nazarene. “This is my third year to be invited to deliver the invocation, and I have never been asked to edit the content of my prayer. While I consider it an honor to lead such a somber gathering in prayer, I will not forsake my religious beliefs.”

 An immediate hearing on the temporary restraining order has been requested. 

View Pastor Rainey’s prayer and read the lawsuit and the temporary restraining order request.

 Liberty Institute was formed to uphold Constitutional and First Amendment religious and speech freedoms in the courts and legislature. Liberty Institute successfully represented more than four million veterans through the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Mojave Desert War Memorial case, Salazar v. Buono, decided last year in favor of allowing the Memorial to stand.

For more information, visit www.libertyinstitute.org.

Dallas Jones Honored As Outstanding Houstonian
May 25, 2011

Everyone who knows Dallas Jones realizes that he is a talented young man with a promising future. 

Shown here with his wife Angela, Dallas is smart, ambitious and hardworking.  He’s a respected mover and shaker in political circles and the greater  community.

Now the secret is out in the rest of Houston.

Recently, Dallas was recognized for his business success and dynamic leadership when he was named as a 2011 honoree for the Houston  Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 awards.

The HBJ celebration took place at the House of Blues. Later that evening, Dallas was feted by his close friends at Our Legend’s, a private cigar bar in 3rd Ward owned by State Representative Borris Miles.

 Houston Controller Ronald Green,  Judge Maria Jackson, businessman Theldon Branch and PR/Marketing guru Jeri Brooks were some on the familiar faces on hand to congratulate Jones.

Greater Houston Partnership World Trade Soiree Launch Party
May 25, 2011

 

Leave it to the Greater Houston Partnership to host a fabulous party to launch the 2011 World Trade Soiree.

Under the leadership of  co-chairs Ellie Francisco and Leisa Holland-Nelson, dozens of Houston’s business leaders and VIPS  attended the event at Hotel Zaza Monday night.

The annual World Trade Soirée is billed as “an amazing night that showcases the Houston region as an epicenter of international business and influence.”

This year’s theme, Cirque du Houston, will take place on Saturday, August 27, 2011.  It’s expected to draw  more than 600 of the area’s global commerce, government and economic development leaders.  The annual salute to international trade also hosts the Houston Consular Corps. .

For more information or sponsorship opportunities contact the Greater Houston Partnership. http://www.houston.org/SOIREE/INDEX.HTML

President and Mrs. Obama Meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
May 24, 2011

They weren’t invited to the royal wedding, but President and Mrs. Obama did have a chance to meet with Prince William and his new bride, Kate Middleton Tuesday morning.

The President is on a weeklong trip to Europe.  He plans to visit tornado ravaged Missouri on Sunday.

Houston Firefighters’ Union Statement on Deal With City
May 17, 2011

 Houston Firefighters Reach Tentative Three-Year Agreement with City

 HOUSTON, May 17, 2011 – The following statement was released today by Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA):

 Local 341’s collective bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the City today for a three-year deal. The agreement includes a guarantee of no layoffs in the first year, wage freezes for two years, and a one percent raise with a wage opener in the third year. This agreement must be approved a majority of our members and City Council.

 “We believe the tentative agreement balances the compensation and workplace safety needs of firefighters with those of the city and taxpayers. Houston firefighters understand the financial difficulties our city faces. Citizens rated HFD as the city’s top department in the most recent citywide survey, but we know we must continue to earn their trust. Some citizens have asked what we have done to help close the city budget deficit. Houstonians should know that firefighters first proposed budget cuts months ago. We then made tens of millions of dollars in budget and pension concessions.

 “Citizens should also know this tentative agreement prevents firefighter layoffs that would have imperiled our ability to keep the right number of firefighters on the job, with the right training and the right equipment.

 “I appreciate the efforts of my brother and sister members of the collective bargaining team: Local 341 general counsel Rick Mumey, bargaining committee chairman Alvin White, Curtis Williams, Jafet Suarez, and Danielle Wilson. 

“We also extend thanks to the dozens of firefighters who attended the City Council meeting today and to District Chief Robert Schleiter, Communications Captain Fred Chambers and Firefighter James Aston for their excellent remarks.” 

Farouk Systems to Launch Experiments on Shuttle Atlantis
May 17, 2011

Farouk Systems to Launch Experiments on Shuttle Atlantis

Partners with Lone Star College for Student Participation

 (NEWS RELEASE)                                                                                                                      

Immediate Release—Houston-based Farouk Systems, official hair care sponsor of the Miss Universe Organization and in conjunction with NASA, will make history with its participation in the last mission of the NASA space shuttle mission scheduled for late July. Senior Vice President of Technology for Farouk Systems and former NASA scientist, Dr. Dennis Morrison will prep, load and post-analyze five experiments aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. The experiments will focus on finding new techniques of making hair conditioner using specific vitamins and plant derivatives. 

One student currently enrolled in the CHI Environmental School of Cosmetology at Lone Star College-North Harris will have a chance to assist Dr. Morrison by accompanying him to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the shuttle flight, the student will complete the identical experiment on Earth as the astronauts perform it in space.

 The participating student will submit an essay on the importance of science as it relates to cosmetology. The top five essays submitted will be recognized and the winner announced at a brunch held on June 8, 2011 at the CHI Academy located at Farouk Systems’ headquarters. Houston news personality Kim Davis from Beyond the Headlines will serve as master of ceremonies for the event. 

“The experiments will have real-world implications for the cosmetology industry,” said Dr. Stephen C. Head, president of Lone Star College-North Harris. “It will no doubt enhance the student’s current curriculum and be an invaluable learning experience. We are honored Farouk Systems has allowed us to take part in this special program.”

 “The NASA based technology used in our CHI Ceramic Hairstyling Iron revolutionized the hair care industry,” said Farouk Shami, founder and chairman of Farouk Systems. “We are committed to creating the best products using the most innovative of technologies, and we are proud to share the entire experience with a student from Lone Star College through the CHI Stars Program.” 

About Lone Star College-North Harris

Lone Star College System is the second largest and the fastest-growing community college system in Texas and the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area. LSCS consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Park, LSC-University Center at Montgomery, LSC-University Center at University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. To learn more visit www.LoneStar.edu

About Farouk Systems, Inc.

Farouk Systems, Inc. is a Houston-based company that manufactures the world-renowned brands CHI and BioSilk with a mission statement of: Education, Environment and Ethics.  With more than 2,500 employees, the company sells its products in over 100 countries.  The company was founded in 1986 when Farouk Shami invented the first ammonia-free lightening system. Following benchmarks include incorporating silk into hair care, originating CHI thermal tool technology and continuous innovation through research to create better, safer products. For more information, go to www.farouk.com.

Houston Police Honor The Best and Brightest
May 16, 2011

Mayor Annise Parker and Police Chief Charles McClelland, Jr., handed out awards during the local commemoration of National Police Week.

During the ceremony, twenty-nine police officers and civilian workers were honored for their contributions to public safety.

It is during Police Week that officers remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so others may live in safety and peace.

Some officers couldn’t be identified because they work undercover investigations.

The awards ceremony was held at the Downtown Aquarium.

Democrats Plan Protest Against Conservative Group and Gov. Perry
May 16, 2011

 Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to attend the grand opening of  the new King Street Patriots  headquarters today and some democrats are gearing up for a protest.
 
The King Street Patriots say their mission is to prevent voter fraud, however, some accused the group of using tactics that were along the lines of  voter intimidation and harassment  in November 2010.
 
Here’s the information below that was sent to me regarding tonight’s protest in Houston:
 
FIRST, THE PROTEST/RALLY IS ON!!! 
 
Try to be there by 6:30 p.m. on Monday (see map & address below). 
 
Please note that the location is INSIDE THE LOOP just off of Hempstead Highway.  That is a road that is different than Hwy 290.  The attached map makes it appear that the KSP Headquarters is right at the corner of Wynnwood and Hempstead Hwy, but it’s actually about a block down on Wynwood on the left in a nondescript warehouse/office complex.  Pretty drab setup, actually.
 
Bring FUNNY but NOT VULGAR SIGNS and PLEASE WEAR RED.
 
Please forward this to everyone on your email lists who would like to come.
 
We’re working with CID and HPD Sp Ops to make this go smoothly.
 
Let’s make some noise Harris County Dems!
 
 
 
 
ACTION REQUEST
 
The odious King Street Patriots are having the grand opening of their brand new headquarters up on 290 just south of I-610 ( 7232 Wynnwood Lane) on Monday, May 16, 2011.  It’s from 7-9 p.m. 
 
RICK PERRY is coming to the event.  We should welcome them and Gov. Goodhair with hundreds or thousands of protesters.  Here’s a map to the location:  MAP
 
 
Here’s a blog post about the opening.  http://www.kingstreetpatriots.org/ksp-grand-opening-celebration
I am writing to you and others to try to get this organized.  This would be a great show of strength for Harris County Democrats and their allies.  We need union members, hispanics (everyone who marched in Bellaire on May 1!), African-Americans, and all other Democrats to come out and protest this awful, discriminatory group, and the Governor who supports their goals.  We need signs and bullhorns!
 
What do you say?  Can we get an army of protestors out there?  I say, Yes we can!

Civilian Layoffs Inside the Houston Fire Department
May 12, 2011

The layoffs continued Thursday for city of Houston employees.   As of the close of business a total of 634 employees have received notice that their jobs are being eliminated.

Those notified on Thursday include 3 in the finance department, 99 in the Parks Department, 75 in the health department.

For the first time,  Houston Fire Chief  Terry Garrison  is confirming that pink slips are being passed out in his department.

So far the cuts impact 12 civilian employees.  Chief Garrison released this statement regarding the civilians who were laid off.

“In order to meet the need to reduce the size of the department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, the Houston Fire Department has begun staff reductions.   Layoff notifications have been given to some of our civilian staff members.
These personnel changes represent just over $1 million dollars in reduction of expenditures.
These members of our staff have served the city well.  It is a difficult day for all of us.
At this time, there have been no layoffs of classified personnel.  Work continues to find additional savings in hopes of avoiding this altogether.  A very important part of that involves our work with classified Labor through the collective bargaining process.   Both sides of the table are compelled to find solutions in order to meet the budget shortfalls. We all know that decreasing the number of firefighters could have a direct impact on our ability to deliver our service. And we all agree, that maintaining our level of service is most critical.”
 
Meanwhile, classified employees – firefighters – are scheduled to resume face to face collective bargaining with the city on Friday.
Earlier this week both sides worked to find a compromise that would balance saving the city money while allowing firefighters to keep their jobs.
 
 
 
 The city wants the firefighters to accept an interim 18-month contract with a significant number of concessions. One proposal calls for retired firefighters to receive their unused vacation payout over four years instead of in one lump sum when they leave the department.
 
However, the union wants some assurance that those concessions would be short-term and the firefighters would regain their benefits after the compromise contract expired.