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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      March 2, 1995, V3, #42
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Quote of the Day: In a Palestinian Radio broadcast Sheikh Akrim El-Savri has called for the "purification of Jerusalem of the sinners." The sheikh continued to state that the "creator" will bring about the destruction of the State of Israel and the Arabs will destroy the settlements.

Israel Denies Secret Syrian Negotiations

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israel has denied a report that it is in active negotiations with Syria, through US mediators, and that the two countries are close to an agreement on several key aspects of a peace accord.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres dismissed the report by the Cable News Network as "more of a media event than a political event." He says there have been no meetings or negotiations between Israel and Syria since senior military officers from the two countries met late last year.

"Nothing is happening since the last meetings that took place between the chiefs of staff. We are willing to renew the negotiations. (That is) no problem as far as we are concerned. And when you encounter difficulties in the peace process, you don't stop the peace process, you are trying to stop the difficulties on the road. (Pessin questions) Is an agreement taking shape in any way? (Peres asks) Between us and Syria? (Pessin) Yes, sir. (Peres) Not that I am aware of."

Peres said the Israel-Syria talks have been in recess, and reports of no progress and time running out are "not pessimistic" but rather are simply "factual." Peres specifically denied that there has been any discussion between Israel and Syria on details of security arrangements along their border -- a key aspect of the CNN report.

"Until now, there was no meeting with the Syrians, no negotiations, nothing whatsoever. Maybe the Syrians talked with CNN or somebody else. I wouldn't deny that. But, for the time being, it is more of a media event than a political event."

According to the report on CNN, there have been almost daily Israel-Syria contacts through US mediators in Washington. The report says the two sides are close to an agreement which would create a demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights and would involve an exchange of ambassadors. The report acknowledges that the key issue of where the border or ceasefire line will be has not yet been decided. Peres says such security arrangements have never been discussed in the various Israel-Syria contacts.

First Amendment Conflicts Heard by Supreme Court

By Jane Berger (Washington)

The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case that involves a conflict between the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The court's decision could have wide-ranging consequences on the Constitution's requirement to separate church and state.

The case began in 1991, when the state-supported University of Virginia denied funds to a student-sponsored evangelical Christian magazine. All university students pay an annual fee for student activities, and money from the fund is allocated to various student organizations. The university prohibits funding for religious, political and social groups, such as fraternities or sororities.

The First Amendment to the Constitution says the government may make no law respecting the establishment of religion. That amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean that government should remain neutral toward religion, and that government, in general, should stay out of religious matters.

The Christian students sued the university, arguing the university had violated their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion. Two lower federal courts ruled in favor of the university, and the students then appealed to the Supreme Court.

In arguments before the court, University of Chicago law professor Michael McConnell argued, on behalf of the students, that the government cannot take sides among different viewpoints.

After the court session was over, McConnell repeated his argument for reporters. "My clients are trying to put out a student newspaper. They address social and world and campus events of every sort from their point of view. They are no different from any other students at the University of Virginia. In our country, religious speakers and people with religious points of view have the same free speech rights as anyone else. That is what this case is all about."

On behalf of the university, attorney John Jeffries told the justices that all student groups, including religious ones, are allowed, on an equal basis, to use university facilities and distribute materials on campus. But Jeffries said the Constitution requires the university to deny funding to religious groups.

The university's position was supported by the National Council of Churches, and several prominent liberal organizations. Elliott Mintzburg of People for the American Way said a decision in favor of the Christian students would undermine separation of church and state.
"This is not a case of the government getting out the way of religion. This is somebody asking the government to get behind and push -- to push religion in a very specific and affirmative way that the Establishment Clause (the Constitution's First Amendment) forbids, mainly for the sake of religion."

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