Religious message barred from event


June 17, 2006

A federal judge has ordered the organizers of a feed-the-hungry event sponsored by the city of Baltimore to make sure participants understand that they cannot include a religious message with the bags of food they distribute.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett denied yesterday the restraining order sought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but he said organizers of today's event must read a statement to all participants before the distribution to make clear that the effort is not used to proselytize.

At one time, the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland had planned to include Bibles and "salvation tracts" in the bags of food that are to be distributed to more than 1,000 people today at 18 area missions and shelters. But one leader said this week that those plans were dropped before the group sought city funding.

The Bags of Love outreach comes before the National Baptist Convention's 2006 Congress on Christian Education, set to begin Monday at the Baltimore Convention Center. Americans United has objected to city and state grants to support the conference. City and state officials say the money is being spent to boost economic development, not to spread any religious message.

An attorney for Americans United expressed some satisfaction at Bennett's ruling.

"Obviously, we're disappointed that the judge didn't grant the temporary restraining order," Heather Weaver said. "But the main purpose of bringing this lawsuit was to stop the city funding an event where Bibles and salvation tracts would be distributed, and the judge has ensured that that's not going to occur."

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler also was pleased with the result.

"This is an important convention for the city," he said. "We believed that the city's activities were altogether lawful, and the court has so held."

An attorney for the United Baptist Missionary Convention of Maryland could not be reached for comment.


frederick county: thurmont

Official arrested for slapping son

A local official was arrested for slapping his 14-year-old son in front of a sheriff's deputy after the boy had been arrested for vandalism.

Ron Terpko, a Thurmont town commissioner, said he slapped his son after the boy had taken a car and gone with two friends to play "mailbox baseball," a term for smashing mailboxes on rural roads.

Terpko was charged with second-degree assault and child abuse, said Cpl. Jennifer Bailey, spokeswoman for the Frederick County sheriff's office.

Bailey said deputies called Terpko early Wednesday and asked him to sign a release to pick up "a juvenile" who had been arrested. She would not identify the youth when asked whether it was Terpko's son. When contacted by the Frederick News-Post on Thursday, Terpko said, "I was notified. I went there. I was standing there. I slapped him."

Terpko, 42, was taken to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center to be charged and was released on personal recognizance. The teens were charged with vandalism to private property.


Somerset County: Princess Anne

Charges in sale of deadly drug

A Somerset County man could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison if convicted of selling a deadly drug that is blamed for more than 100 deaths nationwide.

Robert L. Wise, 29, has been charged with distributing fentanyl, a painkiller stronger than morphine. Fentanyl has been discovered mixed with heroin and is thought to be responsible for more than 100 deaths. A Princess Anne man died in April after taking the drug.

Wise was arrested after a police investigation into a "possible drug overdose" of two female acquaintances, an alleged transaction that sent the buyers to Peninsula Regional Medical Center. Outside the courtroom where he was arraigned Thursday, Wise called himself a drug "user" who went with a female acquaintance "to get some," but he was not specific. He also said his activities were not linked to the April death.


Prince George's: Bowie state

Ky. woman up for presidency

The president of Kentucky State University is one of four candidates for the presidency at Bowie State University.

KSU President Mary Evans Sias was interviewed this week at Bowie State University, a historically black institution with 5,500 students. Sias told the Lexington Herald-Leader she did not seek the job but was contacted by a search firm.

Bowie State expects to name a new president by July 1, said spokeswoman Kimberly M. West. The new president will succeed Calvin W. Lowe, who left at the end of 2005 after six years as president.

Sias has been president of Kentucky State since April 2004. The historically black school in Frankfort has 2,300 students.


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