Want to work for the government of Temple Terrace, Florida? Quit smoking. The city now bans the hiring of smokers, even if they light up only in their own homes. City Councilman Joe Affronti says the policy is actually in smokers' best interest: "It boggles my mind when people know of all the health problems," he says, "and they continue to smoke."
When you're at war with theocrats, how do you stand up for your freedoms? Apparently, by forcing school kids to pray. Spurred by the September 11 attacks, several states and towns across the nation have attempted to bring prayer back into public schools. "Our children need and deserve to live in a country of renewed spirit which will help bind us as one," says one California school board member.
Meanwhile, Iran's fundamentalist judiciary has shut down more than 50 newspapers "for God's sake." Nearly all of the papers support greater freedom and democracy.
A traditional school science project may soon be outlawed by the Agriculture Department. To protect the endangered milkweed, the USDA wants to ban the release of Monarch butterflies, which feed on the plant. Kids would still be able to feed caterpillars and watch them morph into butterflies, but they'd have to kill the winged creatures when they reach adulthood.
Mayor Carolyn Risher has banned Satan from Inglis, Florida. No word on whether Satan plans to appeal.
Racism and xenophobia could soon become crimes in Europe. Laws being drafted by the European Commission would punish with up to two years in prison aversion to individuals based on "race, colour, descent, religion or belief and national or ethnic origin." The proposed legislation bans "public insults" of minority groups as well as "public dissemination of tracts, pictures or other material containing expressions of racism or xenophobia." Holocaust deniers and political parties that oppose mass immigration would also be specifically restricted.
When state troopers heard that Round Rock, Texas, was hosting one of the nation's largest modified-car shows, they saw a lucrative opportunity to enforce "public safety." Four troopers parked near the show's entrance, citing anyone with illegal alterations, such as blue turn signals or low suspensions. At times, the traffic stretched more than three miles, but the officers persisted. All told, they wrote 139 tickets and issued 90 warnings in three days. Organizers of the show say they may not come back to Texas.
Christians in Laos are being forced to renounce their faith. That's not new for the country, where communist hardliners have long tried to enforce atheism. But lately, the government has started to ease its stance on Buddhism and animism: Authorities are looking the other way when animists try to force Christians (sometimes at gunpoint) to sacrifice animals, drink blood, and speak to spirits.