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Do we really want a society that says ANY sexual behavior is fine?


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF CHRISTIAN BAKER

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, earlier this week, after six years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, favored a Christian cake baker, Jack Phillips, in the case Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

This case was one of the most watched of the term. It was the first big showdown between gay rights and religious freedom since the court forced states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015. The headline said it was a very narrow ruling. It was not narrow in the sense that it was a 7-2 vote, but it was narrow in how they framed their debate and argument.

DR. REEDER: What they did was slap the hand of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission because of their engagement, their animus to religion, etc. The point that many journalists have rightly made that this was not so much on the merits of Jack Phillips’ decision that, in light of his religious liberty, he should not have to participate in something that he disagrees with because of a sincerely held religious view that marriage is between a man and a woman. They did not go directly to that issue.

Now, there’s another case coming up that they’re probably going to have to deal with that, so it’s said as a narrow decision and those who are fighting for religious liberty should not take great heart in this. I would disagree. I agree with what they’re saying in that they didn’t go after the merits of Jack Phillips’ claimed exemption from participating because of religious liberty, but they did make a very significant statement.

THE COURT WALKS A FINE LINE

We cannot miss a couple of facts here, Tom. Fact 1: the same court that is pushing this notion that sexual activity and sexual practices have civil rights has now taken a pretty aggressive statement that the government cannot determine what someone’s religious convictions are in light of their validity or not. What they’ve basically said is this — they even used the language that was used by this civil rights commission in that they said that Mr. Phillips was claiming a rhetorical religious conviction, not a sincerely held religious conviction and that his conviction was “despicable to use such rhetoric as religious liberty to masquerade his clear discrimination against homosexual marriage.”

It shouldn’t escape our notice that not only did we have a court here that, on the one hand, has been pushing sexual anarchy under civil rights and now has pushed back on the government acting with animus toward religion through the activity of the civil rights commission. But the same person who wrote the majority opinion for the Obergefell decision that sought out the right to redefine marriage as two consenting adults whether they’re the same sex or not and leaving the historic definition of marriage of a man and a woman — the same guy who wrote that opinion now writes this opinion and his key word was “tolerance” and that we have to find a way in which those who are pushing for what has previously been known as sexual aberration, now that that is “protected behavior,” then you’ve got to find a way to tolerate those who, because of religious convictions, cannot participate or support in such behavior.

It’s been abundantly clear as this case has unfolded that Jack Phillips has friendships with those who claim homosexual orientation and his products have been available to everybody — he makes a cake — if you buy it, you buy it — but what he was asked to do here is to participate with his artistic ability in the celebration and implementation of a same-sex marriage and he said, “By religious conviction, I can’t do that.”

THE FIRST AMENDMENT MUST BE PRESERVED

There is no doubt that the First Amendment is the First Amendment. There’s a reason it is the First Amendment and the first of the First Amendment is religious liberty. There’s a reason why that’s important in terms of what it means to be an American and what has been crucial in the maintaining of the American experiment that has been unparalleled throughout history. And so, what you need to do is aggressively go after it and, to some degree, the Supreme Court did that, and you cannot miss a 7-2 vote.

In the majority opinion, he says that the civil rights commission is out of bounds when it calls someone’s religious beliefs as despicable. The government is not in the business of determining what religious beliefs are acceptable and not acceptable. The government protects the right of the practice of religion, but it does not pass judgment on what religions are right. That is not its job and that is one of the unique dynamics of the country. Then, when they use the word “despicable” because someone holds to a historic position of marriage, in other words, it’s telling every court and every government agency, “Get out of the business of passing judgment on religious belief.”

REACTIONS VARIED — SOME SATISFIED, OTHERS VOW TO DOUBLE DOWN

There are multiple responses to this. Some people were happy, some people were upset, but there were also some things that came out. The leader of the Democratic Party clearly came out in total opposition to this ruling, no protections of religious liberty cross the lips of the Democratic Party spokesman. It was an all-out assault on religious liberty and whatever Jack Phillips claims should not even be considered in light of the importance of pressing the issue of sexual anarchy in the name of sexual liberties. Now, the Republican Party has not spoken directly to this and it’ll be interesting to see how they do.

Also, what came out is those who want to press this matter said, “Our only answer now is we have got to move for a ‘human dignity amendment’ to the Constitution that protects sexual identity and that protects sexual practices.”

TOLERATION AND DISCRIMINATION

Well, let me just say that there’s two words here that I want to address: toleration and discrimination. Toleration is, ultimately, the resort of the arrogant. “I’m going to tolerate you.” While I am opposed to homosexuality, I don’t tolerate homosexuals — I am called to love them in a Christian world and life view.

I am called to love people made in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean I have to love their behavior. I’m not called to tolerate; I am called to actively, aggressively develop relationships that exhibit grace and mercy and dignity toward person — not toward their behavior, necessarily, but toward persons.

Secondly, this notion that we want a non-discriminatory society, no, please think through that. Even to this day, thankfully, there’s some sexual behavior we discriminate against. It’s wrong. Discrimination against people and their dignity is what must be affirmed, but discrimination on behavior is constantly practiced: “This is right; this is wrong. This is right; this is wrong.” Therefore, discriminating considerations are absolutely crucial in a society that is ordered by law that something is right and something’s wrong. Now, the question is is sexual activity outside of marriage — promiscuity, sexual activity that is abnormal between men and men and women and women — is that to be declared right and normal and acceptable or is there to be a discriminatory fact that, no, sex is between a man and a woman and sex belongs within the context of marriage?

That is the inevitable collision course in our culture and, while this case did not directly go to that issue, it did fire a shot across the bow to the government that you are here to protect the First Amendment and the free practice of religion, but you are not here to pass judgement and call someone’s free practice of religion “mere rhetoric,” when in reality it was a sincerely held belief.

COMING UP MONDAY: ANOTHER RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COURT CASE DECIDED

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Monday’s edition of Today in Perspective, there’s actually another case that came out the same day as the Jack Phillip’s case. It was Azar vs. Garza.

DR. REEDER: Yeah, and here’s one that goes to the issue of sanctity of life and, by the way, has implications on religious liberty again. It’s kind of gotten lost in the shuffle, but there’s something insightful. And, by the way, there’s some other things that are taking place around it concerning the ACLU and Planned Parenthood that this case highlights and we need to address that on Monday.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

40 mins ago

A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club breaks ground on $7.2 million clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex

A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is building a $7.2 million Walter Howlett Jr. Clubhouse at Birmingham CrossPlex, but if history is any indication, it’s also building future leaders.
Leaders like Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who is a self-proclaimed “club kid” having grown up in Boys & Girls Clubs.

“I can personally speak to the power of the Boys & Girls Club,” Woodfin said. “I spent some formative years here as a club kid.”

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Woodfin said it was on the sports practice fields in downtown Birmingham where he learned the value of teamwork.

“The greatest lesson I learned from the club … is the importance of teamwork in this city,” he said. “I learned that no matter how great the individual players were as part of the club or on the team, it’s the unity that ensures victory.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State and Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice has made mentoring and youth programs like Boys & Girls Club a pet project nationally. She praised the possibilities the new clubhouse in Birmingham holds.

“This great, new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club is just going to be full of possibilities,” she said. “It’s not just programs that they deliver on. They deliver on caring and compassion for our young people.”

Rice co-chaired the campaign to build a new clubhouse for the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club along with Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III and Regions Financial Corp.Chairman Grayson Hall.

She said those who contributed to the new clubhouse initiative have demonstrated they make children a priority.

“This is about the possibilities when a community comes together,” Rice said. “It’s absolutely the case that when the corporate community and private citizens like the McWanes and people from across the city come together and say, ‘We’re going to do something special for our kids,’ something magnificent happens.”

Frank Adams, CEO of A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, said the new facility will include a new gym, a music room, a game room, a new café able to serve hot meals and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math) labs. The two-story facility will have a floor dedicated to teens and will be able to serve twice as many children as the Kirkwood R. Balton facility it is replacing.

Adams said the clubhouse will be a great addition to the CrossPlex campus.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help revitalize this area while serving our kids at a higher level,” he said.

Walter Howlett Jr. was a prominent member of the business community in Birmingham and served as the chairman of the board at A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club for more than 20 years. Adams said it’s a worthy tribute to name the new facility after him.

The CrossPlex campus and the new facility are in Birmingham City Councilman Steven Hoyt’s district. He said the new clubhouse will be a welcomed addition.

“Today is very much about an orchestrated optimism and the future of our young people,” he said. “This new club is a symbol of hope.”

Rice said that hope has been realized again and again through Boys & Girls Clubs.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs talk about building great futures,” she said. “Well, you can only get a great future if you have a great start and that is what this is really all about.

“The best in us believes that every life is worthy, and every life is worthy of greatness,” she added.

Who knows, maybe the next mayor or the next secretary of state will come from there.

“I believe in the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club because I know it’s power,” Woodfin said. “It’s a training ground to guide our young people in the right direction. It’s where they will make lasting friendships, make community connections and acquire life lessons that will serve them well when they become the next leaders of our city.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Exceptional Foundation carolers bring holiday spirit to Alabama businesses

What the Exceptional Foundation carolers may lack in perfect pitch and rhythm they more than make up for with enthusiasm and sheer joy.

The result is exactly what is intended: delivering the Christmas spirit to businesses around Birmingham.

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That delivery is clear by the smiles produced among the audiences.

This is the fifth year the Exceptional Foundation carolers have visited corporations to thank them for their support. CEO Tricia Kirk said the number of performances has grown from less than a handful of businesses in the first season to five or six a day this year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Alabama Power works to save threatened snails on Coosa River

While many property owners used this fall’s Coosa River drawdown to make repairs to boathouses, piers and other structures along the water’s edge, Alabama Power biologists were on another mission.

APC Environmental Affairs employees worked with members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to protect rare snails on Lay and Mitchell lakes.

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The first step involved surveying threatened species — literally by counting the number of snails in a given area.

Two species of freshwater aquatic snails listed under the Endangered Species Act, the rough hornsnail and Tulotoma snail, call the Coosa River home. Both are native to Alabama and are found nowhere else in the world.

“We do a manual count, which gives you an estimate of the number of that species within a certain area,” said Jason Carlee, APC Environmental Affairs supervisor. “You can then multiply that number by the area of the lake bottom affected by the drawdown to estimate how much of the population is affected.”

The work wasn’t limited to surveying. The biologists were also charged with saving snails affected by the drawdown. Snails that might have had trouble navigating to the lower lake levels were picked up along the riverbank and returned to the water.

“The primary objectives at Lay Lake and Lake Mitchell were surveying known populations of Tulotoma and rough hornsnail, searching for new populations of the species and relocating species to suitable habitat in deeper water,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist with Alabama Power.

The snails live anywhere from one to 30 feet below the shoreline but prefer to live just below the water’s edge, according to Carlee.

“The lowering of the water forces the snails to follow the water and, as they move, they can get trapped by vegetation or stuck behind a log or rock,” Carlee said. “Our priority is to identify new populations and to salvage as many snails as we can.”

The teams focused on areas with known populations and salvaged snails when the water was at its lowest level to make the most significant positive impact. A previous survey and salvage effort was conducted during the 2013 drawdown, and additional snail surveys were done in 2009 and 2012.

“Part of our week was spent searching for new populations of rough hornsnails, and we found them,” said Fitch. “Before this week, the species was only known to occur in four different locations on Mitchell Reservoir, but we found them in three other creeks this week as well as along the shorelines in the main channel.”

Several other steps have been taken to protect the snails. For example, the timing and frequency of the fall drawdowns have been adjusted to benefit the species.

“Historically for Lay and Mitchell, there were drawdowns every year. Then they went to every other year. Since the discovery of rough hornsnails at Lake Mitchell and at Yellowleaf Creek on Lay Reservoir, drawdowns are conducted every five years to decrease impacts to the snails,” Fitch said.

Tracks left by the snails leading from the riverbank to the water indicate that the species can adjust to water level fluctuations. Lake levels are now lowered very slowly over a three-day period, to give snails more time to follow the dropping water.

Alabama Power works with USFWS and ADCNR to find ways to protect and improve habitat conditions for snails and other aquatic species as part of its license to operate dams issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. All the hard work is paying off. The Tulotoma snail was downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2011 as populations below Coosa River dams increased. It was the first time a freshwater species of mollusks, which includes clams, mussels and slugs, was downlisted. New populations of rough hornsnail provide hope for its recovery.

Results from this year’s snail survey will help regulators determine the impact of water level fluctuations on species like these snails and help provide guidance concerning future drawdowns.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.

7 hours ago

Artur Davis: What the next Montgomery mayor needs

The coming mayoral race in Montgomery matters whether you live in city limits, or whether it is simply important to you or your business that Alabama’s capital thrives. The conversation on the ground is that the outcome could be the next historic milestone for the city that launched civil rights.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson caused a stir with a recent Montgomery Advertiser column that argues “it is time for the occupant of the mayor’s office to reflect the predominant (African-American) citizenry.” She further suggests that there is a burden on black voters and leader to “filter black candidates early,” so that the ranks be purged of those who by some test fail, in her words, to “serve the best interests of the African-American community.”

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I know the judge’s sentiments are well-intentioned but as one of the seven or eight folks who will be running for Mayor, as the only contender who has officially registered a campaign committee, I view this election through a different lens. Montgomery has challenges at every turn. The test is not the mayor’s color or gender but whether the city’s next leader is visionary and substantial enough to unlock those opportunities disguised as challenges.

Mayor is not an entry-level job, as the judge correctly observed. The mayor-to-be will have to learn and master the details of making urban policy work for ordinary people. The job demands persistence and a clear eye about the questions that threaten Montgomery’s future.

Can our schools be rescued? For a while now, the leadership of our school system has resembled its population demographically: that by itself has meant nothing to the children in our eleven failing schools, or the 37 percent of children who graduate high school without core reading and math skills. The next mayor must join forces with the new school board to extricate the schools from the state takeover, a mismanaged event that creates the kind of uncertain chain of command that makes it impossible to attract a national caliber superintendent. The next mayor will have to sell the neighborhoods whose children are in magnets or private schools on the imperative of financing traditional schools adequately. He or she will also need to overcome forces who resist innovative reforms or stricter accountability.

Can we make a real dent in Montgomery’s poverty problem? West and North Montgomery are statistically identical to the chronically poor Black Belt. The southern boulevard is one long patch of neglect and collapsed businesses. Too many of our working people are still poor and trapped in dead-end jobs. For decades, the struggling parts of our city have had representation that “looks like them.” That fact has not yet stopped the decline.

Can we roll back crime and the root causes of crime? An overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are drop-outs. Our city has yet to fashion a comprehensive plan to identify and engage students who have encounters with the law or are chronic disciplinary problems. At the same time, if a city as complex as New York can reduce its rates of gun violence and murder, the next mayor of Montgomery should be expected to devise an anti-crime plan more robust than empathy and short-term anger management courses.

I could go on. We have reached new heights in corporate investment in the city but more of that newly infused wealth must be targeted toward creating jobs that pay high wages. Promoting minority investment is an urgent, consistently unmet need that takes more than conferences at the Renaissance to solve. Our municipal government structure has not been reorganized since the time when smartphones had not been invented and the internet in this city was limited to government offices.

The record of the mayor who is leaving, Todd Strange, will loom over this election. I ran against him but will grant him this: in an era when national politics has degenerated into all or nothing partisanship and what the experts call tribalism, Mayor Strange has kept the volume temperate and moderate in Montgomery. The next mayor should emulate that decency. He or she must match it with a boldness and a capacity to challenge old assumptions and challenge 21st Century problems.

I do agree that this city is on the edge of making history. But the test for candidates is not how well we represent one community or satisfy that community’s insiders and gatekeepers. It is whether any of us has what it takes to make Montgomery a trendsetter in repairing failing schools and blighted neighborhoods and in forging a more prosperous, more equitable future.

If you live in Montgomery, vote for the guy or lady you think just might know how to get us there.

Artur Davis is a former four-term congressman from Montgomery running for mayor.