1 month ago

If faith practices are ‘discriminatory,’ do we really still have free speech?

Modern political candidates spend a lot of time presenting themselves as culturally acceptable to voters. That means a lot of talk about God, faith, and family, and often the winning candidate is the one who looks best driving a well-worn pickup truck. This is nothing new in American politics, but it’s a practice that is not without its shortcomings.

For those voters who care very much about policy and legislation, and the deeper philosophies of governance that uphold those things, all of this cultural signifying can grow old in a hurry.

Yet there are a few cultural considerations that populist candidates are right to protect. It’s easy to dismiss the bluster about how we Alabamians “dare protect our rights,” but it’s worth remembering that rights must be defended or else they risk becoming something more like a privilege dispensed by those in power, and less like a freedom granted by and preserved in nature.

Political observers have watched a number of court cases in recent years over the matter of religious freedom, particularly as it pertains to same-sex marriage.

A number of plaintiffs have alleged discrimination when a wedding vendor refused to provide service on the grounds that to do so would violate their conscience. Plaintiffs have responded that conscience protections do not allow for discrimination, while defendants have in turn argued that the state cannot compel the creative work (i.e., speech) of the defendant in question. Court rulings thus far have varied in their application, though the United States Supreme Court ruled in the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case that the state did in fact violate the rights to free exercise of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, though the court demurred on some deeper questions of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Those questions are sure to be asked again in future court cases.

Alas, there is another element to religious freedom that is worth considering. While much of this fight will concern the application of specific laws in the various states and municipalities, the preconditions for such arguments are often established in the rhetoric commonly employed in the public square.

A recent decision in one of Alabama’s federal courts sheds some light on this problem.

Just a few weeks ago, United States District Judge Myron Thompson dismissed a lawsuit brought against the Southern Poverty Law Center by D. James Kennedy Ministries, a Christian ministry based out of Florida. The SPLC has, for many years, labeled DJKM a hate group due to its stance on LGBTQ issues. Judge Thompson dismissed the case, noting that while the court was not offering comment on the specifics of the SPLC’s charge, the organization was well within its protected First Amendment rights to make such a claim.

In a broad sense, it’s hard to disagree with the ruling. No one should be comfortable with a federal judge stepping out and saying “you can’t say that” to any person or organization.

Yet the SPLC, an organization that has long outlived its usefulness as a neutral arbiter of justice, is playing a dangerous game with its Manichean practice of labeling hate groups.

Of course, there are clear instances of hate groups; the noxious alt-right, neo-Nazis, racists and bigots of various stripes, and anti-Semites, though the latter finds increasing oxygen on both the far right and the far left these days. Indeed, thoughtful Christians must admit that however unfair the charge may be against D. James Kennedy Ministries, there are certainly some within the church who wield Christian orthodoxy as a cudgel against others in a way that is unsound on the merits of Scripture as well as public perception. To that point, religious organizations concerned about the changing outlook on human sexuality should recognize that their own rhetoric often affects real people with real struggles; they should exercise their First Amendment freedoms with great prudence and caution.

Still, it must be recognized that laws are upheld beyond the mere text on a page. There is a rhetorical function to our laws; if they are not upheld in custom then they are not likely to be upheld in practice.

Put another way, our cultural practices are often the precondition for the structure of our laws.

The writers of the Bill of Rights had no qualms about enshrining those freedoms in the Constitution because they already believed those things in the deepest fiber of their beings. While Judge Thompson’s ruling may be technically correct, the practice of labeling the orthodox Christian stance of human sexuality as hateful poses a real risk not just to religious freedom, but freedom of speech, as well.

Speech that is slowly but surely regarded as socially unacceptable may in time become legally unacceptable as well, and at that point, the First Amendment will have been stripped of all of its cultural and legal power.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and professor of the classics, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, alabamapolicy.org.

2 hours ago

7 Things: Two articles of impeachment, polling has Sessions still up, Trump gets trade win and more …

7. Biden is still first, but Warren is falling

  • New polling data from the Quinnipiac University has been released that shows former Vice President Joe Biden is still in first place with 29%, but U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has moved up into second with 17%.
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has fallen to third place with 15%, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is down to 9%, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg follows with 5% and entrepreneur Andrew Yang has 4%.

6. Stopping the spread of misinformation

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  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has met with Twitter and Facebook representatives in an effort to stop misinformation from spreading online throughout the state in preparation for the upcoming 2020 election cycle.
  • Merrill said that it’s important that everyone in Alabama is “informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information.” Merrill added, “[E]lection security and protocol is higher than ever in Alabama. We continue to introduce new ways to improve security every single day.”

5. Ainsworth has endorsed Ward

  • Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth took to Twitter to endorse State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) for the Alabama Supreme Court. Ainsworth confirmed the endorsement, saying, “I am supporting his candidacy and encourage my friends to do the same.”
  • Ward responded to Ainsworth’s endorsement by saying he’s “honored” to have the support and that Ainsworth “knows my legislative record and the conservative values I will bring to our Supreme Court.”

4. Tuberville doubles down on his reasonable drag queen take

  • When former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville expressed that a Christmas parade may not be the appropriate place for a drag show, you knew the media would take the bait and attack him for it.
  • In response, Tuberville further explained that a parade designed for children isn’t really the place for this stuff. He stated, “Christmas is about celebrating with family,” adding, “Our public celebrations ought to be family-friendly for young and old.”

3. Democrats are supporting trade agreement

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is now supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) caucus, which is the trade agreement that would replace NAFTA.
  • Pelosi’s announcement of her support comes only one day after Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) and State Representative Wes Allen (R-Troy) sent a letter to Pelosi pushing for her to support the trade agreement.

2. New polls in Alabama Senate race

  • The Alabama Farmers Federation has released new polling data that shows former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn Football Coach are polling closely, with Sessions at 35% and Tuberville at 31%, whereas data released by the Sessions campaign showed that Sessions was at 44% and Tuberville was at 21%.
  • The Farmers Federation data also showed that U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is at 8% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and Stanley Adair are only at 1% each.

1. Abuse of power and obstruction

  • The House Democrats have announced formal articles of impeachment they’re bringing against President Donald Trump, which are abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In doing so, U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that Trump “endangers our democracy; he endangers our national security.”
  • U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) responded to the articles of impeachment, saying it’s “nothing more than a pathetic witch hunt.” U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said that the “charges are so political, not even all their members will be able to stomach voting for them.”

2 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Obama’s attack on law enforcement tied to spike in police killed in the line of duty

On Friday, another Alabama police officer was shot and killed in the line of the duty, which was the sixth such death in 2019.

Huntsville STAC Agent Bill Clardy III was shot and killed. LaJeromeny Brown, the suspect behind the killing, was charged with capital murder. Clardy’s death is the latest in an alarming trend of law enforcement officers killed while on the job.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Tuesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed his frustration over the circumstances surrounding Clardy’s murder. He argued there was more elected officials could do to reverse the trend.

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“It saddens me,” Brooks said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “It angers me that we allow criminals to stay on our streets as long as we do with the kind of records that they have. If media reports of this man’s record are correct, he should never have been in a position where he could have been exposed to the public or where he could have murdered one of our police officers. I think it is good [U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama] Jay Town is looking into … why this man was at large when he should have been in a penitentiary somewhere serving a long, long sentence. So I am frustrated with our judicial system, and I just hate what happened. And I feel for the family.”

“A lot of this is what we’ve seen over the last decade or so where we’ve seen some political elements that seem to be anti-law enforcement,” he continued. “The more get public officials making anti-law enforcement statements, the more you’re encouraging people to resist law enforcement officers, even to the point of pulling out a gun and people getting killed. There is so much to it that frustrates me as an elected official, and so many things we as a society could be doing better to protect innocent Americans on the one hand and our brave law enforcement officers on the other.”

The Madison County Republican argued for one policy prescription, which was a review of how public officials support and publicly speak about law enforcement. Brooks pointed to former President Barack Obama’s rhetoric and how he handled some high-profile officer-involved incidents, which, according to Brooks, has created an environment more difficult for law enforcement.

“We need to have more public officials who support law enforcement,” Brooks explained. “Keep in mind that under the last administration — I hate to be so partisan, but this is the truth of the matter — under the last administration, any time a law enforcement officer did what he needed to do to protect the public, and an individual was killed in the following fray, the Obama administration would immediately attack law enforcement, and that kind of jumping to a conclusion that Barack Obama did so frequently and his attacks on law enforcement, and his support for African-Americans for no reason apparently other than they were African-American — it wasn’t about whether they were guilty or not. We saw what happened with Ferguson, Missouri, where the Obama administration immediately came to the defense of the African-American who was killed, attacked the law enforcement community, and then later on it turned out that this guy was a thug and just finished committing a forceful robbery.”

“Another follow-up on that is what happened in Texas where an African-American probably emboldened to some degree by these anti-law enforcement statements of elected officials decided to go on a killing rampage, and his targets were two types of people: law enforcement officers and whites,” he continued. “And that is what he said. Words are important. And our elected officials — if they don’t want anarchy, if they don’t want crime to rule, then they better be a whole lot more forceful in protecting our law enforcement officers and backing them up, or else you’re going to see more of this.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

Aderholt bashes partisan impeachment charges, reaffirms support for USMCA

On Tuesday, U.S. House Democrats announced two impeachment charges will be filed against President Donald Trump and then later in the day declared that they have a reached a deal to support the Trump-negotiated United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Republican Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) reacted to both developments, first tweeting his continued opposition to impeaching the president.

No Republicans are expected to vote for the impeachment charges, as the real question is how many Democrats will break ranks by either abstaining from voting on or opposing the charges.

Speaking about his Democratic colleagues, Aderholt concluded, “These impeachment charges are so political, not even all their members will be able to stomach voting for them.”

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Aderholt on Tuesday later issued a statement regarding the latest news about the USMCA, which is the trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration that would replace NAFTA.

“Since coming to Congress, my focus has been on growing our local economy and bringing the best jobs to this area. This USMCA agreement will allow our region to continue building on our already strong economy,” he advised. “This agreement is a win for Americans across the country and in the State of Alabama.”

The dean of Alabama’s House delegation commended the president for his leadership on the USMCA.

“I congratulate President Trump for negotiating this agreement, and I look forward to working with him to continue building on our historic economic expansion,” Aderholt said. “By persuading Canada and Mexico to revise the outdated NAFTA agreement, and then negotiating on labor issues with Democrat leadership, President Trump has secured a trade deal which will establish a level playing field that keeps America competitive.”

Aderholt pointed to specific sectors of Alabama’s and his district’s economies expected to benefit from the USMCA.

“The automobile and agriculture industries are two of the biggest drivers of economic development in the Fourth Congressional District of Alabama. In 2017 alone, Alabama had more than $7 billion in exports to Mexico and Canada,” he outlined. “The USMCA agreement expands access for U.S. exports of chickens and eggs. As the representative of one of the largest poultry producing districts in the nation, I can say there is no doubt USMCA is a win for Alabama’s farmers.”

“According to an April 2019 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission, USMCA is estimated to increase U.S. production of automotive parts and employment in the sector. I have repeatedly called on House leadership to bring this deal to the House floor and look forward to supporting it,” Aderholt concluded.

A vote on the USMCA has been scheduled in the House for next week, however the impeachment process driven by House Democrats might actually stall ratification in the Senate after that.

Assuming the two charges get enough Democratic votes to pass the House and Trump is impeached, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already said he will not take up the USMCA until the impeachment trial has concluded in the upper chamber.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama NFIB state director comments on spike in small business optimism

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) on Tuesday released its latest monthly Small Business Economic Trends Survey, with the results boding well for Alabama’s economy as well as the national economy.

In fact, the nationwide survey showed small business optimism posting the largest month-over-month gain since May 2018, rising 2.3 points to 104.7 last month.

NFIB’s optimism index is comprised of 10 total index components, and the spike in November’s total index was bolstered by seven of those components improving. A 10-point improvement in the earnings component led this charge. Additionally, business owners reporting it is a good time to expand increased by six points, and those expecting better business conditions increased by three points.

In more good news, the NFIB’s business uncertainty index fell six points last month to 72, the lowest reading since May 2018.

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While the survey is not broken down into state-specific data, NFIB Alabama state director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Our members here are telling us it’s a good time to reinvest in their businesses and add jobs.”

Read more about the survey here.

This came after NFIB released its monthly jobs report last week. That report showed a net 30% of small business owners, seasonally adjusted, raised compensation and 26% planned to do so in the coming months, up four points and the highest level since December of 1989. Job creation jumped last month, with an average addition of 0.29 workers per firm, the highest level since May.

This being said, finding qualified workers remains the top issue for NFIB members. Last month, 26% reported that this is their foremost problem. That number is one point below August’s record high.

The totality of November’s economic news reflects a stark departure from previous months, as speculation about a possible recession was dampening small business owners’ economic outlook. Additionally, NFIB noted that the current focus and noise in Washington, D.C. around impeachment is proving to have little, if any, impact on small business owners.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Two officers on leave amid investigation into inmate’s death

Two Alabama prison officers are on leave as the department probes the use of force in the death of a state inmate.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it is investigating the alleged use of force that resulted in the death of an inmate at Ventress Correctional Facility inmate.

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Fifty-five-year-old Michael Smith of Fairfield, died Dec. 5 after being removed from life support following a November incident at the prison.

The prison system said it is also investigating the death of another inmate at Holman Correctional Facility.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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