8 months 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.

9 hours ago

Sessions makes closing pitch, knocks Tuberville with eight days until election

PIKE ROAD — Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday attacked his opponent for connections to a failed hedge fund and made the case that he was the right choice for Alabama Republicans in next week’s primary runoff.

Sessions’ remarks came during a campaign appearance at SweetCreek Farm Market in Pike Road, a suburb to the east of Montgomery. He and his opponent, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, compete at the ballot box on July 14 to be the nominee that will take on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

The details of Tuberville’s involvement in a hedge fund that ended in disaster were first printed in the New York Times over the weekend.

“Either he was greedy, incompetent, naive and lacked knowledge; or he actually deliberately participated in an activity that was criminal,” Sessions said Monday about the former coach’s alleged involvement.

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Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald told the Times that Tuberville’s involvement in the hedge fund “was a big mistake, and he’s paid for it.”

McDonald says the coach was “as surprised as anyone” to learn that his partner in the venture, John David Stroud, was engaging in fraudulent behavior with the money in the fund.

Neither the regulating body in Alabama or Washington, D.C. that oversees hedge funds chose to charge Tuberville with a crime, though a former attorney for Stroud alleged Tuberville had knowledge of the dealings. The Times reported that the coach “was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office.” Coach Tuberville settled out of court after being sued by investors in the hedge fund and reportedly lost all of the money he invested in the venture.

Sessions also brought up a piece authored by an opinion writer at the Washington Examiner that detailed how Tuberville suspended a player for one game after the individual pleaded guilty a misdemeanor: contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The incident in question involved Auburn wide receiver Clifton Robinson allegedly having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl while he was a 20-year-old college student. The young woman involved in the encounter was visiting her sister on Auburn’s campus.

Robinson was initially charged with statutory rape but later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Tuberville suspended Robinson indefinitely while the charges were being prosecuted as a rape but lessened it to a one-game suspension once prosecutors lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.

Sessions believes that the one-game suspension was insufficient.

“You simply cannot place winning football games ahead of responsibilities to young girls, you can’t put winning football games ahead of teaching important life lessons to young men,” Sessions commented.

“I think he made a mistake,” Sessions said of Tuberville.

At the event in Pike Road, the former senator from Alabama continued to express his frustration with Tuberville for choosing not to participate in a debate.

Sessions alleged that Tuberville “promised Bradley Byrne and I” that he would debate if he made the runoff.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) took third place in the initial Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on March 3.

Yellowhammer News asked Seth Morrow, who served as Byrne’s campaign manager, about the alleged promise Sessions talked about on Monday.

Morrow told Yellowhammer that no formal agreement or promise was ever made between the three men to debate in a runoff scenario. Morrow added that he had checked with Byrne himself on Monday to make sure.

Tuberville’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment about the debate assertion. The campaign has in the past maintained that their declining to debate is a matter of prudent strategy.

Sessions continues to say that Tuberville should “come out of hiding.”

With regards to why he was the right choice for voters, Sessions pointed to his conservative record and said he had “come out of the soil” of Alabama.

Sessions argued that he was a staunch supporter of the American First agenda since before Donald Trump began campaigning for president.

He mentioned that two conservative challengers have recently beaten Trump-endorsed candidates, because in his view, those challengers were more effective than their opponents at communicating their support of the president’s agenda. Sessions believes he will be the next member of that group.

Sessions was asked if it was disappointing to be trailing Tuberville in the polls to try and represent the seat he held for 20 years.

“The voters will decide,” he responded. “The polls have often been in error.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

11 hours ago

Doug Jones to host Dr. Anthony Fauci for Tuesday press conference

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has a big-name special guest for his next weekly live-streamed press conference regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones on Monday announced that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will join him for the remote press conference, to be held Tuesday, July 7, at 11:15 a.m. CT.

Fauci rose to national attention as a leader in the White House’s response to the coronavirus outbreak this spring.

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Jones’ press conerence can be viewed live on his office’s Facebook page.

Fauci’s public appearances have waned recently compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Recent guests featured in Jones’ press conferences include Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

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

11 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Why won’t the Trump candidate act like Trump?

Are we heading toward a Roy Moore 2.0 (even though he ran like 10 times)?

The media and their Democrats sure hope so. They want Tommy Tuberville as the nominee. They want a blank slate that they can paint however they desire.

Look at the stories about Tuberville’s past that are being floated by national media outlets in the last two weeks of the election.

Keep in mind that this is the GOP oppo research, not Democrats with their deep-pocketed allies and their slim hopes to hang on to a blue seat in a red state.

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) knows that he needs people to vote against the GOP candidate and not for him. This is just a math question at this point.

Can Jones and his allies in the media (national and local) damage his opponent and make people skip the race?

Doubtful, but I bet there are zero surprises in former Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) record. It’s the main reason so many Republicans are mad at him. They know all about his recusal as U.S. Attorney General and how mad that made President Donald Trump.

Trump wants Tuberville, and Trump may get his way.

But, if Tommy Tuberville is not the Republican nominee after next Tuesday, it will not be the fault of Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Clifton Robinson, John David Stroud, the Washington Examiner or the New York Times.

It will be his own fault.

The former football coach has run a campaign for the attention of President Donald Trump while running the least Donald Trump campaign of all time.

The premise that Trump would sit on a lead and run out the clock is absurd, but Tuberville has said that is what he is doing.

Trump wants 10 debates with his opponent, but Tuberville won’t do one.

People say Trump is a counter-puncher, but that is a lie. Trump is an aggressive punch-thrower and is constantly looking to knock his foes out of the fight.

Whether they are worthy of the fight or not, Trump swings away.

Tuberville does not.

When the Washington Examiner brought to the surface a story that has been bubbling on social media and in text messages about a more than 20-year-old allegation that then-coach Tuberville was soft on a player charged with statutory rape, his campaign barely responded.

The most that was mustered in response was from Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald during a weekly appearance on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” who said, “It is something that originates from people who are trying to bring Tommy Tuberville down. So, that is not something we’re going to participate in.”

This was a different time in America, obviously, which is why it will get new legs in a 2020 general election.

Is this politics? Yes. Last-minute campaign noise? Obviously. A reason to swallow the whistle? Nope.

When the New York Times reported on a shady hedge fund that Tuberville was involved in, did his campaign respond?

Nope.

There are allegations that Tuberville’s business partner was involved in a massive fraud that saw him sentenced to 10 years in prison, and the Tuberville response was one of weakness.

McDonald and pro-Tuberville Grit PAC employee Brad Presnall both begged off the question by claiming that the coach was just a small-time football coach who didn’t know any better. The big city folks conned him, too.

Tuberville said he was just a swindled pawn, a victim, and he was manipulated.

“They sued me because I invested in it, and he used my name to get other people to put money in,” he stated.

Could you ever see that from Donald Trump? I can’t.

The facts also paint a different story, but not a better one:

But a review of public court records shows that he had a broader role. While he was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office, Mr. Tuberville made introductions to potential investors, had business cards identifying himself as managing partner, and leased a BMW and got his health insurance through the company. Its offices in Auburn were filled with his coaching memorabilia. In 2010, he traveled to New York with Mr. Stroud to meet potential brokers for the fund, and was kept in the loop on decisions about hiring, according to email traffic.

But what would Trump do here?

Why would the Trumpian candidate sit back and let this all go on around him without firing off a few tweets taking on the New York Times or the fake news media?

Why wouldn’t Tuberville seek out the cameras, which he could summon at any time, to come take his testimony about what really happened?

None of this dooms Tuberville on July 14. Everyone knows he has a lead.

And we all know the media and their Democrats can’t wait to attack Tuberville on these issues, but the idea that Alabama voters will go into a polling place to vote for President Donald Trump in November while also pulling the lever for soon-to-be-former U.S. Senator Doug Jones is laughable.

The real question in all of this is where is Tommy Tuberville, and why isn’t he punching back? Trump supporters want a fighter and an outsider. His huge early lead was indicative of the outsider part, but the fighter part never materialized.

If that is who Tommy Tuberville is, then he needs to get out there and prove it.

Right now he is taking body blows. Maybe he can withstand them, but that is harder to do while sitting on a lead and hoping he can run out the clock.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

 

12 hours ago

Carl, Coleman lead pre-runoff fundraising in Alabama’s GOP congressional races

The latest fundraising reports have been filed in the respective Republican primary runoffs for the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama’s First Congressional District and Second Congressional District.

Covering April 1 to June 24, the pre-runoff reports were due by Thursday, July 2 — 12 days ahead of the July 14 election.

Reports filed with the FEC show that Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, running in AL-01, raised $215,740, spent $183,035 and finished the period with $238,925 cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, his opponent former State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) reported raising $174,057, spending $192,156 and ending the period with $194,924 on hand.

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The campaigns have also filed 48-hour notice reports in the subsequent days. These mandatory reports only include donations of $1,000 or more and thus do not include all money raised in a 48-hour window.

Carl reported raising $9,500 from June 25 through July 3, while Hightower reported raising $30,950 during the same timeframe.

In AL-02, Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman led in fundraising for the pre-runoff report period.

From April 1 to June 24, Coleman raised $328,502, spent $257,761 and finished the period with $132,054.

In comparison, his opponent former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) brought in $92,343, spent $126,784 and concluded the period with $92,583 on hand.

Moore has not filed any 48-hour notice reports for June 25 through July 3. Coleman reported raising $12,500 during this period.

While in different races, fundraising leaders Carl and Coleman share the same fundraiser: EBW Development.

Hightower and Moore are both backed by Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth, which has spent large sums for both candidates during the runoff.

RELATED: Tuberville leads Sessions in final fundraising report before July 14 runoff

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

13 hours ago

Tuberville leads Sessions in final fundraising report before July 14 runoff

The latest fundraising reports have been filed in Alabama’s Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate.

Covering April 1 to June 24, the pre-runoff reports were due by Thursday, July 2 — 12 days ahead of the July 14 election.

Respective reports filed with the FEC show that former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville raised $652,389, spent $663,004 and finished the period with $448,204 cash-on-hand.

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Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reported raising $439,734, spending $688,639 and ending the period with $500,331 on hand.

The two campaigns have also filed 48-hour notice reports in the subsequent days. These mandatory reports only include donations of $1,000 or more and thus do not include all money raised in a 48-hour window.

Tuberville reported raising $195,300 from June 25 through July 3, while Sessions reported raising $36,800 during the same timeframe.

The winner of the GOP runoff will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

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