Justice Kennedy’s retirement and what it could mean for the direction of the country


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NEWS OF JUSTICE KENNEDY’S RETIREMENT: WHAT IT MEANS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, last week, big news broke on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he’d be retiring July 31st, 2018. Harry, as many people will review the career of Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, he no doubt is going to have mixed reviews. Your thoughts?

DR. REEDER: Justice Kennedy was a Ronald Reagan appointee. Some people may be old enough to remember that it was quite an ordeal in that, I think, one of the most brilliant that has ever existed with an impeccable track record, Judge Bork, was nominated. He was more or less a mentor to Justice Scalia, who died recently, on this matter of what is originalism or what we also call strict interpretation based upon the Constitution as it was written in its context and apply it to today’s context.

Senators Kennedy, Biden and others undertook a campaign to destroy Judge Bork, which succeeded in removing him. The next nominee that was put forward, Justice Ginsburg, it had been uncovered his practice of smoking marijuana as a law student and later on as a law professor. He withdrew.

ALTHOUGH ELECTED A CONSERVATIVE, KENNEDY’S SUPPORT OF SEXUAL REVOLUTION LED TO DANGER IN FAMILY ISSUES AND FIRST AMENDMENT

And then came Ronald Reagan’s third nominee, which was Justice Kennedy. Because he came under Reagan and because of his past record, he was considered to be a relatively reliable conservative justice but he has, over the period, made it very clear he is no Scalia, he is no Justice Bork, he is not an originalist in that sense.

Having said that, he is almost always reliable on the First Amendment issues. However, he has been a proponent of the sexual revolution as he has not upheld the sanctity of marriage, and its historic definition, in his leadership and opinion on the Obergefell case. He has a new civil right tied to the sexual revolution in terms of the striking down of all the sodomy laws, not only the affirmation of same-sex marriage but also the removal of all historic ethic that placed sexuality within the context of marriage.

Interestingly, he, himself, in his opinions realized that he had put in danger the free practice of religion because all major religions observe the fact that sexuality belongs in marriage and marriage is one man and one woman and he can see the collision. Tom, because of the profile I’ve laid out and sketched out, he has become known as “the swing vote” — which way is he going to go in most cases?

Well, with his retirement — he’s 81 years of age — President Trump has a second opportunity to place a justice on the Supreme Court and he has already said that he will pick from that list that he announced during his candidacy.

His stated commitment to appoint Constitutionalists and the publishing of that list of 25, I think may have won him the election because most Evangelicals would have had a very difficult time voting for him otherwise. Many who had issues with President Trump from a number of vantage points, I think, went to the poll and pulled the lever almost exclusively on this Supreme Court issue. And, if I may say, politically, it seems to have borne out. Gorsuch, by all accounts, has manifested not only judicial consistency as an originalist, but also has manifested a certain amount of brilliance in the public statements that he has made in the various cases.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MIDTERMS?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, you mention many conservative evangelicals who went to the poll in the last presidential election and voted for Trump for the Supreme Court decision alone — will that have carryover to these midterms?

DR. REEDER: There are two thoughts. One is while you are assured of having the votes to get through the nominee, go ahead and get it before the election and get it done before November. The other one is, well, no, hold this back and then use this to stoke the base of the conservatives — the evangelicals, the constitutionalists — to make sure that the president does have a majority in the Senate in order to get this nominee through.

There’s a third thought and the third thought is go ahead and get it done while you can get it done and then the fact that you could get it done, you make that the point of the next election that there is likely going to be at least one, possibly two more Supreme Court appointments with Stephen Breyer’s age at 79 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age at 85. The fact that you’re able to get it through becomes the rallying point — you need to help us maintain that — so I think, politically, that’s what they’re working through.

Through a Christian and world and life view, I’m grateful for the turn that Justice Kennedy has made in the last three decisions and upholding First Amendment issues, particularly the free practice of religion, then I think it’s very important that the Supreme Court should be comprised of originalists — that is, those who see their job not to make law from a “living Constitution,” but to interpret the law from its context and apply it to today’s cases and that we maintain that genius of the American experiment. In fact, I want to talk about that some tomorrow as we focus our program upon the July the Fourth celebration and its ingenious dynamic of the three branches of government.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP OUR GOVERNMENT TRUE TO PURPOSE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, this is a significant decision. As we have seen with the previous justices that were put on the Supreme Court, it affects the direction, the morality and the conscience of the nation for decades to come.

DR. REEDER: Yes, it certainly does and so, as a believer, I believe that the American experiment that this would be a country governed by law not only necessitates a branch for lawmakers — that is, the legislators, the Congress — and also a branch for the execution of the law — that is, the presidency — but we desperately need competent and qualified justices who understand the role of the judiciary — not to become the executive branch, not to become the legislative branch, but to truly be the judiciary to make judgements based upon the law.

One of the great blessings for a nation is to have a justice that is “blind” in the sense that it doesn’t matter who is before the court, that they will get a fair interpretation of the law — it’s not just the rich, it’s not just the powerful, but all who stand before the law get the appropriate judgements of the law. And the opinions of the Supreme Court obviously set the precedents for the rest of the courts — the appeals court, the district court and the local courts.

What I would say, Tom, is that I, of course, am going to pray for this appointment, that it will be a good one. I’m not sure what they’ll do politically — I’ll leave that to the political pundits and the strategists — but I will pray that there will be an excellent appointee and I pray that that one, in their development after in office, will be consistent as an originalist and a strict constructionist of the Constitution and its proper application and will have wisdom from above.

PRAYERS FOR A JUST AND WISE COURT THAT PLEASES GOD

I love the prayer that used to accompany every single court. It’s interesting, Tom, recently, there was a lower court decision that went to the Supreme Court that the Supreme Court did not address concerning prayer for a commission meeting in Rowan County, North Carolina. That’ll probably come back to the Supreme Court.

However, beyond commission meetings, we almost always used to begin the session of a court with a prayer: “God, save this court.” And what the prayer meant was God, keep the court faithful and effective in bringing forth cases, process and judgements that are not only manifest with wisdom — perhaps even the wisdom of Solomon as he would sit in cases — but, beyond that, would also let justice roll down like rivers so that the citizens of this country all have the equal protection of the inalienable rights have been God-given and the courts would preserve that.

This is going to be a very important appointment and I am certainly in prayer that it would result in a justice that understands the role of a judge and will do so with wisdom and who will relish justice even in the midst of mercy. And dare I pray that the Lord would grant us a judge who would walk humbly with God — in other words, an echo of the words of the prophet: “And what does the Lord require of you, O man, but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

COMING UP TOMORROW: CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as you mentioned earlier, tomorrow is Independence Day, our Fourth of July. It is our nation’s 242nd birthday. We’ll celebrate our nation’s independence on Wednesday’s edition of “Today in Perspective.”

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.

 

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

6 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

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

7 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

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

7 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

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