4 months ago

Justice Will Sellers: Liberty of conscience didn’t come easy

We take freedom of conscience for granted, but, 500 years ago, accepting and practicing beliefs outside of the mainstream was deadly.

The 1521 Diet of Worms was a legislative gathering held in Worms (one of the oldest cities in Europe) to consider Martin Luther’s theology.

The stakes were extraordinarily high as Luther, a mere monk, parried with the leading Roman Catholic scholars of his day. The ramifications of this meeting, while couched in religious terms, had clear political underpinnings. So much so that Holy Roman Emperor Charles V presided over the “meeting”, which allowed the trappings of his office to validate the ultimate decision.

Martin Luther’s heretical writings were to be publicly reviewed and examined; and while he was given safe conduct to attend the diet, that he was a heretic was a foregone conclusion. The issue before the diet was not the persuasiveness of Luther’s argument, but whether he would recant.

When Luther appealed to his conscience and argued that his conviction about his beliefs was firm and not subject to change, he set himself in the crosshairs of the 16th century religious and political establishment. Heresy and blasphemy were capital offenses. Keeping the doctrines of the Church pure and undefiled was taken quite seriously and anyone advocating a different belief system was considered an outlaw with no legal process available for protection.

Inappropriate beliefs about religion might lead others to perdition, so political power was enlisted to stop errant beliefs and prohibit any doctrine that was not officially sanctioned. But mandating beliefs or emotions fails to consider human advancement in rationally considering ideas, accepting some while rejecting others and developing a personal system of faith and knowledge.

The most critical idea inadvertently let loose by the Edict of Worms was that in matters of faith, people could think for themselves and choose a belief system appealing to the conviction of their conscience. While it would be easy to accuse the Holy Roman Empire of attempting to eliminate competing faiths, protestants held an equally monolithic view resulting in religious wars that seemed to miss the point of the faith each side advocated.

Protestants, while wanting to believe as they wished, were not willing to extend this liberality to others within their realm of influence. The puritan poet John Milton would see his writings banned by Cromwell’s Commonwealth, causing him to write one of the first essays against censorship and in favor of Christian liberty. Said Milton, “Let Truth and falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

But even in the new world, liberty of conscience was slow to catch on.

The Dutch Reformed Peter Stuyvesant attempted to limit the worship of Quakers within his jurisdiction. Refusing to submit, the residents of Flushing, New York published the Flushing Remonstrance, which advocated for freedom of conscience not only to Quakers, but also to “Jews, Turks and Egyptians.”

Controlling beliefs and limiting ideas was nothing new for religion, but once institutional religion was de-coupled from government, limiting dissension became applied more frequently in the realm of politics. Often when a new political regime became ascendant in countries without a history of personal freedoms, dissent was stifled, disagreements became illegal and hagiographic propaganda replaced information. One area which politicians around the world agree is how much they despise opposing viewpoints.

Even in seemingly democratic countries with a history of freedoms supported by the rule of law, politicians simply hate criticism and will attempt to restrain if not eliminate it. Usually, this takes the form of mild disgust, but at times it can prove to be both personally and financially costly to oppose the ruling elite. We expect this from authoritarian governments, but when we find democratically elected governments engaging in censorship and limiting dissent, we should be troubled.

Consider the Reuther Memorandum of the 1960s. Seemingly established to advocate for fairness and equality of the public airwaves, Bobby Kennedy used the Reuther brothers’ report to curtail political opposition with breathtaking success. But this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue as regulation and limitations of speech are subtly advocated by all sides.

Even founding father John Adams had Congress pass the Sedition Act making it a federal crime to speak, write, or print criticisms of the government that were arguably false, scandalous, or malicious. Numerous newspaper editors were arrested and some even imprisoned under this act.

In recent memory, both conservative and liberal groups have advocated using government regulations to limit their respective definition of offensive speech. A journalist of the Jacksonian era, William Leggett, warned: “if the government once begins to discriminate as to what is orthodox and what heterodox in opinion, what is safe and unsafe in tendency, farewell, a long farewell to our freedom.”

Ideas, whether in opposition or support of a politician or political ideology, should never be restricted. It is much better to have ideas aired and let people decide. Bad ideas typically die a quiet death, but good ideas live on and become part of the progress of democratic government.

Rather than restrict poorly thought ideas, it is better to let them be proclaimed loudly and see them disintegrate on impact. Many years ago, Jerry Rubin encouraged student protestors to burn down a historic academic building. The more he shouted, the more the crowd responded, but no one was willing to act because no one was willing to torch a building to support academic freedom.

Bad ideas are like that. Giving someone a megaphone and unlimited time can be their undoing. Public debate, like sunlight, is a great disinfectant. Debate and open discussion forces ideas to compete against practical reality, thus winnowing out the ill-conceived and fostering workable solutions.

So, 500 years ago western civilization moved toward allowing people to think and believe as they followed their convictions, but even Luther and his followers failed to see the broad implication of their success. Various events would slowly chip away at autocrats forcing their subjects to subscribe to approved beliefs.

Instead, in a triumph of experience and personal liberty, states moved toward greater freedom. While elites might try to restrict the thoughts of others and limit criticism, free societies realize that allowing open discussion and a variety of viewpoints lays the foundation for a community in which all rights are respected, and belief systems are not censored but allowed to sink or swim based on the truth of their results.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

2 hours ago

Huntsville City Schools will go on with its vaccination clinic for minors without parental consent

Americans have been bombarded with requests, pleas, shaming and excoriations about how you must get vaccinated.

I bought in, and I think I may have even jumped the line accidentally. I also have a three-year-old, and I don’t envision a scenario where I rush him out to get a vaccine. If he were 14, 18 or 24, I wouldn’t pressure him to get vaccinated. If he were over 18, what could I do?

But if he were 14? That’s a no from me.

Schools in Alabama disagree, and at least one school system doesn’t care what you think.

Madison, Birmingham and Huntsville schools have all taken up the task of vaccinating your kids even though doctors, pharmacies and Wal-Mart have vaccines readily available.

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In the coverage of the Huntsville vaccinations, the Alabama Media Group article specifically states that Huntsville City Schools will not require parental consent for those over 14.

Students under 14 must have a parent or guardian accompany them for the vaccine, according to the announcement on the Huntsville schools website. Everyone receiving the vaccine must present a legal form of identification including a driver’s license, passport, non-drivers ID, or a birth certificate. Participants must sign a consent form prior to receiving the vaccine and must register online in advance to receive the vaccine.

To put it simply — your 14-year-old can decide to take an experimental vaccine without your knowledge.

This is a betrayal of parents by Alabama schools.

They don’t care.

Keep in mind that this is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still looking at the impact of the vaccine on young people.

Even the World Health Organization thinks this is a bad idea.

Some Alabama lawmakers are taking note.

State Senator Sam Givhan appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and suggested the school systems should hit pause.

Explaining that just vaccinating everyone who shows up without parental consent is just a bad practice, Givhan said, “They don’t have everyone’s full medical history, and they don’t know the unique situations from certain kids. … And I just don’t think the high school should be giving these shots when, you know, you could actually cause someone to have medical problems from this, and then they’ll hide behind their state immunity shield and say you can’t sue them.”

Obviously, it is entirely possible that no children have been vaccinated without parental consent, but how would we know?

Huntsville City Schools seems hell-bent on continuing this. Attempts to speak to the school board we unsuccessful.

The board said in a statement, “We appreciate the invitation. Please see the information below surrounding the vaccine clinic. We have nothing more to add at this time.”

The gist is this: “Sorry, not sorry. We will vaccinate your kids without your permission. What are you going to do about it?”

The answer is people with means are going to either change these schools or flee American schools more than they already have.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

5 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

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Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

8 hours ago

Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions has added Joia M. Johnson to its board of directors, according to a release from the company.

Johnson will serve on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank, beginning on July 20.

She arrives at her new responsibilities having recently retired as chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary for Hanesbrands Inc., a leading apparel manufacturer and marketer.

Charles McCrary, chairman of the Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank Boards, believes Johnson’s experience will be a valuable addition to the board.

“Joia’s leadership experience, both at the corporate level and in various board roles, will add greater depth and insights to the Regions Board of Directors as we advance policies and strategies to benefit our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders,” McCrary explained.

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Johnson added that she sees that experience as an asset in assisting the company achieve its vision for growth.

“I believe the breadth of my corporate experience and civic engagement will complement the additional experience and skills reflected throughout Regions’ current directors,” she stated. “As the company focuses not just on continuous improvement but also on long-term, sustainable growth, I am thrilled to become a part of building on Regions’ history of success – while also defining a very bright future for the organization and the people and communities we serve.”

McCrary also noted the alignment between Johnson’s unique skill set and the company’s mission.

“The Regions mission is to make life better for the people we serve, and we accomplish that mission by creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” he remarked. “With her passion for strong governance and strategic community engagement, Joia will help us build on our progress and reach new heights in the years to come.”

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Johnson earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Johnson’s financial services experience includes on the board of Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company and eight years as a board member for Crawford & Company, which specializes in insurance claims administration.

Upon her installment, Johnson will serve on Regions’ 13-member board which will consist of 12 independent outside directors.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

9 hours ago

State Rep. Oliver: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Alabama is ‘the way we stand up to woke-ism’

Republicans have made taking on so-called Critical Race Theory a priority in recent weeks claiming such philosophies are an effort to undermine cultural norms and indoctrinate in a way that benefits the Democratic Party.

Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the theory from their public school classrooms. Many would like to see Alabama follow suit, and there have been bills filed for the legislature’s 2022 regular session to do as much. One of those bills is being brought by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), who takes it beyond the classroom and applies restrictions throughout state government.

Oliver discussed the bill during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show” on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5.

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“[I]’ve got a bill that’s fairly unique, and we expect it to go through the state government committee,” he said. “My bill actually covers any state agency, its contractors and subcontractors, to include schools. We felt like it was important to address this issue with a holistic approach.”

“The first thing is deciding what you don’t want taught,” Oliver continued. “That’s the most important piece. And I would like to say, this bill, it absolutely describes what we don’t want taught — it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach inclusion or diversity. It means you can’t teach some things as fact and then we’re not going to teach our kids that one sex or race is better than another. And in a nutshell, that is the crux of it.”

The Tallapoosa County lawmaker said his effort could serve as a bulwark against a creeping effort to indoctrinate.

“[I]t’s the way we stand up to woke-ism,” Oliver declared. “If we’re ever going to draw a line in the sand, Critical Race Theory is it. I say that not because I’m the smartest guy in the world or this is something I’ve thought all my life, but I’ve got a child that goes to a major university in the state. And I am absolutely appalled by what I’ve witnessed there the last three years with my child. If you don’t think universities are indoctrinating your kids, everybody needs to wake up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

9 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama backs Ainsworth for reelection

As Alabama maintains its status among the top states in the nation for manufacturing, the industry’s dedicated trade association has made its choice for lieutenant governor.

Manufacture Alabama has given its full support to Will Ainsworth in his bid for reelection to the office, according to a release from the group.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, cited Ainsworth’s background in manufacturing and knowledge of its key issues in announcing the endorsement.

“Manufacture Alabama is endorsing Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth for reelection due to his commitment to maintaining a business-friendly environment in Alabama,” Clark said. “Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth grew up in the manufacturing industry and understands firsthand that our members are the backbone of the state and nation’s economy. He is a friend to our association and a tireless advocate for manufacturers across Alabama. In his leadership role, it is clear that he is dedicated to serving his home state with enthusiasm and integrity. We are proud to give him our full endorsement for the reelection of Lieutenant Governor.”

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Ainsworth, who has now picked up a string of endorsements from trade associations, believes the state’s successes in manufacturing are something that can continue.

“I am proud to have the endorsement of Manufacture Alabama,” he stated. “Our tremendous manufacturers are sources of good-paying 21st century jobs for hardworking Alabamians, and the goods and materials they produce are integral across a broad range of sectors. Alabama is open for business, and I’m firmly committed to making our state the workforce engine of the Southeast so we can continue to grow jobs through expansion and recruitment. Working together, I am confident we will build an even stronger Alabama for our children and our children’s children.”

The manufacturing industry employs more than 250,000 people in Alabama, a figure which makes up a double-digit percentage of the state’s workforce.

Ainsworth announced his reelection campaign earlier this month.

Since that time, he has received the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association, the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: Huntsville preferred location for Space Command ‘based on merit and based on policies’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia