3 months ago

Three reasons why Alabama should stand up to the Freedom from Religion Foundation

An atheist group from Wisconsin has implicitly or directly threatened to sue more than 40 Alabama school systems, local governments, and elected officials during recent years over what they claim are violations of the Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion.

The organization, called the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is often successful. Many give in after calculating potential attorney fees and the uncertain outcome of drawn-out lawsuits.

But perhaps it’s time Alabamians recall our state motto and “Dare Defend Our Rights” by standing up to some of the more frivolous of these challenges.

A review of the FFRF’s news release archives reveals that while some of their complaints are reasonable, many are simply ridiculous.

For instance, Gov. Kay Ivey posted a video on social media in 2017 wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” and adding, “May your days ahead be filled with the light of God and his abundant grace.”

The FFRF said it was an “overly religious homily” and sent a threatening letter saying the governor broke the law.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office had to remove “Blessed are the Peacemakers” from the side of its cars after the FFRF objected to the well-known and harmless quote because it was taken from the Book of Matthew.

“We support what’s written on the stickers and we support the spirit of it,” the county administrator said in 2015. “But unfortunately, from a legal perspective, we could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and still likely lose.”

Eric Johnston, president of the Southeast Law Institute in Birmingham, explained that most local government attorneys simply aren’t prepared to handle such lawsuits.

“Most of them have little or no experience in constitutional establishment clause/free exercise cases,” Johnston explained. “In order to defend themselves, most would need to hire outside counsel at high rates.”

Add the possibility of having to pay the FFRF’s legal bills if they prevailed, and suddenly that strongly worded letter starts looking a lot like a very expensive bill.

And that’s how our freedoms die … a dollar at a time.

But school boards and local governments who are facing such threats should also take into account these three considerations:

#1: Our leaders were elected to protect our rights.

Our constitution doesn’t just prohibit the establishment of religion; it also forbids actions that will “prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

The people, individually, cannot defend against these lawsuits. They depend upon their elected officials to act, and many would likely support pushing back against the more baseless of the FFRF’s complaints.

#2: We’re not alone.

The FFRF isn’t the only group out there with lawyers experienced in First Amendment issues. There are many organizations that provide support to those whose religious freedoms are under attack.

The Southeast Law Institute, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Landmark Legal Foundation, and the Alabama Policy Institute are just a few.

#3: The odds are in our favor.

A review of the FFRF’s most recent public tax documents show that while it wrote 1,561 letters complaining about alleged establishment clause violations nationwide in 2017, it reported just 22 actual lawsuits either won or pending – only 1.4 percent of their complaints.

Furthermore, the foundation reported that 308 complaints were resolved without a lawsuit – only 19.7 percent of their complaints.

So, nearly 80 percent of their complaints may have gone absolutely nowhere (except perhaps in the trashcan).

“My feeling has always been they were more threats than reality due to not only funding issues, but the availability of qualified lawyers to bring their lawsuits,” Johnston said. “When lawsuits need to be filed in faraway places, it is difficult to find qualified legal counsel.”

Though many of the FFRF’s charges of establishment clause violations are unjustified, we should be mindful of their motivation.

Reading through their letters, one gets a sense that there’s an awful lot of hurt there, even resentment. Their language speaks of being excluded, left out, made to feel apart from the group, and a sense of wanting to protect young unbelievers from overzealous bullies.

There is also a need to ensure that our public services and institutions don’t become arms of any particular religion, and there are those among us who would indeed use their positions of public trust to advance their personal faith.
We must guard against those tendencies.

But we also have a common culture in this nation, especially in Alabama, and certainly in many of its smaller communities. Central to our culture is a Judeo-Christian heritage that’s often, and without harm, reflected in many of the traditions that buttress our public gatherings and official symbols.

To completely ban these traditions and symbols from the public square doesn’t separate church from state as much as it separates citizen from culture.

That’s not good.

There are bullies on both sides of this issue, actually, pushing and shoving us around, either wanting to make people feel like outcasts or wanting to burn our traditions to the ground.

The reasonable among us must stand against these bullies. Both of them.

And the best way to deal with bullies … is to push back.

Pepper Bryars is a senior Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

5 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.

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A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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5 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.

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Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”

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With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

7 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.

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“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.

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State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

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