1 year ago

Understanding constitutional Amendment One: The Ten Commandments and religious freedom

For years, discussion over the public display of the Ten Commandments has animated Alabama’s political landscape.

The issue is so energizing, it seems, that many politicians frame their own races through the lens of this battle––that support for their candidacy is a vote for the Ten Commandments.

Even so, Alabamians have never actually gotten a chance to vote directly on the issue.

This November, however, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial provides that opportunity.

Statewide Amendment 1, if successful, would enshrine in the state constitution language signifying two things, a) that the Ten Commandments is authorized to be displayed on public property, including public schools and b) that no person’s religion can affect his or her political or civil rights.

This amendment, as expected, has received its share of support and criticism.

Dean Young, Chairman of the Ten Commandments PAC, suggests this to be a vote where Alabama decides if we “want to acknowledge God.” He also remarks that we will be held accountable for our vote on judgment day.

Not all Christians agree with Young, however. The Baptist Joint Committee, for example, argues that “the government should represent all constituents regardless of religious belief” and not involve itself in “religious favoritism.”

The question, of course, is on the real impact of this amendment.

Essential to the discussion of impact is one provision within the amendment that will not be included on the ballot: the fact that any Ten Commandments display must comply with constitutional requirements.

This provision explicitly acknowledges that Ten Commandments displays in Alabama are subject to the U.S. Constitution, and therefore the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court, it is important to note, has largely settled on an understanding of the constitutionality of this issue through three precedent-setting court rulings.

In McCreary County v. ACLU, the Supreme Court ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in a Kentucky courthouse was unconstitutional. In Van Orden v. Perry, however, the Court allowed the Ten Commandments to be displayed, provided it was within a larger array of historical monuments and markers.

In regard to the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools, the Court ruled in Stone v. Graham that posting the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom, as required by a Kentucky law, served “no secular purpose” and was therefore unconstitutional.

As this amendment is subject to these precedents and already-existing First Amendment protections, the approval or rejection of this amendment will likely have limited immediate impact in Alabama.

What, then, is the purpose?

In a recent call with the Alabama Policy Institute, Senator Dial – the sponsor of the amendment – answered that question.

He acknowledged that, for the amendment to have greatest impact, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to rule differently in the future.

Senator Dial also offered another reason to support the amendment. He remarked that this amendment would shift liability from the individual or government office displaying the Ten Commandments to the state. The hope of this amendment is to embolden displays of the Ten Commandments under the legal protection of the state constitution, Dial suggests, and to let the state deal with any legal ramifications.

It is important to mention, however, that the amendment specifies that no public funds can be used to defend its constitutionality. If there are legal challenges, Senator Dial suggests that a third party will fund the defense.

To be sure, this amendment brings yet again to the public eye an issue that some consider settled. The Supreme Court precedent will –new rulings notwithstanding – supersede any constitutional amendments the people of Alabama pass or fail to pass on the subject. If the U.S. Supreme Court were to, however, overturn past precedent, the success or failure of this amendment could be consequential.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.

12 hours ago

Nick Saban: I still consider Jalen Hurts ‘one of our players’

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Jalen Hurts is still beloved by many in Bama nation, including head coach Nick Saban.

Saban has spoken this past year about his respect and admiration for Hurts. However, speaking to members of the media on Wednesday at the second day of Senior Bowl Week practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saban made it clear he really feels that Hurts is still part of the Tide family.

To open his remarks, Saban said, “My only comment is we’re glad to be here. It’s always great to come back to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s such a tradition, and I think this community really embraces this game.”

“It’s really good for the players to have the opportunity to showcase their talent, any player from any place but especially good to see our players be able to do it — and Jalen, who I still consider one of our players … always good to be here to support our players,” Saban continued.

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The legendary coach then answered questions for approximately four minutes.

He discussed what NFL teams will like about both Hurts and outgoing Tide junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Watch:

This came after Hurts this week has spoken highly of the University of Alabama football program, its fanbase and the state of Alabama.

Hurts will wear a two-sided helmet during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it.

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts recently said about Saban, “We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die.”

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

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

12 hours ago

Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Wednesday was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an appointee to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appointed Samaniego and 17 other law enforcement officials from across the nation to the commission, which was created through executive order by President Donald Trump in late October.

The commission will explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime, according to the DoJ.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement,” Barr said in a statement. “A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty.”

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“But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities,” he continued. “This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement. Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

Read more about the commission here.

This comes after Samaniego was recently named as the winner of the 2019 Crime Stopper of the Year Award by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.

On Monday, he was one of eight Alabama sheriffs to publicly endorse former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 bid to return to the Senate.

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

13 hours ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”

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“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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

13 hours ago

Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a blistering 14-page “friend of the Senate” letter urging the upper chamber to reject the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald J. Trump.

The Senate on Tuesday began the impeachment trial of Trumps, and Marshall joined 20 of his Republican attorneys general from across the nation in signing the letter.

However, Marshall was only one of six of the attorneys general invited to the U.S. Capitol to attend a press conference Wednesday commenting on their letter and the impeachment trial.

Of the letter, Marshall remarked, “It is thorough. It is a full examination of both the facts and the law that the Senate has to apply. But despite that significant analysis, fundamentally what that letter is about is the idea of fairness — or maybe better said, the lack of fairness.”

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“As a prosecutor for 20 years, what I’ve seen is an unfair process brings about an unjust result,” Marshall advised. “And that is what the Senate now has an opportunity to stop.”

“I also find it remarkable, as somebody who has stood before juries and judges, whose brought charging instruments against defendants, to now hear the House say that they are not prepared. And that they are not ready. What that simply shows is not that they are not prepared but that they have no case,” he continued. “Our letter demonstrates the various reasons why the Senate should reject this effort, and we need to return the president back to the work of this country…”

Watch:

In a tweet referencing the letter, Marshall called the articles of impeachment passed by House Democrats against Trump “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

The letter states, “If not expressly repudiated by the Senate, the theories animating both Articles will set a precedent that is entirely contrary to the Framers’ design and ruinous to the most important governmental structure protections contained in our Constitution: the separation of powers.”

Read the letter below:

State AG letter to Senate o… by Fox News on Scribd

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

13 hours ago

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele inks three-year extension

Auburn University head football coach Gus Malzahn on Wednesday announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has officially agreed to a new three-year contract that will take him through the 2022 season.

In a statement, Malzahn said, “Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country.”

“This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work,” he added.

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Steele has been Auburn’s defensive coordinator for the last four years. During that tenure, the Tigers’ defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Additionally, Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of those seasons.

Malzahn and Steele were both spotted at Senior Bowl Week practice in Mobile on Tuesday.

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