This is the second post in a four-part series exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.
On June 13, 2013, just days after the Russian Duma passed laws banning on gay “propaganda” and actions that “offend religious feelings,” a delegation of five French Catholic anti-gay activists --at least one with ties to the far-right Front National party -- traveled to Moscow at the invitation of the Duma committee on family, women and children to discuss, among other issues, Russia’s plans to tighten its ban on adoption by same-sex couples abroad. Joining them was one of the most well-known figures in the American anti-gay movement, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown .
Brown had worked closely with the French anti-gay movement in its protests of the country’s marriage equality law, traveling to Paris to demonstrate against the law and signing onto an email to members of the Collectif Famille Mariage, one of the most prominent groups working to oppose marriage equality in France. (Excerpt: "You are the people who invented Gothic art and built these wonderful cathedrals soaring toward the sky, inspiring the entire civilized world…The new cathedral that you are building right before our eyes is composed of living stones: you, dear Resistance fighters, young people and adults, men and women, boys and girls!” )
The French activists joining Brown were far-right thinker Aymeric Chauprade; activist Odile Téqui; François Legrier, president of the Mouvement Catholique des Familles; and Hugues Revel, president of Cahtoliques en Campagne.
The French delegation was led by Fabrice Sorlin, head of the far-right nationalist group Dies Irae, which is named after a liturgical poemabout the Day of Judgment and has been accused of racist and anti-Semitic behavior and, according to Box Turtle Bulletin, “had been working to create autonomous militias in France under the inspiration of American white nationalist Luther Pierce’s conspiracy-laden novel The Turner Diaries.” (The group has denied the charges .) Sorlin is also a former candidate for the far-right Front National party, and chair of a group called Alliance France-Europe Russia, which is dedicated to forging a “strong connection between Europe and Russia” and uniting “the Anglo-Saxon world” against the emerging economies of China and India based, in part, on shared “Christian values.” The project of building a stronger alliance with Russia is a project held dear by the French far-right.
Le Figaro notes that elected officials at the front of the French anti-marriage movement did not respond to the Duma’s invitation to attend the meeting for fear of being “associated with a campaign of homophobia directed by Moscow” but that the name of the far-right Le Pen family “was mentioned several times” at the event.
According to Russian news reports, the French activists and Brown attended two events in Moscow. One was a joint meeting on changes in international adoption laws with the Duma’s committee on foreign affairs and its committee on family, women and children – whose chair, Yelena Mizulina, authored the ban on gay “propaganda” and the adoption bill.
The other event was a roundtable discussion on "Traditional Values: The Future of the European Peoples," hosted by the St. Basil the Great Foundation – a Russian Orthodox group run by Konstantin Malofeev, the head of a private equity group and spirited anti-gay activist – and also sponsored by the Duma’s family committee, the right-wing Center for Social-Conservative Policy, and a new multi-party group of Russian MPs formed, with approval of the Russian Orthodox Church, to “protect traditional Christian values” and fight “aggressive liberalism” inreaction to Pussy Riot’s protests. Among the measures pushed by the group was the new law imposing jail time for “insulting religious feelings.”
The National Organization for Marriage did not publicly announce Brown’s participation in this international meeting of anti-gay minds. However, his presence was mentioned by Revel in a blog post about the visit, in which he noted that Brown gave a “remarkable speech in the Duma.”
The NOM leader also spoke to Russia 1’s Vesti news program:
According to a re-translation of the Russian translation of the interview with Brown, he told the reporters that restricting Russian adoptions to gay and lesbian couples was a way of halting a slippery slope of “very negative developments all over the world”:
Right now you’re having the fight about adoption, but the adoption issue is indivisible from the marriage issue. If you don’t defend your values now, I’m afraid we’re going to see very negative developments all over the world.
We reached out to NOM for more information about Brown’s trip and a copy of the speech he gave to the Duma, but did not receive a reply. But luckily, the committee that hosted the activists posted copies of all the speeches on their website.
In his speech to the committee (again, translated to Russian and back again to English), Brown warned of the dangers of allowing gay people to adopt children, saying “Every child should have the right to have normal parents: a father and a mother,” and sharing some of NOM’s favorite stories of the supposed religious persecution following marriage equality in the U.S.:
But we are now convinced, having heard the presentations of our French brothers and sisters, that we are talking about very serious problems indeed. We are talking about violations of rights, we are talking about the rights and problems of children in their education. We should not shy away from this and should not forget about it and create an illusion for ourselves. A reconsideration of the definition and understanding of marriage is in fact a real threat to rights. Very soon after a law was passed that legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts, we saw that religious organizations were closing down, religious organizations that dealt with adoptions and that did not support adoption by same-sex families. They were closing one after another.
We have actually seen that in some schools, they are talking to children about homosexuality, but in fact they don’t have the right to learn about a lot of things like that until a certain age.
I think that this visit, the invitation to visit Russia, will enable the development of this movement around the world. We will band together, we will defend our children and their normal civil rights. Every child should have the right to have normal parents: a father and a mother.
If anything, Brown’s speech was one of the most restrained at the Duma meeting. You can get an idea of the flavor of the event from the speech of one of the French activists, Aymeric Chauprade , who gleefully portrays Russia as a guiding light for anti-gay activists throughout the world:
In this new battle, ladies and gentlemen [of the Duma], those who do not want the U.S. anti-missile shield, the dominance of NATO, or the war against Syria and Iran are in the same camp as those who refuse the loss of sovereignty, population replacement on a grand scale, FEMEN, gender theory, homosexual marriage, as well as the further commodification of the human body.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with President Putin and all the driving forces of Russia that your country has embarked upon an unprecedented shift in the military, geopolitics, economics, energy and spirituality that commands the admiration of French patriots!
Patriots around the world, as committed to the independence of nations as they are to the foundations of our civilization, turn their eyes at this time towards Moscow.
Fabrice Sorlin, the nationalist leader, went even further, comparing Russia’s anti-gay stand to its protection of Europe against the Mongol hordes and against fascism in the twentieth century (Translated from the French by Google):
Dear friends, I say to you-- The people of France taking to the streets today to defend fundamental values are watching you closely. For throughout history, if France has often played the role of rouser of our conscience, Russia for its part has always played that of protector of the nations of Europe.
To name but two examples, first let us recall the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan that you fought in the 13th century, thereby protecting Europe from their invasions.
But let us above all remember the twentieth century, where once again you were the shield as well as the sword of Europe, crushing the fascism that was then sweeping over her-- paying for it the dearest human toll that any nation has ever paid.
But your role does not end there. For though times have changed, today another danger threatens France and Europe—that of the loss of its bearings, of its traditional values; in short, the suicide of our Civilization.
Francois Legrois, the head of Mouvement Cahtolique des Familles, put it this way:
Our European governments are coming up against this ideology that puts them at risk and that may drive them to social suicide. This means both demographic suicide, because homosexuality is the same as infertility, but also to moral suicide, because in this situation a person does not know where he comes from and where he is going. Such a person will become only a resentful person who has no reason to love either his family or his motherland.
The only alternative is a return to reality, a return to Christianity, which is a genuine treasure that we must open for ourselves once again. This implies a policy that defends the family against that which would lead to its collapse.
Needless to say, this message was well received by the hosts of the two events. At a press conference after the Duma meeting, Mizulina, the committee chair who spearheaded the propaganda and adoption measures, said:
You heard what our French colleagues said: that today the whole world is looking at Russia with hope that Russia will hold fast and not give in to this unusual pressure from European governments and will conserve its own traditional family identity. It’s perfectly clear that Europe today, faced by the collision of two very serious values—the right of children to a family and the right of sexual minorities to a family—is making its choice in favor of sexual minorities.
This line of reasoning continued at the roundtable meeting. Malofeev, the head of the St. Basil the Great Foundation, who seemed to be the emcee of the roundtable, is fond of the message that Russia is the savior of civilization. He spoke at last year’s World Congress of Families gathering in Sydney, where, according to one attendee, he promised, “Now Christian Russia can help liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma." (We’ll be reporting more on his connections to the World Congress in a later post.)
Speaking at the roundtable, Malofeev called the passage of the gay “propaganda” ban “a great success and a big step forward for Russia.” He added that the world must follow Russia’s lead or risk human extinction:
Against the backdrop of what is going on in France and other countries, we are seeing the degradation of civilization. We can even use the term ‘anticivilization,’ and this anticivilization is progressing. Things are happening that will lead to the physical extinction of humans.
At another point in the meeting, Malofeev praised the French for realizing that "Moscow is really the center of their salvation":
The French have realized that Moscow is really the center of their salvation in this case, the center of salvation for conservative, Christian, European values. Russians need to recognize that we are already leaders. We should not strive to be like someone else, but rather need to help others so that they can become more like us.
Yurii Shuvalov, head of the Center for Socio-Conservative Policy, another sponsor of the roundtable, told reporters at the meeting that it is incumbent on Russia to "present an alternative" to a world that is increasingly embracing LGBT rights and where "morality has been turned upside down and cannot gain a foothold."
Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, a Russian Orthodox leader, added that a “wealthy minority” supporting gay rights “is acting with undeclared motives that cannot be explained other than by Satanism.”
Besides Brown, there was another American guest at the roundtable, who enthusiastically embraced the Russia-as-savior line.
Russian news reports mention that also present to give the American perspective was a man named Jack Hanick. On his LinkedIn page and in interviews, Hanick describes himself as a founding employee of Fox News, who worked there for 15 years as a news director. Fox News confirmed that Hanick was an employee from 1996 through 2011 where he worked in “a production role dealing with the visual aspects of the show” rather than in any “editorial capacity.”
Hanick told the roundtable that God had called on Russia to “stand up for traditional values”:
When it came time to stand up for traditional values, this was the place. God called on this country to fulfill that role.
In an August interview with a Russian magazine, Hanick expanded on his view that Russia’s flirtation with theocracy should be a model for the United States (choppy translation via Google Translate):
In the U.S., serious problems, including the decline of morals and the general, brought the separation of church and state. According to the Constitution of 1787, the government had no right to do one of the official religions - so understood separation of church and state. But 200 years later, it has acquired a different meaning: everything about the faith, was expelled from everyday life, it was given a special place and time - a few hours a week, within the church. This is a horrific result because it shows that we have gone from that promise with which our laws were written 200 years ago, have distorted it.
In Russia the issue of separation of church and state, obviously, is much less of an issue, and I see this a positive thing. If in the U.S. religion removed from public debate, in Russia - thanks to the Church and state - these topics are submitted to the agenda.
The appeals of the Americans and the French at the meeting were effective. Five days later, the Duma passed a ban on the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and by single people living in countries that allow marriage equality.
Our next post will look at another American was prominent in news reports about the event, although he was not present: University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus.
Correction: This post originally called the St. Basil the Great Foundation a Catholic group. It is a Russian Orthodox group.
Update: French translations have been edited for clarity and accuracy.
Today on Focal Point, Bryan Fischer took a call from Ricky from Baton Rouge, who told the American Family Association spokesman that he gets “80-90%” of his news from Fischer...and the rest from David Barton and Tony Perkins.
Ricky urged Fischer to stop treating President Obama as a legitimate president since “George Soros and the ungodly Demon-crat Party” used fraud to help President Obama and Harry Reid win re-election.
“You’re exactly right,” Fischer said.
Fischer agreed and demanded that Obama’s “election ought to have an asterisk by it” because he used voter fraud to increase Democratic votes and the IRS to repress conservatives.
We don’t expect Ricky to see that claims of 2012 voter fraud and Tea Party persecution by the IRS have been wholly discredited, but will sadly continue to get all of his news from disreputable sources like Fischer, Perkins and Barton.
On this week’s Faith & Freedom program, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver and Matt Barber hailed as heroes four governors who resisted a federal directive and blocked marriage benefits for legally married gay and lesbian National Guard members.
“Clearly this president has displayed disdain for just about every amendment of the Constitution,” Barber said. “He believes that he’s a dictator.”
“I just wish there more governors that were courageous enough to put this man back in his place,” he added.
Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver released a statement today warning members that their kids may be in schools that are “celebrating LGBT History Month,” which he said will focus on “sex and murder.” Staver is especially upset that students may learn about Gwen Araujo, a seventeen-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death by a group of men.
He said such lessons amount to “sexual assault on our children.”
Washington, DC - What are your kids studying in school today? Public schools from California to Florida are celebrating LGBT History Month, where they highlight a homosexual or lesbian each day. Today, America’s school children are learning about Edward-turned-Gwen Araujo, who was intimate with men who allegedly beat him when they discovered that he was not a woman.
“If parents think our school children should be focused on science and math, not sex and murder, they need to talk to teachers, principals, and school boards to ensure that this program is stopped,” cautions Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.
“The sexual assault on our children is mind-boggling,” Staver says. Earlier this week, Mat Staver was in federal court in New Jersey challenging the new law that bans minors in the Garden State from receiving counseling to overcome unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, or identity. Liberty Counsel has already challenged a similar law in California. Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have introduced like measures that insert the government between the client and the counselor.
“Parents and concerned citizens must stand up to protect our children,” says Staver. “Enough is enough! The innocence of our children is under assault in the public schools. Parents and concerned citizens must stand up and demand that public schools focus on the essentials of learning and not become vehicles of a sexualized agenda.”
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.
On his program today, Glenn Beck blamed “Marxist revolutionaries” in the Obama administration for the closure of monuments in national parks during the government shutdown. Although the closures are actually the result of Republicans in Congress refusing to provide funding for the parks service, Beck blamed Obama anyway, claiming that the president formed a secret cabal in the White House to order the monuments close and “inflict pain” on the American people.
“I want you to understand you are now seeing what I told you about three weeks ago. I told you they have gone from nudge to shove,” Beck said. “You’re next step is shoot.”
“Understand they are into shove, every Marxist communist revolution always ends with millions dead. Always, without fail, every time.”
Beck went on to describe atrocities committed by communist regimes, which he said is the next move of the Obama administration: “They starved them to death. Why? To teach them a lesson. This is the beginning of teaching the American people a lesson: don’t you screw with us.”
A Republican official who is running to be Texas’ next attorney general has defended white supremacists, Mormon fundamentalists and a militant Jewish group that plotted the assassination of a US congressman, the Texas Observer has found.
The Texas Observer reports that Texas Railroad Commission chairman Barry Smitherman penned a letter to his daughter’s school last year criticizing them for using literature from the Southern Poverty Law Center in a lesson on intolerance in conjunction with the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
In the letter, Smitherman accused the SPLC of “intolerance” specifically because of its opposition to the Crusaders for Yahweh, the Jewish Defense League, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), Border Guardians and the Oath Keepers. So who are these innocent, patriotic groups?
Here’s Smitherman’s letter, courtesy of Forrest Wilder:
This is Barry Smitherman, [name omitted]’s dad. I am presently helping [name omitted] with this project. While I’m incredibly supportive of reading and analyzing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” an American Classic set in the early part of the 20th century in the rural south, I’m troubled by the “Us and Them” study material provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “To Kill a Mockingbird” not only shows us the tragedy of the Jim Crow south of 60 years ago, played out horribly in the conviction of Tom Robinson for a rape that he didn’t commit, the book also highlights the strength and integrity of Atticus Finch, some of the townspeople of Maycomb, and even apparently a few of the jury members who struggled with their verdict. At the conclusion of the book, Harper Lee has given us hope that the South is moving away from discrimination based upon skin color and toward judging a man (or woman), as Dr. King would say, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, has a more radical view of racism, hate, and intolerance. A quick review of their website shows that the SPLC considers many patriot, mormon, and judeo-christian religious groups across America, including some in Texas, to be hate groups. For example, the group “Crusaders for Yahweh” is labeled by the SPLC to be a “Christian identity” group and is placed on the SPLC’s national “hate map.” The same with the “Evangelical Latter Day Saints” (mormons), the Jewish Defense League, which SPLC calls “anti-Arab”, and the Border Guardians, which is labeled by the SPLC as “anti-immigration.” Equally disturbing, the SPLC calls out groups like “We the People”, “patriots”, The “Constitution Party,” and “oath keepers” as groups which subscribe to unfounded conspiracy theories and are “opposed to one world order”.
I identify myself as a Christian and find it intolerant for the SPLC to label me as intolerant. Same with many of the patriot groups that have organized in Texas over the last several years. I personally know members of these groups and they are focused not on racism, but on balancing the federal budget and reducing or eliminating our $16 trillion national debt.
Perhaps you are unaware of the tenants of the SPLC; I encourage you to research it thoroughly during this exercise and to explain to your students that SPLC, which allegedly fights intolerance, is itself often intolerant. Thanks for your consideration of this issue. Barry
To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way Foundation
Date: October 3, 2013
Re: Key Cases in the Supreme Court's New Term
The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has not shied away from taking on cases with enormous impact on American laws and American lives, and the term that starts on Monday will be no exception.
In just the last term, the Court’s conservative majority dismantled a key portion of the landmark Voting Rights Act, removed important anti-discrimination protections for workers, and made it harder for consumers to sue corporations that have hurt them. One exception to the Court’s sweeping conservative activism justifiably attracted plenty of attention – the decision in which conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the Court’s four more moderate Justices to strike down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. But that remarkable victory for individual freedom, which was powered by the Court’s moderates, should not obscure the Roberts Court’s larger, well-documented goal of shifting American law to benefit corporations over individuals and the privileged over the struggling.
The cases on the Supreme Court’s docket for the coming term are no less consequential. The Court will consider whether to continue its project of dismantling campaign finance regulations; it will take on yet more cases on the rights of individuals to hold corporations accountable for their actions; it will weigh laws protecting workers against abusive and discriminatory employers; it will decide whether to uphold the far-right DC Circuit’s decision striking down clean air protections; and it may limit or reverse precedents protecting women's reproductive choice.
Below is a preview of some of the most wide-reaching cases the Supreme Court will consider this year, and how the Roberts Court may choose to approach them.
MONEY OUT / VOTERS IN
You’ll be hearing a lot about this case in the coming weeks, months, and perhaps years. While Citizens United involved independent expenditures to affect elections, this case involves the aggregate caps on contributions made to candidates, political parties, and PACs. Currently, a donor’s individual contributions to a party’s candidates and affiliated committees during the 2013-2014 election cycle, are capped at $123,200 (on an inflation-adjusted basis). Without the cap, that number would skyrocket to $3.6 million, vastly increasing the influence of wealthy donors on our democracy and correspondingly limiting the influence of the people, who are supposed to be sovereign in our democracy. That is the goal of high-pocketed donor Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee, who are asking the Court to strike down the aggregate caps as violating their First Amendment free speech rights.
Beginning in the 1970’s and in a number of cases since, the Court has upheld the constitutionality of regulating campaign contributions, recognizing how important such regulations are in preventing both real and perceived corruption. That Court has also recognized the value of aggregate caps on contributions as a means of preventing wealthy donors from indirectly bypassing the individual limits. That’s why the decision was a no-brainer for the lower court judges – even the far-right Janice Rogers Brown. The fact that the Supreme Court even took the case is disturbing, suggesting that the conservative Justices’ hunger for enhancing the power of the powerful and shutting the rest of us out of our own electoral democracy has not yet been sated.
This case challenges President Obama’s recess appointments of National Labor Relations Board members in January of 2012 on the day after the 112th Congress’s second session officially began. He acted because Republicans had been blocking the Senate from voting on his nominees, leaving the NLRB without enough members to constitute a quorum. The president bypassed this cynical GOP effort to sabotage an agency dedicated to the rights of workers by making recess appointments. The NLRB was therefore able to act, including in a case involving Noel Canning, which disputes the legitimacy of the recess appointments.
The appointments occurred at a time when the Senate was meeting for pro forma sessions for a few minutes, once every few days, to maintain the fiction that it wasn’t on recess (i.e., to prevent recess appointments). Most debate in the public and on Capitol Hill centered on the narrow question of whether the holding of the pro forma sessions meant the Senate was not in recess. Indeed, the fact that congressional Republicans insisted on the pro forma sessions indicated their recognition of the president’s broad authority to make recess appointments when the Senate is on break. Noel Canning itself noted that the DC Circuit could decide the case based on the narrow question of the relevance of the pro forma sessions, thereby bypassing even larger constitutional questions. But the DC Circuit issued a sweeping opinion overturning the understanding of presidents and senators from the country’s earliest years: The court ruled not only that recess appointments can only be made during the annual break between sessions of Congress, but also that they can only be made during the recess in which the vacancy first occurred. These restrictions would invalidate recess appointments going back to the time of President George Washington. Affirming the DC Circuit would empower Senate minorities to prevent the president from filling vital executive branch positions. Some agencies that require certain Senate-confirmed officials to be present in order to exercise their full powers (like the NLRB or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) would be crippled.
ACCESS TO ABORTION
This involves a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health clinics (with exceptions for employees, patients, and others with business there). Within this area, only those with business at the clinic (essentially, clients and employees) could stand within a certain radius of the clinic. Anti-choice advocates claim this violates their freedom of speech because it restricts only people with a particular viewpoint. The lower courts disagreed, citing the 2000 case of Hill v. Colorado, where the Supreme Court upheld a buffer zone making it illegal to approach people at clinics for the purpose of counseling, education, or protesting. That 6-3 decision analyzed the law as a content-neutral regulation of speech that was reasonable in light of the importance of protecting unwilling people’s right to avoid unwanted conversations and their right to pass without obstruction. However, two of the conservatives Justices in the 6-3 majority have been replaced by far more conservative Bush nominees: Rehnquist (by Roberts) and O’Connor (by Alito). Since Justices Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas dissented in the 2000 case, there are five likely votes to strike down the Massachusetts buffer zone and possibly overrule Hill completely.
Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice: The Court may uphold a state “drug safety” law that restricts women’s access to medical abortions and perhaps overrule the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision protecting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
An Oklahoma law pushed by anti-choice groups requires misoprostol and methotrexate, medications used to terminate early pregnancies, to be prescribed only as directed by the FDA; any variation from that (called “off label” use) is made illegal. But in the years since these drugs were approved by the FDA, doctors through experience have determined that such “off label” uses are more effective, safe, and convenient for women. Such “off label” uses also allow for abortion later in a pregnancy than FDA-approved use does.
The general right of a state to regulate off-label uses of FDA-approved drugs is not being contested in this case. Oklahoma’s stated goal is to protect women from unsafe and unapproved use of medications, but this is clearly a pretense for limiting women’s access to medical abortions. Under the 1992 Casey decision, states cannot place an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck the law down as obviously unconstitutional. Ominously, the Supreme Court accepted the appeal.
Because of a procedural hurdle, it is possible the case might not be heard. The Supreme Court has asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify exactly which medications and under what circumstances the statute applies. Only after the Oklahoma Supreme Court responds will the Supreme Court decide whether to schedule oral arguments. If it proceeds, the case provides a dangerous opportunity for the Roberts Court to overrule Casey or, as in the more recent “partial birth abortion” case (2007’s Gonzales v. Carhart), to simply ignore Casey and open the floodgates to more restrictive legislation.
LIMITING CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY
Bond v. United States: The Court is being asked to overrule a 1920 precedent recognizing Congress’ broad authority to enact legislation implementing a treaty, and to sharply restrict congressional authority under the “Necessary and Proper” Clause.
The case involves a woman who repeatedly tried to poison her husband’s mistress and was convicted of violating a federal criminal law prohibiting the possession and use of chemical weapons, a law passed to implement a treaty on chemical weapons. Carol Bond argues that the administration of criminal justice is a purely state responsibility except for where Congress, exercising one of the powers enumerated by the Constitution (like the Commerce Clause), creates an offense against the United States. Therefore, she says, the law violates the Tenth Amendment and constitutional principles of federalism.
But a 1920 precedent says exactly the opposite. Missouri v. Holland recognized that if you have a properly signed and ratified treaty, the Necessary and Proper Clause authorizes Congress to pass laws implementing the treaty. The enactment does not have to also be based on one of the specific powers enumerated in Article I Section 8.
If the Supreme Court rules for Bond, it might do so narrowly, holding that her use of chemicals was not part of the purpose of the chemical weapons treaty. But the Roberts Court may also see this as an opportunity to issue a broad ruling that overrules the 1920 precedent and limits longstanding congressional authority under the “Necessary and Proper” Clause.
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND FAIRNESS
In this case, a town government wants to redevelop a housing development occupied primarily by low- and moderate-income minority families and replace it with more expensive housing. Residents sued under the Fair Housing Act, alleging that the plan had a disproportionate impact on minorities.
For 40 years, the Fair Housing Act has been a key tool to address unfair mortgage lending practices, insurance redlining, discriminatory zoning ordinances, and other obstacles to equal housing. Under the FHA, a practice that has a discriminatory effect – even if it does not have a discriminatory purpose – can be judged to violate the law. This is called “disparate impact.” All 11 circuits to have considered the question have agreed that disparate impact cases are covered under the Fair Housing Act. These cases go back to the 1970s and 1980s, and Congress has never amended the law to say otherwise. Although different circuits vary in the details, most follow a process in which, once a plaintiff shows that an action will have a racially disparate impact, the burden shifts to the defendant to show a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions. In some cases, the defendant must also show that it can’t accomplish the same thing with less discriminatory results. The “burden shifting” disparate approach makes it much easier to fulfill the FHA’s goal of protecting Americans from housing discrimination. HUD regulations also interpret the FHA to include claims of disparate impact. A contrary interpretation by the Roberts Court could lead to the reversal of decades of progress in eliminating housing discrimination, the goal of the Fair Housing Act.
The constitutionality of Affirmative Action is not an issue in this case. Instead, the question is whether the Constitution allows states to amend their own constitutions to prohibit Affirmative Action.
In 2006, Ward Connerly succeeded in getting an anti-Affirmative Action measure on the ballot in Michigan, and it was passed by the voters. It prohibits the consideration of race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin in individualized admissions decisions by public colleges and universities. The Sixth Circuit struck down the measure, noting that no other factors (like legacy, geographic diversity, or athletic skill) were similarly made unconstitutional. As a result, an applicant who wants her alumni connections to be considered can ask the university to adopt a legacy-conscious admission program, but an African American applicant who wants a race-conscious admissions policy must persuade the entire electorate to adopt a constitutional amendment. The circuit court characterized this as a structural burden that violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Justice Kagan is recused from this case, which may affect how the Court rules.
Town of Greece v. Galloway: Legislative Prayer – The Court will decide if a town’s consistent use of sectarian prayer at town meetings violates the Establishment Clause, even if it shows that the town endorses a particular religion.
Over the course of many years, the town of Greece, NY, officially opened monthly public Town Board meetings with prayers. For years, the local members of the clergy who delivered the prayer were always specifically invited by the town supervisor to do so. Only Christian clergy were invited and mostly sectarian prayers were delivered. When two citizens complained that it appeared the town was officially aligning itself with Christianity, officials told them that anyone who wanted to could ask to deliver the prayer and do so regardless of content. Yet the town never publicized this alleged policy, and only four times subsequently did non-Christians deliver the prayer.
The Supreme Court held in 1983’s Marsh v. Chambers that legislative prayers do not automatically violate the Establishment Clause, but that they should not be exploited to proselytize or advance any one religion, faith or belief, or to disparage any such belief. And in other contexts (like public crèche displays), the Court has ruled that under the Establishment Clause, the government may not appear to endorse any one specific faith.
With Justice O’Connor having been replaced by Justice Alito, the Court’s Establishment Clause cases may take a sharp turn to the right. There may now be a majority that would vastly expand government’s ability to endorse not only religion in general but also specific sectarian beliefs.
Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Wal-Mart Stores: The Court is being asked to rule that the statute of limitations to challenge an employer’s denial of disability benefits begins to run before the claim has finally been resolved.
Julie Heimeshoff had been working for Wal-Mart for nearly 20 years when she developed pain and fatigue due to fibromyalgia and other conditions. Within a few months, she was unable to work and she filed for long-term disability benefits, which Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Company administers for Wal-Mart. Heimeshoff’s disability claim was denied.
Courts interpreting the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) have ruled that under the law, you cannot challenge the denial of benefits until you exhaust your remedies under your company’s benefits plan. Wal-Mart and Hartford’s plan sets a three-year statute of limitations for those who are denied benefits to sue, beginning as soon as Hartford requires the employee to provide proof of their disability. So the clock was ticking while the mandatory internal resolution process continued. In 2007, Heimeshoff was informed that Hartford was still denying her claim, and that this was its final decision. She sued in 2010, within three years of this final determination but more than three years after she was first required to prove the extent of her disability.
The Court will decide if a benefits plan can require the clock to start ticking before the plan has resolved the claims, or whether the clock can start ticking only when the worker has exhausted her plan remedies and can actually sue. In other words, does ERISA let employers and insurers impose a plan that makes it harder for employees to vindicate their ERISA rights in the courts?
In this case, a company and union agreed that management would remain neutral on efforts to organize workers to form a union, let the union have limited access to non-work areas to talk to employees, and give the union the employees’ names and home addresses for the same purpose. In return, the union promised that it would not picket, boycott, or act to economically harm the business. Such recognition-process agreements are fair and orderly ways to facilitate union organizing that benefit both workers and employers.
The question is whether this violates Section 302 of the Taft-Hartley Act, which makes it a criminal act for an employer to “pay, lend, or deliver … any money or other thing of value” to a labor union seeking to represent employees. The law was adopted in the 1940s to prevent corruption from distorting the process of forming a labor union. The employer and the union assert that their agreement is legal, because the employer’s agreement is not a “thing of value” as contemplated by Taft-Hartley. To the contrary, they claim that it furthers the statute’s goal of encouraging peaceful and honest labor organizing. But Mulhall claims the agreement falls within Taft-Hartley’s criminal provisions.
The Clean Air Act requires states to adopt plans that not only bring their own states into compliance with federal safety standards, but also prevent pollution that “contributes significantly” to air pollution in downwind states. Under the law, states that fail to implement a sufficient (or any) plan must then implement a plan designed by the EPA.
In this case, the EPA designed such plans, which reflected the extreme technical complexity of the issue. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 13,000-34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. They would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.
Utility companies appealed, and a divided D.C. Circuit panel struck down the rule. The dissent accused the court’s majority of “disregard[ing] limits Congress placed on its jurisdiction, the plain text of the Clean Air Act (‘CAA’), and this court’s settled precedent interpreting the same statutory provisions at issue today.” The majority’s decision has been cited by some as an example of judges imposing their own ideologies over the technical expertise of a federal agency.
HOLDING CORPORATE WRONGDOERS ACCOUNTABLE
DaimlerChrysler is a German corporation being sued in a federal court in California for human rights violations by a wholly-owned subsidiary in Argentina. The subsidiary (Mercedes-Benz Argentina) allegedly identified “subversives” at the plant for the country’s military dictators, knowing that they would then be kidnapped, detained, tortured, or murdered as a result. Former plant employees or their surviving family members sued the parent company in California.
Under the Due Process Clause, a state cannot bring a defendant into its courts unless that party has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the state. That is called “personal jurisdiction.” In this case, DaimlerChrysler has a wholly-owned subsidiary that regularly does business in California: Mercedes-Benz USA. The 9th Circuit said the court had personal jurisdiction over the parent company because it had engaged in substantial and continuous corporate activity in the state for years via the subsidiary.
The Supreme Court is being asked to reverse that ruling. In a world where people’s lives are affected by the actions of enormous multinational corporations operating around the world through a seemingly endless number of subsidiaries, many will be interested in how the Court decides this case.
The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a securities reform law passed by Congress after the Enron collapse, protects “employees” of publicly traded companies who expose fraud by publicly traded companies. The term “employees” is at issue in this case.
At issue in this case is whether individuals working as contractors to publicly traded companies are considered employees for the purpose of protecting them from retaliation as whistleblowers. In this case, individuals who exposed alleged fraud involving Fidelity mutual funds were retaliated against. The mutual funds are owned by their shareholders and registered with the SEC. However, the whistleblowers were not employees of Fidelity’s funds, because those funds have no employees of their own. Instead, all the funds’ day-to-day work is done by privately owned “investment advisers” with names like Fidelity Management and Research Co. and Fidelity Brokerage Services. This is not an uncommon setup for mutual funds. So the whistleblowers were employees of Fidelity’s contractors, not of Fidelity itself, and those contractors are not publicly traded.
The district court ruled that interpreting “employees” so narrowly as to exclude contractors like the ones in this case would defeat the purpose of the law. However, the First Circuit reversed that decision. Now, the Supreme Court will decide.
This is the first post in a four-part series exploring how American right-wing groups have supported Russia’s recent spate of anti-gay laws and its crackdown on LGBT citizens.
This summer, as part of a larger effort to channel political dissatisfaction by scapegoating minorities, the Russian government escalated its crackdown on the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens. President Vladimir Putin and his allies found support and guidance in their anti-gay efforts from a group eager for an opportunity to notch some victories in the battle against LGBT freedom and equality: the American right.
On June 11, the Russian Duma passed a law banning “propaganda” about homosexuality to minors, essentially a gag rule criminalizing any advocacy for LGBT equality. (Moscow had already instituted a 100-year ban on gay pride parades.) Weeks later, on July 3, Putin signed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad and by single people in countries that allow marriage equality. Shortly afterward, a member of the Duma proposed a law that would revoke gay people’s custody of their biological children. The bill’s sponsor said in an interview that children would be better off in orphanages than with a gay mother or father.
Russia’s crackdown on LGBT people comes amidst a broad crackdown on the rights of minorities and political dissenters or, in the words of one lawmaker, a campaign “to defend the rights of the majority.” On the same day the Duma passed its ban on gay “propaganda,” it also approved a harsh anti-blasphemy law promising jail time for “offending religious feelings.” The blasphemy measure was meant to strenghthen the laws that led to the political prosecution of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for a performance that was deemed to offend “religious sensibilities.”
Russia’s repression of LGBT people and the Pussy Riot case have provoked an international outcry, intensified by the the country’s role as the host of next year’s winter Olympics.
But throughout all this, one group has cheered on Putin’s actions: the American Religious Right and its international allies.
Even as tensions have grown between Russia and the United States, several Religious Right leaders have spoken loudly in favor of Putin’s crackdowns on gay people and political dissenters:
American conservative groups haven’t just praised Russia’s crackdown on gays. Working through several channels, American anti-gay activists quietly provided intellectual backing and international support that directly and indirectly fueled the resurgent anti-gay movement in Russia and in other former Soviet states like Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine.
In a series of posts today and tomorrow, we’ll look at how American activists influenced Russia’s anti-gay laws by funding anti-gay activism in Russia, testifying before the Duma, providing false research to fan the flames of anti-gay laws abroad, and building an international movement to back the harshest anti-gay laws around the world.
Fox News regular Erik Rush is a champion of birtherism when it comes to President Obama, but that hasn’t stopped him from declaring that Canadian-born Ted Cruz eligible to be president. In fact, Rush hails Cruz as “a triple threat because he is conservative, Republican and an ethnic minority.”
How does Rush explain why he believes that Cruz – who was born in Canada to an American mother — can be president but that Obama — whom birthers like Rush falsely insist was born in Kenya to an American mother — isn’t? Well, he doesn’t: “There are also questions with regard to Cruz’s eligibility for the office (having been born in Canada), but given the history of this issue on the same subject with regard to President Obama, I won’t even go there.”
“Ted Cruz looks like a white guy, but he’s not – which is a non-issue to people who judge character over color,” Rush writes. “After all, our president looks like a black guy, but he’s not, and few of us make any bones about that.”
Rush classes up the column by calling Hillary Clinton “Miss Piggy” while lamenting that Cruz has been depicted as a “fringe, tinfoil hat-wearing fop.”
Don’t think for a moment that the ire, derision and ridicule of establishment Republicans and the liberal press that Ted Cruz now enjoys are merely a result of that speech. Considering the dire straits America is now negotiating (of which many of her proverbial passengers remain completely oblivious) and the designs of progressives in both parties, Cruz – who pledged to donate his salary to charity during any federal government shutdown – is a triple threat because he is conservative, Republican and an ethnic minority.
At a time when the GOP base was looking for a potential 2016 presidential nominee with testicular fortitude and without the historical political baggage, along came Ted Cruz – so it’s no wonder his name is already being floated for president amongst conservatives.
Ted Cruz looks like a white guy, but he’s not – which is a non-issue to people who judge character over color. After all, our president looks like a black guy, but he’s not, and few of us make any bones about that. There are also questions with regard to Cruz’s eligibility for the office (having been born in Canada), but given the history of this issue on the same subject with regard to President Obama, I won’t even go there.
It’s pretty apparent to anyone paying attention that unless Barack Obama declares himself emperor prior to 2016, Hillary Clinton (whom I affectionately call “Miss Piggy” due to resemblance rather than personal habits) is more or less a lock for the Democratic nomination. There have until recently been few prospects for the GOP, and it is highly probable that establishment Republicans and the Republican National Committee will do their best to ram another moderate or counterfeit conservative down our throats once again – perhaps Jeb Bush.
In this climate, someone like Ted Cruz, who has ingratiated himself to Americans in a big way simply by telling the truth, will remain a potential hazard to the establishment through 2016, unless he can be effectively neutralized. As we observed, GOP leaders united with the liberal press and politicians to thwart Cruz’s efforts to defund Obamacare, as well as conspiring to make him appear a fringe, tinfoil hat-wearing fop.
Back in April, Matt Drudge predicted that 2013 would be the “year of Alex Jones.” And what a year it’s been.
Just today, Jones donned a top hat, a fake English accent and a lizard mask — a take on his friend David Icke’s claim that shapeshifting lizards from outer space rule the world — to talk about the dangers of Obamacare.
Watch highlights here:
He said that vaccines give people syphilis and cancer while fluoride is a New World Order ploy to gain societal control and make “the state on my planet — I mean neighborhood — absolutely king.”
“This is a beautiful system being set up that would make Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer and Joe Stalin absolutely proud, this is a system where we can feed — I mean help all of you,” he said, before laughing maniacally.
Then, Space Lizard Jones brought on his special guest: “Obamacare,” represented by a guy wearing an Obamacare t-shirt skull mask.
“Here with our good friend Obamacare, who joins us to discuss all that is planned for you and grandma as well, fresh meat!” Jones said. “How are your herpes? How is your hernia?” Obamacare asked. “How is your homosexuality? I am watching you.”
Later, Space Lizard Jones told Obamacare, “I could suck the flesh off your head like a dying child, an aborted fetus, oh the beauty of it, the rapture,” while Obamacare kept asking about his herpes.
Space Lizard Jones then demanded a Nobel Peace Prize while accusing his new friend of racism against lizards: “Peace prize or you’re a racist against lizards! If you don’t accept all the vaccines you’re a racist. If you don’t do whatever I say you’re a racist. Racist; racist; racist; racist; racist; racist; racist; racist; racist. Flagellate yourself with a bull whip immediately.”
Speaking with the conservative outlet NewsMax today, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) compared President Obama to the Roman Emperor Nero because of his handling of the GOP-led government shutdown. Poe charged that Obama dishonestly held Republicans responsible for the shutdown, just as Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome as a pretext for their persecution.
“When Nero fiddled while Rome burned, our President played golf while the government shutdown; Nero blamed the Christians while Obama blamed the Republicans,” Poe said. “It’s an interesting analogy.”
A study published in the American Journal of Medicine last month shortly after the Navy Yard shooting found that in developed countries the rate of gun deaths is highly correlated with the rate of gun ownership. You might think this would be bad news for Larry Pratt’s “no-compromise” Gun Owners of America. But who needs science when you can make up your own statistics?
In an interview with conservative commentator Tom Woods yesterday, Pratt presented his own statistics to bolster the gun lobby’s orthodoxy that more guns make communities safer.
Pratt first presented the case of the Old West, which he claims was in fact “under control” and “peaceful” because “virtually everybody was armed.” In fact, as law professor Adam Winkler explains, gun violence in the Old West was “far more rare than we commonly imagine”…because most towns had strict gun control measures.
Pratt then tried to prove that gun ownership makes communities safer by comparing Great Britain’s murder rate with that of his home of Fairfax County, Virginia. While Pratt concedes that Britain’s murder rate is “admittedly very low,” he points out that Fairfax County’s is lower, which he chalks up to Virginia’s lax gun laws. What he neglects to mention is that Fairfax County is far from typical of Virginia or the United States as a whole…to start with, it’s the second wealthiest county in Virginia and fourth wealthiest in the entire country. The homicide rate in the entire state of Virginia is significantly higher than that of both Fairfax County and the United Kingdom.
Pratt then goes on to claim that while Britain has a low murder rate, its strict gun laws have made it the “fourth most violent country in the world.” We have no idea where he got that statistic, but claims that the UK is more violent than the United States have been thoroughly debunked.
The Old West was the Wild West only on the screen. In reality, because virtually everybody was armed, the Old West, as you more properly put it, was quite a place under control, peaceful. The shootout at the OK Corral was very atypical.
Now, let’s go over to Britain, because you pointed to them. In Britain, they do have a very low murder rate. But in Fairfax County, Virginia, where Gun Owners of America is located and where people can obtain a concealed carry permit for a firearm rather easily, and where you’ve got to assume that there’s a whole bunch of folks here in Fairfax County that are armed, we have a murder rate at 1 per 100,000. Whereas over in peaceful old England, it’s 1.7 per 100,000 and their violent crime rate, apart from murder – which is admittedly very low – their violent crime rate ranks them as the fourth most violent country in the world after Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras. Boy, how’s that gun control stuff working out for you now, old Great Britain?
American Family Association radio host Sandy Rios spoke to Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) yesterday about the government shutdown, and the congressman spent most of the time attacking President Obama for not capitulating to the GOP’s demands to derail Obamacare in order to keep the government running.
Stockman laced into Obama, calling him a “Machiavellian, amazing man that can call John Boehner a terrorist, it’s just beyond the pale.”
“It really is, oh that he did have the kind of courage that some of the—oh that’s kind of a dangerous statement I just made,” Rios replied, implying Boehner should have the same courage as terrorists. “I think many of us are praying that he will have more courage, there’s no question about that.”
Troy Newman of the militant anti-choice group Operation Rescue is pledging to never purchase a health insurance plan, and he doesn’t care if President Obama and his “health-care cops” throw him in jail! Even though the health care law explicitly says that people who neglect to pay the penalty for not purchasing insurance will not face jail time, the imaginary threat of going to jail makes Newman feel heroic and that’s what really matters.
“Today I’ve become an outlaw, a dissenter, an enemy of the state,” the anti-abortion rights activist writes in WorldNetDaily. “Left unchecked, this new health-care law is fully capable of leading the United States into becoming a police state.”
Newman warns that “they may lock me up” even as other people are “seduced into surrendering first their rights and then their lives, all under the offer of some so-called protection.”
He also promotes the widely discredited myth that Obamacare compels people to pay for abortion: “I have spent the last two decades fighting to stop abortion, and I will be damned if I’m going to give them any money now.”
Today I’ve become an outlaw, a dissenter, an enemy of the state. Without my consent, the U.S. Congress passed a law that forces my conscience and conviction into an inescapable corner. I do not want to be in this position. I did not ask for it. I have not even taken a single action that would put me on the wrong side of the law – yet, somehow, here I am suddenly “breaking” it.
Left unchecked, this new health-care law is fully capable of leading the United States into becoming a police state. That may sound crazy to some – like I should be wearing a tinfoil hat or something – but I’m a student of history, and it doesn’t take long to see the scope of past civilizations that have been seduced into surrendering first their rights and then their lives, all under the offer of some so-called protection.
I’ve read the health-care law; it isn’t going to protect, save, or help any of us. What it is going to do, however, is strip away our rights and directly fund abortion. I have consulted with several experts and law firms on the imbedded abortion funding in the new health-care law, and I can say with certainty: Obamacare forces us to pay for abortion.
So, let me be very clear: I may be the very person Congress is claiming to help, but I don’t want or need their assistance regarding my family’s health. I am a free citizen who pays my medical bills as they come. Furthermore, I am absolutely morally opposed to funding baby killers. In fact, I have spent the last two decades fighting to stop abortion, and I will be damned if I’m going to give them any money now.
This is not the case of a rebel searching for a cause. This cause found me when Congress decided our constitutional rights and our preborn children were expendable. I wasn’t a criminal yesterday, or for the past 18 years, but somehow today I find myself on the other side of the law. So be it. I’ve seen all the chest thumping coming from Washington, and I’ve heard all about “red lines” and “no negotiations,” but I’m just a simple man with a simple plan.
I’m not buying a health-care policy that will fund abortion, and I’m certainly not paying any penalty for freely choosing to do so. At some point, they may lock me up. Before that, I’ll probably get some threatening letters and a few visits from the health-care cops. At the end of the day, however, my answer will be the same:
I trust in the Lord and I comply with all just laws, but I will not comply with any unlawful mandate to participate in the killing of innocent children.
TV Ad Campaign Will Highlight Ken Cuccinelli's Discriminatory Agenda & Career-Long Record of Divisive Rhetoric
People For the American Way and Terry McAuliffe's campaign for Virginia governor will launch a major partnership next week to highlight McAuliffe’s commitment to making Virginia open and welcoming to all and inform voters of his opponent Ken Cuccinelli’s record of driving a divisive and discriminatory agenda. The six-figure Spanish-language advertising campaign will include a series of TV ads running in the Washington, DC and Richmond media markets. The ad campaign will start on Monday and run through Election Day.
"Ken Cuccinelli has tried to cover up his extreme agenda on immigration, health care, women’s rights and gay rights, but his record speaks for itself," said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. "From sponsoring legislation while in the State Senate that would let companies fire employees for speaking Spanish, even during break times, to launching divisive rhetorical attacks against Latinos, Cuccinelli has shown that he's more focused on driving his extreme Tea Party agenda than doing what's best for all Virginians."
"As governor, I will be committed to increasing opportunities for all Virginians, because our Commonwealth is stronger when all who want to live, work, or raise a family here are able to," said Terry McAuliffe. "We need to be focused on keeping Virginia open and welcoming to all, which is why I will be proud to sign the Virginia DREAM Act as governor and work to increase access to quality education, good jobs and support for small business owners for all citizens of our great Commonwealth."
Latino voters play an increasingly critical role in Virginia’s politics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 8.2 percent of Virginia residents are of Hispanic or Latino descent. From 2000 to 2010, the number of eligible Latino voters in Virginia grew by 76 percent, outpacing all other groups in the electorate.
The ad campaign is modeled after People For the American Way’s successful programs in 2012, aimed at increasing Latino turnout in key states. In 2012, People For the American Way undertook a comprehensive plan to get out the vote and communicate with Latino voters in Virginia and five other key swing states about Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda, as well as the GOP’s extreme and offensive rhetoric about the Latino community. In Virginia, President Obama won the Latino vote by 32 points (64-33%).
To learn more about the PFAW Latino advertising campaign’s history, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/press-releases/2012/11/memo-pfaw-and-latino-vote