Alabama

How 2014's Elections Will Influence 2016's Voting Rights

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states' respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

One exception to the trend is Pennsylvania, where Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who backed a harsh voter ID law that has since been struck down in the courts, lost to voting rights supporter Tom Wolf. Although Wolf will contend with a Republican majority in the state legislature, he will be able to appoint a secretary of the commonwealth.

Rick Perry, Ron Johnson And Jeff Sessions To Join Anti-Muslim Activists At Florida Beach Resort Confab

FrontPageMag editor and increasingly unhinged anti-Obama yeller David Horowitz is hosting his annual “Restoration Weekend” for anti-Muslim activists at a beach resort in Florida this month. This year, Horowitz has recruited an impressive slate of Republican politicians, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to partake in the event’s offerings of golf, spa treatments, and Muslim-bashing.

Joining the GOP politicians at the Palm Beach weekend will be anti-Muslim activists including the Family Research Council’s Jerry BoykinJihadWatch’s Robert SpencerNational Review columnist Andrew McCarthy and, as Horowitz announced this weekend on Newsmax, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Conservative pundits Ann Coulter, Michael Reagan and Ben Shapiro will also be at the event, according to its website, along with FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, Heritage Foundation economics chief Stephen Moore and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberly Strassel.

Horowitz organizes and funds the annual Restoration Weekend through his David Horowitz Freedom Center — attendees pay between $1,750 and $20,000, but the group’s most recent available tax return shows the 2012 event didn’t even break even. At past events, Horowitz has attracted GOP luminaries including Sen. Ted Cruz, former Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve King and Rep. Michele Bachmann. All apparently undeterred by their host’s record of anti-Muslim extremism, including accusing former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Republican anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist (whose wife is Muslim) of being secret Muslim Brotherhood agents.

In just the past year, Horowitz’s commentary has moved even further to the fringe. As the Justice Department launched an investigation of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, Horowitz accused Attorney General Eric Holder of leading a black “lynch mob.” A day earlier, Horowitz said he was “sure” President Obama was secretly a Muslim because “he’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American.”

Such anti-Obama conspiracy theories have a welcome place at Horowitz’s Restoration Weekends. At last year’s event, for instance, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona agreed with Robert Spencer’s statement that President Obama is either a secret Muslim or just acting like one:

Wilders, who has spoken at past Horowitz-affiliated events, including at least one Restoration Weekend, is currently on a U.S. tour that included lunch at the Capitol with Bachmann. Wilders, one of the most fiercely anti-Islam voices in Europe has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf and this year lost some prominent members of his own party when he targeted Moroccans living in the Netherlands to stir up support before the European elections.

Head Of Alabama Christian Coalition Opposes Anti-Sharia Amendment: 'This Is A Tremendous Waste Of Effort'

When voters in Alabama go to the polls next week, one issue they will be asked to decide is whether the state constitution needs to be amended to outlaw Islamic Sharia law through Amendment 1, which would "prohibit the application of foreign law in violation of rights guaranteed natural citizens by the United States and Alabama Constitutions."

A similar amendment in Oklahoma was struck down as unconstitutional.

Normally, these sorts of efforts are nothing more than attempts to gin up right-wing activists by enshrining Christian privileges in states where Christians already dominate all levels of government. In fact, so obvious is this strategy and so needless is this amendment that even Randy Brinson, president of the Alabama Christian Coalition, has come out against it:

"This is a tremendous waste of effort. It's is a waste of time and it  costs money," Brinson said Thursday morning, talking with AL.com between seeing patients at his medical practice in Montgomery. "This just creates a whole new headache for people involved in foreign adoptions or who get married in another country. My frustration is that people -- good people -- get behind something like this just because they want to score political points with the Christian community. But it's redundant - you don't need to amend the constitution to address these issues. I just don't think they thought through this particular thing."

...

"I understand the sentiment behind this, but Sharia law is not going to be implemented in Alabama, it just isn't," Brinson said. "And this would just be another stigma for Alabama, another way of saying to other countries: 'We don't respect your laws.'"

"Alabama law - or laws from outside the state -- either comports with the law of the United States or they don't," Brinson said. "This is just silliness. It's all something that lawmakers can trumpet back to constituents that they're protecting Christian values, but they need to be working on other stuff."

The Supreme Court's 2014-2015 Term: PFAW Member Telebriefing

Yesterday, People For the American Way members participated in a telebriefing to discuss the Supreme Court’s upcoming term and to preview some of the important cases the Court will be hearing this year. The call was kicked off by PFAW President Michael Keegan and moderated by PFAW Director of Communications Drew Courtney. PFAW’s Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon reviewed highlights of his recent report previewing the Supreme Court’s upcoming term and answered questions from members. Also on the call and answering questions were Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg and Executive Vice President Marge Baker.

Among the cases Gordon previewed were Young v. UPS, Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, Mach Mining v. EEOC, Holt v. Hobbs, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama / Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. The issues addressed in these cases range from employment discrimination and workers’ rights, to religious liberty and voting rights.

He also discussed potential cases that the Court could still add for this term, which included cases on marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, and contraception coverage by religious nonprofits—the “sequels to Hobby Lobby.”

Members’ questions focused on how the country can move forward to change some of the more damaging decisions like Citizens United, and what each person could do to effect change and impact the courts. Emphasizing what is at stake this election, both PFAW President Michael Keegan and Gordon called on people to vote in November because “when you vote … for the Senate, you are voting for the next Supreme Court justice.”

Listen to the full audio of the telebriefing for more information.

 

PFAW

PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: September 25, 2014
Subject: PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview


The beginning of a new Supreme Court term has become a time to worry, “What’s next?” In the past two terms alone, often in 5-4 decisions, the Roberts Court has severely undermined the Voting Rights Act, continued its assault on the American people’s efforts to limit money in politics, strengthened the hand of employers who discriminate, significantly eroded church-state separation, discovered religious rights for for-profit corporations seeking to deny female employees needed contraception coverage, undercut unions, and found ways to help large corporations bypass laws designed to limit their power over small businesses and ordinary people.

As bad as the Roberts Court has been, there have also been some good decisions in the most recent terms. For instance, the Court struck down the odious Defense of Marriage Act, upheld the EPA's general authority to issue regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and unanimously recognized our Fourth Amendment right to privacy concerning our smart phones.

The 2014-2015 Term is set to begin on October 6, the traditional First Monday in October, and the Court will be hearing a number of important cases. At the same time, perhaps half the cases it will hear this term have not been determined or announced, and there is substantial speculation on whether it will hear cases on several high-profile issues, marriage equality most prominent among them. Below is a summary of some of the major cases the Court may hear this term, along with cases already scheduled that we will be following.


CASES THAT THE COURT MIGHT HEAR

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

If the Court accepts a marriage equality case, it will obviously become the blockbuster case of the term (and perhaps the decade). The Court has already been asked to hear appeals of pro-equality rulings by three circuit courts: From the Tenth Circuit are Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah) and Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma). From the Fourth Circuit are Rainey v. Bostic, Schaefer v. Bostic, and McQuigg v. Bostic (all Virginia). From the Seventh Circuit are Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana) and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). While states and government officials who lost in the lower courts are filing the appeals, the couples who won the cases are also urging the Court to hear the appeals, so there can finally be a national resolution to the issue.

Should one of the remaining circuit courts uphold a state marriage ban, the resulting split among circuits on such a major constitutional issue would almost guarantee review by the Supreme Court. But if every circuit continues to rule the same way, the Justices might decide to let the issue be resolved there.

Conservatives like Scalia and Thomas, who have in case after case shown their hostility to LGBT equality but may be unsure of how Kennedy would vote, might not be willing to risk a Supreme Court precedent that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. From their perspective, if they can’t change the outcome around the country, why make it worse by adding a jurisprudential nightmare from the nation’s highest court that would taint American law for decades to come?

For Justices likely to recognize the constitutional right to marriage equality, the calculation might be different. They, too, not knowing Kennedy’s position, might not want to risk a 5-4 ruling in the “wrong” direction on a major constitutional and societal issue. But even if they could be certain of being in the majority, they might find advantages to having the Court stay out. Justice Ginsburg, for instance, has suggested publicly that Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast,” provoking a backlash that could otherwise have been avoided. If the legal question of marriage equality is being decided rightly in all the circuit courts, some Justices might rather leave well enough alone. In fact, Justice Ginsburg told a group of law students in mid-September that without a circuit split, she saw “no urgency” for the Court to take up the issue now, although she added that she expects the Court to take it up “sooner or later.”

Should the Court grant cert on one or more of the appeals, it could answer a number of critically important questions in addition to whether states can prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.

Exactly which constitutional right do the bans violate? While numerous courts have ruled in favor of same-sex couples, they have been anything but unanimous in their reasoning: Some have suggested that the bans violate the Due Process Clause, because the longstanding, fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry someone of the same sex. Other judges indicate that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they deny the right to marry based on the sex of the people seeking to get married. Still others suggest that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they discriminate against gays and lesbians. While the different legal rationales would all have the same immediate result (marriage equality), they could create very different legal precedents and have very different impacts down the line as lower courts consider other types of discrimination, whether aimed at gays and lesbians, at transgender people, or at others.

A Supreme Court ruling might decide what level of scrutiny the Equal Protection Clause requires for laws that discriminate against gay people, an issue not squarely faced in previous cases. Most government classifications are subject to – and easily pass – “rational basis” scrutiny by the courts: The law is constitutional as long as it’s rationally related to some legitimate government interest. (The Court has said that animus against gays and lesbians is not a legitimate purpose, which in the past has let it bypass the question as to whether anti-gay laws warrant more scrutiny from the courts.)

But a few types of laws trigger heightened Equal Protection scrutiny. Sex-based classifications are subject to intermediate scrutiny: They must be substantially related to an important government interest. Race-based classifications are generally subject to strict scrutiny, the highest level: They must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. If the Court rules that laws discriminating against lesbians and gays warrant some level of heightened scrutiny, that would have an enormous impact nationwide on all kinds of laws that discriminate against lesbians and gays, not just marriage bans.

The Court’s discussion of this issue could also shed light on whether eliminating private discrimination against LGBT people is (in the Court’s eyes) a compelling government interest. This could have an enormous impact as courts consider right wing challenges to anti-discrimination laws on the basis of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or state-law analogs.


ACA SUBSIDIES

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act strategically launched lawsuits in four different circuits challenging federal subsidies for millions of Americans buying health insurance on federally-run exchanges. The circuits were apparently selected to maximize the possibility of a circuit split, which in turn would maximize the likelihood of getting the case heard by the Roberts Court, which (they hope) would deliver a crippling blow to Obamacare. Decisions have been reached in two of the circuits, although one has since been vacated.

Section 1311 of the ACA says states should set up insurance exchanges, while Section 1321 of the Act says the federal government can set one up if a state doesn't. Subsidies are available for less well-off people getting health insurance through an exchange, based on the amount the person pays for the insurance s/he is enrolled in through an exchange "established by the state under [section] 1311" of the ACA. The law’s opponents hope to have the Supreme Court rule that Congress intended for subsidies to be unavailable to Americans purchasing insurance through the federally-established exchanges that the law calls for in cases where the state does not step in. In other words, the argument is that Congress intended to undercut the financial viability of the law and thwart its central purpose.

A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit rejected this wild claim in King v. Burwell. However, two far right judges on the D.C. Circuit formed a majority in a three-judge panel ruling actually agreeing with the Obama care opponents in Halbig v. Burwell. Dissenting Judge Harry Edwards recognized the lawsuit as a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” noting that “[i]t is inconceivable that Congress intended to give States the power to cause the ACA to crumble.” The full D.C. Circuit subsequently vacated the ruling and will consider the issue en banc, and most observers expect a ruling more like the Fourth Circuit’s.

But even if that happens, there are still lawsuits percolating in Indiana (Seventh Circuit) and Oklahoma (Tenth Circuit), so the hoped-for circuit split may yet occur. If it does, the Roberts Court is almost certain to consider the issue. While the case is transparently political and legally weak, that did not stop the conservative Justices when it came to the Commerce Clause challenge to the individual mandate.


CONTRACEPTION COVERAGE AND RELIGIOUS NONPROFITS

The Roberts Court may hear one or more cases involving religious nonprofits that oppose the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement, in a sequel to Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. In that case, the Roberts Court gave certain for-profit corporations religious liberty rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), then completely rewrote the law to give the chain store the right to “exercise” its religion by refusing to comply with the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement.

Under RFRA, a federal law cannot impose a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise unless it is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and it is the least restrictive means of doing so. In Hobby Lobby, the Roberts Court concluded that the corporation and its owners suffered a “substantial” burden” on their religious exercise because the owners were offended by the contraception coverage requirement, even though it did not restrict or burden what they may believe or do. The majority also concluded that the law was not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest in women’s health, because the Administration offers religious nonprofits an accommodation: They are exempt if they simply sign a form certifying that they are a religious nonprofit that objects to the provision of contraceptive services, and provide a copy of that form to their insurance issuer or third-party administrator, which then has the responsibility to pay for and provide the coverage. (Churches, in contrast, are wholly exempt.) The Roberts Court concluded that the federal government can make this accommodation available to for-profit corporations, meaning the coverage requirement is not the least restrictive means of achieving the ACA’s goal.

But three days later, the Court issued a temporary injunction against enforcing even this accommodation against Wheaton College, a non-profit religious institution that argued that the accommodation substantially burdens its religious freedom. This prompted a furious dissent from the three women Justices. Although the merits of the case are still being argued before a lower federal court, this was an ominous sign of how the Roberts Court will address the legal question when it inevitably reaches the high court.

Another high-profile case (or one similar to it) that may reach the Court involves Little Sisters of the Poor. This religious nonprofit organization, too, has a religious objection to the accommodation that was designed to meet its religious objections, arguing that the form is like a permission slip that would trigger contraception coverage, making the nuns complicit in sin. However, the Little Sisters’ insurer is classified as a “church plan,” which is actually exempt from the ACA requirement. So regardless of whether the Little Sisters signed the form, their employees would still not have the contraception coverage. Nevertheless, last January, while its RFRA suit against the contraception coverage provision was before the Tenth Circuit (where it is still pending), the Supreme Court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the law until a final resolution on the merits.

It seems likely that there will be a request that this issue be considered by the Supreme Court at some point this term, either through one of these cases or one similar to them.


CASES CURRENTLY BEFORE THE COURT


EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Young v. UPS: Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy

The Supreme Court is to decide to what extent employers can treat pregnant workers temporarily unable to work differently from other workers temporarily unable to work.

This case involves Peggy Young, a pregnant employee of UPS with temporary medical restrictions on how much she could safely lift. UPS did not make any accommodations for her, such as temporary alternative work. As a result, she spent several months on unpaid leave, during which she lost her medical coverage.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that discriminating against employees who are pregnant was not sex discrimination under Title VII. Congress corrected that interpretation of the law in 1978 with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which has two relevant provisions. First, it specifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The second provision explains how to apply that general principle: It says that women affected by pregnancy “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” This establishes a basis of comparison. So while a typical sex discrimination case looks at how a female plaintiff is treated in comparison to similarly situated men, a PDA case looks at how she is treated in comparison to non-pregnant workers with similar ability (or inability) to work.

UPS’s collective bargaining contract calls for UPS to accommodate temporarily disabled employees if the disability is due to an on-the-job injury, or if they have lost their DOT certification to drive. UPS also accommodates employees who have a permanent impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. UPS says its policy is “pregnancy-blind:” They claim they are treating Young the same way they’d treat a non-pregnant employee whose injury doesn’t fit any of the above conditions.

But Young argues that isn’t the proper analysis under the PDA. She points out that UPS would have made an accommodation for someone “similar in their ability or inability to work” to her if they were in one of those three categories. So, she concludes, the plain text of the PDA requires UPS to accommodate her, as well.

Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk: Overtime pay for workers at warehouse distribution centers

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can deny overtime pay to employees at “customer fulfillment” distribution centers for the time they spend waiting for mandatory security screenings.

This is a class-action lawsuit brought by Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two former employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, which provides workers to work in the warehouses of companies like Amazon.com. At the end of the shift, the company requires every employee to go through a security check before they leave the facility to make sure they aren’t stealing the merchandise. The employees wait as long as 25 minutes to be searched. Busk and Castro claim that they should have been paid overtime for this time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as should all current employees, as well.

FLSA requires overtime pay when a covered employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek. In 1947, Congress helped define what counts as “work” by passing the Portal-to-Portal Act (PPA), which says that FLSA’s overtime requirement doesn’t apply to activities that are “preliminary” or “postliminary” to an employee’s primary job responsibilities. In a 1956 case called Steiner v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court interpreted the PPA as requiring overtime only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workman are employed.”

Busk and Castro say that any activity required by and benefitting the employer (such as the security searches) are part of the actual job, not “postliminary” to it, so they count as time at work under FLSA and should generate overtime pay. They get support from an amicus brief submitted by the National Employment Lawyers Association, which details how loss-prevention activities have become integrated into the modern retail work routine, making searches like those at issue here part of an employee’s principal activities.

The workers won at the Ninth Circuit, but the court used different reasoning: that the searches are “postliminary” (so the Portal-to-Portal Act applies), but that they are an “integral and indispensable part” of the workers’ principal activities and therefore subject to overtime pay. Integrity (supported by an amicus brief from the Obama Administration) asserts that the searches are “postliminary” to work, are not an “integral and indispensable part” of the employees’ principal activities and, therefore, don’t trigger the overtime requirement.

Part of the company’s argument seems to be a results-based pitch to a corporate-friendly Court: In its certiorari petition urging the Justices to hear its appeal, Integrity Staffing wrote that since the Ninth Circuit ruling, “plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought nationwide class actions against a number of major employers—including Apple, Amazon.com, and CVS—seeking back pay (plus overtime and penalties) for time spent in security screenings.” Notice that it isn’t employees who are suing, but “plaintiffs’ lawyers,” a framing that is red meat for right-wing ideologues. This argument also seems to have less to do with discerning congressional intent and more to do with protecting large corporations.

Mach Mining v. EEOC: Pre-lawsuit settlement efforts by the EEOC

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can escape liability for illegal discrimination by arguing that the EEOC failed to make a sufficiently good-faith attempt to reach a settlement with the employer.

Mach Mining has never hired a woman for a mining position. A woman who had been turned down several times for a coal mining job filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a step that Title VII requires before filing a lawsuit. EEOC looked into the allegation, found it had merit, and – again, as required by Title VII – sought to negotiate an end to the alleged sex discrimination “by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion” before suing. After several months without success, the EEOC notified the company that it felt further efforts would be futile and initiated a lawsuit. Mach Mining says the case should be dismissed on the grounds that the EEOC didn’t make a good-faith conciliation effort. In response, the EEOC says Title VII doesn’t allow such a defense.

While several other circuits have ruled otherwise, the Seventh Circuit in this case concluded that Title VII cannot be interpreted to allow courts to inquire into the adequacy of the EEOC’s conciliation efforts. For one thing, Title VII has no express provision for an affirmative defense based on a defect in the EEOC’s conciliation’s efforts. It also calls for the EEOC to “endeavor” to end the discrimination through “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” If it can’t reach a result “acceptable to the Commission,” it can sue. The Seventh Circuit interpreted this as giving the EEOC great deference.

The court also noted that Title VII makes the process confidential, with penalties for making the information public without the consent of everyone concerned. That could prevent the EEOC from showing the court the evidence that it had sought to conciliate in good faith. It seems unlikely that Congress wrote Title VII to require the EEOC to defend its conciliation efforts in court but made its ability to do so dependent on the permission of the employer being sued. The court also concluded that there would be no meaningful standard of review. For instance, just how hard should the agency pursue an agreement?

A Supreme Court ruling for the employer could give employers a significant tool to stymie legitimate lawsuits against unlawful employment discrimination. As the Seventh Circuit wrote:

Simply put, the conciliation defense tempts employers to turn what was meant to be an informal negotiation into the subject of endless disputes over whether the EEOC did enough before going to court. Such disputes impose significant costs on both sides, as well as on the court, and to what end?

All the employer should legitimately hope to gain is some unspecified quantum of additional efforts at conciliation by the EEOC. The result of such a defense, as we have said in a closely related context, is to “protract and complicate Title VII litigation, and with little or no offsetting benefit.”


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Holt v. Hobbs: Right of a Muslim prisoner to grow a short beard

The Supreme Court is to address whether a state prison’s prohibiting a Muslim prisoner from growing a half-inch beard violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

This case originated with a handwritten request to the Supreme Court from Gregory Holt (aka Abdul Maalik Muhammad), a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas, to hear his case. He states that his religious beliefs require him to have a beard, and he seeks to grow a half-inch beard. The state Department of Corrections prohibits beards generally, but allows quarter-inch beards grown for medical reasons. Muhammad sees his request as a compromise (since his religious beliefs really would have him grow it much longer) that has been accepted in prisons elsewhere.

Since he is in a state prison, Muhammad’s case is governed by a federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. Passed unanimously by Congress in 2000, RLUIPA requires prisons accepting federal funds to give greater religious liberty protections to inmates than is required by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Similar to the better-known Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was at issue in Hobby Lobby, RLUIPA is triggered when the government imposes a “substantial burden on the religious exercise” of a person confined to an institution. When that happens, the action can be upheld only if the government can demonstrate that the burden: “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The state argues that the no-beard policy furthers the compelling government interests in prison safety and security, and that the proposed half-inch accommodation would not be as effective as the no-beard rule in achieving those purposes. For instance, they provide the opinions of penal experts that prisoners could use the beards to hide contraband, and that escaped prisoners could too easily and quickly change their appearance simply by shaving. Muhammad (now represented by counsel) argues that the lower courts, which ruled against him, did not provide the strict scrutiny of the state’s arguments that is required by RLUIPA.

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court significantly rewrote RFRA, watering down the “substantial burden” requirement and applying the religious liberty law to for-profit corporations. Neither factor is relevant to this case, meaning the Court could rule in favor of Muhammad without rewriting the law. But the Roberts Court is known for playing the “long game.” Even if the Court rules unanimously for Muhammad, they may not all agree on the reasoning: The conservatives could write an opinion designed to be cited in future RFRA litigation strengthening the hands of those on the right who would reshape RFRA from a shield against government oppression into a sword.


VOTING RIGHTS

Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama / Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama: Racial gerrymandering

The Supreme Court is to address whether Alabama engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering when it drew new state House and Senate district lines that channeled large numbers of African Americans into districts that were already majority-minority.

The GOP-controlled Alabama state legislature enacted a redistricting plan that transferred a significant portion of the black population that had previously been in majority-white districts into districts that were already majority-black. In so doing, the legislature was seeking to achieve certain percentages of black voters in the majority-black districts. At issue is whether legislators engaged in an unconstitutional effort to separate voters by race, or whether they followed traditional redistricting criteria in a way that was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Due to population shifts, majority-black districts established after the 2000 Census lost population and had to be redrawn after the 2010 Census to bring in new people. In some cases, the population loss was disproportionately white, meaning that a significantly higher percentage of the remaining population was African American than before. In redrawing the lines while keeping the same number of majority-black districts, the legislature made two decisions that led to what some call “bleaching” – drawing lines so that large numbers of African Americans in majority-white districts would be redistricted into supermajority-black districts, and diminishing African Americans’ political influence in much of the state.

First, they chose to reduce the permissible population difference between districts from 10% (the 2000 standard) to 2%. To achieve district populations that close to each other, many more people would have to be drawn into the modified black-majority districts than would otherwise have been necessary. That huge numbers of those people would be blacks removed from majority-white districts was determined by the second decision: Ostensibly to comply with the requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (this was before Shelby County) that new lines not lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise, the African American percentages in the redrawn majority-minority districts should be at least whatever they had become in 2010.

This reapportionment was upheld by a divided three-judge federal district court. The majority concluded that race was not the predominant factor in drawing the redistricting boundaries, so that they need not be analyzed under strict scrutiny as in the 1993 Shaw v. Reno case. The majority also concluded that even if strict scrutiny applied, the legislative boundaries were narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling purpose of compliance with the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which applied at the time. The plaintiffs in this case – the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and state Democrats – challenge those conclusions, arguing that legislators had misinterpreted Section 5, that race was impermissibly the overriding criterion used by legislators in drawing lines, and that the redistricting plan violated the Fourteenth Amendment.


FREE SPEECH AND SIGN REGULATIONS

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona: Municipal sign regulations

The Supreme Court will hear a church’s Free Speech challenge to city rules regulating the size and placement of various types of signs, which affect the signs it puts up to direct people to its church services.

This case was brought by a small church (25-30 adult members) in Arizona that places signs up to invite people to its weekly services and inform them where they are being held. Good News Church and its pastor Clyde Reed are urging the Court to strike down the town of Gilbert’s sign ordinance, which treats some signs (such as directional signs for events, like a fair or, in this case, a church service) differently from others (like political, real estate, or ideological signs). The different types of signs have different rules on how large they can be, and where and when they can be posted. Good News Church argues the law is an unconstitutional content-based infringement of its First Amendment rights. The lower court had upheld it as content-neutral.

Gilbert regulations generally require a permit before posting a sign, with a number of exceptions that can be posted without a permit. These exceptions (each with specific size, number, and placement rules) include construction signs, open house signs, parking signs, building identification signs, garage sale signs, street address signs, and restaurant menu signs. The church devotes much of its focus to three of the exceptions:

  • Temporary directional signs relating to a qualifying event (like the church’s weekly church service)
    • Size: up to 6 square feet (and up to 6 feet in height)
    • Time: 12 hours before, during, and 1 hour after an event
    • Number: maximum of 4 on a single property
  • Political signs
    • Size: up to 32 square feet
    • Time: any time before election, until 10 days after
    • Number: unlimited
  • Ideological signs
    • Size: up to 20 square feet
    • Time: any time
    • Number: unlimited

The church has signs in the first category to tell people about their weekly church services in the space they rent. The maximum size is smaller than political and ideological signs, fewer can be posted, and they cannot stay up nearly as long. Represented by the far-right Alliance Defending Freedom, Good News Church argues that the city is violating its First Amendment rights by applying different rules to different types of noncommercial signs based on their content. According to the church, any classification based on what a sign says is content-based and therefore subject to the highest level of scrutiny. And if the law’s purpose is, say, to promote traffic safety or aesthetics, then what difference should it make if the sign is for a church service, political candidate, or particular ideology?

A divided panel of the Ninth Amendment disagreed, ruling against the church. It said the distinctions among different types of signs are content-neutral (and thus subject to a somewhat lower level of scrutiny) because Gilbert’s interests in regulating temporary signs are unrelated to the specific content or message of the sign. Each exemption is based on objective criteria related not to the sign’s message, but to the reason for the exemption (such as need for communication about elections, or the need to let event sponsors inform people how to get to the event).


HOLDING FRAUDULENT CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE

Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. IndyMac MBS: Timing of lawsuits

The Court is to decide whether the clock stops on a deadline to sue for securities fraud when someone files a class action suit.

This case relates to a key 1974 precedent called American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, where the Supreme Court ruled that the filing of a class action lawsuit stops the clock (“tolls” in legal parlance) on the statute of limitations on filing federal antitrust claims for all potential members of the class, including those who are not actively involved with or even aware of the class action lawsuit. So if a court then doesn’t certify the class for some reason or dismisses its claims, but makes that decision after the statute of limitations has passed, those who would have been included in the class have not lost their opportunity to have their day in court just because they hadn’t made an individual filing in the case.

The current case relates to the financial meltdown of the 2000s and involves federal laws in the Securities Act of 1933 prohibiting sellers of securities from misleading investors. The law has two key time limits: (1) You generally have one year to file a lawsuit, and that can be a year after the untrue or misleading statement is made or discovered. (2) But there is an additional limit, one that restricts just how long after the fact you have to discover the wrongdoing: “In no event shall any such action be brought … more than three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public [or, depending on which section of the law is involved] more than three years after the sale.” The Second Circuit concluded that the American Pipe rule did not apply to this statute.

One of the great benefits of class action litigation is that it protects the rights of people who cannot afford to themselves engage in litigation and may not even realize they have been wronged. It also vastly enhances our society’s ability to hold large corporations responsible when they violate people’s rights. The rule from American Pipe has served that purpose well. But in other contexts, the Roberts Court has significantly undercut the ability of Americans to utilize class actions to protect their rights. If the Court rules that American Pipe doesn’t apply in the securities fraud context, it will be important to see if its reasoning also undercuts American Pipe as a precedent in other contexts.

Omnicare v. Laborers District Council: Holding companies accountable for false statements to investors

The Court is to address what investors need to prove to hold companies accountable for material misstatements in investment material.

When responding to a public offering of company shares, investors may rely on a company’s registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, investors can sue if that statement “contained an untrue statement of a material fact or omitted to state a material fact [that was] necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.” This case asks what investors need to prove if the purportedly “untrue statement” was the company’s opinion that it wasn’t breaking the law.

Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceutical care for the elderly and other residents of long-term care facilities. In Omnicare’s registration statement, it said that “we believe” that its financial relationships with pharmaceutical manufacturers were legal. The investors here claim that some of those deals constituted unlawful kickbacks. The question is whether that allegation is enough to trigger Section 11.

According to Omnicare, for the investors to have a claim under Section 11, they have to allege that Omnicare didn’t believe the statement when it was made. Otherwise, companies could be held liable for statements of opinion that turn out later not to be true. Two circuit courts have taken that view.

But in this case, the Sixth Circuit took a different approach, one that makes it easier for investors to file a Section 11 claim. That court reasoned that Section 11 is a “strict liability” statute where the state of mind of company officials isn’t relevant, so it’s sufficient to allege that the opinion was false, regardless of whether the company knew at the time it was false. That’s the ruling the investors in this case are asking the Supreme Court to uphold.

In an amicus brief, the Obama Administration takes a middle ground, in which the company isn’t held liable only because it expressed an opinion that turned out not to be true. The Administration argues that a statement of opinion is actionable under Section 11 if: (1) the company didn’t believe it at the time (which both parties in this case agree on), or (2) there was no reasonable basis for the opinion at the time, even if it was sincerely held (which Omnicare disagrees with).

Any ruling by the Roberts Court should keep in mind that Congress enacted Section 11 to encourage maximum disclosure by companies making a public offering. After all, people associated with the company know far more about the business than potential investors could ever know, and Section 11 was intended to dissuade corporations from tricking investors.


CONCLUSION

Just as the Lochner case defined the Supreme Court a century ago as it turned conservative economic policies into constitutional dogma, America finds itself living through the Citizens United era, where the Court again routinely rules in favor of corporate and other powerful interests. By the end of June, we will know if the current term will have been as damaging to Americans’ fundamental rights as recent terms have been.

###

Rep. Mo Brooks: Immigration A Plot To 'Dilute The Voting Power Of Americans'

In an interview with a home-state radio station yesterday, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama warned that immigration reform is a “political power play” by Democrats to “dilute the voting power of Americans who are alive and voting today” and “change America as we know it.”

Brooks made the remarks in an interview with Dale Jackson of WVNN.

Brooks attacked Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who has been a leader in the push for comprehensive immigration reform. “He is open borders, he would just as soon the United States be coopted by Mexico and the other Central American countries,” Brooks said.

“He is clearly front and center among the Democrats who believe that this is a tremendous voter registration drive that they can use to dilute the voting influence of today’s American citizenry. So that’s where he’s coming from. It’s a pure political power play on his part to dilute the voting power of Americans who are alive and voting today.”

Brooks warned of “a mass migration from southern nations into the United States.”

“Once those folks are given amnesty and eventually put on a path to citizenship and eventually getting voting rights, plus having voting rights, plus having kids in the meantime who are immediately American citizens, all of that will build up more pressure on giving more pressure for giving more amnesty for more illegal aliens,” he warned. “And it will build up pressure for opening the borders so that there is no border on the south side of the United States of America, that anybody from Mexico, Central America or even South America can come in an expect to be given all the privileges of United States citizens.”

“That’s where these guys are coming from. They will change America as we know it. They will change the nation that for seven decades has been the greatest nation in world history,” he said.

Alabama GOP Chairman: Obama Is A Sociopath, Probably

We last checked in with Alabama Republican Chairman Bill Armistead during the 2012 presidential campaign, when he was promoting the bizarre alternate birther theory that President Obama’s real father was labor organizer Frank Marshall Davis. Armistead had picked up the idea from a smear film made by right-wing filmmaker Joel Gilbert, and was very impressed, saying he had “verified that it is factual, all of it.”

Now, Armistead has gotten on board with another fringe right-wing theory about President Obama, this time echoing Wayne Allyn Root’s suggestion that the president might actually be a diagnosable sociopath because of the fact that he was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard last week.

In an email on Monday, Armistead approvingly cited Root’s most recent column to ask, "Is Obama a sociopath?

Elsewhere in Root’s article, Armistead will have learned the activist’s signature theory that President Obama picked up a secret plan to destroy America while attending Columbia University, while simultaneously never attending Columbia classes.

Armistead is not the first GOP leader to take a shine to Root’s unhinged anti-Obama activism: Root campaigned for Mississippi Tea Party Senate candidate Chris McDaniel this summer, where he speculated that Obama “cut his Afro” in order to become an anti-American “Manchurian candidate.”

Mo Brooks Doubles Down On 'War On Whites'

In an interview with Steve Malzberg on Newsmax today, Alabama Republican congressman Mo Brooks said he “absolutely” stands by his recent complaint that Democrats are staging a “war on whites.”

“Look at what the Democrats do on a daily basis,” Brooks said. “They appeal to specific racial groups, saying we will protect you, that racial group. And who are they talking about protecting them from? They’re talking about protecting them from Republicans. But at the same time, what do they say about those Republicans? That they’re whites.”

Later in the interview, Malzberg and Brooks agreed that President Obama is trying to “divide” Americans based on race. You can watch the whole interview here:

Alabama Officials: Coal Regulations Violate God's Will

Last week, Peter introduced us to the field of biblical economics, the Religious Right’s effort to claim scriptural backing, however tenuous, for conservative economic policies.

And now, out of Alabama, we get a perfect example of biblical economics at work. AL.com reports on a press conference delivered by officials from the Alabama Public Service Commission and the Republican National Committee yesterday at which they argued against new EPA coal plant regulations by claiming that “coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan.”

“Who has the right to take what God's given a state?" asked commissioner-elect Chip Beeker.

The paper notes that the “press conference was held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association.”

Two members of the Alabama Public Service Commission, a member-elect and an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee said proposed EPA regulations that aim to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent represent "an assault on our way of life" and are a purposeful attempt by the Obama administration to kill coal-related jobs.

"We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama," said PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. "We will take our fight to the EPA."

….

At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan.

"Who has the right to take what God's given a state?" he said.

Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God's intervention.

"I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done," she said.

Also speaking in opposition to the EPA plan were PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden and Paul Reynolds, an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee.

One of the commissioners at the press conference, Twinkle Cavanaugh, last year kicked off a meeting on power rates with a prayer against marriage equality .

Cavanaugh will testify today at an Atlanta EPA hearing on the regulations.

Failing to Defend the Right to Vote Is Simply Not an Option

As we work to ensure not only that President Obama receives legislation without undue delay, but also that whatever language he signs protects as many voters as possible from discrimination, it is important to remember those who died a half century ago fighting for this very cause.
PFAW

Alabama Attorney General Wants Court To Reinstate Sodomy Ban

Three days after a state appeals court struck down Alabama’s ban on consensual oral and anal sex, the state’s Republican attorney general, Luther Strange, is asking the court to reconsider its decision .

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Strange argues that he only wants to use the broadly-written statute to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases and that it would never be used to prosecute consensual sex. This is similar to the argument that former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made in his effort to reinstate his state’s criminal sodomy ban.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange Thursday said in a statement that he would ask the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider a decision last week striking down the state's ban on consensual oral and anal sex.

In a statement, the attorney general said the office believed the law was unconstitutional as applied to consensual acts. However, he said he was concerned with the impact the decision may have on prosecutions involving nonconsensual sex.

Strange said in the statement the case "was not about consensual sex." In the appeal, the attorney general agreed and conceded that the state ban was unconstitutional as it applied to consensual acts. However, the office asked the court to preserve language it believed would continue to criminalize nonconsensual sex and send Williams' case back for a new trial.

Strange argued in his statement that the decision could jeopardize convictions for other crimes, citing the case of Thomas Gilbert, a Jackson County man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to sexual misconduct after being accused of getting a teenager drunk and having sex with the teenager without his consent. Court filings indicate that Gilbert is considering an appeal based on the consent issue.

"The Williams decision leaves all Alabamians less protected from nonconsensual sex and potentially calls into question numerous past convictions, involving both heterosexual and homosexual defendants and victims," Strange said in the statement.

The law as written was intended to criminalize all homosexual acts. The Criminal Appeals Court said last week that "no court" in the state had ruled on the statute's constitutionality in the wake of the Lawrence decision.

Birther Justice: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Sides With Anti-Obama Birther Activists

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is best known over his fight to put a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse rotunda, sided last week with birther activists who, according to The Huntsville Times, “wanted Alabama's Secretary of State to certify the birth certificate of each presidential candidate before allowing their names to appear on the general election ballot.”

Former congressman and Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode filed the lawsuit along with an Alabama resident Hugh McInnish, a conservative blogger and Republican party official. As we noted last year, the pair tapped birther leader Larry Klayman as their lawyer and predicted that Moore would aid their cause.

In his dissenting opinion, Moore wrote:

The Secretary of State has a duty under state law to examine the qualifications of national-convention nominees who ran in the presidential primary before placing their names on the general-election ballot. The jurisdiction-stripping statute forbids inquiry into the eligibility of presidential candidates once an election has occurred, but it does not preclude such an inquiry before the election.



The plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus from the circuit court ordering the Secretary of State to require from each presidential candidate a verified birth certificate. Presentation of a birth certificate is indeed a common means of determining age and citizenship. Although I would not prescribe the manner in which the Secretary of State is to verify eligibility of presidential candidates, I believe she has a duty as the chief presidential candidates, I believe she has a duty as the chief elections official of Alabama official of Alabama to implement the natural-born-citizen requirement of Article II, § 4, of the United States Constitution.



This matter is of great constitutional significance in regard to the highest office in our land. Should he who was elected to the presidency be determined to be ineligible, the remedy of impeachment is available through the United States Congress, and the plaintiffs in this case, McInnish and Goode, can pursue this remedy through their representatives in Congress.

Justice Tom Parker, whose biography touts his work with James Dobson and Pat Robertson, issued his own dissent in which he insisted that the secretary of state should have specifically investigated President Obama’s eligibility:

I write separately, however, to clarify that I do not believe that the Secretary of State has an affirmative duty to investigate, on his or her own volition, all the qualifications of every proposed candidate, but that the Secretary of State's duty to investigate a potential candidate's qualifications arises once the Secretary of State has received notice that a potential candidate may lack the necessary qualifications to be placed on an Alabama election ballot. For the following reasons, I believe that, in the present case, the Secretary of State received notice sufficient to raise a duty to investigate the qualifications of President Barack Hussein Obama before including him as a candidate on Alabama's election ballot.



As I noted in my unpublished special concurrence to this Court's order striking McInnish's petition for a writ of mandamus: "McInnish attached certain documentation to his mandamus petition, which, if presented to the appropriate forum as part of a proper evidentiary presentation, would raise serious questions about the authenticity of both the 'short form' and the 'long form' birth certificates of President Obama that have been made public."

On March 6, 2012, the Secretary of State was served with McInnish's petition for a writ of mandamus, including the attached documentation raising questions about President Obama's qualifications. That documentation served by McInnish on the Secretary of State was sufficient to put the Secretary of State on notice and raise a duty to investigate the qualifications of President Obama before including him as a candidate on an Alabama election ballot.

In his WorldNetDaily column yesterday, Klayman praised Moore and said that he won’t end his campaign to “remove this anti-American, pro-Muslim and anti-Judeo Christian president” until “the imposter in the White House” is “told to get up off his knees and come out with his hands up.”

To challenge a black president’s qualifications is to be branded a racist. Obama and his minions know this well and have milked his race at every turn to guilt white America, including its judges, into acquiescing to his continued destructive leadership bent on turning the country into not only a socialist pro-Muslim state, but one which is second rate in the world. And, to this end, Obama has succeeded. Today, our economy remains in shambles and Putin’s Russia is now the real superpower, having just seized a chunk of Ukraine – with more Hitleresque conquests on the horizon. As America’s power shrinks under Obama, Putin is bent on reconstituting the former communist empire of the Soviet Union. Thus, the stakes to remove this anti-American, pro-Muslim and anti-Judeo Christian president continue to rise.



Last Friday, one of the few great judges in this land, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court – the jurist who was first impeached for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and then overwhelmingly elected by the people of the state to be their chief justice – had the courage to write a compelling dissenting opinion validating our challenge to Obama’s eligibility to be president. While seven of his nine fellow justices took the easy way out perhaps to show that Alabama is no longer the state once governed by George Wallace and rejected my ballot challenge, Chief Justice Moore without political correctness and without the disingenuous and cowardly sensitivity to Obama’s race, told it like it is. He ruled that Alabama did have a legal duty to verify that candidates for the presidency are eligible to serve as natural born citizens if elected



We cannot quit. The imposter in the White House must be held accountable, and he should indeed be told to get up off his knees and come out with his hands up.

Alabama Tea Party Leader Warns Lawmakers That A Vote For Common Core Damns Them To Hell

At a public hearing today on a bill that would allow school districts to opt out of Common Core standards, a local Tea Party leader told Alabama state senators that Common Core promotes “acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth” and that voting in favor of the curricula could potentially affect their fate in the Last Days.

In a video posted by YouTube user Mia Raven, Barbour County Tea Party leader Terry Batton takes to the floor at the state senate education committee hearing to rail against Common Core, which he called a “Trojan horse at the gate of our educational system.”

“We don’t want  our children to be taught to be anti-Christian, anti-Catholic and anti-American,” he said. “We don’t want our children to lose their innocence, beginning in preschool or kindergarten, told that homosexuality is okay and should be experienced at an early age and that same-sex marriages are okay.”

He spent a good part of the speech attacking social justice doctrine. “Social justice teaches children that America is an unjust and oppressive society that should be changed,” he said. “Social justice materials typically include far-left proposals such as acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth.”

“The curriculum and the producers thereof of Common Core are against the principles of faith, family and freedom, when you take in the social justice values aspect,” he went on. “Common Core, if allowed to go forward, will dilute and erode the power and influence of biblical principles in the hearts and minds of our precious children.”

Finally, he reminded the lawmakers that their vote on the bill might affect their chances at eternal salvation: “Do you want this on your record when you come to the End of Days, knowing the Master Teacher said, ‘As much as you’ve done to the little ones, you’ve done it unto me’?”

According to the Associated Press, Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka Tea Party also spoke against Common Core at the hearing, in particular its inclusion of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.

Rubio and Sessions Can Prevent Delay of Critical 11th Circuit Vote

Get ready. There’s more Republican obstruction on the way.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on 11th Circuit nominee Robin S. Rosenbaum for this Thursday, which is an important step forward in the fight to address our judicial vacancy crisis. Fully a third of the 11th Circuit’s twelve active judgeships are currently vacant, and all four of its empty slots have been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts.

The vacancy crisis in the 11th Circuit is so bad that the court’s chief judge, Edward Carnes, issued an order in December temporarily suspending the standard rule that at least two judges on a three-judge 11th Circuit panel must be members of that court. That means that going forward, two of three judges on these panels could be visiting from someplace else, potentially outvoting the one 11th Circuit judge. It is vital that Judge Rosenbaum be confirmed in a timely manner. And that starts with a timely committee vote.

But it’s unlikely that’s enough reason for GOP Senators to drop their campaign of endless delays for judicial nominations.

Republicans are expected to delay that committee vote using a procedural tactic that they have deployed against all but five of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

That is, unless Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Jeff Sessions steps in.

Rosenbaum is from Florida, which gives Rubio a special responsibility to urge Republican senators on the committee not to delay the vote. It is a chance for him to prioritize his constituents over politics. Similarly, Sessions, who represents a state (Alabama) covered by the 11th Circuit, also has a unique responsibility, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, to avoid such needless delay.

Will either Rubio or Sessions step up and help move the process in a more functional direction? We’ll learn on Thursday, but if past events are a predictor of future behavior, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
 

PFAW

Roy Moore: Under Marriage Equality, US Will 'No Longer Have A Constitution'

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who last week announced his support for a convention of states to amend the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, has launched a new campaign to promote the anti-gay amendment, called “I Stand With Judge Moore.”

Moore, who believes that marriage equality is a Satanic influence that will lead to “oppressive” government and divine punishment, told WorldNetDaily yesterday that the legalization of same-sex marriage threatens the Constitution:

“It’s a travesty,” Judge Roy Moore told WND on Monday about the move toward judiciary-imposed same-sex “marriages.” “The courts are exercising wrongful authority over this country.”

He said it was no less than the U.S. Supreme Court itself which, in an earlier ruling, said, “We come nearest to illegitimacy when we deal with judge-made constitutional law with no cognizable roots in the design of the Constitution.”



“If marriage falls,” he said, “the institution of family upon which it is based falls.”

Then, he said, “We no longer have a Constitution. We have a government of individual men who have the power to decide what the Constitution means … .”

The Religious Right group Moore founded, the Foundation for Moral Law, has posted the letter and resolution, “The Marriage Preservation Amendment to the United States Constitution,” [PDF] that Moore sent to the nation’s governors pleading with them to initiate a convention of states.

In addition, Moore dedicated a speech to the Alabama Cattleman’s Association last week to denouncing same-sex marriage:

Roy Moore Wants To Hold Constitutional Convention To Stop 'Oppressive' Marriage Equality

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was once removed from office for refusing to comply with a court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a government building, is trying to organize a convention of states to push a ban on same-sex marriage into the U.S. Constitution.

He mailed letters Wednesday to all 50 governors urging them to get their legislatures to call for a convention to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying the only union recognized by state and federal governments is "the union of one man and one woman." He also is setting up a website to rally public support.

Moore said the only way to stop judges who are finding new rights for gay unions is with a state-initiated constitutional amendment. "Government has become oppressive, and judges are warping the law," Moore said.



In the past, U.S. legislators have introduced federal marriage amendments, but Moore said he doesn't think Congress will offer one this year. The only alternative, he said, is going through Article V of the Constitution to get 34 states to agree that a convention is necessary.

Moore has previously claimed that marriage equality will “destroy this country” and “destroy the very foundation on which this country was built.”

And he means this literally: Moore has predicted that God will punish America over same-sex marriage, which he described as Satanic:

Alabama Delays Approval of History Texts After Anti-Muslim Groups Complain They Promote Jihad

Alabama’s state board of education delayed an approval vote on 12 middle school history textbooks last week after the anti-Muslim groups Eagle Forum of Alabama and ACT! For America claimed that the books promoted Islam over Christianity.

Rep. Mo Brooks Suggests Democrats Might Start A War In 2014 To Distract Voters From Obamacare

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) appeared on "The Steve Malzberg Show" yesterday to reiterate his warning to all Americans not to use the federal government's healthcare website because of cyber-security problems and the risk of identity theft.

During the course of the discussion, Brooks was asked about the possibility of Congress reaching any sort of budget deal, to which Brooks responded by asserting that if one is not reached, it will be because the Democrats have intentionally orchestrated a government shutdown in an attempt to distract voters from "the calamity known as Obamacare" heading into the 2014 elections ... or maybe even started a war.

Brook declared that 2014 is "going to be a disaster and so the Democrats, they need a shutdown, they need something dramatic - perhaps a war - something that will deflect public attention from how bad this socialized medicine system is, this scheme that they have put forth":

Right Wing Leftovers - 11/20/13

  • Apparently, state chapters of the Christian Coalition still exist and the one in Alabama is launching a prayer and fasting campaign to save the state.
  • Rick Joyner is celebrating thirty years of ministry ... and false prophecy.
  • Costco has apologized for that fact that some Bibles in one store were accidentally labeled as "fiction." Another victory for Todd Starnes!
  • William Gheen has a list of "traitors" in the Republican Party who need to be primaried.
  • "An innovative action role-playing game [where] the message of the gospel is delivered through scripture found within the game?" Where do we sign up?
  • "The President is a liar!" says "Coach" Dave Daubenmire.

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi: On Voting Rights, More Bridges to Cross

In response to the Supreme Court's recent Voting Rights Act decision, Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights hero and Georgia congressman, said, "I take it very personally. I gave a little blood on that bridge for the right to vote, for the right to participate in a democratic process."
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