Last month we reported on a suspicious move by the Alabama Educational Television Commission, which oversees Alabama Public Television, to fire two television managers potentially over a disagreement on airing a series produced by right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton. It appeared that the two managers did not feel comfortable airing Barton’s discredited and partisan “history” material, which was pushed on them by a local Republican official and member of the commission.
Allan Pizatto, who along with fellow manager Pauline Howland was fired by the commission, has now filed a civil suit which “alleges that commissioners violated the state's Open Meetings Act by discussing Pizzato's job performance during a closed executive session.” “The suit also reveals that Pizzato's attorneys have been unable to obtain from the commission's attorneys audio recordings and other related materials from the March and June commission meetings,” Current Public Media reports, “During those meetings, disagreements between Pizzato and commissioners surfaced over religious programming, and commission members imposed a new mission statement for the station.”
According to the lawsuit [pdf], “certain members of the Commission wanted to impose their own personal, political and religious views” on the commission and staff to guide the station’s programming, and at least one commissioner “has publicly expressed support for and aligned himself with a political group with a stated goal of defunding public broadcasting.” The Plaintiff also notes that a mass exodus of staffer and fundraisers followed the firings and that a number of commissioners “made threats against the Plaintiff.”
From the beginning of his tenure as Executive Director of Alabama Public Television in 2000 until his termination, Plaintiff received near universal acclaim for his leadership including, until recent months, from members of the Commission.
Several months ago, it became clear that certain members of the Commission wanted to impose their own personal, political and religious views on other members of the Commission, the programming that aired on Alabama Public Television, the staff, and the direction of the station itself.
Certain members of the Commission have also made threats against Plaintiff.
After the terminations of Plaintiff and Howland, all of the active, non-Commission members of Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority, a statutorily-created public nonprofit fundraising entity, and five of the seven members of the Alabama Television Foundation Board of Directors, a private entity charged with helping Alabama Public Television raise money, resigned from their respective entities.
The mass resignation of these individuals represented the virtual eradication of the independent business and community leaders who served Alabama Public Television in a fundraising capacity.
At least one of the Commissioners has publicly expressed support for and aligned himself with a political group with a stated goal of defunding public broadcasting. This conflicts with the Commission’s statutory duty of controlling and supervising the use of channels reserved by the Federal Communications Commission to Alabama for noncommercial, educational use.
Alabama’s Roy Moore, the Republican Party’s nominee for Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court who in 2003 was removed from the same post after he refused to move a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the courthouse rotunda, spoke to Steve Deace last week to register his disapproval with the Supreme Court’s rulings on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 and the health care reform law.
He maintained that the Court, by striking down parts of SB 1070 while upholding the Affordable Care Act, have given undocumented immigrants more rights than citizens. “I’m curious what would happen if an Arizona policeman arrests an illegal alien going to a health care facility without a green card and find out that they haven’t paid the individual mandate, are they to be detained or released or what?” Moore asked, even though undocumented immigrants are not covered in the law. “Steve, do we have less rights than people that have no right to be here?” he continued.
Later, he warned that “false religions” are taking hold in America and as a result “Christians are being persecuted while people of a religion foreign to our country are doing what they want.” Moore, who earlier warned that secular government leads to Sharia law, appeared to twist Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom, where Jefferson said that governments throughout history have established and imposed religions forcibly on their people, to attack non-Christian minorities:
Moore: Thomas Jefferson in his Bill for Religious Freedom said that would happen, when men presume to restrict your freedom then they will allow false religions to come into your country and it all began when he said ‘well aware that the opinions and beliefs of man depend not upon their own will but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds that almighty God hath created the mind free.’ You see he recognized that God gives him that freedom of conscience and when men come in and try to restrict it what happens is false religions come in and that’s what’s happening in our country today. Christians are being persecuted while people of a religion foreign to our country are doing what they want.
In no uncertain terms, David Barton is not a historian, but a hyper-partisan political activist whose writings have been so repeatedly and thoroughly debunked that he is not taken seriously outside of certain conservative circles. Indeed, right-wing figures regularly hail Barton, whose only degree is a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University, as not just a historian but perhaps even the greatest historian.
Since Barton’s discredited claims about American history have such a following it was no surprise to see that a member of the Alabama Educational Television Commission pressured the state’s educational public television outlet to air one of Barton’s “history” series. And yesterday, the Current Public Media blog reported that Alabama Public Television managers Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland were fired possibly after refusing a request from commissioner Rodney Herring, a Republican Party official and donor, to broadcast Barton’s program:
The Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session Tuesday afternoon and ordered veteran pubcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy Pauline Howland to clean out their desks and leave APT’s headquarters in Birmingham.
Pizzato had served 12 years as executive director of APT, a statewide network governed by a board of seven political appointees.
Howland, deputy director and chief financial officer, described the firings in an interview with Current and said she was "baffled" by the dismissals. But she also recalled how Pizzato had asked staff in April for advice about a series of videos that AETC commissioners wanted APT to air.
The videos featured David Barton, an evangelical minister and conservative activist whose publications and media appearances promote his theories about the religious intentions of America’s founders. He frequently appears on political commentary programs hosted by conservative Glenn Beck.
AETC Commissioner Rodney Herring, an Opelika-based chiropractor, had provided the series to APT for broadcast consideration. Herring joined the commission last year and was elected board secretary in January. As of late Wednesday evening, Herring did not return a voice message from Current.
Kyle Whitmire of the weekly newspaper Weld for Birmingham also reported on the firings and pressure from “members of the commission to air programing produced by David Barton”:
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told Weld on Tuesday that APTV executive director Allan Pizzato and chief financial officer Pauline Howland were ordered to clean out their desks and escorted from the building on Tuesday, and the two executives were not allowed to speak to staff or explain the change on the premises. The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to make public statements about APTV’s internal affairs.
In recent months, APTV has been pressured by members of the commission to air programing produced by David Barton, a Texas evangelist. Barton’s organization, Wall Builders, has produced a series of videos promoting a religious conservative view of American History. The Wall Builders website explains its purpose is to promote Christian religious values.
As Kyle has noted, Barton’s new “Building on the American Heritage Series” features not only the same faux-history but also Creationist and anti-choice claims, demands for greater intolerance of gays and lesbians and an appeal for the criminalization of homosexuality:
But this kind of rhetoric may find its way onto Alabama’s public television soon, all under the guise of “history.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Maine attorney William Kayatta Jr. to sit on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Only two committee members voted against allowing Kayatta a vote from the full Senate: Utah’s Mike Lee, who is still protesting all Obama nominees, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who gave the following reason, according to the Portland Press Herald:
In a statement on his opposition to Kayatta's nomination, Sessions cited Kayatta's role as lead evaluator for the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary during the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
Sessions said Kayatta saw fit to give Kagen the highest rating despite her lack of substantial courtroom and trial experience, as a lawyer or trial judge. Sessions said the rating was "not only unsupported by the record, but, in my opinion, the product of political bias."
Yes, that’s right. Kayatta was involved in the American Bar Association’s nonpartisan rating process, which dared to call the solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean “well qualified” for the job of Supreme Court Justice.
Sessions, one of the most outspoken opponents of Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination frequently slammed her lack of judicial experience in her confirmation hearings two years ago. He seemed to conveniently forget that the late conservative icon Chief Justice William Rehnquist also came to the High Court without having previously served as a judge – as have over one third of all Justices in U.S. history. The American Bar Association similarly found Rehnquist qualified for the job and called him “one of the best persons available for appointment to the Supreme Court [pdf].
It would be funny if it weren’t so appalling: Sessions’ grudge against Kagan runs so deep that he not only objected to her nomination, he’s objecting to anyone who who’s dared to call her qualified for her job.
Roy Moore was removed from his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 after he disobeyed a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he placed in his court house, but last Tuesday he won the Republican nomination for the position, making it extremely likely that Moore will soon have his old job back. Moore celebrated his victory today with Sandy Rios of the American Family Association, where he urged Congress to impeach Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among other judges he would like to see removed from office. The Religious Right went off the rails after Ginsberg suggested in an interview that Egypt look to the South African constitution when drafting its new constitution, acknowledging that what works in the US may not work in Egypt, and ignoring her immense praise for the Constitution in the same interview. Rios even suggested that progressives wanted to do away with the Constitution altogether:
He also told Rios that America has always been based on a “biblical standard” and warned that “if you take away that standard then you have same-sex marriages, marriages between two and three people, or whatever.”
Moore: There is no standard without the biblical standard that we’ve lived under for 225 years. If you take away that standard then you have same-sex marriages, marriages between two and three people, or whatever. You don’t have a standard and moral atheists may want to hold on to the past without any basis of doing so, they’ve got to recognize the basis of why they have the right to believe in whatever they want to believe in and that right comes from God, it is not from government. You can go to governments over in Southeast Asia or the Mideast and you find governments that restrict what you believe and what you think and how you worship and that is because that is what governments will do when you don’t have this freedom.
Moore went on to claim that he doesn’t know the faith of President Obama, a committed Christian, adding he thinks the President does “favor the Muslim faith” and is trying “to remove any acknowledgement of a particular God” in America.
Moore: We have people like Barack Obama who do favor the Muslim faith and there is a reason for this. Do I believe he is a Muslim? I don’t know his faith but he certainly doesn’t represent what this nation is founded upon. He is typical of secular humanists in government that try to remove any acknowledgement of a particular God and say they grant religious freedom and that is entirely opposite to what this country is founded upon.
Back in 2003, "Ten Commandments Judge" Roy Moore was removed from his position as chief justice Alabama Supreme Court after refusing to obey a court order to remove a two ton Ten Commandments monument he had installed outside the court house.
Moore became a hero to the Religious Right because of his stand and has spent the last several years running his Foundation of Moral Law organization, trying to become governor and even launching a short-lived presidential campaign.
But recently, Moore decided that he would like his old job back .... and it looks like the Republican voters in Alabama agreed and have handed him a win in the Republican primary over two other candidates, including the current Chief Justice:
Roy Moore said about 2 a.m. Wednesday that even though he had not been declared the winner of the Republican primary for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court that he expected to win without a runoff.
“Statistically, there is just no way we’re going to have a runoff in this race,” the former chief justice said to reporters just before leaving his election night headquarters.
Moore, the former chief justice who was removed from office refusing a federal judge’s order, said about two hours earlier that, with him well ahead of his two competitors in the Republican primary, “the people have spoken.”
Moore was well ahead of former Alabama Attorney General Charlie Graddick and current Chief Justice Chuck Malone. He needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
With more than 98 percent of precincts reporting at about 2:15 a.m., Moore was hovering about 4,600 votes ahead of the 50 percent level he needed.
Rick Santorum has demonstrated, yet again, his willingness to associate with people whose views are repugnant to most Americans. This afternoon he appeared on one of the most extreme Religious Right programs in the country – American Family Radio’s Focal Point with Bryan Fischer.