Florida

FRC: 'People Need To Be Alarmed' About 'Very Dangerous' Gay Marriage

On yesterday’s edition of “Washington Watch,” the Family Research Council’s Craig James and Travis Weber discussed a federal judge’s decision to strike down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, warning that the decision will have dangerous and unforeseen consequences.

After James denounced the judge for “overriding and striking down the will of the people,” Weber lamented that the judge’s “inability to comprehend any moral components or any moral insight into marriage” is “very dangerous” as it could pave the way for Big Government tyranny.

“People need to be alarmed,” Weber continued. “We kind of need to step back from this issue — the issue of marriage. Mention it and people get all uptight and they come at it with their preconceived opinions.”

“If we just kind of step back and take a quick history lesson, we can look throughout history at many governments that viewed moral authority as simply ending with the state and there is nothing above that, there is no insight into law beyond what the state itself said it was. Do we want that? No, all we need to do is look at the horror which that view has wrought upon humanity.”

The Victims of the Religious Right

This post was originally published at the Huffington Post. 

Yesterday's marriage equality ruling from a federal district court in Florida, like so many before it, strikes down laws preventing same-sex couples from marrying. And like all the ones before it, this ruling isn't a theoretical treatise on the law, but a legal opinion affecting real people.

All of the people suing to vindicate the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution have a story to tell. All of them are important. The judge briefly describes them, such as this lesbian couple:

Arlene Goldberg married Carol Goldwasser in New York in 2011. Ms. Goldwasser died in March 2014. The couple had been together for 47 years. Ms. Goldwasser was the toll-facilities director for Lee County, Florida, for 17 years. Ms. Goldberg is retired but works part time at a major retailer. The couple had been living with and taking care of Ms. Goldwasser's elderly parents, but now Ms. Goldberg cares for them alone. Social-security benefits are Ms. Goldberg's primary income. Florida's refusal to recognize the marriage has precluded Ms. Goldberg from obtaining social-security survivor benefits. Ms. Goldberg says that for that reason only, she will have to sell her house, and Ms. Goldwasser's parents are looking for another place to live.

Think about it: If the grieving Arlene Goldberg loses her house just because she couldn't get married, that is what victory for the Religious Right looks like.

Recall that the Religious Right has not only spent the past thirty or forty years fighting to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying. They have also fought tooth and nail against every advance in civil rights that has come during that time, affecting employment discrimination, child custody, healthcare decisionmaking ... you name it. Victory for them has meant forcibly separating parents from their children, firing gay teachers, making grieving mourners lose their homes, and much, much more.

Fortunately, most Americans don't side with the Religious Right. More and more Americans are recognizing that whatever negative assumptions they may have once had about lesbians and gays were simply not true. And they're realizing that discriminatory policies cause real harm to real people and should be changed. Most Americans don't like the idea of gratuitously hurting completely innocent people.

As for the Religious Right, hurting innocent people isn't just an infrequent or accidental byproduct of the movement's policies. They have been dedicated for decades to denying LGBT people as many legal rights as possible. The harms caused by the absence of those rights is what victory looks like for them.

PFAW Foundation

BREAKING: Florida Marriage Ban Struck Down

Finally, some good news: today a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, nominated by President Clinton in the 1990s, ruled the 2008 ban unconstitutional on equal protection and due process grounds and predicted that future generations will look back with shock at the views of those who supported the ban:

'When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,' Hinkle wrote. 'Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.'

While the decision has been stayed — meaning that couples cannot immediately begin getting married — it is a significant step forward for equality. Congratulations, Florida!

PFAW Foundation

Marco Rubio Is The Real Victim Of The Gay Rights Movement

In an attempt to woo social conservatives in advance of a possible presidential bid, Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a speech at Catholic University today, where he attempted to come across as a uniter on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights while assuring his party’s right flank that he agrees with their hardline policy positions.

The Florida Republican drew heavily from the Religious Right’s persecution narrative to claim that while LGBT people have faced discrimination in the past, he and fellow opponents of marriage equality are now the victims of widespread “intolerance.”

“We should acknowledge that our nation is marred by a history of discrimination against gays and lesbians,” he said. “There was once a time when our federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required federal contractors to identify and fire them. Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants, and many states carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay marriages.”

“Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then,” he continued. “Many committed gay and lesbian couples feel humiliated by the law’s failure to recognize their relationship as a marriage, and supporters of same-sex marriage argue that laws banning same-sex marriage are discrimination. I respect their arguments, and I would concede that they pose a legitimate question for lawmakers and society.”

But now, according to Rubio, it is gay-rights opponents whose rights are under attack.

He criticized judges who are “redefining marriage from the bench,” claiming that pro-marriage-equality decisions take away the rights of “Americans like myself” who oppose same-sex marriage: “Those who support same-sex marriage have a right to lobby their state legislature to change its laws. But Americans like myself who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage also have the right to work to keep the traditional definition of marriage in our laws without seeing them overturned by a judge.”

Calling tolerance a “two-way street,” he lamented that “today there is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance towards those who continue to support traditional marriage.”

“I promise you that even before this speech is over, I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who’s anti-gay,” he said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay. It is pro-traditional marriage.”

The theme was repeated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, and Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance, who joined a panel discussion after Rubio’s speech.

“I think the myth of somehow those who are concerned about these issues from a more conservative standpoint are simply going to evaporate, I think that that is actually fueling some of the things that Sen. Rubio talked about right now, when he did talk about this growing intolerance of those who would define marriage as a conjugal union of a man and a woman,” Moore said.

Nance praised Rubio for his “unifying” message, as opposed to the “divisive” tone of President Obama whom she said “has pitted gays against straights”:

“I believe that this president has been so divisive for this nation. He has pitted men against women, he has pitted wealthy against poor, he has pitted gays against straights, and I was so happy and encouraged by the tone that Sen. Rubio took. It was a unifying message that he gave us today, and I think it was a winning message.”

Sen. Rubio’s office has posted video of his remarks. His comments on LGBT equality and abortion rights begin about 13 minutes in:

GOP Representative Goes From Christian Revival Meeting To Supporting Marriage Equality

Last week, Rep. David Jolly, a Republican from Florida, spoke at Rodney Howard-Browne's ongoing "Celebrate America" revival meeting in Washington, DC which was organized in order to bring about a Third Great Awakening in America by lighting "fires right in the belly of the beast" so that God can "cast a Gospel net across the capital."

Speaking about 46:00 into the gathering, Jolly told the crowd that he grew up the son of a preacher and accepted Jesus as his Savior at five years old and now his faith serves as the foundation of his views about government.

"I subscribe to a view of freedom that is rooted in the tenets of faith," Jolly declared, explaining that human beings are granted liberty and freedom by God and then decide how much power to turn over to the government in order to protect those rights.

As members of Congress, he said, "we don't apologize for our Christian faith, we own our Christian faith, we share our Christian faith" because elected representatives have the responsibility "to do what we believe is right for the future of our country and reflect the biblical principles as we act upon that."

Jolly concluded by asking the audience to pray for all elected leaders "because we are at a point in world history where man cannot get us out of this alone and it's going to take a divinely inspired wisdom from the Lord Jesus Christ and as I said at the beginning, we don't apologize for that."

Saying that the only reason he is in Congress at the moment is because that is where God wants him to be, Jolly promised that "I will work every day to reflect the biblical principles and faith principles we all believe in and I will do my part to join you in leading this country in what we believe is the right direction based upon the foundation of faith and I will do that until the same Hands of Providence that brought me to this office lead me out of it":

That was all pretty standard Religious Right language, which is why we didn't even bother writing it up when we first watched it yesterday ... but that was before Jolly announced his support for marriage equality:

Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) announced his support for gay marriage Monday, saying that he believes it is "fully appropriate" for a state to recognize both same-sex marriages and "traditional" ones, even though he, as a Christian, believes in the the latter.

When asked by The Washington Post whether he supports gay marriage, in light of a Florida judge's decision last week to overturn the state's ban, Jolly said that his personal views on marriage are that it should be limited to one man and one woman. But, he added, states should not be defining the "sanctity" of marriage.

“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage," said Jolly in a statement to The Post. "But as a matter of Constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”

When a member of Congress can cater to a Religious Right event and then, a week later, announce his support for government recognition of gay marriage, it starts to become increasingly obvious that anti-gay activists’ fight against marriage equality is on its last legs.

How the Shifting Cuban Vote Can Change History

The Pew Research Center reported last week that the partisan affiliations of Cuban Americans are shifting dramatically as the younger generation coming of age in the United States is affiliating with the Democratic party rather than the GOP.

The shift in the Cuban population — which long leaned Republican — is helping to create a larger shift to the left among Latino voters. Studies of the Cuban population in Florida mark 2004 as the turning point when the number of registered Republicans in Miami-Dade County began declining dramatically. In 2000, 75 percent of Florida Cubans voted for George W. Bush; in 2004, 71 percent voted for Bush; and in 2008, 65 percent voted for McCain. But in 2012, Obama won 49 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared to Romney’s 47 percent, the first time in recent history that a Democratic presidential candidate has outpolled the Republican in that demographic.

This shift provides a powerful example of the increasingly pivotal role of the Latino community in national elections. If Cuban Americans had voted in 2000 in the same patterns as they vote now, the outcome of the 2000 presidential election — which was decided by a handful of votes in Florida (and a bad Supreme Court decision) — could very well have been different, as would our history.

These changes are reflected in the larger Hispanic/Latino community. While the percentage of Latinos may be small, this community is growing fast and increasingly provides the margin to put progressive candidates over the top.

That’s why it makes such a dramatic difference when progressives reach out to the community and hold Republicans accountable for their anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Watch below some of PFAW’s ads that have engaged Latino communities in recent elections.

PFAW

FL Legislator Says Obama's Election 'Is An Indictment Of Our Educational System In This Country'

Infuriated by the state Department of Education's approval of a textbook that he felt was baised in favor of Islam, Florida state Sen. Alan Hays introduced legislation giving local school districts the power to choose their own textbooks. 

The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott last month and today Hays was the guest on "WallBuilders Live" to discuss his effort where he declared that the election of President Barack Obama is proof positive that our entire educational system is fundamentally broken.

Obama's election, Hays said, "is an indictment of our educational system in this country," explaining that "it's because our students have not been properly educated that somebody with that kind of resume could even be considered a candidate, much less elected."

"It's an embarrassment to all of us," Hays concluded and host Rick Green completely agreed, saying that Obama's election "shows that we've dumbed down the education system to the point that our people do not now know to measure a candidate against the values upon which a constitutional republic can survive":

Conservative Activists Defend GOPer Who Said Common Core Turns Kids Gay

Right-wing activists are rallying behind Florida state Rep. Charles Van Zant, the GOP politician who warned that Common Core will turn children gay.

Van Zant pointed to Florida’s education contract with American Institutes for Research (AIR), a group that produces material focusing on LGBT youth. Those materials, however, are not part of the contract with Florida, and in any case it would be absurd to claim that LGBT-inclusive resources would “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual,” as Van Zant did.

In an email alert today, an alliance of Tea Party and Religious Right groups called the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition told its members to “thank Rep. Van Zant for his courageous stand” for “correctly call[ing] out AIR’s social engineering agenda.”

“Representative Van Zant was completely correct in his statements that AIR is promoting the GLBT lifestyle in children, and they are doing the same within families and churches,” wrote Dr. Karen Effrem, the coalition’s executive director. The group criticized “AIR's blatant promotion of the GLBT lifestyle,” including its “full blown promotion of these sexual practices in families, churches, and society at large.”

Florida Eagle Forum also blasted AIR for having “a significant history of promoting identification of the GLBT lifestyle for children as young as seven years old.”

Raymond Johnson of Biblical Concepts Ministries wrote in a press release today that Van Zant “spoke the truth” with his Common Core comments and thanked him for standing “against the onslaught of the radical LGBT agenda.” Johnson cites a satirical Michael Swift essay about gay people using the schools to “sodomize your sons.”

I was in attendance at the Orlando education conference where FL State House District 19 Representative Charles Van Zant Spoke and I personally heard his entire speech. Rep Van Zants [sic] statements are true, he spoke the truth and I support Mr. Van Zant's statements and also share his concern.

I have read the mentioned document and am sickened at the blatant, vile, wicked, and false LGBT propaganda AIR is promoting to teachers, parents and students. This document linked below is a clear fulfillment of the "Homosexual Manifesto" entered in the congressional record by Author Micheal [sic] Swift February 15, 1987. Stating in part,

"We shall sodomize your sons, we shall seduce them in your schools, in your locker rooms, in your sports arenas, in your seminaries, in your youth groups, wherever men are with men together. Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding. They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us."

I am outraged that Education Commissioner Pam Stewart would award a state funded contract to AIR. Commissioner Stewart, the state board of education and FL House Speaker Will Weatherford have continued to defend this outrageous and inappropriate contract with AIR.

I am publicly asking Commissioner Stewart and the state board of education to discontinue any business with AIR, and apologize for such a egregious error, or resign immediately.

We are grateful that Representative Van Zant raised concern making the public aware of this situation, hopefully through this attention we the people can help correct this wrong. BCM and conservative Christians will continue to support righteous leaders like Representative Van Zant that continue to stand for traditional, moral, family values against the onslaught of the radical LGBT agenda.

On the Brown Anniversary, The Struggle for Equal Education Continues

The following is a guest post from Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, a member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

Six decades ago the nation said “separate, but equal” is separate, but it certainly is not equal. This week we celebrate the 60 year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Brown gave our nation the opportunity to show the world that we are as good as our promise. And while the impact of this groundbreaking decision cannot be overstated, a quality education is still not a guarantee for African American and Latino students today.  

In my state of Florida and across the country, students of color continue to be underserved by our school system. Recent data from the Department of Education highlights massive racial inequalities that persist six decades later. Beginning in preschool, African American students are suspended disproportionately – a distressingly early start on what many have characterized as the school-to-prison pipeline. Students of color are more likely to have lower paid teachers and fewer course options.

Undocumented students also face serious barriers in our education system. In Florida, undocumented students do not receive in-state tuition at state universities and colleges. Florida’s DREAM Act would fix this, allowing undocumented students who attended a Florida high school for at least three years to receive in-state tuition to attend one of Florida’s public colleges or universities.

Our students’ success or failure is incumbent on each and every one of us. As a teacher and as a member of the state Senate’s education committee, I know that building strong communities, a strong economy, a strong electorate, and a strong country requires investments in a public education system that works for all students. When we fail to fight for equal educational opportunities, our democracy is at risk. If we hope to improve our future, we must realize we are only as successful as our least privileged.

On the anniversary of the Brown decision, May 17th, I will join over 120 young elected officials from all corners of the nation to discuss and build education policy together. We will honor this moment in history through continued action to improve our children’s education system. We will do this because our kids deserve the chance to be their best, and because our future will demand it of them.

PFAW

Florida Man Requests To Marry 'Porn Filled Apple Computer' In Super-Clever Marriage Equality Protest

Many anti-gay activists are strangely obsessed with the idea that marriage equality might someday lead to legalized human-object marriage, whether that object is a car, a turtle, or the Eiffel Tower.

A Florida man has taken this obsession to a new level, filing a motion to intervene in the case challenging the state’s marriage equality ban, purporting to seek the right to marry his “porn filled Apple computer.”

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times provides this quote from the motion of Chris Sevier, which it notes is “Short on sound legal grounding (and even shorter on wit)”:

Recently, I purchased an Apple computer. The computer was sold to me without filters to block out pornography. I was not provided with any warning by Apple that pornography was highly addictive and could alter my reward cycle by the manufacturer. Over time, I began preferring sex with my computer over sex with real women. Naturally, I 'fell in love' with my computer and preferred having sex with it over all other persons or things, as a result of classic conditioning upon orgasm.

Unsurprisingly, Sevier’s motion was rejected last week by the clearly unamused Judge Robert L. Hinkle:

Chris Sevier has moved to intervene, apparently asserting he wishes to marry his computer. Perhaps the motion is satirical. Or perhaps it is only removed from reality. Either way, the motion has no place in this lawsuit. Mr. Sevier has alleged nothing that would support intervention.

The New Times notes that Sevier has tried this sort of thing before:

A Chris Sevier sued Apple because it sold him a computer without telling him about the evils of porn. A Chris Sevier sued A&E after it fired Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson after he was caught spewing antigay talk. And just recently, a Chris Sevier tried to butt his way into Utah's gay marriage legal case . In a 50-page motion, he claimed he was there to make the court "put up or shut up" on the gay marriage issue.

In his motion in the Utah case, Sevier laid out his totally air-tight argument, warning that marriage equality and the “slippery slope” he warns will ensue will result in Americans “becoming salves of our glands, not slaves of virtue”:

Either (1) we will be reduced to a Nation that hypocritically enforces the equal protection and due process clause to suit the interest of the largest minority, which yields discrimination against the true minority classes of sexual orientation, causing hypocrisy to undermine foundation laws, yielding instability; (2) we will remain a Christian Nation that protects traditional marriage, as a relationship set apart because it has the potential of bearing life between two people, who are in a legally binding relationship, who have naturally corresponding sexual organs with the exclusive potential to produce children with DNA that matches theirs; which, of course, makes that relationship both scientifically and factually distinct from all others-religious aside; or (3) we will progress into a Nation that gives equal protection to all classes of sexual orientation allowing everyone to marrying anyone and anything to suit their appetite in the name of tolerance, equality, and love -becoming slaves of ourglands, not slaves of virtue. There is no other possible alternative.

Marco Rubio Fails Florida, Doesn't Help Florida Judicial Nominees

Rubio lets his party delay the filling of four emergency judicial vacancies with consensus nominees who he recommended.
PFAW

Obstruction 2.0: How Republican Senators Continue to Block Judicial Nominations Post-“Filibuster Reform”

Tuesday afternoon, PFAW hosted a special member telebriefing on the continued GOP obstruction of judicial nominees. The briefing featured PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon. They discussed how Republicans’ obstruction has reached staggering levels, despite changes in Senate filibuster rules.

Marge gave a brief background on the issue of GOP obstruction of judicial nominations, explaining how important federal judgeships are for deciding many issues that affect everyday Americans and defining why Republicans are determined to continue obstruction confirmations of judicial nominees. Their underlying goal is to keep as many seats empty as possible so a President Cruz or Rubio can fill them with right-wing ideologues.

She addressed the current narrative that President Obama has had more confirmations at this time than Bush had, and explained that these numbers need to be put in the context of the fact that Obama has had around 70 more vacancies to fill than his predecessor. That means for Obama’s confirmation results to be seen as equivalent to those of President Bush, he would have had to have many more nominees confirmed at this point in his presidency.

Paul began a discussion of some of the choke methods Republicans are employing to block the confirmation of President Obama's nominees to the bench. Paul delineated how all too often, GOP senators do not cooperate with the White House to suggest candidates for nomination, delaying the process from the very beginning. Once nominees are made and are sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have seen GOP Senators delay the hearing by not submitting their blue slips, an unofficial tradition that gives home state Senators an opportunity to express their support for the nominee.

Marge explained ways in which Republicans are delaying the process once nominees are in committee, where the minority is allowed to request one-week delays. To express the magnitude of the obstruction, Marge explained how of the 270 nominees who have had a vote during President Obama's term, only 11 have had their votes held on time.

Once on the Senate floor, the situation doesn't get better as senators are able to filibuster nominees by refusing to give unanimous consent to the simple act of holding a yes-or-no confirmation vote. To offset these delays, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been forced to file for cloture. Since the rules change in November, there have been cloture votes on all the nominees, adding hours of senate time in post-cloture debates (30 hours per circuit court nominee).

Marge highlighted that if all 30 nominees on the floor were voted on today, which is possible, then the number of current vacancies would drop precipitously, down to the level at this point in George W. Bush’s presidency. It is essential that these be voted on now, and that confirmation votes for nominations coming out of committee be voted on expeditiously.

Fielding questions from PFAW members, Marge and Paul discussed particular cases of obstruction like that of William Thomas's nomination in Florida, where Senator Marco Rubio withheld his blue slip in support of the nominee-–one that he himself had recommended in the first place. Members also made the connection between the effect of big money in politics and the motivations for GOP senators to obstruct confirmations, and attempted to find ways in which everyday Americans can make their voices heard to their senators regarding the issues of obstruction in judicial nominations. Paul used the example of the DC Circuit Court fight, where with the activism from people across the country rallying together helped get all the court's vacancies filled.

Marge and Paul, along with PFAW members, emphasized how as activists, we can intervene in the fight to take back our democracy by letting Senators know that average Americans are paying attention, watching how they respond and vote on judicial nominations, and considering who may be pulling their strings. For instance, a caller in Florida wanting to influence Marco Rubio could call his office and ask him to prevent a delay in a committee vote for nominees to fill four emergency vacancies. And everyone, regardless of whether there are vacancies in their state, can call their senators and call for the quick confirmation of the large number of nominees awaiting a floor vote. She also highlighted what is at stake in this mid-term election since the officials we elect today will help confirm the judges that will decide important cases that affect average Americans. For this reason, it is important to have demographic and experiential diversity in the courts so judges making decisions understand the impact of the law on regular Americans.

Click here more information on our Fair and Just Courts campaign.

PFAW

The Never-Ending Tale Of The Little Girl Who Could Not Pray

Last week, we wrote a post about the fact that the story at the center of a recent column by Todd Starnes claiming that a young girl had supposedly been told that she was not allow to pray before eating her lunch at school had been definitively debunked after the shool in question conducted an investigation and "found zero evidence an incident ever occurred."

In a gesture of goodwill, the school offered an apology to the family nonetheless and it was seemingly accepted through their attorney, Jeremy Dys of the Liberty Institute, who issued a statement saying:

"We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

That should have been the end of the entire saga, but apparently Dys and the family are intent on keeping it going (presumably to benefit Todd Starnes forthcoming book) a little longer and have now reversed course by rejecting the school's apology, accusing the school of never having done an investigation in the first place, and threatening legal action:

Two days after stating that Gabriella Perez's family had accepted the apology, lawyer Jeremy Dys said their position changed after reading the comments of district spokesman Michael Lawrence in the Orlando Sentinel.

Dys said it is clear now the district's response wasn't "a real apology." In addition, "we're not really confident the investigation actually took place," he said.

He sent a letter to Seminole schools on Friday requesting video footage from the school, emails to or about the family and phone logs relating to the case, including documentation of harassing or negative phone calls.

Gabriella, a 5-year-old kindergartner, told her parents that a staffer at Carillon Elementary said she could not pray over her lunch sometime in March. Lawrence, the district spokesman, said Wednesday an investigation had turned up "zero evidence" the incident occurred.

The girl's father, Marcos Perez, is vice president of sales for a Christian book publisher promoting a book about "the attack on traditional values" in America. The family began homeschooling Gabriella after she described the cafeteria incident.

Dys' letter also claims Lawrence made "false and defamatory statements publicly and intentionally" about Gabriella and her family, and requested that he be disciplined.

"Mr. Lawrence went out and essentially called our client a liar," Dys said Friday.

The school district did an investigation into the alleged incident and concluded that "there's no proof whatsoever" that it even occurred and that the person identified by the young girl as having told her not to pray was nowhere near the lunchroom at the time it supposedly happened ... and now the very people who brought these allegations are threatening legal action, claiming that they are the victims of "false and defamatory statements" because their claims turned out to be bogus.

Will Marco Rubio Let His Colleagues Delay Four Florida Judicial Nominees?

With a dire need to fill emergency vacancies in Florida, will Rubio ask the GOP not to delay a committee vote on four Florida judicial nominees?
PFAW

Todd Starnes Gets Definitively Debunked

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about the amazing coincidence that was at the center of one of Todd Starnes' recent columns about a young girl who had allegedly been told that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch in her elementary school lunch room.

As it turned out, the young girl just so happened to be the daughter of the man who is the Vice President of Sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Starnes' next book, which just so happens to be all about how religious liberty is under attack in America.

Even after this rather curious connection was pointed out and the school said there was no evidence that the incident had even happened, the parents and their lawyers at the Liberty Institute continued to demand an investigation and an apology from the school; at one point even arranging a line-up of school employees so the girl could identify just which teacher had allegedly told her that she was not allowed to pray.

The school at the center of this "controversy" bent over backwards to satisfy the parents and conducted a full investigation into the incident. Yesterday, the school district announced its findings and, as expected, found the allegations to be completely bogus:

School officials said Wednesday that they can't find any evidence to suggest that a kindergartner was told not to pray in a Seminole County elementary lunchroom.

But the school district apologized anyway, and a lawyer for the girl's parents said they are satisfied with the outcome.

"We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred," said district spokesman Mike Lawrence. "There's no proof whatsoever."

...

As for the identified staffer, a school-district investigator has concluded that "there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom" that kindergartners and first-graders use. In addition to the student and her family, the district has interviewed staffers, the accused adult and Gabriella's classmates, Lawrence said.

Predictably, the parents and their right-wing attorney are trying to use the fact that the school issued a perfunctory apology to spin this as a victory:

In a statement, Jeremy Dys, the family's attorney, said, "We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

Voting Rights Advocates Rack Up More Wins

Earlier this month, PFAW reported on what has gone right for voting rights at the state level in 2014. While there is much more work to be done to enact needed reforms and to step up and counter threats when the right to vote is under attack, states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina have shown that we can win. Now we've uncovered even more evidence of why we can and should keep fighting the challenges that lay before us.
PFAW

Florida & Oregon Drop Out Of Kris Kobach's Faulty Voter Roll Crosscheck Program

The Miami Herald reported Friday that Florida and Oregon have dropped out of Interstate Crosscheck, the disputed voter-fraud detection service run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, with Oregon election officials citing "unreliable" data from the program.

Interstate Crosscheck’s reports in 2013 include Florida data based on the 2012 election. However, Florida is absent from the 2014 report.

We asked a spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Ken Detzner why Florida dropped out.

“The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process,” Brittany Lesser said.

Oregon is another state that changed its mind about sharing its voter data with the Kansas project. Its explanation was more blunt than the one we got from Florida.

“We left because the data we received was unreliable and we felt joining the ERIC project would better meet our needs, said Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Secretary of State.

ERIC is a project of the Pew Charitable Trust  to improve the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. States must pay to participate in ERIC while the Kansas project is free.

Voting rights opponents went into full-blown panic mode last week when North Carolina elections officials, citing data from Kobach's program, announced that 35,000 people who voted in North Carolina could have also voted in another state. That this number turned out to be completely overblown -- and that the state's top elections official urged caution in jumping to conclusions  -- did not stop Dick Morris and the Tea Party Nation from claiming that as many as a million Democrats voted twice in the 2012 elections.

via Rick Hasen​

The Amazing Coincidence Behind Todd Starnes' Latest Christian Victimization Column

Earlier today we wrote a post about a new Religious Right tale of supposed victimization emerging out of Florida involving a young girl who was allegedly told that she was not allowed to pray in the lunchroom before eating her lunch.

The whole thing seemed rather suspect, as these tales usually are, since it emerged from a video posted on YouTube by the girl's parents and was then immediately turned into a column by Todd Starnes, who is notorious for ginning up these sorts of one-sided, fake controversies:

A Florida school district is giving teachers a refresher course on religious liberty after the parents of a five-year-old kindergarten student said a teacher told their daughter that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal.

Marcos Perez, of Oviedo, Fla., said the incident occurred earlier this month in the lunch room at Carillon Elementary School.

He said his daughter  was sitting at a table about to eat when she bowed her head and began to pray.

“A teacher saw her and told her, ‘you’re not allowed to do that,’” he said.

Perez said his little girl replied, “But it’s good to pray.” The teacher alleged replied, “It’s not good.”

He said his daughter tried to pray once more but was admonished by the teacher. The child was not formally punished, he said.

“She’s a really good girl and if there are rules, she follows them,” he said. “She knows the biblical values we are raising her with. She was really conflicted but she wanted to submit to the authority.”

Perez said he and his wife were so upset over the incident they sat down with a video camera and had their daughter recount what happened. They posted the video to YouTube. And they also tried to reassure their daughter that she had done nothing wrong.

As we noted this morning, school officials are denying the incident took place, but now that the story is gaining some national attention, local media outlets have begun reporting on it and revealing interesting things ... such as the fact that this young girl's father, Marcos Perez, just so happens to be the Vice President of Sales at the Christian publishing house that is publishing Todd Starnes' next book:

School officials have not interviewed the girl, who has been pulled from kindergarten at Carillon by her parents, who said they intend to home school her.

Her father is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Lake Mary-based Christian book publisher. The company is currently promoting the book "God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values," by Todd Starnes.

Just last month, Charisma House issued a press release that featured none other than Perez promoting Starnes' forthcoming book:

“We are highly anticipating the release of God Less America,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales at Charisma House. “From a sales standpoint, we believe this contest will engage our partnering bookstores and add to the momentum that is already building for this book release.”

FOX News commentator Todd Starnes’s highly anticipated book God Less America(FrontLine/Charisma House) uses both recent news stories and compelling interviews with today’s top conservative leaders to bring to light what is happening across our country. In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style he strikes an important blow in today’s culture wars.

What are the chances that one month before Starnes' book, in which he seeks to catalog just how religious liberty is being squashed in America, is released, an incident like this takes place that perfectly exemplifies the very thing that Starnes' book claims to chronicle? 

Even more amazingly, it just happens to involve the daughter of the very man responsible for promoting Starnes' book!

What an amazing coincidence!

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious