Florida

PFAW Statement on White House Re-Nomination of 54 Judicial Nominees

WASHINGTON – President Obama today re-nominated 54 federal judicial nominees whose nominations had been sent back to the White House at the end of last year due to Republican obstruction. At the end of last year, Senate Republicans refused to hold over the president’s nominees, sending all but one – D.C. Circuit nominee Robert Wilkins – back to the White House.

Disappointingly, one nominee who had been stalled by GOP obstruction was not renominated: William Thomas of Florida, whom Sen. Marco Rubio singlehandedly blocked from a hearing for over a year.

Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

It is encouraging that the White House has taken the earliest possible opportunity to put these 54 nominees back on the path to Senate confirmation. This is an especially urgent matter given that 22 of these nominees would fill officially-designated judicial emergencies.

It is stunning that this many nominees were been sent back to the president at the end of the year. Most of those who are now starting the confirmation process all over again could have easily received confirmation votes last year if not for Republican obstruction. Nine were waiting for Senate votes when their nominations were sent back and 24 were stalled in the Judiciary Committee by Republican senators abusing the committee’s rules and practices.

While we are pleased that the White House is working for the expeditious confirmation of these 54 nominees, it is disappointing that Judge William Thomas of Florida has been left off the list. Judge Thomas is an eminently qualified nominee and would make history as the first openly gay African-American man to become a federal judge. Yet a campaign of obstruction from Sen. Marco Rubio has kept Judge Thomas from even receiving a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and has now succeeded in torpedoing his nomination entirely.

The president has also renominated a controversial slate of nominees from Georgia. In a state that is nearly one-third African American, just one of the president’s six nominees is a person of color, and questions have been raised about some of the nominees’ records on voting and civil rights.

Republicans have indicated that they will fight the president’s nominees whoever they are; that makes it all the more important that the best possible nominees are put forward.
 

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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.

Our Country Deserves Better than ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

The following is a guest post from Elder Jabari Paul, a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action, following last week’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Stand Your Ground laws.

My perspective on Stand Your Ground laws (SYG) is shaped by my experience and calling as a young African American clergyman and as a native of Florida, the first state to pass this type of legislation. I believe that these laws raise important questions about the moral values of our country.

The debate around SYG comes during challenging times in America – times when the political landscape is starkly divided and mass slayings in public settings are much too frequent.  These laws have been divisive policies since the first one passed in October 2005 in Florida. Public contentiousness surrounding SYG can be traced back to the choices of many politicians to ignore the will of the majority on SYG laws and to push the agendas of powerful and moneyed interest groups, like the National Rifle Association. SYG has been a wedge issue because politicians, particularly conservatives, have supported such laws to placate their base in spite of a lack of need for these laws.

Stand Your Ground has been championed by its supporters as a type of law that is necessary to prevent crime in urban areas and to protect citizens from the violence of “thugs.” These arguments have clear racial undertones. Words like “urban” and “thug” have been used since America’s post-Reconstruction days to speak in coded language about African Americans and other minorities. SYG tramples upon the civil rights of those perceived to be a threat. The tragedy of these laws is compounded when the person attacked is killed and only their attacker has an opportunity to tell what happened.

As a Christian, minister and an African American male under 35, my views on SYG are shaped by my culture and my religious beliefs. I believe that SYG perpetuates violence in a society that already knows violence too well. Jesus Christ taught the opposite of violence – love. In His renowned “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In these verses, Jesus is stressing that violence should be the last form of recourse in any situation. SYG, on the other hand, justifies and can even facilitate violence.

Our country deserves better than this. The United States of America is called, and no doubt is, the greatest nation in world. It’s time for our elected officials to drastically amend or repeal Stand Your Ground laws.

PFAW

Discrimination Has No Place In Our Hearts or Our Workplaces

The following is a guest post by Rev. Dorothy Chaney, a licensed Baptist minister in Miami and a member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action.

I have lived in Florida all my life, but here’s something I didn’t always know: in my state, you can be fired for being gay.

It’s true – although most of us don’t realize it. Here in Florida, we lack both a state and federal law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) employees from workplace discrimination. That means that even if you are the most dedicated employee – always on time, always going that extra mile – you can still be fired because of who you are or who you love.

That’s not right.

Why? First of all, because ensuring that all of us have the opportunity to provide for our families is a core American value. Passing a bill in Congress called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would help make sure that LGBT workers across the country are protected from workplace mistreatment. It’s simple – if you work hard, you shouldn’t be fired because of attributes that have nothing to do with your work performance.

Second, my religious beliefs mean I am dedicated to supporting those in need. As Bishop Gene Robinson pointed out in 2011, “The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are filled with admonitions that we will be judged by the way we treat our most vulnerable members.” He wrote that we are “morally bound” to take care of those who are marginalized, such as LGBT Americans.

He’s right. As a Christian minister, I have worked for many years to lift up those most vulnerable in our communities, from counseling women facing unplanned pregnancies to speaking out in support of those needing access to health care. I have come to see that in order to continue my work for justice, I also need to speak out in support of employment protections for LGBT members of my community. Though faith traditions and leaders may have differing beliefs about sexuality, surely we can agree that every person should be treated with dignity in their place of work. Every person should be able to be open about who they are without fearing for their job.

Finally, not only is passing ENDA the moral thing to do, it’s also the popular thing to do.  That’s true here in Florida and also across the country. New polling estimates that more than 60% of Floridians support ENDA.

Unfortunately, those who don’t support these protections are using dishonest arguments to try to mislead the public about the legislation. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, for example, has claimed that if ENDA is passed, “Our freedom of religion will be destroyed.”  This is certainly not true. The ENDA bill even carves out a specific exemption so it will not apply to religious corporations, societies, associations, and schools.  The fact is, it goes the extra mile to protect religious liberty, and it is supported by a broad array of religious groups. The bottom line is that ENDA is in no way an attack on religious liberty any more than existing anti-discrimination laws are.

Others are using repugnant arguments in an attempt not just to defeat the bill, but to attack and malign LGBT members of my community. Last year, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition went as far as using the Newtown tragedy in a misguided attempt to turn public opinion against ENDA. Referencing a school district anti-discrimination policy in nearby Orange County, Florida, Lafferty argued that while parents are concerned about “protecting our children” in the wake of the Newtown shooting, they should be worried about ENDA’s “devastating effects” as “people with some real issues [play] out their personal problems in the classroom.” These kinds of lies about our LGBT neighbors underscore why the discrimination protections are needed in the first place.

It is my hope that all of our elected officials will choose to stand on the side of pro-equality majorities rather than with those pushing hurtful lies about LGBT Americans. I was heartened to see that Sen. Nelson has signed on as a cosponsor. Now it’s time for Sen. Rubio to step up to the plate, as well.

Because at the end of the day, discrimination is discrimination.  It has no place in our hearts and no place in our workplaces.
 

PFAW

Allen West: 'Usurper' Obama Turning United States Into 'Monarchy'

Somehow, it seems that Florida’s Allen West managed to serve two years in the U.S. Congress without ever quite grasping how our government works. In an interview with NewsMax’s Steve Malzberg last week, West claimed that in refusing to cave to Tea Party demands to defund Obamacare, President Obama was acting like a “spoiled brat child” because Americans gave him “everything he has wanted” by electing him president. Speaking with Malzberg again yesterday, West declared that actually “King Obama” has established a “monarchy” in the United States because the Affordable Care Act “is not the law of the land, it’s an edict.”

West added that Congress’ passage of a clean continuing resolution and debt ceiling hike in order to reopen the government and avoid default was actually “a large leap toward losing the great republic” of the United States.

“Shame on us as an American people to fall into this, in letting this usurper and this petty charlatan take this great country away from us,” he lamented.

When I look at the fact that Obamacare is not the law of the land, it’s an edict, I see this as King Obama, not President Obama, who is making rules that apply to certain people that kowtow or appeal to his vision of destruction of this great constitutional republic. So, I think that we have gone beyond an imperial presidency. We almost have a monarchy that has been established in the United States of America.

This is not a constitutional republic anymore, and I think people need to understand that, and with the passage of this CR and this debt limit extension, we have definitely take a large leap toward losing the great republic that men such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason,  John Adams gave us as an inheritance. And shame on us as an American people to fall into this, in letting this usurper and this petty charlatan take this great country away from us.
 

The Republican Electoral Rigging Plan Is Back

It’s all been quiet on the election-rigging front for a while—so quiet that you might have thought the Republicans’ plan to rig the electoral college had been quietly dropped. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Florida state Rep. Ray Pilon introduced a bill last week to change how the state apportions its electoral college votes. Under his plan, the state would award its electoral college votes by congressional district. If this plan had been in place in 2012, Florida would have awarded an extra 15 electoral college votes Mitt Romney. Indeed, as Think Progress points out, if every state used this plan, Romney would have won the election.

That massive hypothetical shift is partly due to another plank of the Republicans’ plan to rig elections in their favor: gerrymandering congressional districts. If states like Florida award their votes by congressional district, then the Republican party in those states can create a huge advantage for themselves by gerrymandering their congressional district maps. This part of the plan is already complete in many states, where we won’t have an opportunity to try and reverse some of this gerrymandering for nearly 10 years (and two presidential elections).  Florida’s GOP would certainly benefit from such a plan, where the last round of redistricting created a map that will, in the words of the Washington Post, help “cement their overwhelming majority in the state’s delegation for a decade to come.”

Just look at the red the congressional district maps in Pennsylvania[], where Obama won the popular vote by more than five percent but would have lost the majority of electoral college votes under a plan like Pilon’s. Indeed, congressional district maps throughout the country are so gerrymandered that while Democrats won the 2012 popular vote for House seats, we ended up with the second biggest GOP majority in 60 years.

It’s clear that this bill is another sad attempt to rig the game in the Republicans’ favor. It has nothing to do with fairness and democracy, and everything to do with partisan games. But just being sick of losing doesn’t give you the right to change the rules. Most people learned that as children on the playground, but it seems like the Republican party never got that lesson. The only way they’ll ever get these bills passed is if we let them get away with it, so it’s up to us to let them know that we’re paying attention. That’s how we’ve kept these bills from being passed in every other state that they’ve been proposed in over the past year, and that’s what we’ll do with this bill. 

PFAW

Rubio Holding Up Nomination of Openly Gay African American Florida Judge

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has for months been single-handedly holding up the nomination of William Thomas, an openly gay African American Miami judge, to a federal district court.

Rubio’s indefinite hold on Thomas’ nomination is one of the most egregious examples yet of Senate Republicans using the obscure “blue slip” procedure to prevent home-state judicial nominees from even having a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under a Senate custom that has varied over time Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not advance a nominees’ consideration --  won’t even hold a hearing, let alone take a vote -- until both of that nominee’s home-state senators return a “blue slip” giving their permission for a nomination to go forward. The blue slip doesn’t indicate a senator’s approval of the nominee – the senator is still free to vote against the nominee and to lobby their fellow senators to do the same.  It just means that the nominee can be considered by the Judiciary Committee and then the full Senate. But if just one senator doesn’t return a blue slip, the nomination won’t see the light of day.

Republican senators have been routinely using this tactic of withholding blue slips in order to slow-walk President Obama’s judicial nominees. Currently, five nominees are being held back because one or both senators have refused to return blue slips. And all are women or people of color.

Because the blue slip process is secretive and little-known, senators are often able to get away with holding nominees this way with little public pressure and no public explanation.

Rubio, however, faced pressure from the Florida legal community in recent weeks for his failure to return blue slips for Thomas and another Florida nominee, Brian Davis. The senator finally gave in under pressure and allowed Davis’ nomination to go forward, but is digging in his heels on his blockade of Thomas.

Rubio’s stated reasons for blocking Thomas’ nomination are exceptionally flimsy. He has cited  two cases where he claims Thomas gave insufficiently harsh sentences in criminal trials; in one case, even the prosecutor has defended Thomas’ judgment and a local judge has written to Rubio to correct the record. In the other case the senator cites, Judge Thomas sentenced the defendant to death, which Rubio seems to think was insufficiently harsh. It is clear that there is no merit to the senator’s claims. Holding hearings on this nominee would help clarify that, if they were allowed to take place.

The real reason for Rubio’s blockade and his smear of Judge Thomas’ character, writes Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, is plain and simple “crass Tea Party politics.”

Rubio has stated no compelling reason why Thomas should not have a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, where he can answer any of Rubio’s alleged concerns in the public record. 

PFAW

Rep. Ted Yoho Rails Against Gay Marriage, Food Stamps and Terrorist Immigrants

At a town hall meeting earlier this month, after he announced he would back birther legislation and accused Obamacare of being racist against white people, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) went after gay marriage, immigration reform and food stamp funding. “I think it’s a sad state of affairs in America today that we as a society are so confused that we have to redefine what marriage is,” Yoho lamented. “It’s an institution that’s been around for thousands years and I feel like it’s ordained by God; are we that confused as a country that we have to start redefining these things?”

The congressman then moved on to food stamp funding, which the House GOP recently severed from the Farm Bill. Yolo said he doubted that around 50 million Americans face food insecurity, joking: “I think there’s 330 million people starving, at least three times a day, we call it breakfast, lunch and dinner.” He added that huge proposed cuts to food aid won’t impact anyone, telling the audience that “not one person would lose a calorie or crumb that deserves it.”

Yoho revealed that his family had used food stamps for about two months, but claimed that the cuts are necessary because it has become a “lifestyle” and that it is too easy to qualify for the program.

Yoho also expressed skepticism about new immigration reform efforts because he believes the Lebanese group Hezbollah is smuggling potential terrorists over the border: “I talked to a guy that works with Hezbollah, they call him the 007 of Hezbollah, they call him and find out he’s brought over 1,500 people here illegally that don’t like us, they want to blow us up.”

Rep. Ted Yoho Praises Birther Conspiracy, Calls Obamacare Racist Against White People

UPDATE: More of Yoho's far-right comments here.

Speaking at a town hall meeting earlier this month, Florida Republican congressman Ted Yoho promised that he would support possible birther legislation floated by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), telling the audience that after learning about a potential birther bill from Stockman while attending a Tea Party meeting, he called the congressman and agreed to back it.

In audio recorded by an audience member and posted on YouTube, Yoho can be heard telling the crowd that the issue of President Obama’s birth certificate was a “distraction” from topics like the national debt, he said he was hopeful that a birther investigation could bring down the whole government: “They said if it is true, it’s illegal, he shouldn’t be there and we can get rid of everything he’s done, and I said I agree with that.”

Yoho also seemed to embrace the right-wing claim that Obamacare is “racist” because it taxes tanning beds, explaining that if he goes tanning then he will be “disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”

I had a little fun with [John] Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax. He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a ten percent tax.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what, it is.’ I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth?’ and he goes, ‘No, no need.’ So therefore it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin. As crazy as that sounds, that’s what the left does right. By God, if it works for them, it’ll work for us [inaudible].

'Choice' School Accountability in the Eye of the Beholder – or Big Donor

Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools.

Young People For Supports Florida Dream Defenders’ Courageous Sit-In

In what the Miami Herald is calling the “longest sit-in demonstration in recent memory,” a group of more than sixty young people called the Dream Defenders came to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office last Tuesday and have not left. 

Arriving at the Florida Capitol just a few days after George Zimmerman was acquitted, the group is pushing for a special legislative session to take up a Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act which would repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law and address racial profiling, the school-to prison pipeline, and more. Among the many young people in Gov. Scott’s office is Dream Defenders leader Phil Agnew, a 2005 graduate of PFAW Foundation’s Young People For (YP4) leadership development program, as well as eight to ten other current or former YP4 Fellows. 

Agnew told the Miami Herald that the work is broader than their specific demands: 

“It’s also about a paradigm shift,” Agnew said. “It’s about empowering the next generation.”

PFAW Foundation has been helping support the courageous young people at the Capitol in any way we can, from providing administrative and financial support – including meals – to sending video cameras to help document their experiences.  Young People For Director Joy Lawson highlighted the sit-in in a Huffington Post op-ed and is leading a powerful photo campaign collecting statements of support for the Dream Defenders. 

Together, we are showing the Dream Defenders, and the country, that young people are standing with them in this fight.
 

PFAW Foundation

African American Ministers In Action: Rubio-Hatch Amendments Would Weaken Immigration Reform, Hurt Children

People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action, an alliance of 1,200 clergy from across the country, slammed immigration reform amendments offered by Senators Marco Rubio and Orrin Hatch yesterday that would deny health care coverage and other basic protections to immigrants and their children for five years after legalization.

African American Ministers in Action members Rev. Dorothy Chaney of Miami, Rev. Reginald Gundy of Jacksonville, Elder Lee Harris of Jacksonville and Minister Jabari Paul of Tallahassee issued a joint statement:

“When it comes to extending the social safety net to our immigrant neighbors, the moral thing to do is also the prudent thing to do. Denying health care coverage and basic protections to vulnerable families is bad for children and it’s bad for society as a whole.

“We need strong comprehensive immigration reform because vulnerable families are falling through the cracks, unable to start fully productive lives and give back to the country they call home. Our social safety net doesn’t only catch those who fall, it provides a springboard for those who need a leg up. The Rubio-Hatch amendments would relegate immigrants to continued second-class status even after they earn a legal place in the country.

“An immigration reform bill that punishes children and creates a second class status for those who have earned a path to citizenship undermines the goals of comprehensive reform.”


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GOP Obstruction of Judicial Nominees Continues

Republicans have yet to allow votes on all the judicial nominees who were left pending on the floor at the end of the previous Congress.
PFAW

'If This Isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and All the "Ism’s," I Don’t Know What Is'

Conservative columnist Sher Zieve posts an interview today with Christina Michas, head of the Palm Springs chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

Michas, it turns out, is an expert in the sinister connection between Common Core education standards, Agenda 21 and Obamacare, the proponents of which, she has discovered, have the “ultimate goal” of setting up “internment or re-education camps for those that will not comply with their sick agenda.”

In particular, Michas tells Sher, “the comparison of Nazism and Common Core are uncanny.” In fact, she says, “If this isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and all the ‘ism’s,’ I don’t know what is.”

“I know this sounds insane,” Michas adds,  “but sadly, it is a reality we are facing today.”

It’s difficult to summarize her arguments, but here are some excerpts:

Sher: Christina, thanks so much for being here with me, today. You are doing an extraordinary job of bringing the truth about what is happening in the government public school system in the USA…and it isn’t pretty.

During his brutal reign in Russia, in which he established the Soviet Union or USSR, created the Secret Police, established Siberian prison camps, killed thousands of peasants when they did not work as hard as the ruling Communist elites demanded or if they questioned anything these same Communists did, Vladimir Lenin also, said: “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” He was referring to the Luciferian Communist Party’s child education--aka indoctrination--system.

“Common Core” appears to have all of the earmarks of the old USSR’s programming system for children with several new innovative and chilling twists. It is also firmly tied to Agenda 21--the land-grabbing and human suppression and depopulation program.

Christina: The comparison of Nazism and Common Core (CC) are uncanny. One such comparison is that Nazism had Leaders and Master Teachers in the National Socialists Teachers League that visited schools and kept data files on Teachers. The Obama Administration funded 10,000 Master Teachers (MT’S) to train Teachers on CC and the MT’s will keep data files on students and Teachers. Students were taught to spy on parents and teachers. CC will have students as young as 5 participating in the evaluation of Teachers.

In Nazism, the curriculum was rewritten to provide a Nazi (government) approved curriculum. Common Core curriculum is being rewritten to provide a global approved curriculum. Nazism kept huge data files on students and teachers and Common Core will data mine the students with over 400 different data points on each child, their family and teachers from pre-kindergarten to workforce…

And one final comparison is Nazism had strong Teachers’ Unions (NSTL). We have but to look at how powerful the Teacher’s unions are in our country and only growing stronger in power and influence under this current Obama Administration’s unholy alliance with them at America’s expense and the expense of the education of our children.. The quality of the educational standards of our children has suffered at the hands of these Teachers’ Unions. Common Core is no different. Our children will suffer at the hand of a government controlled education system. They will no longer be able to have dreams and goals but only those that the government wishes them to have (UNESCO –A21). If this isn’t Nazism, Communism, Marxism and all the “ism’s”, I don’t know what is.

The worst part is they are lying to parents and teachers about what Common Core really is and the effects it will have. Teachers don’t even realize that their jobs are in jeopardy for, if they do not conform, they will be removed. But, then again, were not the people of Russia, Germany etc. all deceived until it was too late??

From reading these quotes and excerpts, we can see how Common Core ties into Agenda 21’s global goals for the New World Order. Control!! Control!!

The ultimate goal of UNESCO, via the nationalization of our education system is to create “ good global, sustainable citizens who will be “managed” by a Global Government. The ultimate goal is to have a “managed citizenry”, a managed economy, and a managed environment once again returning to Mother Earth worship.

This is where eugenics and William (Bill) Ayers, Obamacare, the Nationalization of our Economy, Energy, Health and Education systems comes into play. Ayers is a major driver behind Common Core and sadly is a very radical Professor today that has had much influence on students thinking … He and other key players including the Clinton’s, Bushes’, Gore, Gates, Soros, Rockefeller, Warren Buffet, Obama and his minions, etc. Understand that one cannot “manage” most of adult America today. The ultimate goal of these radicals from the UN, the US and other nations is to set up Internment or Re-education camps for those that will not comply with their sick agenda. You either are “retrained” or you will have to be eliminated.

The Healthcare Bill will take care of the “useless” senior population via “managed care”. The government will have free reign with the youth. You cannot change a nation unless you change how it thinks and operates…Hence, the lesson learned from Lenin, Stalin, Marx et al, “get the children and you change generations”…

I know this sounds insane, but sadly, it is a reality we are facing today. Don’t take my word for it, do your research.

 

Why the National Conversation on Immigration Reform Is about My Family

I am a 24-year-old, proud Floridian. My parents came to the U.S. from Colombia many years ago, looking for a safe and opportunity-rich place to raise their daughters. From the time I was a toddler, I have spent my whole life here in Florida. I received a great public education, participated in sports, and served as a member of a Christian youth group. I am also an undocumented American.

What does that mean in my day-to-day life?  It means that despite my top grades in high school, I can’t get financial aid to go to college. It means that no matter how hard I study traffic rules or parallel parking, I don’t qualify for a driver’s license.  It means that though I am proud to have been raised here in America, there is no waiting list I can join to one day become a U.S. citizen.  The path is simply not there for me.

The Senate “Gang of 8” includes my senator, Marco Rubio, who has said he believes in a path to citizenship. “But,” I asked in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed last month,

“when push comes to shove, will Rubio support a meaningful path to citizenship? It can't be a path in name only; it must be clear and direct, not tied to arbitrary metrics around border security, like he has proposed. The path to citizenship can't be full of hurdles and trap doors, and it can't require a decades-long wait in line. No one should be blocked from citizenship and relegated to a lifetime stuck in second-class status.


Rubio's parents left Cuba and came to the U.S. for economic opportunity – the same reasons my parents left everything they knew, making sacrifice after sacrifice for my family's future. Would Rubio deny my family the same opportunity his family had?...It's time for Rubio to truly represent Florida – the immigrant families who came here seeking a better life and everyone who believes in a common-sense solution that doesn't involve deporting millions of hard-working men and women or forcing them into a permanent underclass. It's time for Rubio to step up, on behalf of his mother and my mother...”

And thousands of other mothers and fathers out there.  My parents had a dream that I could grow up in the United States and get a world-class education. My dream for my parents is that they can see me and my sisters thrive and fulfill our potential – and for them to be part of the American dream, too. Right now that dream seems distant for my mom, who was stopped while driving without a license over six years ago and is back in Colombia. My dream is now my parents' dream. A dream that immigration reform will include family reunification and that my mom will return to the United States. I miss her every day.

I’m a Young People For Fellow, a member of the United We Dream Network, an undocumented American, and most importantly a daughter to the most courageous woman I have ever known. I hope that no other family has to endure the separation that mine has, but I know that so many others are suffering the same heartbreak.

Our country needs immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship and keeps families like mine together.  The national conversation on immigration reform isn’t a distant policy debate – it’s a conversation about my life.

Evelyn Rivera, Seminole State College
Member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For Program

 

PFAW

Remembering Jennifer Carroll: America Needs 'Christians to Step Up and Lead This Country'

The news broke this morning that Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has resigned from office over her ties to an organization that ran a series of "internet cafes" in the state that is now at the center of a racketeering investigation. According to reports, Carroll had close ties this organization and even appeared in a commercial for it in 2010.

These "cafes" are often borderline casinos that exist in a legal gray area by claiming that they are merely offering "sweepstakes" to customers.

So it is just a little too perfect that back in 2011, Carroll was a featured speaker at a Faith and Freedom Coalition event ahead of a Republican presidential debate in Florida, organized by none other than Ralph Reed, where she declared that America needs "good, solid Christians to step up and lead this country on a proper moral path":

You know the Bible says faith is believing in what is not seen, today unfortunately many in the media would like nothing better to ridicule Christians: they promote 'The Da Vinci Code,' they place doubt in the public’s mind that Christ was not risen and they condemn the 'Passion of Christ,' yet they sensationalize stories that call for the end of prayer in school and removing the name of God from our country’s pledge. Ladies and gentlemen, these are very sad times when we allow the minority to poison the minds of the majority. This is exactly what dictators and socialist rulers did.

Man does not have all the answers, some of our political leaders bow down to scientists and let them have the stage to push their evolution, but there’s nothing, nothing a scientist can make, that is exactly like what God creates.

Trust Him to give you the strength to fight back against those who want to take God out of our country. Trust Him to give you the wisdom to speak out against injustice and blasphemy of His name. Trust God to guide your path to bring about a righteous government. …

Ladies and gentlemen, Christianity is in a fight and it is one of the greatest trials we have seen in modern times. Without a doubt, America and her people are in grave need of prayer, divine guidance, protection, to have good, solid Christians to step up and lead this country on a proper moral path. I firmly believe that if we magnify God, our problems will be minimized.

Federal education vouchers funding creationism curricula

Federally funded private school voucher and tax credit programs are more numerous than ever. Moreover, studies show that the curricula in many of these programs have included the teaching of creationism.
PFAW

The Perils of Teaching the Bible in Public Schools

Rob Boston at Americans United notes that the Arkansas House just voted to require the state’s Education Board to approve elective classes about the Bible if they meet appropriate standards.  The Supreme Court has said the Bible may be taught about in public schools when “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

But teaching about the Bible without teaching it religiously is not an easy thing to do. It requires carefully designed curricula, well-intentioned and well-trained educators, and a commitment to meaningful oversight.  People For the American Way was part of a religiously and politically diverse group of organizations that worked together to produce the 1999 publication The Bible in Public Schools, a First Amendment Guide. That guide emphasized that how any such course is taught will determine whether it passes constitutional muster:

When teaching about the Bible in a public school, teachers must understand the important distinction between advocacy, indoctrination, proselytizing, and the practice of religion – which is unconstitutional – and teaching about religion that is objective, nonjudgmental, academic, neutral, balanced, and fair – which is constitutional.

But that’s not how if often works in practice. In 2000, People For the American Way Foundation published a scathing expose, The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public Schools. The PFAW Foundation investigation found that “Bible History” classes were often being taught more like Christian Sunday School classes from a sectarian, Protestant perspective. Bible stories were treated as literal history. Among lessons and exam questions asked of students:

  • "If you had a Jewish friend who wanted to know if Jesus might be the expectant [sic] Messiah, which book [of the Gospels] would you give him?"
  • "Compose an explanation of who Jesus is for someone who has never heard of Him."  
  • "Why is it hard for a non-Christian to understand things about God?"
  • "What is Jesus Christ's relationship to God, to creation, and to you?"
  • "Who, according to Jesus, is the father of the Jews? The devil."

That expose led Florida officials to yank those classes and revamp the curricula.

But more than a decade later, similar problems persist, as the Texas Freedom Network documented in a January report that found classes designed more to evangelize students to a literalist, fundamentalist view of the Bible rather than to teach about its role in literature and history. Included in the lesson plans examined by TFN were characterizations of Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion, Christian-nation approaches to US history, and material “explaining” racial origins via the sons of Noah.

Are Arkansas legislators and education officials prepared to invest in the development of curricula, the training of educators, and meaningful oversight into how the classes are taught?

The Perils of Teaching About the Bible in Public Schools

Rob Boston at Americans United notes that the Arkansas House just voted to require the state’s Education Board to approve elective classes about the Bible if they meet appropriate standards.  The Supreme Court has said the Bible may be taught about in public schools when “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

But teaching about the Bible without teaching it religiously is not an easy thing to do. It requires carefully designed curricula, well-intentioned and well-trained educators, and a commitment to meaningful oversight.  People For the American Way was part of a religiously and politically diverse group of organizations that worked together to produce the 1999 publication The Bible in Public Schools, a First Amendment Guide. That guide emphasized that how any such course is taught will determine whether it passes constitutional muster:

When teaching about the Bible in a public school, teachers must understand the important distinction between advocacy, indoctrination, proselytizing, and the practice of religion – which is unconstitutional – and teaching about religion that is objective, nonjudgmental, academic, neutral, balanced, and fair – which is constitutional.

But that’s not how if often works in practice. In 2000, People For the American Way Foundation published a scathing expose, The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public Schools. The PFAW Foundation investigation found that “Bible History” classes were often being taught more like Christian Sunday School classes from a sectarian, Protestant perspective. Bible stories were treated as literal history. Among lessons and exam questions asked of students:

  • "If you had a Jewish friend who wanted to know if Jesus might be the expectant [sic] Messiah, which book [of the Gospels] would you give him?"
  • "Compose an explanation of who Jesus is for someone who has never heard of Him."  
  • "Why is it hard for a non-Christian to understand things about God?"
  • "What is Jesus Christ's relationship to God, to creation, and to you?"
  • "Who, according to Jesus, is the father of the Jews? The devil."

That expose led Florida officials to yank those classes and revamp the curricula.

But more than a decade later, similar problems persist, as the Texas Freedom Network documented in a January report that found classes designed more to evangelize students to a literalist, fundamentalist view of the Bible rather than to teach about its role in literature and history. Included in the lesson plans examined by TFN were characterizations of Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion, Christian-nation approaches to US history, and material “explaining” racial origins via the sons of Noah.

Are Arkansas legislators and education officials prepared to invest in the development of curricula, the training of educators, and meaningful oversight into how the classes are taught?

PFAW Foundation

Andrea Lafferty Cites CT School Shooting to Rally Opposition to Non-Discrimination Policies

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition used the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in order to bolster her campaign against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the bill’s protections for LGBT employees. While speaking to Janet Mefferd yesterday about the Orange County, Florida, school system’s new non-discrimination policy that is similar to ENDA, Laffery said that just as parents are upset about the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and are concerned about keeping their children safe, they should also be worried about ENDA’s “devastating effects” as schools will have “people with some real issues playing out their personal problems in the classroom.”

ENDA, the bill itself as I have been talking about it won’t become law, but they’re going to piece meal it. They’re going to start by making federal contractors—if you want to be a plumber for the government or want to do this, that or the other with the government, you have to comply with this order. They make try and find other ways of doing it, implementing the whole ENDA but I’m not sure exactly how at this point. But what I think people should focus on is: what does this mean locally?

People are really upset because of this tragedy up in Connecticut and protecting our children and we’re going to see some devastating effects. What they did in Florida is they passed a measure which affects adults, teachers, staff and kids. Our concern is that transgender children in schools are a different issue than teachers and staff. What we’re going to see is people with some real issues playing out their personal problems in the classroom.

Like other Religious Right activists who have warned that ENDA will lead to sexual assault and death, Lafferty maintained that ENDA is part of the left’s “open season” on Christians on behalf of “fringe minorities and people that are truly sick.”

Lafferty warned that Chick-fil-A restaurants may soon be “forced” to hire “weirdos” seeking to undermine Christian businesses, warning that transgender people are committing “the ultimate act of self-hatred” and need “special medical treatment” rather than job protections.

Lafferty: I fully expect that depending on how the administration pushes this, we’re going to see people applying for jobs at Chick-fil-A and Christian businesses because families go there because A) the food is good and B) they want to support what Chick-fil-A stands for, and no better way of hurting a Chick-fil-A restaurant than to have a bunch of weirdos working there.

Mefferd: That is so weird you say that because I had an experience like that at Chick-fil-A just a couple of weeks ago, exact same experience. I thought: that’s very strange that this person is working at Chick-fil-A.

Lafferty: They may have chosen to hire this person but they’re going to be forced to.



Lafferty: I think minorities, those protected classes, are going to be shocked when they find out that a transgendered man or woman is going to be treated the same as an African American man or woman. That’s not right and the laws will be overridden if ENDA should pass. That’s why they are going jurisdiction by jurisdiction to try and force communities to accept this. This is the ultimate act of self-hatred and we are lifting this up? We should be giving them special medical treatment maybe.

Mefferd: Get them some help.

Lafferty: Not protected class [status].
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