Shortly before the 2000 election, the state of Florida undertook a massive purge of its voter rolls, eliminating the names of 12,000 residents who the state believed ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. The problem? The sloppy purge eliminated the names not just of felons who had lost their right to vote under Florida law, but also of people who had just committed misdemeanors; felons who had regained their voting rights; and even of people who simply shared the name of an ineligble voter. The result was a mess which left countless eligible Floridians, disproportionately African American, stripped of their right to vote in a state that ultimately decided the presidential election by 537 votes.
Now Florida, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, is poised to start another disastrous voter purge. Think Progress reports that a purge of “non-citizens” from Florida’s voting rolls has already struck hundreds of eligible citizens. Many more have not replied to a letter that informs them they will lose their right to vote if they don’t reply with proof of citizenship. Despite the clear inaccuracy of the purge, the burden is on registered voters to prove that they are eligible, not on the state to prove that they are not.
Rep. Ted Deutsch is now calling on Gov. Scott to suspend the flawed purge, saying it will “create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.”
As we investigated in our report “The Right to Vote Under Attack,” right-wing politicians have been using the specter of “voter fraud” to carry out a number of programs meant to suppress the vote of progressive-leaning groups. The flawed voter purge in one of the closest of swing states is just the most recent blatant example.
Liberty Counsel’s fixation on attacking the LGBT community was on full display today.
First, LCAction released a memo claiming that President Obama is giving gays and lesbians preferential treatment in order to bring about the “collapse of American culture,” offering examples of the administration’s support of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, push for LGBT rights abroad, funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, and an order prohibiting health insurance plans from discriminating against LGBT customers, which LCAction claimed would mean that “every individual is going to pay higher health care premiums.”
On Freedom’s Call, LC chairman Mat Staver attacked President Obama for backing marriage equality, alleging that the “sexual anarchists” in the White House are pushing “social engineering on steroids,” and the debate over marriage “is not and never has been about equality:
Some speculate that Vice President Joe Biden is to blame, others point to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, still others say to follow the money trail and point to the nearly $15 million he raised within days of the announcement. Despite the reason for his evolution, what the radical sexual anarchist community in their allies in the White House are seeking to accomplish is social engineering on steroids. There is simply no basis in history, science, or higher law, to justify the redefinition of marriage. This debate is not and never has been about equality; instead it is a debate over the laws of nature and whether the government is willing to recognize them.
Staver today also blasted an ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida, that would bar “discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations” based “on a person’s sexual orientation or sexual identity.” “Morality and privacy will be in jeopardy if this ordinance passes,” Staver warned.
The City Council of Jacksonville will vote next week on an ordinance that will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of other protected classes, such as race, age, and disability.
“This ‘civil rights’ ordinance takes away more rights than it supposedly grants,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. If passed, Jacksonville will be another city whose restrooms and locker rooms will not be segregated by one’s sexual identity at birth, but rather his perceived gender. Citing a case in Orono, Maine, where a teenage boy, who self-identifies as a girl, is allowed to use the girls’ bathroom at school, he said, “Wherever this is passed, privacy and decency are eroded.”
Jacksonville’s ordinance carries an exemption for churches and religious organizations. However, religious people do not live in churches, but the community. People of faith use community day care centers and YMCA locker rooms. They participate in Boy Scouts and sporting events. “Wherever people gather, morality and privacy will be in jeopardy if this ordinance passes,” Staver said.
“This has never been about discrimination,” Staver said. “These ordinances are meant to legitimize and codify the homosexual and transgender lifestyles.”
The Freedom Federation – an anti-Obama amalgam of Religious Right groups, "apostolic" ministries, and the corporate-funded astroturf Americans for Prosperity – is holding its third annual Awakening conference in Orlando, Florida this weekend. Here’s how it describes the event:
Uniting our Voices Around Shared Values: Turning Voices into Votes
A war is raging against our shared values. Our faith and freedom are under attack. Silence in the face of this war is not an option. Decisive action is needed. Join with others who share the core values that make America a great nation. Take a stand for righteousness and justice and be part of a new revolution to take back America. The time has come to turn our voices into votes and to change the course of history.
Outreach to the Hispanic community is a major goal of this year’s Awakening and the theme of Friday’s opening night session. That marks a continuation of the Freedom Federation’s efforts to re-brand the Religious Right as a multiracial and multigenerational movement, and to re-brand the culture war as a “social justice” movement. Last year’s gathering included a major effort to claim a religious grounding for the anti-tax, anti-government agenda of Grover Norquist and the Tea Party.
This year’s conference features Samuel Rodriguez, the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who tries to sell the Religious Right’s culture war to Latinos while trying to get Religious Right leaders to make themselves more palatable to Latinos. Rodriguez recently said that Latinos are here to “bring panic to the kingdom of darkness” and “make the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church, the most influential institution in America.” He said God has sent illegal immigrants here to “redeem Christianity” in America.
Also scheduled to address this year’s conference is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a favorite of Tea Party and Religious Right leaders who describe him as the party’s Latino Ronald Reagan. Rubio is reportedly concocting a hollowed-out version of the DREAM Act that will try to help Romney and the GOP fix their well-earned image as hostile to the aspirations of millions of immigrants.
A new feature at this year’s Awakening is Patriot Camp on Saturday for kids ages 5-15. Organizers promise that kids will learn about “the Christian principles on which America was founded,” which is important since, “As most Christians know, our true American heritage is not taught in schools, especially not in an objective manner.”
Notably for this Obama-bashing group, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending a video presentation; senior Likud official Moshe Ya'alon, Vice Premier, Minister of Strategic Affairs, is also listed as a speaker. Also on the list, some of whom might appear by video: Former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and Reps. John Mica and Allen West. West has been warming up for the conference by announcing, McCarthy-style, that dozens of progressive members of the House of Representatives are communists.
The list of speakers is a Who’s Who of the Religious Right and conservative legal movements, including characters like spiritual warrior Lou Engle and Cindy “God kills birds when America supports gays” Jacobs, who once haunted the fringes of the far right but have since been welcomed into a movement seeking to build the broadest political base possible. Among them:
Should be more fun than Disney World. Watch for updates.
As is tradition, the Florida Family Association is raising money to hire a plane to fly over Orlando with a banner “to warn families” about “same-sex revelry” at Disney World. The FFA claims that Gay Days at Disney in June, which last year brought approximately 150,000 people to the theme park even though it is not an official Disney event, led to steep declines in attendance as families fear witnessing “thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing and wearing tee-shirts that promoted their lifestyle.” “Just like activists’ attempts to gain access to youthful minds through LGBT characters in video games,” referring to the group’s fervent protests of Star Wars: The Old Republic for allowing users to enter same-sex relationships, “they also want to impact a captured audience of tens of thousands of children during the first Saturday of Summer Break”:
How would you feel if you entered the Magic Kingdom anticipating a normal day of fun with your family only to witness thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing and wearing tee-shirts that promoted their lifestyle?
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) activists converge on the Magic Kingdom the first Saturday of every June for an event called Gay Day at Disney.
Just like activists’ attempts to gain access to youthful minds through LGBT characters in video games they also want to impact a captured audience of tens of thousands of children during the first Saturday of Summer Break.
Last year Florida Family Association hired an aircraft company to pull a banner for ten hours the day before and ten hours the day of to warn families about this offensive event before they arrived at the park on Saturday.
The airplane banner influenced mainstream family attendance at Disney during Gay Day to DROP between 50% to 60%. We believe this aircraft banner warning to families SPARED TENS OF THOUSANDS of children from the unexpected exposure to this coming out party. This airplane banner is the most cost effective manner to warn families before they:
• Expose their children to same-sex revelry.
• Spend hundreds of dollars on tickets.
• Pay for parking.
• Commit a day for fun now ruined.
• Purchase food and novelties.
The tragic death of Trayvon Martin – the 17 year old African American who was slain while walking down the sidewalk of a gated community – has shocked the nation, and has drawn international attention to the role of race relations in America.
The tragedy has also shed light on Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law, which expands the legal justifications for "justifiable homicide" – and which is key to the "self-defense" claims of Trayvon’s alleged shooter, George Zimmerman. This "Stand Your Ground" law, signed into Florida statutes in 2005, became a model for legislation pushed by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and with ALEC’s help has since been replicated in states across the country.
On April 26th, 2005, Florida became the first state in the nation to pass "Stand Your Ground" legislation, which expanded the circumstances under which the use of deadly force for self-defense is considered justifiable. Under the so-called "Castle Doctrine," a person’s right to defend themselves from attack in their own home has traditionally been recognized and typically in such circumstances the burden falls on the individual to prove that the use of force is reasonable. Under the expanded “Stand Your Ground” laws, the permissible use of deadly force for self-defense expands beyond the home, into spaces including personal vehicles and even public places, and the burden of showing that the use of force was unreasonable falls on the prosecution. It is such provisions which are apparently complicating the current investigations in the Martin shooting.
"Stand Your Ground" laws have been popping up around the country in recent years (24 states currently have them on the books) – and that’s no coincidence. Just as we have seen with the proliferation of Voter-ID laws, the force behind the trend is ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded front group that has helped advance the most extreme laws adopted by state legislatures, from SB 1070 in Arizona to SB 5 in Ohio.
Again and again, we’ve seen corporations use ALEC to push laws that put profits above the wellbeing of ordinary people. In the case of “Stand Your Ground” legislation, the weapons industry and ALEC have advocated for a law that encourages more people to carry weapons, thereby increasing industry profits.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a prominent member of ALEC, and has used its influence within the organization to push pro-gun policies across the country. In 2008, ALEC employee Michael Hough appeared on NRA News to talk about ALEC’s amicus brief in support of the NRA’s position in District of Columbia v. Heller. Hough described ALEC as a “very pro-Second Amendment organization,” and also stated, “Some of the things we were pushing in states was the Castle Doctrine [the name for ALEC’s model bill], we worked with the NRA with that, that’s one of our model bills that we have states introduce, and another one was the emergency powers legislation which was enacted in a couple states.”
Despite their grassroots image, the NRA is far from being simply a grassroots organization. An extensive report by the Violence Policy Center documents how gun companies bankroll the NRA through their many opportunities to sponsor NRA programs and make direct contributions to the organization:
Since 2005, corporations—gun related and other—have contributed between $19.8 million and $52.6 million to the NRA as detailed in its Ring of Freedom corporate giving program.1 In a promotional brochure for the program, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promises that the “National Rifle Association’s newly expanded Corporate Partners Program is an opportunity for corporations to partner with the NRA....This program is geared toward your company’s corporate interests.” The vast majority of funds—74 percent—contributed to the NRA from “corporate partners” are members of the firearms industry: companies involved in the manufacture or sale of firearms or shooting-related products. Contributions to the NRA from the firearms industry since 2005 total between $14.7 million and $38.9 million.
That corporate funding helps to explain why the NRA has the means to donate, for example, $25,000 to ALEC in 2011 to achieve "Vice-Chairman" level sponsorship for ALEC’s annual conference. It also explains why NRA lobbying efforts are so important to their mission, since the laws they lobby for enrich the financial funders of the organization.
Unfortunately, until we change it, the ALEC model is working – for the corporations that fund the network. Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" legislation and ALEC’s model bill contain identical language, which has now been introduced in states across the country.
Those who aren’t served by this system are the American people. When politicians enact ALEC legislation that benefits corporations, real people suffer the consequences. The results are tragic:
(Source: Data issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement in response to the Justice Department’s announcement that it would open a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin:
“It is shocking that nearly 60 years after the murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager can be killed simply for walking down the street, and his killer not even tried. Trayvon Martin’s life was not expendable. Unfortunately, for many weeks local law enforcement acted as if it were.
“The Justice Department was right to open an investigation into Trayvon’s murder. All his family is asking for is their constitutional right to equal justice under the law, for our justice system to recognize the value of their son’s life. In 2012, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is an alliance of over 700 progressive African American clergy supporting social justice, civil rights, and reproductive health and justice.
There are few political operatives active today that are as ruthless and cynical as Ralph Reed.
Reed is, after all, the man who infamously declared that he specializes in "guerrilla warfare," and bragged "I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag."
Reed also knowingly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff to manipulate and mobilize his Religious Right allies to fight gambling expansions in order to protect Abramoff's client's gambling interests. Reed even had some of the money laundered through third-parties in order to try and conceal its origins, yet continues to insist to this day that he is "proud" of the "outstanding" work he did on behalf of Abramoff and his clients.
So it is a little ironic to see him speaking to the Palms West Republican Club in Florida recently, in a video recorded and posted by Conservative New Media, as he warns that there is no candidate who is as tough, mean, and cynical as President Obama and that his campaign will be "coming with a knife in an alley" to launch an all-out scorched earth campaign against the Republican nominee: