Yesterday, voters in Tennessee approved a ballot measure amending the state constitution to remove all legal protections for abortion rights, paving the way for state lawmakers to pass broad abortion restrictions. At the same time, voters in Colorado and North Dakota overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” measures that would have given the full rights of citizenship to zygotes, thereby criminalizing all abortion along with some forms of birth control. In Colorado, where the nation’s foremost personhood advocacy group is based, it was the third time such a measure had been rejected by voters.
Yesterday’s results are the product of a split among the anti-choice movement about how to achieve the goal of criminalizing all abortions. While most of the movement shares this end-game, its leaders are bitterly divided over the best strategy to achieve it.
The nation’s largest and best-funded anti-choice groups, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List, favor an incremental approach to chipping away at the protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. The incremental strategy has had tremendous success in recent years as measures on the state level have forced scores of abortion clinics to shut their doors. Women in Cincinnati, for instance, still have a legal right to an abortion. But thanks to a recent law aimed at shutting down abortion providers, they may soon lose access to the city’s only clinic that provides the service.
And even in North Dakota, although zygotes won’t be given the legal rights of people (at least for the time being), anti-choice activists are targeting the state’s sole abortion provider, which was struggling to keep its doors open and was recently banned from administering medical abortions.
The personhood movement is angry at mainstream anti-choice leaders for being willing to accept “compromise” legislation that includes exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. But it also thinks that the incremental strategy won’t work. Instead, personhood advocates seek to take advantage of a loophole in Roe v. Wade by which, they believe, if a zygote or a fetus is defined by law as a legal person, Roe’s abortion protections will fall. Groups pushing the so-far unsuccessful personhood ballot measures have allies in this strategy in some far-right judges, most notably on the Alabama Supreme Court, who are trying to build a legal framework for undermining Roe.
On the electoral level, the personhood strategy’s biggest flaw may be it is just too honest about the goals of the anti-choice movement. While Americans are fairly evenly split between those who call themselves pro-choice and those who choose the label pro-life, 70 percent want to keep Roe v. Wade and only 24 percent want to overturn it. Americans have muddled views about circumstances under which they think abortion should be legal, but know that they don’t want it to be completely criminalized.
Groups like Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List know this and have stayed far away from personhood measures. When a Mother Jones reporter asked AUL for a comment on North Dakota’s measure, a spokeswoman replied, “AUL does not handle personhood issues.”
But other national groups have supported these measures. While National Right to Life’s affiliate in Colorado opposed that state’s measure , saying it would be “immediately overturned in court,” the national group’s North Dakota affiliate backed its state’s even more extreme measure. And while Colorado Republican senator-elect Cory Gardner ran away from the personhood issue, both of North Dakota’s senators supported the ballot measure in their state. The Family Research Council’s North Dakota affiliate also got behind the measure in its state, along with the state chapter of Concerned Women for America and the North Dakota Catholic Conference.
And despite the unpopularity of their bills at the ballot box, personhood advocates still have a strong hold in Congress, where “life at conception” bills have 22 sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.
But in the end, even as anti-choice Republicans won handily in Colorado and North Dakota, the personhood measures went down in flames, leading the proponents of the Colorado proposal to rejoice that they at least lost less badly than they had in the past.
The victory of the measure in Tennessee — which will allow legislators to broadly cut off access to abortion rights without explicitly criminalizing abortion — shows that, for now, the incrementalists’ strategy is winning. Even voters in dark-red states like North Dakota can’t stomach a bill that outright criminalizes all abortions. But the anti-choice movement’s strategy to approach the same goal through different means is, so far, working.
Surprise! A new Government Accountability Office study shows that Kansas’ new voter ID requirement depressed turnout in the 2012 election, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is not happy about it.
Kobach was the driving force behind Kansas’ voter ID law, which he called the “Cadillac of voter security.” The law passed in 2011, and its photo ID requirement kicked in for the 2012 election — that’s the provision that the GAO found decreased turnout, especially among young people and African Americans.
But since then, a new provision in the law has taken effect, making it even harder to vote in Kansas. As of last month, tens of thousands of Kansans had had their voter registrations suspended because of failure to provide one of a narrow list of “proof of citizenship” documents required under this new, Kobach-backed provision.
The “proof of citizenship” fiasco has become a main issue in Kobach’s tough reelection fight, causing many moderate Republicans to break ranks and back his Democratic opponent Jean Schodorf.
So, unsurprisingly, Kobach is not thrilled with the GAO study showing that even the first step of his “Cadillac” plan is driving people from voting, telling the Wichita Eagle that the report from the nonpartisan agency is just “dead wrong.”
“I think the GAO just got it dead wrong,” Kobach told The Eagle Wednesday. “This year we have a very competitive U.S. Senate race and lots of get-out-the-vote efforts. It’s a huge factor in driving turnout when campaigns spend this kind of money.”
Kobach also said it would have been more accurate to compare Kansas’ turnout in 2012 to its turnout in 2000, the last time there were no U.S. Senate or statewide offices on the ballot. In 2000, voter turnout was 66.7 percent, and in 2012, it was 66.8 percent.
The report says voter turnout decreased in Kansas and Tennessee from the 2008 to the 2012 general elections to a greater extent than turnout decreased in selected comparison states – Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Maine. Tennessee’s secretary of state, Tre Hargett, also called the study flawed.
The GAO stood by its study, saying its “methodology was robust and valid.”
Rebecca Gambler, director of homeland security and justice issues for the GAO, said the agency selected Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Maine for comparison because they did not have any changes to their state voter ID requirements between 2008 and 2012.
“They didn’t have other contemporaneous changes. They had similar election cycles to Kansas and Tennessee,” Gambler said.
The GAO reported that its analysis “suggests that the turnout decreases in Kansas and Tennessee beyond decreases in comparison states were attributable to changes in the two states’ voter ID requirements.”
A Tennessee Republican county commissioner is campaigning against his Democratic challenger, a Muslim-American, by questioning his opponent’s patriotism while reminding voters of his own Christian beliefs.
A report from Sunday’s The Tennessean highlights a letter Coffee County Republican Commissioner Mark Kelly sent voters alleging that his opponent has made statements calling for the American flag and the Bible to be removed from public spaces … even though “Kelly was unable to cite any specific instance when [Zak] Mohyuddin made such statements.”
Kelly told The Tennessean that the letter was just to remind voters of “the difference in views between two people,” namely that he is a Christian and Mohyuddin is not.
Last year, Coffee County Commissioner Barry West posted an image of a man aiming a shotgun with the caption: “How to wink at a Muslim.”
H/T: RWW reader Chris.
In a July 16 letter asking District 15 constituents for their vote, Republican Commissioner Mark Kelly made the following claims about his Democratic political opponent, Zak Mohyuddin:
"My opponent has expressed his beliefs publicly that the United States is not a Christian nation; that the American flag should be removed from public buildings because it is a symbol of tyranny and oppression; that public prayer should be banned because it insults non-Christians; and that the Bible should be removed from public places."
When questioned by The Tennessean about how he knew the statements were true, Kelly was unable to cite any specific instance when Mohyuddin made such statements. He said he had heard it during private conversations with him.
Mohyuddin, a 25-year resident of Tullahoma, was deeply offended by the statements and is scrambling to assure voters the claims are untrue as early voting began Friday.
"That is a very serious allegation. What he is saying is vile and offensive and completely untrue," Mohyuddin said. "It's an attack on my patriotism. I have never ever said any words even close to that in public or in private. It is absolute lies. It's not like he doesn't know me."
Kelly, who has known Mohyuddin for 25 years and helped him move into his home, told The Tennessean he is not anti-Muslim and that he stands by his letter.
"I am a Christian and have been and will be. Zak isn't, and he has a different faith and there are a lot of different faiths," Kelly said. "I am standing on my values and my record. The point of the letter was to encourage the conservative base to get out and vote. It was simply to show the difference in views between two people, not that one is right or wrong, just a difference."
Kelly also wrote in the letter: "I believe in the Christian values and work ethics that are the foundation of this great nation … Our Founding Fathers prayed to God and established our Nation and its Laws based on the Judeo-Christian principles of the Bible. Because the Bible is foundational to understanding American history and law as well as our heritage; the Bible belongs in public places."
Early this week, the Senate is scheduled to hold cloture votes on four judicial nominees, including Timothy Brooks, nominee for the Western District of Arkansas and Pamela Reeves, nominee for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Brooks and Reeves have been waiting for confirmation votes on the Senate floor since October 31 and November 14, respectively.
As we noted earlier this month, Republicans are routinely delaying nominations on the Senate floor by requiring Democrats to invoke cloture on every single judicial nominee and then piling on hours of unneeded “post-cloture debate” for each nominee who is called up for a vote. This practice creates a weeks-long backlog of nominees awaiting votes and prevents the Senate from moving on to other business. Nominees like Brooks and Reeves could have been confirmed within minutes after they were sent to the Senate floor last year. Instead, both of these nominations were sent back to the president in early January at the end of the first session of the 113th Congress to be re-nominated. After further needless delays in Committee, the nominees were finally placed on the Senate calendar only to wait an additional two months for consideration.
After the Senate has finally worked through the backlog of nominees to get to the Arkansas and Tennessee vacancies, Republicans are throwing up additional roadblocks, forcing Senator Reid to file cloture petitions, which will further delay their consideration. These nonsensical delays of well qualified nominees undermine the public’s faith in the Senate and create hardship for those seeking justice in the courts.
Tennessee has become a hotbed of wild Sharia law paranoia, and hucksters like John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who has made a career pushing anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, have cashed in.
During an appearance on Crosstalk with VCY America’s Vic Eliason, Guandolo told a caller from Tennessee that his state — which has a whopping 1% Muslim population — is a hotbed of Sharia law and potential terrorism.
“I have spent a lot of time in Tennessee because Tennessee is one of the most dangerous states in the union with regard to this threat, you have some very courageous state legislators who are addressing the threat but you also have some folks there in leadership positions who are not addressing it,” Guandolo said, adding that that Muslim Brotherhood members he arrested confirmed his claims.
Recently, Tennessee Republican politicians were upset about a mop sink which they thought could be used for Muslim foot washing, claimed Islam isn’t a religion, backed legislation to make it a crime to practice Sharia law and tried to ban a mosque, that has been the center of lawsuits and vandalism.
GOP and Tea Party activists have also called for the state’s Republican governor to fire a Muslim state employee because of her faith, and after he refused accused him of supporting Sharia law.
Conservative leaders from Herman Cain to Pat Robertson lauded anti-Muslim activists in Tennessee who tried to block the construction of a mosque in the city of Murfreesboro. Mosque opponents alleged that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) would aid terrorists, establish Sharia law and increase the Muslim population. With the help of Frank Gaffney, they argued that their push to stop construction of the mosque didn’t violate the First Amendment since Islam is not a religion.
Even after losing their lawsuit and the completion of construction, anti-Muslim activists are now asking the government to seize the year-old mosque.
Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press reports that ICM opponents refer to the mosque as a threat to public safety:
Mosque opponents in Murfreesboro, Tenn., want the county to seize a newly constructed Islamic Center and turn it over to someone else.
J. Thomas Smith, an attorney for citizens asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision that allowed occupancy of the new 12,000-square-foot Islamic Center of Murfreesboro last November, told The Tennessean there would be several acceptable remedies should his clients prevail.
“I think the county would step in and have someone else take it over," Smith said.
An application for appeal filed July 29 asks the state’s high court to overrule a May 29 opinion of the Tennessee Court of Appeals that notice of the May 24, 2010, meeting of the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission was adequate according to the state’s open meetings law.
That reversed a June 1, 2012, ruling by local Chancellor Robert Corlew III that The Murfreesboro Post, a free-distribution weekly newspaper that carried notice of the meeting in which the planning commission approved plans for the ICM to construct a mosque just outside the Murfreesboro city limits, did not meet the standard requiring that such legal ads be purchased in a newspaper with “general circulation.”
While the lawsuit’s main argument is that citizens were denied proper notice to voice their objections before the project’s approval, it also objects to Corlew’s refusal to allow the testimony by two expert witnesses called to testify about alleged “Sharia-Jihad” risks related to the Islamic congregation that had been meeting in a smaller facility within Murfreesboro for about 30 years.
“The issue of the risk to public safety from the Sharia/Jihad teaching and practices of a regional Islamic training center such as the ICM was the major factual issue dealt with by the Court in its November 2010 opinion,” the Supreme Court document says.
Corlew said testimony by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney about “red flags of terrorism” connected to the mosque was inadmissible, because Islam is a religion and entitled to the same right to construct a building as a church.
A spokesperson for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said she was unaware of any criminal complaints against the new mosque.
Mosque members cannot say the same. Even before construction someone vandalized a sign at the future mosque site by spray painting it with the phrase "Not Welcome." A second sign vandalism occurred later, and finally somebody set fire to heavy construction equipment parked on the lot for site clearing.
In 2011, the Islamic Center received a bomb threat in a profanity-laced phone call threatening that a bomb would be placed in the facility on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In June, Javier Alan Corre of Corpus Christi, Texas, apologized to the imam and mosque leaders and pleaded guilty to a federal charge.
Corre, 25, said he had been drinking and wasn’t thinking clearly when he made the call, and that he understands that all Muslims are not terrorists.
An event in Eastern Tennessee last week sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council, meant to be a discussion of “public discourse in a diverse society,” was taken over by a crowd of anti-Islam protesters that spilled out of the building.
Among the protesters, of course, was Pamela Geller, who, according to a video posted this weekend, grabbed a bullhorn and warned the audience of the “enemy” media who “shill for Islamic supremecists,” public schools that “marinate” children’s “brains in leftist, toxic fumes” and the “tools” at the Department of Justice, which she claimed is a “de facto legal arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Geller went on to claim that her free speech rights were in danger, threatening, “Without freedom of speech, peace-filled men must resort to violence. And we don’t want to!”
As Little Green Footballs notes, pay close attention to the spelling of the sign behind Geller.
Geller: What we’re seeing is a complete disinformation campaign, an obfuscation, a covering up by the ene-media. They are the enemy. They shill for Islamic supremecists and jihadist-aligned groups, and we have to leapfrog over that information superhighway.
Audience member: The Common Core curriculum is being shoved down our throats in this state!
Geller: You’ve got to fight back, ma’am. You’ve got to get on the school boards. You’ve got to get involved. Let me tell you something, we are living on the fumes of the Greatest Generation that defeated evil. That’s what we’re doing. This generation has to fight, and our children have been completely compromised in the public school system, where they inculcate them, they marinate their brains in leftist, toxic fumes.
Geller: The freedom of speech is a line in the sand, because without freedom of speech, peace-filled men must resort to violence. And we don’t want to! They came and they want to criminalize speech that’s inflammatory. Really? So, the whole New York Times and the L.A. Times and ABC News, they gotta go to jail. Who decides what’s inflammatory? If you read my Twitter feed, if you read my Facebook comments, they call me the most vile names, and really the death threats, I have a file this big. You know what, it’s free speech.
Enough already. Enough already with the nonsense. It’s a way of silencing critics of Islam, it’s a way of imposing the Sharia. That’s what they do. And these tools, and that’s what they are, these tools in the Justice Department, which has become, by the way, in the Obama administration, a de facto legal arm of the Muslim Brotherhood…
Reverend William (Bill) Owens is the founder and president of a tiny outfit that goes by the name of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. The group’s sole reason for existing appears to be attacking African-American leaders and organizations from the right. Among other things, Owens thinks a man having sex with another man is like a man having sex with a dog. He also thinks that people become gay because they were molested as kids. But more on that later.
A few months ago, the Commercial Appeal carried an article with a young man’s picture in it. He was charged with having sex with a dog. Now I wonder was that his civil right? Will we go down that road where whatever we choose to do, we’ll call it our civil rights? Well if it’s a civil right for a man to marry man, and a woman to marry woman, what’s the difference of a man deciding he wants to have sex with a dog? […]When people that you don’t know they’re homosexuals, and they get caught into something, they will tell you it was early childhood that they were molested. Sometimes by a family member, sometimes by their father, or sometimes by a friend. It starts in early childhood. […] Homosexuality spreads because somebody abused children.
The latest conspiracy theory sweeping the tea party movement is the fear that Agenda 21, a United Nations program focusing on sustainable development, is surreptitiously destroying the American way of life. Tennessee House Republicans recently passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brooks, condemning the plan, using almost identical language from a John Birch Society model bill. The Tennessean reports:
Tennessee lawmakers passed a resolution Thursday condemning a United Nations environmental plan as a “destructive and insidious” effort to advance a communist agenda through the guise of community planning.
The state House of Representatives voted 72-23 in favor of House Joint Resolution 587, which denounces the nonbinding Agenda 21 plan adopted by a United Nations environmental conference two decades ago.
The plan called on members of the United Nations to adopt sustainable development principles to alleviate poverty and combat global warming. But the resolution approved by Tennessee lawmakers on Thursday depicts it as a plan for the “socialist/communist redistribution of wealth” through energy conservation policies, zoning restrictions and forced abortions.
“It reads well. It has nice words like sustainability and helping the poor,” said state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin. “But what these people want to do is they want to cap the number of people this planet can have. … So ladies and gentlemen, if that doesn’t bother you, if those words don’t scare you, we’ve got to talk.”
Two other states, Georgia and New Hampshire, have considered anti-Agenda 21 measures this year. Brooks said the resolution had been promoted by the RNC.
But the measure matches up nearly word for word with a model posted on the website of the John Birch Society, a conservative group that Republicans have largely shunned since the 1960s, Turner said.
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 587
By Brooks K
A RESOLUTION relative to United Nations Agenda 21.
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States of America through the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) through local “sustainable development” policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other “Green” or “Alternative” projects; and
WHEREAS, this United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called “sustainable development” views the American way of life of private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms all as destructive to the environment; and
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth; and
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, national sovereignty is deemed a social injustice; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that the General Assembly recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21 and hereby exposes to the public and public policymakers the dangerous intent of the plan.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that neither the U.S. government nor any state or local government is legally bound by the United Nations Agenda 21 treaty in that it has never been endorsed by the U.S. Senate.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the federal government and state and local governments across the country be well informed of the underlying harmful implications of implementation of United Nations Agenda 21 destructive strategies for “sustainable development,” and we hereby endorse rejection of its radical policies and rejection of any grant monies attached to it.
From the John Birch Society:
A MODEL STOP AGENDA 21 BILL FOR STATE LEGISLATURES
AN ACT relative to the United Nations Agenda 21 and the non-governmental organization International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, also known as ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.
WHEREAS, for the purposes of this act, a “political subdivision” means all state, county, incorporated city, unincorporated city, public local entity, public-private partnership, or any other public entity thereof; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992; and
WHEREAS, neither the U.S. government nor any state or local government is legally bound by the United Nations Agenda 21 treaty in that it has never been ratified by the U.S. Senate; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States of America through the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), now calling itself “Local Governments for Sustainability,” through local "sustainable development" policies, such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other "Green" or "Alternative" projects; and
WHEREAS, this plan of radical so-called "sustainable development" views the American way of life of private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms all as destructive to the environment; and
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth; and
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, national sovereignty is deemed a social injustice; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the state of ___________ and all political subdivisions are prohibited from implementing programs of, expending any sum of money for, being a member of, receiving funding from, contracting services from, or giving financial or other forms of aid to ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability, or any other organization promoting the implementation of the United Nations Agenda 21, sustainable development, or smart growth.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the members of this body recognize the destructive and insidious nature of the United Nations Agenda 21, endorse rejection of its radical policies and of any grant monies attached to it, and recommend exposing to the public and public policymakers across the country the dangerous intent of the plan.