Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards spent much of her time at yesterday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on her organization’s federal funding explaining how Medicaid reimbursements work. Planned Parenthood, just like other health care providers that accept Medicaid, receives reimbursements for its health care services for low-income people, excluding abortion services.
Many Republican members of the committee, however, were unable or unwilling to grasp this, including Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee, who demanded that Richards explain why Planned Parenthood gets more federal funding than the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Richards noted that the Boys and Girls Club, which receives some grants from the Justice Department for its youth programs, is not a health care provider.
“Well, I think the cost of providing health care to 2.7 million people, and I very much respect the Boys and Girls Club, but we work like hospitals and other health care providers in being reimbursed directly for services that we provide,” Richards explained. “Again, I think the comparison is a little apples and oranges.”
After Richards explained again how Medicaid reimbursements work, Duncan changed strategies and asked Richards to clarify that she does not “defend the sale of baby body parts.”
Yesterday, the Family Research Council announced that Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a Religious Right hero for prohibiting her office from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, would be receiving an award at its upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.
It turns out that Kim is not the only member of the family who has been transformed into a Religious Right celebrity, as her second/fourth husband Joe Davis will be a featured speaker at an upcoming "Stand in the Gap for Truth" rally being organized by the Tennessee Pastors Network, which is an arm of the American Pastors Network.
Davis will be speaking along with Richard Land, E.W. Jackson, Rafael Cruz and several others:
Joe Davis had been living a quiet life in Kentucky with his wife, Kim. But this summer, the Davises were thrown into the national spotlight over religious freedoms and the rights all Americans have when it comes to their closely held religious convictions.
As Kim returned to work in the Rowan County’s clerk’s office yesterday, after being jailed for six days for refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couple, Joe is traveling to Nashville to rally others to stand for their freedoms like his wife did.
On Thursday, Joe Davis, often seen wearing his signature straw hat and overalls, will be a part of an exciting and much-needed event that will help motivate Tennesseans to defend their religious freedom and uphold God’s design for the nation at the “Stand in the Gap for Truth” Rally, hosted by the Tennessee Pastors Network (TNPN, www.tnpastors.net).
Starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 17, the rally will take place at the Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Ave N in Nashville. Pastors throughout Tennessee who are part of TNPN will partner with state legislators to host the event that will engage Tennesseans to address the most talked-about issues of the day such as shifting marriage and family foundations, an unworkable immigration system, weak terrorism laws, failing education, a damaging nationalized health care system, lack of religious freedom protections and the blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“This summer, Kim and Joe Davis have been a part of a religious freedom battle of a lifetime,” said TNPN President Dale Walker. “And now, we are honored to welcome Joe to the ‘Stand in the Gap for Truth’ Rally, as he has shared about their experiences that have essentially changed this nation’s history. We are thankful for those like the Davises who have stood for freedom—not only for themselves, but for all Americans. In Nashville on Thursday, we want to fill the Legislative Plaza with thousands who want to take that stand, too.”
Last month, we noted that Sen. Ted Cruz had picked Lee Bright, a state senator with a record of stoking fears of a new civil war, to co-chair his presidential campaign in South Carolina. Cruz has now made a similarly revealing choice in Tennessee, according to the AP, picking Tea Party activist and former Williamson Country GOP chairman Kevin Kookogey to lead his campaign in that state.
Back in 2012, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam faced a backlash within his own party. His offense? Picking a Muslim American woman who had previously built expertise in Sharia-compliant finance — helping Muslim business owners arrange for loans in ways that don’t run afoul of religious restrictions on paying or collecting interest — to a top economic position in the state.
Egged on by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, who warned that “ the financial jihadists will soon be targeting the Volunteer state for infiltration and influence operations,” a number of county GOP committees passed resolutions condemning Haslam for his hire. One of those resolutions was spearheaded by Kookogey, who told Talking Points Memo that Haslam had neglected to “consider that, perhaps, those bent on destroying Western Civilization might just be infiltrating our institutions.”
“It is not like this has never happened before,” he continued. “The Muslim Brotherhood is following the blueprint of the Communists, who infiltrated the highest levels of government and society in the 1950's. Shariah, however, is an even greater threat, because it has cloaked itself under the auspices of a religion, thus confusing the uninformed."
Kookogey also used his position as county GOP chairman to warn that Agenda 21 — a nonbinding UN sustainable development resolution signed by President George H.W. Bush — “ is, in fact, an insidious strategy of environmental totalitarianism”:
Of course, the choice of Kookogey as a top state official isn’t a huge surprise coming from Cruz, who himself has claimed that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in American life and warned that Agenda 21 is a scheme to abolish golf courses.
A Republican state legislator in Tennessee has introduced a bill to root out and eliminate so-called “no-go zones” in the state, despite no evidence that such zones exist in Tennessee or anywhere else.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Susan Lynn, instructs the state attorney general to “report to the department of justice that a no-go zone exists within political subdivisions of the state” and to then “take all necessary steps to eliminate the no-go zone to enforce compliance with state and federal law.”
It defines a “no-go zone” as “a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area.”
Lynn told the Tennessean that her bill was not meant to target Muslims, although she had heard of “no-go zones” being established by “certain religious groups.” She added that her effort is “the same sort of thing” as federal efforts to desegregate schools:
[Lynn] argues her bill doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Muslims. She said banning such zones will combat systemic problems and protect commerce.
"You might find it with gang activity, you might find it with organized crime, and of course we have heard that there were some places where it is happening with certain religious groups," Lynn said.
There are already laws that prevent gangs, or anyone else, from harassing people in public spaces. Lynn argued those laws might help prevent one-time events, but they're no use for "a systemic" problem. She said the federal government intervening to force public universities to allow black students to attend during the Civil Rights era is "really the same sort of thing."
"People were prevented from getting an education. Do you call the police for that? Well no, that's not the right mechanism. They had to call the Department of Justice," Lynn said.
Tennessee has long been on the forefront of combatting nonexistent Muslim threats, passing one of the nation’s first Sharia law bans in 2010. The sponsor of the senate version of Lynn’s bill is Bill Ketron, introduced a bill in 2011 that would have jailed anyone who personally adhered to Sharia law, and once fretted that a low-set bathroom sink in the state capitol was installed for Muslims to wash their feet before prayer (it was, in fact, meant for janitors to wash their mops).
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…