Virginia

Republicans Said What About Immigrants?

Today PFAW is releasing a new digital ad in Virginia highlighting GOP Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock’s dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants. Taking a page out of former gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s playbook, who has compared immigrants to rats, last month Comstock compared immigrants to FedEx packages.

Comstock said in a recent debate: “Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.”

Beginning today, the ad (pictured above) will run in Northern Virginia until Election Day, as will a Spanish-language version of the ad. The text above the ad notes:

Virginia Republicans continue to use dehumanizing and degrading language towards immigrants. Hold them accountable on Election Day, November 4!

Comstock’s comment is just the latest example from a political party that continues to alienate the Latino community with its demeaning rhetoric and harmful agenda. Despite what GOP candidates may believe, immigrants are not rats, or Fed Ex packages, or dogs, or drug runners. That’s why PFAW is working hard this election cycle — in states including Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Wisconsin — to highlight for Latino voters the harmful track records of GOP candidates, and encouraging voters to keep that in mind when they cast their ballots on Election Day.

PFAW

People. Not Packages.

GOP Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock thinks the government should track immigrants like FedEx tracks packages.

"Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time," Comstock said. "We can track people who are coming into the country."

Last year, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli even compared immigrants to rats.

Republicans aren’t just using dehumanizing rhetoric – they’re pushing an agenda that would harm Virginia families.

People are not Packages!

Vote against the Republicans on November 4th.

 

Eugene Delgaudio Warns Gay Men Will Soon Be 'Skipping Down To Adoption Centers To Pick Out A Little Boy For Themselves'

Eugene Delgaudio, a Loudoun County, Virginia Republican supervisor who heads the group Public Advocate of the United States is warning his supporters that gay people are preparing to “terrorize daycare centers, hospitals, churches and private schools” by teaching schoolchildren “perverted sex acts” and getting married, at which point “[y]ou’ll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to ‘pick out’ a little boy for themselves.”

In a fundraising email yesterday with the subject line, “They say you support homosexual ‘marriage,’” Delgaudio told supporters that he is the only one who can reverse the “Homosexual Agenda” in Congress.

You see, the radical homosexuals are storming through Washington demanding passage of their agenda.

And with the Democrats dominating the Senate and Barack Obama calling the shots in the White House, they say NOW is the time to push their perverse “lifestyle” on every man, woman and child in America.

And they insist YOU actually support them.

To make matters worse, more and more Republicans in Congress are coming out in favor of the Homosexual Agenda .

The Homosexual Lobby has already rammed through Thought Control and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I can only begin to imagine how much more damage the radical homosexuals will do now that they’ve broken the ranks of the opposition party.

As the President of Public Advocate of the United States, I’ve devoted thirty years to battling the radical homosexuals in Washington.

Backed by Hollywood celebrities, the media, and millions of your tax dollars, the radical homosexuals have many Congressmen, both Democrat AND Republican, quivering with fear -- and because of that they have a radical homosexual-friendly majority in control of Congress.

That’s why pro-Family Senators and Congressmen are counting on me to find out if you really support the Gay Bill of Special Rights and homosexual “marriage” as the radical homosexuals claim .

Frankly, if you really do support the radical Homosexual Agenda -- or if you just no longer care enough to stand up for the Family -- insiders in Congress say the entire Homosexual Agenda could pass in a matter of months.

Passage of the Homosexual Agenda will ignite a firestorm that will rip through families, communities and businesses:

* Special job rights for homosexuals. Businesses may have to adopt hiring quotas to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every homosexual fired or not hired becomes a potential federal civil rights lawsuit.

Radical homosexuals will terrorize daycare centers, hospitals, churches and private schools. Traditional moral values will be shattered by federal law.

* Same-sex marriages and adoptions. Wedding gown-clad men smooching before some left-wing clergyman or state official is just the beginning.

You’ll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to “pick out” a little boy for themselves.

* The Homosexual Classrooms Act, which pushes their agenda into our schools. Your children or grandchildren will be taught homosexuality is moral, natural and good. High school children will learn perverted sex acts as part of “safe sex” education.

With condoms already handed out in many schools, radical homosexuals will have little trouble adopting today’s “if it feels good do it” sex-ed curriculum to their agenda.

But the email doesn’t stop there. Delgaudio goes on to tell the harrowing story of a recent “stormy night” in which he drove to a deserted warehouse where “long-haired, earring-pierced” men were printing gay-rights petitions until they spotted him and chased him away, shouting, “This time, Delgaudio, we can’t lose!” [UPDATE: Joe points out that this story is a favorite of Delgaudio's.]

One stormy night, I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself.

As I rounded the final turn, my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses.

Trembling with worry, I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined.

Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling .

My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.

Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, “Delgaudio, what are you doing here?” Dozens of men began moving toward me. I’d been recognized.

As I retreated to my car, the man chortled, “This time, Delgaudio, we can’t lose !”

Driving away, my eyes filled with tears as I realized he might be right. This time the radical homosexuals could win.

You see, even though homosexuals are just 1% of the population, if every one sent a petition to Congress, it would generate a tidal wave of two or three million petitions or more.

Hundreds of thousands of pro-homosexual petitions will soon flood Congress , and my friends in Congress tell me there’s virtually nothing on Capitol Hill from the tens of millions of Americans like you who oppose the radical Homosexual Agenda and the Gay Bill of Special Rights.

I made up my mind that night to write to you and as many other patriotic Americans as possible. To stop the radical homosexuals and protect marriage, there must be an immediate outpouring of support from folks like you.

Delgaudio then repeats his fundraising plea to reach “twice as many” families as “all the homosexuals in America” so that he can finally let Congress know that the “radical homosexuals are lying.”

I’ve identified nearly 10 million families I believe would join our struggle for morality if only I can reach them. That’s more than twice as many as all the homosexuals in America ... and most of these families represent two or three voters each. But without your financial help, I’ll never be able to reach them.

My hope is you care enough to contribute sacrificially so I can reach these families.

A generous gift of $25 will let Public Advocate reach 45 more families. $50 will help us rally more than 97 homes. And a special gift of $100 will generate over 215 contacts.

Only you know whether chipping in $10, $20, or more is best suited to your budget.

I ask you to do what you can.

The radical homosexuals boast you support same-sex marriage, special job rights and the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Please let Congress know the radical homosexuals are lying.

H/T RWW reader Erik

Rep. Frank Wolf Says Christians May Need To Go To Jail In Order To Wake Up America

On Sunday, a variety of Religious Right groups hosted a webcast called "iPledgeSunday 2014: The Rise of the Church," designed to mobilize right-wing Christians before the midterm elections. Hosted by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and Live Action's Lila Rose, the event featured in-person interviews with people like Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver, as well as a variety of pre-taped interviews with Religious Right activists including David Barton, Jim Garlow, and the Benham Brothers.

Rep. Frank Wolf also appeared in a prerecorded interview, telling Perkins that religious liberty is under attack in America because the church has been intimidated and fallen into silence.

In order to combat this, the Virginia Republican said, Americans need to imitate people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and prepare to go to prison in the face of government oppression.

"Frankly," Wolf said, "some people in the church may have to go to jail and that would wake up America. That would literally wake up America if they arrested a cardinal, if they arrested a bishop, if they arrested a prominent pastor":

Barbara Comstock’s “FedEx” Comments Part-and-Parcel with GOP Trend of Dehumanizing Immigration Rhetoric

In a debate yesterday, Barbara Comstock, GOP candidate for Congress from Virginia’s 10th District, compared the tracking of immigrants to the tracking of Fedex packages.

I think first and foremost we need to stop playing politics with this, secure the borders, and just do it. We know how to do it. Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.

Comstock is not alone in her dehumanization of people coming to the U.S. Last year, Ken Cuccinelli compared immigrants to rats: “It is worse than our immigration policy. You can’t break up rat families…and you can’t even kill ‘em.”

People in Virginia and around the country need to know about the hateful rhetoric coming from the Right and the extremist views held by candidates vying for leadership positions. These are not fringe conservatives, but candidates in contested races who could eventually influence how immigration policy is shaped and the way our country is run.

Immigrants are not Fedex packages to be tracked, families of rats, or drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

PFAW

PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: September 25, 2014
Subject: PFAW Foundation’s Supreme Court 2014-2015 Term Preview


The beginning of a new Supreme Court term has become a time to worry, “What’s next?” In the past two terms alone, often in 5-4 decisions, the Roberts Court has severely undermined the Voting Rights Act, continued its assault on the American people’s efforts to limit money in politics, strengthened the hand of employers who discriminate, significantly eroded church-state separation, discovered religious rights for for-profit corporations seeking to deny female employees needed contraception coverage, undercut unions, and found ways to help large corporations bypass laws designed to limit their power over small businesses and ordinary people.

As bad as the Roberts Court has been, there have also been some good decisions in the most recent terms. For instance, the Court struck down the odious Defense of Marriage Act, upheld the EPA's general authority to issue regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, and unanimously recognized our Fourth Amendment right to privacy concerning our smart phones.

The 2014-2015 Term is set to begin on October 6, the traditional First Monday in October, and the Court will be hearing a number of important cases. At the same time, perhaps half the cases it will hear this term have not been determined or announced, and there is substantial speculation on whether it will hear cases on several high-profile issues, marriage equality most prominent among them. Below is a summary of some of the major cases the Court may hear this term, along with cases already scheduled that we will be following.


CASES THAT THE COURT MIGHT HEAR

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

If the Court accepts a marriage equality case, it will obviously become the blockbuster case of the term (and perhaps the decade). The Court has already been asked to hear appeals of pro-equality rulings by three circuit courts: From the Tenth Circuit are Herbert v. Kitchen (Utah) and Smith v. Bishop (Oklahoma). From the Fourth Circuit are Rainey v. Bostic, Schaefer v. Bostic, and McQuigg v. Bostic (all Virginia). From the Seventh Circuit are Bogan v. Baskin (Indiana) and Walker v. Wolf (Wisconsin). While states and government officials who lost in the lower courts are filing the appeals, the couples who won the cases are also urging the Court to hear the appeals, so there can finally be a national resolution to the issue.

Should one of the remaining circuit courts uphold a state marriage ban, the resulting split among circuits on such a major constitutional issue would almost guarantee review by the Supreme Court. But if every circuit continues to rule the same way, the Justices might decide to let the issue be resolved there.

Conservatives like Scalia and Thomas, who have in case after case shown their hostility to LGBT equality but may be unsure of how Kennedy would vote, might not be willing to risk a Supreme Court precedent that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. From their perspective, if they can’t change the outcome around the country, why make it worse by adding a jurisprudential nightmare from the nation’s highest court that would taint American law for decades to come?

For Justices likely to recognize the constitutional right to marriage equality, the calculation might be different. They, too, not knowing Kennedy’s position, might not want to risk a 5-4 ruling in the “wrong” direction on a major constitutional and societal issue. But even if they could be certain of being in the majority, they might find advantages to having the Court stay out. Justice Ginsburg, for instance, has suggested publicly that Roe v. Wade went “too far, too fast,” provoking a backlash that could otherwise have been avoided. If the legal question of marriage equality is being decided rightly in all the circuit courts, some Justices might rather leave well enough alone. In fact, Justice Ginsburg told a group of law students in mid-September that without a circuit split, she saw “no urgency” for the Court to take up the issue now, although she added that she expects the Court to take it up “sooner or later.”

Should the Court grant cert on one or more of the appeals, it could answer a number of critically important questions in addition to whether states can prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.

Exactly which constitutional right do the bans violate? While numerous courts have ruled in favor of same-sex couples, they have been anything but unanimous in their reasoning: Some have suggested that the bans violate the Due Process Clause, because the longstanding, fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry someone of the same sex. Other judges indicate that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they deny the right to marry based on the sex of the people seeking to get married. Still others suggest that the bans violate the Equal Protection Clause because they discriminate against gays and lesbians. While the different legal rationales would all have the same immediate result (marriage equality), they could create very different legal precedents and have very different impacts down the line as lower courts consider other types of discrimination, whether aimed at gays and lesbians, at transgender people, or at others.

A Supreme Court ruling might decide what level of scrutiny the Equal Protection Clause requires for laws that discriminate against gay people, an issue not squarely faced in previous cases. Most government classifications are subject to – and easily pass – “rational basis” scrutiny by the courts: The law is constitutional as long as it’s rationally related to some legitimate government interest. (The Court has said that animus against gays and lesbians is not a legitimate purpose, which in the past has let it bypass the question as to whether anti-gay laws warrant more scrutiny from the courts.)

But a few types of laws trigger heightened Equal Protection scrutiny. Sex-based classifications are subject to intermediate scrutiny: They must be substantially related to an important government interest. Race-based classifications are generally subject to strict scrutiny, the highest level: They must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. If the Court rules that laws discriminating against lesbians and gays warrant some level of heightened scrutiny, that would have an enormous impact nationwide on all kinds of laws that discriminate against lesbians and gays, not just marriage bans.

The Court’s discussion of this issue could also shed light on whether eliminating private discrimination against LGBT people is (in the Court’s eyes) a compelling government interest. This could have an enormous impact as courts consider right wing challenges to anti-discrimination laws on the basis of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or state-law analogs.


ACA SUBSIDIES

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act strategically launched lawsuits in four different circuits challenging federal subsidies for millions of Americans buying health insurance on federally-run exchanges. The circuits were apparently selected to maximize the possibility of a circuit split, which in turn would maximize the likelihood of getting the case heard by the Roberts Court, which (they hope) would deliver a crippling blow to Obamacare. Decisions have been reached in two of the circuits, although one has since been vacated.

Section 1311 of the ACA says states should set up insurance exchanges, while Section 1321 of the Act says the federal government can set one up if a state doesn't. Subsidies are available for less well-off people getting health insurance through an exchange, based on the amount the person pays for the insurance s/he is enrolled in through an exchange "established by the state under [section] 1311" of the ACA. The law’s opponents hope to have the Supreme Court rule that Congress intended for subsidies to be unavailable to Americans purchasing insurance through the federally-established exchanges that the law calls for in cases where the state does not step in. In other words, the argument is that Congress intended to undercut the financial viability of the law and thwart its central purpose.

A unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit rejected this wild claim in King v. Burwell. However, two far right judges on the D.C. Circuit formed a majority in a three-judge panel ruling actually agreeing with the Obama care opponents in Halbig v. Burwell. Dissenting Judge Harry Edwards recognized the lawsuit as a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” noting that “[i]t is inconceivable that Congress intended to give States the power to cause the ACA to crumble.” The full D.C. Circuit subsequently vacated the ruling and will consider the issue en banc, and most observers expect a ruling more like the Fourth Circuit’s.

But even if that happens, there are still lawsuits percolating in Indiana (Seventh Circuit) and Oklahoma (Tenth Circuit), so the hoped-for circuit split may yet occur. If it does, the Roberts Court is almost certain to consider the issue. While the case is transparently political and legally weak, that did not stop the conservative Justices when it came to the Commerce Clause challenge to the individual mandate.


CONTRACEPTION COVERAGE AND RELIGIOUS NONPROFITS

The Roberts Court may hear one or more cases involving religious nonprofits that oppose the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement, in a sequel to Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. In that case, the Roberts Court gave certain for-profit corporations religious liberty rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), then completely rewrote the law to give the chain store the right to “exercise” its religion by refusing to comply with the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement.

Under RFRA, a federal law cannot impose a substantial burden on a person’s religious exercise unless it is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and it is the least restrictive means of doing so. In Hobby Lobby, the Roberts Court concluded that the corporation and its owners suffered a “substantial” burden” on their religious exercise because the owners were offended by the contraception coverage requirement, even though it did not restrict or burden what they may believe or do. The majority also concluded that the law was not the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest in women’s health, because the Administration offers religious nonprofits an accommodation: They are exempt if they simply sign a form certifying that they are a religious nonprofit that objects to the provision of contraceptive services, and provide a copy of that form to their insurance issuer or third-party administrator, which then has the responsibility to pay for and provide the coverage. (Churches, in contrast, are wholly exempt.) The Roberts Court concluded that the federal government can make this accommodation available to for-profit corporations, meaning the coverage requirement is not the least restrictive means of achieving the ACA’s goal.

But three days later, the Court issued a temporary injunction against enforcing even this accommodation against Wheaton College, a non-profit religious institution that argued that the accommodation substantially burdens its religious freedom. This prompted a furious dissent from the three women Justices. Although the merits of the case are still being argued before a lower federal court, this was an ominous sign of how the Roberts Court will address the legal question when it inevitably reaches the high court.

Another high-profile case (or one similar to it) that may reach the Court involves Little Sisters of the Poor. This religious nonprofit organization, too, has a religious objection to the accommodation that was designed to meet its religious objections, arguing that the form is like a permission slip that would trigger contraception coverage, making the nuns complicit in sin. However, the Little Sisters’ insurer is classified as a “church plan,” which is actually exempt from the ACA requirement. So regardless of whether the Little Sisters signed the form, their employees would still not have the contraception coverage. Nevertheless, last January, while its RFRA suit against the contraception coverage provision was before the Tenth Circuit (where it is still pending), the Supreme Court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the law until a final resolution on the merits.

It seems likely that there will be a request that this issue be considered by the Supreme Court at some point this term, either through one of these cases or one similar to them.


CASES CURRENTLY BEFORE THE COURT


EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Young v. UPS: Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy

The Supreme Court is to decide to what extent employers can treat pregnant workers temporarily unable to work differently from other workers temporarily unable to work.

This case involves Peggy Young, a pregnant employee of UPS with temporary medical restrictions on how much she could safely lift. UPS did not make any accommodations for her, such as temporary alternative work. As a result, she spent several months on unpaid leave, during which she lost her medical coverage.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that discriminating against employees who are pregnant was not sex discrimination under Title VII. Congress corrected that interpretation of the law in 1978 with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which has two relevant provisions. First, it specifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The second provision explains how to apply that general principle: It says that women affected by pregnancy “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” This establishes a basis of comparison. So while a typical sex discrimination case looks at how a female plaintiff is treated in comparison to similarly situated men, a PDA case looks at how she is treated in comparison to non-pregnant workers with similar ability (or inability) to work.

UPS’s collective bargaining contract calls for UPS to accommodate temporarily disabled employees if the disability is due to an on-the-job injury, or if they have lost their DOT certification to drive. UPS also accommodates employees who have a permanent impairment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. UPS says its policy is “pregnancy-blind:” They claim they are treating Young the same way they’d treat a non-pregnant employee whose injury doesn’t fit any of the above conditions.

But Young argues that isn’t the proper analysis under the PDA. She points out that UPS would have made an accommodation for someone “similar in their ability or inability to work” to her if they were in one of those three categories. So, she concludes, the plain text of the PDA requires UPS to accommodate her, as well.

Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk: Overtime pay for workers at warehouse distribution centers

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can deny overtime pay to employees at “customer fulfillment” distribution centers for the time they spend waiting for mandatory security screenings.

This is a class-action lawsuit brought by Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two former employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions, which provides workers to work in the warehouses of companies like Amazon.com. At the end of the shift, the company requires every employee to go through a security check before they leave the facility to make sure they aren’t stealing the merchandise. The employees wait as long as 25 minutes to be searched. Busk and Castro claim that they should have been paid overtime for this time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as should all current employees, as well.

FLSA requires overtime pay when a covered employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek. In 1947, Congress helped define what counts as “work” by passing the Portal-to-Portal Act (PPA), which says that FLSA’s overtime requirement doesn’t apply to activities that are “preliminary” or “postliminary” to an employee’s primary job responsibilities. In a 1956 case called Steiner v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court interpreted the PPA as requiring overtime only for tasks that are an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workman are employed.”

Busk and Castro say that any activity required by and benefitting the employer (such as the security searches) are part of the actual job, not “postliminary” to it, so they count as time at work under FLSA and should generate overtime pay. They get support from an amicus brief submitted by the National Employment Lawyers Association, which details how loss-prevention activities have become integrated into the modern retail work routine, making searches like those at issue here part of an employee’s principal activities.

The workers won at the Ninth Circuit, but the court used different reasoning: that the searches are “postliminary” (so the Portal-to-Portal Act applies), but that they are an “integral and indispensable part” of the workers’ principal activities and therefore subject to overtime pay. Integrity (supported by an amicus brief from the Obama Administration) asserts that the searches are “postliminary” to work, are not an “integral and indispensable part” of the employees’ principal activities and, therefore, don’t trigger the overtime requirement.

Part of the company’s argument seems to be a results-based pitch to a corporate-friendly Court: In its certiorari petition urging the Justices to hear its appeal, Integrity Staffing wrote that since the Ninth Circuit ruling, “plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought nationwide class actions against a number of major employers—including Apple, Amazon.com, and CVS—seeking back pay (plus overtime and penalties) for time spent in security screenings.” Notice that it isn’t employees who are suing, but “plaintiffs’ lawyers,” a framing that is red meat for right-wing ideologues. This argument also seems to have less to do with discerning congressional intent and more to do with protecting large corporations.

Mach Mining v. EEOC: Pre-lawsuit settlement efforts by the EEOC

The Supreme Court is to decide if employers can escape liability for illegal discrimination by arguing that the EEOC failed to make a sufficiently good-faith attempt to reach a settlement with the employer.

Mach Mining has never hired a woman for a mining position. A woman who had been turned down several times for a coal mining job filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a step that Title VII requires before filing a lawsuit. EEOC looked into the allegation, found it had merit, and – again, as required by Title VII – sought to negotiate an end to the alleged sex discrimination “by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion” before suing. After several months without success, the EEOC notified the company that it felt further efforts would be futile and initiated a lawsuit. Mach Mining says the case should be dismissed on the grounds that the EEOC didn’t make a good-faith conciliation effort. In response, the EEOC says Title VII doesn’t allow such a defense.

While several other circuits have ruled otherwise, the Seventh Circuit in this case concluded that Title VII cannot be interpreted to allow courts to inquire into the adequacy of the EEOC’s conciliation efforts. For one thing, Title VII has no express provision for an affirmative defense based on a defect in the EEOC’s conciliation’s efforts. It also calls for the EEOC to “endeavor” to end the discrimination through “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” If it can’t reach a result “acceptable to the Commission,” it can sue. The Seventh Circuit interpreted this as giving the EEOC great deference.

The court also noted that Title VII makes the process confidential, with penalties for making the information public without the consent of everyone concerned. That could prevent the EEOC from showing the court the evidence that it had sought to conciliate in good faith. It seems unlikely that Congress wrote Title VII to require the EEOC to defend its conciliation efforts in court but made its ability to do so dependent on the permission of the employer being sued. The court also concluded that there would be no meaningful standard of review. For instance, just how hard should the agency pursue an agreement?

A Supreme Court ruling for the employer could give employers a significant tool to stymie legitimate lawsuits against unlawful employment discrimination. As the Seventh Circuit wrote:

Simply put, the conciliation defense tempts employers to turn what was meant to be an informal negotiation into the subject of endless disputes over whether the EEOC did enough before going to court. Such disputes impose significant costs on both sides, as well as on the court, and to what end?

All the employer should legitimately hope to gain is some unspecified quantum of additional efforts at conciliation by the EEOC. The result of such a defense, as we have said in a closely related context, is to “protract and complicate Title VII litigation, and with little or no offsetting benefit.”


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Holt v. Hobbs: Right of a Muslim prisoner to grow a short beard

The Supreme Court is to address whether a state prison’s prohibiting a Muslim prisoner from growing a half-inch beard violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

This case originated with a handwritten request to the Supreme Court from Gregory Holt (aka Abdul Maalik Muhammad), a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas, to hear his case. He states that his religious beliefs require him to have a beard, and he seeks to grow a half-inch beard. The state Department of Corrections prohibits beards generally, but allows quarter-inch beards grown for medical reasons. Muhammad sees his request as a compromise (since his religious beliefs really would have him grow it much longer) that has been accepted in prisons elsewhere.

Since he is in a state prison, Muhammad’s case is governed by a federal law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. Passed unanimously by Congress in 2000, RLUIPA requires prisons accepting federal funds to give greater religious liberty protections to inmates than is required by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Similar to the better-known Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was at issue in Hobby Lobby, RLUIPA is triggered when the government imposes a “substantial burden on the religious exercise” of a person confined to an institution. When that happens, the action can be upheld only if the government can demonstrate that the burden: “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The state argues that the no-beard policy furthers the compelling government interests in prison safety and security, and that the proposed half-inch accommodation would not be as effective as the no-beard rule in achieving those purposes. For instance, they provide the opinions of penal experts that prisoners could use the beards to hide contraband, and that escaped prisoners could too easily and quickly change their appearance simply by shaving. Muhammad (now represented by counsel) argues that the lower courts, which ruled against him, did not provide the strict scrutiny of the state’s arguments that is required by RLUIPA.

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court significantly rewrote RFRA, watering down the “substantial burden” requirement and applying the religious liberty law to for-profit corporations. Neither factor is relevant to this case, meaning the Court could rule in favor of Muhammad without rewriting the law. But the Roberts Court is known for playing the “long game.” Even if the Court rules unanimously for Muhammad, they may not all agree on the reasoning: The conservatives could write an opinion designed to be cited in future RFRA litigation strengthening the hands of those on the right who would reshape RFRA from a shield against government oppression into a sword.


VOTING RIGHTS

Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama / Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama: Racial gerrymandering

The Supreme Court is to address whether Alabama engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering when it drew new state House and Senate district lines that channeled large numbers of African Americans into districts that were already majority-minority.

The GOP-controlled Alabama state legislature enacted a redistricting plan that transferred a significant portion of the black population that had previously been in majority-white districts into districts that were already majority-black. In so doing, the legislature was seeking to achieve certain percentages of black voters in the majority-black districts. At issue is whether legislators engaged in an unconstitutional effort to separate voters by race, or whether they followed traditional redistricting criteria in a way that was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Due to population shifts, majority-black districts established after the 2000 Census lost population and had to be redrawn after the 2010 Census to bring in new people. In some cases, the population loss was disproportionately white, meaning that a significantly higher percentage of the remaining population was African American than before. In redrawing the lines while keeping the same number of majority-black districts, the legislature made two decisions that led to what some call “bleaching” – drawing lines so that large numbers of African Americans in majority-white districts would be redistricted into supermajority-black districts, and diminishing African Americans’ political influence in much of the state.

First, they chose to reduce the permissible population difference between districts from 10% (the 2000 standard) to 2%. To achieve district populations that close to each other, many more people would have to be drawn into the modified black-majority districts than would otherwise have been necessary. That huge numbers of those people would be blacks removed from majority-white districts was determined by the second decision: Ostensibly to comply with the requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (this was before Shelby County) that new lines not lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise, the African American percentages in the redrawn majority-minority districts should be at least whatever they had become in 2010.

This reapportionment was upheld by a divided three-judge federal district court. The majority concluded that race was not the predominant factor in drawing the redistricting boundaries, so that they need not be analyzed under strict scrutiny as in the 1993 Shaw v. Reno case. The majority also concluded that even if strict scrutiny applied, the legislative boundaries were narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling purpose of compliance with the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which applied at the time. The plaintiffs in this case – the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and state Democrats – challenge those conclusions, arguing that legislators had misinterpreted Section 5, that race was impermissibly the overriding criterion used by legislators in drawing lines, and that the redistricting plan violated the Fourteenth Amendment.


FREE SPEECH AND SIGN REGULATIONS

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona: Municipal sign regulations

The Supreme Court will hear a church’s Free Speech challenge to city rules regulating the size and placement of various types of signs, which affect the signs it puts up to direct people to its church services.

This case was brought by a small church (25-30 adult members) in Arizona that places signs up to invite people to its weekly services and inform them where they are being held. Good News Church and its pastor Clyde Reed are urging the Court to strike down the town of Gilbert’s sign ordinance, which treats some signs (such as directional signs for events, like a fair or, in this case, a church service) differently from others (like political, real estate, or ideological signs). The different types of signs have different rules on how large they can be, and where and when they can be posted. Good News Church argues the law is an unconstitutional content-based infringement of its First Amendment rights. The lower court had upheld it as content-neutral.

Gilbert regulations generally require a permit before posting a sign, with a number of exceptions that can be posted without a permit. These exceptions (each with specific size, number, and placement rules) include construction signs, open house signs, parking signs, building identification signs, garage sale signs, street address signs, and restaurant menu signs. The church devotes much of its focus to three of the exceptions:

  • Temporary directional signs relating to a qualifying event (like the church’s weekly church service)
    • Size: up to 6 square feet (and up to 6 feet in height)
    • Time: 12 hours before, during, and 1 hour after an event
    • Number: maximum of 4 on a single property
  • Political signs
    • Size: up to 32 square feet
    • Time: any time before election, until 10 days after
    • Number: unlimited
  • Ideological signs
    • Size: up to 20 square feet
    • Time: any time
    • Number: unlimited

The church has signs in the first category to tell people about their weekly church services in the space they rent. The maximum size is smaller than political and ideological signs, fewer can be posted, and they cannot stay up nearly as long. Represented by the far-right Alliance Defending Freedom, Good News Church argues that the city is violating its First Amendment rights by applying different rules to different types of noncommercial signs based on their content. According to the church, any classification based on what a sign says is content-based and therefore subject to the highest level of scrutiny. And if the law’s purpose is, say, to promote traffic safety or aesthetics, then what difference should it make if the sign is for a church service, political candidate, or particular ideology?

A divided panel of the Ninth Amendment disagreed, ruling against the church. It said the distinctions among different types of signs are content-neutral (and thus subject to a somewhat lower level of scrutiny) because Gilbert’s interests in regulating temporary signs are unrelated to the specific content or message of the sign. Each exemption is based on objective criteria related not to the sign’s message, but to the reason for the exemption (such as need for communication about elections, or the need to let event sponsors inform people how to get to the event).


HOLDING FRAUDULENT CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE

Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. IndyMac MBS: Timing of lawsuits

The Court is to decide whether the clock stops on a deadline to sue for securities fraud when someone files a class action suit.

This case relates to a key 1974 precedent called American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, where the Supreme Court ruled that the filing of a class action lawsuit stops the clock (“tolls” in legal parlance) on the statute of limitations on filing federal antitrust claims for all potential members of the class, including those who are not actively involved with or even aware of the class action lawsuit. So if a court then doesn’t certify the class for some reason or dismisses its claims, but makes that decision after the statute of limitations has passed, those who would have been included in the class have not lost their opportunity to have their day in court just because they hadn’t made an individual filing in the case.

The current case relates to the financial meltdown of the 2000s and involves federal laws in the Securities Act of 1933 prohibiting sellers of securities from misleading investors. The law has two key time limits: (1) You generally have one year to file a lawsuit, and that can be a year after the untrue or misleading statement is made or discovered. (2) But there is an additional limit, one that restricts just how long after the fact you have to discover the wrongdoing: “In no event shall any such action be brought … more than three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public [or, depending on which section of the law is involved] more than three years after the sale.” The Second Circuit concluded that the American Pipe rule did not apply to this statute.

One of the great benefits of class action litigation is that it protects the rights of people who cannot afford to themselves engage in litigation and may not even realize they have been wronged. It also vastly enhances our society’s ability to hold large corporations responsible when they violate people’s rights. The rule from American Pipe has served that purpose well. But in other contexts, the Roberts Court has significantly undercut the ability of Americans to utilize class actions to protect their rights. If the Court rules that American Pipe doesn’t apply in the securities fraud context, it will be important to see if its reasoning also undercuts American Pipe as a precedent in other contexts.

Omnicare v. Laborers District Council: Holding companies accountable for false statements to investors

The Court is to address what investors need to prove to hold companies accountable for material misstatements in investment material.

When responding to a public offering of company shares, investors may rely on a company’s registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, investors can sue if that statement “contained an untrue statement of a material fact or omitted to state a material fact [that was] necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.” This case asks what investors need to prove if the purportedly “untrue statement” was the company’s opinion that it wasn’t breaking the law.

Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceutical care for the elderly and other residents of long-term care facilities. In Omnicare’s registration statement, it said that “we believe” that its financial relationships with pharmaceutical manufacturers were legal. The investors here claim that some of those deals constituted unlawful kickbacks. The question is whether that allegation is enough to trigger Section 11.

According to Omnicare, for the investors to have a claim under Section 11, they have to allege that Omnicare didn’t believe the statement when it was made. Otherwise, companies could be held liable for statements of opinion that turn out later not to be true. Two circuit courts have taken that view.

But in this case, the Sixth Circuit took a different approach, one that makes it easier for investors to file a Section 11 claim. That court reasoned that Section 11 is a “strict liability” statute where the state of mind of company officials isn’t relevant, so it’s sufficient to allege that the opinion was false, regardless of whether the company knew at the time it was false. That’s the ruling the investors in this case are asking the Supreme Court to uphold.

In an amicus brief, the Obama Administration takes a middle ground, in which the company isn’t held liable only because it expressed an opinion that turned out not to be true. The Administration argues that a statement of opinion is actionable under Section 11 if: (1) the company didn’t believe it at the time (which both parties in this case agree on), or (2) there was no reasonable basis for the opinion at the time, even if it was sincerely held (which Omnicare disagrees with).

Any ruling by the Roberts Court should keep in mind that Congress enacted Section 11 to encourage maximum disclosure by companies making a public offering. After all, people associated with the company know far more about the business than potential investors could ever know, and Section 11 was intended to dissuade corporations from tricking investors.


CONCLUSION

Just as the Lochner case defined the Supreme Court a century ago as it turned conservative economic policies into constitutional dogma, America finds itself living through the Citizens United era, where the Court again routinely rules in favor of corporate and other powerful interests. By the end of June, we will know if the current term will have been as damaging to Americans’ fundamental rights as recent terms have been.

###

Appeals Court Strikes Down Marriage Ban in Virginia, Ruling Will Also Affect Carolinas and West Virginia

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

This is a historic step forward for equality in the South. Beyond Virginia, the ruling will also affect the other states covered by the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia, which have similar bans in place. In West Virginia, the district judge considering the challenge to the state’s ban said last month that he would not proceed until the federal appeals court had ruled.

In the majority opinion, the judges noted that bigotry and fear cannot be the basis for the denial of equal rights under the law:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.

…The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

For those who claim that marriage bans are legitimate because they were adopted by popular vote, the court quoted a Supreme Court case from 1964:

A citizen’s constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because a majority of the people choose that it be.

That one sentence perfectly encapsulates why courts matter.
 

PFAW Foundation

North Carolina GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis Marginalizes Minority Communities

In an interview recorded in September 2012, North Carolina Speaker of the House and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis compared the growing population of African Americans and Latinos to a stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.”

In an interview highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which first spotted the 2012 interview, a spokesman for Tillis claimed that “traditional North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations.”

If you listen to the full context of Tillis’ remarks, however, it is clear that he was referring to the “traditional population” as a group distinct from the “Latino population” and the “African American population.”

Right Wing Watch points out that “traditional population” and “traditional Americans” are frequently used by anti-immigrant extremists as euphemisms for “white population.” For instance, in The Social Contract, a journal founded by an influential anti-immigrant leader, the term is used in a 2012 essay by Brenda Walker when she says, “Traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”

In speaking of the “traditional population,” Tillis stands alongside people like William Gheen, founder of anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said that immigration reform would create a situation in which “traditional Americans, like those who that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”

It is true that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Asian American populations are growing faster than its white population. For instance, the Latino population in North Carolina grew by 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 4.7 percent of the population to 8.4 percent. Yet Tillis has consistently worked to marginalize Latinos, by cutting spending on education, opposing healthcare reform, and supporting a restrictive voter identification law ironically called “VIVA.” That’s why People for the American Way is working in North Carolina this year to make sure Latino voters know the threat posed by Tillis’ extreme agenda.

Last year PFAW’s Spanish-language advertising helped spur turnout among Latinos in Virginia’s gubernatorial elections, and did the same in many 2012 battleground contests. As we look to the 2014 elections, Tillis’ actions and statements marginalizing the Latino community will represent a real challenge to his standing in an increasingly powerful voting bloc.

PFAW

What Cantor’s Defeat Says About Money In Politics

As the news of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s surprising loss last night to Tea Party challenger David Brat sinks in, Brat’s anti-immigrant extremism is increasingly coming into the spotlight. Today Right Wing Watch wrote that Brat actively sought out the endorsement of ALIPAC, an anti-immigrant hate group whose leader has suggested that violence may be necessary to quell President Obama’s supposed war on “white America.” Brat campaigned on the claim that a vote for Cantor was “a vote for amnesty.”

But there is another aspect to the race also worth paying attention to: Brat’s focus on corruption in Washington. This morning our friends at Public Campaign pointed out that Brat, who was vastly outspent by Cantor, consistently made speaking out against political corruption a part of his campaign. In his victory speech, Brat said to supporters: “What you proved tonight was dollars don’t vote — you do.”

The overwhelming majority of Americans (92 percent of voters, according to a November 2013 poll) think it’s important for elected officials do more to reduce money’s influence on elections — a statistic we often highlight in our work for urgently-needed campaign finance reforms. What last night’s news brings to the foreground is the obvious fact that this 92 percent cannot possibly reflect Americans of only one political leaning. A commitment to fighting corruption and the outsized influence of big money in politics is a deeply-held belief of people of all political stripes, whatever their other beliefs may be.

This morning Politico proclaimed, “Big money couldn’t save Eric Cantor.” And despite Brat’s extremism, there is something hopeful about the fact that people can fight back against the tidal wave of cash flooding our electoral system. To be sure, this outcome is the exception rather than the rule. More than nine times in ten, the better-financed congressional candidate wins. In the post-Citizens United and post-McCutcheon campaign finance landscape, to pretend that money doesn’t matter hugely in the outcome of elections — and in who has access to and influence over politicians once the election is over — is to be willfully blind.

But it’s also important to be reminded that when voters set their minds to it, they still have the power to reshape our nation — for good or ill.

PFAW

David Brat Sought Endorsement Of Anti-Immigrant Hate Group ALIPAC

David Brat’s upset victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in yesterday’s Republican primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district was driven in part by Brat’s no-compromise position on immigration reform, which put him even farther to the right than the not-exactly immigration-friendly Cantor .

Among those celebrating Brat’s surprise win is William Gheen, head of the anti-immigrant hate group ALIPAC , who used some of his group’s meager funds to send out a robocall in the district in the days before the election, playing up the fear that undocumented immigrants would “vote with or against you in future elections.”

While the robocall was an independent endeavor, Brat had actively sought ALIPAC’s endorsement.

In February, Brat’s campaign manager filled out ALIPAC’s candidate survey, which asked prospective endorsees to choose between the enforcement of “immigration laws as the U.S. Constitution requires for the protection of American jobs, elections, taxpayer resources, health and lives” and immigration reform, which it said would “lead to a new voting bloc of 11-20 million illegal immigrants, which would in turn destroy any future hopes of border or immigration law existence or enforcement.” Brat chose the former, and earned Gheen’s endorsement .

Gheen — who is ALIPAC’s chief cook and bottle-washer — is a fringe extremist, even in the already extreme anti-immigrant movement. Here is just a smattering of his paranoid, racist rhetoric, that would have been easily accessible to the Brat campaign through a quick Google search:

William Gheen Robocall Warns South Carolina & Virginia Voters That Immigrants Will Take Their Jobs, Welfare And Votes

Updated

Despite his group’s perpetual financial woes, William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has managed to scrape together enough funds to deluge 122,000 households in South Carolina and Virginia with a robocall attacking Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Lindsey Graham for supporting immigration reform, Brietbart reports today.

“Remember that a vote for Cantor or Graham is a vote for tens of millions of illegal immigrants to get amnesty, jobs, welfare payments and a vote with or against you in future elections. Remember who to thank for amnesty. Thank Eric Cantor and Lindsey Graham” Gheen says in the robocall, which he tells Breitbart will reach 26,000 Republican households Cantor’s Virginia district and 96,000 in South Carolina.

Cantor, meanwhile, hasn’t explicitly endorsed immigration reform and is actuallyfundraising off the claim that he blocked reform from moving forward in Congress.

Gheen is one of the most extreme figures in the anti-immigrant movement, who has warned of a violent revolution if the immigrant “invasion” can’t be stopped and said that immigration reform would amount to “national rape.”

UPDATE: It looks like Gheen’s South Carolina calls violate state law, which of course gives Gheen another opportunity for self-aggrandizement. The State reports:

State law bans automatically dialed calls that deliver unsolicited, prerecorded consumer or political messages without assistance of a live operator, S.C. Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said in a memo sent out last month as a reminder to campaigns.

Graham’s campaign spokesman, Tate Zeigler, said of the automated calls, “We don't do illegal robo calls.”

Americans for Legal Immigration president William Gheen said his robo-calls comply with federal law. Gheen was not familiar with S.C. law. After reading it, he said he would turn himself in if any prosecutor decided to charge him.

He also said he would beat any charges.

“I feel quite confident in my ability to defeat this in a court of law,” Gheen said, adding he is defending his right to engage in political speech. “For our republic to function, people need to be able to communicate with voters.”

Gheen said he has one request for anyone who plans to arrest him: “The only thing I ask is that they do it before Election Day, please."

UPDATE II: Gheen has issued a press release hyping his own martyrdom, even though there has been no indication that he will even be charged under the rarely-enforced South Carolina law:

The President of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC William Gheen is facing possible charges and arrest after bumping into a unique, obscure, and unenforced state law banning automated campaign calls that are designed to warn South Carolina and Virginia voters about how the immigration reform amnesty plans of Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Eric Cantor will affect them.

...

"I know that nobody likes robo-calls, but isn't it ironic that I might be charged for violating an obscure unenforced state law curtailing freedoms of political speech while more than 12 million illegal immigrants flagrantly violate numerous federal laws designed to protect Americans from real damages?" said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "A few seconds of an annoying call is nothing compared to the millions of devastated American lives that are a result of Lindsey Graham's and Eric Cantor's support for amnesty for illegals."

Bob Marshall Reiterates Claim That Disabled Children Represent God's 'Vengeance' For Abortion

Virginia GOP state delegate and congressional candidate Bob Marshall is standing by his claim that disabled children are God’s punishment for women who have an abortion.

“Nature takes its vengeance on subsequent children,” Marshall said in 2010. “It’s a special punishment, Christians would suggest.”

Yesterday, Marshall insisted that he won’t be backing away from the comment as he campaigns for the House, and is similarly defending his suggestions that Justice Anthony Kennedy is secretly gay and that abortion should be banned in cases of incest because it could be “voluntary.”

Delegate Robert G. Marshall has said that disabled children can be God’s vengeance against women who have had abortions. He has described incest as sometimes voluntary, and he has questioned the sexuality of a Supreme Court justice who has favored marriage equality.



“For all I know, Kennedy’s a homosexual,” he said. “You can’t be doing some of these things without this kind of conclusion.”

Like many of his other comments, Mr. Marshall stands by it.

“Clearly, some of the people who are making these decisions must be rationalizing their own bad behavior,” he said Thursday.

In 2010, at an event calling for an end to state funding for Planned Parenthood, Mr. Marshall suggested that women who have abortions are more likely to face “vengeance” from “nature” in children with a greater likelihood of having developmental disabilities.

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” Mr. Marshall said.



The author of a 1989 Boston Globe column asked him about his opposition to all abortion — even in cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Mr. Marshall, then the research director for the American Life League, posed a baffling question of his own in response.

“What if incest is voluntary?” Mr. Marshall said. “Sometimes it is.”



Mr. Marshall has repeatedly introduced “personhood” bills to secure civil and legal rights for the unborn from the moment of conception. In 2012, he also introduced a measure that would require women to undergo ultrasounds before having abortions. The legislative effort created headaches for Gov. Bob McDonnell, who ultimately requested an amendment to water down the bill after the news went national and the state became the butt of jokes for late-night comedians.

Liberty Counsel Defends Christian School's Right To Demand Tomboy Student Follow 'Biblical Standards' On Gender

Yesterday, we noted that Liberty Counsel had come to the defense of a Virginia Christian school which had informed the family of an 8-year old female student not to re-enroll her next year unless she is "open to following the biblical standards" regarding her appearance and gender.

The girl's great-grandparents and legal guardians assert that she is being asked to leave the school because she is a tomboy with short hair, but yesterday the school released a statement through Liberty Counsel saying that the media reports about the issue have been false and misleading:

We are deeply dismayed over the inaccurate and public nature of this situation and the false and inaccurate reporting.

The Church and the School are limited in what can be related about this situation. With all due respect, the facts are not as S.K.'s great-grandparents have portrayed them. This matter is far beyond a simple ‘hairstyle and tomboy issue’ as inaccurately portrayed. It is not about that at all. At no time did the Church or the School state or imply that S.K. was sexually immoral or the like. Yet, reports like this have appeared in the media. The School has never told S.K. she cannot return to school.

The Church and the School have a responsibility to all students, their parents, and guardians. Parents and guardians send their children to the School because of our Christian beliefs and standards. We have a duty to create an environment that is supportive of these Christian values. We cannot have conflicting messages or standards because such conflict will confuse our students and frustrate the parents and guardians who have entrusted the education of their children to us. When elementary children and their parents or guardians express concerns regarding use of the restroom and other matters arising from the sensitive issues here, the School has a duty to address those concerns and to ensure that all interests are heard and protected in accordance with the Christian mission of the School. While we welcome all students, parents and guardians are made aware of the School’s Christian mission and beliefs. We not only have a right, but we also have a duty to uphold these Christian standards.

We deeply regret that the great-grandparents either made inaccurate statements or were quoted out of context. This public discussion is not in the best interest of all concerned. S.K. has been attending our school for several years and we had looked forward to working with her and her great-grandparents privately.”

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who has been asked to represent the school, commented: “The Book of Proverbs says that he who states his case first seems right until another comes forth to challenge him. I think that accurately describes the misinformation that was reported regarding Timberlake Christian School. The school looks forward to working with the family and moving forward to a positive resolution.”

We are actually sympathetic to Liberty Counsel on this point because we have seen this very sort of story play out in the opposite direction time and again, as Religious Right groups gin-up a one-sided controversy about supposed anti-Christian persecution and then spread it far and wide before school officials have even had a chance to correct the record.

But, in this case, media reports seem quite accurate, as they are based upon the letter the school sent home in which school officials informed the family that the young girl would not be welcome back if she did not begin to model proper "biblical standards" of gender:

There also have been several occasions when the other students, particularly those who do not know Sunnie personally, have been confused about whether she is a boy or girl, and at times, these occasions have been troubling to Sunnie. I also understand that Sunnie is being counseled professionally regarding her identify and image in order to steer her in a particular direction to handle these identity issues.

You’re probably aware that Timberlake Christian Schools is a religious, Bible-believing Institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment, and we believe that our biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christlike, On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school. We base this standard on Bible principles as found in Leviticus 20:13a; Romans 1:21-27; Matthew 19:4-6; and I Corinthians 6:9-20.

However, we believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that ICS is not the best place for her future education. It seems that the school’s goals and biblical foundations are going to be in contradiction with the direction that Sunnie is heading at this point.

For this reason, we must ask that you not re-enroll Sunnie here at TCS unless you are open to following the biblical standards set forth above.

Glenn Beck, Liberty University, And The Right To Be Different

Last week, we noted that it was a little odd to watch Glenn Beck heap praise upon Religious Right activist Mat Staver not too long after denouncing anyone who supported the anti-gay crackdown taking place in Russia, given Staver's long history of anti-gay activism and support for these very sorts of laws.

On today's radio broadcast, Beck was discussing the most recent developments in the Justina Pelletier case and once again praised Staver and Liberty University, where he serves as dean of the law school. So impressed with Staver is Beck that he announced that, when he dies, he is going to leave a lot of money to LU:

This is odd for a number of reasons, most notably the fact that Liberty U has not been particularly welcoming of Mormons or Mormonism.

Beyond that, just last week Beck made a crusade out of defending a gradeschool boy who was told not to bring his "My Little Pony" backpack to school, using his entire network to support the boy and even bringing him on his television program.

"I thought it was important to send a very clear message to Grayson and everybody else that it’s okay to be different," Beck declared last week.  "It is critical that you remain different. It is critical that you say, ‘This is who I am, and if you don’t like it, go pound sand. I don’t really care.'"

This week, a similar sort of story emerged out of Virginia where a Christian school has asked a young girl to leave because she is too much of a tomboy and is not modeling a properly feminine "biblical lifestyle."

"We believe that unless Sunnie and her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education," shool officials wrote in a letter sent home with the student.

Wouldn't you know it, but this school just so happens to have a close relationship with none of than Liberty University and, according to news reports, school officials are referring any inquiries about the incident to Mat Staver's Liberty Counsel:

School officials declined a request to speak with MSNBC, referring the matter instead to Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization. Timberlake administrator Jeff Abbett did send a statement to WDBJ7, however, saying the school was “heart-broken” over the latest developments.

Will Glenn Beck come rushing to defend Sunnie’s right to be different? Or will he continue to stand with Staver and heap praise upon Liberty Counsel even as his organization defends this school's decision to refuse to allow her to attend because she chooses to "remain different"?

As we have pointed out before, Beck has a tendency to decry the very things that the people with whom he chooses to associate all vocally support, all while pretending that he doesn't even know anybody who supports those sorts of things. And this is another perfect example of Beck's myopic hypocrisy as one week he is decrying efforts by a school to force a student to conform and then, the very next week, endlessly praising someone who is defending a school that is forcing a student to conform.

Urgent Action Needed on Georgia Early Voting Bill on Last Day of Legislative Session

Updated March 21: Georgia's legislative session closed without final action being taken on HB 891. According to Facing South, "House sponsors declined to take up a vote on the revised bill, and HB 891 was dead." The report quotes Kelli Persons of League of Women Voters of Georgia, "The message here is that it's very important . . . to pay attention to what's happening at the local level," in reference to the bill's impact on municipal early voting.
PFAW

CWA: Fight 'The Homosexual Lobby' Before 'We End Up Losing Our Freedoms'

Mario Diaz of Concerned Women for America, still reeling from Virginia marriage equality advocates’ victory in federal court, warns in a blog post today that gay rights gains “are costing us our freedoms.” While Diaz doesn’t exactly explain what freedoms he lost when a judge struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, he writes that the “homosexual lobby” is “corroding our freedom.”

He claims to be upset about a pro-marriage equality petition to the appeals court and insists that conservative groups would never ask people to sign a petition to a court since they have “respect for our Constitution and the rule of law.”

Diaz might be interested to know that his own group is currently circulating a petition to “urge the Supreme Court to strike down the [Obamacare] law in its entirety.”

The anti-gay activist adds that just as the nation’s founders “defeated a great and mighty foe to establish the principles of freedom and liberty,” fellow conservatives must “stand before the challenges of our day in the same manner, knowing that truth will prevail, trusting that Providence guides and guards us through it all.”

Today’s version of the judiciary is a mere caricature of what the Founders intended.

The homosexual lobby has turned to the courts time and again to overrule the vote of the people, re-write legislation and even initiate executive action. They applaud all these efforts, even when they are costing us our freedoms.



With this new effort of lobbying the courts, the homosexual lobby aims at that which is supposed to be the benchmark of justice, impartiality. This ends-justify-the-means mentality is corroding our freedom, and we must stand forcefully against it.

We must resist the temptation to use the same tactics. Influence in the courts is brought through legal arguments and respect. Respect for our Constitution and the rule of law. The ends do not justify the means. The means matter. And no matter how dirty the other side plays, we must win in the right way.

What good is it to us to “win” an argument if we end up losing our freedoms? No, we must win with an approach that upholds the values that have made our country great. Yes, it is difficult. But it is possible. Our Founders showed us that.

Against all odds, they defeated a great and mighty foe to establish the principles of freedom and liberty we fight for today. We stand before the challenges of our day in the same manner, knowing that truth will prevail, trusting that Providence guides and guards us through it all.

We stand on the right side of history. For we stand for truth, freedom and liberty. Be encouraged!

American Decency Association: Marriage Equality Gains Mean 'We Could Be Watching The Fall Of A Nation'

The American Decency Association is adding its voice to the chorus of anti-gay activists angered by a federal judge’s ruling against Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In a statement yesterday, the group said that the gay rights supporters are removing God’s blessing from America and bringing down the country through “lawlessness, which defies both republic [sic] and democratic rule.”

“As the delicate balance of powers tilt we could be watching the fall of a nation,” the group warns. “Lawlessness of the heart is what has led to lawlessness in the land.”

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The pledge has been recited countless times; yet, how many even know what a Republic is? Benjamin Franklin, upon being asked what kind of government we had after signing the Constitution replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”



Perhaps a simplistic definition of “Republic” and “Democracy” would be as follows: A Republic is representative government ruled by law (the Constitution). A democracy is direct government ruled by the majority (mob rule). A Republic recognizes the inalienable rights of individuals while democracies are only concerned with group wants or needs (the public good).

We’ve seen such lawlessness, which defies both republic [sic] and democratic rule rear its ugly head most recently in the marriage issue. When the Federal Attorney General strips away State sovereignty and the State Attorney General strips away the rights of the people with no repercussion, you are left with lawlessness. Judges are to rule BY the law, not throw off their black robes, and impose their own philosophies, personal preferences, cultural ties, or political agendas. When these things happen, you have lawlessness.

Recently in Virginia an Attorney General and an activist judge, appointed by President Obama, put their personal feelings and opinions above the marriage laws of Virginia that affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In 2006 the people of Virginia, with a 57% vote, amended their constitution upholding natural marriage.



No matter which side you take, on any controversial issue, the lawlessness of our system should greatly bother you. It should raise your ire that our balanced powers are unbalanced and that the separation of the powers are not so separated. As the delicate balance of powers tilt we could be watching the fall of a nation.

Lawlessness of the heart is what has led to lawlessness in the land. It’s only God who can replace the lawless stony heart with a heart of flesh that loves Him and desires to do His will. It’s the grace filled heart that truly desires the best for every man, woman, and child. Instead of giving way to personal preference, we must once more give way to Biblical preference. If we desire to see our nation’s powers separated and balanced once more it must return to the foundation it has forsaken and the God whom it has ignored. Let us pray for God’s grace to transform the lawless heart into a grace-filled loving heart. Then as America blesses God, may God bless America again.

Religious Right Leaders Rail Against Virginia Marriage Equality Decision

A federal judge’s decision to strike down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriagehas unsurprisingly stoked the ire of conservatives.

Family Research Council head Tony Perkins offered a typical rebuke of “activist judges” and the “arrogant judiciary,” and once again warned that marriage equality will in fact lead to unprecedented inequality.

It appears that we have yet another example of an arrogant judge substituting her personal preferences for the judgment of the General Assembly and 57 percent of Virginia voters. Our nation's judicial system has been infected by activist judges, which threaten the stability of our nation and the rule of law.

This ruling comes on the heels of Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to fulfill his constitutional duty to defend the state's marriage law. His lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who rightfully expected elected officials to uphold the laws and constitution of the state, not attack them as Herring has done.

An arrogant judiciary is only one of the major consequences of the drive to redefine marriage. Increasingly, Americans are being forced to finance and celebrate unions that not only step on free speech and religious liberty but also deny children a mom and a dad. Rather than live-and-let-live, this court by redefining marriage will create a level of inequality that has never been seen in our country as people are forced to suppress or violate the basic teachings of their faith," concluded Perkins.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and Liberty University Law School, which is based in Virginia, said the judge must not have ever read the Constitution.

“This decision is outrageous and legally flawed. Judges would be well-served to read the U.S. Constitution and not invent or rewrite it,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Constitution cannot be changed by the stroke of a judge’s pen, nor does it bow to a judge’s personal ideology. The overwhelming majority of Virginia voters who make up ‘we the people’ voted to affirm natural marriage. Same-sex marriage, as a policy matter, sends the message that children do not need moms and dads. There is ample evidence that children fair [sic] best when raised with a mother and a father. Same-sex marriage is not the equivalent of natural marriage. Judges should be careful to render decisions grounded in the Constitution and the rule of law. Otherwise, judges and courts will render themselves impotent when the people lose confidence in the judicial system,” Staver continued.

The Family Foundation of Virginia, meanwhile, blamed Valentine’s Day for the ruling, which the group says threatens “our entire social fabric.”

“The timing of this decision certainly calls into question Judge Wright Allen’s objectivity,” a Friday morning statement from the group stated. “This rushed release just prior to Valentine’s Day reeks of political show, making her ruling less a legal argument and more a press release. It’s disappointing that a federal judge would so blatantly expose her personal political agenda at the expense of not just marriage, but our entire social fabric.”



“Regardless of one’s stance on marriage, the people of Virginia were disenfranchised by this ruling as our voice and our vote that amended our Constitution have been rendered meaningless by a single federal judge with the assistance of our own Attorney General,” the Family Foundation statement read. “Protecting a timeless institution for the well-being of children was the will of the overwhelming majority of Virginians and this ruling denies this important state interest as it places the desires of adults over the outcomes of children.”

National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown said the “terrible decision” must be reversed:

This is another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia. There is no right to same-sex 'marriage' in the United States constitution. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that states have the preeminent duty of defining marriage. The people of Virginia did just that in voting overwhelmingly to affirm marriage as the union of one man and woman. That decision should be respected by federal judges and we hope that the U.S. Supreme Court ends up reversing this terrible decision. This case also leaves a particular stench because of the unconscionable decision of Attorney General Mark Herring to not only abandon his sworn duty to defend the laws of the state, but to actually join the case against the very people he is duty-bound to represent.

Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation blasted the “imperious federal judiciary” and the “liberal state apparatus,” warning that they are trying “to advance a social experiment that changes America from the nation that we know into something totally unrecognizable” and “will force you to support homosexual marriage.”

The case, if it can be appealed must be appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem is that appellate courts have to rule based on the record from the trial court. The record is the transcript of witnesses’ testimony and other evidence the trial judge heard.

With Virginia’s Attorney General refusing to defend the case, the case might not even be appealed and even if it is, the record may be very limited.

Once again, we see an imperious federal judiciary overruling the voters of a state to advance a social experiment that changes America from the nation that we know into something totally unrecognizable.

And with the striking down of this law, can the liberal state apparatus be far behind? That liberal state apparatus is the one that will force you to support homosexual marriage whether or not it conflicts with your religious beliefs.
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