Saturday, February 28, 2015

David L. Hudson, Jr.: Appeals court rules for employer on ‘ministerial exception’

  Employment discrimination laws sometimes take a backseat to the religious-liberty rights of religious institutions.

  In summary, employees of religious institutions simply do not have the same protections from anti-discrimination laws as other employees because of a principle called the “ministerial exception,” rooted in the idea that the government should not interfere with the freedom of religious institutions and how they conduct their internal affairs.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sheldon Richman: Domestic fear is the price of empire

  If you find no other argument against American intervention abroad persuasive, how about this one? When the U.S. government invades and occupies other countries, or when it underwrites other governments’ invasions or oppression, the people in the victimized societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge — against Americans.

  Is the American empire worth that price?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: Diversity is coming to a town near you

  Is there anyone yet unconvinced that the United States is changing demographically and evolving, seemingly right before our collective eyes, into a more diverse population of residents?

  If so, I challenge that unknowing and unseeing individual to spend an hour or two reading and then reflecting on “States of Change: The Demographic Evolution of the American Electorate, 1974–2060,” an impressive report issued Tuesday by a collaboration of my Center for American Progress colleagues, the American Enterprise Institute, and demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Fifty years later, schools still struggle with religion

  A lawsuit filed in Swainsboro, Georgia last week uncovers yet another rural school district living in a time warp – a 1950s world where teachers still lead children in daily prayer and send dissenters into the hallway.

  Some of the teachers at Swainsboro Elementary School not only lead prayers in the classroom, but also embarrass and proselytize children whose parents oppose school-sponsored prayers, according to the complaint filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of two families.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Does Bentley have the answer to Alabama's revenue woes?

  The first legislative session of the quadrennium convenes next week. It is no secret that the state is broke. The General Fund is projected to be over $260 million short of the amount needed to maintain the state’s basic operations in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Anti-LGBT rally in Montgomery draws strong rhetoric and the League of the South

  Sanctity of Marriage-Alabama held another rally against marriage equality Saturday on the steps of the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery. The rally featured several speakers who not only decried the January federal court ruling that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, but also homosexuality in general. This is the second rally the group has held this month (the first was Feb. 7) and the second time that theocrat John Eidsmoe was a speaker. He was the keynote speaker at the first.

  Eidsmoe is listed as “senior counsel and resident scholar” at the Foundation for Moral Law (FML) a Montgomery-based organization founded in 2002. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was president of the FML until he stepped down in 2013 to run for the position he now holds. His wife Kayla Moore is currently the president.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Michael Josephson: The self-portrait called character

  While I was on a radio call-in show talking about cheating, a listener I’ll call Stan mocked my concern. He cheated to get into college, he said. He cheated in college to get a job. And now he occasionally cheats on his job to get ahead. In fact, he concluded, cheating is such an important life skill that parents ought to teach their kids how to cheat.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: When it comes to teaching history, there are lessons for all to learn

  Whose version of history is worthy to be taught in U.S. schools?

  Well, that might depend on your point of view—or your politics. If some conservative lawmakers have their way, only a scrubbed and polished version of our nation’s past will pass muster.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1445: Bloody Sunday has triumphed!

  The sacredness of the Bloody Sunday March is preserved. Hallelujah! Bloody Sunday is secure. Hallelujah! Bloody Sunday has triumphed. Hallelujah!

  We feared that the sacredness of Bloody Sunday would be forever diminished. The looming threat was a second march in Selma on Saturday, March 7th and another march in Montgomery on Sunday, March 8th. These marches would have adversely impacted the sacred Bloody Sunday March and all of the Bloody Sunday events in many minds. But Bloody Sunday has triumphed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Michael Josephson: Motive, tact, tone, and timing

  Trustworthiness is essential to good relationships, and honesty is essential to trustworthiness. Being honest isn’t simply telling the truth, though. It’s also being sincere and forthright. Thus, it’s just as dishonest to deceive someone by half-truths or silence as it is to lie.

  But what if honesty requires us to volunteer information that could be damaging or hurtful?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The $261 million question

  The Alabama Legislature and Governor Robert Bentley are preparing for the first regular session of the quadrennium. The session will begin March 3.

  Legislators need to arrive in Montgomery with their lunch pails and sleeves rolled up ready to go to work because the proverbial chickens have come home to roost. They are facing a gargantuan budget crisis in the General Fund. They cannot spend this four years cursing Obama Care and passing unconstitutional and meaningless bills dealing with federal issues like immigration and abortion.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: Vaccines, science and the limits of freedom

  Alarm over the current measles outbreak that began mid-December in Disneyland, California – more than 100 cases in 14 states reported in January – has renewed debate about laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia mandating that students be vaccinated for certain diseases before entering school.

  At issue are the religious and personal belief exemptions granted to parents who choose not to vaccinate their children.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Keegan Hankes: Klan group issues ‘Call To Arms’ over Alabama same-sex marriage ruling

  In an attempt to capitalize on political and racial controversy, a Ku Klux Klan faction from Mississippi has initiated a “call to arms in Alabama” in response to a federal court ruling that an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

  The post, which appeared on the United Dixie White Knights’ (UDWK) website and later on Stormfront — the largest online white supremacist forum — championed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore for defying federal courts and called for Klansmen to leave their robes behind and take to the streets in protest.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sheldon Richman: The poison called nationalism

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred

     “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

  The reason for the venom directed at those of us who question American sniper Chris Kyle’s status as a hero can be put into one word: nationalism.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sam Fulwood III: When words are used as weapons

  Lately, I’ve become aware of an increase in the amount of kvetching that surrounds me. Whether online, in private conversation, or in public discourse, people seem eager to express their discontent with one thing or another. Rarely do I hear folks expressing an equal measure of praise or satisfaction for the bounty of people, places, or things that they encounter in their daily lives.

  I’m sure you hear the cacophony, too: The weather. Stalled traffic. No Wi-Fi here or there. Taxes. Politicians—Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea Party members—pick one or all. Immigrants. Old people. Young folks. Minorities. White people. Dare to mention any of these in friendly conversation and I’ll wager a Happy Meal that someone within earshot will pipe up with an angry analysis, typically in more colorful language than it is appropriate to share here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gene Policinski: Mr. Williams – trust me, many feel your ‘pain’

  Whatever happens to Brian Williams, another gut punch has been thrown to the collective body of work known as “journalism.”

  The NBC News anchor is now on hiatus from “Nightly News” and has decided against a reprise appearance later this week on the David Letterman show. He’s also slowly twisting in the now-familiar social media wind of online scrutiny, satire and dissection.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Defying the federal government hasn't paid off for Alabama

  As the legislature and governor prepare for the upcoming initial legislative session of the quadrennium, they are facing ominous and obvious problems. The General Fund is in dire straits, primarily due to the escalating costs of Medicaid and prisons.

  The problems in the prison system may be even more acute than with Medicaid. The reason is that our prison population is well in excess of what federal courts have determined is constitutional. There are federal judicial standards of humane care for prisoners and we currently are not within these guidelines. Therefore, we are on thin ice and shaky ground if our prison problems come before a federal judge.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Alabama recognizes Paul Hard as surviving spouse on husband’s death certificate

  On the same historic day same-sex couples in Alabama were allowed to marry, Southern Poverty Law Center client Paul Hard finally received an amended death certificate recognizing him as his husband’s surviving spouse – a recognition that came nearly four years after his husband died in a car crash.

Photo by by Valerie Downes, SPLC
  “It’s a good day,” Hard said, clasping the certificate in his hand. “It’s bittersweet. Today my home state recognizes our marriage. I put my wedding ring with David [Fancher] back on today in anticipation of this moment. I have been waiting for this recognition from the state, but sadly this had to come after his death.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Michael Josephson: The disease of low expectations

  The serious damage done to our economy, social institutions and personal relationships by widespread cheating and dishonesty is bad enough. But widespread acceptance of such behavior as inevitable threatens to make our future a lot worse. In effect, our culture is being infected by a disease: the disease of low expectations.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Joseph O. Patton: Probate judges jump on the bigotry bandwagon

  As Alabama's clock ticks down to the opening day of marriage equality Monday, probate judges across the state - perhaps to pander, perhaps because they're simply hateful - are opting to no longer offer marriage officiating at county probate offices. Though offering such a service isn't required by law, it has been a given, a long-standing tradition and something routinely offered throughout the state.

  But rather than serve their fellow taxpaying Alabamians (the same individuals who pay their salaries) - in this case same-sex couples who will finally be able to be treated like full citizens of these United States - a number of the state's county probate judges are abruptly abolishing this service in order to avoid having to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. It's the equivalent of a bratty, snot-nosed loser on the ball field taking his ball and going home because he just had his ass handed to him in a little league game.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: The national security establishment vs. defense

  I have a simple proposal: Why not bring all the troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Middle East? I mean all of them. Bring them all home and let them defend the United States. After all, it’s called the Department of Defense, right? Well, what would be wrong with applying the principle of defense to our country by bringing all the troops home and having them defend the United States?

Montgomery's Lattice Inn offering Marriage Equality Package

  With the advent of marriage equality in Alabama, The Lattice Inn of Montgomery is announcing a unique wedding package for couples starting as soon as the courts’ rulings are finalized.

  “We’ve always supported marriage equality and are happy to offer The Lattice Inn as a venue for any couple who wants to solemnize their relationship,” said Innkeeper Jim Yeaman.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Our Stand: Jim Zeigler, please remove your tin foil hat

  Yesterday Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler dragged one of Alabama's constitutional offices into the sewer of conspiracy theories and shameless race-baiting, made worse by the fact that Zeigler is little more than a glorified accountant.

  Channeling those who dish tales of Big Foot, vaccines causing autism, and Elvis Presley currently working as a gas station attendant in Tuberculosis Springs, Wyoming, Zeigler claimed to Montgomery news outlet WSFA that the routine rotation of governors' portraits in the Capital Building - this time including George and Lurleen Wallace - amounted to a conspiracy being afoot to "revise" history, somehow spear-headed by a major motion picture and Oprah Winfrey.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Who's who in the Alabama Legislature

  The Alabama Legislature completed their week-long organizational session last month with very little fanfare or controversy. They will get to work on substantive issues beginning with the regular session in March. Their work will be cut out for them since they're facing a General Fund Budget that has at least a $250 million deficit.

  The legislature that organized for the quadrennium is overwhelmingly Republican. The House has 72 Republicans and 33 Democrats. The Alabama Senate is even more dominated by Republicans. Three-fourths of the senators are Republican. The numbers are 26 to 8. This gives the GOP a carte blanche path to pass anything they desire with little or no opposition.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Michael Josephson: Three things I hated about Superbowl XLIX

1. I did not see a second of it as I was en route from L.A to Des Moines thru Dallas. But I read the entire play by play when I got to my room allowing me the second thing to hate: self-righteous, after the fact, critics of a play call.