Appeals Court Gives Christofascists License To Discriminate

Once upon a time there was a nation founded with religious freedom granted as a natural right. For about 200 years in America religious freedom meant exactly that; the freedom to worship, pray, sing Psalms, believe in loving air-fairies and evil fire-gnomes, and frequent whatever building one wanted to praise some kind of man-made god en masse. However, about 35 years ago when extremist Christians needed an emotional lure to garner electoral support for the Republican Party, Catholic Bishops taught them how to morph religious freedom into unchallenged power and authority to force a bastardized version of Christianity down the throats of every man, woman and child in the United States – according to “the Christian’s conscience.” It was a power Republicans were more than happy to grant their reliable voting bloc as remuneration for flocking to the polls with bibles in hand to keep the GOP in power.

Part and parcel of the GOP Christofascist cult’s religious freedom is more than just imposing their religion on the entire population, that isn’t nearly enough dominion for the tyrants working in their “god’s name.

What Christofascist Republicans intently  lust after is controlling the entire population and denying them their 200-plus year-old “god-given” Constitutional rights; including the freedom not to be controlled by barbarically savage evangelical fundamentalists. For an idea of what Christians really want, just imagine ISIS or the Taliban without the “righteous killing” in god’s name; something that is not that far off if the evangelical right gets any more religious freedom.

Yesterday in a biblical Appellate Court ruling, Republicans in the most “Christofascist” state in the nation won the right to deny other Americans’ basic human and Constitutional rights because it is what Mississippi Republicans believe religious freedom entails. Mississippi’s religious Republicans awarded evangelical theocrats the unchallenged right to legally discriminate against any state resident according to their newly-granted religious freedom.

The Appellate court ruling gave religious Republicans the license to discriminate exactly as the bible thumping cult has demanded for decades. Now in Mississippi, state-sanctioned discrimination is the law of the land and freedom from religious persecution was stripped from any non-compliant citizen. It is a giant step towards Christian “Sharia” in America.

Now with a theocracy-driven cabal running the federal government, that evangelical version of Sharia will spread throughout Republican-Dominated states just ahead of its imposition nationwide by a Republican-dominated federal government.

Yesterday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to Mississippi’s bible-based legislation, HB 1523. The theocratic legislation was signed into law by religious Republican Governor Phil Bryant about a year ago. In a gross understatement, HB 1532 was labeled “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill introduced anywhere in the nation,” but it impacts more than just LGBT Americans. The Court said that the Constitution loving plaintiffs were not “personally harmed by the law,” so they had no right to bring a challenge to the religious law.

Writing for the majority opinion, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry E. Smith said:

Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality. We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact … but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”

The ruling fulfills extremist evangelicals’ ultimate fantasy and likely gave them massive wet dreams. Now the Christofascists have the legal right to discriminate based on their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are biblically reserved to such a union, or that “male” and “female” refer to someone’s “immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The theocratic law also grants legal authority to any individual, business, government employee, nonprofit and any other possible entity to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also same-sex couples and anyone who has ever had extramarital sex; all according to the Christian bible’s Old Testament edicts.

It is noteworthy that last April (2016) a federal Judge, Carlton Reeves, called HB 1523 exactly what it is; “state-sanctioned discrimination;”  Judge Reeves refused to allow Mississippi Christofascists to enforce the biblical law. In fact, about a month later Judge Reeves prohibited the Mississippi theocrats from attempting to impose the edict again. In his ruling he actually addressed the “religious freedom” issue for the bullshit it really is. He wrote:

HB 1523’s absence does not impair the free exercise of religion. In addition, issuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.” (author bold)

Judge Reeves is right, of course, except he didn’t add that “their animus” is purely religious hatred, not just “hostility.” And it is worth mentioning that if Mississippi residents believe the evangelical extremists will limit their religious hostility to the gay community, unmarried cohabitants, or the sexually adulterous crowd, they are stupider than they appear.

Remember, that phrase “based on their deeply held religious beliefs” will allow untoward acts, save paying taxes, against anyone if a person “claims” someone else’s actions violate their “deeply held religious beliefs;” even if they aren’t religious or affiliated with any religion and their deeply held beliefs are founded in bigotry. Now, no-one is safe in Mississippi. Because not only are they unfortunate enough to live in the most “Christian” state in the Union, those Christians now enjoy state sanctioned discrimination as the law of the land.

H/t New Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Watchdog Launches Two-year Probe of Trump Administration

 

At this juncture in American politics it is safe to say that there are a great majority of the population that considers Donald Trump, his closest associates, and his family as the epitome of corruption. It would be impossible for all but the Trump family or the Donald himself to dispute that the television celebrity in the Oval Office “acts dishonestly in return for personal or financial gain” as a natural inclination. It is that corruption that has the Trump at the center of a veritable plethora of special counsel, F.B.I., and federal watchdog agency investigations. Now that the Trump has finally admitted he is under investigation for obstruction of justice by a special counsel, among other things, he can add a two-year investigation into “federal civil rights enforcement,” or lack thereof, within the Trump administration.

Trump likely learned of the bipartisan United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) investigation at about the same time he took to Twitter to admit that he is the subject of a special counsel internal investigation. The Commission on Civil Rights operates under the authority of Congress and as a bipartisan agency it is charged with advising the White House and Congress on civil rights matters.

On Friday the Commission announced it had “unanimously approved a comprehensive two-year probe” into the “degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform” their important functions; especially in an administration that is openly hostile towards the civil rights of an ever-growing number of Americans in nearly every demographic save the filthy rich and white evangelicals.

What prompted the USCCR, a “federal watchdog agency” to launch an investigation into the entire Trump administration was several agencies that oversee civil rights gleefully announcing severe budget and personnel cuts to critical departments tasked with enforcing civil rights. According to a statement justifying a “two-year probe” into the Trump:

The proposed cuts would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country, leaving communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups exposed to greater risk of discrimination.”

The commission, created under the Civil Rights Act and funded by Congress, expressed specific worry about seven federal agencies under Trump’s oversight. Of course the Department of Education and Department of Justice are going to get a very special investigation over the next two years; Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions are notoriously hostile to civil rights of every demographic save white evangelical Christians. The “Commission” will also take a long, hard look into the departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and the Legal Services Corporation. They are all agencies Trump promises to slash funding from because they closely monitor civil rights and Republicans want that funding sent to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts.

Although the Commission’s statement cited several agencies and departments for a close investigation, it was particularly interested in the Department of Justice under anti-civil rights crusader Jeff Sessions; an agency the Commission said has “completely changed its priorities.” The Commission said in its statement:

Actions by the Department [of Justice] indicate it is minimizing its civil rights efforts. For example, a majority of the Commission criticized DOJ’s decision to site [install] Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers in courthouses as a dangerous impediment to access to justice for all Americans.”

The Commission also singled out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who has “repeatedly refused” to commit to enforcing federal civil rights. The Commission also  found that, coupled with DeVos’ apparent intent to blow off civil rights for various demographics, the deep budget cuts within the Education Department’s ‘Office of Civil Rights’ is “particularly troubling.”

The statement announcing the two-year probe in the Trump administration actually cited DeVos’ Senate subcommittee  testimony earlier this month where she refused to answer a query whether discrimination against LGBTQ students in private schools would be allowed on her watch. It is highly likely that members of the Commission are acutely aware that DeVos is no more a friend to the gay community than she is the disabled or minority communities.

It is really unfortunate that the Commission on Civil Rights lacks the the ability or authority to enforce its investigation’s findings, but it will at least get to present the results in a “final report to Congress at the end of 2019.” Once the report is presented to Congress, the Commission’s task is completed and it will be left to legislators to take action. The current chairwoman of the Commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, said:

For 60 years, Congress has charged the Commission to monitor Federal civil rights enforcement and recommend necessary change. We take this charge seriously, and we look forward to reporting our findings to Congress, the President, and the American people.”

It is unlikely that regardless how damning the Commission on Civil Rights report is in the final analysis, a Republican controlled Congress and Trump will not take any corrective action any more than they regard civil rights for all Americans as a serious issue. Trump will declare it “fake news,” a “witch hunt,” and then summarily fire or disband the Commission. And Republicans in Congress will claim it was a partisan attack on white evangelical Christians and the Sessions-led Department of Justice will declare civil rights, like the Separation Clause, is unhistorical and unconstitutional overreach.

It is getting to be a chore to keep abreast of all the investigations into Trump, his family, and his administration, but at least with a two-year long investigation into seven different federal agencies in the Trump administration, there will be nothing to report on or opine about until the end of 2019.

SCOTUS Deals a Blow To Anti-Democracy North Carolina Republicans

 

At a juncture in the nation’s history when a corrupt fascist in the White House is beginning his own serious attack on the right to vote and democracy, this time in oppressing the right to vote, there was a surprising but welcomed bit of good news for voters; at least voters in North Carolina. The Republican dominated state and its anti-democracy legislature had led the nation in imposing Jim Crow-type laws specifically targeting African Americans voting rights because they are less-inclined to vote for Republicans.

Civil rights groups have spent no small amount of time and money fighting to stop the blatant vote suppression tactics favored by the Koch brothers’ legislative arm ALEC; particularly in North Carolina. The various democracy-loving groups were likely worried that when the conservative Supreme Court heard this particular case, their battle would be finished and Republicans would have prevailed even after losing at the appellate court level.

There is little doubt voting rights organizations tempered their celebration after the 4th Circuit Court struck down the Republican voter suppression laws as patently unconstitutional. Republicans, especially North Carolina Republicans, have demonstrated that they will not countenance any attempts or court rulings meant to advance the cause of democracy and rule against voter suppression tactics.

In a surprising decision, the Supreme Court left in place a federal appeals court ruling that struck down key parts of North Carolina’s hateful voting laws. The Appellate Court had found the Republican voter suppression laws unconstitutional because, like Jim Crow, it specifically targeted African American voters unfairly and “imposed cures for problems that never existed.” As anyone concerned about the failing state of America’s barely breathing democracy, to state that the High Court’s ruling is a major victory for civil rights groups, people of color and the democratic process in North Carolina is a minor understatement.

The High Court decision let stand the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that North Carolina Republicans had acted “with almost surgical precision” to shut down African American voting rights in the state. In writing for the 4th Circuit striking down the law, Judge Diana Gribbon Mott said that not only did the ALEC-devised law “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” it “impose[d] cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.” Of course the North Carolina Republicans’ “true motivation” was restricting voting rights of any North Carolinian who is not a white evangelical.

North Carolina led the nation in anti-democratic voting laws after the conservatives on the Supreme Court abolished a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act In 2013, and eliminated any federal oversight over the former Confederate states with a history of naked discrimination against African American voters. And according to the reaction from North Carolina’s Republican legislature, they are not finished building on their history of vote suppression and pledged to “enact new voting restrictions” despite the Courts’ rulings or any silly Voting Rights Act.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) joined president pro-tempore of the Senate Phil Berger (R) and issued a joint statement saying:

All North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the common sense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote.”

It is noteworthy that there have been absolutely zero cases of in-person voter fraud in North Carolina without the Republicans’ nasty law.  It is also worth remarking that the 4th Circuit decision noted that as far as voter identification is concerned, the N.C. Republican voter identification provision “retained only those types of photo ID held by whites and deliberately excluded, disproportionately, those held by African Americans.

The Appellate Court also said that Republicans “failed to identify even one single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” However, it did find a fair amount of evidence of fraud in absentee voting by mail; the preferred method “used disproportionately by white voters” because the voter ID law does not apply to mail-in or absentee voting.

Although anti-democracy Republicans were disappointed at the High Court’s decision, civil and voting rights groups were understandably pleased. For example, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Daniel T. Donovan said, “This is the law of the land in the Fourth Circuit.”

The Director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, Dale Ho said, “An ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing.”

And North Carolina’s new Democratic Governor Roy Cooper issued a statement saying,

Today’s announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder.”

Although this is good news all around for the democratic process in North Carolina, and a blow to North Carolina Republican attempts to suppress African Americans’ right to vote, it is noteworthy to mention that the fight to participate in democracy is not yet over for North Carolina African Americans. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted, yesterday’s decision not to hear or rule on the case does “not necessarily” set a legal precedent and does not mean the conservative court will not endorse and legalize Jim Crow laws in the future. In fact, history and conventional wisdom informs that the conservative majority will legalize Jim Crow to aid Republican electoral chances.

However, today in North Carolina there is reason to celebrate and in these darkest of days for America’s waning democracy, even a temporary blow to fascist Republicans is one all Americans should savor. Because with Trump setting his sights with an anti-democracy zealot Khris Kobach on making it nearly impossible to cast a ballot for anyone except white Christians, there is every reason to believe that North Carolina’s hateful voter suppression law will be the model for a national law criminalizing people of color even attempting to participate in democracy.

N.C. Gov. McCrory’s  Crusade To Continue Legalized Bigotry Without HB2

North Carolina’s religious governor, Pat McCrory, must think his state’s residents are imbeciles on myriad levels; they did, after all, elect him as governor. Apparently the governor is getting stressed about his gubernatorial re-election bid particularly after he and his Republican legislature reacted very badly to a Charlotte City Council ordinance; an ordinance “granting” constitutionally-protected equal rights to all North Carolina residents. It was, after all, that Charlotte ordinance that provoked religious Republicans to pass the hideous HB 2 that legalized discrimination against anyone in the state who isn’t white, male, and follower of the “right” religion.

Now, McCrory is proposing what would be a no-win deal for the LGBT community statewide in an attempt to curry favor with decent North Carolina voters and taxpayers who are aware the state is hemorrhaging jobs and revenue due to HB 2. Remember, since HB 2 passed and was signed into law, the NBA All-Star Game and several NCAA championship games relocated out of North Carolina to protect athletes from being subjected to religious Republican-sanctioned discrimination.

Along with the highly-profitable basketball events, the state lost a substantial number of major economic opportunities for the state’s residents and businesses. One conservative estimate in the immediate aftermath of the outrage is that the state has lost at a minimum $230 million as a result of HB 2. Add to that, McCrory raided the state’s emergency disaster relief fund for $500,000 to cover legal fees defending the unconstitutional HB2. It is little wonder McCrory is worried and desperate to save his job.

The governor’s plan is a solemn pledge to voters that he will reconvene the General Assembly before it officially meets again in January and overturn the law. Sounds promising; right? Except it’s not acceptable whatsoever due to one condition that maintains the status quo. Pat McCrory promises to “attempt” to convince the religious Republican legislature that passed HB2 to repeal the law if, and only if, the Charlotte City Council repeals the anti-discrimination ordinance that incited McCrory and his Republican cabal to start this truly sordid religious affair. The result will be no change and LGBT people, women, non-whites, and non-religious residents will still lack any protection from bigotry-driven discrimination they lack with HB2 in effect.

What McCrory is doing is a classic punk move to take pressure off himself during a heated campaign and put it on the Charlotte City Council responsible for passing the state’s only anti-discrimination ordinance. This is a nasty Republican gambit because McCrory is counting on the Charlotte City Council’s refusal to succumb to a no-win deal. If they don’t accept his bogus offer, he can tell voters that “I wanted to repeal the law, but the elected officials in Charlotte wouldn’t let me!

Here’s the thing, religious Republicans realize that the citizens are paying for the consequences of their and the governor’s actions, so it is on them to do the constitutionally-right thing and repeal the seriously discriminatory and unconstitutional law. The city of Charlotte’s leaders already did the “constitutionally-right thing” in protecting the LGBT community with the state’s only anti-discrimination ordinance.

The Charlotte City Council is already facing pressure from anti-LGBT businesses such as the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association. The state’s hospitality industry is putting heat on the city council to take McCrory’s deal and eliminate the only protection the LGBT community has in the entire state. The N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association represents businesses “with hundreds of thousands of employees” and they still want LGBT discrimination firmly in place sans HB2 to lure all the customers they’re losing back due to the NBA/NCAA exodus. The industry stated:

The hospitality industry has become collateral damage in a fight it did not start or ask for. Restaurant and lodging businesses and their employees are suffering the adverse impact of these policies though lost business and wages.

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association calls on Charlotte City Council to repeal ordinance #7056 immediately, [and] on Governor McCrory to convene a special session of the NC General Assembly, and on the NC House and Senate to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety.” That way, discrimination remains legal in the state and McCrory and Republicans look reasonable to idiotic voters in the state who are probably unaware sanctioned discrimination is still the law of the state.

It is no mystery why, if all the adverse impacts, suffering and lost business and wages were the only thing on the “hospitality industry’s mind, they aren’t demanding that Governor McCrory immediately convene a special session of the NC General Assembly and order them to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety; they heartily approve of religious Republican-sanctioned discrimination or they wouldn’t demand that the Charlotte City Council toe the bigots’ line and eliminate the only constitutional anti-discrimination ordinance in the state.

One hopes the Charlotte City Council rejects the “special deal” from McCrory and continues holding the line on equal rights for all North Carolina residents. It is noteworthy that the Charlotte City Council did not start, or ask for, the fight for equality and protections against discrimination; they simply adhered to the United States Constitution’s 14th Amendment that religious Republicans and Governor McCrory have no use for according to their nasty bent against the LGBT community, women, non-Aryans and non-Christians.

McCrory and his religious cronies in the state legislature started this fight against the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. If the governor is in a heated re-election bid over HB2 and the economic losses to the state, then he can bolster his decency credentials by demanding “his cohorts” in the General Assembly come to order and repeal HB2 completely. The “no-win deal” McCrory offered the Charlotte City Council is just that: a dastardly deal that perpetuates HB2 without the necessity of a bigoted law and one has to believe that the members of Charlotte’s City Council are savvy enough to comprehend exactly what McCrory is up to.

H/T Patheos