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FFRF, Foundation for Moral Law continue fight over prayer at sporting events

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Oct. 9, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRL) announced that is has sent a letter to every school district in Alabama urging them to ignore what they call “erroneous advice from Roy Moore.”

The Montgomery based Foundation for Moral Law recently sent a memo to Alabama school superintendents explaining their view that student-initiated messages (including prayers) before football games and other school events are constitutional.

The Foundation for Moral Law said that the FFRF likes to quote Supreme Court decisions while twisting the meaning of those decisions.

The Foundation for Moral Law wrote, “Citing Lee v. Weisman (1992), FFRF argued that prayers at public school graduations are an impermissible establishment of religion, In fact, however, the 5-4 majority opinion in Weisman held only that school officials could not require a prayer and mandate its content. Justice Souter joined by two other Justices noted in his concurrence: “If the State had chosen its graduation day speakers according to wholly secular criteria, and if one of those speakers (not a state actor) had individually chosen to deliver a religious message, it would have been harder to attribute an endorsement of religion to the State.”

The Foundation for Moral Law was founded by former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and has staunchly defended school prayers said before football games and other sporting events.

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The Foundation for Moral Law continued, “FFRF states that Abington Twp. Sch. Dist. v. Schempp (1963) declared unconstitutional devotional Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.” Again, the Court invalidated a state-prescribed exercise of religious worship. The Court did not forbid students from reading the Bible or praying in public schools on their own initiative. FFRF claims that Engel v. Vitale (1962) held that prayers in public schools are unconstitutional. Engel invalidated recitation of a state-composed prayer but, again, did not forbid student-initiated prayer. FFRF cites Santa Fe v. Doe, (2000), as a case that prohibits prayer at football games. But in that case the Court objected to the school holding an election as to whether to permit prayer. The Court’s objection was to the State’s heavy involvement in the process and also the potential divisiveness of voting on prayer. Our newest Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, when he was in private practice, authored an amicus brief in Santa Fe on behalf of two Congressmen that supported the right of students to pray.”

The Foundation for Moral Law argues that: “FFRF unsuccessfully tries to distinguish Adler v. Duvall County School Board, (11th Cir. 2001) which upheld a school policy allowing student-initiated graduation messages. They said the policy would fail if it “was found to be nothing more than the product of repeated efforts by the school district to inject prayer and other religious activities into school event.” Under the policy recommended by the Foundation for Moral Law, however, school districts do not inject prayer into school events but instead respect the discretion of students to deliver messages of their own choosing within appropriate neutral content guidelines.”

“The distinguishing feature in each of these cases is not the prayer but the state’s official action of prescribing the prayer or its content or determining who will deliver it,” the Foundation for Moral Law argues. “If the state stays out of the process, students are free to pray using the school microphone in what is known as a “limited public forum.” No court to our knowledge has ever held otherwise. FFRF has repeatedly accused the Foundation for Moral Law of seeking to force prayers upon students at football games. In fact, FFRF wishes to suppress the right of students to deliver their own messages (including prayers) in violation of constitutional guarantees of free speech and religion.”

FFRF has sent letters to all 133 Alabama districts asking: “That they not risk legal and financial liability, and protect the First Amendment rights of their students and community members, by refraining from broadcasting prayer over the loudspeaker before football games.”

“There is no deprivation of anyone’s constitutional rights when a public school chooses to follow the law by not imposing prayer on attendees at school events,” writes FFRF Patrick O’Reily Legal Fellow Christopher Line in his letter to the districts. “Keeping divisive religious ritual out of public schools protects the rights of all and ensures equality.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation opposes any prayer in the public arena; while the Foundation for Moral Law has long defended acknowledging God.

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Opinion | A breakdown of Ivey’s ever-changing story on her Colorado illness, trooper demotion

Josh Moon

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It’s tough to keep a good lie going.

The problem isn’t so much the original lie, even if it’s a doozy. The trouble comes on the back side, when you have to start piling lies on top of lies to make that original lie hold up. And then you have to keep it all straight.

The Kay Ivey administration knows what I’m talking about.

Unless a whole bunch of other people are lying, Ivey and her staff have been lying all over the place to try and cover up a 2015 incident in which Ivey, then the state’s lieutenant governor, suffered a series of mini-strokes. Or at least something that appeared to be mini-strokes, or TIAs.

They’ve been scrambling ever since.

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And over such a dumb lie, too. Who cares if a 70-year-old woman had a mini-stroke, or something that appeared to be a mini-stroke? Hell, 30-year-old men and women who are in decent shape have those things. They’re not necessarily indicative of poor overall health, although they do indicate a higher risk for future strokes.

But still, why lie? I’m guessing a lot more people would vote for a gubernatorial candidate who admitted to having a mini-stroke than for one who everyone knows is lying about a mini-stroke and who wrongly punished a state trooper for simply following the protocols of his job.

It seems Ivey now finds herself in the latter category. And I think it’s important to understand how we got here.

In this world of abundant news, it’s easy to forget facts and leave entries off the timeline. So, let’s paint this full picture.

Ivey’s “health issue” occurred in 2015 when she was in Colorado Springs for a meeting of the Aerospace States Association. According to her own comments about the incident, she felt lightheaded during the meeting’s opening day, a Friday, and was admitted to the hospital that day. She was released on Sunday.

For the better part of two years, the coverup of the incident was successful, because, let’s be honest, who really cares what’s happening in the personal life of the lieutenant governor. But shortly after Ivey ascended to the big chair following Robert Bentley’s embarrassing demise, whispers about her poor health began.

In May 2017, citing multiple sources close to the governor, APR’s Bill Britt published the first account of the health scare and the coverup, including details of Ivey having a state trooper working her security detail, Drew Brooks, demoted and shipped off to work in a drivers license office in Houston County.

Ivey and her top officials screamed it was fake news.

In multiple settings, including a sitdown interview with al.com’s Mike Cason, Ivey and her chief of staff, Steve Pelham, flatly denied almost all of it.

Ivey said she had actually suffered from “altitude sickness,” which apparently requires a three-day hospital stay now. She told al.com’s Leada Gore that the trooper, Brooks, was “promoted,” because working drivers licenses in Dothan at a 25-percent pay reduction is every cop’s dream assignment.

Pelham told Cason that there was no directive and no punishment.

And for a while, it all died down.

But on Tuesday, the bad lie came back to life, as they have a tendency to do. This time, Britt had a bigger story: Collier, the head of ALEA, was on the record backing up every word of what Britt and APR reported back in 2017.

And we got the receipts too.

Collier, the guy who actually signed Brooks’ transfer order, confirmed that Ivey’s head of security reported to him in 2015 that Ivey was suffering from “stroke-like symptoms” and was being rushed to the hospital in Colorado. Collier reported that information to Bentley and remained in contact with the security detail.

Sometime after Ivey returned from that trip, she summoned Collier to the law offices of Balch & Bingham, because those offices are the Alabama equivalent to the Bada Bing, apparently, where all the bad plans in the state are concocted. At that meeting, she informed Collier that she wanted Brooks demoted and transferred, and claimed Brooks had attempted to hack her email.

Documents obtained by APR show that Brooks — who Ivey and Pelham claimed was promoted — was actually forced off the lieutenant governor’s security detail — a highly sought after position with top pay — and moved to Dothan to give license exams for about $300 less per month in salary.

Does that sound like a promotion?

But you know what’s coming now, right? More lies to cover up the faltering lies.

Later on Tuesday, Ivey’s office released another letter from her doctor to prove that she is in great health and absolutely, 100-percent has never had a stroke. Small problem: in discussing the Colorado incident, Ivey’s doctor stated that she was hospitalized in Denver, which is a little more than an hour from Colorado Springs, where Ivey was when she became ill.

It’s tough to imagine a three-day hospitalization at a large hospital an hour away for altitude sickness. But then, this isn’t my (fictional) story.

So far, the Ivey camp hasn’t addressed Collier’s allegations about Brooks. Instead, Ivey tried to blame the whole thing on Walt Maddox, which, if true, really confirms that we should all be voting for Maddox because that dude’s a wizard.

It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s usually the case when lies start to unravel.   

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Democrats outraise Republicans in several key statewide races

Chip Brownlee

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The first weekly campaign finance filings ahead of November’s election show Democrats raising more money with more individual donors in at least three key statewide races.

While Republicans are maintaining fundraising leads in the race for governor, secretary of state and lieutenant governor, Democrats raised more money than their Republican opponents in the races for attorney general, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and state auditor.

Even in the gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and her Democratic challenger, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Maddox had more individual donors — 399 to Ivey’s 138. In fact, Democrats had more individual donors in the six major statewide races except in the campaigns for lieutenant governor. Republicans do have more cash on hand, in most of the statewide races, providing them more of a war chest as the election nears.

The most notable development in the key statewide races is in the race for attorney general. Democratic candidate Joe Siegelman, the son of Alabama’s last Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, outraised Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Siegelman reported raising $101,609 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 12, beating Marshall’s reported cash contributions amounting to $81,125. Siegelman reported at least 200 itemized contributions, though a few were from the same donor, while Marshall had far fewer donors. Marshall reported only 26 itemized contributions, eight of which were from PACs. Those PAC contributions made up the majority of his fundraising at $49,500.

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Marshall’s largest contribution came from ALA Forestry PAC, which gave his campaign a $25,000 contribution. He also accepted two $10,000 contributions from ABC Merit PAC and Qualico Steel Company, a private business.

Nine of Siegelman’s 200 contributions came from PACs, amounting to $47,500 of his $101,609 in contributions.

Siegelman’s largest single contribution came in the form of two different contributions totaling $20,000 from the North Alabama PAC, which purports to support economic development, and $25,000 in total from four different chain PACs — CASH PAC, ET PAC, Leadership PAC and T-Town PAC II — associated with Tuscaloosa’s Michael Echols, a longtime player in local Tuscaloosa and state politics. Echols’ PACs also donated to Ivey, Maddox and the Democratic candidate for chief justice, Bob Vance, in addition to several localized races.

Echols’ PACs earlier this year donated to Marshall’s Republican primary challenger, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King, whom Marshall defeated in the June Republican primary.

Siegelman ended the last filing period with $287,249 in his account, compared to Marshall’s $211,298, largely because Marshall heavily outspent Siegelman more than four-to-one.

In the race for chief justice, Jefferson County Probate Judge Bob Vance, the Democrat, raised $153,401 through Oct. 12, compared to Parker, who raised only $1,050, which was largely from one $1,000 donation. Vance is also far outspending not only Parker, but most of the other statewide candidates. He spent nearly $571,000 in the first of the month, finishing with $132,920 in his account. Parker spent $63,589, ending the period with $119,425 in cash on hand.

Vance reported 765 different donations during the period to Parker’s three itemized donations.

$15,000 of Vance’s contributions also came from Echols’ PACs.

Republican nominee Will Ainsworth continues to outspend and far outraise his Democratic challenger Will Boyd. Ainsworth, currently a state representative, reported $171,500 in contributions from 68 donors to Boyd’s $2,880 from eight donors. Ainsworth finished the period with $353,100, while Boyd has only $5,336 in his account.

In the race for secretary of state, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill raised $16,950 from 40 separate donations, while Democratic challenger Heather Milam raised $6,427 from 49 separate donations. Merill finished the period with a large war chest of $192,522 to Milam’s $4,342 balance.

Democratic state auditor candidate Miranda Joseph ($3,035) outraised incumbent Republican State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who reported no contributions, though Zeigler outspent Joseph. Zeigler spent $2,567 to Joseph’s $1,846 in expenditures. She reported 12 separate donations while Zielger posted no donations during the period. He finished the period with $11,303 on hand, while Joseph ended with $4,781.

The election is on Nov. 6, and candidates will be required to file weekly finance reports and major campaign finance reports immediately if they accept individual itemized donations of more than $10,000. Candidates that receive or spend more than $5,000 a day during the eight days leading up to the election will also be required to file daily reports.

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Incumbents hold fundraising leads in Alabama congressional races

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama’s congressional incumbents continue to outraise and outspend their challengers. New Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports are in for the second quarter. Campaign finance reports for the second quarter which ended on September 30 were due on Monday, October 15. State government candidates have to report to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, which requires much more frequent reporting.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District Republican incumbent Bradley Byrne, of Montrose, reported raising $1,235,766.41 having $645,973.06 in disbursements and cash on hand at the end of September of $1,036,111.68. Byrne is a former State Senator, former member of the state school board, former head of the state two year college system and an attorney. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

Democratic challenger Robert Kennedy of Mobile reported raising $151,091.03, spending $106,564.26, and cash on hand on September 30 of just $44,526.77. Kennedy is a former U.S. Navy officer who previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2017.

In Alabama’s Second Congressional District, Republican incumbent Martha Roby reported raising $2,486,656.21, disbursements of $2,072,197.18 and cash on hand coming in to the months of just $459,909.75. Rep. Roby faced stiff competition in the Republican primary that forced her to spend a large amount of resources just to get the Republican nomination for the office she has held since 2010. Roby is an attorney and former Montgomery city council woman.

Democratic challenger Tabitha Kay Isner has total receipts of $407,525.03 total disbursements of $269,981.02 and a September 30 cash balance of $137,544.01. Isner is a pastor’s wife who is active in her community.

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In the Third Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mike Roger of Saks raised $1,185,305.10, reported disbursements of $610,575.77 and a September 30 cash balance of $1,100,276.29. Rogers is an attorney, a former Senator, and a former Calhoun County Commissioner. Rogers is seeking his ninth term in the United States Congress.

Democratic challenger Mallory Hagan reports receipts of $178,348.86, expenditures of $154,280.16, and a September 30 cash balance of $24,068.72. Hagan is a former Miss America, former Miss New York, and a former television news reporter in Columbus. She is 29 years old.

In the Fourth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Robert Aderholt of Haleyville reported receipts of $1,258,842.08, disbursements of $725,461.54, and a September 30 cash balance of $998,892.80. Aderholt is a subcommittee chair on the powerful House Appropriations committee. Aderholt is second only to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby among the Alabama delegation in tenure. He is seeking his twelfth consecutive term in the House of Representatives.

Democratic challenger James Lee Auman has raised only $55,673. Auman has expenditures of $45,634 and a September 30 cash balance of just $10,238. Lee Auman left his job as a camp manager to run for Congress.

In the Fifth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mo Brooks of Huntsville reports receipts of $1,436,814.81, disbursements of $1,839,847.63, and a September 30 cash balance of $767,904.50. Brooks ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2017. Rogers is a former state representative, county commissioner, and prosecutor. Brooks, like Roby, faced a fierce primary opponent.

Democratic challenger Peter Joffrion reported receipts of $315,758.65, disbursements of $213,843.16, and a September 30 cash balance of $101,915.49. Joffrion is a retired Huntsville City Attorney.

In the Sixth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Gary Palmer of Hoover reports receipts of $1,117,014.12, expenditures of $791,187.02, and a September 30 cash balance of $978,007.43. Gary Palmer formerly headed the influential Alabama Policy Institute, a thinktank focused on conservative free market solutions to Alabama and America’s problems.

Democratic challenger Danner Kline reports receipts of $256,383.23, expenditures of $161,621.12, and a September 30 cash balance of $94,762.11. Kline has worked managing business telephone systems and most recently managing the craft beer portfolio for a beverage distributor. He is best known as an advocate for beer deregulation.

In the Seventh Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Terry Sewell of Selma reports total receipts of $1,593,438.47, total disbursements of $869,786.01, and a September 30 cash balance of $1,688,178.22. Sewell is an attorney who grew up in Selma, She is seeking her fifth term in the U.S. Congress. Sewell has no opponent.

Most congressional incumbents carry over a balance from previous election cycles that they can use if necessary or roll over to the next election cycle.

Democrats are hopeful that dissatisfaction with the administration of President Donald J. Trump (R) will result in a “blue wave” that will sweep out Republicans and give Democrats control of the U.S. Congress again. If they pick up seats in the Alabama delegation, it will be despite being outspent. The six GOP incumbents have a combined $5,601,051. Their Democratic challengers only have $318,293 in cash for the remaining 37 campaigning days from October 1 to November 6: over a 17 to 1 advantage.

The general election will be on November 6.

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Legislative Advisory Committee on School Safety and Security holds first meeting

Brandon Moseley

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A new Legislative Advisory Committee on School Safety and Security that was created by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, and has been tasked with reviewing and vetting legislation involving school security issues. The task force held its organizational meeting at the Alabama State House on Tuesday.

The panel is comprised of legislators, law enforcement officials, educators, and mental health professionals.

Speaker McCutcheon addressed the meeting. The Speaker told the group that he hopes it will serve as a valuable resource for lawmakers by providing advice, input, and counsel on school security measures that are introduced in upcoming sessions of the Alabama Legislature.
State Rep. Terri Collins (R – Decatur) serves as chair of the advisory committee and led a similar Emergency Task Force on School Safety and Security that was formed in 2016. The earlier task force recommended several school security statutes that have since been passed into law and enacted.

“Because of the work of the previous task force and now this committee, Alabama is ahead of the curve nationally, and we are leading many other states in the area of school safety and security,” Collins said. “As a result of the partnerships we’ve formed among the groups represented on this committee, we are all working to ensure our schools, our children, our teachers, and our administrators are safe, secure, and prepared to react if the unthinkable ever happens.”

State Rep. Alan Baker (R – Brewton), who is a retired public school teacher, also serves on the advisory committee and has previously sponsored and passed important school security measures into law.

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“This committee will serve as a great resource to any lawmaker who is considering legislation related to school safety and wants their ideas vetted before being introduced,” Baker said. “Everyone involved in school safety from law enforcement to school administrators to mental health to the Legislature is represented on this committee, and I am proud to be a part of its efforts.”

The committee will hold its next meeting prior to the start of the 2019 regular legislative session in March in order to review state budget recommendations and pre-filed legislation related to school safety and security.

The member of the committee include: Collins, Baker, Rep. Rex Reynolds (R – Huntsville), Rep. Rod Scott (D – Fairfield), Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, Alabama Department of Mental Health Legislative Affairs Director Holley Caraway, School Superintendents Association of Alabama Executive Director Ryan Hollingsworth, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools Executive Director Vic Wilson, Alabama Homeland Security Director Shirrell Roberts, Alabama Department of Education Administrator Greg DeJarnett, Lee County Deputy Sheriff Pamela Revells, Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear, and Elmore County Public Schools Counseling Coordinator Emilie Johnson.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) has already created a school safety task force that presumably will have legislation recommendations for the legislature to consider.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Figuring out how to get more good guys with guns into the schools, whether that is through more school resource officers or arming trained security teams of administrators and/or teachers, will likely be considered by the legislature.

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FFRF, Foundation for Moral Law continue fight over prayer at sporting events

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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