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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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House

Speaker McCutcheon hospitalized with heart issue

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Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon announced on Friday that he has been hospitalized with a heart issue and expects to be released following treatment over the weekend.

“Deb and I appreciate the prayers of healing that so many have made on my behalf, and I am well on the road to recovery,” McCutcheon said. “Tests indicated that I had a blocked blood vessel in my heart, which resulted in the fatigue and shortness of breath that I felt, and the issue will be treated with simple medication.”

While returning home from the legislative orientation session at the Alabama State House on Thursday, McCutcheon suffered mild chest pains and shortness of breath and was driven to an emergency room for examination.

McCutcheon said he first assumed he was suffering from a case of bronchitis, but an EKG indicated a heart issue, which blood tests later confirmed.

His physician recommended a heart catheterization, and those results showed a blood vessel had closed but did not require a stent and could be treated with medication.

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During his recovery, the speaker said he will continue working on House committee assignments and other legislative issues in preparation for the upcoming organizational and regular sessions of the Alabama Legislature.

During the 2014 legislative session, McCutcheon underwent heart bypass surgery and returned to work before the session’s end.

 

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Courts

Attorney general’s office will prosecute Hoover mall shooting cases

Brandon Moseley

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Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office will take over prosecuting the Nov. 22, 2018, shootings of E.J. Bradford, Brian Wilson and Molly Davis at Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria Mall.

Marshall notified Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr (D) that he is assuming prosecution of the cases after the admission by District Attorney Carr in a letter to Attorney General Marshall of the presence of potential conflicts between himself and key parties in the cases. Attorney General Marshall noted that the conflicts warrant recusal under the National District Attorneys Association’s National Prosecution Standards.

“I have reviewed your December 11th letter regarding your prosecutorial role in the shooting death of Emantic ‘E.J.’ Bradford, Jr.,” Attorney General Marshall wrote District Attorney Carr. “Based on the information you provided in that letter and our multiple conversations on the subject—particularly your acknowledgement that ‘a fair-minded, objective observer could conclude that a conflict exists’—I have determined that the National Prosecution Standards dictate your recusal from the investigation of each of the shootings that occurred in the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night, not just E.J. Bradford’s.”

“While I have no reason to believe that you are actually biased or compromised, I agree that other fair-minded persons might question your neutrality based on the information that you provided in the letter and during our private conversations,” Marshall said. “For example, you state that the officer who shot Mr. Bradford is either the charging officer or a witness in approximately 20 cases pending in your office. A fair-minded Defendant (or family member) in those cases could question whether you and/or your prosecutors are biased in favor of protecting the officer from prosecution because the officer’s testimony may be important in his or her case. On the flip side, you acknowledge personal relationships with some of the protestors who are calling for the officer who shot Mr. Bradford to be criminally prosecuted, which could lead a fair-minded person to question your bias in favor of indictment. I have weighed these factors and others mentioned during our conversations and agree that, when taken as a whole, these factors warrant recusal under Rule 1-3.3(d).”

National Prosecution Standards rule 1-3.3(d) dictates that:

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The prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from any investigation, prosecution, or other matter where personal interests of the prosecutor would cause a fair-minded, objective observer to conclude that the prosecutor’s neutrality, judgment, or ability to administer the law in an objective manner may be compromised.
Attorney General Marshall also notified Carr that his office would also prosecute the shootings of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis.

“Your letter requests guidance on the ‘officer-involved’ shooting of E.J. Bradford; it does not mention the shootings of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis,” Marshall concluded. “However, it is my understanding that all three shootings were part of a single chain of events. Thus, the investigation of Mr. Bradford’s shooting is inextricably intertwined with the investigation into the shootings of Mr. Wilson and Ms. Davis and must be conducted by the same entity. Accordingly, to guard against inconsistent prosecutorial decisions, you must also excuse yourself from those investigations.”

According to police accounts, a 21-year-old Hueytown man, Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr., and his friend Brian Wilson, age 18, were at the Hoover Riverchase Mall on Thanksgiving night. A scuffle broke out with some other individuals over some sale priced shoes. A gun was drawn and a shooter shot Brian Wilson. A bullet also struck 12-year-old Molly Davis, who was there shopping with her grandmother, in the back. At some point in all of this, Bradford also pulled a weapon. An off-duty uniformed Hoover Police Officer who was working security for the Galleria rushed to the scene. He saw Bradford with a gun and shot him. Bradford died from his wounds. Twenty-year-old Erron Marquez Dequann Brown has since been arrested for shooting Wilson.

Attorney, Ben Crump has been retained by the Bradford family. Crump says that an independent review of the autopsy results indicate that the officer shot Bradford in the back three times. According to Crump, there are witnesses that claim that the officer never identified himself before opening fire on Bradford.

Hoover police wrongly identified Bradford as the mall shooter in the hours after the incident. Investigators realized that was not the case after it was determined that the bullets that were cut out of Wilson could not have come from Bradford’s gun. The Hoover police officers has not yet been formally identified by authorities.

A number of protestors are blaming Hoover for all of this and has been attempting to interfere with businesses and shoppers in the weeks since the shooting. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating the case.

Steve Marshall is a former district attorney in Marshall County. He was recently elected to his own term as attorney general.

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Featured Columnists

Opinion | Trump’s con game is almost over

Josh Moon

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It’s all true.

All of the rumors. All of the speculation. All of the oh-my-God-have-you-heard-about whispers.

All of it is true.

All of the things that Donald Trump and his administration and family have been accused of doing … they actually did them. All of them.

Even the really dumb ones.

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Even the really awful ones.

They did it all.

Oh, listen, I know that the typical Alabama conservative voter has zero idea what I’m talking about right now, because they have so fully wrapped themselves in the protective bubble of conservative opinion sources that they’re still talking about the Clinton Foundation. But I don’t care.

Because this isn’t speculation. Or partisan hopefulness. Or ignorant accusations.

This is under oath.

And right now, after the last two weeks, here’s what people under oath, facing the penalty of perjury and providing supporting evidence and documentation, have said about the conman you people elected president: He has lied repeatedly. He has directed illegal payments. He has sought to cover up affairs. He has bought off a tabloid. At least 14 members of senior campaign staff were in contact with Russians. And Trump — or “Individual 1,” as he’s known in court filings these days — was involved in it all.

Trump’s personal attorney has now been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for a crime personally directed by the president.

That makes five — FIVE! — of Trump’s top aides or attorneys who have struck deals with Robert Mueller and are now working with the broad investigation into possible (certain) Russian interference and collusion.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump’s personal businesses are also under federal investigation. His campaign staff’s use of funds is now under federal investigation. And most of his immediate family is under investigation.

And absolutely none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

Because all of you should have known well before this clown was elected president that he is nothing more than a two-bit conman with an ego large enough to fill a stadium and less shame than a 90-year-old stripper.

You should know because we told you. We, the media. The actual media.

We wrote story after story on this crook and his shady business dealings — how he rarely paid his bills, how he left working men holding the bill, how he created a scam college to bilk poor people out of money, how he skirted laws and tax codes constantly and how he gamed the system over and over again to stay wealthy using taxpayer money.

All of it was right there for anyone to read.

But a good portion of this country didn’t care. They were too caught up in this buffoon making jokes and calling people names and kicking people out of rallies and saying offensive things. He catered to white men and claimed he could fix any problem just by saying he could fix any problem.

And they bought it. Just like the conman planned. You didn’t even make this dude show you his tax returns!

And the white, working-class folks are still buying it. Which would make sense if he had done even one thing to help them.

But he hasn’t.

His economic policies have been a disaster, especially for the people of Alabama. And his tough talk has produced zilch in the way of foreign respect, better trade deals, lower prices for consumers or more American jobs. In fact, we’ve lost respect, have worse deals and higher prices and companies are still moving American jobs to other countries.

And yet, the supporters remain.

I don’t understand it. But you know what? I don’t have to understand it for much longer.

The walls are quickly closing around the conman president. Soon, the rest of Mueller’s investigation will drop, and the indictments will roll out. The full breadth of the Trump administration’s illegal acts will be laid out for Congress to see. Given what we already know from the few filings that have been made public, this will not go well for Trump and his closest associates.

I do not expect the Trump supporters to ever admit they were wrong.

But if there is justice in this world, and if the indictments break just right, those supporters will have to deal — at least for a brief period — with the two words that could make this whole thing almost worth it.

President Pelosi.

 

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Aerospace and Defense

Jones appointed to powerful Senate Armed Services Committee

Chip Brownlee

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After a brief stint with no representation on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, Alabama is back in the mix.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones has been appointed to the influential committee tasked with overseeing the nation’s armed forces, national security and military research and development. Jones will assume his position on the committee when the 116th Congress convenes in January.

Alabama is home to five military bases, which employ 8,500 active-duty service members and more than 23,000 civilians. With Jones’ appointment, Alabama will regain some representation for the aerospace industry in Huntsville and the shipbuilding industry in Mobile, both of which have deep ties to the military.

In 2017, the Department of Defense spent $7.7 billion on contracts in Alabama. Alabama hasn’t had any representation on the committee since Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions left the Senate to become attorney general and his temporary replacement, Luther Strange, lost the Republican primary to Roy Moore.

More than 375,000 veterans, including 65,000 retirees, live in Alabama.

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“Alabama and its citizens have long played a significant role in our national defense, from building or maintaining ships and other vehicles to leading cutting-edge research and development to volunteering to serve in our armed forces,” Jones said. “It is vital that we have a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a role that I am honored to be able to fill in the next Congress.”

Jones said he is committed to serving as Alabama’s advocate for a strong national defense, which also means a strong and prosperous economy in our state.

“I look forward to working with Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed to advocate for our service members and their families, and for a robust national defense posture that protects our interests at home and abroad,” Jones said.

Democrats had to fill three seats on the committee after losing three of the senior Democrats who were serving there. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, all lost their re-election to the Senate, leaving a gaping hole for the Democrats. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, is the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee.

“Senator Jones is a tremendous advocate for Alabama and a true champion for our service members and their families,” Reed said. “I am pleased to welcome him to the committee and know he’ll continue working on a bipartisan basis to help keep America strong militarily and economically.”

Jones will remain on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where his office says he will continue to advocate for improved access to health care and quality educational opportunities for Alabamians.

Jones will also continue to serve on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. He will no longer serve on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

 

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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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