By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter
Every good story has character development and plot. So, let’s start with character development.
First, Human Rights Campaign: HRC’s stated mission “envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.” In order to achieve that mission, HRC has one large and lofty legal goal – that the Federal Government will classify a homosexual lifestyle as a protected class.
Second, Southern Poverty Law Center: SPLC spends millions of dollars on a miseducation campaign titled, Teaching Tolerance. The goal of SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance is to quash any dissenting opinion on the acceptability of a homosexual lifestyle. Their goal is actually the opposite of their name; SPLC’s goal is to make the historical and orthodox Christian view of Scripture … intolerable. SPLC also shares with HRC the legal goal of a “protected class” status for the homosexual lifestyle.
Homosexual Lifestyle as Protected Class
If the HRC and SPLC are successful in their the overarching legal goal, they will be able to use the Federal Government as a weapon to silence their number one enemy: a Christian church that preaches and teaches the plain meaning of Scripture.
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, to be a Christian means to let the Scriptures have the final say in all areas of life. The Scriptures are the final authority, the final rule of faith and practice.
These Scriptures plainly teach that a lifestyle of acting on homosexual impulses is sin; and sin is something with which we all struggle. (Romans 1) The Scriptures do not teach that acting on homosexual impulses is the sin-that-beats-all-sin. Rather, homosexuality is listed among many other sins which we all should struggle against and repent of every day; including any sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant, pornography, loving anything more than God, fraudulent business practices, stealing, and being a political gadfly. (1 Corinthians 6) The Scriptures teach that if someone practices one of these sins, without repentance, they will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” (Id.)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Scriptures in Application
If a man comes to his Pastor and says, “I love pornography and cheating people out of money,” the Pastor has an obligation, in love, to give the man a right diagnosis. The Pastor may say something like this, “The Bible says this is sin and sin will destroy you. Sin is deceitful. You need to repent and love God more than your sin. If you don’t, you can’t be part of God’s family.”
The same applies to a lifestyle of acting on homosexual impulses.
However, if HRC and SPLC achieve the lofty legal goal of having homosexuality recognized as a “protected class,” it paves the way for Pastors to be punished by the Federal Government for counseling and teaching according to the orthodox Christian worldview.
Race as Protected Class
Take the protected class of race for example. A Christian Pastor’s first amendment right to religious speech would properly end if this pastor stared teaching, “The Scriptures say that black people are made inferior and subordinate to white people. God designed black people to be slaves of white people. The most loving thing you can do for black people is to help them return to their natural state as a slave. Therefore, go out and enslave black people.”
This line of teaching would rightfully be classified as “hate speech” or “fighting words” and not protected under the First Amendment. This legal boundary is pushed even further in Europe, and countries such as Denmark, where hate speech is classified as anything that makes a member of a group feel insulted, threatened, or degraded.
Homosexuality as Protected Class
Now, apply this to homosexuality. A Pastor is preaching sequentially through Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, written sometime in the first century. The Pastor arrives at the sixth chapter and unpacks Paul’s plain meaning. A lesbian couple has chosen this Sunday to visit the church. They feel insulted, threatened, and degraded. They feel like the church is intolerant to their lifestyle.
The lesbian couple seeks an injunction from a Federal Court against the Pastor, basing their claim on the “protected class” status of LGBT. What happens? HRC and SPLC want to ask the Federal Judge to issue an Injunction against the pastor, prohibiting him from teaching the Scriptures, based on the lesbian couple’s status as members of a protected class.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Cosmic Struggle Between Good and Evil
Before any physical matter existed, the God of Christian Scripture created the universe and a paradise for humankind. A snake slithered into this garden paradise and deceived the woman into sinning against God. Instead of chasing away the snake, Adam stood by complicity and ate of the fruit with his wife. The world fell into darkness and misery, as the relationship between God and humankind was fractured.
Instead of giving humankind what they deserved – an open license for the snake to torment humankind – God promised that there would be war between the offspring of the snake and the offspring of the woman. The woman’s “seed” would be bruised, but the woman’s offspring would eventually crush the head of the snake’s “seed.”
This was the beginning of humankind’s Cosmic Struggle Between Good and Evil. And God promised that eventually, good would prevail over evil. The ultimate victory came through the sinless son of this creator-God, Jesus. Those who profess to follow him, are his agents to continue to fight against the offspring of the snake.
The Apostle Paul – repentant murderer and author of most of the New Testament – explained to the young Church that the enemies of God are not people and parties, but rather “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6) The orthodox Christian teaching states that our enemies are three: our own latent sin nature, the world system that opposes God, and Satan himself.
For the purposes of this article, the cliff notes to the Hitchhikers Guide break it down like this: “Any goal, campaign, or idea which seeks to limit or prohibit a Christian from teaching, counseling, or preaching the plain meaning of Scripture, is a scheme of the ‘seed of the snake’ – a scheme of evil to be vigilantly resisted by all who fight for good.”
House Bill 440 – A Surreptitious Bill Indeed
When I read HB 440 on Wednesday of last week I was shocked to say the least. I was in utter disbelief that this bill had just passed the Committee on Children and Senior Advocacy. HB 440 purports to solve a problem of abuse to children in residential treatment facilities that are run by people of the Christian faith. Given that this is the surface purpose of the bill, it seems odd that SPLC would be present at the committee hearing.
In reality, the bill that passed out of committee would give HRC and SPLC the power to use the government as a weapon to silence pastors from teaching and counseling from the Christian Scriptures.
The first overarching problem with HB 440 is that it gives the government power to regulate church activity. Huge problem … same problem with HB 277. Second, this bill opens the door for DHR to be coerced into making rules which prohibit teaching from the Christian Scriptures.
Here are just four sections from HB 440 which should make the skin crawl of even the most experienced snake handler.
Section 4.(a)(14) states that a religious entity can’t “engage in or perform any sexual orientation change effort.” What would prohibit HRC and SPLC from influencing DHR to interpret this section to mean that a Pastor cannot open Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 with someone struggling with homosexual tendencies?
Section 4.(b)(4) would require faith-based groups to submit to training based on “[c]ultural competency and sensitivity regarding issues of a controversial nature.” Whose curriculum do you think HRC and SPLC will be advocating for? Could it be SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance curriculum? Just a hunch. This section gives DHR the authority to force pastors to submit to training that is antithetical to the Christian faith.
Section 4.(c)(1)p. prohibits these religious groups from “discrimination or harassment on the basis of … orientation [and] gender identity.” If you haven’t caught on by now that HRC and SPLC want this to mean that a pastor can’t counsel from the Scriptures, then I’ve failed miserably as a writer. “Discrimination” and “harassment” are terms of art in the legal world. They mean different things in different contexts. Undoubtedly, HRC and SPLC will be advocating that preaching from Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 constitutes harassment.
Section 7.(a)(7) requires faith-based groups to give to DHR all “[t]ranscripts of any confidential interviews of children who resided in the facility within the last six months.” Is SPLC fishing for something? Why do they want this? Are they hoping to catch causes of action which violate HB440? Do they want to know who is teaching from the Scriptures so they can target them specifically?
These are just a few of the red-flags which permeate HB440. I’m attaching a copy of my full comments which illustrate the pernicious nature of the bill.
Given that this is the second bizarre bill this session which seeks to give the State control of church activity – HB 277 was the first – it’s beginning to look like a deliberate strategy by groups like HRC and SPLC.
Here’s the main take away from the cliff notes to the Hitchhiker’s Guide: You don’t reason with a snake. That was Adam’s mistake. When you see a snake, you crush its head.
For a full analytical mark-up of the HB440’s text, click here.
Opinion | Alabama close to allowing hot dogs to be rescued
Most readers know that we’ve had a grumble of pugs for years. We lost four in the grumble last year. All of our dogs are rescues, and most of them have some disability: unable to walk well, blindness, incontinence, a perpetually crooked head.
And most of the pugs are elderly, so we expect to lose a few this year. Our youngest is Nellie Bly, at about 2 years old. We have a group of older pugs that are around 10-11 years old. Several came from puppy mills. One was surrendered to a vet tech when his owners took him to be put down because the owner’s granddaughter wanted a different dog (I know!). The veterinarian naturally was not going to euthanize a healthy animal, and about a week later, Peerey came to us.
Pugs are bred to do one thing: Sit with their humans, mostly on their laps or next to them on the bed. All of ours are bed pugs. They snore; we adore.
I say all of this to underscore that Veronica and I know not ever to leave one of our dogs in a locked car, especially during the summer. But every year, we hear stories of the careless owners who leave their dog (or dogs) in the backseat of a vehicle while they run an errand. The errand takes longer than the owner thought, and heat builds in the car. Too often, that kills the pet, just like it does children, and that happens all too often as well.
As of 2019, 31 states had laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.
Alabama – finally – is on the cusp of joining that group.
A bill (SB67) sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, will allow good Samaritans to rescue pets left in a car if they are clearly in danger from either the heat or cold. The bill provides criminal immunity to civilians and grants civil and criminal immunity to law enforcement officers who rescue an animal.
Important, too, is that bill prevents owners from leaving their animals in a vehicle in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk of harm. If they do, they can be charged with second-degree animal abuse.
It doesn’t take long for the situation in a vehicle to deteriorate, either.
Even on a mild day, the heat inside a car can go off the rails. According to reports, if the outside temperature is 70 degrees (f), the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes. After a half-hour, the interior temp can be 104 degrees. Of course, it’s much worse on hotter days.
At 80 degrees, a vehicle’s inside temperature is at 99 degrees; after a half-hour, the animal is trying to survive in a 114-degree oven. And at 95 degrees, not an unusual June, July, or August temperature in Alabama, the inside temp of a vehicle is about 130 degrees.
Humans can’t even survive long at those temperatures.
There are conditions before a good Samaritan can step up, but they’re not unusual in states that already have similar laws: Among them:
There are other conditions that make less sense, however. The bill as passed 33-0 by the state Senate requires the ambient temperature in the vehicle be 99 degrees or higher before a citizen or first-responder can intervene.
I can tell you that a half-hour in a car at 95 degrees will kill a pug; a Lab or Golden might survive that temperature for awhile, but remember, every minute the car’s interior is getting hotter. Pugs are brachycephalic – short nosed – and have trouble breathing outside at 80 or 85 degrees.
Other short-nosed breeds like English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, have the same issue. It’s one reason why they snort and snore, even in the winter.
Generally, we can tell when a dog locked in a car is distressed, and few good Samaritans are going to be carrying a temperature gauge with them.
Still, the House needs to pass this bill as soon as possible. Spring and summer aren’t that far off, and, no doubt, there will be animals to rescue.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected]
Opinion | Open Seat for the 2nd Congressional District will be decided in March
Over the course of history, the second congressional district has been referred to and considered a Montgomery congressional district because the Capital City has comprised the bulk of the population. In recent years a good many Montgomerians have migrated to the suburban counties of Autauga and Elmore. Therefore, the district has been refigured to reflect this trend. Today there are more Republican votes cast in this congressional district in these two counties than from Montgomery.
Nevertheless the bulk of the population is in what is now referred to as the River Region. This Montgomery region is coupled with Southeast Alabama and the Wiregrass, which makes it a very conservative Congressional district. It is a Republican seat and has been since Bill Dickinson won it in the southern Republican Goldwater landslide of 1964.
Bill Dickinson beat longtime sitting Congressman George Grantin 1964, and became the first Republican to be elected since Reconstruction. Congressman Dickinson stayed in the seat for 28 years. He rose to be the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. Through his influence, not only were the vital military bases – Maxwell/Gunter in Montgomery and Ft. Rucker in the Wiregrass – enhanced, he was also instrumental in bringing Lockheed and Sikorsky plants to the district. Over the past 100 years, Dickinson has had the most profound effect for the district.
Businessman Terry Everett won the seat in 1992 upon Dickinson’s retirement. He was the first and only Wiregrass person to hold that seat. Everett served with distinction for 16 years, through 2008. He was a stalwart Republican and very conservative.
The current Congressional person is Martha Roby, a Republican from Montgomery. After 10 years in Congress, she said she had enough and chose to not run for reelection this year which leaves the open seat up for grabs. It is a Republican seat, therefore, the winner of the March 3rd primary and probable March 31 GOP runoff, will go to Washington for at least two years.
The probable winner of that congressional seat will be Dothan businessman, Jeff Coleman. He is 53 and has not only been successful running his family’s worldwide moving business, hehas been active civically in the Wiregrass. He is at the right time in life to serve in Washington. His profile is the prototypical scenario for being elected to a Republican Congressional or Senate seat. Congressional campaign fundraising limits coupled with the fact that Washington PACs do not get involved in primaries but wait until the General Election to place their bets, favors a wealthy candidate.
Coleman has his own money and dedicated $2 million to the race. He has followed through on his promise to spend that amount. Amazingly, he has raised another $1 million. When all is said and done, he will probably have spent close to $3 million to win this seat in Congress. Just outspending his challengers by a 10 to 1 amount would be sufficient to win. However, he has not only spent more than all the others combined, he has outworked them. He is affable and confident in an unassuming way. People seem to like him. He will win.
If Coleman had not entered the race, former Attorney General Troy King would have been favored to win. Having run several times and being a native of the Wiregrass, King had some inherent name identification. He has been hampered in this race by lack of fundraising. However, if there is a runoff, King will more than likely be Coleman’s opponent in the March 31 GOP runoff.
Former Enterprise State Representative Barry Moore ran a gallant race against Martha Roby a couple of years ago and got a good vote, most of which came out of Coffee County. He may not do as well in the Wiregrass this time.
There is a dashing young candidate named Jessica Taylor, who is running a good campaign focused on getting free publicity on Fox News as a youthful female candidate.
Whichever candidate wins the seat, there is no question as towhich congressional committees they should aspire –Agriculture and Armed Services because this district is highly dependent on military spending and farming.
Sadly, the winner will probably not have a long tenure in Congress. Alabama is probably going to lose a Congressional seat after this year’s census count. The logical seat to be altered and probably merged with the current third and first district is the second district.
Folks, the primary election is less than two weeks away.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans
Democrats never seem to learn from Republicans.
All around the country, and all around the state of Alabama, Democrats are still playing by the rules. Still listening to the cries and outrage from the other side. Still entertaining the idea that compromise and diplomacy are important to Republicans on some level.
Still watching Lucy jerk that football away at the last moment.
It’s time that stopped.
It is time — actually, well past time — for Democrats to adopt the attitudes of their GOP colleagues, and just do whatever the hell you want to do.
Whatever goal you set, go achieve it. Whatever policy is important, implement it. Whatever action you believe is right, take it.
This is how Republicans have governed now for years. It is how they have wrestled control of the U.S. Supreme Court — just don’t hold a hearing for a duly appointed candidate — and how they have stolen elections — keep blocking attempts to secure elections. It is how they control half of Congress — thanks, gerrymandering! — despite representing nearly 20 million fewer people and how they have managed to offset a growing minority vote — put up every roadblock short of a poll tax.
In Alabama, it has how they adopted the AAA act to funnel tax money to private schools — just completely rewrite the bill in the dead of night — and how they passed the most restrictive abortion ban — just ignore promises and public opinion. It is how they have stopped attempts to pass gambling legislation — by straight up lying about the law — and how they have steadily cut into ethics laws — pretend that no one can understand the laws they wrote themselves — and how a House Speaker convicted on 12 felonies still isn’t in prison three years later — just don’t send him.
They don’t care.
About rules. About the law. About public perception. About basic decency.
And it’s time for Democrats, especially in Alabama, to adopt the same attitudes.
Because if Republicans can behave this way to implement racist bills and roll back ethics laws and protect the income of the elites, then Democrats shouldn’t think twice about doing it to protect rural hospitals or new mothers’ health or workers’ rights or decent public schools.
Now, this will be a big change for Democrats, so let me explain how this would look in practice, using the ongoing saga of Confederate monuments.
Republicans shoved through an absurd bill last year that protects the state’s monuments to those who fought to enslave other human beings, and they’re shocked — shocked and outraged — that African Americans in Alabama might find it offensive to honor the men who enslaved their ancestors.
The bill they passed last year was a dumb bill, right down to the portion which levied a fine on cities if those cities removed or damaged a monument. The bill completely screwed up the fines portion, failing to penalize cities for moving or damaging monuments over 40 years old and failing to place a per-day fine on those cities. Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court said the cities would be subject to one $25,000 fine.
Birmingham has a monument that it desperately wants to move. It has already boarded up the monument in Linn Park, and the ALSC, in the same ruling, ordered the boards to come down.
And this is the first opportunity for Mayor Randall Woodfin to approach this with a new attitude.
Tear it down.
Write out one of those big “Price is Right” checks for $25,000, hold a press conference and award that money to Steve Marshall like he just won at Plinko.
At the same time, workers should be taking that monument apart piece by piece and moving it to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where it can be viewed for its historical significance instead of serving to honor traitors and racists.
No apologies. No shame. Don’t even entertain their complaints.
A similar approach should be taken by the city of Montgomery in regards to its occupational tax, which Republicans are attempting to stop through legislative action.
Montgomery is going broke, and it can’t put enough cops on the streets. Part of that is because every day about 70,000 people flood into the city to go to work, and then they leave each afternoon and spend their money in — and give their tax dollars to — surrounding cities and counties.
Montgomery has to do something to offset the costs, so an occupational tax has been proposed. But just as quickly as it was, the ALGOP — the kings of handouts to people who don’t need them — passed a bill to block it.
So, some creativity is required.
Instead of an occupational tax, pass a public safety tax.
If you work within the city limits of Montgomery, but live outside of those city limits, your paycheck will now be taxed an extra 1 percent to offset the cost of the police and fire services that you might use while in the city every day.
No apologies. No shame. Don’t listen to GOP complaints.
It’s a shame that things have to be like this, but they do. Democrats have tried for decades to force rational debate and to promote the value of compromise. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, which have been attached to toddler-like brains that have justified atrociously selfish behaviors and awful governance.
At this point, it has gone on so long and been so successful for Republicans, the only thing that might break through is a taste of their own medicine.
Give it to them.
Opinion | Facts are stubborn things
I’m in my 20th year of teaching in the English Department at UAB. I’ve never taught my primary discipline, journalism, and I really don’t have much of a desire to, either.
Yet, in 2017, the leadership of UAB’s University Honors Program asked me to be a part of their interdisciplinary faculty for the fall. UHP’s fall semesters are themed, and that year, the first year of Donald Trump’s term as president, the theme was appropriate: “Evidence and Belief in a Post-Truth Society.” For UHP, I was a “communications” (journalism) professor. I taught with a scientist and public health professor, a religion professor, a philosophy professor, a literature professor and a psychology professor.
The students in this program – all 100-plus of them – are among the smartest students on campus. Needless to say, I was intimidated. For my first lecture before the students, I took a Xanax (it’s prescribed because I do have anxiety sometimes). The Xanax didn’t make me lecture better, but it made me not really care if I screwed up.
I’m sort of a one-trick pony – I teach and write in the only language I know: English. Here, you had neuroscience and biology and chemistry majors galore. And, yes, there were a few English and history and business and engineering students, too. Pretty much every discipline taught at UAB is represented in UHP, and certainly in its umbrella school, the UAB Honors College.
That fall went by quickly. I only took the Xanax for the first lecture. I settled into my groove pretty quickly. But when it was over, I ached for the continued intellectual stimulation I received as a teacher. I’m a lifetime learner, and that program taught me a lot. And I got to teach others a lot, too.
I thought it was a one-shot deal. Until, that is, the program’s director, Dr. Michael Sloane, asked me to return in the fall of 2018 to direct the first-year students’ literary analyses. And that fall, I was also asked to propose a UHP seminar class for the spring of 2020. I returned last fall to once again direct the first-year literary analysis. And I’ve been asked to return for first-year LAs again this coming fall.
This semester, I’m teaching the class I proposed, “Media and Social Justice.” And I’ve already got another self-created UHP seminar class scheduled for next spring, “Media and War: Men and Women Making a Difference on the Front Lines.”
Unlike my composition and literature classes in the English Department, these seminars have no template. I have to create the teaching as I go. Some days, I’m very confident; others not so much.
I divided the “Media and Social Justice” class into six two-week units: Nellie Bly (mental illness and investigative journalism), The Jungle (food safety and immigration), Jim Crow Lives (the civil rights era and voter suppression), #MeToo (sexual assault and harassment), Black Lives Matters (police and other shootings of people of color), and March for Our Lives (gun violence and sensible gun regulation).
These classes are limited to 16 honors students, but 19 students wanted in my “Media and Social Justice” class, so I have 19 students.
I teach these classes as a communications professor, not an English professor. I direct the literary analyses as a literature professor, not a communications professor.
We’re covering historical topics, for sure, but also contemporary topics. It doesn’t get any more current than Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, voter suppression, or March for Our Lives.
We don’t just talk about the journalism around these topics, but also about other media. For example, I find protest songs for each topic. While it’s not on our plate, did you know Trump has inspired a whole catalog of protest songs? Most every president inspires protest songs, though Trump has inspired an awful lot of them.
Maybe at some point, I’ll create a “Media and Donald J. Trump” class. There is plenty of material.
The point, though, is that we all should be lifelong learners. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from by English students and my honors students, how much the English faculty has taught me, and how much the faculty and directors of the University Honors Program have taught me.
That I get to return the favor by teaching these unique classes says a lot about UAB, and how it values critical thinking and learning.
I hope I never lose my enthusiasm for learning, or become too stubborn to change when the facts point toward another direction. That is our responsibility to the truth. I guess I am stubborn in one way: There are no alternative facts. Facts are truth, reality. The alternative is false, untruth, lies.
Readers, that’s a fact, and like me sometimes, facts are stubborn.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].
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