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Opinion | 2024 session: A stark slide into ideological extremism

The session tipped the scales further toward a future where individual rights and personal freedoms are dictated by a radicalized Legislature.

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Alabama’s 2024 legislative session stands as a stark emblem of what could be democracy’s decline, draped in the deceptive trappings of patriotism and moral supremacy. Lawmakers in Montgomery, fueled by relentless ideological fervor, have championed a slate of measures that threaten to thrust the state back into an era marked by stark discrimination and blatant disenfranchisement.

At the forefront of this crusade is the CHOOSE Act, a masterclass in duplicity masquerading as a boon for school choice. This act is a thinly-veiled fiscal robbery, siphoning crucial funds from public schools—already struggling under severe budgetary pressures—to the deep pockets of private educational entities. This blatant maneuver sends a resounding message: public education, the cornerstone of any democratic society, has been callously relegated to the sidelines of Alabama’s priorities.

But the assault doesn’t end with educational inequity. The Legislature has also taken aim at the integrity of elections. New constraints on absentee ballot assistance represent a direct attack on the voting rights of the elderly, the disabled, and minority groups. Dressed up in the noble garb of combating largely mythical widespread voter fraud, these regulations are calculated moves to suppress the votes of those perceived to challenge the hegemonic party line.

The ideological onslaught permeates further, infiltrating classrooms and libraries with prohibitions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and teachings they condemn as “divisive.” This is nothing short of censorship. By quashing academic freedom and whitewashing historical narratives, Alabama’s legislators reveal a stark preference for ignorance over enlightenment, control over education.

In an egregious breach of privacy, the Legislature has dictated the collection of personal IDs on adult websites. Pitched as a strategy to safeguard minors, this Orwellian directive profoundly misinterprets—or perhaps intentionally overlooks—the nuances of the digital realm, setting a disturbing precedent for invasive governmental surveillance.

Most shockingly, there’s the audacity to block a sitting president from appearing on the state’s ballot—a tactic so steeped in partisanship it stinks of a totalitarian scheme rather than a product of democratic debate. This move should ring alarm bells for anyone who values the sanctity of the electoral process.

Nor does the Alabama Supreme Court offer a refuge of impartiality, as evidenced by its decision to grant embryos legal personhood—a drastic overreach that steamrolls reproductive rights under the pretense of moral governance, mirroring a troubling national trend toward enforcing narrow religious doctrines in secular spaces.

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Even the legislative failures are telling. Proposals like “Don’t Say Gay” and attempts to restrict comprehensive sex education reveal the Legislature’s prevailing ethos: to control, confine, and make uniform. These efforts don’t merely legislate discrimination—they institutionalize it, creating a state-endorsed environment of stigma and hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community and those who defy traditional norms.

In their unyielding march toward theocratic governance, Alabama’s lawmakers seem perilously ignorant of James Madison’s solemn caveats about the toxic brew of religion and governance. Madison, a titan among the architects of American democracy and a mastermind behind the U.S. Constitution, understood with crystal clarity the destructive potential of such a union.

Madison’s articulate forewarnings resonate with eerie pertinence today. In a poignant communication to William Bradford in 1774, Madison condemned the “religious bondage” that “shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.” This was no mere flourish of rhetoric but a biting critique of the intellectual and moral decay fomented by clerical interference in politics—an unequivocal assertion that the fusion of church and state spawns oppression, not enlightenment.

Not all Alabama lawmakers are extremists—far from it. Yet, they often capitulate out of fear of losing their next election. They would do well to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Why must we revisit the words of these foundational figures? Because it was their revolutionary ideas and wisdom that defied church and king to form a nation. They envisioned a government not anchored in religious dogma or the might of the powerful, but one built on the will of the people.

This situation cries out for vigilant sentinels of liberty and justice, it is imperative to counteract these incursions with unyielding opposition. Those who truly understand the meaning of freedom must stand firm, vocal, and unwavering against the encroachment of ideological extremism, or be fettered by its chains and stripped of cherished democratic principles.

Measure by measure, the future of liberty and justice hangs in the balance. The year 2024 has tipped the scales further toward a future where individual rights and personal freedoms are dictated by a radicalized Legislature. These lawmakers do not embrace the Enlightenment principles upon which our nation was founded but rather the religious superstitions and kingly powers our forebears sought to escape.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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