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Texas GOP Governor Abbott Hypocritically Tramples On Religious Freedom

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Greg Abbott Orders Faith-Based Nonprofits To Stop Resettling Syrians

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is all about protecting religious liberty — except when he’s not. 

If the issue is same-sex marriage, for example, Abbott supports allowing government employees like Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to opt out of doing their jobs if they have religious objections. 

“Texans of all faiths must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious freedom is beyond the reach of government,” Abbott said in a statement responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. “The government must never pressure a person to abandon or violate his or her sincerely held religious beliefs regarding a topic such as marriage.”

Likewise, if the issue is reproductive rights, Abbott believes employers should be allowed to opt out providing health coverage to women. In 2012, then-Attorney General Abbott joined five other states in filing a lawsuit against the federal government over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. 

“Obamacare’s latest mandate tramples the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and compels people of faith to act contrary to their convictions,” Abbott said at the time. “The very first amendment to our Constitution was intended to protect against this sort of government intrusion into our religious convictions.”

But now that the issue is Syrian refugees, Abbott appears perfectly willing to trample on the First Amendment rights of faith-based nonprofits. Under Abbott’s direction, the executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission penned a letter to nonprofit agencies last week demanding that they comply with the governor’s efforts to block Syrian refugees. 

“If you have any active plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas, please discontinue those plans immediately,” Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote.  

Some agencies, including Catholic Charities of Dallas, have indicated they won’t go along with the directive from the governor (who happens to be Catholic). 

“Catholic Charities believes in a compassionate response to those who are fleeing violence and persecution around the world. We are called by the Gospel to reach out to all those in need,” Catholic Charities said in a statement.

Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, a faith organization that works closely with refugee aid agencies, expressed shock and dismay at Abbott’s letter.

“We are deeply concerned that the Governor’s letter directs those agencies to interfere with the religious freedom of faith-based humanitarian agencies working in Texas,” Moorhead wrote. “As we read the Governor’s letter, he appears to be directing state agencies to pressure faith-based organizations to violate the sincerely held beliefs of their religious traditions.

“The vicious and inhuman acts perpetrated in Paris, Beirut, and around the world on unsuspecting civilians by terrorists appall people of all faiths,” she added. “However, Governor Abbott’s fearful response now threatens to provide precisely the reaction terrorists hope to achieve-scapegoating of entire national and religious groups, and division among religious communities. Additionally, it runs roughshod over the freedom of religious humanitarian organizations in Texas to practice their faith.” 

Abbott, of course, is one of more than two dozen governors who’ve said they’ll stop accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, even though they apparently lack the legal authority to turn them away. But Abbott has gone a step beyond most others. In addition to impinging on the religious liberties of nonprofit agencies, Abbott has violated Syrian refugees’ civil rights by ordering the Department of Public Safety to track those already in Texas. 

In an effort to justify his ridiculous actions, Abbott recently claimed eight Syrian refugees had been “caught” crossing the Texas border in Laredo. As it turned out, two Syrian families had actually turned themselves in, prompting Politifact to rate Abbott’s claim as “mostly false.” 

By Monday, Abbott had begun raising money based on his opposition to resettling Syrian refugees: 

Worst of all, Abbott’s rhetoric may be fanning the already fervent flames of anti-Islamic hatred among right-wingers in Texas. Over the weekend, protesters staged an armed rally outside a mosque in Irving, wearing bandanas over their faces and carrying long guns. 

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” one protester with a 12-gauge rifle told The Dallas Morning News. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

Fortunately, not all elected officials in Texas are as crazy as Abbott. Among those who showed up at the protest was Irving City Councilman Chris Palmer. 

“My initial impression was they were using them for intimidation,” Palmer told The Dallas Morning News, referring to protesters’ guns. “I doubt that they’d be happy if some of the Muslim churchgoers here showed up at their Christian church, their Baptist church, their Methodist church tomorrow morning with rifles slung over their shoulders.”

Meanwhile, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings have publicly rejected misleading, reactionary, xenophobic rhetoric from the likes of Abbott. Rawlings told MSNBC on Saturday that such rhetoric only plays into the hands of ISIS.

“ISIS wants us to be divided on this issue. ISIS wants us to demonize these Syrian refugees, wants us to alienate these children,” Rawlings said. “ISIS is no more Islamic than the Nazi senior staff was Christian, so we’ve got to differentiate between those. … I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up, but we don’t isolate young white men on this issue.”

 

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

 

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FIRST AMENDMENT? WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

Justice Clarence Thomas Believes Media Criticism of Decisions ‘Jeopardizes Any Faith’ in the Supreme Court

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Justice Clarence Thomas complained about the harsh criticism the Supreme Court has received since allowing a controversial anti-abortion law to go into effect in Texas.

Thomas delivered the 2021 Tocqueville Lecture at the University of Notre Dame on Thursday, where he complained about media criticism, The Washington Post reported.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are anti-abortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” Thomas said.

“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions,” he said.

A second Post report on the speech noted Thomas’ remarks on the ongoing mistrust of the court.

“The court was thought to be the least dangerous branch and we may have become the most dangerous,” Thomas said. “And I think that’s problematic.”

The newspaper noted the lecture was interrupted by protesters who yelled, “I still believe Anita Hill.”

 

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AMERICAN IDIOT

‘Genius’ Madison Cawthorn Mocked for Claiming the Constitution Prohibits Airlines From Requiring Vaccinations

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U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn is once again being mocked, this time for yet again not understanding the very basics of American democracy.

On Thursday the Republican from North Carolina claimed it is “illegal” and unconstitutional for airlines to require passengers to be vaccinated, because “you actually have a constitutionally protected right to free, unrestricted travel within the United States.”

That last part has a tiny shred of truth to it. Just not in the way Congressman Cawthorn thinks.

(Those inteested in the legal mechanics should examine this and this.)

Anyone could take a minute to come up with arguments why his claim is false, including that anyone driving a car is required to have a driver’s license and insurance, and wear a seat belt.

The freshman Congressman was quickly mocked:

 

 

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News

29 Months Later Bill Barr’s Super Secret Russia Special Counsel Files His Second Indictment – for Alleged Lying

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In April of 2019 then-Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut to open and lead an investigation into Russia – not into how Russia has been attacking the United States via cyber warfare, undermining Americans’ trust in American institutions, and using social media to do it, but into whether or not the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been warranted in opening an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including its investigation of Donald Trump.

On Thursday, 29 months after Barr first appointed John Durham (photo, right) to lead that super-secret investigation, 11 months after Barr secretly turned Durham into a special counsel to ensure the investigation would continue past his and Trump’s tenure, and after spending untold millions of taxpayer dollars, the Dept. of Justice has announced Durham has obtained a second indictment.

“A prominent cybersecurity lawyer was indicted on a charge of lying to the F.B.I. five years ago during a meeting about Donald J. Trump and Russia, the Justice Department announced on Thursday,” The New York Times reports.

The lawyer, Michael Sussmann, “of the law firm Perkins Coie, which has deep ties to the Democratic Party — is accused of making a false statement about his client at the meeting.”

Mr. Sussmann’s defense lawyers have denied the accusation, saying that he did not make a false statement, that the evidence he did is weak and that who he was representing was not a material fact in any case. They have vowed to fight any charge in court.

At issue is who was Sussman working for when he “relayed concerns by cybersecurity researchers who believed that unusual internet data might be evidence of a covert communications channel between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and with Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution.”

Apparently not at issue is if the Trump Organization or campaign had a secret communications channel to a Kremlin-linked organization.

Frequent viewers of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow are likely familiar with her reporting on Alfa Bank, including this segment from October 2018:

Durham has not obtained any indictment against anyone in Russia, any Russian operatives, any Trump Organization or campaign official, or anyone who may have been involved in Russia’s attack on the United States.

The only other indictment Durham has obtained from his two-plus year investigation? The Times in 2019 reported on a “low-level” FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who “altered an email that officials used to prepare to seek court approval to renew the wiretap,” on Carter Page, a Trump campaign advisor.

One expert calls the indictment “weak.”

 

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