Display Featuring Founding Fathers, Bill Of Rights Removed From State CapitolÂ â€“ Governor Says It ‘Mocks Christianity’
Just imagine the hissy fit GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would have thrown if an LGBT activist had been successful in his bid to install a “gay Pride Festivus pole” at the state Capitol.Â
Calling it “tasteless sarcasm” and “a juvenile parody” that “mocks Christianity,” Abbott on Tuesday demanded that a Bill of Rights-themed holiday religious freedom display be removed from the Capitol.Â
The display (above), a sort of secular nativity scene sponsored by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, showed the founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty looking down at the Bill of Rights in a manger. The group’sÂ â€œBill of Rights Nativity and Winter Solstice Display” sat in the basement of the Capitol â€” also home to several Christmas trees as well as a traditional nativity scene â€” and until Tuesday went largely unnoticed by the general public. Â
“First, far from promoting morals and the general welfare, the exhibit deliberately mocks Christians and Christianity,” Abbott wroteÂ in a letter to the State Preservation Board, which approved the display. “The Biblical scene of the newly born Jesus Christ lying in a manger in Bethlehem lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. Subjecting an image held sacred by millions of Texans to the Foundationâ€™s tasteless sarcasm does nothing to promote morals and the general welfare.”Â
Abbott’s letter, which led to the swift removal of the display, isn’t terribly surprising. After all, Texas purports to prohibit atheists from running for public office, and the state’s Republican agriculture commissioner recently threatened to slap anyone who told him “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” But the governor seems to have a particular penchant for hypocrisy when it comes to religious freedom.Â
After recently citing the ConstitutionÂ to defend a traditional nativity scene in one Texas city, he did so again in his letter demanding that the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s display be removed. Abbott, a Catholic, also recently ordered faith-based relief agencies, including Catholic Charities, to violate their religious beliefs by turning away Syrian refugees. Indeed, in demanding that the display be removed, Abbott seemsÂ to have proved the very point that the Freedom From Religion Foundation was attempting to make. Did he ever consider that removing the display may have been precisely what the group wanted?Â
Abbott’s letter goes on to cite George Washington’s “prayer journal” and reference “the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage,” finally Â comparing the display to “a photograph of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine.”Â
Naturally, other state leaders were quick to back up the governor.Â
“I believe this mocking exhibit was approved in error and the State Preservation board is under no obligation to support or allow displays intentionally disrespectful to others,” said GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.Â
Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is considering legal action.Â
“We are certainlyÂ disappointedÂ that Gov. Abbott has used his personal opinion to censor our display from the Capitol,” staff attorney Sam Grover told The Texas Tribune.Â
â€œThis sort of censorship is inappropriate and illegal,â€ Grover told The Dallas Morning News.Â
Unfortunately, even if the group ultimately wins in court, the whole controversy may only serve to fuel the fire of Abbott’s right-wing base.Â
Here are a few of the reactions to Abbott’s letter on Twitter:Â
@GregAbbott_TX Such a thin-skinned hypocrite. You’re no different than the Muslim faithful being incensed by any depiction of their prophet.
â€” Patti Fink (@PattiFink) December 22, 2015
â€” Ray_disComfort (@Ray_disComfort) December 23, 2015
@GregAbbott_TX Sadly governor, your lack of respect for secular principles and the separation of church and state, are what’s juvenile.
â€” sharriman (@sharriman) December 23, 2015
@GregAbbott_TX I thought you were all about freedom and liberty? Oh I see it only means for things you agree with
â€” Cody Vance-Shultz (@daltx85) December 23, 2015
â€” Ã©pineFran (@sterlace_fran) December 22, 2015
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Burn Bags and Use of Personal Email: Justices’ Security Practices Even Worse Than Leak Investigation Showed
Multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations told CNN that justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive communications, employees used printers that didn’t produce logs and “burn bags” to collect sensitive materials for destruction were often left open and unattended in hallways.
“This has been going on for years,” one former employee said.
Some justices were slow to adopt email technology — they were “not masters of information security protocol,” according to one source — and court employees were afraid to confront them over the security risks.
Supreme Court marshal Gail Curley in her investigative report noted that printer logs intended to track document production were insufficient, but a former employee said employees who had VPN access could print documents from any computer, and remote work during COVID-19 shutdowns and otherwise meant draft opinions could have been taken from the building in violation of court guidelines.
Curley’s report noted that court methods for destroying sensitive documents should be improved, but three employees said striped burn bags supplied to chambers were often left sitting out unattended, and each justice had their own protocols for disposing of court documents.
A source familiar with court security practices said some colleagues stapled burn bags shut, while others filled them to capacity and left them near their desks, and others simply left them sitting in hallways where anyone with access to non-public areas could have taken sensitive materials.
Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticketed via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
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