On Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford took to Twitter to post a speech he gave last year at the Conservative Political Action Conference addressing religious freedom, saying:
“If we believe in freedom of religion, that is all faiths. We stand for the person next to us to have a different faith than ours and for their right to practice their faith because we have a right to practice ours.”
The Oklahoma senator went on to say that despite his own faith as a Christian, he believes it is a conservative principle in America to protect the religious freedoms of individuals who hold other beliefs. Discuss
A federal judge blocked Texas authorities from keeping Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood in a Tuesday ruling.
Officials in Texas accused Planned Parenthood of collecting and selling fetal body parts based on the undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress, and subsequently cut off Medicaid funding to specific Planned Parenthood clinics.
In Judge Sam Sparks' 42-page decision, he wrote that Texas' actions were "without any evidence indicating an actual program violation warranting termination." Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has already announced that he will appeal the ruling.
"Today's decision is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency," Paxton said. "No taxpayer in Texas should have to subsidize this repugnant and illegal conduct."
Sparks also said that the video doesn't show evidence of Planned Parenthood violating ethical or medical standards or of them altering their abortion procedures just so they could get more fetal tissue, presumably for selling.
This decision comes as many conservatives are lobbying for Planned Parenthood to be completely defunded.
Planned Parenthood maintains that the federal money they receive, mostly from Medicaid, is for preventive care for money, birth control and pregnancy tests, not abortions. Discuss
The European Union is serious about cracking down on fake news. So serious that they've created East Stratcom, an 11-member team based in Brussels that tries to stem the barrage of fake news.
They look through social media and websites—seeing hundreds of claims and reports each day. The EU has specifically said the team was created in response to "Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns," according to The New York Times.
The team, which was created just 16 months ago, is made up of former journalists and diplomats who looks through hundreds of reports and then sends out corrections to the public. Since it's beginning, it has debunked 2,500 articles and claims, many of them said to have come from Russia.
It's become especially important for the team to do its work because Germany, France and the Netherlands will elect new leaders this year, and fake news can definitely play a role in an election.
According to the Times, many of the fake news articles are about politicians who could pose the biggest threat to Russia. A large portion of them also try to turn people against the acceptance of refugees, calling them terrorists and rapists.
The team's size is not an advantage to them—they are overwhelmed and the amount of fake news out there is only increasing. They try to use social media to respond to fake news as its happening, and publish a weekly newsletter in addition to a shorter daily report.
Germany, which is also working to fight fake news, has considered fines against companies like Google and Facebook for allowing the fake news to be published, but Google and Facebook argue that they're not producing the fake news, they're just a place to publish the news. Discuss
The House of Representatives voted to halt an action that would keep states from defunding Planned Parenthood in their respective states. Given the makeup of the Senate and the executive branch, the effort is likely to succeed.
Right as now-former president Barack Obama left office, he signed a bill that wrapped up Planned Parenthood’s funding in Title IX legistlation, essentially keeping states from removing public family planning funds on the grounds of abortion. At the time, 13 states had defunded Planned Parenthood by keeping Title IX funds from going to the organization, which is the nation’s largest provider of on-demand abortions by far. Obama amended Title IX to take away state’s ability to do that.
Yesterday the House voted 230-188 to overturn the new Title IX rule using what’s called the Congressional Review Act (the act, according to Vox, lets Congress fast-track or disapprove of newly introduced federal rules). Now the “resolution of disapproval” will head to the Senate, where it requires a 51-vote majority, and then to president Donald Trump’s desk.
It’s likely that Trump will sign the bill, given his previous statements about defunding Planned Parenthood.
This isn’t a move to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level, though those efforts are likely to follow. Currently, some $500 million federal dollars go to Planned Parenthood annually receives more than $500 million annually.
Yesterday, a unanimous three-judge appeals panel ruled that the Trump administration cannot reinstate its ban on immigration from the seven countries in its executive order from two weeks ago.
In a 29-page decision, the judges said that the ban was not a true measure of national security and that "no evidence" had been presented to say that any immigrant from those seven banned countries had committed prior acts of terrorism. It did not address whether or not it was an act of discrimination against Muslims, saying it was too early to make a judgment on that.
The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.
Soon after the decision went public, Trump responded on Twitter:
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!
Kellyanne Conway told Fox News: “This ruling does not affect the merits at all. It is an interim ruling, and we’re fully confident now that we’ll get our day in court and have an opportunity to argue this on the merits, that we’ll prevail.”
The Justice Department, which is working on behalf of the administration, released a statement saying it was "reviewing the decision and considering its options."
The next appeal would go to the Supreme Court, which is still split evenly and a tie would keep the appeals court decision in place. The Justice Department could also ask for the full appeals court to review the case. Discuss
At today's National Prayer Breakfast, among other things, Trump promised to "totally destroy" the law that keeps tax-exempt churches from making political commentary.
The law, called the Johnson Amendment, was enacted in 1954 and says that nonprofits, which includes churches, cannot participate in political campaigns for or against any candidates. That includes restricting ministers from endorsing candidates in sermons for fear of losing the tax-exempt status.
The law came through a Republican legislature and was signed by a Republican president—it wasn't controversial at the time, but now many Republicans want to repeal it, and to cater to his base of religious conservatives, doing so would be in his best interest.
The argument is that the law violates free speech protections, but courts ruled against them historically.
Trump told the breakfast's attendees: "I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”
He went on to add that “freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is under serious threat.”
Trump also spoke about his temporary ban of people from predominantly Muslim countries, saying that terrorism threatens religious freedom.
“America is a nation of believers,” he told the crowd. “The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success ... I tell you that as someone who has had material success.” Discuss