On Monday, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) confirmed reports that, yes, he presented at a gathering hosted by white supremacist leaders in 2002. The rumors first started swirling when Stormfront—a Neo-Nazi site we don't care to post a link to—mentioned Scalise had spoken at the conference, hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Scalise, who became House majority whip earlier this year, has confirmed those rumors, but insists he was unaware of the group's racist and Neo-Nazi ties, or that it was founded by KKK golden boy, David Duke. There is no recording or transcript of the speech (yet), but Scalise's spokeswoman insists that he "has never been affiliated with the abhorrent group in question."
Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) told reporters he stands by Scalise, noting that “Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners." On the other hand, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) told The Washington Post that "I think it’s a real test for Speaker Boehner as to whether Congressman Scalise should remain in Republican leadership" ... Discuss
On Friday, Rabbi David Saperstein, a former law professor and director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was finally confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador of international religious freedom by the Senate. He will be the first non-Christian to fill the role, which has been vacant since October of 2013. Nevertheless, numerous Christians—including the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Russell Moore and former ambassador Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)—have given Rabbi Saperstein their broad support. “Like most Jews, I know all too well that, over the centuries, the Jewish people have been a quintessential victim of religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, and demonization,” Saperstein was quoted as saying at his confirmation hearing last September. “We have learned, firsthand, the costs to the universal rights, security and well-being of religious communities when good people remain silent in the face of such persecution" ... Discuss
November 4 is election day and you have two options. The first is to do nothing and then go complain on Facebook when the politicians don't do things you want them to do. The other is get out there tomorrow and vote for politicians who will do the things you want them to do. So, what's it going to be? 13-year-old Maddison Kimrey has made her choice (well, she would have, if she were old enough to vote) so what are you going to do? Sit at home like a big baby? Or register and vote? The choice is yours ... Discuss
After igniting a national debate over religious freedom, the separation of church and state and LGBT rights, Houston mayor Annise Parker has told the city to rescind the sermon subpoenas issued to five local pastors. The decision came on the heels of a meeting Mayor Parker held with the pastors in question, along with many other religious leaders who said that subpoenaing sermons was a breach of their constitutional rights. Mayor Parker said that she believes, following some editing changes to the initial subpoenas, that she was within her legal rights, but she didn't "want to have a national debate on freedom of religion when my purpose is to defend ... a city ordinance."
Mayor Parker may be convinced of the justness of her cause, but few people agreed with her. Everyone from Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore to Washington Post free speech columnist Eugene Volokh said the subpoenas were, at best, an overreach. Even the generally pro-LGBT rights platform Slate called the subpoenas "incredibly stupid, instantly regrettable, and utterly unnecessary" ... Discuss
An equal rights ordinance making headway in Houston—one that is, in part, intended to protect gay rights—has come under the national microscope for another reason. Reports recently surfaced that city attorneys subpoenaed sermon notes from local pastors that preached against the ordinance. The move has ignited a conversation about First Amendment rights that quickly got very fiery. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote:
The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.
A more measured response comes from Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law, religious freedom law and church-state relations law at UCLA. He writes that subpoenaing sermons is legal "in principle ...if they are sufficiently relevant to a case or an investigation" but believes Houston's city attorneys' demands for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession” is problematic and "at the very least ...seems vastly overbroad" ...
Update: Houston Mayor Annise Parker appeared to tweet her support of the subpoenas today, but clarified in a statement that she was unaware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday and would seek to narrow their scope. Discuss