Kentucky Tax Preparer Defends Refusal to Work With Gay Couples: “This is Legal”

Kentucky Tax Preparer Defends Refusal to Work With Gay Couples: “This is Legal”

This sort of bigotry shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.

Republicans Have an Ambitious Agenda for the Supreme Court

Why the G.O.P. doesn’t need to try to pass mostly unpopular policies through the elected branches.

Not so long ago, Republicans had one of the most ambitious legislative agendas of any political party in modern American history.

Devised by the former House speaker, Paul Ryan, the so-called Ryan budget sought to reduce much of the nation’s social safety net to ashes. Congressional Republicans planned to slash Medicaid spending and food stamps. In the most aggressive version of Mr. Ryan’s proposal, Republicans would have replaced Medicare with “premium support” vouchers that could be used to buy private insurance, and then reduced the value of this subsidy every year — effectively eliminating traditional Medicare over time.

But all of that has changed. The Ryan budget is a relic. At their 2020 national convention, Republicans didn’t even bother to come up with a new platform.

Yet while the party appears to have no legislative agenda, it’s a mistake to conclude that it has no policy agenda. Because Republicans do: They have an extraordinarily ambitious agenda to roll back voting rights, to strip the government of much of its power to regulate, to give broad legal immunity to religious conservatives and to immunize many businesses from a wide range of laws.

It’s just that the Republican Party doesn’t plan to pass its agenda through either one of the elected branches. Its agenda lives in the judiciary — and especially in the Supreme Court.

From 2011, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and denied President Barack Obama a governing majority, until the pandemic forced legislators’ hands in 2020, Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the 2017 tax law.

In the same period, the Supreme Court dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law; severely weakened the Voting Rights Act; permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion; expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system; undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.

Many of these changes would build on decisions handed down long before President Donald Trump reshaped the Supreme Court. The court, for example, first allowed employers to force workers to sign away their right to sue the company — locking those workers into a private-arbitration system that favors corporate parties — in a 2001 case, Circuit City v. Adams. But the court’s current majority is likely to make it much harder for workers and consumers to overcome these tactics. In Epic Systems v. Lewis (2018), Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion favoring an employer that forced its employees to give up their right to sue.

Similarly, in the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that businesses seeking a religious exemption from a law may have it — holding, for the first time, that such exemptions may be allowed even when they diminish the rights of others. That case permitted employers with religious objections to birth control to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, even though a federal regulation required employer-provided health plans to cover contraception.

Before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court, however, a majority of the justices were very reluctant to grant religious exemptions to state regulations seeking to limit the spread of Covid-19. Yet after she became a justice, the court’s new majority started granting such exemptions to churches that wanted to defy public health orders.

It’s plausible that the Republican Party did not campaign on its old legislative agenda in 2020 because it was busy rebranding itself. Under Mr. Trump, Republicans attracted more working-class voters, while Democrats made gains in relatively affluent suburbs. So Mr. Ryan’s plans to ransack programs like Medicaid aren’t likely to inspire the party’s emerging base.

And yet the court’s conservative majority is still pushing an agenda that benefits corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers and consumers.

It’s easy to see why government-by-judiciary appeals to Republican politicians. There’s no constituency for forced arbitration outside of corporate boardrooms. But when the court hands down decisions like Circuit City or Epic Systems, those decisions often go unnoticed. Employers score a major policy victory over their workers, and voters don’t blame the Republican politicians who placed conservative justices on the court.

Judges can also hide many of their most consequential decisions behind legal language and doctrines. One of the most important legal developments in the last few years, for example, is that a majority of the court called for strict new limits on federal agencies’ power to regulate the workplace, shield consumers and protect the environment.

In Little Sisters v. Pennsylvania (2020), the court signaled that it’s likely to strike down the Department of Health and Human Services rules requiring insurers to cover many forms of medical care — including birth control, immunizations and preventive care for children. And in West Virginia v. E.P.A. (2016), the court shut down much of the E.P.A.’s efforts to fight climate change.

Yet to understand decisions like Little Sisters and West Virginia, a reader needs to master arcane concepts like the “nondelegation doctrine” or “Chevron deference” that baffle even many lawyers. The result is that the Republican Party’s traditional constituency — business conservatives — walk away with big wins, while voters have less access to health care and breathe dirtier air.

By legislating from the bench, Republicans dodge accountability for unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the real power is held by Republican judges who serve for life — and therefore do not need to worry about whether their decisions enjoy public support.

It’s a terrible recipe for democracy. Voters shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer to understand what their government is doing.

Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox and author of the book “The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America.”

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New South Dakota Law Allows Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ People on Basis of Faith

https://www.them.us/story/south-dakota-law-allows-lgbtq-discrimination-basis-of-faith

 Rep. Kristi Noem

South Dakota has legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people on the basis of faith.

Senate Bill 124, a “religious refusal” bill, was signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday after sailing through South Dakota’s Republican-controlled House on a 64-3 vote earlier this month. As thempreviously reported, the law potentially grants a “license to discriminate” against LGBTQ+ people across a wide range of goods and services in South Dakota and has been met with widespread opposition by civil rights organizations in the state.

“We’re deeply disappointed to see this bill signed into law and are concerned that it will be used to justify harm to already vulnerable communities,” Janna Farley, communications director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, told them. “No one should be turned away from housing, health care or critical social services because of who they are.”

 

The bill mirrors similar legislation passed in Indiana in 2015, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence. Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), also known as Senate Bill 101, permitted discrimination against LGBTQ+ people from medical providers, child welfare providers, businesses, government officials, and taxpayer-funded entities, according to the Human Rights Campaign. A nationwide boycott against the state following its passage resulted in as much as $250 million in economic losses.

 

South Dakota legislators initially drafted the bill to guarantee that churches could continue to hold services during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the language in the bill is almost identical to Indiana’s RFRA, which forbids state authorities from burdening “a person’s exercise of religion” unless it regards the “furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.”

 

The legislation’s wording could potentially “circumvent laws that protect LGBTQ people and others from discrimination in the workplace,” as Maggie Garrett, vice president of public policy at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, previously told them. Garrett said it could also impact queer and transgender individuals “when they are seeking government services, when they’re customers at businesses and other public accommodations, and when they’re seeking health care.”

 

But according to Garrett, South Dakota’s bill even goes further by including a pair of provisions that weren’t in the Indiana version. Sections 2 and 3 of the bill, for instance, forbid South Dakota leaders from treating “religious conduct more restrictively than comparable secular conduct” for the purposes of “reasonably comparable risk,” “alleged economic need,” or “benefit.”

Because the wording of those unprecedented provisions are vague, it’s unclear how they would be interpreted.

But given that South Dakota is on the verge of also passing a discriminatory law banning trans student athletes from playing in school sports in accordance with their gender identity, advocates are concerned. Cathy Renna, communications director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, predicted that SB 124 would be used to strip away “protections for LGBTQ people, women, and people of faith,” saying it “fosters a divisive and harmful climate for South Dakotans.”

“No one should be denied housing, health care, or critical social services because of who they are,” she said in an email to them. “Religious freedom and LGBTQ rights can and should be the law of the land, they are not mutually exclusive. Signing this bill codifies discrimination against LGBTQ South Dakotans and hurts the people of South Dakota.”

 

Fran Hutchins, executive director of the national LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Equality Federation, added that SB 124 is just one of many “unnecessary, discriminatory” bills passing through state legislatures this year. “These laws add to the crushing weight of discrimination in housing, public spaces, health care, and more that LGBTQ people face in South Dakota and across the country,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Noem indicated that she plans to sign South Dakota’s anti-trans sports bill, writing in a tweet that she was “excited” to do so. But the Associated Press noted on Thursday that the Republican governor is hesitating on the decision, as some fear the state could lose out on an Amazon center set to open next year.

There are no out trans girls in high school sports in South Dakota, according to the high school athletics association.

Republican lawmakers are pushing a record number of anti-trans bills in 2021, as them. previously reported. At least 73 pieces of legislation have been introduced in more than two dozen states, the majority attacking trans athletic participation and access to health care for trans youth. On Thursday, Mississippi became the first state to pass an anti-trans sports bill 5 years after it enacted its own “religious freedom” law, the controversial HB 1523.

 

There is a possibility that trans advocacy groups may challenge these bills in court. Last year, federal judges blocked a pair of laws passed in Idaho forcing trans student athletes to participate in school sports in accordance with their “biological sex” and preventing transgender people from correcting their birth certificates.

Canadian Pastor Offers Pathetic Apology After Giving Wildly Anti-LGBTQ Sermon

Canadian Pastor Offers Pathetic Apology After Giving Wildly Anti-LGBTQ Sermon

Pastor Terry Murphy doesn’t think he’s a bigot. The video tells another story.Friendly Atheist

Over the weekend, Pastor Terry Murphy of Regina Victory Church in Saskatchewan offered an apology to the LGBTQ community:

Hello, my name is Terry Murphy, and I’m the pastor of the Regina Victory Church. I’m making this video in response to all those who were so greatly distressed by my message to our church last Sunday morning, “Raising Godly Children.”

I want to say that I’m very sorry for all of the stress this has caused the LGBTQ community. This was never my intention. The message was never intended to condemn the LGBTQ community, nor was there any intention to conflate your community with pedophilia.

Our church is open to any who wish to come, to learn about Christianity and grow in their relationship with Jesus. We harbor no hatred towards any group. In fact, we condemn such hatred. The message was intended for the audience of the church. The internet is the main method we have to reach our congregation during this time. The message was intended to encourage parents within our church to raise their children according to standard time-honored biblical teaching. The message was not intended to be an attack on any group and I’m truly sorry this has offended so many of you, particularly in the gay community. We wish nothing but good upon the members of your community and pray that your lives would flourish.

I want to thank you for your time and I hope you will accept this as an apology. Thank you.

So… he says he wasn’t condemning LGBTQ people, that he harbors no hatred toward them, and that he just wanted to help parents raise their kids in a biblical way.

Here’s the obvious follow-up question: What the hell did he say?

What sort of anti-LGBTQ sermon could he have possibly given to warrant an apology like that? Was it just something taken out of context? That’s certainly what the church wants everyone to think since it posted a two-minute excerpt from the sermon with the caption “This clip should provide context for those who have seen the controversy surrounding that video.”

The problem with that clip is that it begins at the very end of the sermon.

So I did them a favor and clipped together everything relevant that came before that. (The church’s preferred clip begins around the 2:51 mark of my video below.)

Check it out. Tell me if anything was taken out of context…

 

If you promote a choice, any choice is acceptable, people will start to begin to make it more. If you promote pedophilia and make it normal, people will start — the inhibitions will come down — and people will, “Well, everybody says it’s okay.” Well, it’s not okay.

1 in 6 [members of] Gen Z — that, I guess that’s from around 2000 to now, the 20-year-olds — 1 in 6 Generation Z now identifies as being LGBTQ… That’s up from 1 or 2 percent just a few years ago. This is a horrifying track that our culture is on.

Some of these behaviors are so disturbing. Something that was called in mental health textbooks “gender dysphoria” just — it’s probably still in the textbooks today because this has happened so currently — transgenderism… and just a couple years ago was seen as a mental disorder! But now they’re saying, “No, you were born that way!”

I find it extremely abhorrent. A whole generation is being victimized, being told you were born in the wrong body, being told you should experiment with your sexuality, being told by the experts that this is normal. Who are these experts?

1 in 6. I’ll tell you, the church needs to stop believing that people are born that way. We’re all born with a sin nature. Pedophilia is a choice! You’re not born with that!

Now they’re telling us Dr. Seuss is bad. I saw a video on Dr. Seuss. He was fighting racism, not promoting it. But they’re saying he’s a racist and he’s bad, but a book for pre-schoolers that says Johnny had two or three dads is a good book! And it should be read in the library by a drag queen! That’s good! But Dr. Seuss needs to be banned.

When I was a kid, we I grew up in front of the TV. But there wasn’t “Jimmy Has Two Dads.” It was “The Flintstones” and “Three Stooges.”

Now, let me say this: From the bottom of my heart, we have no animosity towards the gay community or towards LGBTQ any more than we have towards someone sleeping with someone outside of marriage or committing adultery or making — doing anything. We have no… people have been deceived! And God loves each and every one of them and He wants them to hear the truth! And we need to share the truth in love, not with condemnation, not with anger, but pleading.

And long before you talk to anybody about that, there should be hours and hours spent in sincere prayer because these things are not broken through the intellect. This is a spiritual problem that has a spiritual solution. So I want to put that caveat on everything I’m saying.

He completes just about everything in the bigot checklist. Comparing gay people to pedophiles. Saying that transgender people suffer a mental disorder. Saying society is worse off because more people are out of the closet. Claiming a book with two fictional dads is somehow awful for children. Saying he actually loves LGBTQ people.

The only thing that I didn’t expect was the implication that the “Three Stooges” was wholesome television. (“The Flintstones” makes sense, though. What else would you expect from someone who’s probably a Creationist?)

What’s troubling is that the comments on the church’s Facebook page are overwhelmingly positive. They’re praising Murphy for telling it like it is and not caving in to wokeness… which is a weird way to celebrate bigotry.

It also makes his apology wholly inadequate.

In a sermon meant to help parents raise their kids, he perpetuated lies about LGBTQ people that have previously led to trauma or worse. He said being LGBTQ was a “spiritual problem,” that being trans was a “mental disorder,” and that it’s “horrifying” that more people are now open about their identities. The message was absolutely an attack on a group. No LGBTQ people should or would feel comfortable in his church.

It also says a lot about the Christians who belong to that church that they feel comfortable in such a place knowing their leader is a monster. The fact that they didn’t walk out of there tells you this church is full of heartless people.

What Murphy said wasn’t unique. It’s unfortunately the sort of hate you expect to hear from all kinds of white evangelical pastors. But that doesn’t mean anyone should accept it as normal.