She Witnessed the Aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse Shootings. Now She’s Scared for Herself.

Really scary what passes for rule of law in the US right now.   Gangs of thugs, some with legal degrees trying willing to violate others rights and cause harm to promote their cause.  How are these any different from the drug cartel gangs?   Hugs

She Witnessed the Aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse Shootings. Now She’s Scared for Herself.

A protest medic filed a complaint about Rittenhouse’s legal team: “I believe they are harassing witnesses including myself.”

Katie Walker was reading in bed just before midnight on October 8 when she saw a strange text message on her phone. It was a student who lived in the apartment building that Walker (not her real name) had recently moved out of. He was alarmed, because two men he’d never met had knocked on his door around 9 p.m., asking for Walker. They said they were investigators but refused to identify themselves, and they proceeded to knock on just about every other door in the apartment building asking for her whereabouts. “My roomate [sic] asked to see ID and they laughed said no and walked out of the building,” the student texted her. He said the guys looked “sketchy.”

Walker sat up in bed, nervous. She wondered whether the men were white supremacists, coming after her now because of what she’d seen in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin, less than an hour’s drive from her home. She’d gone there as a medic, to help people who were tear-gassed or otherwise injured during anti-police demonstrations. During the protests, she’d spotted Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old with an assault-style rifle. Soon after, he shot and killed two people, one of whom Walker tried to assist with medical care. He also wounded one of her fellow medics, whom she knew personally. (He says he fired in self-defense.)

After that awful night in Kenosha, Walker filed a police statement about what she’d seen near the shooting, hoping that would be the end of it: The experience left her exhausted, with post-traumatic stress disorder, and she wanted to lie low for a while and recover at home. But with the news now that two strange men were trying to track her down, she dialed the local police and left another statement. An officer jotted down that the two men had “looked scummy,” and sent someone over to the building to walk around and lock the door. Walker stayed up the rest of the night with her boyfriend, worrying, and reached out to the FBI.

The next day, her phone kept buzzing. And she wasn’t alone: The men called multiple members of Walker’s family, including her parents. It turns out these guys weren’t random white supremacists: They still refused to give their names, but, according to Walker, they mentioned they worked for the legal firm representing Rittenhouse, who now faces homicide charges. They said they wanted to take her deposition, something she’s not required to do under Wisconsin law except under very specific circumstances. One of the men also asked Walker whether she planned to give a statement to the cops about what she’d seen in Kenosha, and she said she already had. She begged them to leave her alone and hung up, but one of them called again later. Terrified, Walker reached out to John Pierce, a lead attorney for Rittenhouse. She told him about the men and asked him to make them stop.

“He didn’t deny that he sent the men; he didn’t acknowledge it either,” Walker told me recently. “All he said was, ‘I understand.’” And she prayed that he did. But the next day she received yet another phone call, from Pierce’s number, she said. When she answered it, the line was silent for a minute. She hung up, shaken, wondering whether he’d accidentally pocket-dialed her or was trying to scare her, to keep her from testifying.

Walker pulled out her computer and started doing some research. What she found did nothing to assuage her concerns. Pierce, it turns out, is no fringe attorney: His Los Angeles–based law firm, Pierce Bainbridge, had previously represented high-profile clients and several Trump supporters, including Rudy Giuliani and former Trump campaign figures George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. Because he’s based in California and not licensed to practice in Wisconsin, Pierce needed an order from a judge to represent Rittenhouse. Prosecutors have asked for a hearing to oppose that order. (They are also asking the judge to require Pierce to follow Wisconsin rules about pretrial publicity or face sanctions; they accuse him of making statements, in interviews and on Twitter, that violate rules of professional conduct, such as by commenting on the character of Rittenhouse and victims in the case, sharing information that would be inadmissible at trial, and suggesting that the prosecution is politically motivated. His comments, they say, could prejudice jurors and encourage them to acquit Rittenhouse for reasons unrelated to the law.)

What’s more, Walker found that Pierce is no stranger to menacing tactics. Walker stumbled upon a Medium post by a former Pierce Bainbridge attorney who is now suing Pierce for alleged wrongful termination. In it, she learned that Pierce is also accused of harassing his ex-wife. Mother Jones reviewed court records from a child custody case, and found that, in the course of a single day in 2019, Pierce sent his ex-wife more than 60 texts laced with violent language after she told him she couldn’t drive their son to soccer because of a work conflict: “I will bury u if I have to,” he allegedly wrote in one of the texts, copies of which were submitted to the court. “I will find u at Armaggedon [sic] and fuck u up.”

“I am good,” he wrote in another message that day. “U are evil. God is on my side.” In the texts, he repeatedly called her a “slut,” “cunt,” and “bitch,” and threatened to “hunt” her down. In one message, he mentioned a television character known for torturing terrorists: “Watch Jack Bauer on 24 if ur curious what I’m capable of.”

The next day, according to court records, Pierce apologized to his ex-wife and said he hadn’t meant what he texted her, but she remained afraid. She received a temporary restraining order against him, telling the court that he’d expressed a desire to kill her before, something he later denied.

Walker kept learning more. She connected eight days ago with Jennifer Sulkess, a Los Angeles resident who alleged that she was also intimidated by another attorney at the Pierce Bainbridge firm in a separate case. The firm had been retained to represent a Russian billionaire named Sergey Grishin, whom Sulkess had accused of harassing her and her friend, Grishin’s ex-wife, allegations he denies. The two women had taken out temporary restraining orders against Grishin, as he simultaneously pursued lawsuits against them. (These legal cases are ongoing.)

In September 2018, Sulkess said, the Pierce Bainbridge attorney instructed someone to repeatedly photograph her and Grishin’s ex-wife without their consent in public. The next month, she said, a man went to the apartment building where she had recently lived and showed the office manager there her photo, saying Sulkess was wanted for allegedly fraudulently borrowing money—accusations from Grishin’s lawsuit that she denies.

Months later, at about 8 a.m. on a Sunday, a few weeks before a restraining order trial, Sulkess pulled into the parking garage of her new apartment and found that someone else had parked in her assigned spot. “As I go to back up, I see this guy in my rearview mirror, which is quite startling,” she told me. He stood near a pillar, taking photos of her, and then approached and served her with legal papers, even though she had her own attorney who could have accepted the documents during business hours. “It was so overdramatic,” she said. “The rest of the week, you’ve got this thought in your head—like, are people going to jump out of the pillars? It’s designed for psychological warfare.” She and Grishin’s ex-wife started checking the hallways of her apartment to see if there were wiretaps.

In May, Sulkess filed a complaint with the State Bar of California about the Pierce Bainbridge attorney, Amman Khan, who has since moved to another firm but still represents Grishin. She did not mention the parking garage incident but accused him of other misconduct, including sending people to photograph her. But in June, the state bar closed Sulkess’ complaint without formally investigating the allegations. “We have determined that your complaint does not present sufficient facts to support an investigation,” wrote Scott D. Karpf, a senior trial counsel for the state bar. Pierce, his firm, and Khan did not reply to questions from Mother Jones.

Before talking with Sulkess, Walker had already filed her own complaint with the State Bar of California about Pierce and his firm. “My connection to Pierce and Bainbridge is that I am one of the witnesses in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. I believe they are harassing witnesses including myself,” she wrote. But she was disappointed to hear that Sulkess’ complaint had been closed. Now she had little hope that the agency would help her, and as far as she knew, the police and FBI hadn’t done anything to track down the men who’d gone to her old apartment building. So she agreed to speak with me. She wanted to come forward in the media, she said, because some of her friends were also witnesses the night of the Kenosha protest, and they’ve been scared off from testifying after hearing about her experience. They “saw significantly more than I did,” she told me. “And they’re afraid to go to the police and file witness statements, because they’re concerned that the same thing will happen to them.”

She added, “They’re like: ‘We might go to the police. But only if John Pierce faces some sort of consequences.’” She said none of them wanted to speak with media.

Mother Jones reviewed Walker’s complaint to the State Bar of California and her police report, and spoke with the student who texted her from her old apartment building. We also verified her real name, age, location, and corroborating reports about what she witnessed at the Kenosha protest. But we are not publishing these identifying details because of her concerns for her safety and the high-profile nature of the Rittenhouse case. The teen has become a celebrity on the right, accumulating $2 million in donations to post bond ahead of his trial. Earlier this month, people in Washington at a pro-Trump demonstration that included members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has advocated violence, chanted together, “Break out Kyle!” And on November 21, a lawmaker in Florida, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, went so far as to tweet, “KYLE RITTENHOUSE FOR CONGRESS.”

Walker is taking her own precautions in the meantime. She hasn’t heard from Pierce lately, nor from the two men who went to her old apartment. But she wonders if she should arm herself anyway. “I’m not pro-gun,” she told me. “But after having a stalker in college and having this happen,” she added, referring to her experience with Rittenhouse’s case, “I was like, I want some way to defend myself.”

Trump raises more than $150 million appealing to false election claims

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-raises-more-than-150-million-appealing-to-false-election-claims/2020/11/30/82e922e6-3347-11eb-afe6-e4dbee9689f8_story.html

President Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day, using a blizzard of misleading appeals about the election to shatter fundraising records set during the campaign, according to people with knowledge of the contributions.

The influx of political donations is one reason Trump and some allies are inclined to continue a legal onslaught and public affairs blitz focused on baseless claims of election fraud, even as their attempts have repeatedly failed in court and as key states continue to certify wins for President-elect Joe Biden.

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

The people with knowledge of the fundraising amounts spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal numbers. The Trump campaign declined to comment.

The surge of donations is largely from small-dollar donors, campaign officials say, tapping into the president’s base of loyal and fervent donors who tend to contribute the most when they feel the president is under siege or facing unfair political attacks. The campaign has sent about 500 post-election fundraising pitches to donors, often with hyperbolic language about voter fraud and the like.

“I need you now more than ever,” says one recent email that claims to be from the president. “The Recount Results were BOGUS,” another email subject line reads.

“Our democracy and freedom is at risk like never before, which is why I’m reaching out to you now with an URGENT request,” reads an email to donors from Vice President Pence. “President Trump and I need our STRONGEST supporters, like YOU, to join the Election Defense Task Force. This group will be responsible for DEFENDING the Election from voter fraud, and we really need you to step up to the front lines of this battle.”

The donations are purportedly being solicited for the Official Election Defense Fund, which is blazed in all red across the Trump campaign’s website, with an ominous picture of the president outside the White House.

There is no such account, however. The fundraising requests are being made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. As of Nov. 18, that committee also shares its funds with Save America, a new leadership PAC that Trump set up in early November and which he can use to fund his post-presidency activities.

The money raised since Nov. 3 is a massive haul for such a short period, especially after the election, when losing campaigns typically ramp down their fundraising operation. By comparison, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee raised $125 million in the second quarter of 2020, according to federal records. The campaign account’s best single month was September, when it raised $81 million, according to available data.

The contributions, from thousands of grass-roots donors across the country, are split into several accounts, including the leadership PAC that is loosely regulated and could be used to personally benefit the president after he leaves the White House.

According to the fine print in the latest fundraising appeals, 75 percent of each contribution to the joint fundraising committee would first go toward the Save America leadership PAC and the rest would be shared with the party committee, to help with the party’s operating expenses. This effectively means that the vast majority of low-dollar donations under the current agreement would go toward financing the president’s new leadership PAC, instead of efforts to support the party or to finance voting lawsuits.

“Small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an ‘official election defense fund’ are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign’s debt or funding his post-presidential political operation,” said Brendan Fischer, who directs federal regulatory work at the Campaign Legal Center, which supports greater restrictions on the role of money in politics. “The average donor who gives in response to Trump’s appeal for funds to ‘stop the fraud’ likely doesn’t realize that their money is actually retiring Trump’s debt or funding his leadership PAC.”

Fischer said that “only bigger donors who’ve maxed-out to Trump’s campaign or the RNC will see any portion of their contribution go to dedicated recount or legal funds.”

“The RNC has spent tens of millions of dollars over the last two years funding legal efforts in multiple states, and we continue the fight for election integrity across the country,” RNC spokesperson Mike Reed said.

The leadership PAC could be spent, for example, to pay for events at his own properties, or to finance his travel or personal expenses. There are very few limitations on how money going to the group can be spent.

On Nov. 18, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee struck a formal agreement with Save America, the Trump campaign and the RNC to raise money together through the joint fundraising committee and share the funds, according to federal records. By Nov. 19, the contribution share to Save America PAC had changed to 75 percent from 60 percent as it had been for more than a week, according to a review of the fundraising appeals.

Leadership PACs do not face the same restrictions on “personal use” expenses as candidate committees do. They were established to allow members of Congress to raise money for their allies on Capitol Hill through fundraising vehicles separate from their campaign committees. The money is often used for what is called donor cultivation: feting wealthy supporters in the hopes that they will write big checks back to the leadership PAC and other committees.

Over the years, leadership PACs have become must-have accessories on Capitol Hill, as well as among former elected officials who want to retain their political influence by helping other candidates raise money or by raising money on their behalf.

One person with knowledge of the contributions said many were repeat donors, and that emails with dire language about the president potentially losing tended to ratchet up the contributions. The person said the campaign had a plan before Election Day to dial up requests for money if the result wasn’t immediately clear.

“Trump is making hay while the sun is shining. He’s taking advantage of all the free media coverage to pay off his campaign debt and fill his coffers for whatever comes next,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor. He added: “I would rather give to Romney 2012 than Trump 2020 at this point.”

In an interview earlier this month, Texas donor Doug Deason said “some people are writing big checks because they are fired up.”

On Monday, the final day of the monthly fundraising period, Trump was on track to reach 500 fundraising emails. In November, the Trump operation set a record for monthly fundraising requests from the campaign, according to a tally by @TrumpEmail, a Twitter account that has tracked the president’s fundraising requests since January 2018.

The campaign had struggled some with finances earlier this fall, officials said, with campaign manager Bill Stepien deciding to cut TV spending because he feared they could run out of money. Officials said that some money was wasted on unnecessary expenditures, such as a pricey Super Bowl commercial and blimps flying over the skylines of states. But some Trump advisers said the money that has come in after the election was a reason the campaign should have never made the cuts.

Gay parents shouldn’t both be on child’s birth certificate, Indiana AG argues

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/gay-parents-shouldn-t-both-be-child-s-birth-certificate-n1249358

The state’s attorney general wants the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that found Indiana laws limiting who can be called a parent were unconstitutional.

 

Image: Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill

Indiana’s attorney general submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that it should reverse a federal appeals court’s ruling that allowed both members of same-sex couples in Indiana to be listed as parents on the birth certificates of their children.

The petition from Attorney General Curtis Hill follows a January decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed a decision by judges in Indiana’s federal southern district court who found that Indiana laws limiting who can be called the parent of a child were unconstitutional.

 

Hill filed also filed a request in June asking the court to review the appellate court’s decision.

The original case involved Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, a gay married couple from Lafayette who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 challenging Indiana’s birth records law. They sued the state health commissioner and Tippecanoe County officials because county officials would not list both of them as parents on the birth certificate of their son, who Ruby conceived through artificial insemination.

The case is among the first dealing with same-sex marriage for the Supreme Court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Journal & Courier and The Indianapolis Star reported.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, the Hendersons’ Indianapolis-based attorney, said Wednesday that she expects Hill’s brief will be discussed during a Dec. 11 conference the high court has set on the matter.

“We are hopeful the court will follow the precedent in ‘Pavan,’” Celestino-Horseman said, referring to the high court’s 2017 ruling in the Pavan v. Smith case, which involved Arkansas married couples who conceive through artificial insemination. In that case, the court ruled that the “constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage” extended to having the names of same-sex parents on a birth certificate.

In their federal suit, the Hendersons contended that leaving one mother’s name off the birth certificate presented legal issues when it came to health insurance coverage, who could speak for a child at a doctor’s appointment and enrolling in school. They argued that it was unfair to force one mother from a same-sex marriage to spend $4,000 to $5,000 to legally adopt the couple’s child.

The Hendersons won their initial case in 2016. Seven additional couples joined the suit as plaintiffs after Indiana appealed up to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, which ruled in January that under Indiana law, “a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father, so that both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certificate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock.”

“There’s no similar presumption with respect to an all-female married couple — or for that matter an all-male married couple,” the judges wrote, adding that requiring both women in a same-sex marriage to be listed as parents would prevent any discrimination.

In his petition to the court, Hill argues that upholding that decision would violate common sense and throw into jeopardy parental rights based on biology.

“A birth mother’s wife will never be the biological father of the child, meaning that, whenever a birth-mother’s wife gains presumptive ‘parentage’ status, a biological father’s rights and obligations to the child have necessarily been undermined without proper adjudication,” Hill wrote.

Again bigotry on display.  Why does this man so desperately want to take a parent from a child?  He clearly has a ax to grind, as this affects him personally  in no way.  Could he be someone with deeply held religious beliefs that to people of the same gender on a child’s birth certificate makes his god sad.  Makes his god cry?  Is he on a religious crusade to earn his place in his gods afterlife by making the icky gays lives harder?    Please read the next story on this he has an issue with consent also.   Hugs

Indiana AG Asks SCOTUS To Reverse Ruling Allowing Same-Sex Parents To Be Listed On Birth Certificates

Read the full article. Curtis Hill last appeared on JMG earlier this year when he temporarily lost his law license over allegations that he had drunkenly groped several women at a party. Since then Hill has fought against COVID-related restrictions in his state.

 

The same story , two sites, I don’t understand the difference between this one and the NY one?

SCOTUS Rejects Appeal By Branch Covidian Pastor

SCOTUS Rejects Appeal By Branch Covidian Pastor

Law & Crime reports:

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flatly rejected a plea by a Louisiana megachurch pastor to keep his church fully open against orders from the government to limit the size of worship gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The application, styled as Spell v. Edwards, complained that the orders by Gov. John Bel Edwards forbade the Life Tabernacle Church from being “fully assemble[d].” In a more legally astonishing question, the case also sought to ask whether the “First Amendment give[s] the Church exclusive jurisdiction over whether to assemble or not.”

Alito, despite being part of the majority which knocked down COVID-19 orders by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, apparently preferred that the high court not settle these grandiose questions in Louisiana.

The case was brought in part by Roy Moore’s Foundation For Moral Law, which seeks to literally replace all levels of government with a system based on “biblical law.”

In the early weeks of the pandemic Spell was arrested after gunning a church bus in reverse at a protester. He then refused to wear a mask at a court hearing in which charges were dropped.

At least one of Spell’s parishioners has died of COVID and his lawyer was hospitalized with the virus in April.

 

Today, the United States Supreme Court denied a motion to hear the case of Spell v. Edwards, which sought to overturn the our mitigation measures. https://bit.ly/33mjYML #lagov

Throughout the course of this pandemic, I have let science and data inform the many difficult decisions I have made regarding gathering sizes and other mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID. I have taken no such decisions lightly. #lagov

The reasonable, legal mitigation measures have been necessary to protect the people of Louisiana from unchecked spread of the coronavirus, which would limit hospitals’ ability to deliver care. #lagov

I am thankful that the United States Supreme Court denied this effort to overturn these mitigation efforts. For months I have spoken and prayed with leaders of many faiths as we have navigated this pandemic together. #lagov

I know how difficult this time has been for them and I am deeply appreciative of their commitment to practice their faiths even under trying circumstances and with the health of their congregations in mind. #lagov

As Pope Francis wrote of COVID this week: ‘Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.’ https://nyti.ms/33pgFVm #lagov

My own faith teaches me that our actions have an impact on others, that we truly are in this together, in 1 Corinthians 12: “There are many parts, yet one body” and “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” #lagov

I have faith that the people of Louisiana will continue to care for one another by slowing the spread of this terrible illness. #lagov

Originally tweeted by John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) on November 28, 2020.

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Alito Slaps Down Megachurch Pastor’s Lawsuit That Claimed Obeying God Meant Ignoring COVID-19 Orders

Alito Slaps Down Megachurch Pastor’s Lawsuit That Claimed Obeying God Meant Ignoring COVID-19 Orders

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flatly rejected a plea by a Louisiana megachurch pastor to keep his church fully open against orders from the government to limit the size of worship gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  That pastor, Tony Spell, whose full legal name is Mark Anthony Spell, earlier this year opened his doors to some 1,800 congregants in violation of orders by the governor that limited the size of gatherings and required social distancing measures.

The application, styled as Spell v. Edwards, complained that the orders by Gov. John Bel Edwards forbade the Life Tabernacle Church from being “fully assemble[d].”  In a more legally astonishing question, the case also sought to ask whether the “First Amendment give[s] the Church exclusive jurisdiction over whether to assemble or not.”  In other words, the church sought to have the Supreme Court declare its assembly function as beyond state action or reproach.  In one passage, the application suggests Spell was merely “[f]ollowing his religious conviction that he must obey God rather than man” when he chose to keep his church fully open.  The application later argues that the First Amendment separation of church and state “was to protect the church from the state.”

From the petitioners’ application:

In Louisiana, one pastor and his church have been fighting since March 2020 for the right that God gives them and the Constitution of the United States secures to them: the right to assemble for church in person. Because of their supposed disobedience to Governor Edwards’ orders, the State of Louisiana has brought nine criminal charges against Pastor Tony Spell in three phases during the span of this litigation. Not only has Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards refused to respect the First Amendment rights of Pastor Spell and his church, but he has just refused an order of his own legislature to end the state of emergency that purportedly gives him the power to issue emergency orders.

This case presents a threshold question that other applicants did not present to this Court in prior religious liberty challenges: Whether the First Amendment places the decision of whether to assemble solely within the jurisdiction of the Church and not the State. Based on a historical analysis of the First Amendment and the Court’s leading precedents, Applicants herein believe the answer is yes. If it does, then Respondents have no authority to restrict the right of Pastor Spell and his church to meet.

Later on, it argued for the supreme authority of the church:

When the State’s order prohibits a church from assembling, singing together, hearing the word of God preached, laying hands on the sick, baptizing, taking communion, and the like, then the courts owe the State no deference at all.

Alito, despite being part of the majority which knocked down COVID-19 orders by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, apparently preferred that the high court not settle these grandiose questions in Louisiana.  The pastor and his church lost previous rounds of litigation in the district and circuit courts, and Alito’s rejection of the matter means the end of the line legally for the petitioners’ visions of church primacy over government.

The case was pressed in part by Judge Roy Moore‘s Foundation for Moral Law.  Moore is listed as one of the five attorneys on the case on behalf of the pastor and the church.  Moore is the former Alabama chief justice and former Senate candidate whose fervent religious views and alleged acts of sexual misconduct are already well known.

Pastor Tony Spell’s trajectory through the courts has itself not been without controversy.  He was refused entry to one of his own court proceedings because he refused to wear a mask.  He also was charged after backing a bus toward a protester.

Among the petitioners’ complaints was that the governor’s orders restricted large-scale gatherings — albeit incrementally — from 250, then to 50, and then to just 10 people “if the people in the gathering would be in a single space at the same time and in close proximity to one another.”  (The latter was suggested by the CDC and adopted by the governor.)

Generally speaking, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prevents the government from punishing religious beliefs or religious conduct solely because it is religious.  Naturally, Spell and his church cited Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case which articulated a test for determining whether government actions unduly infringe upon the right to free exercise.  Under that case, if a law is both religiously neutral and generally applicable to the population at large — e.g., it does not target a specific religious community — the law will not be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny and will almost certainly be allowed to stand.  (The Lukumi Babal court struck down a city ordinance aimed at a particular religious sect which was sacrificing animals for religious reasons.)

In this case, the petitioners — Spell and his church — articulated the correct legal standard under Lukumi Babal but then argued that the Louisiana governor’s executive orders simply “are not law.”  (In reality, executive orders are a type of law and carry the “force of law.”)  The petitioners then said that if they were laws, the executive orders did “discriminate against religious practices on their face” because “exceptions exist for other entities that do not apply to churches.”  Here, the petitioners’ argument attempted to latch on to circuit court decisions this year against COVID-19 in Kentucky orders promulgated by Gov. Andy Beshear.  However, in this case, the arguments were unpersuasive.

Also unpersuasive were the petitoners’ arguments surrounding Emp’t Div., Dep’t of Human Res. of Or. v. Smith, the 1990 case penned by conservative darling Antonin Scalia from which Lukumi Babal eventually sprang.  Smith held that a state government could legally withhold unemployment benefits from a man fired for using the drug peyote for religious ceremonial reasons.  Scalia’s view was that religious activities could subject a person to negative action by the government if the government was seeking to apply a law which applied to everybody and which did not directly target a religion.

“The government’s ability to enforce generally applicable prohibitions of socially harmful conduct, like its ability to carry out other aspects of public policy, cannot depend on measuring the effects of a governmental action on a religious objector’s spiritual development,” Scalia wrote (internal quotations omitted).  He also bewailed the possibility that “constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind” might start to pop up if the courts agreed to a stream of requests for religious carve-outs.  Scalia provided a de facto grocery list of regulations for which religion provided no excuse.  Some of those items included “compulsory military service,” “the payment of taxes,” “health and safety regulation[s],” “vaccination laws,” “drug laws,” “traffic laws,” “minimum wage laws,” and “child labor laws.”

The Louisiana pastor and his church argued that a random passage in Smith should be interpreted to mean that “assembling for religious worship [was] completely off limits” for government regulation or interference and that the government was “completely powerless” to get it the way of religious assembly.

Again, those arguments fell on Alito’s deaf ears.

GOP Georgia Sec. Of State Slams Republican Silence On His Death Threats: I’m Thinking They’re Complicit In It

GOP Georgia Sec. Of State Slams Republican Silence On His Death Threats: I’m Thinking They’re Complicit In It

The Washington Post reports:

Raffensperger said Republicans were only harming themselves by questioning the integrity of the Dominion machines. He warned that these kinds of baseless allegations could discourage Republicans from voting in the Senate runoffs. “People need to get a grip on reality,” he said.

More troubling to Raffensperger were the many threats he and his wife, Tricia, have received over the past few weeks — and a break-in at another family member’s home. All of it has prompted him to accept a state security detail.

“If Republicans don’t start condemning this stuff, then I think they’re really complicit in it,” he said. “It’s time to stand up and be counted. Are you going to stand for righteousness? Are you going to stand for integrity? Or are you going to stand for the wild mob? You wanted to condemn the wild mob when it’s on the left side. What are you going to do when it’s on our side?”

Read the full article.

I was unable to read the full article.   Hope you have better luck.  Hugs

Biden plans swift moves to protect and advance LGBTQ rights

https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-donald-trump-barack-obama-discrimination-marriage-fbdd826a46b3c77c265967c73b7ff6e0

As vice president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans by endorsing same-sex marriage even before his boss, President Barack Obama.

Now, as president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. Among them: Lifting the Trump administration’s near-total ban on military service for transgender people, barring federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ job discrimination, and creating high-level LGBTQ-rights positions at the State Department, the National Security Council and other federal agencies.

In many cases the measures would reverse executive actions by President Donald Trump, whose administration took numerous steps to weaken protections for transgender people and create more leeway for discrimination against LGBTQ people, ostensibly based on religious grounds.

In a policy document, the Biden campaign said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections.”

Beyond executive actions he can take unilaterally, Biden says his top legislative priority for LGBTQ issues is the Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. It would extend to all 50 states the comprehensive anti-bias protections already afforded to LGBTQ people in 21 mostly Democratic-governed states, covering such sectors as housing, public accommodations and public services.

Biden says he wants the act to become law within 100 days of taking office, but its future remains uncertain. Assuming the bill passes again in the House, it would need support from several Republicans in the Senate, even if the Democrats gain control by winning two runoff races in Georgia. For now, Susan Collins of Maine is the only GOP co-sponsor in the Senate.

Critics, including prominent religious conservatives, say the bill raises religious freedom concerns and could require some faith-based organizations to operate against their beliefs.

The Equality Act “is a dangerous game changer” in its potential federal threat to religious liberty, said the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican, tried to strike a compromise last year that would have expanded LGBTQ rights nationwide while allowing exemptions for religious groups to act on beliefs that could exclude LGBTQ people. His proposal won support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church but was panned by liberal and civil rights groups.

“Anti-equality forces are trying to use the framework of religious liberty to strip away individual rights,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ-rights organization.

Among the actions that Biden pledges to take unilaterally, scrapping Trump’s transgender military ban would be among the most notable.

Jennifer Levi, a Massachusetts-based transgender-rights lawyer, said it’s clear Biden has the authority to do so after taking office.

Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man whom Levi has represented in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban, called that “a huge relief.”

“I look forward to being allowed to re-enroll in ROTC so I can continue to train, keep up my fitness to serve, and become the best Army officer I can possibly be,” Talbott said via email.

Some of Biden’s other promises:

— Appoint an array of LGBTQ people to federal government positions. There’s wide expectation that Biden will nominate an LGBTQ person to a Cabinet post, with former presidential contender Pete Buttigieg among the possibilities.

— Reverse Trump administration policies carving out religious exemptions allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people by social service agencies, health care providers, adoption and foster care agencies and other entities.

— Reinstate Obama administration guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to access bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The Trump administration revoked this guidance.

— Allocate federal resources to help curtail violence against transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. Rights groups say at least 38 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. this year.

— Support legislative efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors.

— Bolster federal efforts to collect comprehensive data about LGBTQ people in the U.S. by adding questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to national surveys.

— Ensure that LGBTQ rights are a priority for U.S. foreign policy and be prepared to use pressure tactics, including sanctions, against foreign governments violating those rights.

Whatever happens in Washington, some activists worry that Republican-controlled state legislatures may push anti-LGBTQ bills, such as curtailing the ability of transgender youth to access certain medical treatments or participate in school sports. They are also concerned that an influx of conservative federal judges appointed by Trump might lead to rulings allowing religious exemptions.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court — now with a solid conservative majority — heard arguments on whether a Catholic social services agency in Philadelphia should be able to turn away same-sex couples who want to be foster parents, while still receiving local government funding.

Tim Schultz, a religious freedom advocate, outlined two potential paths for the debate over the Equality Act: “ongoing legislative gridlock, regulatory trench warfare and judicial decisions, which will happen independently of what the president does,” or active engagement by Biden for a new strategy that can win bipartisan support in the Senate.

The first path would provide only “temporary satisfaction,” given that regulatory moves can be undone by future presidents, said Schultz, president of the nonprofit 1st Amendment Partnership.

Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, cited Biden’s campaign-trail appeals for unity — and his commitment to faith outreach — as positive signs for more engagement on the issue next year.

“He and his team will be very well-positioned to broker compromise if they want to, to get this done,” said Diament, who has advised both the Trump and Obama administrations.

The story I had to share after Kyle Rittenhouse posted his $2 million bail

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/29/opinions/kyle-rittenhouse-bail-donations-race-leiba/?hpt=ob_blogfooterold

Elizabeth Leiba, a co-host for The EdUp Experience Podcast, is a published writer who wrote for the Sun-Sentinel newspaper and served as the editor of The Seminole Tribune newspaper. She is an English professor at Broward College. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a phrase we can all recite without even thinking about. It’s as synonymous with America as “Liberty and justice for all” or “Land of the free and home of the brave.”

But scrolling through social media recently, I felt a pang of sadness at just how hollow those statements ring for Black people in America.
Elizabeth Leiba

Posts heralded as a “triumph” Kyle Rittenhouse’s release on bail. Rittenhouse is the teenager accused of shooting dead two men and injuring another at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Kenosha, Wisconsin, held after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August. The 17-year-old faces two felony charges of homicide and one misdemeanor charge for possessing a dangerous weapon while under 18. He is free after posting his $2 million bail with the help of donations, according to his lawyer in a tweet, including from celebrities like former “Silver Spoons” child star Ricky Schroder and Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, Inc. and vocal Donald Trump supporter. Rittenhouse’s attorney said that there is evidence that the teen acted in self-defense.
The thought that enough people — after hearing details of the shooting — could see Rittenhouse, who is White, as innocent or justified enough in his actions to supply $2 million to get him released, made me think back to an experience I had in 1993: the moments that led up to my arrest as a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Florida, where I was on a full academic scholarship.
I had entered an Eckerd drug store in Gainesville early on a Sunday morning to drop off film to develop pictures from my camera. My roommate was still sleeping, so I quietly slipped into a hoodie, jean shorts and sneakers, and left the dorm room, carrying my JanSport book bag with my rolls of film inside.
Elizabeth Leiba in her dorm room at the University of Florida.

That book bag would be at the center of my arrest and ultimately why I felt compelled to post about my encounter on LinkedIn recently. Seeing Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tweet her disbelief over the supportive treatment Rittenhouse was getting and comparing it to Kalief Browder’s three years in Riker’s Island — two years of which were spent in solitary confinement — for allegedly stealing a book bag, triggered memories of my own encounter.
Batteries inside my book bag had caused the theft detector to beep as I exited Eckerd’s that Sunday morning. The clerk called me back to ask if I’d purchased anything. I rifled through my book bag and found a four-pack of AA batteries I had purchased days earlier. I frantically attempted to resolve the misunderstanding. He asked if I had a receipt for them. I knew I did somewhere among my folder, papers and other receipts. I continued to rifle. I was even more frantic. My heart pounded as I scanned the contents of my bag. I knew the receipt was there.
Minutes later, I was in a brightly lit office in the back of the store. The manager, an older White woman, slid an immaculate sheet of white paper, with tiny black text printed on it across her brown desk. I would need to sign it, she said. The small font blurred together, as I held it in shaking hands. I asked her to explain. I didn’t understand.
What was it? An admission of guilt and a trespass warning. If I couldn’t produce the receipt for the batteries immediately, I would need to sign it right then and there, she said. But I wasn’t guilty, and I didn’t steal the batteries. So that would be a lie. I couldn’t do that. No.
As a journalism major with hopes of attending law school, my next line of defense to her became logic and reasoning: I attended the university. I was a student on scholarship. I came into this store all the time to shop. I had the receipt, if they could just give me a moment to look. I just needed to think for a minute. I know I kept it. I keep all receipts. I had been taught at a young age to never leave a store without ensuring I had a receipt for the items I had purchased — one of the many lessons Black children grow up having to learn. Just in case you were approached by a security guard, you always wanted to have proof of purchase. Could they look at the security footage? I had walked straight to the photo department without stopping to even browse. I wasn’t a thief.
None of those arguments swayed her. She dialed 911 and two police officers arrived within minutes.
Sitting in the back seat of a police car, the strangest thoughts went through my head: Handcuffs are heavier than they look on TV. If someone isn’t deemed a threat, their hands are cuffed in the front. There are no door handles on the inside of the back seat of a police car and the windows are tinted so you can see out, but no one can see your shame as you sit inside.
I stared down at my cuffed wrists, hands in my lap, as the officers stood outside filling out the arrest report and chatting casually. They laughed at some inside joke. I was numb. This seemed like a dream.
And I would carry that shame and disbelief for a while: The shame that people would think I was a thief. The shame that I had been arrested. The reality that I was seen as guilty before proven innocent.
My mother picked me up from jail, making the five-hour drive from South Florida after posting my bond there. I was booked and placed in a holding cell for four hours and then I was allowed to wait in the lobby until she came to get me. When I got into her car in the jail parking lot, I rifled through the book bag again. Where was that receipt? I had to find it! I found it there neatly folded inside a bright red folder. I cried hysterically. It was there. It was there all along.
We decided to talk to a lawyer about what could be done to get some semblance of justice. He was baffled. He had never seen a case where police were even called for a $2.49 item and suggested I pursue a lawsuit to ensure the store would never do it again. I wouldn’t get much, he cautioned. But it wasn’t about the money. It was about getting them to admit what they had done was wrong. It was about getting them to admit that the trauma I had experienced and the effect on the rest of my life was wrong. And the jury in the civil case ultimately agreed.
But it would take three years for the case to go to trial and finally reach that settlement. Eckerd’s refused to accept responsibility for what they did and fought it every step of the way. Eckerd’s attorney at trial argued that the pharmacy had probable cause for their actions because the manager had checked the anti-theft equipment that day and the employees had no reason to believe it was malfunctioning.
My lawyer produced a copy of the receipt for the state attorney’s office and the criminal charges had been dropped immediately.
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As these memories flood my mind, I can’t help but ask: How is it that the employees in that pharmacy couldn’t give me the benefit of the doubt over a $2.49 package of batteries, but Rittenhouse, who has been charged with killing two people, can be extended this courtesy?
To be clear, I understand that this campaign to raise money for Rittenhouse was orchestrated specifically by people on the political right, and yes, the incidents happened in different times and places. I also know that people are free to donate to whatever cause they want.
But we live in a country where Black people routinely see themselves being treated unfairly compared to their White counterparts. It’s a problem that we can’t and shouldn’t ignore. And it’s a problem that instantly causes Black people to collectively ask any time the Kyle Rittenhouses of the world come across our screens: “I wonder how this situation would have played out if he were Black?”

Christian couple who said they would try to “cure” a gay kid sues foster agency for denying them

https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2020/11/christian-couple-said-try-cure-gay-kid-sues-foster-agency-denying/

Byron and Keira Hordyk, an Australian evangelical Christian couple who applied to be foster parents, are suing for “religious discrimination” after they were denied. They say the foster agency’s decision wasn’t based on whether or not they can provide a loving home to a child but instead on their anti-LGBTQ religious beliefs.

The couple told an employee from the Wanslea Family Services that they would not accept an LGBTQ kid and would subject the child to traumatizing “conversion therapy” meant to turn them straight or cisgender. The Hordyks were denied because their home wouldn’t be a safe environment for the child.

Related: Classy foster kid says he ‘went red’ when his teacher berated him for having two dads

The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed conversion therapy and has called on lawmakers to ban what they call a “harmful and discriminatory practice.”

Even conversion therapy that doesn’t use abusive or violent techniques can harm a child’s mental health by teaching them that they are fundamentally broken because of their identity. According to HRC, the practice has been linked to an increased risk of “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”

Garden State Equality, an LGBTQ organization, says simply, “Conversion therapy is child abuse.”

So it is not surprising that the Hordyks got rejected. The couple said they got a letter from the foster agency saying that they did not meet the requirement of “providing a safe living environment.”

“We do feel we have been discriminated against and also we felt that if we were quiet about this and didn’t say anything about it, it could potentially harm or limit any people with the same Christian values as ours from fostering,” the couple told The West Australian. “We hold traditional Christian views on how the Bible teaches us on sexuality and marriage.”

“We stated it from the beginning. We are not here to hide behind it. Everyone — particularly with a divisive issue — is afraid of being put into the realm of public opinion in a negative light. And my beliefs are strong enough that this might be my cross to bear.”

In the United States, foster agencies run by religious organizations have sued to demand their “right” to deny LGBTQ people as potential foster parents. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case brought by a Catholic adoption agency seeking the right to discriminate against potential LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents, shortly after the election.

Catholic Social Services sued after the city of Philadelphia ended a contract with the service after finding out the agency wouldn’t serve gay couples. Lower court rulings have sided with the city, pointing out that religious beliefs are not grounds for violating general civil rights laws.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that religious groups are not exempt from general local, state, and federal laws, but the current makeup of the court has caused concern among civil rights advocates.

This was the first major case that new Justice Amy Coney Barrett heard. The far-right anti-LGBTQ Justice’s confirmation tilted the court with a 6-3 conservative bias.