Louisiana Lawmaker Tries And Fails To Explain How ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Doesn’t Discriminate



If Louisiana state Rep. Mike Johnson (R) wants to convince the public that his “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707) does not promote discrimination against same-sex couples, he’s chosen a funny way to go about. In a video on his new website promoting the bill, “Louisiana for Liberty,” Johnson opens by citing the examples of an Oregon bakery, a New York event venue, and a New Mexico photographer, all of whom suffered penalties under state law for “respectfully” — as Johnson describes it — refusing to serve same-sex couples.

“It’s stories like these that have compelled us to introduce the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act,” he explains. “This new law, if enacted, would protect a Louisiana citizen or business from being punished by the state simply for abiding by their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage.” In other words, Johnson wants to ensure that the kind of discrimination that has been outlawed in other states can continue in Louisiana.

Throughout his talking points in the video and across the website, Johnson describes how the bill “provides an important shield for people of faith,” but ” a sword to no one.” But in Louisiana, citizens and business already have the metaphorical sword; no statewide law protects against discrimination against LGBT people. Only the cities of Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport, along with Jefferson Parish, offer such protections at the local level. Giving a shield to businesses and organizations that would discriminate doubles how equipped they are to refuse service to same-sex couples.

The bill has been amended since it was first introduced, but still seeks to explicitly cement discrimination against same-sex couples. “This state shall not take an adverse action against a person, wholly or partially,” the bill reads, “on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” According to this language, the bill only protects those who have a belief against same-sex marriage, essentially endorsing one set of religious beliefs over others.

Equality Louisiana’s “Not My Louisiana” campaign, which has already attracted a broad coalition of support, outlines some of the consequences of this legislation:

  • Non-profit organizations, like adoption agencies, could not lose their tax exemptions or state contracts for discriminating against same-sex couples.
  • Employers may not be sanctioned or pay a tax penalty for denying employee benefits, including the same partner benefits employees in different-sex marriages enjoy.
  • People who work for the state may not be disciplined or face consequences on the job for discriminating against individuals whose marriages they do not agree with.
  • Professionals accredited, licensed, or certified by the state may not be sanctioned by accrediting bodies for refusing services or discriminating against clients.
  • Businesses and individuals may not be disadvantaged in any other way by the state, even if they deny services or privileges to customers.

Focusing only on state contracts and tax benefits, the bill does not explicitly say that businesses cannot be penalized for violating state nondiscrimination laws, but that may only be because no such relevant law protecting on the basis of “sexual orientation” exists.

HB 707 was the only bill Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) specifically identified as a legislative goal inhis State of the State Address last month. “I absolutely intend to fight for the passage of this legislation,” he said, explaining. “I think we can all agree that the government should never force someone to participate in a marriage ceremony against their will.”

Mirroring the national backlash over a similarly intended “religious freedom” bill in Indiana, at least one corporation has already warned Louisiana against passing this pro-discrimination legislation. IBM wrote a letter to Jindal explaining, “IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law,” because it will “create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values.”

Johnson’s bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests statehood for southeastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests statehood for southeastern Ukraine Robert Cianfione / Getty Images

The Week

Putin urges statehood for eastern Ukraine, a judge blocks Louisiana’s tough new abortion law, and more

1. Putin spokesman softens statehood push for eastern Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Kiev to begin talks about granting “statehood in southeastern Ukraine.” Yet after the blunt remark riled Western observers, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said he wasn’t calling for independence per se — just greater autonomy for southeastern Ukraine under its current national government. The U.S. and its Western allies have imposed sanctions to punish Russia for its support of separatists and its March annexation of Ukraine’s breakaway Crimea region. [The New York Times]


2. Judge blocks Louisiana abortion law
A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana’s tough new abortion law shortly before it was to take effect on Monday. The law will technically remain on the books for now, but doctors can’t be penalized for violating it until a court challenge is resolved. The law requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents say it will force the state’s five abortion clinics to close. [The Washington Times]


3. Israel announces land seizure
Israel announced on Sunday that it was taking 988 acres of land in a Jewish settlement near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, in what an anti-settlement group called the biggest such land grab in 30 years. The Obama administration urged Israel to reverse the decision, calling it “counterproductive” to negotiations on a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. [Reuters]


4. Islamists take control of the abandoned U.S. embassy in Libya
The Islamist militia coalition Dawn of Libya took over the U.S. embassy compound in Tripoli on Sunday. The U.S. abandoned the post a month ago as fighting intensified among militia groups. A Dawn of Libya commander said the group had controlled the embassy since seizing much of the capital last week. Members of the group reportedly celebrated with an impromptu pool party. [The Guardian]


5. Pro-democracy protesters clash with police in Hong Kong
Protests broke out in Hong Kong on Monday in reaction to China’s decision to rule out full democracy in the Asian financial center. Police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of pro-democracy activists after a tense stand-off in front of a center where a senior Chinese official was explaining the decision. A movement called Occupy Central threatened future protests unless Beijing allows free elections in 2017. [Reuters]


6. Demonstrators take over Pakistan’s state TV headquarters
About 1,000 anti-government protesters in Pakistan stormed the headquarters of the state-run television system and halted broadcasts on Monday morning. The demonstrators, brandishing wooden clubs, ransacked the building before Pakistani troops regained control. Most of the protesters reportedly appeared to be backers of cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who is demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. [The New York Times]


7. U.S. trained Alaskans to counter a Cold War invasion
The U.S. government recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers, and others in Alaska early in the Cold War to provide intelligence in the event of a Soviet invasion, according to newly declassified documents. The plan was to have the citizen-agents hide if Soviet paratroopers came, and to then use stashes of food, cold-weather gear, and messaging equipment to report on enemy movements. The project was code-named “Washtub.” [The Associated Press]


8. Five killed in Colorado small-plane crash
Five people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed near an airport in Erie, Colorado, north of Denver. The Piper PA-46 airplane went down just a few hundred yards from the runway. Authorities could not immediately determine whether it had been landing or taking off. The wreckage was first reported by a driver passing the airport. Another witness reported seeing “a plume of dust shoot into the air,” but no sound. [USA Today]


9. 49ers player Ray McDonald faces domestic violence charge
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested Sunday on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Police did not elaborate on the circumstances of the case. The 49ers’ general manager, Trent Baalke, said the football team took such allegations seriously, but reserved comment on the case. The arrest came days after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced harsher penalties for league employees charged with domestic or sexual assault. [San Francisco Chronicle]


10. Celebrities call hacking scandal a disgusting violation of privacy
Hackers posted nude photos of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Lea Michele, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, and others on Sunday. A spokesperson for Lawrence blasted the leak as a “flagrant violation of privacy” and threatened anyone reposting the images, which first appeared on image-sharing site 4chan, with prosecution. Mary Elizabeth Winstead said she could “only imagine the creepy effort that went into this” given how long ago she had deleted the hacked photos of her. [Variety]

Buddhist Student Wins Settlement With Louisiana School District That Called His Religion ‘Stupid’



I’ve followed this story from the beginning, so I’m happy to see that Constitutional law still applies in this instance…

Think Progress

A Buddhist student and his family won a settlement last week against a Louisiana school district where the student’s religion was ridiculed in class as “stupid,” the teacher taught that evolution is “impossible,” and that the bible is “100 percent true.”

The court-approved consent decree prohibits future religious discrimination in a school district that had portraits of Jesus Christ in the halls and a “lighted, electronic marquee” outside one school that scrolls Bible verses. “Religious liberty, as embodied by the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and free speech are hallowed constitutional rights to which all are entitled,” the consent decree states.

Parents Scott and Sharon Lane alleged in their lawsuit that their attempts to report religious harassment were dismissed with comments that “this is the Bible Belt,” and that their son, referred to as “C.C.,” could either change his faith or transfer to another school where “there were more Asians.”

C.C.’s parents did transfer him to another school to curb his daily physical nausea and anxiety, even though it is a 30-minute drive from their home. But the school is in the same Sabine Parish district, and also promotes religious beliefs. The District posts a belief statement on its website that says, “We believe that: God exists.”

As part of the settlement, the school agreed to a permanent injunction on school-endorsed prayer during school events, promotion of religion, and “denigration of religion.” School staff will be required to participate in trainings with an attorney on the legal obligations of the settlement.

GOP Furious That 1993 Voter Registration Act Guarantees Right To Register When Applying For Health Insurance


Well, this is a bit of a sticky wicket for those who advocate voter suppression…

Addicting Info

One of the main reasons Republicans oppose Obamacare has largely flown under the public’s radar — until now. Here’s the key to understanding the GOP’s typically mean-spirited position: applications for insurance under the Affordable Care Act will also allow people to register to vote. Aha! The picture jumps into focus. Those in our population who are most anxious to sign up for healthcare coverage are the same people who the GOP has worked diligently, in state after state, to disenfranchise. The Affordable Care Act could lay waste to all that conservative effort.

Voters’ Rights groups have been keenly aware of this emerging issue, which is likely to be fought out in court. It became obvious to careful watchers in March, when a draft of the insurance application became public, that it would include the opportunity to register to vote. It was also obvious to those defending the right to vote that this provision is mandated by federal law — specifically by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. That law, more popularly known as the “Motor Voter Act”, specified that states had to offer voter registration in government offices. That’s why most states currently offer the option to register to everyone who gets a driver’s license.

The draft application got an immediate response from Congressman Charles W. Boustany, (R-Louisiana). As chairman of the House Committee On Ways And Means Subcommittee On Oversight (got that?), Boustany wrote a letter of protest to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. His objection was supposedly that applicants would be confused and think that voter registration was somehow linked to getting subsidies for their health insurance. Right…because Republicans have been so-o-o concerned that people get all the subsidies to which they are entitled.

California eagerly embraced the provision in May, becoming the first state to designate its healthcare exchange as a voter registration agency. New York and Vermont soon followed, while Connecticut and Maryland recently announced plans to do the same.

The difficulty, of course, comes from less progressive states. Their argument is over whether the exchanges are really government agencies, to which the 1993 law applies. Lisa Danetz, of the advocacy group Demos, is confident that it does. She says:

However it’s organized, the actions of the exchanges are closely intertwined and are essentially the actions of the state … In the long run, they’re going to be doing it. It’s what the law requires.

Progressive groups have raised the concern that the administration might back down on the issue in the face of a strong conservative backlash. However, talkingpointsmemo.com reported on Tuesday that they had received confirmation from a White House spokesman that the administration hasn’t changed its position; the marketplaces fall under the 1993 law and voter registration is “still the plan”.

Nevertheless, residents need to keep a watchful eye on the actions of their own states. Many of them have adopted the strategy of keeping mum and hoping that a lack of action will escape the eye — and the enforcement power — of the federal government.

Forgetting the relevant Katrina detail, eight years later

President Obama was NOT the president during Hurricane Katrina…

The Maddow Blog

How much do Louisiana Republicans dislike President Obama? Many of them blame him for the government’s tragic response to Hurricane Katrina — which struck the state more [than] three years before Obama took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government’s post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.

I realize that 2005 was a while ago, and among Republicans there’s some disagreement about the efficacy of George W. Bush’s handling of the crisis, but the PPP results really don’t make any sense.

So what explains this? There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, it’s possible that after several years in which the political world described all sorts of different developments as “Obama’s Katrina,” a lot of folks may have gotten confused and started to connect the words “Obama” and “Katrina” in a mistaken way.

Second, let’s not underestimate the scope of reflexive GOP opposition to the president, in Louisiana and elsewhere, and the way in which that leads Republican to blame Obama for just about anything. More Louisiana Republicans blame Obama than Bush for the response to Katrina, which obviously don’t make sense, but I imagine if PPP asked, a non-trivial number of Louisiana Republicans would also blame the president for 9/11, Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the 1919 White Sox, and the U.S. Civil War.

In other words, Louisiana Republicans may say they blame Obama for the response to Katrina, but what they’re really saying is they just hate the president and blame him reflexively for everything.

Bobby Jindal To GOP: ‘It’s Time To Get Over’ Election Loss

Governor Bobby Jindal’s poll numbers may be low in Louisiana, but once again he’s giving his fellow Republicans some sage advice.  The last time he gave the GOP advice, they were not too happy with his choice of words.

The Huffington Post

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) spoke at a GOP dinner in New Hampshire on Friday, urging his fellow Republicans to “get over” last year’s electoral defeats and instead focus on reassessing party priorities ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“We lost an election that we probably should have won,” Jindal said at a GOP fundraiser in Manchester, N.H., according to ABC News. “It’s time to get over it. … I think we can win elections by sticking to our principles, but I do think we need to make some changes and I think we need to think seriously about where we go from here.”

He continued, “We spent too much time last year criticizing the other side without saying what we were going to do instead, without saying what we were for.”

The Republican governor made headlines last year when he called on members of his party to end “dumbed-down conservatism” and “stop being the stupid party.” During his New Hampshire speech, Jindal offered an explanation for those remarks.

“What I meant by that was we’ve got to present thoughtful policy solutions to the American people — not just bumper stickers, not just 30-second solutions,” Jindal said, according to the Washington Times. “We have to have the confidence and the courage in our convictions and show them that our ideas will benefit them.”

Jindal has frequently been floated as a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. However, he has brushed off the speculation, insisting that it is too early to wade into the race.

“Anybody on the Republican side even thinking or talking about running for president in 2016, I’ve said, needs to get their head examined,” Jindal said during a February appearance on “Fox and Friends.” “And the reason I say that is, we’ve lost two presidential elections in a row, we need to be winning the debate of ideas– then we’ll win elections.”


Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement”

Angola 3 prisoner ordered free for third time

The backstory:

Former Black Panther Albert Woodfox, one of the “Angola 3,” has been in solitary confinement in Angola Prison for the murder of a guard, despite the fact that evidence strongly suggests his innocence. Although a federal judge this week overturned his conviction, Louisiana are likely to keep Woodfox locked up. He has been ordered free by a judge twice before, after all.

Earlier this week the same federal judge that ordered Woodfox’s release in 2008 again ruled Woodfox should be set free on the basis of racial discrimination in his retrial. Salon

Mother Jones

Actually, they’ve been in solitary for 41 years.

James “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of the state of Louisiana, has released a statement saying unequivocally that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two still-imprisoned members of the Angola 3, “have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system.”

In fact, Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for nearly 41 years, quite possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet. They were placed in solitary following the 1972 killing of a young corrections officer at Angola, and except for a few brief periods, they have remained in isolation ever since.

The statement from Caldwell follows on the heels of a ruling by a federal district court judge in New Orleans, overturning Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the third time—in this instance, on the grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Subsequently, Amnesty International, along with other activists, mounted a campaign urging the state of Louisiana not to appeal the federal court’s ruling. In the absence of an appeal, Woodfox would have to be given a new trial or released.

Caldwell’s statement—which was rather mysteriously sent out to an email list that included numerous prisoners’ rights advocates who have supported the Angola 3—begins: “Thank you for your interest in the ambush, savage attack and brutal murder of Officer Brent Miller at Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) on April 17, 1972. Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace committed this murder, stabbing and slicing Miller over 35 times.”

Continue reading here…

Jindal: End ‘dumbed-down conservatism’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at a Republican Party of Arkansas fund raising dinner in Hot Springs, Ark., Friday, July 27, 2012. | AP Photo


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.

In his first interview since his party’s electoral thumping last week, Jindal urged Republicans to both reject anti-intellectualism and embrace a populist-tinged reform approach that he said would mitigate what exit polls show was one of President Barack Obama’s most effective lines of attack against Mitt Romney.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

He was just as blunt on how the GOP should speak to voters, criticizing his party for offending and speaking down to much of the electorate.

“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Continue reading here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83743.html#ixzz2C86bzb3H

Sore Loser Secessionists Let Out A Rebel Whine With White House Petitions

Perhaps they’ll want some cheese with that “whine”…

Addicting Info

Nothing says I hate democracy like this White House petition started by Michael E. from Slidell, LA the day after Obama was elected President of the United States of America.

we petition the obama administration to:

Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.

As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…”

And whining cry babies in eighteen other states have joined them in stamping their feet and declaring that they don’t want to be our friends anymore because their candidate wasn’t victorious. Texas had to brag that their state is the 15th largest economy in the world and Oregon added that they still want to remain an ally, but for the most part the wording on the majority of the petitions is similar to Louisiana’s. Even if one of these petitions happens to get the 25,000 signatures needed, it’s doubtful that they are going to receive any response from the White House other than, “No!” Which is appropriate to tell any child having a temper tantrum.

But in case the secessionist path doesn’t work, the Obama haters have another petition out there as well from Jana W., APO, AE.

we petition the obama administration to:

Recount the election!

It has become blatantly obvious the voter fraud that was committed during the 2012 Presidential elections.  In one county alone in Ohio, which was a battleground state, President Obama received 106,258 votes…but there were only 98,213 eligible voters.  It’s not humanly possible to get 108% of the vote!

If ID laws had been enforced (which the administration is completely against because that meant they would lose) then this wouldn’t be an issue.

Recount NOW!

108% of the vote?! That didn’t sound right to me so I did a little more checking. According toclashdaily.net this astounding vote total happened in Wood County, Ohio so I checked their vote counts and found that 31596 votes were cast for Obama, a percentage of 50.9%. Once again the wing nut echo chamber has pulled some lie out of their ass and found almost 10,000 people gullible enough to sign a White House petition based on this phony story. For anyone who thought the right-wing bubble might finally burst and let a few facts in, these asinine petitions should put that idea to rest.


West Wing Week 9/7/2012 or “Engage!”

The White House

This week, the President visited Fort Bliss two years after he marked the end of major combat operations in Iraq and visited with victims of Hurricane Isaac.

Meanwhile, the White House released its top secret beer recipe and the new White House app, and “We the People” got its three millionth signature.

Friday, August 31st:

  • The President returned to Fort Bliss to mark the two year anniversary of the War in Iraq, and discuss his commitment to our men and women in uniform.

Saturday, September 1st:

Monday, September 3rd:

  • The President visited St. John The Baptist Parish in Louisiana to take in the damage from Hurricane Isaac and meet with officials responding to the disaster.

Tuesday, September 4th:

Wednesday, September 5th:

  • The White House hosted a special session of Office Hours on Twitter with White House Curator, Bill Allman.