U.S. Politics

Alabama Secretary Of State Says Confederates Fought For A ‘Special’ Way Of Life



Alabama is currently celebrating Confederate Heritage Month with a state-wide holiday and a series of public events aimed at remembering and honoring those who fought on the side of southern, slave-owning states during the Civil War. At one such event this week, organized by the Ladies’ Memorial Association, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill lamented recent calls to remove Confederate symbols from government buildings.

“The next question that has to be asked is so what’s the next thing you are going to do,” he asked, “are you going to take a bulldozer to the monument and forget what people fought for to preserve a way of life that makes us special and unique?”

Civil rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, slammed the remark as “shameful.” But in a follow-up conversation with ThinkProgress, Merrill explained that the “way of life” he celebrates is based on Confederate soldiers’ independent spirit, not their advocacy for slavery.

“When we have things happen in our state, we don’t rely on the federal government to come take care of us,” he said. “We take care of ourselves. For example, after the tornadoes in 2011, or after the massive flooding we had. That’s who we are. That’s who these people were. I’m proud of that.”

Alabama, however, is the ninth most reliant on federal aid out of the 50 states, taking far more in aid than the state pays back in taxes. As for the 2011 tornado damage Merrill mentioned, an auditor recently found that the state improperly received about $1.2 million in federal aid that it now must pay back. Antebellum Alabama’s “self-reliance,” meanwhile, depended from its founding on the unpaid labor of hundreds of thousands of slaves.

Secretary of State Race


Merrill explained to ThinkProgress that he wanted to participate in a “celebration of the heritage of the south” because he believes young people need to “to be respectful of those historical traits we hold dear.” Those traits, he emphasized, are “not related to race, divisiveness, or a heritage of fighting.” Rather, they are “pride in our work and in our communities.”

He repeatedly assured ThinkProgress that he personally has no racial biases, noting that he owns a signed photo of Alabama civil rights icon John Lewis, and touting the diversity in his agency.

“We’ve got two African Americans that work in the lobby area of our office here,” he said. “None of them are working here because they’re black, but because they’re highly-qualified, trained professionals. I judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

The controversy over the Secretary of State’s remarks comes amidst a national debate over how to appropriately remember the state-sanctioned slavery on which much of the U.S. was founded and sustained for hundreds of years. Protests erupted in South Carolina after young man killed nine black church members in a racially-motivated hate crime, and resulted in the state removing the Confederate flag from its state capitol. The town of Danville, Virginia, known as the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy,” also took down its battle flag from public grounds after a multi-year debate.

But many states are moving in the opposite direction. Like Alabama, Mississippi is celebrating its Confederate heritage this month, yet discussion of the slavery the state once depended on is almost entirely absent from official state proclamations of the holiday — which includes only a vague allusion to “mistakes.” The state also rejected a push in February to remove the Confederate cross from its state flag.

In Alabama and across the country, people have been demonstrating against the continued state display of Confederate memorials and flags. At a protest in DC in September, a group of students of color told ThinkProgress they feel “genuinely afraid” when they encounter such symbols.

“I feel scared when I see it,” said Winter Brooks, an African-American student at American University. “It’s a symbol of hate, of pro-slavery, anti-blackness, anti-minorities. It’s frightening.”


U.S. Politics

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Orders End To All Same-Sex Marriage Licenses



In a notably provocative legal order Wednesday, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order directing Alabama probate judges to not issue any marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore, himself an ardent opponent of marriage equality who has previously promised to resist the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, explained in his order that it remains unclear if Obergefell applies beyond the four states directly involved in that case. He noted that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and a district court of Kansas have both ruled that Obergefell did “not directly strike down the provisions” of other states’ bans on same-sex marriage, and thus a case brought by the Alabama Policy Institute (API) seeking to uphold Alabama’s ban remains unsettled.

Neither of these cases, however, support Moore’s suggestion that Obergefell is non-binding. The Eighth Circuit’s opinion does state that Obergefell does not directly apply to Nebraska, but it made this statement as part of a discussion about why that court retains jurisdiction over the case permitting it to rule in favor of marriage equality. Similarly, the district court in Kansas explicitly stated that “Obergefell is clearly controlling Supreme Court precedent.”

Nevertheless, Moore claims that these opinions create uncertainty about the legal status of marriage equality. “Whether or not the Alabama Supreme Court will apply the reasoning of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, or some other legal analysis is yet to be determined,” Moore wrote. “Yet the fact remains that the administration of justice in the State of Alabama has been adversely affected by the apparent conflict between the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in API and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell.”

Moore thus doubled down on that conflict, ordering that “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license” contrary to the state’s constitutional and statutory bans on same-sex marriage.

This is the same order the Alabama Supreme Court issued last March, after a federal district court ruled against Alabama’s ban. It set up a chaotic scenario in which probate judges received conflicting orders from federal and state courts. Now, even more than then, it is clear Moore is flagrantly disregarding the Constitution’s “supreme law” to mandate his own law.

It is technically true that Alabama was not party to the cases the Supreme Court heard along with Obergefell, but this is not a technicality that justifies Moore’s action. The precedent of Obergefell applies to any other case in a U.S. court; whether the Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry is no longer a legal question.

Any couple denied a marriage license under Moore’s order would likely find relief from a federal court quite quickly, but probate judges would once again face dueling court orders. Depending on how far Moore and the Alabama Supreme Court hope to extend their insurrection, they could hypothetically go as far as holding probate judges in contempt for issuing same-sex marriage licenses, but this would likely trigger quick intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moore is even contradicting Alabama state executives. In July, Attorney General Luther Strange declared that Obergefell applies to Alabama and that all state agencies would comply with it. Most probate judges have been doing just that.



U.S. Politics

Cop Claims Brutal Assault On Indian Grandfather Was Justified Because ‘We Speak English Here’ (VIDEO)


Defense lawyers representing an Alabama police officer who stands accused of violating the rights of a 57-year-old man blamed the victim in court today. During opening statements, attorney Robert Tuten told jurors that the officer’s brutal attack on the man was on his own fault. He stated that Sureshbhai Patel, a native of India, had no business coming to the United States if he doesn’t know how to speak the language.

Mr. Patel was body-slammed by Madison, Alabama police officer, Eric Parker, in February. The assault left him partially paralyzed.

As Addicting Info reported in February, Officer Parker approached Patel after the a 911 caller racially profiled him. The caller reported seeing “a really skinny black guy,” with “a toboggan on.” Even though the caller said Mr. Patel was “just walking,” he also reported being “afraid to go to work and leave his wife at home alone.”

Mr. Patel came to the United States from India, where he worked as a farmer all of his life. He was brought to the country by his son, Chirag Patel, a U.S. citizen who is employed by a defense contractor, as a software engineer, in Huntsville. He brought his father to the United States after his baby was born prematurely, because he and his wife needed help caring for the child.

Video of Parker slamming the 57-year-old grandfather to the ground was published by al.com on YouTube, earlier this year.

According to Parker’s defense attorney, Mr. Patel had it coming. He’s not paralyzed today because the cop brutalized him without cause. In fact, the entire thing is his own fault.

The Associated Press reports that Tuten told the jury “anyone who comes to the United States is expected to follow the law and speak the dominant language.” He then added, “We speak English here.”

Prosecutors called Charles Spence to the stand. Spence is a 20 year veteran of the police force, with 15 years as a Field Training Officer.

WHNT reports:

“Spence said Parker used a standard takedown move, the “front leg sweep” taught in the police academy.  Spence said it’s used when a subject is being combative, but he didn’t observe Patel being combative.  He also said this type of takedown is “high risk” and he wouldn’t have handcuffed him in this circumstance.

Prosecutors asked Spence if he saw anything that would have caused him to lay hands on Mr. Patel.  “No sir, I didn’t,” Officer Spence replied.

The defense asked Spence about the language barrier officers encounter in the field. Spence said police come in contact with non-English speaking residents about once a month, usually Spanish speakers.”

YES, police are expected to know how to work with immigrants and visitors to the United States, and NO, those people are not required to “speak English here.”

The statements made by the Eric Parker’s defense attorney are appalling and infuriating.

Not knowing the language is not a crime. Not speaking English is not a reason for police to put you in the hospital for months on end.

But claiming in open court that this kind of brutality is the victim’s fault, simply because he doesn’t speak English, should be more than enough reason for a jury to find Parker guilty of a whole list of civil rights violations.

U.S. Politics

Alabama Man Beautifully Proves Cops Wrong When Harassed For Jogging While Black (VIDEO)

File:Police car with emergency lights on.jpg
From Wikimedia Commons


Unless you’re a person of color, one really doesn’t understand what it’s like to be stopped by the police just for merely existing. I certainly don’t, but I am aware that it happens, as it just did to Corey Dickerson in Talladega, Alabama, as reported by The Free Thought Project.

Dickerson was out for a jog at night – which last I checked isn’t illegal – when he was stopped by a police officer who asked him where he was “running from.” As though he must be up to no good and running “from” something. God forbid a black man exercise in the state of Alabama.

Dickerson had pulled out his camera to record the entire confrontation.

When asked where he was running to, Dickerson simply responded, as any jogger would, “just around,” going “nowhere in particular.”

It was then that Officer Price pulled his police car over and got out to question Dickerson further. Dickerson can be heard saying:

“Looks like I’m about to get harassed.”

When the officer asks Dickerson to come over, he proceeds to the front of the squad car to stay in sight of the dashboard camera so everything can be recorded there as well. (To be honest, it’s sad that he has to remember to do all this) Dickerson tells the cop that he’s recording and that the video will automatically upload when turned off.

The cop then proceeds to tell Dickerson that he’s out jogging really late, and there have apparently been reports of thefts in the area. And Alabama being a state that allows cops to stop and question anyone if they seem to be suspicious of a crime, it doesn’t exactly bode well for African-Americans trying to stay fit.

When a second officer arrives, he remembers that Dickerson was jogging earlier. Dickerson tells the officers:

“I’m not a lawyer, don’t even pretend to be one, but I know that in order to detain me, you’ve got to have some type of reasonable suspicion that I’ve committed some type of crime…  I’m minding my own business out here, I’m literally jogging. Exercising.”

Dickerson also lets the officers know why he’s taking the actions that he’s taking — not showing ID, not allowing them to search, recording — and explains that he was harassed terribly by cops in the past and doesn’t exactly have the greatest faith in their intent. Dickerson says:

“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I don’t trust police just because I got my hair pulled out, I was choked, tased, maced, beaten bloody, you hear me? Beaten bloody, by four cops while I was in handcuffs… One bad apples spoils the whole bunch for me.”

Dickerson also calls out the cops when they say that he should be arrested for “failure to identify.”

“Is that a real law? I’m going to look that up tonight… if I don’t go to jail.”

This back and forth continues to go on, and the officers still seem to insist that Dickerson is suspicious of something.

By the end of the video Dickerson had explained himself very well, knew his rights, knew what he had to do in regards to recording and staying in sight of the dashcam, and was ultimately free to go after he called his sister to notify her of his harassment.

These cops were trying so hard to find Dickerson guilty of something. Anything. They weren’t sure what that something was, but they were going to sort that out somehow.

It was revealed by Dickerson that he was in court a couple of weeks prior for trespassing after an altercation with his ex-girlfriend, but to be honest, that had nothing to do with anything in regards to why he was being questioned at the current moment.

Dickerson was a man jogging. JOGGING. Something white people take for granted, apparently, because when was the last time you heard about a white guy getting stopped just for exercising late at night?

This entire confrontation didn’t need to happen, and luckily the end result was a good one, because far too often, things go from bad to worse as people of color are unnecessarily stopped and questioned by the police for merely existing on this planet whilst black. It’s not okay, and that prejudice needs to stop now.

U.S. Politics

Alabama TV news panel scolds GOP over ‘fishy’ plan to close DMV offices in black communities

"Voice of Alabama Politics" on WNCF (screen grab)
“Voice of Alabama Politics” on WNCF (screen grab)

I wonder if anybody outside of that district really cares?  These commentators don’t.   It seems it’s just business as usual for the bigots and haters and everyone has to leave it up to a highly conservative Supreme Court to sort it out.  This scenario has been playing out for as long as there has been a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.  KS


A Panel of political experts in Alabama blasted the state on Sunday for appearing to target the African-Americans by closing driver’s license offices in black communities.

Just a year after enacting voter photo ID laws, the state of Alabama announced last week that it was closing 31 satellite DMV offices. As AL.com’s John Archibald pointed out, the move means that driver’s licenses offices will be closed in every county with 75 percent registered black voters.

“This is a result of the budget,” Voice of Alabama Politics host McMillan Strong noted. “But what’s the game plan? It looks fishy.”

“Not everyone cares that they closed 31 driver’s license offices,” Alabama Political Reporter Associate Editor Susan Britt explained. “They’re saying it only affects 5 percent of overall driver’s licenses in the state. But what does that tell you? That tells you that these are in rural areas, they are out in very small populations. They would have to drive a long distance to get a driver’s license — or a voter ID.”

“It appears on the surface, at least from a cursory glance, that this is disproportionately targeting folks in the black belt and racial minorities,” Strong observed. “It really does, I’m sorry.”

“Those are rural areas and if you’re going to target rural areas for closures because they’re not as busy, naturally there’s going to be a lot of overlap there,” political strategist Baron Coleman agreed. “But from an optics perspective, when you’re requiring voter ID and you go close the only place to get a voter ID in counties like Macon, Lowndes, Sumter, Hale, Greene — it’s bad optics, I’ll say that.”

“It may be not coincidental, but just the nature of how you have to do these things,” Strong opined. “But it is obvious that they are targeting more Democrats that they are Republicans.”

“You have to take into [account] that a lot of these communities are very poor,” Britt added. “And do they have the money to travel, do they have the $20 in gas that it takes to get there and back?”

Watch the video below from WNCF, broadcast Oct. 4, 2015.

U.S. Politics

Shut out in the Black Belt

VOX Sentences

President Obama really doesn’t want to give another speech after a mass shooting; a major Senate criminal-justice reform bill; and why DMV closures in Alabama could be a voter-suppression issue.

Obama speaks on the shooting
Mary Wilson/Getty Images


Voting booths. Booths, where voting happens.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty

Vox Sentences is written by Dylan Matthews and Dara Lind.

U.S. Politics

Alabama Is About To Make It Much Harder To Get A Voter ID



With Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature refusing to consider any tax hikes, the state is preparing to take drastic measures to address its budget crisis — including shutting down all state parks and the vast majority of Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs). The proposal to close dozens of DMVs across the state — starting in rural areas — could hurt voters who need access to those offices in order to get the ID they need to cast a ballot.

Susan Watson, the executive director of the Alabama American Civil Liberties Union, told ThinkProgress this could put up yet another barrier to voting for the state’s lowest-income residents.

“They want to disenfranchise the most people possible,” she said. “It seems like they work hard to try to find ways to make it harder to vote. We have zero days of early voting. You aren’t allowed to vote absentee unless you’re out of the county or working more than 10 hours on Election Day. It’s already hard to get an ID if you are in a rural place and don’t have a DMV close to you. But if they shut these offices down, I’m wondering what people are supposed to do.”

The proposed budget leaves just four DMV offices in the state, in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville, meaning potentially several hours of driving and long lines for the tens of thousands of people who live far from those cities.

“This won’t just hurt voters,” said Watson. “I can see a lot more people getting arrested and fined for not having a current drivers license, since it’ll be harder for them to get one.”

Alabama implemented its voter ID law shortly after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required the state get preapproval from the Justice Department every time it changed its voting laws because of its long history of racially-based and often violent voter suppression. The ACLU and other voting rights groups argue the law disproportionately burdensthe elderly, people of color, students, and the poor — who may have difficulty finding transportation to an office during the narrow hours they are open, and who may lack a birth certificate or other document needed to get the free identification card.

The state itself estimated that 250,000 eligible voters lacked the proper ID, but gave out only about 1,000 as of last April.

In the 2014 midterm elections, hundreds of voters were disenfranchised by the ID requirement, and election turnout was the lowest it has been since the mid-1980s. As an example of the law’s harm, Watson cited the case of Willie Mims, a 93-year-old African American Alabama resident who was turned away from the polls last year because he didn’t have a proper ID. Mims had voted in nearly every election since World War II.

But Ed Packard, Alabama’s Director of Elections, defended the law, telling ThinkProgress that if the DMVs close, voters can still go to their Board of Registrar’s office in their county, or meet up with the mobile unit that travels around the state processing voter IDs. But he also admitted the Registrar offices have no evening or weekend hours, which presents difficulties for those with full-time jobs or multiple jobs. As for the mobile unit, it generally visits just one county per day and is open for just two hours at a time. Though Packard says his office plans to keep running the mobile unit through October, he told ThinkProgress that the future of the service is uncertain because of the current budget crisis.

As it becomes more difficult to get a voter ID, the state may demand more people obtain one. Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress earlier this year that he is pushing for the state to require a photo copy of an ID from those who vote absentee — who currently do not have to provide one. He added that Alabama residents should “forgive people” for past racial voter suppression policies and “move on.”

The state legislature will decide whether to go forward with the budget cuts and office closures during a special session in the coming weeks.


U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 9, 2015

The Week

1.Selma march over bridge marks Bloody Sundayanniversary
Thousands of demonstrators marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the brutal assault of civil rights activists in the same spot. Many sang “We Shall Overcome” at the scene of the 1965 clash, known as Bloody Sunday and commemorated in the film Selma. The attack helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking in Selma, said was “under siege” by new state voting laws.

Source: Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

2.GOP Benghazi investigation chief finds gaps in Hillary Clinton’s emails
The Republican chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack said Sunday there were “huge gaps” in the emails then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned over to the committee. Clinton went to Libya after the attack, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. “We have no emails from that day,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Clinton, under criticism for using a private email account instead of a government one, has asked the State Department to release all her emails.

Source: Reuters

3.Oklahoma fraternity closed over racist video
The national board of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity shut down its University of Oklahoma chapter after a video surfaced allegedly showing SAE members from the school riding a bus, chanting that “there will never be a n—er in SAE.” The board made the decision “with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately,” SAE national president Brad Cohen said after an emergency board meeting Sunday night. The reaction came after The Oklahoma Daily student newspaper posted the video online.

Source: The New York Times, The Oklahoma Daily

4.Obama says the U.S. would “walk away” from a bad Iran nuclear deal
President Obama on Sunday said Iran must agree to stringent conditions in a potential nuclear deal or the U.S. will “walk away” from the negotiating table. For a deal to work out, the U.S. would have to “verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there’s a breakout period so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action,” Obama said on Face the Nation. “If we don’t have that kind of deal, then we’re not going to take it,” he added.

Source: CBS News, Voice of America

5.Protests continue in Madison over police shooting
More than 100 people protested in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday in the third day of demonstrations over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Tony Robinson Jr. by a white policeman. Robinson, 19, was shot outside an apartment building after Officer Matt Kenny, 45, responded to a report of a man dodging cars in traffic and battering another person. The killing was the latest in a series of deaths of unarmed black men that have touched off nationwide protests of excessive force against African Americans.

Source: Reuters

6.Iraq closes in on Islamic State in Tikrit
Iraqi forces have dealt severe blows to the Islamic State fighters near the city of Tikrit a week into an offensive aiming to regain control over the city from militants, officials said Sunday. Government forces and allied militias, however, had not yet been able to enter the city. “It will still take days to completely liberate” the areas, said Ahmed al-Karim, head of the provincial council in the area. “There is resistance from [the Islamic State], but it is not at the level we expected.”

Source: The Washington Post

7.Apple to debut Apple Watch
Apple is unveiling its long-awaited Apple Watch on Monday in San Francisco. The iPhone and iPad maker’s CEO, Tim Cook, said in September that the company’s new wearable gadget would have features that included fitness tracking, messaging, and Apple Pay. The Apple Watch is expected to start at $349, but fans are still wondering about other details such as battery life and apps. The Apple Watch is the company’s first new device since the death of the company’s visionary co-founder, Steve Jobs.

Source: NBC Bay Area

8.Cosmos exhibition game to end Cuba sports embargo
The New York Cosmos will play the Cuban national soccer team in Havana this June in an exhibition match, ending a professional sports ban on the communist Caribbean island. The Cosmos will travel to Cuba during a break in their North American Soccer League schedule. The match will be the first pro sports exchange since the U.S. and Cuba announced renewed diplomatic relations in December. The last pro team to play in Cuba was the Baltimore Orioles, who beat Cuba’s national baseball team 3-2 in 1999.

Source: The New York Times

9. Report says cycling officials went easy on Lance Armstrong
Cycling’s international governing body gave Lance Armstrong special treatment and delayed addressing rumors that the now-disgraced former Tour de France champion had been doping, according to a new report by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission. The report says officials at the International Cycling Union (UCI) “exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to test him despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations of doping, even as late as 2012.” The UCI set up the commission to investigate the causes of the sport’s doping scandal.

Source: CNN

10.Solar plane starts historic flight
A solar-powered plane with a 236-foot wingspan took off from Abu Dhabi on Monday, with the goal of becoming the first plane to travel around the world without any fuel. The Solar Impulse 2 will be piloted by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who will alternate flying the single-seat aircraft. The journey is expected to take several months, and the pilots hope the plane will make it back to Abu Dhabi by late July or August. The first stop is Muscat, Oman, where Borschberg is expected to land late Monday.

Source: The Associated Press

Alabama · Same Sex Marriage

Alabama Marriage Mess Shows Dangers of Distorted ‘Religious Liberty’ Claims

The Huffington Post

Across Alabama, local judges are openly defying a federal judicial order to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The New York Times reported yesterday that 44 of the state’s 67 counties were not granting licenses. The state is a checkerboard where gay and lesbian Alabamans are locked out of full citizenship across vast swaths of the state based on the whims of local officials.

As many observers have pointed out, this week’s events make Americans recall the state’s historic resistance to federal court orders striking down segregation. But they show us an image of the future, as well — or at least the future as the far right would have it.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s distortion of religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case, some state legislatures are considering bills that would allow government officials to decline to perform marriages that offend them religiously. A number of states are also considering legislation to let people exempt themselves from anti-discrimination and other laws if compliance would offend them religiously. While misleadingly framed as protecting religious liberty, these bills are really intended to allow discrimination and to let conservatives impose their religious beliefs on others.

So what would America look like if we allowed such massive holes to be poked in laws that are supposed to protect everyone? What if lesbian and gay couples were legally treated as outsiders in their home communities, had fewer legal rights than anyone else in those communities, and had to travel anywhere from another neighborhood to another county to find a bakery willing to make a cake for them, a hotel willing to rent them a room for the night, or an employer willing to grant them spousal employment benefits? What if a woman’s ability to find adequate healthcare depended on finding an employer and a pharmacist with compatible religious beliefs? What if people’s basic rights varied depending on where they were, and upon the prevailing religious beliefs of people in the area? What would such a religiously balkanized nation look like?

It would look a lot like Alabama does today. And it would be ugly.

For decades, the far right has fought tooth and nail to impose their religious beliefs through government fiat. They have fought to prevent gays from marrying, to prevent women from exercising reproductive choice, to have public schools indoctrinate other people’s children with their own religious beliefs — the list goes on. And when they fail at changing the laws to match their religion, they seek exemptions from those laws in the name of “religious liberty.”

As People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery has written in his most recent report, that isn’t what religious liberty is about. And it isn’t a vision of America that is true to our founding principles.

Texas · Texas Politics

Alabama Lawmaker: Proposed 10 Commandments Monument Has ‘Nothing To Do With Religion’

Texas Legislature | CREDIT: AP

What color is the sky on these folks’ planet? They’re not possibly from this planet.

Think Progress

Alabama lawmaker announced Thursday his desire to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments at a county courthouse, arguing that the religious moral code deserves a memorial for “historical” reasons and that the proposal “has nothing to do with religion.”

Tim Guffey, a Republican county commissioner in Jackson county, Alabama, told AL.com that he would like to create a monument to “historical documents” at a courthouse in downtown Scottsboro. The hypothetical monument would feature the Bible’s Ten Commandments beside reconstructions of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“What I’m trying to do is erect a monument of historical documents,” Guffey told AL.com. “It’s the Constitution, the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence. I feel like that’s what this country was founded on. These documents helped America become the greatest country in history.”

Guffey did not elaborate as to why the suggested monument wouldn’t include other famous historical legal codes, such as the Code of Hammurabi, the English Magna Carta, the Iroquois Great Law of Peace, or even the U.S. Bill of Rights, all of which have been cited by scholars,U.S. Congress, and even U.S. Presidents as deeply influential to the creation of America’s justice system. Instead, Guffey argued that the Ten Commandments were uniquely important to the construction of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

“The Ten Commandments is a historical document (in this context) and it has nothing to do with religion,” he said. “It shows that these founders had great beliefs in God and the Ten Commandments and His Word and it helped them get to the point where they were. And I feel like taking that document out, if that document wasn’t there to guide them, then our Constitution wouldn’t be what it is today…But I don’t see how I could do the other two and not do that one and be truthful about it.”

Conservatives have long contended that the legal perspective of America’s Founding Fathers was almost exclusively grounded in Christianity, often arguing that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are supposedly inherently “Christian” documents (this despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson, the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, hadcomplex and often deeply ambivalent views on the Bible and religion). But Guffey’s insistence that the Ten Commandments be respected as a historically influential code appears to be part of a new trend among conservatives to appeal to history when introducing explicitly Christian symbols into public spaces. Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby, recently developed a four-year curriculum for public high schools that casts the Bible as, among other things, a book that shaped America’s legal framework — including the Declaration of Independence. The curriculum, which has already been approved by an Oklahoma school board, would ostensibly be taught from a secular perspective, but Green said in a April 2013 speech that he hopes the course will teach students that the Bible’s impact, “whether (upon) our government, education, science, art, literature, family … has been good.”

Guffey expressed a similar belief when explaining the rationale behind his potential monument, telling AL.com, “They don’t teach this at school anymore.”

Alabama has a long history of debates over whether or not to display the list of laws said to be handed down by God to Moses in the biblical Exodus story. In 2001, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore erected a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building, a move that ultimately resulted in his removal from office. In addition, members of the Alabama legislature have debated a number of bills in recent years to amend the state’s Constitution and allow for the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. The most recent “Ten Commandments Bill” was introduced in February,passing through the state House of Representatives before halting in the Senate. Lawmakers supported the bill reportedly defended it using a number of bizarre arguments, such as blaming school shootings, patricide, and matricide on society’s failure to display the Ten Commandments in schools and other government buildings.


An earlier version of this piece denoted Thomas Jefferson as the chief author of the U.S. Constitution. Although Jefferson’s ideas undoubtedly influenced the construction of the Constitution, he was actually abroad during the Constitutional Convention, and is more accurately remembered as the architect of the Declaration of Independence.