Personal Liberty

Home » Personal Liberty

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

in Criminal Justice, First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

Mizzou Professor Faces Assault Charge, Suspended

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Mizzou Professor Faces Assault Charge, Suspended

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Nov. 9, 2015, the nation paid close attention to massive protests on the University of Missouri’s campus following the resignation of President Tim Wolfe for his failure to adequately address a series of racial incidents on campus.

Later that afternoon, assistant communications professor, Melissa Click, was filmed by student journalist Mark Schierbecker, in a video that has since gone viral. In the video, Click is seen having a verbal and physical altercation with another student journalist, Tim Tai, who was trying to photograph student protesters who had formed a large circle in the middle of campus.

Click

Claiming that it was a “safe space” for protesters, Click is seen trying to push Schierbecker and Tai away. At one point, Click calls for “some muscle” to remove them both from the protest area. Then, she appears to grab Schierbecker’s camera.

This week, the Columbia, Mo. city prosecutor’s office announced it had filed a Class C misdemeanor assault charge against the professor, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail. Two days later, the University of Missouri Board of Curators formally suspended her of her teaching duties.

“MU Professor Melissa Click is suspended pending further investigation,” said Pam Henrickson, chairwoman of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. “The Board of Curators directs the General Counsel, or outside counsel selected by General Counsel, to immediately conduct an investigation and collaborate with the city attorney and promptly report back to the Board so it may determine whether additional discipline is appropriate.”

This suspension is appropriate because Click was overly driven to squash the First Amendment rights of the student journalists. As Tai said in the video, he and his colleague had just as much of a right to be there reporting as did the protesters. It is alarming that Click did not seem to understand the basic principle of free speech that she, and members of her former department, were entrusted to teach to budding journalists.

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US drug war initiated during the Nixon administration has been responsible for skyrocketing incarceration rates, the destruction of the black family, and increase in racial disparities in criminal justice. Now, it’s also responsible for a new wave of fear revolving marijuana users’ Instagram accounts.

That’s right.

According to a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, posting images of recreational use of marijuana on social media may result in a fine up to $150,000. The individual at fault could also spend 18 months in jail.

Pot

“Even though 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have legalized recreational marijuana,” former DEA agent Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco said, “marijuana remains illegal federally.”

In an interview for Fox News, the former DEA agent said that nobody should “be posting pictures of themselves smoking pot and using pot-themed hashtags to attract fans and ‘likes’ in any state. People who post pictures of themselves could potentially face criminal charges.”

According to Instagram’s own list of restrictions, users are not allowed to upload “unlawful” content to its site. Images of marijuana use fall under this category.

Despite the potential risks, there has been a rise in images of individuals making use of recreational marijuana on social media. But Instagram users will​ ​continue to be ​targeted by law enforcement if they do not slow down—unless the law changes.

Popular Instagram users like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Wiz Khalifa haven’t suffered any restrictions after posting photos of recreational marijuana use to Instagram. But New Jersey 20-year-old marijuana user Connor Kennedy has.

In July of 2015, Kennedy was arrested by the Winslow Township Police Department after posting photos online of his marijuana use. He was allegedly growing seven marijuana plants in an abandoned backyard down the street from his house at the time.

​ “Concerned citizens” contacted​​ the police​ ​about Kennedy’s behavior​, which prompted the police to​​ catch the young man tending to the plants ​with a hidden​ camera. After this incident, investigators looked him up online. That’s when they found his incriminating photos.

He’s not the only one to have been arrested after posting photos of marijuana on Instagram.

Toward the end of 2015, there was a wave of hope among anti-drug war advocates when reports claiming that Congress had lifted the ban on medical marijuana hit the news. Unfortunately, they were not accurate.

In December of 2014, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included a provision keeping the Justice Department from using funds appropriated by that particular bill to fight against states pushing their own marijuana laws. That means that agencies like the DEA would not be able to use the omnibus bill’s funds to prevent states from passing their own marijuana legislation. This same provision was part of the 2015 omnibus bill.

Despite the bill’s wording, the Justice Department has largely ignored the law by prosecuting and seizing the property of countless medical marijuana suppliers. Officials often argue that these actions don’t “prevent” states from passing their own drug laws.

If the Justice Department is given a free pass and officials continue to ignore the laws written by Congress, it’s not hard to see how Americans’ freedom of speech will continue to suffer.

Until Congress tackles the issue directly by putting an end to the drug war and reforming the criminal justice system, Instagram users and marijuana suppliers will remain vulnerable.

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Do you think the Department of Homeland Security keeps us safe? What about the Supreme Court? Do you believe it upholds the Constitution as it should?

Recently, a petition from the Electronic Privacy Information Center demanding the DHS to release its plan to close mobile phone services in the wake of disasters was set aside by the Supreme Court.

With the snub, the highest court of the land refused to look at the federal appeals court’s May ruling that upholds the secrecy surrounding DHS’s plan. If the ruling remains in place, DHS officers are not required to disclose details concerning Standard Operating Procedure 303, which outlines the guidelines that private and commercial wireless networks are required to follow during the service shutdown and restoration processes in the event of what the DHS describes as a “national crisis.”

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

The appeals court used the Freedom of Information Act to keep the DHS from disclosing the plan in May, claiming that allowing details from SPP 303 to become public would put the safety of Americans at risk.

The factor that prompted the privacy group to act involved a full shutdown of cellphone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during what EPIC calls a peaceful protest back in 2011. At the time, EPIC demanded DHS to divulge the contents of SOP 303, but the agency refused. Later, the case was taken to a district court in Washington, D.C., where the judge ruled in favor of the privacy group. Soon after, the federal appeals court overturned the district court’s ruling, claiming the SOP 303 is a “voluntary process” designed to protect Americans during “critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

According to the heavily redacted version of the shutdown policy obtained by EPIC, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have access to the powers granted by SOP 303. Despite the overreach and the policy’s restrictions on individuals’ communication devices without proper warning, document details are not accessible to Americans.

If a peaceful protest is enough of a reason to shut down the phone service of countless individuals who may have not even been part of the incident, privacy groups like EPIC want to make sure the DHS opens SOP 303′s contents for discussion.

By infringing the individual’s right to privacy without due process, the DHS is acting unconstitutionally, despite the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore EPIC’s petition.

If the American people are not made aware of the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore privacy concerns and government abuse, agencies like DHS will continue to abuse its powers.

Trashing the restrictions on government imposed by the US Constitution will not make us safe.

According to the Cato Institute, DHS is responsible for increasing bureaucracy while not improving the efficacy of Department of Homeland Security’s programs. In a perfect world, the DHS’s inefficiency alone would be enough to have it slashed.

As taxpayers foot the bill, agencies like the DHS work relentlessly to keep Americans from having access to policies that impact them directly. If privacy groups like EPIC are not able to push the Supreme Court to rule on this matter, what are other ways we should go about demanding our privacy is fully restored?

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

in Drugs, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

President Barack Obama has reignited the gun debate by announcing a series of executive actions with the intent of curbing gun violence. To critics, Obama’s announcement is simply a mistake. To others, executive actions are sideshows, distracting the country from the actual problems tied to violence.

Despite the criticism, former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she’s “proud” of Obama. To the Democrat, more must be done in order to “eliminate all the threats as much as possible.”

gun control

Included with the executive actions are new requirements concerning background checks for guns bought from dealers online and at gun shows. The president also wants to upgrade the background check technology that would help federal officials track stolen weapons.

But despite the president’s passionate rhetoric, unregulated private sales usually benefit individuals who are prevented from owning guns but who are not necessarily purchasing weapons to commit crimes.

On the other hand, weapons used by the two attackers responsible for the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino were bought legally, making Obama’s latest actions completely ineffective in similar cases.

But as media outlets and Internet figures debate the effectiveness of Obama’s plan, another piece of evidence provided by the federal government is consistently left out of the discussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the injury rates among crime victims who use guns to defend themselves are lower when compared to injury rates among victims who resort to different strategies for protection.

The $10 million study released recently by CDC suggests that the number of violent crimes, “including homicides specifically,” has been in steady decline for the past five years, and that the number of stolen guns linked to criminal use is very low. Most felons, the report suggests, obtain their weapons from informal sources instead of resorting to theft. The study also suggests that most gun-related incidents in America tend to result in injuries rather than deaths.

Yet another bit of information the president failed to mention during his announcement covers the rates of gun-related deaths. According to the study released through CDC, the majority of deaths caused by firearm use are suicides, not homicides.

Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, the number of firearm-related suicides outnumbered the number of homicides for victims in all age groups. The agency reports that 335,600 people died between 2000 and 2010 due to firearm-related violence, but 61 percent of these deaths, or 204,716 of these cases, were suicides.

If the president is serious about curbing violence in America, one could easily find reasons to take a look at other policies—such as the drug war—for a practical solution.

According to the study released by CDC, African American males are the most affected by firearm-related violence.

While the study suggests that income inequality is a risk factor that may predict violence, it fails to note that the drug war is mostly responsible for the high rates of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions among people of color.

Being serious about gun violence in the country requires vision, which President Barack Obama appears to lack.

As the drug war wages on, despite some states’ successful efforts against prohibition, inequality and economic tyranny continue to make gun violence an issue in America. Executive orders concerning gun use will do nothing to put an end to what the US drug policy has triggered.

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Christine Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, and her apprentice, Sister Darcey, have one mission: to heal the sick. But it’s how they go about living up to their mission goals that is bothering some California officials.

The sisters claim to produce marijuana products as part of a spiritual quest to heal the sick. According to Sister Kate, they produce “CBD oil which takes away seizures, and a million other things,” such as salve, “a multi purpose salve,” which the sisters learned that could cure “migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash, toothaches.” They found the city of Merced to be the perfect home for their business. But now, city officials are threatening to put an end to their quest.

Ministries

While legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October allows a great variety of marijuana-related business to operate in the Golden State, local governments were granted the freedom to act against individual businesses by March 1st. After that date, local officials lose their chance to enact bans, and the cannabis-related businesses stay in place, whether officials like it or not. In order to meet their goals before the deadline, Merced officials are acting fast, attempting to get cannabis-related business banned from the region promptly.

When the city council proposed its marijuana-related business ban, the Merced Planning Commission urged the city council to review the proposed regulations and loosen their rules. At the time, Commissioner Peter Padilla said that marijuana is “here to stay.” He also stated that, even with a ban, cannabis “will continue to circulate” no matter how strict the new rules may be.

“I think this ordinance is uncalled for. Let’s get into the 21st century and move forward,” he added.

Despite the city officials’ efforts, their goal to put an end to marijuana businesses in the city are not even celebrated among residents.

During a city planning hearing in which the cannabis-business ban was discussed, all 19 residents who showed up said they opposed a local ban on marijuana growers and sellers.

In an interview with the Merced Sun-Star, Sister Kate said they “want to grow this business.” To both women who call themselves Sisters of the Valley, Merced is their home.

In another interview with ABC-30, Sister Kate reminded city officials that Merced would gain a lot through taxation if only others like the two women were allowed to operate their business from the region.

“Embrace, regulate and tax, that’s all we want them to do,” she told reporters.

If the sisters aren’t allowed to keep Sisters of the Valley in Merced, they will have to move to another location, and another city will collect the tax revenue associated with the marijuana product sales.

While the city council was originally scheduled to review the proposal this Monday, ABC13 says they will consider banning all marijuana growing in Merced next week. The future of these nuns’ business and the future of freedom in Merced are now hanging by a thread.

Watch the full ABC-30 interview here.

 

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

in Foreign Policy, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Jackson Jones Comments are off

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The National Security Agency is bracing for another heavy round of criticism. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the controversial intelligence agency spied on Israeli leaders while the United States was ironing out a nuclear agreement with Iran. But the spying apparatus also captured communications between Israeli and members of Congress.

NSA

President Barack Obama and the NSA have already come under fire for spying on leaders of countries that are allied with the United States, such as Brazil, Germany, and Mexico. The White House was reportedly unaware of the NSA’s activities, which came to light in the summer of 2013.

President Obama, in early 2014, pledged to stop snooping on the United States’ allies. “The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue,” he said, “I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.” The only exceptions to the prohibition were countries that served a national security interest. Among them was Israel.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA has continued to spy on Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a fierce critic of the nuclear agreement that the United States worked out with Iran. Netanyahu brought his concerns against the deal to Washington in March during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

The intelligence received by the NSA, according to the report, was used to “counter” Netanyahu’s criticism of the agreement with Iran. Inadvertently or not, the NSA “also swept up the contents of some of [Israel leaders’] private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

The intercepts revealed that Israel was coordinating with U.S.-based groups to criticize the Iran deal. “The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. [Israeli Ambassador Ron] Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal,” the report explained.

It’s unclear which lawmakers’ communications were intercepted by the NSA. But the report could reignite the already fiery debate in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail over the intelligence agency’s snooping, as well as renewed criticism of the Iran deal and the Obama administration’s already stressed relationship Israel and Netanyahu.

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

in Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In the weeks following the shootings in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, multiple threats have been made against school systems in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Indiana.

Members of the Los Angeles Board of Education received a crudely written email that prompted officials to close all 900 schools in the nation’s second-largest school system Tuesday. School officials for the New York City school systems and local law enforcement dismissed an identical threat as a hoax.

On Thursday, school officials in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston and Dallas said they received threats similar to the ones received by the Los Angeles and New York school districts earlier this week.

School

Two schools in Indiana canceled classes after also getting threats. The Danville Community School Corporation said two students were arrested after allegedly making threats against schools in separate incidents.

The Miami-Dade County, Dallas and Houston school districts announced on their websites that “less-than-credible” threats were received by email late Wednesday evening, and that schools would be open Thursday. Officials from Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale said they also received a threat.

The districts are among the nation’s largest — Miami ranks fourth, Broward is sixth, Houston is seventh and Dallas is 14th.

In Dallas, officials with the Dallas Independent School District said some teachers and staff members at two schools — Pinkston High and Martinez Elementary — received threats via email and notified district officials. The district’s police department activated its emergency response protocol and began working with other law enforcement agencies to make sure the schools were safe.

“We need to make sure that we don’t overreact to fear,” Dallas police Chief David Brown said. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed, adding, “Obviously someone is trying to scare Dallas and that is not going to work.”

Robert Mock, police chief for the Houston Independent School District, said random overnight searches by explosives detecting dogs and patrol officers turned up nothing after district officials, including the superintendent, received the threat by email.

So far Thursday morning, “everything’s been normal, schools are in session, kids are learning,” Mock said.

He added that he doesn’t want to downplay the message because “a threat is a threat.” But he said the message referred to weapons and explosives among unsophisticated content that was “so far over the top the logistics just didn’t pan out.”

Details about the threats in Miami and Fort Lauderdale haven’t been released yet, but said on their websites they were similar to those received in New York and Los Angeles earlier in the week.

It’s unfortunate that some of the largest school systems in the U.S. let fear win – and dictate action. Instead of having the foresight to recognize hoaxes coming from some of these schools’ own students, the “better safe than sorry” mentality only succeeded in distracting students from what is really important – their education.

“Safe Spaces” Used to Silence Political Speech

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

“Safe Spaces” Used to Silence Political Speech

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In the last year, dozens of protests on college campuses have called for everything from supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement to demanding that school administrators address racial microaggressions on campus. These protesters and students alike call for “safe spaces” on campuses so that they can have an open dialogue about these issues. But what they don’t realize is that these “safe spaces” are being used to silence political speech – especially speech that they don’t agree with.

Free Speech

For example, George Washington University police ordered a student to take down a Palestinian flag that was hanging from his dorm window because it was not “respectful of your peers,” according to an administrator.

Ramie Abounaja, a 20-year-old pre-med student, was visited by a GWU police officer in October. The officer claimed he had received “numerous complaints” about the flag and wouldn’t leave the room until it was removed. Abounaja complied, but later questioned whether he had actually violated any university policies.

According to Abounaja:

Then, on Tuesday, to my alarm, I received an email from the Graduate Fellow Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities stating that they “received a report from the GW University Police Department regarding [my] behavior” that I was “found to have had a flag out [my] window” and that the letter “serves as a warning that this behavior is a violation of the ‘Code of Student Conduct and/or the Residential Community Conduct Guidelines.’” The letter also warned me to be “respectful” of my “peers” that “my behavior had the potential to leave a profound impact on the community.” The letter (attached) did not provide any details as to which provision, article or rule I violated.

According to The Intercept’s Andrew Fishman, GWU has no policy barring flags on the inside of dorm rooms, but it does prohibit flags hanging outside of the dorms – even though numerous amounts of flags have been seen flying outside of GWU dorm windows.
It seems as if the police are only called to remove flags that have offended others. Certainly, Abounaja is a victim of viewpoint discrimination. This kind of censorship—censorship of pro-Palestinian speech—is common according to Fishman:

Campus free speech and so-called “political correctness censorship” have been vigorously debated over the last two decades. That topic received particularly intense attention from journalists and pundits this year in response to controversies at the University of Missouri, Yale and other campuses.

In the first half of 2015 alone, Palestine Legal, a U.S. civil rights advocacy organization, has reported 140 instances of suppression of Palestine advocacy, 80 percent of which has happened on college campuses.

A Jewish student at the University of Michigan was recently investigated by a student government ethics commission after Palestinian students took offense at him aggressively criticizing a pro-Palestinian display. According to The College Fix, the commission affirmed that the student had a First Amendment right to question the demonstrators.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fired Professor Steven Salaita for his anti-Israel tweets and his lawsuit is currently moving forward in a federal court. The University of California is attempting to label all criticism of the state of Israel as anti-Semitic hate speech and Occidental College may institute a microaggression reporting system.

The First Amendment rights of everyone are in danger if one person’s freedom of expression can be diminished by an administrator, campus police officer, or an emotional student. The words “hateful” and “offensive” are relative terms. We cannot protect the kinds of speech we find to be agreeable unless we can also protect the kinds of speech we find disagreeable.

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

One of the few bright spots in the government-funding bill passed last December was the inclusion of a provision that barred the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars to bailout a little-known Obamacare program. Known as “risk corridors,” the program receives contributions from health insurance companies that make money from plans sold on the exchanges required by the law and redistributes it to those that experience losses.

Health Care

Congressional Republicans had targeted the program for repeal. In November 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation, the Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act, to do just that. “The American people are sick of Washington picking winners and losers, especially since the chosen losers often end up being taxpayers who foot the bills for Washington’s mistakes,” Rubio said at the time. “Washington’s bailout culture must end, and eliminating Obamacare’s blank check for a bailout of insurance companies is a common sense step to protect taxpayers when Obamacare fails.”

Lobbyists for insurance companies worried about congressional action against the program, which, according to the administration’s propaganda, is supposed to be deficit-neutral. Without the program, insurers’ lobbyists said, premiums would rise and drive consumers away from the exchanges, possibly leading to a dreaded “death spiral.” While the bill didn’t see any action in the Senate, Rubio reintroduced it in January at the beginning of the new Congress.

The language prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for the risk corridors program that was included in the government-funding bill applied only to fiscal year 2015. It would have to be inserted into the bill for fiscal year 2016 for it to continue to apply. This is where it gets interesting. Insurers have filed more in claims than money that’s available in the program.

“On October 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the total of collections and payouts under the risk corridor premium stabilization program for 2014. CMS announced that insurers have submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014. Insurers only owe, however, $362 million in risk corridor contributions,” Health Affairs reported in October. “Thus payments in 2015 for 2014 will be paid out at 12.6 percent of claims, assuming full collections of contributions owed.”

In other words, the risk corridors program faces a more than a $2.5 billion shortfall. The only way to fill the gap is to transfer funds – i.e., taxpayer money – to cover the payments owed to insurers.

The House of Representatives is in the midst of working on the government-funding bill for fiscal year 2016. The current funding agreement expires on Friday, though lawmakers will likely pass an extension to give themselves more time to hammer out a framework. But without a specific language prohibiting the administration from using taxpayer money to make the risk corridors payments, taxpayers could be on the hook for what is, ostensibly, a $2.5 billion Obamacare bailout.

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

in Foreign Policy, Immigration, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Address Security Concerns But Let Syrian Refugees Come to the U.S.

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

America’s governors are playing right into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, the governors of 30 states have called on the Obama administration to delay its plans to allow refugees from Syria to be placed in their states.

The concerns aren’t without merit. One of the Islamic radicals who participated in the terrorist attacks had a passport, using a phony name, showing that he entered Europe from Syria. This revelation has raised concerns about holes in the security screenings of the refugees who may enter the United States as the flee from a bloody civil war that has ravaged their country and left tens of thousands dead.

syrian-refugee-crisis

Similarly, congressional Republicans are poised to push legislation to “pause” the program. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in the first major test of his nascent speakership, said, “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill of his own to temporarily halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door,” Paul said in a statement. “The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks.”

“The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years. My bill will press pause on new refugee entrants from high-risk countries until stringent new screening procedures are in place,” he added.

Prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States, which is what some seem to want, may not be at all like the retaliatory attacks being carried out against mosques and Muslim-owed businesses in France in the aftermath of the attacks, but the anti-Islam sentiment is what ISIS thrives upon in its twisted eschatology.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” University of Maryland professor Arie Kruglanski told the Washington Post. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.”

Governors and lawmakers must tread carefully and keep in mind that history shows that refugees are overwhelming unlikely to be terrorists. A temporarily halt to the Syrian refugee program is understandable until security concerns are addressed, but we shouldn’t shut the door to people who are seeking safety by conflating it with the other hot-button issues, such as immigration.

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders by two offense levels and, a few months later, voted to make the change retroactive. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, some 10,000 federal prisoners were eligible for re-sentencing under the new guidelines. Applicants were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approximately 6,000 were released between the end of October and early November.

Drugs

For decades, bad laws passed by well-intentioned lawmakers have ravaged mostly poor and minority communities and have cost taxpayers billions while doing little to stem drug use or stop the drug trade. Several states, both red and blue, are turning to drug treatment and rehabilitation to address drug crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s revision of its guidelines, known as “All Drugs Minus Two,” is just one of many that either have been adopted by the federal government or are currently under consideration in Congress to reform the criminal justice system.

Although the U.S. Sentencing Commission should be applauded for the change, some are directing fire at the Obama administration. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for example, is making the release of the prisoners an issue against his Democratic opponent in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatter, R-Va., blasted the commission in a recent piece at the conservative publication, National Review.

“The problem with the Sentencing Commission’s changes to federal drug-sentencing requirements is that they are applied without regard to the inmate’s criminal history and public safety,” Goodlatte wrote. “Consequently, criminals set to be released into our communities as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s amendment include inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy, and even murder.”

Goodlatte may come across like a hardened drug warrior determined to punish anyone whose life got off track, but, to his credit, he recently introduced the Sentencing Reform Act. His bill would expand the safety valve for certain drug offenders so they can avoid lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

At least one member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission says Goodlatte and others who are criticizing the retroactivity of the new guidelines. Judge William Pryor was appointed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2004 as a recess appointment. Pryor was one of the judicial appointments stalled by Senate Democrats because they were deemed “too conservative.” When Senate Republicans threatened to go nuclear on the filibuster in 2005, an agreement was reached to ensure the filibuster would remain intact and the controversial judges would receive a confirmation vote.

Pryor set the record straight about what the process and the decision to make the new guidelines retroactive.

“When the commission votes to amend the sentencing guidelines, its decision becomes effective no sooner than six months later — that is, only after Congress has had an opportunity to exercise its statutory authority to reject the proposed change. Congress, of course, did not exercise that authority last year after the commission proposed modest changes in sentencing for drug cases. Instead, several members of Congress publicly supported those changes, and few said anything in opposition,” Pryor explained. “In fact, Chairman Goodlatte did not even schedule a hearing to review our decision.”

“Chairman Goodlatte objects to making the changes in drug sentencing retroactive, but he fails to mention that Congress gave the commission that authority,” he noted. “Indeed, Congress required the commission, whenever it lowers any guideline.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been preparing for these prisoners to re-enter society for a year. In October, the Washington Post reported that “[a]bout two-thirds of [of the prisoners] will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”

While there is no guarantee that these prisoners won’t re-offend, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken a step in the right direction and the Bureau of Prisons has provided them with support necessary to put their lives on the right track. The rest is up to them.

But it brings up a point worth considering, perhaps at another time, what steps should Congress and the Bureau of Prisons take to ensure that prisoners, once released, won’t re-offend. Re-entry programs that help with job placement and other policies, including “ban the box,” would go a long way to reducing recidivist behavior and turning these one-time offenders into taxpaying citizens.

Gun Control Fear Mongering Rings Hollow

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Gun Control Fear Mongering Rings Hollow

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to politicize the tragic shooting Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon on Thursday, October 1. Just hours after the news of the shooting broke, he appeared before reporters and demanded more gun control laws.

gun control

“[W]hat’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws,” Obama said. “Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country — they know that’s not true.”

“There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence,” he added.

No one denies that what happened at Umpqua Community College is a terrible tragedy. But it doesn’t appear that the gun control laws that President Obama and like-minded members of Congress have tried to advance could’ve prevented this incident. The shooter didn’t have a record of mental health problems or past legal problems, unlike the Charleston, South Carolina church shooter, who slipped between bureaucratic cracks.

Bad things can and do happen. Some of them are preventable and some of them aren’t. But no legislative proposal that has been discussed or actually introduced will stop tragedies like these from happening. In addition to the anti-gun bias of our President, part of the problem, of course, is a media that isn’t honest about the ineffectiveness of gun control proposals or how they wouldn’t stop shootings like the one at Umpqua Community College from happening.

Let’s be clear, we know that gun violence has declined significantly over the last 20 years. What we know is that the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, recognized the private ownership of firearms as a deterrent to crime. And we know that states with concealed carry laws, known as “shall issue” states, have fewer murders than those that severely restrict these permits.

There is no cure-all to stop shootings, and President Obama and the media should be honest about that, rather than trying to push outrage and raise emotion to pass policies that promote their long-standing views against guns.

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Cop Fired for Doing the Right Thing

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Jay Park was following a recently passed Georgia law extending amnesty to those who seek medical attention for others in need when he refused to arrest two underage college students who had far too much to drink.

Police-Car-Lights-GOOD.JPG

The Georgia General Assembly passed the 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law in March 2014. Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., put his signature on the bill not long after. The bill extends amnesty to people who seek medical attention to those who may have overdosed on illegal drugs and underage individuals who were consuming alcohol.

The idea is that amnesty may save the lives of those who may have otherwise died because those who they were with were scared of being prosecuted. As of August 2015, 32 states have passed a 9-1-1 “Good Samaritan” law, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

In September 2014, Park was called to a scene where two underage female students had been drinking. The University of Georgia wrongly believed amnesty applied if the intoxicated person was the one who made the call. After speaking to state lawmakers who worked on the law and a judge, he believed the university had gross misinterpreted the law.

Park, who served for four years as a police officer for the University of Georgia, was fired for refusing to arrest two underage students who fell under the protections of Georgia’s 9-1-1 Medical Amnesty Law.

University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson recorded the firing of Park. “You went outside the chain of command,” Williamson told the dismissed officer. “You’re an embarrassment to this agency.”

Current and former students have petitioned Williamson to reinstate Park, without success. An online petition has gained nearly 5,000 signatures. “In the interest of preserving the safe environment within the University of Georgia community,” the petition states, “I ask that you reinstate Officer Jay Park, expunge his most recent personnel record for insubordination, and commit your officers to serving and protecting in a legal and ethical manner.”

Park, who has been unable to find work in law enforcement as a result of his firing from the University of Georgia, has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the state’s university system; the University of Georgia Police Department; and others, including Williamson.

Frankly, it’s discouraging to see so many instances of police officers getting away with abusing their authority and not face any repercussions, and finally see one who did the right thing lose his job because of it. Here’s hoping Park either wins his suit and is awarded monetary damages for the harm to his reputation.

The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

in Elections and Politics, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shifted away from his previous support of some gun control policies, including longer waiting periods and a ban on “assault weapons.” Although his campaign is general devoid of any meaningful or specifics on policy, Trump released a white paper last week that offers support for the Second Amendment.

AK47

The white paper opposes restrictions on firearms, such as “assault weapons,” that are usually targeted by the anti-gun left. But this is a departure for Trump, who, in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, expressed support for a ban on this type of firearm.

“The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions,” Trump wrote. “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” (Emphasis added.) Trump was, at the time, considering a bid for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.

Today, Trump, as he does on many different issues, sings a different tune. “Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons’, ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans,” Trump’s white paper states. “Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”

He opposes expanded background checks and supports allowing the military to carry weapons on base and at recruiting centers. In the months after the Newtown tragedy, conservatives resisted a failed attempt to expand background checks, which wouldn’t have stopped that particular incident from occurring, and, after the recent shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, have expressed support for allowing recruiters to carry weapons on the job.

One particular policy proposed by Trump is likely to strongly appeal to conservatives. He supports “national right to carry,” which would make concealed carry permits valid in every state and the District of Columbia, much like a driver’s license. “A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state,” Trump says. “If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.”

While this policy is attractive and worth of support – and at least three pieces of legislation have been introduced in the current Congress to achieve that goal – one aspect of Trump’s white paper is particularly troubling. He expresses support for a little known federal program, known as “Project Exile,” that existed in Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s.

“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a ‘cookie cutter’ program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success,” the white paper states. “Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.”

From 1993 to 2010, violent crime fell across the United States. The Pew Research Center found that the gun homicide rate fell by 49 percent from its peak level in 1993 and the victimization rate for other violent crimes committed with firearms, including rape, dropped by 75 percent.

“Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s,” Pew noted, “the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. “ Theories on what caused the decline in crime rates vary, but economist Steven Levitt, known for the best-selling book, Freakonomics, has written that changes in policing strategies and gun control didn’t have much of an impact.

Project Exile was a federal program created in 1997 that targeted felons in possession of firearms. It brought these cases to federal court, where offenders faced a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Trump’s praise of Project Exile may be misguided. A 2003 study called into question its effectiveness as a deterrent to violent crime. “Despite this widespread acclaim, some skeptics have questioned the effectiveness of Project Exile, pointing out that homicides increased in Richmond in the last ten months of 1997 following the program’s announcement,” the authors explained. “In fact, the Richmond homicide rate increased by 40 percent between 1996 and 1997.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who represents part of Richmond and the surrounding area, blasted Project Exile in a speech on the House floor in April 2000. “The mandatory minimums associated with Project Exile show no better results. The proponents suggest that the violent crime rate has gone down 39 percent in the city of Richmond under Project Exile,” Scott said. “At the same time it went down 43 percent in Norfolk, 58 percent in Virginia Beach and 81 percent in Chesapeake without Project Exile.”

Trump’s white paper may offer a good idea, national right to carry, combined with fluff in contradiction to his previous statements, but programs like Project Exile are bad policy that are better handled under state law. What’s more, it defies logic. Violent crime is at its lowest point in the last couple decades. Unfortunately, the politics of fear are politicians need to succeed to win support from people who simply don’t know better.

You Don’t Have to Like Same-Sex Marriage to Realize Kim Davis Ignored the Rule of Law

in Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

You Don’t Have to Like Same-Sex Marriage to Realize Kim Davis Ignored the Rule of Law

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Apparently, the most pressing issue in the country is a Kentucky county clerk who refuses to separate her religious beliefs from her duties as a public official. The media frenzy has created a debate over the role of religion in public affairs in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Kim Davis was elected as a Democrat to serve as the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky in November 2014. She succeeded her mother, Jean Bailey, who served in the role for 37 years. Davis worked under her mother as a deputy clerk for 24 years.

486228504-kim-davis-the-rowan-county-clerk-of-courts-speaks-to.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Near the end of Bailey’s tenure, her office was the subject of complaints. Davis pulled in more than $63,000 in compensation. The excessive government salaries in the county of approximately 23,600 residents led to a reduction in the office’s budget in December 2011.

When Davis took the oath of office, she pledged that she would “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth.” When she entered office in January, same-sex marriage was constitutionally prohibited in Kentucky, but that changed in June when the Supreme Court struck down state constitutional amendments and statutes prohibiting it.

Governor Steve Beshear, D-Ky., instructed county clerks to comply with the ruling by issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples. “Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe,” Beshear explained. “But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act.”

Davis, citing her religious beliefs, refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple, traditional or same-sex, in Rowan County and ordered her staff to follow suit. In mid August, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, the son of former Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, issued an injunction against Davis ordering her to issue marriage licenses in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergfell.

Just days later, Davis appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, prior to Obergfell, was one of the few courts in the United States that upheld the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. A three-judge panel denied her appeal.
She asked the Supreme Court to take her case, but she was again rebuffed.

In the injunction issued against Davis, Bunning wrote that “[o]ur form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, regardless of our personal opinions. Davis is certainly free to disagree with the Court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it.”

“To hold otherwise,” he added, “would set a dangerous precedent.”

The case isn’t about religious liberty; it’s about the rule of law. Certainly, one can disagree with the Supreme Court rulings. Simply because five judges in black robes rule on an issue doesn’t necessarily mean that the subject can’t be revisited through appropriate legislation within the confines of a judicial ruling.

But as Judge Andrew Napolitano explained on Tuesday, “There is no acceptable dispute to the truism that the Supreme Court has the final say on the meaning of the Constitution, whether you agree with it or not.”

“[Davis’ attorney is] asking for an accommodation between her religious beliefs and the fundamental right of same sex couples to get married in that county, they found the accommodation, she doesn’t have to deal with them, and the deputy clerks can issue those applications,” said Napolitano. “But if he wants to relitigate the issue of whether or not a local county clerk can defy the Supreme Court, he is going to lose and she is going to lose. That issue has already been resolved with finality.”

Still, despite losing at every turn, Davis refused to perform her duties. She refused to uphold the rule of law. Davis and her attorney insisted that she was acting on “God’s authority,” which, since the United States isn’t a theocracy, isn’t recognized.

Bunning found Davis in contempt on September 3 and ordered her into custody. Her staff subsequently resumed issuing marriage licenses to traditional and same-sex couples. Those who initiated the suit against Davis asked for fines, but Bunning believed that Davis’ supporters would pay the fines for her, rendering that form of sanctions irrelevant.

Republican presidential candidates, desperate for the limelight, have rallied behind Davis. Former Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have been the most vocal. Huckabee said the jailing of Davis for contempt is an example of the “criminalization of Christianity.” Huckabee offered to take Davis’ place in jail should she be required to go back for further ignoring the law. Cruz claimed that Bunning’s action against Davis was “judicial tyranny.”

“Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position,” said Cruz. “Or, if Christians do serve in public office, they must disregard their religious faith–or be sent to jail.”

The public comments of presidential candidates are little more than hot air in the conversation in a desperate attempt to gain attention when all the wind in the room is being consumed by Donald Trump, who, as it happens, doesn’t agree with Davis. As an example of how desperate these guys are, one of Huckabee’s aides physically blocked Cruz from appearing on stage with Davis and Huckabee when she was released on Tuesday.

No one disagrees that people are free to observe their religion peacefully in their private lives. But if someone, like Davis, holds a public office and is willfully using their religious beliefs position to ignore the rule of law, they deserve some form of punishment.

Perhaps the Kentucky General Assembly will offer Davis some means to avoid having to sign off on marriage certificates for same-sex couples, but, until state lawmakers act, Davis has no choice but to follow the law or face some form of punishment until she complies with the law or resigns from office.

Page 1 of 3123