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November 12, 2015 3

Anti-Immigrant Activists Make Common Cause With Extremists

In a col­umn this week for the National Review, Mark Kriko­rian, head of the anti-immigrant think tank Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies, attempted to defend Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach from crit­i­cism by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter and oth­ers for hav­ing attended an anti-immigration event with racist ties by por­tray­ing the event as innocuous.The event, The Social Con­tract Press Writ­ers Work­shop, was held in Wash­ing­ton, DC, in late October.


Mark Kriko­rian

How­ever, the Work­shop does have ties to extrem­ists. To demon­strate this, one need look no fur­ther than one of the key fig­ures behind The Social Con­tract Press itself: Wayne Lut­ton. Lut­ton, the edi­tor of the Press’s main pub­li­ca­tion, The Social Con­tract, for many years has been a promi­nent fig­ure in the white suprema­cist movement.

While not edit­ing The Social Con­tract, Lut­ton sits on the board of the New Cen­tury Foun­da­tion, a white suprema­cist “think tank” run by Jared Tay­lor of Amer­i­can Renais­sance, a white suprema­cist web­site. Both the Foun­da­tion and the web­site pro­mote ideas of alleged racial dif­fer­ences in intel­li­gence, sup­port the notion of a “white iden­tity,” and oppose mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and diver­sity. Lut­ton has also spo­ken at Amer­i­can Renais­sance con­fer­ences, as well as con­fer­ences of the bla­tantly white suprema­cist Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens. In addi­tion, Lut­ton has served on the board of the Charles Mar­tel Soci­ety, which pub­lishes the racist and anti-Semitic jour­nal Occi­den­tal Quar­terly.

Attend­ing the Writ­ers Work­shop was not the first time Kobach has turned a blind eye towards the extrem­ist ties of some of his fel­low anti-immigration activists. In 2012, for exam­ple, Kobach par­tic­i­pated in an anti-immigration panel at the Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence along­side Robert Van­der­voort, the head of the anti-immigrant group Pro-English but also the for­mer head of the white suprema­cist Chicagoland Friends of Amer­i­can Renaissance.

Anti-immigrant agi­ta­tors all too fre­quently give a pass to extrem­ists, so long as they share the same anti-immigrant views. Indeed, the fact that Kriko­rian, in his defense of Kobach, neglected to men­tion Lutton’s extrem­ist ties is not surprising—because Kriko­rian turns the same blind eye him­self. Kriko­rian not only spoke at  The Social Con­tract Press Writ­ers Work­shop this year, but in 2013 he also con­tributed an arti­cle to Lutton’s publication.

The real­ity is that Lutton’s Press serves as a bridge between extrem­ists and more osten­si­bly main­stream fig­ures in the anti-immigrant move­ment. The Social Con­tract fre­quently fea­tures white suprema­cists along­side anti-immigrant fig­ures in its pages. Its Writ­ers Work­shop often invites main­stream but prob­lem­atic fig­ures to its events. The Kansas Sec­re­tary of State is one such figure.

Kobach is known for his anti-immigrant views and has drafted some of the harsh­est anti-immigrant laws in the nation. He also has pro­moted the con­cept of self-deportation, the idea that states should put in place poli­cies and prac­tices that make life so dif­fi­cult for undoc­u­mented immi­grants that they will leave the United States “voluntarily.”

Through its jour­nal and con­fer­ences, The Social Con­trast Press tries to main­stream big­otry by fea­tur­ing well-known anti-immigrant fig­ures to give their venues an air of legit­i­macy. But when fig­ures such as Kobach and Kriko­rian lie down with the Press, they only show how immod­er­ate they them­selves are.


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November 10, 2015 0

Supreme Court to Hear Second Contraception Mandate Challenge

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a sec­ond chal­lenge to the Afford­able Care Act’s (“ACA”) con­tra­cep­tion man­date.   This time, mul­ti­ple religiously-affiliated groups are claim­ing that the law’s min­i­mal require­ments for opt­ing out of the man­date vio­late their reli­gious free­dom rights.  Fol­low­ing its own recent prece­dent, the Court should reject these claims.

The ACA requires employer-provided health insur­ance to cover all FDA– approved pre­scrip­tion con­tra­cep­tion at no cost to employ­ees.  Houses of wor­ship and other sec­tar­ian insti­tu­tions are wholly exempted from this require­ment.  Religiously-affiliated orga­ni­za­tions may opt out of the con­tra­cep­tive man­date by merely sub­mit­ting a one-page form or let­ter to the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (“HHS”).  In that cir­cum­stance, the health insur­ance com­pany or a third-party admin­is­tra­tor pays for and admin­is­ters the coverage.


Supreme CourtDespite this nom­i­nal require­ment, a num­ber of religiously-affiliated groups filed law­suits claim­ing that this reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion pro­vi­sion “sub­stan­tially bur­dens” their reli­gious exer­cise in vio­la­tion of fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (“RFRA”) because it makes them “con­duits” for pro­vid­ing con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age.   Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear seven of these cases in one con­sol­i­dated appeal.

Seven of eight U.S. Courts Appeals (lower fed­eral courts) have already rejected such claims, includ­ing the influ­en­tial D.C. Cir­cuit.  It found that the fil­ing of the form or let­ter excuses plain­tiffs “… from play­ing any role in the pro­vi­sion of con­tra­cep­tion ser­vices, and they remain free to con­demn con­tra­cep­tion in the clear­est terms.”  The Court fur­ther deter­mined that the ACA  — not the opt-out notice – oblig­ates health insur­ance com­pa­nies or HHS through third-party admin­is­tra­tors to pro­vide con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age.  As a result, it cor­rectly con­cluded that:

Reli­gious objec­tors do not suf­fer sub­stan­tial bur­dens under RFRA where the only harm to them is that they sin­cerely feel aggrieved by their inabil­ity to pre­vent what other peo­ple do to ful­fill reg­u­la­tory objec­tives after they opt out.  They have no RFRA right to be free from the unease, or even anguish, of know­ing that third par­ties are legally priv­i­leged or oblig­ated to act in ways their reli­gion abhors.

Although these seven deci­sions should per­suade the U.S. Supreme Court, they are not bind­ing.  But lan­guage in the Court’s own highly prob­lem­atic June 2015 Hobby Lobby deci­sion should dic­tate the out­come this time.  In Hobby Lobby, the Court reached the trou­bling con­clu­sion that for the pur­poses of RFRA it could not dis­tin­guish between a for-profit close cor­po­ra­tion ver­sus a religiously-affiliated group hav­ing a reli­gious objec­tion to the con­tra­cep­tion man­date.  As a result, it ruled that like non-profit religiously-affiliated groups, such close cor­po­ra­tions could opt out of pro­vid­ing con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age under the man­date.  The Court, how­ever, effec­tively ruled that the opt-out pro­vi­sion was per­mis­si­ble under RFRA, stat­ing that it “… con­sti­tutes an alter­na­tive that achieves all the Government’s aims while pro­vid­ing greater respect for reli­gious liberty.”

Although ADL and oth­ers strongly dis­agreed with the Court apply­ing RFRA to for-profit cor­po­ra­tions by equat­ing them with non-profits, con­sis­tency would dic­tate that it reject religiously-affiliated groups’ chal­lenges to the opt-out pro­vi­sion.  To do oth­er­wise would be con­tra­dic­tory and mean that any bur­den on reli­gion — no mat­ter how triv­ial — could be used by religiously-affiliated groups as a vehi­cle to opt out of fed­eral law or impose their reli­gious beliefs on others.

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November 5, 2015 2

Prioritizing Trans Rights in the Face of Hate and Lies

On Elec­tion Day, 60% of just one quar­ter of eli­gi­ble Hous­ton vot­ers dis­ap­point­ingly rejected the Hous­ton Equal Rights Ordi­nance (HERO) when they voted No on Prop #1. HERO cre­ated a broad swath of nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions for the city of Hous­ton, includ­ing pro­tec­tions based on race, reli­gion, sex, mil­i­tary sta­tus, preg­nancy, genetic infor­ma­tion, dis­abil­ity, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and gen­der iden­tity. The cam­paign to repeal HERO was grounded in fear and decep­tion, rely­ing on the lie that the anti-discrimination ordi­nance would per­mit men to use women’s bathrooms.

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

Credit to Flicker user: torbakhopper

There is a sad irony here. Oppo­nents of the ordi­nance can­not cite a sin­gle instance of a trans­gen­der per­son harass­ing a non-transgender per­son in a pub­lic restroom. Why? Because it doesn’t hap­pen. Not in Hous­ton nor in the 17 states and 200 cities that already have explicit pro­tec­tions for trans peo­ple. To the con­trary, it is trans­gen­der peo­ple them­selves who are most vul­ner­a­ble, with 70 per­cent of trans­gen­der or gen­der non-conforming respon­dents in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. report­ing that they have been, “denied access, ver­bally harassed, or phys­i­cally assaulted in pub­lic restrooms.” And it is pre­cisely this vio­lence that high­lights the need for com­pre­hen­sive hate crime laws in all 50 states.

But while the loss in Hous­ton still stings, the news for LGBT peo­ple around the coun­try is not all bad. Just last week, in the 4th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals in a case out of Vir­ginia, the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion filed a friend-of-the-court brief sup­port­ing a trans­gen­der stu­dent barred by his school from using the restroom that cor­re­sponds with his gen­der iden­tity.  And in Illi­nois, the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion found Mon­day that an Illi­nois school dis­trict vio­lated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a trans­gen­der girl who par­tic­i­pates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room with­out restrictions.

In other good news, a dis­trict court in Alabama recently issued a deci­sion in Isaacs v. Felder Ser­vices LLC that agreed with the EEOC that dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is always a form of sex discrimination.

But make no mis­take, the ugli­ness and hate we saw in the cam­paign lead­ing up to the vote in Hous­ton was real and has a real impact on the lives of trans­gen­der peo­ple — not just in Hous­ton, but across the coun­try. Rather than retreat, this is an oppor­tu­nity for LGBT com­mu­ni­ties and allies to rally. We must pri­or­i­tize trans­gen­der rights, hold elected offi­cials account­able for their words and actions, and find ways to edu­cate com­mu­ni­ties, and par­tic­u­larly to reach young peo­ple.

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