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October 31, 2014 1

Alaska Borough Assembly Gets It Right on Legislative Prayer

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) gen­er­ally sanc­tions sec­tar­ian prayers before alaska courthousemeet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies except for the most egre­gious cir­cum­stances. The opin­ion, how­ever, does not require local or state leg­is­la­tures to have open­ing prayers.

Rather, that deci­sion is solely in a leg­isla­tive body’s dis­cre­tion. On Octo­ber 20th the Ketchikan Gate­way Bor­ough, Alaska Assem­bly made the right call on this issue by vot­ing down 5–2 an ordi­nance that would have added open­ing prayers to reg­u­lar meet­ing agendas.

ADL agrees with the Assembly’s deci­sion because such open­ing prayers con­vey an exclu­sion­ary mes­sage – par­tic­u­larly to reli­gious minori­ties – at meet­ings of local gov­ern­ment bod­ies where ordi­nary cit­i­zens of diverse faiths or no faith seek recourse from their pub­lic officials.

If the dis­senters on the Assem­bly want to pro­vide a prayer oppor­tu­nity at pub­lic meet­ings, the most appro­pri­ate and inclu­sive prac­tice is a moment of silence.  It would allow all Assem­bly mem­bers and con­stituents who want to pray to do so silently with­out divid­ing the com­mu­nity along reli­gious lines.

 

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October 24, 2014 4

Images Reveal Extreme Anti-Immigrant Activists At PFIR Conference

An inde­pen­dent pho­tog­ra­pher pub­lished images from the Octo­ber 13, 2014 con­fer­ence of the anti-immigrant group Pro­gres­sives for Immi­gra­tion Reform (PFIR) reveal­ing anti-immigrant extrem­ists and activists with a his­tory of mak­ing big­oted state­ments in atten­dance. The annual con­fer­ence takes place around the same week­end as other anti-immigrant gath­er­ings, namely the advi­sory board meet­ing of the extreme anti-immigrant group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform (FAIR) and the Social Con­tract Press Writ­ers Work­shop.progressives-for-immigration-reform

The images reveal that racist Wayne Lut­ton attended the PFIR con­fer­ence. Lut­ton is edi­tor of the anti-immigrant jour­nal The Social Con­tract (TSC), pub­lished by racist John Tan­ton, the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant move­ment. In one image from the con­fer­ence, Lut­ton is speak­ing to Roy Beck, founder of the anti-immigrant group Num­ber­sUSA. In addi­tion to his edi­tor­ship of TSC, Lut­ton has been on the edi­to­r­ial advi­sory board of the Occi­den­tal Observer, which pub­lishes racist and anti-Semitic mate­r­ial. In a 2010 issue of TSC, Lut­ton wrote an edi­to­r­ial call­ing for a ban on all Mus­lim immi­gra­tion to the United States. Lut­ton has spo­ken at white suprema­cist gath­er­ings in the past, such as Amer­i­can Renais­sance and Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens conferences.

The Montana-based anti-immigrant activist Paul Nach­man also attended the PFIR con­fer­ence. Nach­man is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to the racist web­site VDARE, founded by white suprema­cist Peter Brimelow. Nach­man has con­tributed hun­dreds of arti­cles for VDARE, dat­ing back to 2006. In one VDARE col­umn, Nach­man pro­moted the work of extrem­ist John Vin­son. In the same col­umn, Nach­man called the burn­ing of Korans by anti-Muslim activist Terry Jones an “edu­ca­tional demonstration.”

Cana­dian Made­line Weld also attended the con­fer­ence. Weld is an advi­sory board mem­ber with Sci­en­tists and Envi­ron­men­tal­ists for Pop­u­la­tion Sta­bi­liza­tion (SEPS) an anti-immigrant group attempt­ing to coax envi­ron­men­tal­ists and oth­ers into tak­ing an anti-immigrant stance. In the autumn 2013 issue of the jour­nal Human Per­spec­tives, Weld wrote, “Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism may be an invi­ta­tion to abuse, but none have been more dili­gent in mak­ing the most of this invi­ta­tion than Mus­lims, because Islam alone among the reli­gions and cul­tures brought to the West has a suprema­cist politico-religious agenda whose ulti­mate goal is world dom­i­na­tion.”  In June of 2013, Weld pur­port­edly signed a peti­tion call­ing for anti-Muslim big­ots Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer to be allowed entry into the UK after the British gov­ern­ment banned the pair for mak­ing state­ments which could “fos­ter hatred” and cause “inter-community violence.

Anti-immigrant activists with a his­tory of mak­ing big­oted state­ments and racists have also attended PFIR’s con­fer­ence in pre­vi­ous years, includ­ing Peter Brimelow and K.C. McAlpin, John Tanton’s right– hand man.

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October 23, 2014 0

HHS Issues Overly-Broad Draft Rule Following Hobby Lobby

The U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply-troubling deci­sion in Bur­well v. Hobby Lobby allows cer­tain for-profit, cor­po­ra­tions to opt out of the Afford­able Care Act’s (ACA) con­tra­cep­tion man­date based on reli­gious objec­tions.  In in an effort to com­ply with the deci­sion, the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (“HHS”) issued a new pro­posed rule defin­ing orga­ni­za­tions and cor­po­ra­tions eli­gi­ble for reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion sim­i­lar to those already avail­able to reli­gious non­prof­its.  ADL firmly believes that the pro­posed rule is too broad and recently sub­mit­ted com­ments urg­ing a more nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of eli­gi­ble organizations.  hs-issues-overly-broad-draft-hobby-lobby

The ACA requires employer-provided health insur­ance to include cov­er­age for the full range of Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA)-approved con­tra­cep­tives and health ser­vices. Rec­og­niz­ing that con­tra­cep­tion impli­cates reli­gious beliefs, HHS exempted houses of wor­ship and other pervasively-religious employ­ers from the con­tra­cep­tion man­date.  It also accom­mo­dated religiously-affiliated non­prof­its (includ­ing schools and hos­pi­tals) by cre­at­ing a mech­a­nism through which employ­ees’ con­tra­cep­tives are made avail­able by third-party insur­ers with­out cost-sharing by the employer or the indi­vid­u­als access­ing these services.

Notwith­stand­ing these extra­or­di­nary accom­mo­da­tion efforts, own­ers of sec­u­lar, for-profit cor­po­ra­tions have filled dozens of law­suits under the First Amend­ment and Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) assert­ing reli­gious objec­tions to the con­tra­cep­tion man­date.  These cases cul­mi­nated in the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby deci­sion.  ADL joined an ami­cus (friend-of-the-court) brief to the Court in the case argu­ing that the con­nec­tion between an employee’s pri­vate deci­sion to uti­lize con­tra­cep­tives made avail­able under the ACA is so far removed from an employer (likely entirely unknown), it could not pos­si­bly meet the RFRA stan­dard of impos­ing a “sub­stan­tial bur­den” on the reli­gious prac­tices of the cor­po­ra­tions’ owners.

How­ever, the Supreme Court’s dis­turb­ing deci­sion ruled that RFRA empow­ers cer­tain pri­vate, closely-held cor­po­ra­tions to impose their reli­gious beliefs on employ­ees by refus­ing to include con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age in their employee health insur­ance plans.  Fol­low­ing this deci­sion, HHS issued its pro­posed new rule for closely held, for-profit cor­po­ra­tions – and asked for com­ments on how to define eli­gi­bil­ity for this accommodation.

ADL firmly believes that every woman should have access to the full range of FDA-approved con­tra­cep­tives, with­out addi­tional costs.  Our com­ments on the pro­posed rule argue that a nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of eli­gi­ble orga­ni­za­tions is nec­es­sary in order to limit the num­ber of sec­u­lar, for-profit own­ers who could impose their reli­gious beliefs on their employ­ees – and to limit over­all lit­i­ga­tion.  We also urged that closely-held cor­po­ra­tions seek­ing to opt out of the con­tra­cep­tion man­date be required to demon­strate that their reli­gious objec­tions are guided by sincerely-held reli­gious beliefs doc­u­mented in cor­po­rate char­ters, busi­ness prac­tices, poli­cies, and operations.

A final rule is expected in the next few months.

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