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January 17, 2014

Momentous Times For Voting Rights

Every year Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides a time to reflect on how far we have come in the quest for civil rights and how much more we have to do.  Two momentous developments in voting rights law give us reason to hope that 2014 will be a good year for ensuring that, nearly 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), all Americans can exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Yesterday, members of Congress set aside their partisan differences and introduced crucial new legislation to fix the gaping hole in the VRA created by the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Shelby County v. Holdermlk-voting-rights-adlIn June the Supreme Court struck down the part of the law that determined which states and localities with a history of discriminatory voting practices would have to “pre-clear” their laws with the federal government, essentially gutting the heart of the legislation.  In the 5-4 opinion Chief Justice Roberts said that “Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions.” 

Congress heard that call.  The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (H.R. 3899/S. 1945) creates a new formula to determine which jurisdictions must pre-clear their laws going forward.  It also strengthens courts’ abilities to monitor localities that implement discriminatory voting laws, makes it easier for voters to spot voting rights violations, and reduces hurdles to fixing discriminatory voting laws.  The bill is not perfect, but it provides a very good starting point for ensuring that all Americans will be able to make their voices heard in the democratic process.  ADL looks forward to working with members of Congress to strengthen the bill even further, and to passing meaningful reform.

In another victory for voting rights, today a judge in Pennsylvania, in a case called Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, struck down the state’s law requiring voters to show one of an enumerated list of government-issued photo identification to be able to vote.  Recognizing that “the overwhelming evidence reflects that there are hundreds of thousands of qualified voters who lack compliant ID,” and that “disenfranchising voters through no fault of the voter himself is plainly unconstitutional,” the judge struck down the voter ID law.  He concluded that “voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal.”  Studies have consistently shown that voter ID laws, like the one struck down today in Pennsylvania, disproportionately impact minority, low income, elderly, and young voters.   Today’s ruling clears the way for more citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

Days before we celebrate MLK Day we are heartened to know that Dr. King’s legacy of fighting for civil rights and equality for all lives on.  Dr. King once famously said that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”  Over the last two days we have taken two steps forward on that arc, getting closer to a day when all Americans will be able to exercise their right to vote, free of discriminatory hurdles.

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December 20, 2013

Pennsylvania White Supremacist Loses Fifth Child To State

Just days after the November 11 birth, Pennsylvania authorities took into custody the newborn child of white supremacist Isidore Heath Campbell and his fiancée Bethanie Rose Zito, both of Bangor. The infant, named Eva Braun after the mistress and eventual wife of Adolf Hitler, is the most recent child of Campbell’s to be taken away by family service agencies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.heath-campbell-NSM-rally

Campbell, a heavily tattooed neo-Nazi with a penchant for wearing Nazi-themed clothing, gained international notoriety in 2008 after a New Jersey grocery store refused to personalize a birthday cake for one of his children, named Adolf Hitler, from his earlier marriage with Deborah Lynn Campbell. 

Heath and Deborah had named their other children together JoyceLynn Aryan Nations (to honor a notorious neo-Nazi group), Honzlynn Hinler Jeannie (in an attempt to honor infamous Nazi Heinrich Himmler) and Hons Heinrich (also a nod to Himmler). 

In 2009, New Jersey authorities took custody of those children as a result of alleged evidence of abuse or neglect due to prior domestic violence as well as a determination that the parents did not have the psychological capacity to properly care for the children.  Heath Campbell has insisted that the children were taken by the state only because he gave his children white supremacist names. 

Campbell, the father of eight children from four different mothers, does not have custody of any of his children.  In June 2013 a New Jersey judge denied Campbell’s attempt to regain custody of the children he had with Deborah.  Campbell and Zito appeared at the hearing wearing Nazi clothing and regalia.

Campbell has had the support of some of the local white supremacists in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, who have been posting updates from him on his family situation in which he labeled the authorities’ actions a “kidnapping” and claimed that “they are taking only white children [and are] now trying to classify us as slaves.”  Campbell has urged people to fly Nazi flags and burn “Jewish flags” in support of him.

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July 18, 2013

Homegrown Terrorist And Anti-Semite Emerson Begolly Sentenced

Twenty-four-year-old Emerson Begolly was sentenced June 16 to more than eight years in prison for using the Internet to solicit others to commit terrorist attacks and weapons charges.emerson-begolly

Begolly, of New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had been an active member of several jihadist forums, where he pontificated on a range of issues, often praising acts of violence and expressing his “desire to be a martyr.”

Many of his messages, posted on various online platforms between 2008 and 2010, were explicitly anti-Semitic, calling for the death of all Jews and encouraging others to target synagogues, Jewish schools and day care centers.

In response to the Israeli naval operation to stop a flotilla of ships en route to Gaza in May 2010, Begolly wrote and recorded a tribute to the “Activists Who were Martyred, Wounded, and Imprisoned at the Hands of the Zionist Pigs.” The song, which is entitled “When the Jew’s blood reds my knife, then my life is free from strife,” threatens to “throw them [the Jews] in the ovens” and to “shoot and kill Jews one by one.begolly-ansar-forum

Begolly, described by authorities as self-radicalized, previously posted several pictures of himself on his MySpace page dressed as a Nazi.

As a moderator on the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF), a popular jihadist forum where members post and exchange extremist propaganda, media, publications, information and news, Begolly posted comments calling for attacks on U.S. targets, “such as police stations, post offices, synagogues, military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants,” as well as “civilian planes, financial institutions… Jewish schools, and daycare centers.”

He used various aliases online, including Asadullah Alshishani, Abu Nancy, Goat Lee and Goatly.  In December 2010, writing under one of his pseudonyms, Begolly posted a 101-page instruction manual on bomb-making. 

Begolly also communicated with others by instant message. Some of these conversations, which Federal investigators were able to recover, demonstrate Begolly’s militancy and bigotry. During the recovered conversations, Begolly said “if america were not at war with islam i would not hate it but i am angry.” He said that if he were to “act now,” he would “go down like [Oklahoma City bomber Timothy] McVeigh” and asked “have you ever considered shooting up ur schooling and taking revenge on those who wronged u?” He also said “most brothers objected to targeting kids but the reason i am for it is because first they r easy targets and second because the public will want a reaction…plz dont think im a psycho ;).”

Begolly was arrested on January 4, 2011, and charged the next day with assaulting FBI agents and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. After two FBI agents approached Begolly, he allegedly reached for a concealed loaded gun in his jacket and bit both FBI officers, drawing blood.

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