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How the Supreme Court is restoring religious liberty in America – New York Post

God save the United States and this honorable court. Even with all the cynicism in our politics, that prayer is still the traditional announcement of the opening of a session of the highest court in our land.

And its starting to look like one good deed begets another. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts is well on its way to becoming a historic champion of religious freedom.

That is the outlook after justices on Monday blocked Missouri from denying a grant for safe playgrounds to a church school. The subsidy, for paving playgrounds with recycled tires, had nothing to do with religion.

The case wont secure the reputation of the Roberts court in a fell swoop. Not the way, say, Brown v. Board of Education secured the reputation of the court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

The long legal battle for religious freedom has been taking place in small-to-medium sized legal skirmishes all over the country. With the Missouri case, the hugeness of the trend is starting to become clear.

The Show Me state, the court ruled, cant discriminate against religious people by denying them the non-religious support everyone else gets. It would violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, the court ruled.

It also would have turned Christians and those who choose to go to other religious schools into second-class citizens. So more than playground paving was on the line in Missouri.

The court ruled by a solid majority of seven to two. The only dissenters were Justices Sonia Sotomayor, who seems to grow angry at the idea of unfettered religious practice, and the constitutional crabapple Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Only a few months ago, Ginsburg joked that were Donald Trump elected president shed quit America for New Zealand. She probably didnt know that the head of state in New Zealand must swear he is a Protestant.)

Trinity Lutheran, in any event, would be a satisfying case in and of itself. But its part of a string of cases in which the Roberts court has vindicated religious Americans often by astonishing majorities.

The trend began to emerge in 2012, when the court blocked federal authorities from trying to apply equal-employment law to the hiring of church ministers. That case, known as Hosanna-Tabor v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was unanimous.

Several key cases followed. In one, the court ruled that the upstate town of Greece was within its rights to permit volunteer chaplains to open town meetings with a prayer. The New York Times editorial board nearly fainted.

Then came the Hobby Lobby case. Thats where the court exempted the religious owners of a closely held retail chain of craft stores from the contraceptive mandate that was put into effect by the Department of Health and Human Services after ObamaCares passage.

That puzzler divided the court five to four and infuriated the godless left. Thats because it seemed to suggest that a capitalistic corporation could have religious views, as if the family owners didnt matter.

The courts secularist wing buckled, though, before the Little Sisters of the Poor. The doughty nuns who care for the elderly poor finally won their right not to be entangled in the birth-control mandate in a unanimous ruling by the nine.

What was President Barack Obama thinking? Someday historians will try to divine how much the Democrats were damaged at the polls by their wholly gratuitous attempt to bully a charity named Little Sisters of the Poor.

Not that the fight is over. The court flinched last year from hearing the appeal of a Washington-state pharmacist, Greg Stormans, seeking shelter under the First Amendment against the states attempt to force him to sell an abortion drug.

The same day the court ruled for Trinity Lutheran, though, it agreed to hear the case of the wedding-cake baker, Jack Phillips, under fire from the Orwellian Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. Must such a religious person choose between God and Colorado?

Its hard to predict how the court will rule in that case, which will be heard in the fall. Its not hard, though, to forecast that if the justices do rule for the rights of the religious baker, they will extend a remarkable trend.

And answer the prayer to God for the salvation of their honorable court.

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How the Supreme Court is restoring religious liberty in America – New York Post

Watch: Building a Statue of Liberty out of Legos – USA Today – USA TODAY

This Statue of Liberty is made of more than 25,000 LEGOs. See how it was built. USA TODAY

Lego’s 9-and-a-half-foot model of the Statue of Liberty in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.(Photo: LEGO Systems, Inc.)

A team of Lego enthusiasts finally finished their replica of the Statue of Liberty. It only took them a mere 292 hours, five colorsand 125 pounds of Legos to do the job.

The 9-and-a-half-foot statue now stands in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., as part of”The Nation We Build Together” exhibit.

The structureis 1/32nd the size of the 111-foot, 6-inch original on Ellis Island. Lego master builder Erik Varszegi,49, spent 70 hours to design the statue, which was the second time he’s builta Lego Lady Liberty.

“We had discussed using the same model here but thought the scale wasn’t right,” he said. “We wanted to make a bigger impact this time around.”

Altogether, an estimated 25,375 Lego bricks were used to build the statue from toes to torch. With a task so big, we needed more answers from Varszegi, who has spent 22 years as a professionalLego builder. Here’s what he said:

What was the most difficult part of designing the model?

If I had to pick a most difficult part of the model, Id have to say the whole backside of her. Very little in the way of photographs exist online of Lady Liberty. Seems like people only like shooting her from the front. I tried my best to get the flow of her robes just right when viewed from the back.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty built out of Legos.(Photo: LEGO Systems, Inc.)

How long did it take to design and build?

We actually had a comfortable lead time with this one compared to some of our other builds starting around the first of the year and putting the last bricks on around late February/early March.

Now that it’s finished, what would you do differently?

I had actually starteddesigning the full pedestal underneath her as well, but unfortunately we didnt have the ceiling height for the full thing.

Is this your most ambitious Lego build?

As far as complexity goes this one was pretty standard. The statues robes lent a nice stable base for the build. Characters with exposed legs and skinny ankles pose more of a challenge. Then we have to start thinking about internal steel armatures just so they survive shipping from our shop to the display site.

A Lego version of the Statue of Liberty.(Photo: LEGO Systems, Inc.)

How many people helped you on this project?

Three other master builders helped build the model.

What do you want to build next? Or, what is the Lego build you most want to do?Is there a “white whale” out there for you?

Ha, Ive actually already built a white whale! A number of years ago I designed Moby Dick breaching out of the water for an aquarium in Australia. The model was some 15 or 16 feet tall. As far as future projects go? I enjoy building detailed architectural type models. I havent built one of those in a while. Its nice to switch it up every now and again.

Any advice for young Lego builders?

The most often asked question for Lego master builders. I always tell kids just to keep building. I had a few LEGO sets when I was younger but not a whole lot. Im guessing todays kids will have a huge head start over me in terms of LEGO experience when they get to be my age. Im looking forward to see what crazy things they will build.

The model is on the museum’s first floor and will be on display through the end of 2017.

Follow Sean Rossman on Twitter: @SeanRossman

Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2tY7AzB

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Watch: Building a Statue of Liberty out of Legos – USA Today – USA TODAY

SPLC statement on Liberty Counsel suit against GuideStar – Southern Poverty Law Center

“We stand ready to support our designation of Liberty Counsel as a hate group.

“Liberty Counsel is a group that has consistently called LGBT people ‘immoral, unnatural and self-destructive.’It has a track record of attempting to criminalize homosexual conduct and to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.

“There is nothing ‘pro-family’about dehumanizing LGBT people. This lawsuit and other recent attacks against GuideStar are simply attempts to distract the public from Liberty Counsels hateful agenda.”

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SPLC statement on Liberty Counsel suit against GuideStar – Southern Poverty Law Center

SCOTUS delivers win for religious liberty but punts on school choice – American Enterprise Institute

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, delivering a potent victory for religious libertybut one with murkier implications for school choice than many had anticipated. In a 72 ruling, the Court held that Missouri violated the First Amendments free-exercise clause when it prohibited a church from receiving public funds for playground improvement solely because of their religious character.

The dispute dates to 2012, when Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., was excluded from a state grant competition created to assist nonprofits in the installation of rubber playground surfaces. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources rejected the churchs application, despite having determined that it deserved funding on the merits. Missouri argued it had to reject Trinity Lutherans bid because its state constitution bars distributing public funds to religious organizations.

In its ruling, the Court majority held that the Departments policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status. The verdicts import, however, is clear only when the assemblage of that 72 majority comes into focus. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion, which was joined in full by Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan. Those four were joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch in all but one crucial footnote, while Justice Breyer issued a concurring opinion. Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.

A police officer stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court building after the Court sided with Trinity Lutheran Church, which objected to being denied public money in Missouri, in Washington, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Trinity Lutheran had been avidly awaited by school-choice advocates. As we noted on NRO back in April, the issue is Missouris so-called Blaine amendment a provision added to many state constitutions in the late 1800s as part of an anti-Catholic crusade intended to stymie the nations then-fledgling parochial-school system. Today, some 39 states still have some version of a Blaine amendment in their constitution. These are routinely used by teacher unions and their allies to attack school-choice policies that permit students to use public funds to attend religious schools. In the past two years alone, for example, Blaine amendments have been used to challenge the constitutionality of school-choice programs in Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

While Trinity Lutheran could have yielded a sweeping decision, the Courts majority shied away from anything so decisive. Instead, in holding that Missouris policy expressly discriminates against otherwise eligible recipients by disqualifying them from a public benefit solely because of their religious character, the justices chose to rule narrowly. The majority pointed out that the playground was publicly accessible, and not for use solely by students or members of Trinity Lutheran. Breyers concurrence cautioned that the decision ought not be broadly read.

Roberts narrow language left unsettled whether states are still free to discriminate against religious schools when it comes to publicly available benefits that arent related to playground surfaces. This question crucial for school choice efforts going forward rests on the significance of that aforementioned footnote. Footnote 3 of Roberts opinion reads, This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination. Though concurring that this ruling need not go further than the public benefit provided by the playground grant program specifically, Justice Breyer opted not to join in the salient footnote. As Justices Thomas and Gorsuch also refused to concur with footnote 3, it was endorsed by just four justices Roberts, Kagan, Alito, and Kennedy and thus does not register as the opinion of the Court.

Trinity Lutheran strengthens the protections accorded to free exercise, but punts on the question of whether states can prohibit religious schools from participating in publicly funded school-choice programs. Deciphering the import of that mixed message requires discerning what Roberts sought to accomplish with this ruling. Did he seek a narrow decision by design, hoping to avoid a controversial free-exercise ruling that would invalidate century-old clauses in dozens of state constitutions? Or did he seek a precedent to provide firmer footing for a more dramatic ruling in a future term?

The answer, and the significance of footnote 3, will matter much for efforts to expand tax credits, vouchers, and education savings accounts. We may not have to wait too long for more clarity. Just yesterday, the Court vacated state-supreme-court rulings in Colorado and New Mexico, in cases in which the courts had invoked Blaine amendment language to rule against including religious options in private school-choice programs. The Supreme Court directed the respective state courts to revisit their rulings in light of Trinity Lutheran. Given the narrowness of the High Courts decision, of course, its not clear whether those courts will feel obliged to revise their rulings. In any event, these developments mean that the Supreme Court may be issuing a more clear-cut determination sooner rather than later.

As Justice Gorsuch wrote in his rejoinder to the pivotal footnote, The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise whether on the playground or anywhere else. Court watchers had thought there might be five justices, or more, willing to embrace that principle this time around. But this weeks ruling stops at the playgrounds edge.

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SCOTUS delivers win for religious liberty but punts on school choice – American Enterprise Institute

Renovated amphitheater in Erie’s Liberty Park unveiled – GoErie.com

The $570,000 project features a new, permanent roof made of a hard plastic called thermoplastic polyolefin that is supported by glue-laminated wood beams.

The sun’s rays glistened on Presque Isle Bay’s choppy waters early Tuesday evening as concertgoersparked lawn chairs at Liberty Park and awaited aribbon-cutting ceremony andafree concert celebrating Erie’s newly renovated Highmark Amphitheater.

A stiff breeze from Lake Erie made it feel like spring or fall, but a couple thousand music aficionados didn’t seem to mind the chilly temperatures.

About a dozen Erie County and Highmark Health officials unveiled the renovated structure, which is located on Erie’s west bayfront,in a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Then, it was time to rock to the sounds of Erie band Money Shot 2.0, and the music of Steve Augeri, a former frontman for the rock band Journey.

The $570,000 project features a new, permanent roof made of a hard plastic called thermoplastic polyolefin that is supported by glue-laminated wood beams.

A June 2015 thunderstorm destroyed the fabric canopy that had covered the amphitheater’s stage for nearly 20 years.

“This roof isweather resistant,and the materialit is made out of is actually used to build bridges in Alaska,” said Brenda Sandberg, the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority’s executive director. “It’s the same type of wood that was used at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, so it’s very, very sturdy and able to withstand the elements.”

Work crews from Erie-based E.E. Austin & Son Inc., handled foundation work and construction of the roof, according to Sandberg.

“This is a great, new facility,” Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott said. “This amphitheater is very popular and very widely used, and the old structure had some limitations, as we saw in that storm. Something like this is a better functioning cover for this stage. It allows us to do more with it, and, obviously, we don’t have to worry about this one failing. I think it’s a logical addition to this park because of how the park is utilized.”

Work on the roofbegan in mid-April and was completed about two weeks ago, Sandberg said.

“We had all the foundations go in last fall,” she said. “In order to be economical, we reused the previous stage that thecanopy structure sat on top of. The structure is larger than that previous tent. There was no additional space addedto the stage, which is still 40 (feet)by 60 (feet). From a maintenance standpoint,the new roof issomething we don’t have to put up, take down, and we don’t have to do repairs to it. There will be some maintenance, as there is with every building, but it will be much less significant than it was before.”

Ron Leonardi can be reached at 870-1680 or by email. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ETNleonardi.

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Renovated amphitheater in Erie’s Liberty Park unveiled – GoErie.com

Liberty Quartet, Valley Shepherd to host free Stars and Stripes concert – Meridian Press

Liberty Quartet, a Meridian-based Southern Gospel group, will perform a free Stars and Stripes concert at Valley Shepherd Church of the Nazarene this Sunday.

The quartet, founded in 1995, performs roughly 170 shows each year in the United States and Canada. The original founder, Royce Mitchell, is still with the group singing bass. He started the quartet as a music minister in Boise, and Liberty eventually became so popular that Mitchell quit his job to perform full time.

Libertys baritone vocalist, Derek Simonis, said the the group is excited to come together with Valley Shepherd a pillar in the Treasure Valley that has been around for more than 100 years to celebrate the Fourth of July through music. The audience will also get to join in on some songs.

The concert will be a special time for Simonis, he said. He served in the Army for nine years including in special operations and did multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was an honor to do it, he said. We want to reflect on and appreciate and remember the price thats been paid for our freedom.

Simonis has been out of the military for a year and a half and joined Liberty Quartet six months ago.

Paul W. Ellis, who has a background in music and youth ministry, is the groups lead singer.

During Sundays concert, Liberty will announce its new, fourth member.

We have a great time traveling together, Simonis said. We all love to have a good time and joke around.

Simonis, 30, has been known to play a prank or two on his fellow singers, who are both about 20 years his senior.

Theyve warned me theres payback, he said. When you play jokes on somebody, you have to be careful because its always going to come back full circle.

Beyond the pranks and the concerts and the tours, the groups real mission is to share faith and joy with people, Simonis said.

Were just trying to be real and connect with people and help them, encourage them and be a blessing to them to where theyre at, he said.

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Liberty Quartet, Valley Shepherd to host free Stars and Stripes concert – Meridian Press

Silver out as Liberty superintendent – Times Herald-Record

Pauline Liu Times Herald-Record @PaulineLiu845

LIBERTY Superintendent Bill Silver had about a year left on his contract, but the Liberty School Board voted 6-3 on Tuesday night to oust him from the job that he has held for more than four years.

The three dissenting votes were cast by Daniel Parkhurst, board Vice President Jennifer Desrochers and Philip Olsen, who was away on business but participated via Skype.

Parkhurst called the board’s actions “destructive to our district.” Both he and Desrochers raised the question of whether the board’s decision would discourage highly qualified candidates from applying for the job. “We’re not going to get the caliber of superintendent if we do not honor our contract,” said Desrochers.

Meanwhile, Olsen repeatedly voiced protests.

“I object 1,000 times. I object to the way it’s being done. I think Dr. Silver has been a fine leader for this district and he’s been treated as a villain,” Olsen said.

The actual wording used in the vote was whether the board members would agree to accept Silver’s “resignation.” Silver, 66, has a current annual salary of $164,655. Under the terms of the agreement, he will receive a buyout totaling about $200,000 including benefits.

The board then voted to hire former Assistant Superintendent Carol Napolitano as interim superintendent. School Board President John Nichols said she would be paid an annual salary just shy of $159,000. But according to members of the administration, Napolitano’s package including benefits will likely cost about as much as Silver’s buyout.

Sixteen people stood up to address board members before the vote. Most protested the idea of the district paying for two superintendent salaries. They urged the board to reconsider, citing the district’s improved graduation rate and its fiscal health under Silver’s leadership. Liberty High was also recently recognized as a bronze medal high school by U.S. News & World Report.

While Nichols told the crowd of more than 60 gathered in the high school media center that he could not discuss the board’s reasons for wanting to let Silver go, some members of the community and some teachers pointed to incidents that occurred in the middle school, including a bomb threat, a girl who brought a pocket knife to school and a boy who showed up with a BB gun.

Two middle school teachers, Stacey Feasel and Melissa Murphy, called the school unsafe. “The students are afraid and we are afraid,” said Murphy.

But high school art director Kathy Johansen and music director Tim Hamblin said the district of about 1,700 students flourished under Silver. Hamblin suggested the board consider hiring a separate principal for the middle school, which drew applause from the crowd.

Silver didn’t address the crowd, but numerous supporters including students, teachers and board members lined up after the meeting to shake his hand and wish him well.

“I’m more sad and disappointed than angry,” said Silver. “I wanted to be able to see what we would be doing and continue to move forward.”

Instead he will officially resign on June 30. At 66, and with 44 years of education experience, Silver said he plans to retire.

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Silver out as Liberty superintendent – Times Herald-Record

Supreme Court strikes blow for religious liberty – Philly.com

Normally, the most notable part of a Supreme Court decision is not the dissent. Except for the times when the late, lamented Antonin Scalia would express his fury at what he considered to be a moronic decision by his peers, justices who disagreed were not all that interesting in their disagreement. Even Oliver Wendell Holmes, the so-called Great Dissenter, wore on your nerves with his righteous indignation.

But Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned a dissent that is much more interesting in its transparency than the relatively mild majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in a case being watched by everyone interested in the tension between church and state, and the status of that crumbling wall.

In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a seven-person majority held that the state of Missouri could not single out faith-based organizations for exclusion from grants that would have paid for property maintenance. The facts are fairly simple. Trinity Lutheran is a church that also ran a preschool program. In 2012, it applied for a grant from a state program to make playgrounds safer. Its request for funds to resurface its playground was denied based on a state constitutional provision that forbade the use of taxpayer funding to religious institutions.

That provision was modeled on what is known as the Blaine Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution based in an antipathy toward Catholics. Over a century ago, in the wake of the Civil War, a Republican congressman named James Blaine proposed the amendment to prevent, in part, public money going to parochial schools that were filled with immigrant children.

Many states adopted the language of the original federal amendment, even though it had failed to muster a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Some of these mini-Blaines are still on the books.

Which brings us to Missouri.

Trinity Lutheran sued the state, claiming that the only reason it was being denied funding was because it was a religious institution. And, as Roberts wrote in a you think? moment, thats pretty self-evident:

There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is a church.

So the only question that remained was, is this exclusion constitutional?

Seven members of the court, including some of the more liberal justices, said no. According to the chief justice, the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.

I like the use of the word odious. Every now and then a Supreme Court justice has to tell it like it is, and cut through that genteel lexicon that makes it difficult to believe that there are human beings on that highest of benches. This was not simply an illegal, distasteful bit of discrimination against people of faith. It was odious.

Of course, not everyone would agree with that conclusion, including most of the members of the ACLU. Every time there is a suggestion that public funds are going to assist religious organizations, the fearsome prospect of a theocracy raises its head. Whether it be a caliphate or Christendom, the church-state separatists are immediately mobilized.

And one of the true believers, excuse the pun, sits on the court. Sotomayor, a woman who wore a Catholic school uniform for many years, railed against the majority decision. Her words seem particularly over the top, since Roberts took great pains to limit the majority holding to cases involving playground resurfacing, and reserved judgment on whether it could be extended to other types of discrimination. It was more about discriminating against entities solely because they were churches or, as Roberts wrote churches need not apply.

Sotomayor wasnt buying that. She clearly saw the diagrammed sentence on the wall:

If this separation [of church and state] means anything, it means that the government cannot tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment.

Thats powerful stuff.

Sotomayor sets this up as if the poor taxpayers of Missouri were being forced to pay to prevent some Christian kid from scraping his knees on a rough playground. She makes this seem as if its then a slippery slope to having taxpayers subsidize the erection of a Mormon Temple, or buy new central air for a mosque. Funny, right?

Well actually, maybe not. While I strongly reject the idea that the wall between church and state was built to keep religion out of the public square, it is clear that this case isnt just about playgrounds. It could change the way that we think about people and places of faith, and their relation to the secular state.

Christine Flowers is a Daily News columnist. Listen to her Sundays from 8 to 11 p.m. on WPHT-AM (1210). cflowers1961@gmail.com

Published: June 26, 2017 3:01 AM EDT | Updated: June 26, 2017 4:43 PM EDT

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Supreme Court strikes blow for religious liberty – Philly.com

Liberty Global CEO’s Pay Prompts Backlash in Shareholder Vote – Bloomberg

Mike Fries, chief executive officer of Liberty Global Plc.

Liberty Global Plc encountered one of the biggest scoldings for a U.K company over executive compensation, with about 32 percent of votes cast going against the media companys pay plan, according to a regulatory filing on Monday.

The non-binding vote at the cable operators annual meeting on June 21 covered 2016, a year in which Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries saw his compensation jump 45 percent to $40.1 million. While all resolutions passed, the protest was significant. Billionaire ChairmanJohn Malone and other insiders control 30 percent of the votes at the London-based cable company. That means almost half of the non-affiliated votes objected to the amounts paid to Fries and his top lieutenants.

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The protest follows a 17 percent stock decline last year for Liberty Global, which operates pay-TV systems in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. At the annual meeting last year, 34 percent of shares were voted against the pay policy for Fries and other board members. Advisory group Institutional Shareholder Services recommended that shareholders vote against Liberty Globals 2016 pay plan and the remuneration policy, arguing the board didnt address shareholder concerns over pay from last year.

The compensation committee failed to demonstrate adequate responsiveness to last years low say-on-pay vote and CEO incentive opportunities remain excessive and subject to automatic annual increases, ISS said in its report in advance of the meeting. Friess 2016 pay was 1.68 times the median of his peers, ISS said.

The vote announced Monday to approve director remuneration policy for future years, which is binding, had 72 percent of votes cast in favor.

The increase in pay for Fries was as a result of the board front-loading his awards for 2016 and 2017, according to a proxy statement in advance of the shareholder meeting in London. The company also changed stock awards for Fries and about 385 other employees to better align these incentives over a longer term, promote achievement of goals and keep people on their jobs, the filing said.

Liberty Global operates in a hotly contested, talent-driven global market, the company said Monday in an emailed statement. We have a pay-for-performance compensation program which aims to attract, retain and motivate the best so we can deliver the products and services that our customers deserve and create value for our shareholders.

Investors and politicians in the U.K. have become more vocal about the gap between the pay of top executives and ordinary workers. A number of companies have either scrapped their pay policies or made changes to avert a rebellion at annual meetings this year, including Thomas Cook Group Plc, Imperial Brands Plc, Aggreko Plc.

Malones voting clout exceeds his financial interest in Liberty Global, thanks to a 79 percent stake in the Class B shares that carry 10 votes each. He has a 26 percent voting stake, according to company filings. Malone, Fries and other directors and officers together have almost 30 percent of the votes.

Opposition of 30 percent or more is generally considered the informal threshold for a losing vote and an outcome that should prompt directors to address investor concerns, according to governance experts.

The most notable shareholder revolt in the U.K. so far this year has been at Pearson Plc, where about 61 percent of those who voted opposed the education companys pay report.

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Liberty Global CEO’s Pay Prompts Backlash in Shareholder Vote – Bloomberg

Celebrate Independence Day in Liberty, July 3 – Liberty Vindicator

Having nailed down all the particulars, the City of Liberty announced today its plans for the towns annual Third of July celebration.

At the Liberty Municipal Park beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday there will be an inflatable obstacle course and bounce houses, face painting and the LYBA All-Star teams selling food and drinks to raise funds for their trips to the state championships.

Timothy Wayne and The Abbot Creek Band will perform at 7 p.m.

Mayor Carl Pickett will act as M.C. and offer welcoming remarks at 9 p.m., and the fireworks display will begin at 9:15 p.m.

The weather looks like it will cooperate with Monday evenings festivities. Today, forecasts call for Monday to be partly cloudy with only a 10 percent chance of rain. The high during the day should be 89 degrees, and the low that night is expected to be 75, so the temperature when the fireworks go off should be in the very low 80s or high 70s. The sun will set at 8:24 p.m.

Anyone enjoying the park, or the outdoors anywhere, during the day Monday, should wear sunscreen. The UV index for Monday is extreme.

The city invites everyone attending the fireworks show that night to bring a blanket and relax on the grass. Bringing bug spray would probably also be a good idea, but remember no alcoholic beverages are permitted in the park.

Historians tell us that it was really on July 3, 1776 that the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence. John Adams himself once wrote that July 3 would be remembered as the day American became independent.

That is not why Liberty holds its celebration on July 3, but it is good to know.

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Celebrate Independence Day in Liberty, July 3 – Liberty Vindicator

Behind the scenes: The Princeton-Fung Global Forum asks ‘Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?’ – Princeton University

Americans experience daily threats to their liberty in a world filled with cyber hacks, fake news, communication silos and government surveillance.

The hacking of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election brought home just how vulnerable we are, and more recently, the BBC reported that sensitive personal details related to almost 200 million U.S. citizens was accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee.

The Princeton-Fung Global Forum, held in March2017 in Berlin, Germany, addressed the timely and urgent question, Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?

The two-day forum, organized by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in coordination with campus partners, looked at the balance between privacy and security and how it affects liberty and democracy. About 450 industry experts, scholars and students, as well as 30 reporters and editors from German and American media outlets, gathered in Berlin to hear 40 speakers discuss liberty in the digital age as part of the fourth Princeton-Fung Global Forum.

Eight Princeton faculty members from computer science, engineering, public affairs and sociology served as panelists. The faculty joined outside panelists from the tech industry, academia, government, and nonprofits, including, among others: Amazon; Facebook; Google; Microsoft; Humboldt University of Berlin; Stanford Law Schools Center for Internet and Society; McGill University; University of Zurich; Haifa Center for Law & Technology; WZB Berlin Social Science Center; the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro; the Center for Democracy & Technology; Big Brother Watch; andthe Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Keynotes were presented by: Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google and a principal architect of the original internet; Microsoft President Brad Smith, Class of 1981; Roger Dingledine, project leader for The Tor Project, a nonprofit working on anonymity development; andNeelie Kroes, former EU commissioner for competition policy and commissioner in charge of the digital agenda in Europe.

Please take a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Princeton-Fung Global Forum, as well as highlights from each panel.

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Behind the scenes: The Princeton-Fung Global Forum asks ‘Can Liberty Survive the Digital Age?’ – Princeton University

After 170 Years, The Northland’s Liberty Tribune Prints Last Paper – KCUR

The Northlands Liberty Tribune newspaper, one of the oldest weeklies in the country, recently rolled off the printing press for the last time. Since 1846, residents had unfurled their own paper published under the motto, Willing to praise but not afraid to blame.

However, with circulation figures in slow decline, a merger with the Kearney Courier and the Smithville Herald allowed the owners, the News-Press & Gazette Company, to cut costs.

Three positions are gone, bringing total staff down to 15. TheSmithville office has also closed.

Essentially it was formalizing that collaboration that had been happening already, says managing editor Amy Neal.

At 32 pages, the new print publication, the Courier-Tribune, is longer than its three component papers used to be, but there is less space for stories just about Liberty.

During its 170-year history, the Liberty Tribune covered a surprising range of local, national and international events.

In 1973, the papers scribes were there for tenor Luciano Pavarottis American debut performance at Libertys William Jewell College. In 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagans campaign stop made the front page.

Joe Roberts lives in Arlington, Virginia but grew up in Liberty and his great grandfather, Irving Gilmer, owned, edited and published the paper from about 1890 until 1929.

Roberts says in those days the paper was known for stories on local history. Like todays big national news organizations, it also covered Americas overseas wars.

I think he published it daily during the Spanish American War and I think the only daily that Liberty ever had was during that period of time.

That was in 1898. In 1846, the year it was founded, the Liberty Tribune had a correspondent covering the Mexican War.

There was Colonel John Hughes that sent letters in to the Tribune covering the Alexander Doniphan expedition to Mexico, says Roberts.

Robert Hugh Miller was the editor and owner then, and he was only 19 at the time. He arranged a loan of $5000 to start the Liberty Tribune. Like most of its readers, the paper was anti-union and pro-slavery. But Miller, who ran the paper for forty years, did have nobler aspirations. In an early editorial, he hoped the Tribune would become a focus of intelligence and literature.

With such a rich and sometimes controversial history associated with his great grandfathers paper, Roberts was disappointed to hear about the merger.

I think thats a sad thing, he says. Im happy that at least theres a remnant of it left. And Im sorry that the name of Liberty Tribune is fading from the scene.

Perhaps the biggest change at the Tribune in recent years, rather than the merger, is its move away from investigative reporting.

I always used to just follow the money, says Angie Borgedalen. Until a few years ago Borgedalen was the papers editor, reporter and opinion writer. During her 37-year tenure she liked nothing better than a political scandal.

During the mid-1980s some of Liberty Hospitals administrators were illegally using hospital money. One illegal perk exposed by Borgedalen was a tropical holiday taken by some administrators and doctors while their hospital was struggling to stay open through a winter snowstorm. The former editor says Liberty residents formed queues outside her office eager to read the next installment in what became a hospital corruption saga lasting many months.

Like any good journalist exposing corruption, she made enemies.

The politicians are kind of like sharks if they smell one drop of blood in the water theyre just after you, she says.

Borgedalen says its hard for newspapers to be courageous unless they have a financially stable owner prepared to back them “no matter what. She received that level of support in Missouris 2004 Congressional race. During the election, political consultant Jeff Roes campaign for Republican incumbent Sam Graves included attempts to tarnish his opponent, Charlie Broomfield, for being married three times.

One day, I wrote an editorial saying that was pretty low down for them to bring that up when they know darn well that Charlies wife died of cancer and he was left to raise two little girls on his own. They were four and six when his first wife died, she says.

Roe, who also ran Texas Senator Ted Cruzs recent presidential bid, was unrepentant. Borgedalen says he threatened to get her fired.But Liberty Tribune owner, David Bradley, supported his feisty editor.

He said, Dont you take any s*** off of Jeff Roe, and I said, Dont worry I wont!

Over the years Borgedalens stories led to arrests and convictions for some corrupt local officials.

Today, her successors at the now Courier Tribune have different editorial tastes but the Bradley familys News-Press & Gazette Company are still the owners. Managing editor Amy Neal remains optimistic about the future.

What we really pride ourselves on today is covering those stories of what are the people in our communities doing, whether its their hobbies, whether its their businesses, whether its whats going on in the schools. Neal says.

Time will tell whether the Liberty Tribunes merger and current editorial preferences extend its impressive longevity, or hasten its demise.

Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR.89.3.

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After 170 Years, The Northland’s Liberty Tribune Prints Last Paper – KCUR

Liberty University already spends more on athletics than ODU and JMU – Virginian-Pilot

Liberty University doesn’t move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision for another year, but according to figures from a Department of Education web site, the Flames already have an FBS budget.

The Lynchburg school spent a little more than $45 million on athletics in 2015-2016, the last year for which the Department of Education has numbers. To put this in perspective, that’s more than Boise State, New Mexico and every school in Conference USA, including Old Dominion, spent that year.

It was the largest budget in the country for a Football Championship Subdivision school, nearly twice as large as the budget at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. Only Virginia and Virginia Tech spent more among state schools.

No wonder the NCAA said yes when Liberty applied for special permission earlier this year to play as an FBS independent.

Because it has an endowment of more than $1 billion and an administration with designs on competing on the highest level, it was generally thought that Liberty was spending heavily on athletics, but how much was a matter of conjecture.

As a private school, Liberty isn’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Credit for digging out these numbers goes to John O’Connorof the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who recently compared the football and basketball budgets of all Virginia Division I schools.

ODU’s budget of nearly $39.4 million was the largest in C-USA. If you add debt payments of $4.5 million, the school spent about $44 million in 2015-2016.

The Flames are in a transition season this year and don’t yet offer a full complement of 85 football scholarships. Nonetheless, in 2015-2016, Liberty spent $10.7 million on football or $1.1 million more than ODU.

ODU opens in 2018 at Liberty, and the Monarchs will be paid a $1.32 million guarantee. Clearly, the cash flow in Lynchburg is sufficient to cover the check.

Virginia became the first school in state history to top $100 million in athletic spending in 2015-2016. According to the federal web site, the school reported spending $100,165,988. Virginia Tech spent a more modest $84 million.

Because the Hokies and Hoos receive tens of millions of dollars in ACC revenue sharing, their resources dwarf those at other state schools. U.Va. spent more than William and Mary, Hampton University, VMI, Norfolk State, Radford and Longwood combined.

U.Va. raised $31 million in contributions and got $16 million in TV revenue, according to the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts. The Hokies, meanwhile, invest heavily in the sport that offers the biggest return: football. Tech spent $30.1 million on the sport, compared to $20.3 million at U.Va. The Hokies’ football program generated $48.9 million in revenue.

The federal database also revealed budget figures for the state’s two other Division I private schools: Richmond and Hampton.

Richmond spent $27.6 million on all sports, just slightly more than William and Mary ($26.5 million), including $4.9 million on basketball. The Spiders were outspent in basketball only by Virginia and Virginia Tech and Atlantic 10 rival VCU.

Hampton’s budget of $13.8 million was slightly larger than VMI ($13.6 million) and Norfolk State ($11.4 million). The Spartans have the state’s second-smallest budget, ahead of only Longwood, which spent $10 million but doesn’t have football.

Virginia Wesleyan, a Division III school that does not offer athletic scholarships, reported an athletic budget of nearly $2.4 million. Christopher Newport, a Division III public school that plays football, reported a budget of $9.1 million.

There is no better example of how much weight being a Power 5 school carries with the NCAA than how JMU got hosed in the NCAA softball tournament.

The Dukes posted a 50-6 regular-season record, beat Auburn on the road when the Tigers were ranked second, had a 7-1 record against the ACC and won their last 19 games of the regular season.

The Dukes featured Megan Good, a junior who hit .383 with 12 home runs and had a 38-3 pitching record. She was named national Player of the Year. Teams with great pitchers generally serve as regional hosts, as the Dukes did in 2016.

JMU, ranked higher than Baylor in both the RPI and national polls, yet the NCAA sent them to Baylor for the Waco Regional.

JMU, predictably, dropped two heartbreakers to the homestanding Bears.

When Auburn recently announced that it had hired assistant baseball coach Karl Nonemaker away from ODU, it was a double loss for athletic director Wood Selig. Katie Kiefner Nonemaker, Karl’s wife, is Selig’s long-time assistant.

“She was like having Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H on staff,” Selig said. “She was always one step ahead. She was like the chief of staff. She kept everyone in the department organized and on target.”

Before coming to ODU in 2010, she worked with Mike Aresco at CBS Sports in New York. Aresco is now commissioner of the American Athletic Conference.

It was a delight dealing with Katie, who served as Selig’s liaison with the media, although I admit some personal bias. I lived next door to her family for nearly a decade in Larchmont and watched her grow up.

Katie’s maiden name should be familiar to ODU fans. Her father, Rick Kiefner, has been part of ODU’s football radio broadcasts since the team began and the school’s basketball broadcasts for decades.

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Liberty University already spends more on athletics than ODU and JMU – Virginian-Pilot

Liberty | Definition of Liberty by Merriam-Webster

freedom, liberty, license mean the power or condition of acting without compulsion. freedom has a broad range of application from total absence of restraint to merely a sense of not being unduly hampered or frustrated. freedom of the press liberty suggests release from former restraint or compulsion. the released prisoner had difficulty adjusting to his new liberty license implies freedom specially granted or conceded and may connote an abuse of freedom. freedom without responsibility may degenerate into license

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Liberty | Definition of Liberty by Merriam-Webster

Supreme Court will hear religious liberty challenge to gay weddings – USA TODAY

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider if a Colorado baker discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to make a wedding cake for them. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Col., outside Denver, wanted his refusal to bake a cake for a gay couple because of religious objections to be heard by the Supreme Court.(Photo: Richard Wolf, USAT)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreedMonday to reopen the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The court willhear a challenge from a Colorado baker who lost lower court battles over his refusal to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. Like a New Mexico photographer three years ago, the baker cited his religious beliefs.

The case will be scheduled for the 2017 term that begins in Octoberand most likely will be heard later in the fall.

The justices — who upheld same-sex marriage nationwide in a landmark 2015 ruling — apparently decided that laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation do not mean that merchants’ obligations to same-sex couples are baked in the cake.

Colorado and New Mexico are among 22states with such laws. As a result, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, previously lostin his effort to claim that the First Amendment protects his freedom of expression.

Twenty-eightstates have no such laws, so gays and lesbians freed to marry by the Supreme Court in 2015 still can face discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. A Kentucky appeals court last month upheld a printer’s right to refuse to print shirts promoting a gay pride festival, reasoning that his actions did not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Phillips, like Washington State florist Barronelle Stutzman and others across the country,hasargued thathis religious objections are paramount. Rather than bake for same-sex weddings, he stopped making wedding cakes altogether, at a substantial revenue loss.

On the other hand, said James Esseks, who directs gay rights issues for the American Civil Liberties Union,”If you go with the bakery here, you’ve just shot this humongous hole through the nation’s civil rights laws.”

The key to the outcome of similar cases appears to hinge on whether states have laws barring discrimination against gays and lesbians, or whether they have laws protecting religious liberty.

The decision to hear the case next fall came as a surprise after it had been pending on the justices’ calendar for months. The delay led both sides to assume the court would deny the case and was awaiting a conservative justice’s dissent.

By agreeing to consider the religious exemption, the court is threatening to reverse the lower courts. Justice Anthony Kennedy — who was believed to be considering retirement Monday — will be the key vote once again, as he has been in the past on gay rights issues.

In his landmark opinion striking down state same-sex marriage bans, Kennedy appeared to leave the door open to challenges from those who object to participating in same-sex nuptials.

“It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned,” he said.

Read more:

Supreme Court declares churches eligible for some public funds

Supreme Court may be converting on religion

Religious liberty vs. civil rights: A balancing act

The Supreme Court has sided with religious believers before, most recently by allowing anexception to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most businesses offer health insurance coverage for contraceptives that some equate with abortion.

Phillips’ legal battle began several years ago, when Charlie Craig and David Mullins came in to order a cake for their wedding reception. While the wedding was held in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage had been legal since 2004, the celebration was planned for back home in Colorado.

We are disappointed that this case continues,” Mullins said Monday. On the other hand, Craig said, “It is overwhelming to find yourself going to the Supreme Court.”

Phillips, a born-again Christian, refused to bake the cake. Craig and Mullins filed a civil rights complaint and won, first before an administrative court judge, then before the state Civil Rights Commission, and finally before the Colorado Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed up its first chance to hear a similar case in 2014 eight years after Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, told a lesbian couple that their Albuquerque photo studio only worked “traditional weddings.”

The Huguenins’ petition to the Supreme Court was based on their freedom of speech and expression, which they interpreted as the right to decide what messages their photography conveys.

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Supreme Court will hear religious liberty challenge to gay weddings – USA TODAY

Religious Liberty, Trump Win Important Victories at the Supreme Court – National Review

Today was a busy day for religious liberties at the Supreme Court, one that promises busier days ahead. In particular, the Court may have finally placed the anti-Catholic 19th-century Blaine Amendments in many states constitutions on a long-overdue path to extinction.

The Court took three actions on different fronts, with surprising support from its liberal wing. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, the justices by a 72 voteheld that Missouri violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by refusing to provide grants for playground resurfacing to a Lutheran churchs preschool and daycare center, solely because it was a religious institution. In Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project, the Court unanimously voted to temporarily reinstate portions of President Trumps revised travel ban executive order, which had been almost entirely stayed nationwide by the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, pending a final hearing in October. And in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court agreed to hear a case on whether a Christian can be forced by the state of Colorado to bake a cake for a gay wedding. In each case, the liberal position had won in the lower courts. But the justices were divided over the breadth of the ruling in Trinity Lutheran, and the other two cases will face a final decision no sooner than this fall.

Here, then, is a rundown of the days events.

No Wall between Church and Blacktop

Trinity Lutheran was a classic case of a separation of church and state stance so aggressive that the state ended up violating the churchs right of free religious exercise. In theory, the Free Exercise Clause is simple: It holds that the government may not restrict the practice of religion, whether that means worship or conduct following the dictates of ones faith. So is the Establishment Clause: It holds that the government cant run its own church or require anyone to join or support a particular church. But the growth of government, the march of militant secularism, and the drift of constitutional law far from its moorings have combined to create an endless parade of controversies, including collisions between the two requirements.

Ever since the Court began applying the Establishment Clause to state actions in 1947 never, it should be pointed out, in a case pertaining to the kind of government-established church that existed when the First Amendment was written religious believers and groups have had to fight in court to prevent the wall of separation between church and state from becoming a separation of believers from equal status under the law. Sometimes, the Court has even had to step in to protect the right to free speech from being denied to believers. Masterpiece Cakeshop will provide another test of that principle.

Yet, the First Amendment doesnt say anything about separation or walls, and it was written when individuals and church groups were much more separate from the state than anyone in America can be today. The more the government does, the more of our money it takes and then redistributes, the smaller the space becomes for believers to simply stay separate. Thats exactly how the Trinity Lutheran case arose: The state got into the business of paying for playground resurfacing, then announced that no churches need apply even though Trinity Lutherans playground was open to the whole community when school was not in session.

Discrimination against religious groups in Missouri, as in more than 30 other states, is even older, enshrined in Article I, Section 7 of the state Constitution:

No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and…no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.

This Blaine Amendment, adopted in 1875, may sound innocuous, but it was part of a nationwide anti-Catholic movement. A similar amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed the House of Representatives in 1875 by a vote of 1807 with the support of President Grant and the sponsorship of thenHouse speaker James G. Blaine, before narrowly failing in the Senate. Evidence of the anti-Catholic purpose of these amendments is pervasive and notorious. It contributed to the Catholic backlash that cost Blaine the presidency in 1884, after a speaker at one of his campaign events denounced the opposing Democrats as the party of rum, Romanism, and rebellion. Justice Breyer noted the bigoted impetus for the Blaine Amendments in a 2002 dissent, and the Cato Institute argued in Trinity Lutheran that the Court should consider that history in deciding the case.

Chief Justice Robertss opinion in Trinity Lutheran didnt take the states Blaine Amendment or its origins head-on, finding it enough to conclude that Missouris policy puts Trinity Lutheran to a choice: It may participate in an otherwise available benefit program or remain a religious institution….The express discrimination against religious exercise here is not the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the Church solely because it is a church to compete with secular organizations for a grant. Even Justices Kagan and Breyer agreed. Perhaps significantly for Masterpiece Cakeshop, six Justices signed on to Roberts stirring conclusion, in which he unearthed an 1818 quote from one lawmaker who argued that it would be persecution to ask a Jew to renounce his faith in order to participate in politics.

But the Court remained divided on how far Trinity Lutheran might reach. Robertss opinion explained that the case was different from a previous case allowing the state of Washington to refuse to fund a theological student, and included a footnote stating that the case was only about playgrounds and didnt decide religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch refused to join that footnote and questioned whether the Washington case had been correctly decided, while Breyer agreed with the outcome but thought the case so open-and-shut that he wrote his own, shorter opinion. Stay tuned.

The Travel-Ban Ban, Banned…for Now.

Trinity Lutheran will give plenty of ammunition to ongoing challenges to how states apply their Blaine Amendments and how they misread the Establishment Clause; the Court noted that nobody even tried to argue that letting a church pave a playground on the same terms as everyone else amounted to the state establishment of religion. But ironically, support for overturning the Blaine Amendments in their entirety could come from an unlikely quarter: the challengers to Trumps travel ban executive order.

Under longstanding Supreme Court doctrine, aliens excluded from the country under federal immigration law had no constitutional right to challenge the plenary power used to exclude them for any reason even when that reason would violate the aliens First Amendment rights had he been a citizen. Those who brought suit against Trumps executive order tried to get around that doctrine by arguing that anyone can challenge a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Fourth Circuit agreed, and concluded that the travel ban was the equivalent of a state church, even though the revised ban didnt draw any religious distinctions at all, and only applied to six of the worlds 51 majority-Muslim countries. It reached that conclusion on the basis of Trumps having explicitly pushed for a Muslim ban on the campaign trail, and on evidence that the second travel-ban order was a descendant of that original campaign proposal, concluding that it was thus motivated by religious animus toward Muslims. To the Fourth Circuit, that was enough to both constitute an Establishment Clause violation and overcome the high bar to courts examining national-security justifications for immigration decisions.

To be blunt, neither side of the debate over Trumps intentions has been entirely honest in its arguments. The Fourth Circuit and the Justice Department both framed the dispute as a question of whether Trump had a legitimate national-security motive or was targeting Muslims, as if these rationales were mutually exclusive. In reality, this either/or framing is erroneous, because Trumps original Muslim ban speech clearly combined both motives: It made an argument that halting Muslim immigration would protect our nation from the threat of terrorism. Thats obviously a serious over-generalization but then, theres a good reason the administration has gradually narrowed the focus of the travel ban so its limited to countries from which it is particularly difficult to vet prospective entrants into the U.S. and those with a history of sponsoring radical Islamic terror, rather than impose a religious test. Hopefully, even if the Court upholds the travel ban on the basis of the unusual breadth of federal power over immigration (as it should), it will still find a way to caution the administration that it is treading close to dangerous ground. The same religious liberties that apply within the country to Trinity Lutheran and Masterpiece Cakeshop apply to Muslim Americans, too.

The Court today unanimously halted the Fourth Circuits order in its tracks, although it kept the injunction against Trumps ban in place for those aliens with family connections and those with pre-existing educational or business ties to the United States. As Justice Thomas noted, by allowing Trump to ban other entrants from the countries in question while the case proceeded, the unsigned opinion implicitly assumed that Trump is likely to win at least a partial victory in the case. Given the incredulity of liberal commenters at the idea that the Trump administration might have any leg to stand on, that alone is a sweet victory even if Trump ends up losing in the end. The Court divided on how much of the order to reinstate, with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch arguing that there was no principled or workable basis for drawing a line between prospective entrants based on their pre-existing ties to the U.S. But even the Courts liberals were clearly wise to how liberal legal activists might try to game the temporary exception it created:

As for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO2. The students from the designated countries who have been admitted to the University of Hawaii have such a relationship with an American entity. So too would a worker who accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience. Not so someone who enters into a relationship simply to avoid 2(c): For example, a nonprofit group devoted to immigration issues may not contact foreign nationals from the designated countries, add them to client lists, and then secure their entry by claiming injury from their exclusion.

The Court would not have explicitly banned such a tactic without an expectation that the resistance groups challenging Trumps order would try to employ it.

The justices will end up hearing a bunch of challenges to the travel ban, ranging from standing to sue to whether the immigration statutes actually give Trump the specific power he invoked. But if the challengers somehow end up convincing the Court to follow the Fourth Circuits lead in looking to discern the orders underlying motives, they may end up adding fuel to the fire set by Trinity Lutheran around the Blaine Amendments.

READ MORE: The Supreme Courts Religious-Freedom Message: There Are No Second-Class Citizens In Trinity Lutheran, One Question Exposed Missouris Historical Hostility to Religion Do Safer Playgrounds Advance Religion?

Dan McLaughlin is an attorney in New York City and an NRO contributing columnist.

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Religious Liberty, Trump Win Important Victories at the Supreme Court – National Review

WNBA’s Liberty make history as first team to ever participate in New York Pride parade – ESPN

By D’Arcy Maine | Jun 26, 2017 espnW.com

Over 40,000 people marched in New York’s Pride parade on Sunday, and among them were some pretty famous faces. Joining the likes of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, seven members of the New York Liberty took part in the festivities with a team float and became the first professional sports team to ever participate.

So, yeah, that’s pretty awesome.

Shavonte Zellous, Amanda Zahui B, Kiah Stokes, Bria Hartley, Brittany Boyd, Rebecca Allen, and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe were there, as well as head coach Bill Laimbeer, associate head coach Katie Smith and team president Isiah Thomas.

And, because duh, it’s Pride, it looks like a fun time was had by all. But here’s some proof if you don’t believe me.

All. The. Squad. Goals.

See something entertaining on social media that you think deserves to be shared? Let me know on Twitter, @darcymaine_espn.

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WNBA’s Liberty make history as first team to ever participate in New York Pride parade – ESPN

In Mississippi, a Bill to Protect Religious Liberty Gets the Green Light – National Review

In a victory for religious citizens in Mississippi and in a promising sign for all religious Americans the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Thursday in favor of a bill that protects religious-liberty and conscience rights in the realm of marriage.

The bill, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), allows religious organizations and businesses to operate in accord with their religions teaching on marriage and sexuality, forbids the government from silencing or firing its employees for expressing their religious beliefs, and protects employees from being forced to participate in activities that violate their consciences.

The courts ruling is also a positive sign for those hoping to enact such protections at the federal level. A federal version of FADA has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and President Donald Trump has pledged to sign it if it crosses his desk.

The ruling means that Mississippis legislation can serve as a template for any state seeking to balance two interests: the conscience rights of those who believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, and the intrinsic dignity and civil rights of LGBT individuals.

The conflict between those two interests has intensified in the last two years, in the wake of the Supreme Courts decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which saw five justices redefine marriage, for the entire country, as a union between two consenting adults regardless of gender. As a result, many Americans, religious and otherwise, who continue to hold the traditional definition of marriage have been marginalized and, in some cases, required by law to sanction same-sex marriages.

For example, in a number of recent, high-profile cases, religious business owners have been sued by customers or fined by state commissions for refusing to provide services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. So far, courts have uniformly sided against the owners, ruling that to deny service to any homosexual person is unlawful discrimination, regardless of religious belief.

Faithful Americans such as these business owners are routinely maligned by left-wing activists and politicians not to mention popular culture, as in this late-night comedy sketch that portrays religious-freedom laws as an expression of hatred many of whom argue that Christian are bigots who deny the humanity of LGBT people.

Such critiques either misunderstand or outright ignore the essential distinction between serving gay or lesbian clients and providing services for their wedding. For religious Americans, this is a crucial distinction, because the latter involves participation in an event that violates their faiths understanding of marriage.

Contrary to what most media reports suggest, the Mississippi bill would not permit anyone to deny service to individuals because of their sexual orientation. In fact, not a single religious-liberty bill has been proposed to allow such discrimination, at either the state or the federal level. To suggest otherwise is supremely dishonest, and it poisons any possibility of finding a reasonable compromise on this issue.

Whats more, bills such as FADA must be understood in the context of our post-Obergefell society, where people who hold the traditional view of marriage are often treated by popular culture as if they were no better than racists. In such a climate, it is essential that religious citizens be given legal protection, especially since the government itself has embraced a conception of marriage in contradiction to the view of a substantial plurality of the public.

The Fifth Circuits legal rationale in upholding FADA provides a helpful context for understanding the best way to balance the two sets of rights at stake in this debate. The court noted, in particular, the plaintiffs lack of standing, due to their failure to assert anything more than a general stigmatic injury or to demonstrate injury-in-fact.

With this explanation, the court seems to point to the fundamental distinction between material and dignitary harms, the first of which merits a higher level of legal protection. Dignitary harm is considered a lesser category: It can sometimes be permitted by law, for the sake of preserving other fundamental rights.

Applied to FADA, the plaintiffs failure to demonstrate injury-in-fact and instead simply stigmatic injury suggests that the right to religious freedom is fundamental enough that states can permit some dignitary harms for the sake of preserving the right. If FADA were to permit religious Americans to perpetrate material harms against LGBT individuals the court argued that the bill does not the ruling would probably have been different.

Regardless of ongoing contention over the definition of marriage, most Americans agree that we ought to be able to coexist peacefully even when we deeply disagree, and this bill works to that end. Progressives must be willing to admit that Mississippis FADA isnt a weapon of discrimination wielded by bigots against LGBT individuals. One can disagree with the bills specific policies and still acknowledge that some legal protection is needed for a minority group whose beliefs have fallen out of favor.

At the same time, those on the right who care about the future of religious freedom must continue to testify to the inherent dignity of LGBT individuals, regardless of ones view of marriage. That will enable more people to understand that religious Americans can fully respect their neighbor even as they are free to live out the tenets of their faith in daily life. Such an understanding, coupled with prudent legal defenses such as Mississippis FADA, is the best path forward for true compromise on this issue.

READ MORE: Obergefells Toxic Judicial Legacy Are Millennials Following the Success Sequence Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It: Married Men Are Healthier, Wealthier, and Happier

Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

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In Mississippi, a Bill to Protect Religious Liberty Gets the Green Light – National Review

TRAFFIC: Downed power line backs up West Liberty Avenue – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TRAFFIC: Downed power line backs up West Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A downed power line on West Liberty Avenue has travel blocked in the city just south of the Liberty Tunnel in the southbound lanes. The downed wire was near Dawn Avenue in the Beechview area, according to PennDOT. It was reported shortly before 11 …

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TRAFFIC: Downed power line backs up West Liberty Avenue – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Liberty 14U nabs 10-9 win over EMC National – Liberty Vindicator

The Liberty 14U All-Star Team got a big 10-9 win over EMC National on a hot Saturday afternoon in Splendora in the opening round of the Ranger Baseball Invitational.

The win moves the Liberty bunch into the winners bracket of the six team field.

Blaze Drake got the win on the mound by pitching two innings and allowing only one hit and one run. Drake struck out two. Liberty used the help of four walks and a hit-by-pitch to plate four runs in the first inning in grabbing an early 4-0 lead.

Freddy Mata led things off with a walk and then stole second base and later scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. C. J. Crump was then hit by a pitch and also stole second. After a steal of third, Crump scored on the error throw to third to run the lead to 2-0.

After the first out of the inning, Drake walked followed by a walk to Mathew Porche. Both Drake and Porche would score on passed balls to give Liberty a 4-0 lead after one.

EMC then responded with a one in the top of the second frame before Liberty responded with two runs of their own. Wyatt Tulley launched a nice double to get into scoring position and then scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1. Joshua McCartney followed with a walk and used his speed to quickly steal second and third base. He then scored on another passed ball and it was a 6-1 score.

EMC National then had themselves an inning and scored six runs in the third inning to lead 7-6. The team from Liberty was not fazed and wasted little time in regaining the lead. Mata reached on a walk and stole second base. Mata then stole third and scored onan errand throw to third to tie the game at 7 apiece.

Crump followed with a walk, and after a steal of second base he scored on an RBI single by Ben Reidland to give the Liberty the lead again at 8-7. After Drake walked, both runners pulled a double steal and the throw to third to get Reidland was again aired into left field allowing Reidland to score and Drake to third. Drake then scored on an error by the EMC pitcher to give Liberty a 10-7 lead.

EMC made things close in the top of the fourth inning with a couple of runs before Tulley shut the door on the Liberty win.

See more here:

Liberty 14U nabs 10-9 win over EMC National – Liberty Vindicator


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