Daily Archives: January 24, 2020

Throwback Thursday: The First Amendment’s Freedom of Assembly in Action in Nutley NJ – TAPinto.net

Posted: January 24, 2020 at 6:48 am

NUTLEY, NJ - On Jan. 23, 2019,Nutley Public School teachers ralliedpeacefully in front of John H. Walker Middle School in a sign of unity with their representatives who were negotiating their contract with the Board of Education. The contract was eventually settled, and based on information presented in subsequent BOE meetings, the teacher's hard work paid off in the form of improved student performance.

TAPinto Nutley captured this "First Amendment Moment" ofthe 'right of the people peaceably to assemble.' one year ago today.

TAPinto is a big fan of the First Amendment to the Constitution, especially the freedom of the press part, but let's take a moment to read the entire amendment.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Throwback Thursday: The First Amendment's Freedom of Assembly in Action in Nutley NJ - TAPinto.net

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It Violates the First Amendment to Criminalize Immigration Advocacy or Giving Advice to Illegal Immigrants – Cato Institute

Posted: at 6:48 am

Regardless of the immigration enforcement practices at any given time, there are people and organizations who urge illegal immigrants to stay in this country and wait for political change. Likewise, immigrants themselves will take proactive steps in an attempt to adjust their status, to come out of the legal shadows.

Lawyers will advise some immigrantsquite correctly, in many casesthat remaining in the country illegallywill grant them certain constitutional or statutory protections that are unavailable outside the United States. But these advocates and attorneys may be tonguetied by afederal law that criminalizes encourage[ing] an alien to reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such residence is in violation of law. The potential sentence for this crime could be increased if the encouragement was motivated by financial gain, such as attorneys fees or charitable donations.

Evelyn SinenengSmith is an immigration consultant in California who dealt with many unlawfully present aliens in the Filipino community. She took advantage of certain clients by taking their money to apply for afederal program that would normalize their status, while knowing that this program was not open to them. She was prosecuted for and convicted of that fraud; the government had her dead to rights and thats the end of that story.

But the government further alleged that Ms. Sineneng-Smiths advice influenced her clients to stay in the country illegally. She was thus also charged and convicted for encouraging aliens to remain in the United States unlawfully, the sentence for which was enhanced by afinding that she did so for financial gain. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed her conviction, ruling that the statute violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case.

Under the First Amendment, Congress cannot criminalize speech. Certain types of speech, howeverlike threats, obscenity, incitement of violence, and speech integral to criminal conductare not protected by the First Amendment. Adefendant whose own speech is not protected may nevertheless challenge her conviction on the ground that the law is overbroad and sweeps in others protected speech.

A law is overbroad when the unprotected speech or actions it legitimately targets are eclipsed by the protected speech that could be targeted. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), the Supreme Court explained that overbreadth challenges are necessary because severe penalties for violating an unconstitutional law are enough to deter (chill) lawabiding citizens from speaking, even if they would eventually win achallenge to their convictions.

Cato has filed an amicus brief supporting Ms. SinenengSmith in the Supreme Court. Our brief counters part of the governments brief, which argues that, even if the statute is overbroad, its saved by the fact that additional elements of financial gain need to be proven for asentence enhancement. We argue that the sentence enhancement is irrelevant to the chilling effect of the underlying statute and, even if the analysis is limited to encouragement motivated by financial gain, the statute still criminalizes protected commercial speech.

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in United States v. SinenengSmithon February 25.

It Violates the First Amendment to Criminalize Immigration Advocacy or Giving Advice to Illegal Immigrants - Cato Institute

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Shattering the First Amendment – The Riverdale Press

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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., was 90 years old when he finally retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1932 the only Supreme Court justice to reach that age on the bench until John Paul Stevens in 2010.

In his 30 years on the bench, Justice Holmes would ink his legacy on a number of legal interpretations that shaped the 20th century. The biggest? The clear and present danger test, ultimately championed by the court for decades that declared certain types of speech as not protected by the First Amendment if such speech could be deemed to damage the public welfare.

One of the earliest cases affected by clear and present danger was a 1919 case challenging the conviction of Charles Schenck, a member of Philadelphias Socialist Party, who mailed out thousands of flyers to young men encouraging them to resist the military draft, claiming it was a violation of the 13th Amendment which prohibited involuntary servitude.

Schenck and another Socialist Party member, Elizabeth Baer, were convicted of violating the Espionage Act that prohibited any interference in the U.S. military, including its recruitment efforts.

Schencks lawyers argued his flyers were an expression of free speech. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed unanimously. In writing the opinion supporting the majority, Justice Holmes acknowledges that in many places and in ordinary times the claims made my Schenck and Baer would have been within their constitutional rights.

But these were not ordinary times. The country was in the midst of World War I, and soldiers were needed in the European trenches. And because of that, the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done, Holmes said.

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force.

No, Justice Holmes didnt tap into his Book of Old Cliches for that line. Hes the one credited for originating it. And it would serve to headline a policy that would stifle anti-war speech all the way through Vietnam. It was there, in 1969, the court ruled the government cant target speech unless its directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, instead of the previous approach of speech that simply advocates violence.

So why such a long-winded history lesson on free speech? Because this is a lesson we cant lose sight of, especially when phrases like you cant shout fire in a crowded theater are more popular than ever when it comes to First Amendment debate.

And it begs the question: Where is the line where protected speech ends? Should such a line exist?

The First Amendment is intended to protect all of us from punishment or retaliation of any sort over our free speech from the government. But it doesnt require you or I to grant anyone were talking to those same freedoms. In fact, freedom of speech is never the same as freedom from rebuttal or even consequence. And there could indeed be some speech that ultimately results in that from people or entities who are not government related.

Thats highlighted even more today through social media platforms. In what was once speech limited to how many barrels of ink one owned, it seems just about anyone can have their words go viral and become part of the public discussion.

There are many positive aspects of that especially since it opens conversations that information gatekeepers would rather remain closed. But it also means that even everyday people like you, us, and our neighbors are under greater scrutiny for the things that we say.

Last year, Ethical Culture Fieldston School took some heat after a speaker from Columbia Law School, A. Kayum Ahmed, who reportedly said the victims of the Holocaust and violence who have since established control of Israel have become perpetrators of violence against Palestinians.

This is Ahmeds opinion, and whether we agree with it or not, he has the right to express that opinion. Whether doing so in front of teenagers at a school event was the proper venue for that is up for debate. But even dissenting opinions are worthy of exploration and discussion, as part of the free exchange of ideas that our Founding Fathers had hoped to perpetrate in the establishment of this country.

Some media outlets not so balanced in their political leanings had pressured Fieldston school officials to do something about it, and that something seems to have come in the firing of history teacher J.B. Brager.

Brager took to Twitter not only to speak out against Israels reported treatment of Palestinians, but also over how Fieldston handled the Ahmed statement, saying that when institutions of learning bow to political pressure to disavow historical reality, what can educators do within that institution?

One might argue thats a discussion best had internally with the schools administration, even Fieldstons board of directors. Brager, however, chose to air it publicly on social media. And its because of that at least according to those trying to get Brager reinstated this teacher lost their job. (Brager uses the "they/them" pronouns.)

Its unfortunate what happened to Brager. Its unfortunate that a member of Fieldstons faculty didnt feel they could start a conversation with the schools administration on how it would deal with hot-button discussions like those of Israel and Palestinians.

But then again, freedom of speech is not equivalent to the freedom of rebuttal or consequence. Many have been martyred (both figuratively and literally) for expressing unpopular opinions. Look at those being arrested in rallies and protests across the country.

While the government might dance around free speech in these arrests (handcuffing protesters for other issues unrelated to speech), the fact is that we are never free of consequence for speaking how we feel.

But we must stop punishing each other for the opinions we hold, and just listen. Even if we dont change our minds, every single person has a right to express their opinion, whether we agree with it or not.

There are limits to free speech, even when it comes to the First Amendment. But those limits should be as narrow as possible, because with every crack we create in the foundation of free speech, thats one crack closer to shatter.

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The Unacknowledged Clash Between the Supreme Courts Interpretation of the Religion Clauses and the – Justia Verdict

Posted: at 6:48 am

In 2011, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court held that the religion clauses of the First Amendment, operating in tandem, required that there be some kind of a ministerial exception immunizing religious congregations from the requirements of civil rights laws that restrict employer discretion in hiring and firing decisions. The Courts recognition of such a ministerial exception for congregational employers was actually unexceptional, in that every federal appellate court that had addressed the issued had reached a similar conclusion.

The far more difficult questions concerned the scope of this exception. Exactly which employees are subject to the exception and thus denied the protection of civil rights laws against discrimination, and which are not? Is the title of the employee dispositive or even relevant? How much weight should be assigned to the actual duty and functions of the employee?

The Court provided only limited guidance on these matters. The plaintiff in Hosanna-Tabor was a teacher who, after engaging in considerable study and undergoing extensive evaluation, had been commissioned a minister. The Court appeared to take multiple factors into accountrelating to both her title and functionin finding that the ministerial exception applied to her case, freeing her employer from the constraints of civil rights laws.

Justice Roberts wrote for a unanimous majority and explained that in light of these considerationsthe formal title given [to the plaintiff] by the Church, the substance reflected in that title, her own use of that title, and the important religious functions she performed for the Churchwe conclude that [the plaintiff] was a minister covered by the exception.

In the current Term, the Court has elected to review two cases which may require that it address questions about the scope of the ministerial exception it was able to avoid resolving in Hosanna-Tabor. In these cases, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Darryl Biel, teachers are suing their religious-school employers for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), respectively. Neither teacher held the title of minister. The question for the Court will be whether teachers in religious schools fall within the ministerial exception based solely on any religious content or values they incorporate into the subjects that they teach.

Much could be written about the proper scope of the ministerial exception, but today we want to focus on the elephant in the room that the Court has rarely acknowledged in religious accommodation cases in which the Court interprets the Constitution to require or permit the government to exempt religious individuals and/or institutions from government regulations that secular individuals and/or institutions must obey. There is a stark, if largely ignored, conflict between religious accommodations and exemptions on the one hand, and core free speech principles which the Court has repeatedly recognized, on the other. We believe these ministerial exception cases cannot be fairly or thoughtfully adjudicated without taking these free speech concerns into account.

To describe this tension, we begin with what is perhaps the oldest and most universally accepted principle of free speech doctrine, namely, the prohibition against viewpoint discrimination. It is not hard to understand why free speech doctrine frowns on laws that discriminate based on viewpoint. Government distorts the marketplace of ideas most egregiously when it burdens one position on a salient and debated issue while leaving opposing positions unhindered. And this marketplace distortion is fundamentally inconsistent with the democratic self-governance foundation for protecting free speech in the first place. Put simply, competing viewpoints must be treated the same way by the government. One side cannot be treated more or less favorably than the other. Accordingly, government actions that run afoul of viewpoint neutrality are subject to the most rigorous standard of judicial review, and almost always invalidated.

Yet there is also a long and well established line of Supreme Court authority (often involving public high schools and public universities) that identifies religion as a viewpoint of speech. According to these cases, laws that discriminate against religiously expressive programs and activities constitute viewpoint discrimination, and must receive the strictest of judicial scrutiny. (Cases in this line of authority include Rosenberger v. Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, and Lambs Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist.)

Herein lies the rub. Under the conventional understanding of free speech doctrine, if laws that favor secular speakers, expressive programs and activities and disfavor religious speakers, expressive programs and activities are viewpoint discriminatory, then laws that favor religious speakers, expressive programs and activities and disfavor secular speakers, expressive programs and activities must also be viewpoint discriminatory. If favoring a over b is discriminatory, then favoring b over a has to be discriminatory as well. And thus both instances of viewpoint discrimination should receive the same rigorous standard of review.

It is not difficult to see how this mandate of viewpoint neutrality complicates the recognition of a ministerial exception. Schools are expressive institutions. They communicate information and values to students. Teachers are speakers whose role it is to express that information and those values in the classroom and through extra-curricular activities. Civil rights laws limit and restrict the employment decisions of school administrators, and in doing so they impose costs on these expressive institutions that interfere (albeit often for powerful reasons) with the ability of these institutions to pursue their expressive missions. Indeed, that is the reason why religious schools challenge the application of civil rights laws to their employment decisions.

But if the application of civil rights laws to employment decisions burdens religious school missions, it does the same for private secular schools as well. Both religious and secular schools are equally expressive in their aspirations and their functions. Yet the recognition of a ministerial exception relieves religious schools from burdensome regulations that their secular counterparts must obey. That is viewpoint discrimination, pure and simple. If you doubt that, reverse the immunity. Imagine secular schools were granted an exemption that relieved them of the burden of complying with burdensome regulations but religious schools were given no such exemption. Does anyone doubt that this favoring of secular schools would constitute viewpoint discrimination, requiring strict scrutiny review?

One might argue that our analysis proves too much. If we are correct, then the ministerial exception should not be allowed to exist, even with regard to fully ordained clergy. Clergy as well as teachers are speakers who are responsible for communicating and exemplifying their faith communitys values. Why should religious congregations be allowed to hire these expressive leaders free from civil rights regulations while secular organizations receive no such exemptions. Are we really arguing that houses of worship should not be free to hire and fire clergy who lack the characteristics the church requires of its ministers? That is a fair question to raise. We think, however, that there is at least an argument that clergy are unique and distinctive in their title and role. There may be no meaningful secular counterparts to pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams. Thus, providing special constitutional protection to employment decisions relating to clergy may not be considered viewpoint discriminatory because there are no comparable secular titles and roles to which the treatment of clergy can be reasonably compared. Discrimination means treating similarly situated individuals or situations differently, but if there are no similarly situated individuals or situations, the presence of discrimination is much less clear.

But this argument about the distinctive titles and roles of clergy cannot be stretched to apply to teachers at religious and secular schools. Teachers at religious schools who are not clergy are indistinguishable from teachers at private secular schools. The content of their speech may differ. They may communicate different values. In both cases, however, teachers are speakers communicating the information and values they schools that hire them want to communicate to students. Freeing religious schools from regulations governing the employment of teachers that secular schools must obey is viewpoint discrimination. Applying the ministerial exception to non-clergy teachers would read the religion clauses of the First Amendment to require government conduct that the free speech clause seems to prohibit.

Once the Court acknowledges the presence of the elephant in the room, how should it deal with this predicament? One approach would be to deny that religious and secular belief systems are opposing viewpoints, which would involve backtracking from much of what the Court has said in the school cases mentioned above.

But we think this might be a tough retreat for the Court to make. While it is certainly true that not all religious beliefs conflict with all secular values, in todays world the debate between religious and secular world views is certainly salienteven if it is overstated. Moreover, the problem we identify extends well beyond the school setting, which complicates any potential solution. Even outside of religious schools, a great deal of religious practice and activities are expressive in nature; sermons. proselytizing, prayer, and religious education are obvious examples. Religious congregations are at least in part expressive assemblies. Religion is a major voice in the marketplace of ideas.

Most exemptions and accommodations of religion in our society are a result of political deliberation, not constitutional adjudication. Many of these discretionary legislative and administrative exemptions and accommodations have the effect of favoring religious speakers, expressive institutions, and expressive activities over their secular counterparts. A rigorous application of the prohibition against viewpoint discrimination would require that many of these accommodations must be justified under strict scrutiny review.

To consider just one example, is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which requires state and local governments to accommodate religious assemblies using private land for religious activities (many of which are clearly expressive in nature), viewpoint discriminatory in that it doesnt require state and local government to accommodate other equally expressive yet non-religious uses of land by secular organizations??

We cannot even attempt to resolve these questions in an essay of this length. The reality is that religion and speech overlap. But the constitutional rules relating to religion and speech are in conflict. The religion clauses accept, and in some cases require, that religious institutions and practices may be treated differently than secular institutions and practices. The free speech clause requires that religious and secular speakers, messages, and expressive institutions must be treated the same waywithout either being favored or disfavored. The Court needs to develop criteria and doctrine to determine when and whether the religion clauses or the free speech clause should control challenges to government regulations relating to religion.

The Court has not begun to engage in this difficult task. The ministerial exceptions cases before the Court this term might be a good place for it to start.

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Guest column: First Amendment on the docket at the Supreme Court – The Mercury

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Kendra Espinoza, a single mother of two young girls, never dreamed that sending her daughters to a Christian school in Kalispell, Montana, would lead her to the national stage. But on Wednesday, her lawsuit, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and its far-reaching implications could impact Pennsylvanians education options.

Espinoza homeschooled her daughters until her husband unexpectedly left, forcing her to enroll them in the local public school. The school wasnt a good fit for her daughters they werent thriving. Stillwater Christian School seemed like the perfect solution, but tuition was more than she could afford. Still, she worked extra jobs, held a big yard sale, and raffled quilts to come up with the money. Her older daughter even mowed lawns to contribute.

It was barely enough.

Then, Espinoza learned of a recently enacted program in Montana, similar to Pennsylvanias tax credit scholarships, that could help her afford tuition for future schoolyears. Her glimmer of hope was short lived, though. Montanas program bars religious schools, and the state refused to grant her daughters scholarships.

Espinoza felt that amounted to discrimination. She and two other moms in similar situations sued the department with the help of nonprofit law firm, the Institute for Justice. But the Montana Supreme Court doubled down, ruling the entire scholarship program unconstitutional in 2018.

The families appealed and are now before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that ending the scholarship program because it included religious schools violates the First Amendment.

At issue is the Montana constitutions Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the government from giving public funds to religious schools. There are similar provisions in 36 other state constitutions, including right here in Pennsylvania. These amendments trace their roots to the late 1800s, when anti-Catholic sentiment was rampant and protestant legislators sought to starve them of public funds. Congressman James Blaine and many other anti-Catholic legislators required prospective states to adopt Blaine Amendments in order to be admitted to the union and persuaded many existing states to adopt similar amendments.

Now, the Supreme Court will decide if these provisions violate the U.S. Constitution.

The issues presented in Espinoza are not new to the Court. In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio school voucher program, ruling that it was neutral with respect to religion since parents not the government are the ones directing government aid to the schools.

And in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the Court found that Missouris denial of a church application for new playground surfacing was a violation of the churchs First Amendment protections by denying a generally available benefit solely on account of the [applicants] religious identity.

If the Court follows the same logic, Espinoza and the other Montana moms stand a good chance of winning. Similar to the situation in Zelman, the Montana program was impartial to religion and was designed to help disadvantaged students. Moreover, the ruling in Trinity Lutheran created a precedent for greater scrutiny when the state excludes a church from public benefits.

With these cases setting the stage, the Supreme Court has the opportunity in Espinoza to defend the rights of parents to access public programs without comprising their constitutional rights. As a result, anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments in Montana and dozens of other states, may be laid to rest.

Such an outcome will liberate students across the country including in Pennsylvania to pursue broader educational choices that satisfy their needs. While Pennsylvanias tax credit scholarships pass constitutional muster, removing our Blaine Amendment will open the door to new educational freedoms for students.

If we win at the Supreme Court, it makes a difference for my girls and for so many other families, says Kendra Espinoza. I believe school choice is important for all families, not just for myself and my children. Its my right as a parent to choose how my children are educated not the governments right.

Colleen Hroncich is a senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation (CommonwealthFoundation.org), Pennsylvanias free market think tank.

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Guest column: First Amendment on the docket at the Supreme Court - The Mercury

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City of Scottsdale and The Satanic Temple take the stands in First Amendment-based case – FOX 10 News Phoenix

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City of Scottsdale and satanic temple group take the stands in First Amendment-based case

The trial between the city of Scottsdale and the satanic temple is underway. Three years ago, the Scottsdale City Council denied a satanic temple member's request to deliver an invocation at its meeting. Now, the satanic temple argues Wednesday in court that its First Amendment right was violated.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The trial between the city of Scottsdale and The Satanic Temple is underway.

Three years ago, the Scottsdale City Council denied arequest by a member ofThe Satanic Temple to deliver an invocation at its meeting. Now, The Satanic Temple argues Wednesday in court that its First Amendment right was violated.

The group had no ties to the city, which is required to be able to give that invocation. Michelle Short, a group member, was supposed to give that prayer. She was on the stand and claimed several other groups outside of the city were able to give their prayers.

She listed a few churches that did not have addresses within the city limits there.

Short admitted that during cross-examination thatshe is not a member of the Scottsdale community. She also admitted to never contacting anyone within the city, any representative, about her beliefs and what type of invocation that she was wanting to give.

She argues that she feared for her safety should she havedisclosed it prior to the meeting.

Scottsdale City Manager,Jim Thompson, also took the stand, saying that other groups had substantial connections to the city, which is why they were able to say their prayers, and claims the satanic temple group didn'thave a substantial connection to the city.

He says others in the past did not live withinthe city limits at the time, but they did have those strong ties.

The court session will resume Thursday morning.

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Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger’s Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment – EFF

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San Francisco, CaliforniaOn Wednesday, January 22, at 9 am, EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams will tell a federal appeals court that a lower court correctly dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger, finding that his criticisms of a companys business practices were opinions about an unsettled legal issue protected by the First Amendment.

EFF is representing Bruce Perens, founder of the Open Source movement, who criticized restrictions Open Source Security Inc. (OSS) placed on customers of its security patch software for the Linux Operating System. OSS sued Perens in response. The lower court found that OSSs lawsuit not only failed to plausibly state a claim for defamation, but also that it ran afoul of a California statute that protects defendants from SLAPPs, short for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are malicious lawsuits that aim to silence critics by forcing victims to spend time and money to fight the lawsuit itselfdraining their resources and chilling their right to free speech.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Williams will tell a panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges that Perenss blog post merely expressed his opinion about an unsettled legal issue of concern to a worldwide Open Source community, and that Perens disclosed the factual basis for that opinion. OSS, which disagrees with Perens, was free to state its disagreement publicly, but it was not free to sue Mr. Perens for exercising his First Amendment right, Williams will tell the court.

Read EFFs filing in the Perens case:https://www.eff.org/document/oss-v-perens-answering-brief

WHO: EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams

WHAT:OSS v. Perens

WHERE:Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals-James R. Browning CourthouseCourtroom 1, 3rd Floor, Room 33895 7th Street, San Francisco CA 94103

WHEN:WednesdayJanuary 219 am

Hearing Wednesday: EFF Urges Court To Rule That Blogger's Opinion of Open Source Licensing Agreement is Protected by the First Amendment - EFF

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Choice in education could have impact on 2020 vote – Boston Herald

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Sometimes the timing of events is so auspicious that it is hard to attribute it to coincidence.

The week of Jan. 26 is National School Choice week.

First observed in 2011, for the 10th time, events will take place around the nation that are focused on raising awareness about parental choice in K-12 education and the options available to parents and children.

A few days before National School Choice week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which will address the constitutionality of the so-called Blaine Amendments, arguably the greatest obstacle to school choice the nation faces.

Named after Rep. James G. Blaine, who attempted but failed to enact a federal ban on funding religious schools, 37 states subsequently adopted the provision in their state constitutions.

In the case of Espinoza, the state of Montana passed a law allowing dollar-for-dollar tax credits for funds contributed to scholarship programs that parents could use for paying for education in private schools. In that some of these funds would be used for religious schools, the constitutionality of the program was challenged, and the state wound up trashing the whole program.

The hope of many, including me, is that the court will find the rationale behind the Blaine Amendments unconstitutional. It will be a victory for both religious freedom and education freedom.

It is perverse that the First Amendment, which is meant to guarantee religious freedom, has become a tool for discrimination against religion.

After all, when public funds are available for education of any kind and some parents use those funds for a religious school, this is a private choice, not a government mandate. How can this in any way be understood as government establishing religion? It most certainly interferes with the free exercise of religion, which the First Amendment protects.

Education freedom is an issue that deeply divides Republicans and Democrats. And it is an issue on which blacks are more aligned with Republicans.

In a May 2019 poll by Education Next, 70% of black Democrats expressed support for targeted vouchers, 60% for universal vouchers and 55% for charter schools.

It makes sense. Black parents understand the importance of education. Yet their kids are trapped in the worst public schools in the country.

Black parents understand the simple logic of education freedom and the benefits of parents having the power to choose where to send their children to school.

The Democratic presidential candidates across the board want to slam the door on charter schools and education choice. They all see one answer to K-12 education: more federal dollars for public school monopolies. Democrats have their eye on political contributions from teachers unions, not on what children, particularly black children, need.

The electoral model that Republicans need to follow for 2020 is that of the 2018 Florida governors race. Ron DeSantis defeated his black opponent, liberal Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by a margin of 0.4%. DeSantis got 14% of the black vote and 18% of the black female vote. By most analyses, the explanation for this unusually high black support is that DeSantis is a stalwart on education freedom and parental choice.

Education could, and should, be a defining issue in 2020, and be what makes a critical difference in moving black votes into the Republican column.

Star Parker is president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education

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GOP candidates outline platforms in their first 14th District debate – Northwest Herald

Posted: at 6:48 am

Seven Republicans looking to unseat Naperville Democrat Lauren Underwood in the 14th Congressional District used their first public debate Wednesday night to lay out their top priorities.

The ideas offered during the forum at McHenry County College ranged from social issues to political ideals and provided a contrast for GOP voters eyeing the March primary.

Two candidates, Jerry Evans of Warrenville and James Marter of Oswego, identified abortion as their top legislative priority if elected. Evans repeatedly said compassion is a cornerstone of his philosophy to governing.

We should never call it compassionate if we chop up a child and suck it through a tube, Evans said. I stand for life. I believe life begins at conception. We need to defund any form of taxpayer-funded abortion. The government should not be part of any form of euthanasia.

Marter said hes been attending anti-abortion marches and prayer vigils long before he got into politics. He went as far as to criticize his own party, specifically former Gov. Bruce Rauner, for making Illinois the abortion capital of the Midwest.

We need to defund Planned Parenthood, Marter said. We need to protect the most innocent lives from the moment of conception. We need to defend life from euthanasia and assisted suicide. We need to be the country that stands up for life.

Anthony Catella, who is from St. Charles, spoke in broad philosophical terms when identifying his top priority.

I believe in our national purpose and power, he said. I believe strongly in an educated citizenry. And I believe in the ideals of faith and freedom.

Ted Gradel, who lives in Naperville, said career politicians are at the root of whats wrong with the federal government. He said legislation locking in term limits for all members of Congress would be his top priority.

Weve seen in this state a tragic example of when a machine gets established, Gradel said. We have a ruling class that has enriched themselves at the expense of everyone else. We see politicians go to D.C., and they lose touch with who we are and the problems we have and the solutions we need.

Catalina Lauf, a Woodstock resident, adopted some of President Donald Trumps rhetoric in identifying draining the swamp as her top priority. She said legislation that focuses on securing the inherent freedoms of Americans would be her focus.

Government is too big, Lauf said. We need to ensure our rights are not being touched. Chief among them is the Second Amendment. And right along with that is the First Amendment. Why should we have to whisper if we supported President Trump in 2016? Why are we afraid to wear American flags on our T-shirts? We need to make sure freedom is at the forefront of everything we do as elected officials.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove said he would support term limits and solutions to illegal immigration. But he identified the federal budget and increasing federal deficit his main target if elected.

The most important thing we must do is provide a balanced-budget amendment, Oberweis said. The fact that we are stealing the future from our kids and grandkids has got to be stopped.

State Sen. Sue Rezin of Morris said the path for Republicans to take back the 14th District is to be strong on health care, the issue Underwood used in her campaign.

Im the only person on the stage who has passed legislation [at the state level], a year ago, that protects people with preexisting conditions, Rezin said. We wanted to repeal and replace [the Affordable Care Act], but didnt have a plan to replace it. That is my sole goal when I come to Washington, D.C., to come up with a plan that is affordable and accessible.

The sprawling 14th Congressional District includes parts of DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall Lake, McHenry and Will counties. The primary is March 17.

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GOP candidates outline platforms in their first 14th District debate - Northwest Herald

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HB 2093 Introduced to Nullify Any Violation of 2nd Amendment Laws – Prescott eNews

Posted: at 6:48 am

Reps. Biasiucci, Blackman, and Carroll Fight to Prevent Liberal Gun Control Efforts

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Representatives Leo Biasiucci (R-5), Walt Blackman (R-6), and Frank Carroll (R-22) have introduced HB 2093, a bill that would nullify any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation that violates the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Second Amendment guarantees vital liberties, just like the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and the Fourth Amendment prevents unreasonable searches and seizures, said Representative Biasiucci. We stand with law-abiding gun owners to ensure they are never disarmed in the name of political posturing.

Progressive activists will stop at nothing to disarm the public, said Representative Blackman. It is time we send a message that we as a state wont put the safety of our families and communities in jeopardy by allowing unconstitutional overreaches.

We see, in states like Virginia, a coordinated attack on the Second Amendment and law-abiding citizens, said Representative Carroll. Here in Arizona, we want to make sure that radical politicians, nationally or locally, wont encroach on our constitutional rights.

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HB 2093 Introduced to Nullify Any Violation of 2nd Amendment Laws - Prescott eNews

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