And Marie Masferrer, a board member of the Florida Association for Media in Education and a school librarian who used to work in the Manatee County system and remains in close touch with former colleagues in that district, said they have told her that students are struggling.
Tuesday Reads: Stormy WeatherPosted: January 31, 2023 Filed under: abortion rights, Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump, SCOTUS | Tags: Black history, book banning, Dobbs decison, Durham investigation, George Santos, LGBT rights, public health emergency, Republican antiabortion proposals, Roe v. Wade, Ron DeSantis, U.S. Supreme Court 11 Comments
We can all agree that the right-wingers on the Supreme Court have created problems not only for women, but for all of American society. They seem determined to turn this country into a theocracy dominated by so-called “christians” who don’t follow Jesus’s teachings. In fact, they don’t seem interested in the New Testament at all. They prefer the fire and brimstone god of the Old Testament.
Linda Greenhouse, who reported on the Court for The New York Times for many years before leaving in 2021, has returned with an important op-ed.
The New York Times: The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society.
Federal civil rights law requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious needs unless the request would impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” Congress didn’t bother to define “undue hardship,” so 46 years ago the Supreme Court came up with a definition of its own.
An accommodation requiring an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost” — meaning a small or trifling cost — need not be granted, the court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that case, an airline maintenance worker claimed a legal right to avoid Saturday shifts so he could observe the tenets of the Worldwide Church of God, which he had recently joined. Ruling for the airline, the court noted that if one worker got Saturdays off for religion reasons, the burden would fall on other workers who might have nonreligious reasons for wanting to have the weekend off.
“We will not readily construe the statute to require an employer to discriminate against some employees in order to enable others to observe their Sabbath,” the court said.
Treating religion as nothing particularly special, the decision reflected the spirit of the times but was deeply unpopular in religious circles. There have been many attempts over many years to persuade Congress to amend the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to shift the balance explicitly in favor of religiously observant employees. Between 1994 and 2019, more than a dozen such bills were introduced. None emerged from Congress.
And so now, a very different court from the one that ruled 46 years ago is about to do the work itself.
Now the Court has agreed to hear a case that may move us further away from the separation of church and state.
The appeal was brought by a conservative Christian litigating group, First Liberty Institute, on behalf of a former postal worker, Gerald Groff, described as a Christian who regards Sunday as a day for “worship and rest.”
Mr. Groff claimed a legal right to avoid the Sunday shifts required during peak season at the post office where he worked. Facing discipline for failing to show up for his assigned shifts, he quit and filed a lawsuit. The lower courts ruled against him, with the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit expressing no doubt that the disruption and loss of morale Mr. Groff’s absences caused in the small rural post office where he worked exceeded the de minimis threshold that the Supreme Court’s 1977 precedent requires an employer to demonstrate.
The decision to hear his appeal brings the Supreme Court to a juncture both predictable and remarkable. It is predictable because Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have all called for a case that would provide a vehicle for overturning a precedent that is clearly in tension with the current court’s privileging of religious claims above all others, whether in the context of public health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic or anti-discrimination claims brought by employees of religious organizations.
The court in 1977 worried about the burden on nonreligious workers from accommodations granted to their religious colleagues. To today’s court, as Justice Alito has repeatedly expressed it, the real victims of discrimination are those who take religion seriously.
Read the rest at the NYT link.
The wingnuts on the Supreme Court have already dealt a terrible blow to women’s rights by giving “christian” evangelicals what they long dreamed of–overturning nearly 50 years of women’s rights to make their own reproductive choices. The reversal of Roe v. Wade also drove a truck through the wall of separation between church and state, since the anti-abortion movement is largely based on “christian” evangelical “values.” Ever since that decision, republicans in state legislatures have worked to make getting an abortion more difficult than ever–in some ways more difficult than before Roe.
Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: Republicans Are Only Getting Sneakier With Their Antiabortion Proposals.
Kansans may have resoundingly rejected an antiabortion referendum last year, by a striking double-digit margin, to ensure reproductive rights remain enshrined in the state constitution, but that wasn’t deterrence enough for the state’s Republican legislators. Nor was, apparently, the Republican Party’s relatively poor performance this past midterm cycle—one largely defined by the fall of Roe v. Wade. “I’m hearing a lot from my constituents who believe we should continue to do more to help the unborn,” Wichita state senator Chase Blasi told reporters earlier this month, proposing a law that would allow cities and counties to regulate abortions, in spite of state protections.
These first few weeks of 2023 suggest it’s not that Republican lawmakers missed the abortion memo—they simply don’t seem to care. In Washington, a newly empowered Republican House passed an antiabortion bill during its first full week in the majority. And across the country, Republican state lawmakers continue the crusade against reproductive rights, attempting to find ways to circumvent popular opinion, and even statutory protections.
“We knew all along that they weren’t going to be satisfied with overturning Roe v. Wade,” Abby Ledoux, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says of antiabortion lawmakers and activists in an interview with Vanity Fair. Reflecting on the slew of legislation that has been introduced in state houses across the country so far this year, Ledoux adds, “They’re not done and they’re coming for more rights.”
Since the start of the year, across 27 states, more than 105 bills that would restrict abortion have been filed or prefiled—(meaning, not all of them have been formally introduced), according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Many of these bills would ban abortion—some at fertilization; six bills—filed in Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas, Wyoming, and West Virginia—would specifically target medication abortions, according to the fund; others would impose harsh criminal penalties for doctors and abortion-seekers. Of course, not all of these bills are expected to pass, but they do lay bare the ever changing legal and political landscape in post-Roe America.
It isn’t just the overt attempts at restricting abortion access that concern reproductive rights activists. But also what Ledoux refers to as “underhanded attempts” and “work-arounds” that have the potential to “subvert democracy, to thwart the will of the people, and to really rig the game” in pursuit of unpopular political agendas. For instance, in Ohio, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would require a supermajority threshold of 60%, as opposed to a simple majority of voters, to pass ballot measures to amend the state constitution. Similar legislation was also introduced in Arizona.
According to Axios, the Biden administration is considering fighting back with actions they previously shied away from: Biden administration mulls public health emergency declaration on abortion.
The Biden administration is weighing a plan to declare a public health emergency that would free up resources to help people access abortions.
….Both abortion rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have urged the Department of Health and Human Services and President Biden to take such a step in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which they say has created a “full-scale reproductive health crisis” across the U.S.
The lawmakers argued that such a move would allow the administration to help support states that protect abortion, deploy Public Health Services Corps teams and give the government “the ability to accelerate access to new medications authorized for abortion.”
….”There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Axios during a pair of Monday public events that touched on reproductive health access.
“There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration,” Becerra added, when asked about a public health emergency declaration on abortion.
He said that there hasn’t been a “full assessment” on what a declaration on abortion would look like and whether conditions merit it, but there’s still “an evaluation” on the topic.
More details at the Axios link.
Speaking of politicians trying to take away our rights, Ron DeSantis is going further than almost any other governor. He really doesn’t want school children to learn anything about LGBT issues or about the history of African Americans in the U.S.; and he’s banning so many books that the library shelves in schools are nearly empty.
This is from a guest essay at The New York Times by Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund: Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?
An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida. The state’s Department of Education recently rejected a pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course from being offered in Florida’s public high schools.
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law — which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender — Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of Florida and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of university professors and a college student opposing the “Stop WOKE” law and, along with a second lawsuit, won a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s Board of Governors from enforcing its unconstitutional and racially discriminatory provisions at public universities.
Florida’s rejection of the A.P. course and Mr. DeSantis’s demand to excise specific subject areas from the curriculum stand in stark opposition to the state-issued mandate that all students be taught “the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society.” [….]
Mr. DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law relegates the study of the experiences of Black people to a prohibited category. The canceling of any students’ access to accurate, truthful education that reflects their diverse identities and that of their country should chill every American. Not only do these laws offend First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression; to the extent they harm certain groups on the basis of race, gender or other protected status, they also violate principles of equal protection. And they are a chilling precursor to state-sponsored dehumanization of an entire race of people.
This disturbing pattern of silencing Black voices and aggressive attempts to erase Black history are one of the most visible examples of performative white supremacy since the presidency of Donald Trump.
There’s much more at the NYT link.
On DeSantis’s book banning project:
Hannah Natanson at The Washington Post: Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers.
Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.
School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.
House Bill 1467, which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.
Breaking the law is a third-degree felony, meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a disallowed book.
I can just imagine the kinds of people who would take one of those “media specialist” jobs and then undergo “state retraining.”
The efforts to conceal titles in Manatee and Duval have stirred outrage from educators and parents, many of whom shared images of bare wooden shelves or books veiled behind sheets of colored paper. Teachers wrote in Facebook posts and text messages that they are angry and disheartened. District officials in both counties have emphasized that the removals are temporary and will last only until staff can determine whether the titles meet the standards imposed by Florida law.
Michelle Jarrett, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Media, which assists school library administrators and programs statewide, said that “closing and covering up classroom libraries does nothing to ensure Florida’s students remain on track for reading success.” [….]
At one school, “the kids began crying and writing letters to the principal, saying, ‘Please don’t take my books, please don’t do this,’” Masferrer said.
If DeSantis runs for president in 2024 against Trump, we are going to witness a Republican shit show that will be far worse than 2016 and 2020. DeSantis may be pandering to the crazies, but Trump has truly gone over the edge.
Former President Donald Trump in 2018 had an infamous press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki in which he signaled that believed Putin’s denials about having interfered in the 2016 election despite assessments to the contrary from American intelligence agencies.
Four-and-a-half years later, Trump is now touting his trust of Putin over American intelligence agencies as a source of pride.
In a post on his Truth Social account, the former president attacked former officials at the FBI and CIA whom he accused of trying to undermine his presidency by investigating his campaign’s multiple contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential race.
“Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia, or our ‘Intelligence’ lowlifes,” he wrote. “My instinct at the time was that we had really bad people in the form of James Comey, McCabe (whose wife was being helped out by Crooked Hillary while Crooked was under investigation!), Brennan, Peter Strzok (whose wife is at the SEC) & his lover, Lisa Page. Now add McGonigal & other slime to the list. Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?”
I’m getting a headache just reading all this stuff. I hope I’m not giving you one too.
Last Friday, Dakinikat wrote about the New York Times article on the failure of the Barr/Durham so-called investigation of the origins of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influences on the 2016 Trump campaign. This is a reaction from Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Awful new details about the Durham probe demand a serious response.
The New York Times disclosed extraordinary new revelations this past week about prosecutor John Durham’s years-long quest to delegitimize the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In 2019, this obsession of President Donald Trump was initiated by his attorney general, William P. Barr, but as the Times found, Durham’s effort was itself profoundly tainted.
Now, because Democrats have 51 Senate seats after gaining one in the midterm elections, they have subpoena power on Senate committees that were previously divided. That means the Judiciary Committee is in a position to investigate the Barr-Durham escapades.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Judiciary Committee chair, is signaling such an intent. In an emailed statement, Durbin said that reports of Durham’s “abuses” are “outrageous,” and “one of many instances” in which Trump and Barr “weaponized the Justice Department.”
Durbin added that his committee “will do its part and take a hard look at those repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again.”
That’s encouraging, but how far will this investigation go? The Times report finds that Barr relentlessly pushed Durham to substantiate Trump’s theory that the Russia investigation was a conspiracy by intelligence and law enforcement against him. But Durham’s effort petered out “without uncovering anything like the deep state plot” invented by Trump and Barr.
Worse, the Times also found bizarre irregularities. Durham relied on Russian intelligence memos to access emails of an adviser to financier George Soros, in hopes of finding evidence of improper collaboration between law enforcement and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It never materialized.
That, plus Barr’s habit of publicly hinting that Durham was on the trail of major wrongdoing — unscrupulously serving Trump’s political interests — were strongly opposed internally by Durham’s top deputy, the Times reports. Similarly, Durham leaned on the department’s inspector general to change his 2019 conclusion that the Russia probe was not politically motivated.
More at the WaPo.
And speaking of corruption, George Santos has decided to recuse himself from House committees. The Washington Post: Rep. George Santos is stepping down from committees amid fabrications about his biography.
Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) told House Republicans on Tuesday that he will step down temporarily from his committee assignments amid multiple investigations into his campaign finances after he lied about key aspects of his biography.
It sounds like it wasn’t really Santos’ decision, lol. I guess McCarthy was sick and tired of the press hounding him about Santos.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!