SCOTUS: Religious Freedom Must Bow to New Rights

Last Friday's landmark Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has set the stage for the new legal battle to be waged in the coming years: the battle for religious liberty. Now that same-sex marriage has been declared a constitutional right, those who conscientiously object to affirming same-sex relationships will soon find themselves in the same legal category as the Jim Crow racists who denied African-Americans fair treatment.

The core ideal that has been proffered in the gay rights movement — and which the Supreme Court cited in its ruling — is the ideal of equality. In the law, "equal treatment" is a principle that only applies to things that are fundamentally the same in nature. It means treating things that are the same, the same; but things that are different should, of course, be treated differently. In the debate over same-sex marriage, the left's position had been that same-sex marriage and male-female marriage are qualitatively the same thing. Consequently, they should both receive equal treatment under law. Opponents of same-sex marriage did not deny "equality" per se; they simply held that same-sex relationships were fundamentally different from male-female marriages, and therefore are not entitled to the same treatment.

But that debate is now over, at least legally speaking. The Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriages and traditional male-female marriages to be qualitatively the same, and therefore entitled to equal protection under law. Whether right or wrong, this puts all dissenters in the same legal position as the old Jim Crow racists: they are bigots whose ways cannot be tolerated.

The key question now before the courts is: Are religious objectors to same-sex marriage entitled to act publicly in ways that do not abide the Court's expanded definition of marriage? The likely answer to come from this Court, given its recent opinion, is "No."

In issuing the Court's opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote briefly of religious liberty protections. Yet he seemed to define religious liberty in terms of speech, not of public action or "free exercise." He writes:

The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

Yet he also says:

Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.

Chief Justice John Roberts took issue with Kennedy's omission of the right to "free exercise":

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples . . . There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.

Justice Clarence Thomas added:

Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.

The Court's conception of religious liberty, as reflected in Kennedy's opinion, is one that would neuter religion of all public consequence and press it into the private sphere. It would restrict the influence of religion to "pews, homes and hearts." Justice Alito expressed concern over this limiting of religious liberty, particularly as it regards opposition to same-sex marriage:

I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.

The fallout to come for religious liberty is, of course, not yet determined, and it is possible that Kennedy—often the Court's deciding swing vote—will show wiggle room for some religious objectors, depending on the case. But the key upshot from the Court's ruling is clear: when push truly comes to shove, the free exercise of religion must give way to the new sexual orthodoxy that is now enshrined in law.

Meanwhile, Evangelicals and other religious dissenters are preparing to pay the cost of theological faithfulness. Gov. Mike Huckabee anticipates that many pastors, university presidents, and Christian businessmen will be forced to choose between following God's will and obeying the state. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is advising churches about the legal implications of this ruling and how to navigate future waters. We have seen the curtailment of religious liberty in other highly secularized western countries, like Canada. This SCOTUS ruling looks to sets the stage for a similar curtailment of religious liberty.

When Christians are forced to choose between God and Caesar, the answer is not a difficult one. But it's a shame that here in America, this once-idealized haven for religious minorities, the awful choice between God and Caesar will likely be thrust upon millions.

Israel Intercepts Gaza Flotilla, Netanyahu Trolls Activists

The Israeli Navy intercepted a flotilla headed to Gaza, reports The Times of Israel.

The flotilla consisted of four vessels containing 50 pro-Palestinian activists. Three of the four ships turned around and went back to their points of origin, while losing contact with the lead ship, the Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg. It is unclear why this happened.

The Marianne, which carried 18 activists and journalists, including former Tunisian President Moncref Marzouki, was boarded by the Israeli navy. More from The Times:

The Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg will now be taken to Ashdod port, after which the activists on board will likely be deported, as Israeli officials had warned.

“In accordance with international law, the Israeli Navy advised the vessel several times to change course,” the IDF said in a statement.

“Following their refusal, forces visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent the intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful. The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod Port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours,” it went on.

As The Blaze points out, this flotilla incident was much more peaceful than in 2010, when the IDF boarded a ship of activists that resulted in the activists attacking the IDF soldiers.

The passengers on board of the Marianne claimed to be transporting humanitarian aid, except that there was no evidence of any such resources on the ship.

The activists released this:

“We once again call on the government of Israel to finally lift the blockade on Gaza,” the activists said in a statement. “Our destination remains the conscience of humanity.”

Maybe if these activists spent this much time and resources focused to getting rid of Hamas, there would be more progress in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went onto to release an epic statement and letter to the activists. In his statement, he praised the Israeli Navy while taking the activists to task:

"I would like to commend the sailors and commanders of the Israel Navy for their determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law," Netanyahu's statement began.

"This flotilla is nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies that is only assisting the Hamas terrorist organization and ignores all of the horrors in our region. Preventing entry by sea was done in accordance with international law and even received backing from a committee of the UN Secretary General," he continued.

Netanyahu then sent out a letter trolling the pro-Palestinian activists (emphasis mine):

"Welcome to Israel,

You seem to have gotten lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here -- Syria, where Assad's army is slaughtering its people every day and is supported by the murderous Iranian regime.

Here in Israel we face a reality in which terrorist organizations like Hamas try to kill innocent civilians. We defend our citizens against these attempts in accordance with international law.

Despite this, Israel transports goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip -- up to 800 trucks a day. In the past year we enabled the entry of over 1.6 million tons of products, an average of one ton per person in the Gaza Strip. By the way, these supplies are equivalent to 500,000 boats like the one you came in on today.

Israel provides assistance to hundreds of humanitarian projects through international organizations, including the building of clinics and hospitals.

However, we will not allow the terrorist organizations to transfer weapons into the Gaza Strip by sea. Only one year ago, we thwarted an attempt to smuggle hundreds of weapons into the Gaza Strip by ship. These weapons were meant to target innocent Israeli civilians.

There is no siege on the Gaza Strip, and you are welcome to transfer any humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip through Israel.

Barring the entrance of boats and ships into the Gaza Strip is in accordance with international law and was even backed by a committee commissioned by the United Nations Secretary General.

If you were truly concerned about human rights, you would not be sailing in support of a terrorist regime which summarily executes citizens in the Gaza Strip and uses children as human shields.

If you were to travel around in Israel, you would see for yourself that the only stable democracy in the Middle East guarantees equality for all its citizens and freedom of worship for members of all religions; it is a country that upholds international law so that its people can live in safety and its children grow up in peace and quiet
." 

Right on, Bibi. Keep it up.

Priest Reportedly Spat on at NYC Pride Parade

Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest and Fox News contributor, was reportedly spat on while walking down the street during New York City's Pride festivities.

To Fr. Morris' credit, he was far more gracious and forgiving than I would have been after just being spat on. He's right--most people attending Pride would never think of spitting on anyone.

And this is not to condemn or judge the activities of various Pride festivities and attendees throughout the nation, but spitting on people is gross and is never acceptable behavior by anyone--regardless of the political views of the spitter or the person being spat on.

What's Next for Young Conservatives?: NeW National Conference

Powerful conservative young women got the opportunity this past week to hear from award winning authors, policy experts and renowned leaders at the NeW National Conference.

NeW- which stands for Network of enlightened Women, thrives itself on the education of young women with conservative values, cultivating a community to strengthen these values, as well as emboldening young women to speak out on campus and in their communities.

These young woman all rallied together with a strong mission at hand: Constructing an impact on society in an ever diverse and complicated nation.

Such a daunting task as making a lasting impact as a conservative woman in the work place was addressed by a talented panel of women for part of the session. Among these women was Rachel Brand (U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board), Jennifer Butler (State Policy Network) and Heather Pfitzenmaier (The Heritage Foundation). These women addressed something we all can benefit from: building and balancing fulfilling lives in the workplace.

Heather Pfitzenmaier, touched on earning your success-it doesn't just come frivolously. By working diligently and displaying such diligence, leniency will follow in the work place. Pfitzenmaier illustrated an example that as a devoted wife she wanted to follow her husband in his next job move to Michigan. Her boss, seeing her success at the Heritage Foundation trusted her ability to move and become Chair of America’s Future Foundation’s Southeast Michigan chapter.

Jennifer Butler, embodied the passion that many young and hungry millennials have by encouraging a model of the culture that you want. She states, "life is good and aren't we lucky to have choices?"

Her words ring so true. As young woman we are given the opportunity to be fruitful in all of our work. To thrive in the workplace, and to stand out. We are given the opportunity in the to "be deliberate", states Butler. We are given the opportunity to change lives.

Rachel Brand encouraged having substance behind your networking. It's not just getting phone numbers and email addresses. Substance derives from passion and all four women touched on choosing a path that is not prestigious and renowned in its company, but a path that comes from passion and ability to get as much experience as possible.

These successful woman all encouraged that as conservative millennials it is up to us to spread the positive message-to pursue and talk about the visions we wish to complete. Whether it is health care advocacy for all, or education rights, we have the power to change lives and to also find a balance in our own lives.

Townhall's very own Katie Pavlich, was also a speaker at the NeW conference, who advocated these same components for young women in an ever changing world.

Pavlich, a firm advocate for woman's rights was struck by an interesting question from a woman in the audience:

Q. "I read your book "Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women", and I wrote a paper on this assault. This class being a genders study class left my professor angry and handing me my paper back. As a student, how far can I go to challenge my professor?"

A. "You have to listen to your professors. There was one time in college where I actually had to write a paper I disagreed on to get an A."

However, despite the life of a challenged college student, Katie had great advice for young women with a conservative stance in the workplace as well. She stated, "Sometimes being civil is not the path to go to fight back on this war on anti-women," something Pavlich stands firmly for in her book "Assault and Flatter: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women".

She joked that working in Washington D.C. is like dog years, one year is like seven, giving us the opportunity to "set out this time to really invest in work" and form beliefs that you can advocate, something that Pavlich has mastered and is able to pass onto young women who seek to do the same.

The NeW National Conference this year encouraged women intellectually to not only to be conservative advocates on their college campuses, but also in the workplace. In accordance with preparedness, opportunity and drive,the New National Conference showed that a woman has the power to raise her hand and stand strong in the professional world of young conservative difference makers.

Burn: NBC Universal Parts Ways With The Donald

Donald Trump faced a flurry of backlash when he suggested in his campaign announced that immigrants from Mexico were essentially bad people. At best, his characterization of Mexicans was ill-advised stereotyping, and at worst, patently racist. Hillary Clinton, however, called the remarks “very inflammatory,” while around the same time a Mexican cabinet official labelled them “prejudiced and absurd.” Worse, the defiant business mogul still refuses to apologize. And he’s paying the price for it: on Monday, a second major television network publicly parted ways with him, politely informing him to conduct his business elsewhere:

The separation grew out of a petition launched not long after the controversy brewed. And yet, Trump may not let such a public slight go unchallenged:

Donald Trump says he’ll consider suing after NBC announced it was ending its business relationship with the Republican presidential candidate over comments he made about immigrants during his campaign kickoff.

Trump told reporters in Chicago on Monday that he’s not apologizing for claiming some Mexican immigrants bring drugs and crime to the country. He says if his “strong stance” on immigration fuels NBC’s decision, he’s fine with it. He says he’ll “probably” sue.

Despite his recent clashes with the Hispanic community, however, Trump is still technically a top tier contender for the 2016 Republican nomination. A recent Fox News survey puts him squarely in second place, garnering 11 percent of the vote overall.

VIDEO: High School Graduates Rusty On Basic U.S. History

Last week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph showed that nothing is sacred whatsoever when he trolled the graduation ceremony of Centreville High School in Northern Virginia. Before students can celebrate graduating high school, Joseph asked basic history questions, like, in what year did we declare our independence from Great Britain? Of course, the answer is 1776, but 1704, 1674 (or 1673), and 1907 were just some of the years that were given. Yet, regarding who are the Speaker of the House and the Vice President of the United States, these recent graduates fared much better.

Now, we can all mock these students for not knowing basic American history, slam Millennials for being dumb (though a lot of them have political views that make no sense), or criticize our education system for not teaching our children.

At the same time, a lot of Americans who aren’t high school graduates don’t know a lot about history, or the basic machinations of American government. As the Washington Post  reported in June of 2014, Americans had some trouble finding Ukraine on the map; 55 percent couldn’t identify the party that Abraham Lincoln belonged to during the Civil War; 53 percent of Democrats knew that FDR was indeed one of them; two-thirds couldn’t name one Supreme Court Justice; only 38 percent could name the three branches of government; and a 1999 survey by Project Vote Smart found that only 38 percent of Americans 18-25 didn't know the function of the Supreme Court, which is to deciding the constitutionality of laws.

Jamie Fuller, who is now the Associate Editor at New York Magazine, who wrote the post, also mentioned that Newsweek’s 1,000-person survey in 2011, found that 29 percent couldn’t identify the vice president–and 73 percent had no clue as to why we fought the Cold War.

So, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all falling short in some area relating to U.S. history, politics, and government.

SCOTUS: EPA, You ‘Unreasonably’ Interpreted The Clean Air Act

In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency “unreasonably” interpreted the Clean Air Act concerning its onerous and costly regulations it imposed on power plants. The government’s position was that cost evaluations were irrelevant, which the Court found to be “unpersuasive.” Justice Antonin Scalia authored the majority opinion.

As the EPA stepped way outside its bounds, it set back the agenda of the environmental left for now. The Court also noted that it would be up to the EPA to re-determine how “to account for cost” (SCOTUS):

Here, EPA found power-plant regulation “appropriate” because the plants’ emissions pose risks to public health and the environment and because controls capable of reducing these emissions were available. It found regulation “necessary” because the imposition of other Clean Air Act requirements did not eliminate those risks. The Agency refused to consider cost when making its decision. It estimated, however, that the cost of its regulations to power plants would be $9.6 billion a year, but the quantifiable benefits from the resulting reduction in hazardous-air-pollutant emissions would be $4 to $6 million a year. Petitioners (including 23 States) sought review of EPA’s rule in the D. C. Circuit, which upheld the Agency’s refusal to consider costs in its decision to regulate.

Held: EPA interpreted §7412(n)(1)(A) [the federal code outlining harmful air pollutants] unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants. Pp. 5–15.

(a) Agency action is unlawful if it does not rest “ ‘on a consideration of the relevant factors.’ ” Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assn. of United States, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 463 U. S. 29, 43. Even under the deferential standard of Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, which directs courts to accept an agency’s reasonable resolution of an ambiguity in a statute that the agency administers, id., at 842–843, EPA strayed well be- yond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants. Pp. 5–6.

(b) “Appropriate and necessary” is a capacious phrase. Read naturally against the backdrop of established administrative law, this phrase plainly encompasses cost. It is not rational, never mind “appropriate,” to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading. Section 7412(n)(1) required the EPA to conduct three studies, including one that reflects concern about cost, see §7412(n)(1)(B); and the Agency agrees that the term “appropriate and necessary” must be interpreted in light of all three studies. Pp. 6–9.

(c) EPA’s counterarguments are unpersuasive. That other Clean Air Act provisions expressly mention cost only shows that §7412(n)(1)(A)’s broad reference to appropriateness encompasses multiple relevant factors, one of which is cost. Similarly, the modest principle of Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457—when the Clean Air Act expressly directs EPA to regulate on the basis of a discrete factor that does not include cost, the Act should not be read as implicitly allowing consideration of cost anyway—has no bearing on this case. Furthermore, the possibility of considering cost at a later stage, when deciding how much to regulate power plants, does not establish its irrelevance at this stage. And although the Clean Air Act makes cost irrelevant to the initial decision to regulate sources other than power plants, the whole point of having a separate provision for power plants was to treat power plants differently.

Via Scalia:

Read naturally in the present context, the phrase “appropriate and necessary” requires at least some attention to cost. One would not say that it is even rational, never mind “appropriate,” to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. In addition, “cost” includes more than the expense of complying with regulations; any disadvantage could be termed a cost. EPA’s interpretation precludes the Agency from considering any type of cost— including, for instance, harms that regulation might do to human health or the environment. The Government concedes that if the Agency were to find that emissions from power plants do damage to human health, but that the technologies needed to eliminate these emissions do even more damage to human health, it would still deem regulation appropriate. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 70. No regulation is “appropriate” if it does significantly more harm than good.

Our reasoning so far establishes that it was unreasonable for EPA to read §7412(n)(1)(A) to mean that cost is irrelevant to the initial decision to regulate power plants. The Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. We need not and do not hold that the law unambiguously required the Agency, when making this preliminary estimate, to con- duct a formal cost-benefit analysis in which each ad- vantage and disadvantage is assigned a monetary value. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.

Some of the respondents supporting EPA ask us to uphold EPA’s action because the accompanying regulatory impact analysis shows that, once the rule’s ancillary benefits are considered, benefits plainly outweigh costs. The dissent similarly relies on these ancillary benefits when insisting that “the outcome here [was] a rule whose benefits exceed its costs.” Post, at 16. As we have just explained, however, we may uphold agency action only upon the grounds on which the agency acted. Even if the Agency could have considered ancillary benefits when deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary—a point we need not address—it plainly did not do so here. In the Agency’s own words, the administrative record “utterly refutes [the] assertion that [ancillary benefits] form the basis for the appropriate and necessary finding.” 77 Fed. Reg. 9323. The Government concedes, moreover, that “EPA did not rely on the [regulatory impact analysis] when deciding to regulate power plants,” and that “[e]ven if EPA had considered costs, it would not necessarily have adopted . . . the approach set forth in [that analysis].” Brief for Federal Respondents 53–54.

We hold that EPA interpreted §7412(n)(1)(A) unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit and remand the cases for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

The New York Times reported that the decision reverses the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the EPA ‘s regulations were “reasonable,” though Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in his dissent that attention to the statute highlighting costs was “a matter of common sense, common parlance and common practice.”

As for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, she was confident that the Supreme Court would side with the government (in the end, not true), but was not too concerned about a decision that would go against the EPA either (via the Hill):

On a Friday appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” EPA head Gina McCarthy said she was confident the Supreme Court would rule in the EPA’s favor.

But she was not too concerned about what would happen if the ruling went against the EPA.

“This is a rule that actually regulates toxic pollution emissions from primarily coal facilities, and we think we’re going to win because we did a great job on it,” she said.

“But even if we don’t, it was three years ago. Most of them are already in compliance, investments have been made, and we’ll catch up. And we’re still going to get at the toxic pollution from these facilities,” she continued.

Furthermore, the EPA’s carbon limits for power plants are expected to shut down more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants, which would also reduce the other air pollutants.

Here’s some more the cold water; Ace of Spades’ Gabriel Malor described as “hollow” since most power plants have either closed due these regulations, or paid heavily in legal fees during the course of this case.

Supreme Court Approves Use of Lethal Injection Drug

The Supreme Court decided today in a 5-4 decision that drugs used by the State of Oklahoma in lethal injections are not a violation of the Eighth Amendment and are not an example of cruel and unusual punishment. Scalia, Kennedy, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito (who authored the decision) voted in affirmation while Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Bryer dissented.

From Reuters:

The court, in a 5-4 decision with its conservative justices in the majority, handed a loss to three inmates who objected to the use of a sedative called midazolam, saying it cannot achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery, making it unsuitable for executions.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote on behalf of the court that the inmates had, among other things, failed to show that there was an alternative method of execution available that would be less painful.

In a dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the court should consider whether the death penalty itself is constitutional. He was joined by one of his colleagues, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Oklahoma's lethal injection procedures came in to question following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. Lockett's execution took more than an hour before he eventually succumbed to a heart attack.

Due to the shortage of drugs used to carry out executions, states have had to develop new protocols for lethal injection. Utah, alternatively, recently re-approved the firing squad as an option for condemned inmates to pick for their execution method.

SCOTUScare “Does Real Violence to the Rule of Law”

On this week's Townhall Review:

After horrible tragedies, like the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, most partisan politicians give some daylight between the tragedy and their own agenda. Not Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Michael Medved explains. Mike Gallagher speaks with Pastor Dimas Salaberrios who personally assisted those hurting in the wake of the shooting. Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, discusses his new book with Michael Medved. Bill Bennett turns to Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol to talk about why, on Iran, George W. Bush was right and Barack Obama is wrong. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shares his personal faith conversion with Michael Medved. Hugh Hewitt talks with Hoover Institution’s Lanhee Chen about the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 6-3 decision to embrace Obamacare–again. Chen argues that Justice Roberts’ contortions of language do real violence to the rule of law. Guest host Larry Elder on the Dennis Prager Show believes that race is not an epidemic in the U.S., but Democrats have a lot to gain by treating it that way.

Islamic Terror Warnings Issued Ahead of July 4th Weekend

Late last week there were three terror attacks carried out in three different countries after ISIS called for attacks on western targets during the Islamic holiday of Rahmadan.

After the attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement encouraging Americans to stay vigilant as the Independence Day, or July 4th, weekend approaches. 

"Today’s terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait are a reminder of the evolving global terrorist threats. We stand in support of the people of those countries and mourn the loss of those killed. Particularly with the upcoming July 4th holiday, here in the United States the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI continue to communicate with state and local law enforcement about what we know and see. We are encouraging all law enforcement to be vigilant and prepared. We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people," Johnson said. "We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant. 'If You See Something Say Something™' is more than a slogan. In our great country, acts of mass violence will never divert, discourage or frighten us. Today President Obama eulogizes the Reverend Clementa Pickney in Charleston. The alleged killer sought to divide us. Instead, his actions appear to have had the opposite effect in South Carolina, where people of different races have come together to denounce the tragedy and mourn those killed."

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued official warnings about the upcoming holiday weekend. 

Federal authorities have warned local law enforcement officials across the country about a heightened concern involving possible terror attacks targeting the July 4th holiday, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

While there was no specific or credible threat of attack, the official said the intelligence bulletin prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI alerted local colleagues to the ongoing threats posed by the Islamic State and other homegrown extremists. The official was not authorized to comment publicly.

The bulletins are frequently issued in advance of major U.S. holidays out of an abundance of caution and concern that operatives may exploit the timing to generate greater attention.

The warning comes as federal investigators have worked to disrupt a number of Islamic State-inspired plots, including a planned assault earlier this month on police officers in Boston. In that case, authorities fatally shot Usaamah Rahim as he allegedly planned to attack police with military-style knives.

"No credible threat" means nothing when it comes to lone-wolf attacks inspired by ISIS or other radical Islamic terror attacks. They can strike at anytime. There wasn't a "credible" threat against the May 2015 Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas either when we saw two terrorists open fire on the event. Luckily, they were immediately killed by prepared police in the parking lot.

Two weeks ago House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told CBS the United States faces its highest threat since after 9/11. Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul has echoed that sentiment.

Obama Takes ACA Victory Tour to Tennessee, Where 28,000 Lost Insurance Coverage

The Supreme Court gave President Obama a reason to be giddy about the status of his signature health care legislation on Friday, upholding Obamacare subsidies for individuals living in states without state based Obamacare exchanges. He promptly held a presser at the White House, beaming that the Affordable Care Act was “here to stay.” Now, it appears he’s taking his victory tour to Tennessee.

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a former nurse, suggested that maybe the president should have done a little research before choosing her state to promote his pride and joy.

“During his visit to Tennessee, perhaps President Obama will explain why Obamacare customers in our state have been told to expect a 36 percent premium increase next year, despite the President’s promise that his law would save families an average of $2,500 per year. Or maybe he will address the 28,000 Tennesseans who lost their insurance coverage in a single day despite his pledge that ‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.’ Whatever the case, the President has picked the wrong location to take a victory lap on the Supreme Court’s irresponsible ruling and my conservative colleagues and I will not relent in the fight to fully repeal Obamacare.”

Ouch. 

The ACA's trail of destruction doesn’t end there. A nationwide CNN poll revealed that twice as many Americans were hurt by Obamacare than benefited from it.

The pinch was especially felt in Tennessee, where state-sponsored insurance programs, which thousands of residents relied on, were effectively shut down thanks to ACA. Here’s how families found out:

Letters are going out this week to explain the changes to people covered by AccessTN, a program for people who have pre-existing medical conditions, and by CoverRX, a prescription benefits program. The 16,000 people enrolled in CoverTN, a limited benefits plan, have already been notified it will end Dec. 31. Many families also have received notice they will no longer be able to buy into CoverKids.

No wonder why Rep. Black is sending a message to President Obama that no speech can put a Band Aid on what these families endured.

“I don’t know what the President will say during his visit to the Volunteer State, but no amount of spin can change the fact that Obamacare is failing to live up to its most basic promises and is hurting too many Tennesseans.”

It Begins: New Calls To Strip Churches of Tax Exempt Status After Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

For years conservatives and proponents of religious liberty in America have warned that if same-sex marriage became legal, the left would then pursue revoking the tax exempt status for religious institutions, particularly Christian churches, around the country.

Just days after the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that gay marriage is a constitutional right, progressive activists like Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times are calling for tax exempt statutes to be stripped. 

The Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn't be subsidizing religion and non-profits.

Rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take a more radical step. It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses.

Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argues that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.

So yes, the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions (although, as long as the IRS is afraid of challenging Scientology’s exemption, everyone else is probably safe). But when that day comes, it will be long overdue. I can see keeping some exemptions; hospitals, in particular, are an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good. And localities could always carve out sensible property-tax exceptions for nonprofits their communities need. But it’s time for most nonprofits, like those of us who faithfully cut checks to them, to pay their fair share.

Incredible. 

The left will claim they aren't singling out religious institutions through their calls for the revocation of tax exempt statuses because they include non-profits, but the fact is that a majority of non-profits in the country  are religious. The Salvation Army, which truly helps the homeless and addicted clean up their lives and get off the streets, is one example.

Meanwhile, the ACLU said over the weekend it will no longer defend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s after a unanimous vote in the Senate.

Although Justice Kennedy did carve out an exception for religious liberty in his opinion on same-sex marriage last week, it won't be enough to protect it going forward.

"Finally, 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. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex," Kennedy said in the opinion.

Religious liberty is under attack in America and the next five years will serve as a battleground to protect or destroy it. If religious liberty is in fact destroyed, America will no longer hold onto one of the most important principles that makes it an exceptional nation more tolerant than the rest in the world. We are at a tipping point.

ACLU: We're Not Defending RFRA Anymore

In the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges  ruling by the Supreme Court, which asserted that there is a constitutional right to gay marriage (specifically states must recognize marriage licenses between two people of the same sex that were issued out-of-state, or in any jurisdiction of the country), the American Civil Liberties Union is no longer going to support federal religious freedom laws.

As their deputy legal director, Louise Melling, wrote in the Washington Post on June 25, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been used as a tool of discrimination and must be amended so that it cannot be used in a way to discriminate against others. First, she detailed the case of Iknoor Singh, who is a Hofstra University student who wanted to join the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He’s also a member of the Sikhism faith. The Army said he could not join unless he removed his turban, shaved his beard, and cut his hair; all things that go directly against his religion. The ACLU sued the Army on behalf of Mr. Singh and won. Melling used this to cite a classic example of an infringement of religious freedom. Indeed, she’s right. And the ACLU was right to invoke RFRA in their lawsuit. Yet, Melling also said that’s the RFRA of olden times:

The RFRA was passed in 1993 after two Native Americans were fired from their jobs and denied unemployment benefits because they used peyote, an illegal drug, in their religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court rejected a claim they had brought under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, but Congress disagreed with the justices and enacted the RFRA with near-unanimous support.

The ACLU supported the RFRA’s passage at the time because it didn’t believe the Constitution, as newly interpreted by the Supreme Court, would protect people such as Iknoor Singh, whose religious expression does not harm anyone else. But we can no longer support the law in its current form. For more than 15 years, we have been concerned about how the RFRA could be used to discriminate against others.

In the states, legislators, governors and businesses are citing state religious freedom restoration acts to justify all manner of discrimination against gay men and lesbians, including at commercial establishments. At the federal level, the Justice Department — under both the Bush and Obama administrations — has said that the government would violate the RFRA if it were to require that organizations not discriminate in hiring on religious grounds in order to receive government funding.

Accommodating his faith doesn’t hurt anyone else; it just requires making an exception to a rule of uniformity that was never truly uniform. Not so in these other cases. Hobby Lobby employees are harmed because they now lack a benefit guaranteed by law. People turned away by an inn or bakery suffer the harm of being told that their kind isn’t welcome. And a teenage immigrant is harmed by not being provided care or even told about other health-care options.

Yes, religious freedom needs protection. But religious liberty doesn’t mean the right to discriminate or to impose one’s views on others. The RFRA wasn’t meant to force employees to pay a price for their employer’s faith, or to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay and transgender people, or to sanction government-funded discrimination. In the civil rights era, we rejected the claims of those who said it would violate their religion to integrate. We can’t let the RFRA be used as a tool for a different result now.

This resurrects the Indiana RFRA fight all over again, where we saw the ugly aspect of what happens when two sides can no longer have a discussion with one another. Forty percent of states have similar RFRA statutes, and the federal law was introduced by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), passed unanimously in the House, and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton after the Senate sent it to his desk by a 97-3 vote.

As for Hobby Lobby, the company didn’t gut contraceptives coverage for their workers; just the ones they feel are abortifacients. They still pay for 16 forms of contraception.

Regarding gay marriage and discrimination, RFRA has never really been grounded in those areas. Additionally, the courts have rejected, even in states with RFRA statutes, the religious exemption argument for marriage-related businesses, which are often the target for the ire of the political left concerning the gay marriage argument. Moreover, 21 states have public accommodation laws, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation by government entities and private enterprises that provide a public service. There are local ordinances as well.

Ace of Spades’ Gabriel Malor aptly noted that it’s unlikely that Indiana RFRA, or any RFRA law, would unleash a “parade of horribles” due to these public accommodation laws, which any state legislature, city council, or county government can pass.

“RFRA is a shield, not a sword,” wrote Malor. Maybe the ACLU is viewing RFRA in exactly the wrong light, and it’s gross naiveté to suggest that the left won’t force their views upon the rest of the public. Oh wait; they’re kind of already* doing that.

*I'll let Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham explain the rest.

Ryan: Obamacare Will ‘Collapse Under Its Own Weight’

“Today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to say,” President Obama said on Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld the state subsidies provision in the Affordable Care Act. In other words, time for Republicans to give up the fight against the health law.

But appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan seemed unfazed.

Ryan said the current law is not fixable, and, citing the rationing of Medicare, denial of choice, double-digit annual increases in premiums, and the consolidation of insurance companies, he argued that the country won’t stand for it.

“This law’s going to collapse under its own weight,” he said. “I am as motivated as ever before to repeal and replace this law, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Ryan told host John Dickerson that, despite media reports to the contrary, the GOP has plenty of ideas for legitimate replacements to the law, something that he plans to move forward on in 2017 if a Republican is elected president.

“There are a number of alternative ObamaCare bills out there right now, in Congress. So I just disagree with that notion,” said Paul, who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012.

“In 2016, we need to show the country what exactly we would replace this law with, so that when we win the election in 2016, we will have the ability to do it in 2017,” he continued, encouraging GOP presidential candidates to talk at length about what they want to do to replace ObamaCare with a system that works better.

As of early June, support for the law stood at a mere 39 percent, which ties an all-time low, last hit in April of 2012. 

#LoveWins? Not in Syria

While many in the United States and abroad rejoiced at the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling on Friday, the Islamic State sadistically “celebrated” in Syria by throwing gay men off of buildings.

In a new video, which has since been removed from YouTube, ISIS sympathizers are seen hurling four gay men off a rooftop while hundreds gathered below to watch the gruesome executions.

ISIS extremists then took to Twitter to share photos from the execution along with the hashtag #LoveWins.

Sick.

It Begins: Newspaper Will 'Very Strictly Limit' Op-Eds Opposing Same-Sex Marriage

With the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalizes same-sex marriage, the gay rights movement won a significant legal and cultural battle. But in typical leftist fashion, that is not the end of the war—at least not until the opposition is further weakened, crushed, and silenced.

Predictably, it didn’t take long for the next phase to begin.

The editorial board of PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. is taking a hardcore stance against those who disagree with the Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage.

“As a result of Friday’s ruling, PennLive/The Patriot-News will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage,” they declared.

After receiving strong pushback, the newspaper’s editorial board, which is overseen by Editorial Page Editor John Micek, quickly revised its policy. Freedom of speech will be allowed — but only for a “limited” period of time.

Micek explained on Twitter: “Clarification: We will not foreclose discussion of the high court’s decision, but arguments that gay marriage is wrong/unnatural are out.”

Before that, there was this: “From the edit: ‘PL/PN will no longer accept, nor will it print, op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage.’ …This is not hard: We would not print racist, sexist or anti-Semitc letters. To that, we add homophobic ones. Pretty simple.”

The First Amendment be damned. Same-sex marriage is the law of the land—end of discussion.

California Moves to Require Vaccinations For School-Age Children

California has some of the lowest child vaccination rates in the country, with pockets of the state seeing lower vaccination rates than war-torn third-world countries. That may soon change, as the California Assembly has recently passed one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the country, banning religious and personal belief exemptions. (Medical exemptions, such as for those with allergies to vaccine components, remain legal.) An unvaccinated child would not be permitted to attend public schools, although they would be allowed to be home or privately schooled.

California was home to an outbreak of measles earlier this year that infected many people who were either unvaccinated or too young to be vaccinated against the disease. This sparked a public health conversation about vaccines in the state.

The anti-vaccine movement grew substantially following the publication of a (now thoroughly discredited) article that suggested the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine caused autism in children. Since then, despite mounds of evidence saying that there is no link between the vaccine and autism, parents have vaccinated their children at lower rates.

From the LA Times:

The measure, among the most controversial taken up by the Legislature this year, would require more children who enter day care and school to be vaccinated against diseases including measles and whooping cough.

Those with medical conditions such as allergies and immune-system deficiencies, confirmed by a physician, would be excused from immunization. And parents could still decline to vaccinate children who attend private home-based schools or public independent studies off campus.

It is unclear whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the measure, which grew out of concern about low vaccination rates in some communities and an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that ultimately infected more than 150 people.

[...]

Medical experts, including Dr. Luther Cobb, president of the California Medical Assn., hailed Thursday's vote by the state Assembly as key to keeping deadly but preventable diseases in check.

“We've seen with this recent epidemic that rates of immunization are low enough that epidemics can be spread now,” Cobb said. “The reasons for failing to immunize people … are based on unscientific and untrue objections, and it's just a good public-health measure.”

California would become the third state to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines, and the 32nd to ban "personal belief" exemptions.

Good. There's no excuse (well, apart from allergy or severe, rare, illness) to deny your child a vaccine. Unvaccinated children can easily spread illnesses like whooping cough to children too young or medically fragile to be protected against them. Whooping cough is especially important to vaccinate against in schoolchildren to avoid passing on the illness to infants or very young other children that are at a higher risk of dying from the disease than their older peers.

Vaccinations save lives. It's high time Californians realized this.

After Botched Operation, Author David Horowitz Reflects on Life, Faith in New Book

A routine hip operation turned into one of those life changing moments for David Horowitz. The surgeon damaged his sciatic nerve, leaving him with a paralyzed left foot and a reservoir of neuropathic pain, Horowitz divulges in the opening chapter of “You’re Going to Be Dead One Day: A Love Story.” In the midst of his suffering, however, the author found time for reflection. 

Horowitz is an accomplished author, speaker, and freedom fighter. One of his most well known works, Radical Son, described the transformation he underwent from a radical leftist to a conservative activist. Recently, however, his physical struggles have urged him to take a break from politics and publish a four-part series on life and faith.

Horowitz’s biggest support system throughout his distressing trial, has been his wife April. Incredibly, shortly before her husband suffered through his painful surgery, she herself had just been through a traumatic experience of her own. A terrifying car accident left her near death in the hospital.

“She had a punctured lung, a broken collarbone, broken ribs,” Horowitz told Townhall. “She came as close to death as you can probably come. But, fortunately for me, she was somewhat recovering when I was struck down by this botched operation.”

Horowitz said his strong relationship with April tells the story behind his new book’s title.

“We had to take care of each other,” he explained. “The climax of the book, where the title comes from, is that we took a decision to make a gamble. You save your life for the future. But you have to see there’s a limit to what the future is. My wife wanted to spend some money to make our environment more beautiful and I tried to stop her and she looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be dead one day. I’m going to be dead. We need to enjoy our life.’”

Part of enjoying life, he suggested, means not dwelling on mistakes.

“In the book, I’m kind of hard on myself,” he shared. “I should’ve investigated more, although I don’t think he was a bad doctor. Accidents happen. I think, like most people, or at least people who haven’t been through serious health issues, we are pretty ignorant of the way the body works. So I wasn’t really aware the nerves are so crucial to the muscle and I had had a very successful hip operation so I thought, Oh this is a piece of cake...I don’t think it was malicious. There are a lot of terrible things that happen in life that you can’t really blame anybody for. Not that it would do any good if you could.”

Horowitz said that writing, which has always been a cathartic experience for him, has proved even more comforting during this bout of physical pain.

“When you write, you can put the world in order,” he said. “One of the things that people are in denial about, big time, is that everything is really out of control. There is no order. Things aren’t necessarily going to work out. It is very calming and therapeutic. I think a lot of the reason I began writing it, was that I was immobile, I was in pain. Writing took my mind off all that.”

Horowitz also said that to move past the regrets of the present, one must look to the future.

“If you’re looking at yourself in age, you’ve got to look at the generations,” he said. “I have some wonderful children. Some of the book is what they have to teach you about letting go.”

Toward the end of our conversation, Horowitz said he is an agnostic, yet shared that his wife’s strong faith has provided much needed restfulness.

“I wouldn’t have been saved if it hadn’t been for April’s faith,” he said.

As for those concerned that Horowitz has given up politics, have no fear. He hinted he won’t be able to stay away.

“Willy nilly that’s who I am,” he said.

Gross: Vermin Found Inside Florida VA Hospital Kitchen

This story broke some time ago, but it’s nevertheless worth flagging.

Unconscionably, vermin — and pests — reportedly invaded the kitchen of a Florida Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Workers at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center reported "3 large dead rats that fell through the kitchen ceiling" at the hospital during renovation work Wednesday night, according to emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

They then sent color photos of the rats to the facility's infection prevention coordinator, Miriam Ruisz, and also told her about a cockroach infestation, emails show.

I almost gagged reading that. Sadly, however, these shocking news stories are all too common these days. After all, remember when ex-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced out of his cabinet post last year after an investigative report found that dozens of veterans died of neglect and malfeasance at a Phoenix hospital? But the problems only seemed to unravel after that: We later learned that tens of thousands of patients were waiting endlessly to see a doctor as hospitals all over the country systematically — and knowingly — worked overtime to cover up their record of failure. And despite generous subsidies from Washington, we learned days ago that wait times have all but increased.

“Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance,” former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) concluded in an oversight study investigation published in 2014. That statistic, my friends, should concern every single American, not just veterans and their families.

Florida’s senior Senator responded to the Times' bombshell:

“I mean this is ridiculous," said Senator Nelson.

And here’s Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL):

Rubio said he was "alarmed" by a recent Tampa Bay Times report that revealed how three dead rats fell through the ceiling of the hospital's kitchen last week during work to install new fire sprinklers. Internal hospital emails from the facility's infection chief also said the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital has a cockroach infestation.

"Improved conditions at" Haley "are critical for veterans in the Tampa Bay area," Rubio wrote in a letter to Haley interim director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder.

And everywhere else as well. Providing clean and safe hospitals is the very least Uncle Sam can do.

Jindal: SCOTUS Is 'Out of Control, Let's Just Get Rid of the Court'

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal slammed the Supreme Court on Friday after its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” the 2016 presidential candidate said in a statement.

“If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court,” Jindal added.

The 5-4 ruling, which forces all states to recognize same-sex marriage under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, will fundamentally transform the institution of marriage, he later said.

“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” he added.

Jindal also echoed Franklin Graham warning today that the persecution of Christians is coming with this ruling.

“Hillary Clinton and the Left will now mount an all-out assault on religious freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment,” he said.

“Regardless of your views on marriage, all freedom-loving people must pledge to respect our first amendment rights,” he added.

Chief Justice John Roberts was particularly concerned with the religious freedom aspect of the ruling as well.

“Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion, “and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution.”

Christians “better be ready,” Graham warned.   

"What A Good Man": Obama Eulogizes Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Clementa Pinckney was one of the nine victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre last week. Today in Charleston, therefore, President Obama delivered the eulogy for the late pastor, speaking about his warm personality, humility, and commitment to service.

“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith,” he said. “A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life to those who followed.”

“I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger,” he continued. “The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor—all qualities that helped him [handle] so effortlessly the heavy burden of expectation.”

And expectations were tremendously high indeed, Obama explained.

“He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s word,” he declared. “A family of protestors who [helped] to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.”

“He did not exhibit the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities,” he added. “Instead, he set an example worthy of his position.”

He was not just a Christian pastor, however. He was also a committed — and unassuming — state senator, who represented one of the poorest districts in the state.

“No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Sen. Pinckney as ‘the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us,” he added. “What a good man. Sometimes, I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized. After all the words, recitations, resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.”

Finally, he addressed the issues of black unemployment, gun violence, and the moral imperative of removing the Confederate Flag from South Carolina's State Capitol. He even broke out into song, leading the congregation in a impressive rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which the audience enthusiastically helped him with.

President Obama was joined at the service by his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden.

BREAKING: One Escaped NY Convict Shot and Killed by Police, Second Still at Large

Update via AP:

8:20 p.m.

Police in upstate New York say they're using officers, dogs and helicopters to search a wooded area for a convicted murderer who escaped from prison three weeks ago. Another violent inmate who escaped with him has been shot and killed.

Police are swarming the woods as the sun sets in Malone, where they believe David Sweat is hiding. Richard Matt was killed in the area earlier Friday.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says Matt was killed by a federal border patrol agent from Vermont. He says searchers with dogs closed in on the pair after receiving a 911 call from a woman who heard "an intruder" knock on her door.

Area resident Mitch Johnson says his friend Bob Willett has a cabin in the area and heard the "Pop pop pop pop pop pop pop" of gunfire.

Original Post: 

After more than two weeks of searching throughout upstate New York, police have located and killed one half of the escaped convicts, Richard Matt, from Clinton Correctional Facility. His accomplice, David Sweat, has yet to be found.

Two prison employees have been charged with aiding the criminals in their escape. They provided Matt and Sweat with tools such as hacksaw blades by hiding them in hamburger meat, among other contraband.

Stay tuned for updates.

The Other Bad Supreme Court Decision: Claims of Racism Can Be Filed Without Actual Proof of Racism

All of the hype has been on King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges, cases ruling in favor of Obamacare and gay marriage, respectively. But as everyone focuses on these cases, lost in the shuffle was perhaps a case that was worse than both of those decisions: Texas Housing v. Inclusive Communities.

A little background on the case:

Texas, whose housing department was fighting a fair-housing claim, maintained that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 required that plaintiffs show intentional discrimination, which demands a higher level of proof.

The case originated in Dallas, where an advocacy group called the Inclusive Communities Project claimed the Texas housing agency discriminated by distributing federal tax-credit subsidies almost entirely to buildings going up in poor, black neighborhoods, thereby solidifying residential segregation.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in Texas Housing that claims of racial discrimination can be filed based on "disparate impact," that is the theory that standards are racist if minorities can't meet them at the same rates as whites. In terms of housing, that would mean that discrimination claims can be filed if population statistics are skewed against minorities, without any actual proof of racism.

That's right, even if you're not being racist, you have "unconscious prejudice," according to Anthony Kennedy:

The court’s opinion, by Justice Anthony Kennedy, noted America’s history of racial segregation and the efforts Congress has made to remedy its continuing effects, including the statute disputed in Thursday’s case. 

“The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” Justice Kennedy wrote, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

But this is not true, as Breitbart paraphrases Justice Alito's dissent:

The dissent, written by Justice Samuel Alito, points out the absurdity of using “disparate impact” as a measure of racial discrimination. By the same logic, he writes, minimum wage laws must be racist, because they can be shown to have a disproportionately negative effect on young black males, who are priced out of the labor market. Alito also notes that neither the 1968 Fair Housing Act, nor its 1988 amendments, allowed “disparate impact” to be evidence of racial discrimination.

The result is that the housing market is going to be flooded with legal complaints, as the dissenting justices argue:

As the four dissenters make clear, a compliance and litigation nightmare now looms for many in real estate, finance, and local government as they try to dodge liability. “No matter what [Texas] decides” in the case at hand on locating low-income housing, for example, one or another group “will be able to bring a disparate-impact case” based either on the theory that projects should be put in poorer areas (which enables building more of them) or in affluent areas (which will benefit some future residents).

So essentially, the left and the federal government can use racial lawsuits as blackmail against the housing markets. Wasn't this the kind of policy that led to the 2008 recession?

As with the other two cases, words don't have meaning with the current Supreme Court. But it is this case that could have the most severe repercussions. Because you're a racist, even if you don't think that you are.

'Feel The Bern': Is This Sanders Surge Really Happening?

Almost everyone reported on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tossing his hat into the 2016 ring given that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) decided to steer a course clear of the White House, but many wrote him off. He’s unable to clinch the nomination; Clinton has the money, the organization, the endorsements, and the momentum that is unstoppable. Yet, there seems to be a Bernie surge happening–and it’s in a way that has the Clinton camp a bit anxious.

We’re not saying that Sanders will win the nomination, but he may be able to mount an effective challenge, even though–at least by self-identification–there aren’t enough hard-core liberal voters in the base to push Bernie over the top. Nevertheless, that could all certainly change in upcoming elections since Democrats are becoming more liberal.

It’s to the point where Democratic strategist Maria Cardona said we shouldn’t be shocked that Sanders does well (or even wins) in New Hampshire or Iowa. He’s from a neighboring state that caters the same progressive appetites as New York, but also isn’t afraid to veer to the left. As a result, Sanders may be one of the candidates that garners some of the most intense enthusiasm this cycle. His mantra: “I’m a socialist, I’m proud about being one, and I don’t care about what people think about my politics; this is what I believe will fix America.” Yeah, there’s authenticity for you–and the American people generally like that in a candidate.

Bernie had thousands join him in Denver last week. In Iowa, a “boisterous” crowd of nearly 1,000 people “applauded and shouted after Sanders brought up his main campaign themes. Many in the audience attempted to shake Sanders' hand after the almost hour-and-a-half appearance,” according to the Des Moines Register:

Here are some of Sanders' remarks that garnered the most applause:

1. On income inequality and gender inequality in pay: "Today, in my mind, the most significant issue from a moral perspective, from a political perspective and from an economic perspective is the grotesque level of inequality... A living wage should not only be fair, it should be equitable. That is why we must establish pay equity for women workers."

2. On paid vacation leave, sick time and maternity leave: "In recent years, there have been millions of women giving birth and unable to spend time with their newborn babies because they did not have the income, and they had to go back to work. Family values is not telling a woman that she can't spend time with a baby because she does not have enough money."

3. On the very wealthy: "There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent."

4. On trade policies: "It's not a sexy issue, but it is enormous. ...Our trade policies over the last 40 years ... have been a disaster. Since 2001, we have lost some 60,000 factories in this country and millions of decent-paying jobs. Trade isn't the only reason for those losses, but it is the major reason." He also said: "The House has put a kibosh on the Trans Pacific (Partnership). TPP is a continuation of these disastrous trade policies. Today, the good side won."

5. "If elected president, I will not (allow) any justice in the Supreme Court who is not prepared to be loud and clear in telling the American people ... to vote to overturn ... Citizens United," the 2010 ruling that gave corporations and unions free rein to spend unlimited amounts to call for a candidate's election or defeat.

Oh yeah–that’s liberal red meat dripping with blood right there.

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post noted that Sanders being in the race would keep the suspicions about the Clinton Foundation alive, which is one of the concerns (besides "dead broke") that will have legs with voters in 2016:

In an interview with ABC's Jon Karl before the announcement, Sanders was more definitive: "Do I have concerns about the Clinton Foundation and that money?" he said. "I do.”

When he talks about the Clinton Foundation, Sanders does so in the context of GOP megadonors like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers — painting them all with a we-can't-let-billionaires-buy-the-process brush. The more of that he does, the worse for Clinton.

And no matter what Clinton does in terms of campaign finance reform — and she's signaled she is planning to make it a centerpiece of the campaign — she can't (a) rewrite the history of the donations the Clinton Foundation accepted or (b) discredit Sanders's long record as someone who has walked the walk on getting money out of politics.

So, will Sanders be the 2016 Democratic nominee? No. He may have a chance, albeit a very, very slim one, but what he could possibly do is leave Clinton bloodied and beaten a la Mitt Romney in 2012 before she clinches the party’s nomination. She could possibly be forced to the left on some issues, an aspect where she might find herself in an uncomfortable position; Romney acted the same way and came off as awkward as well. The irony is that Romney is a more of an establishment Republican at heart, whereas Clinton is a hard-core liberal, but plays the role of centrist Democrat. That was at least Republican strategist Mike Murphy’s assessment of her when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000. In other words, this push to the left should be easy and natural for her, but it’ll probably come off as forced like her Southern or “New Yawrk” accents. It could also upset the older wings of the Democratic coalition–the more moderate members of her husband’s era–leaving them feeling alienated by this leap to the left. It’s no secret that Democrats need to win back white, working class voters, most of whom are flocking to the GOP. A move to “out Bernie” Bernie Sanders might be a critical mistake.

As Ben Domenech wrote the Clinton campaign has their finger on the button to “nuke” Sanders “from orbit,” but wonders why people from the left aren’t jumping in to take on the eminently beatable Hillary:

So the question is: why aren’t any of these people running, if only to fill the progressive personality vacuum? There’s no real negative to getting in, making some noise, representing the progressive wing of the party throughout the fall and then taking your lumps come February. Is it that they all really are ready for Hillary, ready to believe in the Clinton machine? Or is it that you just needed to see Bernie Sanders get to 30 percent to wonder if this god still bleeds?

As Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Pat Buchanan never had a chance to defeat George H.W. Bush in the primaries. But he was able to paint Bush 41 as weak–and that dilemma could be facing Hillary as people on her side begin to feel the Bern.

McAuliffe Considers Reinstating Dangerous Parole to ‘Safeguard’ Taxpayer Dollars

There are many ways for a governor to ensure he or she is not wasting their constituents’ hard earned money, and easing prison sentencing so dangerous criminals can return society for a quicker ‘rehabilitation’ is not one of them.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is considering reinstating parole in the Old Dominion. He introduced a Parole Review and Update Commission and signed an executive order to review the parole process on Thursday, following up his action with a string of questions.

“It’s time to review whether that makes sense. Is it keeping our citizens safe? Is it a reasonable, good, cost-effective way? Are we rehabilitating folks?” he said. “Are sentences too long for nonviolent offenses? Are we keeping people in prison too long?”

If McAuliffe decides the answer to that last question is “yes,” Virginia could return to the days when criminals faced only one-fourth of their sentences, former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R) argued. Allen abolished parole in 1994 when the country had a tough-on-crime mentality. He let McAuliffe know what he thought of his new parole study in a Facebook post Thursday.

“It will be interesting to see which specific felons that this Commission thinks should be released sooner, I doubt that most jurors, dedicated law officers, judges, victims and their families want to revert to the dangerously lenient, dishonest system of early release. And, there's a real societal cost to crime that this Commission should consider, and they should avoid sanctimonious, blissful wishing away of the principle of holding criminals personally responsibility for their acts.”

Yet, McAuliffe asserts that reintroducing parole for prisoners is an effective way to protect taxpayer money.

In the interview with WTOP (103.5 FM), McAuliffe said it is his job to protect citizens, but also safeguard taxpayer dollars. The state houses 30,369 inmates at a cost of $27,462 per year per inmate and a total of $833 million annually, he said. Inmates must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they can be released for good behavior.

“The question now, 20 years later, is has it made us safer or have we spent a lot of money and we haven’t done what we need to do for rehabilitation?” he said.

I’d like to make my own suggestion: Protecting actual taxpayers is a bit more important than protecting their wallets. In other states like Indiana, many prisoners are quick to return to a life of crime soon after their early releases.

Gov. Allen’s parole abolition helped to steady the crime rate in Virginia. He warned McAuliffe to not threaten this positive trend.

Virginia Performs indicates that the Commonwealth has remained well below the national property crime average for over a decade, and we rank 8th lowest in the country. When Governor McAuliffe was elected, Virginia had the third lowest violent crime rate in the nation. Those are positive results of our public safety reforms and there should be no backtracking.