After the primary, Brownback told reporters that voters made a "clear statement . . . I think what you had is, the market functioned on Tuesday."
During an announcement of the signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said Thursday that freedom from religion was not included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state,” Perry said. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”
The new law states that students and school officials have the right to use religious greetings like “Merry Christmas” and display various religious holiday symbols on school grounds.
“I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Nichols remarked. “One of those freedoms is the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and as the governor was saying the Constitution refers to the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”
Tennessee’s Muslim community was deeply concerned when a local county commissioner posted an anti-Muslim picture on his Facebook page, which had the viewer looking down the barrel of a shotgun and a caption reading “HOW TO WINK AT A MUSLIM.” Commissioner Barry West later apologized for sharing the picture, but by then his post had gone viral. In response, the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) organized an outreach forum to educate the community about how to conduct “Public Discourse in a Diverse Society.”
Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Kenneth Moore, FBI special agent in charge of the Eastern Tennessee District, were two government officials on hand to present on the ways in which freedom of speech can be exercised without spreading fear or stereotypes. Unfortunately, not everyone was prepared to listen, especially protesters organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) — a group founded by leading Islamophobe Pamela Geller — and other right-wing groups. In what they called “rallying for free speech,” a crowd of hecklers inside the event attempted to drown out the numerous speakers.
“That’s not even a crime,” one woman could be heard shouting as Killian walked the crowd through a PowerPoint slide describing what constitutes a hate crime. Another woman called him a “traitor” for his comments.
Arguably the worst moment in the proceedings was when Sabina Mohyuddin mentioned a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, that was burned to the ground in 2007. The hecklers’ response? To break out into cheers.
“Shame on you,” Mohyuddin can be heard scolding the hecklers over their applause. It wasn’t the first outburst against her during the forum. Earlier in her presentation, when she mentioned the high rate of citizenship among American Muslims, one of the hecklers shouted “Infiltration!”
Outside, Geller and and AFDI co-founder Robert Spencer led hundreds more protesters in rallying against the idea of civilized discourse, claiming to be protecting their right to free speech. “This is the line in the sand,” Geller told the crowd, which included former Saturday Night Live star and fellow Islamphobe Victoria Jackson. “The Constitution and Sharia cannot coexist,” Jackson said, adding, “Islam is evil.”
Spencer defended his group’s harassment of the speakers at the event, calling “the claim that someone in the crowd was ‘afraid’ of the other audience members, as if these patriots who came out to defend the freedom of speech were some gang of menacing thugs, bent on silencing their foes by force, was utterly preposterous.”
Tim Cummings of Nashville, which is 70 miles away, said that he respected Muslim beliefs until they begin infringing on his own First Amendment rights.
"When I'm being told that if I post something which they might interpret as being inflammatory or I will be subject to criminal or civil penalties, yeah, that's being infringed upon," he said.
Art Pope is the conservative mega-donor in North Carolina whose millions helped usher in Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, and who dropped millions more in 2012 to elect Republican Gov. Pat McGrory. Perhaps to say thanks, McGrory promptly named Pope, a former board member of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity group, the state's new budget director.
One of Pope's pet causes has been killing North Carolina's public funding program for judicial elections, an aim of his when he served in the state legislature.
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