Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, March 26th, 2012.

Obama 2, Bishops 0

Obama Administration

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops struck out again last week when a “federal judge ruled against the bishops in a fight over whether the group could impose its views on contraception and abortion through its control of taxpayer dollars.”

According to the Mother Jones article linked above, the Bush Administration contracted with the bishops to provide services to victims of human trafficking.

The bishops had been administering virtually all the federal money allocated for such services, about $3 million a year, doling it out to subcontractors who served victims all over the country. The USCCB had prohibited the contractors from using the federal funds to pay for staff time to counsel victims on contraception or abortion, or to refer them for such services.

In 2009 the ACLU sued HHS, arguing that such restrictions on the use of taxpayers’ money violates separation of church and state. The suit was still working its way through the courts last fall when the Obama Administration chose not to renew the contract, mostly because the Bishops refused to provide some of the services the victims actually needed.

The decision set off a firestorm in Congress, where House Republicans accused the administration of bid-rigging and violating the bishops’ religious freedom during a marathon oversight hearing in December.

Right, because the Constitution gives churches the right to use taxpayers’ money to further their own sectarian interests … oh, wait …

Anyway, the federal judge said,

To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others….This case is about the limits of the government’s ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them).

Yes. Thank you. And excuse me for the snark, but contracting with the Bishops to provide services for victims of human trafficking seems a bit like contracting with the Daughters of the Confederacy to run racial sensitivity programs.

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From the NRA to George Zimmerman, via ALEC

firearms, Trayvon Martin, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Paul Krugman writes about a connection between FLorida’s “stand your ground” law and the infamous ALEC.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

ALEC, of course, is also behind a lot of anti-union, anti-consumer protection and anti-environmental protection bills that have been popping up in state legislatures by the truckload. ALEC is funded by several big corporations — including Koch Industries — and interest groups. It invites state legislators and their families to all-expenses-paid “conferences” at luxury resorts, gives them the boilerplate of bills it wants to become law, and even coaches the saps how to sell the bills to constituents and other legislators. This accounts for a rash of nearly identical bills being introduced in many state legislatures at once. (See, for example, four ALEC bills vetoed by the governor of Minnesota last month.)

Krugman continues,

But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.

And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.

Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?

Do read all of Krugman’s column, because he provides a lot of details we all need to know, and I don’t want to re-run the whole column here. Just go read it.

Sorta kinda related — be sure to also read “The Outsourced Party

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