Yet Another Way the Justice Department Favors Abortion Access over Religious Freedom

by Alexandra DeSanctis

According to senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Ted Cruz (R., Texas), the Department of Justice has long been favoring abortion clinics in its enforcement of accessibility laws, while declining to enforce said laws to protect houses of worship. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) prohibits the use of force or obstruction to prevent someone from obtaining “reproductive services,” but the same law also prohibits the obstruction of a place of religious worship.

The Justice Department has used FACE to pursue a number of cases involving abortion access, but, by its own admission, has not enforced the law in religious-freedom cases where individuals were harassed or attacked while attempting to attend a religious service. In response to an inquiry from Cruz and Lee earlier this year, the department claimed that its failure to pursue such cases was because other statutes “broader in scope” than FACE — such as statute 18 U.S.C. § 247 — exist to protect houses of worship.

But Lee and Cruz’s new letter, sent to the department this Tuesday, dismantles that argument, providing three reasons why FACE offers stronger and more effective protections for religious liberty than § 247. First, FACE creates a civil cause of action, meaning that citizens who are threatened or harassed while attempting to attend religious services are able to bring their own civil action for legal relief. Furthermore, under FACE, the government can bring a civil suit on behalf of such a citizen, a fact that Lee and Cruz say “greatly enhances the protection for those exercising their right to worship.”

In addition, the criminal provisions of FACE are broader than those of § 247, which criminalizes only violence and intimidation motivated by a specific animus toward the religion of a location or individual. Meanwhile, FACE criminalizes all intentional acts, regardless of the animus associated with them. Finally, FACE has a much lower prosecutorial bar than § 247, meaning that criminal cases can be pursued under FACE even when the Department of Justice doesn’t deem such a case strictly necessary for “substantial justice,” as § 247 requires.

As a result of these facts about FACE and § 247, Lee and Cruz assert that the Justice Department’s rationale for neglecting to pursue religious-freedom cases is fundamentally flawed. Even aside from the merits of FACE’s provisions, however, the senators note that the department does not have the authority to decide when and if a certain law merits enforcement. “If protection is extended to abortion clinics under FACE, then it ought to be extended to houses of worship suffering FACE violations as well,” they write.

Cruz and Lee cite the example of the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which in 2008 was blocked by over a thousand protestors, intimidating and harassing the Mormon individuals for their support of California’s Proposition 8, a measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Justice Department told the senators that it did not enforce FACE against the protestors because it was unaware of the situation, but this seems unlikely given the national-news coverage the protests garnered.

Both senators had voiced these concerns earlier this year, but felt that the department had not adequately addressed them. They also have included in their letter a list of additional demands, including a request for records providing the date, location, organizations, discussions, conferences, and meetings related to either an abortion-access case or a religious-freedom case. With this information, Cruz and Lee hope to further substantiate their claim that the Justice Department favors abortion clinics over houses of worship.

On “Hillary-Hatred Derangement Syndrome”

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Dorothy Rabinowitz has written a broadside against those Americans so benighted that they refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the election. She has somehow divined that we are not moved by anything as weighty as deep disagreement with her about important issues. We are instead putting our “exquisite sensibilities” over the needs of the country. We are suffering from “Hillary-Hatred Derangement Syndrome,” as the headline reasonably summarizes her argument.

This is of course the mirror image of the case made by some Trump supporters, who indiscriminately accuse those of us who are not planning to vote for him of “moral preening.” In both cases, the assumption is that we are facing an election of earth-shattering importance in which every vote has great moral weight. But it’s not so important that we should expend any effort to figure out why our fellow citizens disagree with us and then engage with them so as to sway their votes. What this historical moment really demands of us is that we insult everyone who does not take our view of the election and implicitly congratulate ourselves for having the right sensibilities. Mission accomplished.

Soldiers and Sailors Should Salute the Flag or Face Discipline

by David French

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the social justice warrior of the day — Petty Officer 2nd Class Janaye Ervin. Petty Officer Ervin refused to salute during morning colors, the Navy is investigating, and now there’s a petition circulating demanding that no “adverse action” be taken against her.

Ervin explains herself with classic SJW incoherence:

“I have been proudly serving in the US Navy Reserve Force since November 2008,” she wrote, according to “I have pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to spread freedom and democracy around the world. I will never waver from that pledge. I feel like a hypocrite singing about the ‘land of the free’ when I know that only applies to some Americans. I will gladly stand again, when ALL AMERICANS are afforded the same freedom.”

Perhaps in the new, fundamentally transformed military, soldiers and sailors should go ahead and provide superior officers with complete lists of orders they won’t obey for the sake of social justice. What if a sailor knows an officer supports Donald Trump, can they refuse to salute when he passes? We all know that when there’s an injustice anywhere, justice is imperiled everywhere, so let’s all take a knee at the next anthem. And the next time you’re ordered to war — to your possible death — on a ship flying the flag you scorn? Well, that’s optional too. The cause has to meet your standards for “just.”

There are some people who believe that service in the military is little more than a government job in uniform. Then there are some people who understand the meaning of the flag to the military and the power of the national flag in combat — people like the men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first African-American units in the Civil War and a unit that paid a terrible price in clashes like the Battle of Fort Wagner:

A mounted general and his staff rode up before the assembled ranks. The officer was handsome and smartly dressed, and grasped the reins of his prancing gray steed with white-gloved hands. Brigadier General George C. Strong pointed down the stretch of sand to the sinister hump of a Confederate earthwork that loomed amidst the roiling smoke and spitting fire of the guns. Loudly, Strong asked, ‘Is there a man here who thinks himself unable to sleep in that fort tonight?’ ‘No!’ shouted the 54th.

The general called out the bearer of the national colors, and grasped the flag. ‘If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry it on?’ After the briefest of pauses, Shaw stepped forward, and taking a cigar from between his teeth responded, ‘I will.’ The colonel’s pledge elicited what Adjutant Garth Wilkinson James later described as ‘the deafening cheers of this mighty host of men, about to plunge themselves into the fiery vortex of hell.’

That was just the beginning:

With men falling on all sides, the 54th surged over the sharpened wooden stakes that ringed the fort and through the water-filled ditch. In some places, shelling had filled the moat with sand, while elsewhere the water was knee- to-waist-deep. Hallowell and James were among those who fell wounded before gaining the ramparts, but Shaw kept his feet, clambering up the sandy slope with a knot of determined survivors. As he crested the flaming parapet, Shaw waved his sword, shouted ‘Forward, 54th!’ and then pitched headlong into the sand with three fatal wounds.

Sergeant William Carney was sprinting through the chaos when he saw the man bearing the American flag stumble and fall. Carney threw away his musket, raised the flag, and scrambled up the bullet-swept slope of the fort. A shower of hand grenades leveled the ranks around him, but Carney gained the crest, where it seemed he was the only man left standing. He knelt and gathered the folds of the flag, while the battle raged on all sides.

Here is William Carney, recipient of the Medal of Honor:

If a sailor is ordered to salute the flag, that’s not only a lawful order, it’s one that connects that sailor to a long and vital martial tradition and helps maintain the good order and discipline of a military force comprised of individuals with vastly diverse religious and political beliefs. But that’s more explanation than Ervin’s “stand” merits. If you’re in the military and you’re ordered to salute the flag, then salute. Otherwise, face the punishment you so richly deserve.

Democrats Get Trump Envy

by Dan McLaughlin

In politics, imitation is the sincerest form of hatred. And with Donald Trump having pulled just close enough in the polls to make Democrats sweat, they seem to be lining up to imitate Trump’s style.

First up, former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, accusing Trump of being on cocaine with no evidence at all, asking on Twitter: “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?”

Dean doubled down on this to MSNBC the next day:

Dean, who is a physician, clarified that he was not actually assigning Trump a cocaine addiction diagnosis – “You can’t make a diagnosis over the television; I would never do that,” he said – but maintained that Trump’s sniffling, as seen at the debate, “is actually a signature of people who use cocaine.” Then he pivoted the discussion to argue that Trump should release his tax returns and more detailed medical records.

“He sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do,” Dean said, and then attributed a series of other characteristics to Trump that he said “accompanies that problem.” He has “grandiosity,” “delusions” and “trouble with pressured speech” and “couldn’t keep himself together” on Monday, Dean said. “I think it would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that.”

Only after having left the accusation hanging for several days did Dean kinda-sorta apologize, while effectively admitting he was sinking to Trump’s level:

“And so I apologize for using innuendo,” Dean told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle Friday morning. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to do. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. This entire campaign has been debased by innuendo.”

Next, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, trolling Trump about his weight: “The D women Senators have talked & we’re concerned about Donald’s weight. Campaign stress? We think a public daily weigh-in is called for.

Then we have the Democrats’ Senate Leader for the past decade, Harry Reid, with a classic Trumpism, throwing out a random potshot at Tim Tebow’s NFL career in the middle of a screed against Trump:

“Tim Tebow, I’m sure, is a fine man,” Reid said. “His college career was terrific. Heisman Award winner. His professional career was kind of—wasn’t so good. But everything I know about the man, he’s a good person.”

Now, admittedly, a lot of this stuff is not new territory for Democrats. Dean, back in 2003 when he was leading in Democratic presidential primary polls, speculated that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks:

Dean: There is a report which the president is suppressing evidence for which is a thorough investigation of 9/11.

Diane Rehm, WAMU (public) radio: Why do you think he’s suppressing that report?

Dean: I don’t know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can’t—think it can’t be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.

And Reid has such a long rap sheet of Trump-ish rhetoric it would be futile to recount it all here. In 2012, he famously claimed without a shred of evidence that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for ten years, and his response when called on this in 2015 summarized the Trumpish attitude perfectly:  ”They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win did he?” He matched Trump’s ignorance of the basics of the American legal system with the bizarre claim that voters should sue Marco Rubio for missing some votes in the Senate. Over the years, his many insults have included calling Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment to the Supreme Court” whose “opinions are poorly written” (Reid ended up being unable to identify a single actual Thomas opinion), calling President Bush  “a loser” and “a liar” and telling him, “Your dog is fat,” calling General Peter Pace “a yes-man…what an incompetent man,” and Alan Greenspan “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington,” and even complaining that tourists visiting DC smell bad: “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat.”

So, part of what’s going on here is just Trump giving these guys permission to be themselves – Trump, a donor to Reid in the past, is as much an imitation of Reid as the other way around. But this much is clear: Democrats may decry the degradation of American political rhetoric that Trump represents, but they will be more than happy to follow him into the mud.

The Hyde Amendment Deserves To Be Protected

by Michael J. New

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Hyde Amendment, legislation prohibiting the federal government from funding abortion through Medicaid. Unfortunately, this anniversary won’t receive as much attention as the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, but this is certainly one worth remembering, as this amendment was one of the first major victories for the pro-life movement. Rising numbers of Democrats are calling for the abolition of the Hyde Amendment so that abortion can receive taxpayer funding, and for the first time, this year’s Democratic party platform enshrined this goal as an official objective of the party. In light of this, pro-life people must double-down in order to defend the Hyde Amendment and its lifesaving legacy, and the latest research shows that it has saved two million lives over the past 40 years.

The question of Medicaid funding for abortion received relatively little attention from pro-life activists during the early 1970s. Prior to Roe, most pro-life political efforts focused on preventing states from legalizing abortion and repealing state laws that had already legalized abortion. But after 1973, the pro-life movement pivoted to focus on conscience rights and laws that would reduce the number of abortions performed in the U.S. In 1976, Congress overrode a presidential veto in order to add a rider to the annual HHS-Labor appropriations bill. This rider, the Hyde Amendment, limited the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortions and, though the measure faced several legal challenges in the following years, it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980 and has been attached to federal spending measures every year since.

The original Hyde Amendment only allowed for federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions that would save the life of the mother, but in 1993 it was changed to allow the funding of abortions in cases of rape and incest. Today, the amendment only limits the ability of the federal government to subsidize abortions through Medicaid, while states remain free to use their Medicaid dollars for that purpose. Currently, 15 states pay for therapeutic abortions through Medicaid, and in some of these states the percentage of Medicaid abortions is as high as 60 percent. This data illustrates that the amendment has had a positive effect in the 35 states that do not subsidize abortion through their state Medicaid programs.

The lifesaving effects of the Hyde Amendment have been substantiated by extensive research, and there is a broad consensus that public-funding restrictions reduce abortion rates. In 2009, the Guttmacher Institute – which up until 2007 was Planned Parenthood’s research arm, and which remains a highly pro-abortion group — published a literature review considering 22 studies. Nineteen of those studies found statistically-significant evidence that abortion rates fell after public funding was restricted. Furthermore, three separate, state-level studies found that after the Hyde Amendment took effect, the birthrate for women of child-bearing age on Medicaid increased by an average of 13 percent. That means in states not funding abortions through Medicaid, one out of nine people born to a mother on Medicaid owe their life to the Hyde Amendment. My own analysis, published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute earlier this week, estimates that the amendment has saved over two million lives since 1976.

In addition, since 1980, the abortion rate in the U.S. has fallen nearly every year, but the Hyde Amendment is not the only reason for this. Research shows that other pro-life laws, shifts in public opinion, and the fact that a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term all play a role in the abortion rate’s decline. That said, the substantial body of research which shows that public funding restrictions reduce the abortion rate demonstrates the Hyde Amendment has certainly played an important role in America’s abortion decline.

Because of the Democratic party’s increasing support of abortion-on-demand, as well as increased public funding for abortion, the pro-life movement must continue to defend the Hyde Amendment and the conscience rights of American citizens. Such a strategy makes sense politically, as numerous polls show that strong majorities of Americans oppose having their tax dollars used to pay for abortion. In fact, even citizens who self identify as Democrats or as pro-abortion don’t want taxpayer money being used for abortion. And, most importantly, the Hyde Amendment remains perhaps the most effective tool for protecting the unborn. In the face of continued assault, we must remember that this measure has save millions of lives and merits our continued support.


Another Day, Another Secret Obama Side Deal with Iran

by Fred Fleitz

According to a September 30 Wall Street Journal article, the Obama administration signed a secret agreement with Iran to lift U.N. sanctions from two Iranian banks — Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International — that helped finance Iran’s ballistic-missile program. U.S. and Iranian officials signed this deal on January 17, 2016, the same day Iran released four U.S. prisoners.

U.S officials in January said the prisoners were swapped for the release of seven Iranian prisoners by the U.S. and the removal of 21 persons — mostly Iranian nationals — from an INTERPOL wanted list for violating U.S. laws barring transfers of WMD technology and weapons to Iran.

The American people and Congress did not learn until August that the U.S. prisoners were not allowed to leave Iran until a planeload of $400 million in cash sent by the United States had landed in Iran. This payment — and two more over the next month — has been strongly condemned by Republican congressmen as U.S. ransom payments to a state sponsor of terror.

Commenting on the $400 million cash payment to Iran, the prisoner swap and the lifting of sanctions from the Iranian banks, a senior U.S. official told the Journal, “The timing of all this isn’t coincidental. Everything was linked to some degree.”

The Journal also quoted unnamed Obama officials who justified lifting sanctions against the two Iranian banks to “harmonize the U.N. sanctions list with the U.S.’s” and because “Washington believed Iran had earned more sanctions relief because Tehran had been implementing the terms of the nuclear agreement.” The Obama administration lifted U.S. sanctions against Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International in July 2015. The U.N. Security Council voted to lift these sanctions on January 17, 2016.

This suggests the removal of sanctions against the Iranian banks was part of a broad ransom agreement to free U.S. prisoners held by Iran.

The secret agreement to lift sanctions against the Iranian banks also violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, passed in July 2015 which endorsed the JCPOA. This resolution stipulated that U.N. missile-related sanctions against Iran would remain in place for eight years. In addition, lifting sanctions against the two banks broke promises to Congress by Obama officials that the nuclear deal would only lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran and that U.N. missile sanctions would remain in place for eight years.

The secret deal to lift missile sanctions against the Iranian banks joins a long list of secret JCPOA side deals that the Obama administration illegally withheld from the U.S. Congress and the American people. These include allowing Iran to inspect itself for nuclear weapons work; the dumbing down of IAEA Iran reports; exemptions granted to Iran on its JCPOA obligations so it would receive $150 billion in sanctions relief; sending Iran planeloads of $1.7 billion in cash to free four imprisoned Americans; and an agreement allowing Iran to construct advanced centrifuges in 2027. One has to wonder how many more secret side deals have yet to be disclosed.

I argue in my new book on the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran is national-security fraud. This latest secret side deal is more compelling evidence of this.

I Love the Smell of a Tweetstorm in the Morning

by Rich Lowry

Response To...

You Can't Save the Candidate ...

Jim alluded to Trump’s over-night tweet-storm:

This guarantees that — barring events — Trump’s flailing reaction to the debate will be the story through Sunday morning. It’s not that he doesn’t have a point about Machado — he does — but prosecuting this gains him nothing, and in fact hurts him. He might have lost the debate on points, but he’s losing the post-debate in a rout. I’m assuming that for everyone on the Trump campaign besides the candidate himself, Tuesday night’s conversation-changing vice-presidential debate can’t get here soon enough.

Do Non-Citizens Vote?

by Roger Clegg

Yes, they do, according to this study — and they vote quite a bit.  Here’s the abstract:

In spite of substantial public controversy, very little reliable data exists concerning the frequency with which non-citizen immigrants participate in United States elections. Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration. This study examines participation rates by non-citizens using a nationally representative sample that includes non-citizen immigrants. We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.