Today in Nashville lawmakers will hold hearings on SB 1028, a bill that makes it a felony in Tennessee to provide material support for terrorism. That's already a federal crime, of course, but that's hardly the point: The bill, introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny, both Republicans, is the most radical of the more than two-dozen proposals nationwide to block the implementation of Islamic Shariah law on the unsuspecting citizenry. Now Ketron and Matheny are facing opposition from an unlikely source: the tea party.
According to William Coley, a member of the Knoxville Tea Party and a Muslim-American, his group will formally condemn the legislation at a press conference this morning, warning that the bill expands the powers of the police state while doing nothing to make Tennesseans any safer.
(Update: I've got a copy of the statement; it's not a condemnation, but it's hardly an endorsement either. Here's the crux of it: "While the Knoxville Tea Party truly appreciates the sincere intentions behind SB1028, we do not feel that peaceful gatherings by ourselves, our friends, or neighbors is the problem, nor do we feel that increased surveillance by the State of Tennessee and intrusion into its citizens' lives is the answer. The federal government already does far too much of that.")
Last week, Coley says, he was thrown out of Rep. Matheny's office, along with a coalition of Tennessee Muslim leaders, after a contentious exchange over the legislation. In his version of events, Coley told Matheny he and the Knoxville Tea Party would work to defeat the legislation. Matheny told him that if that happened, he'd simply introduce the bill again next year. That was too much for Coley: "I was just like, 'Look, Bro, if you're going to propose this bill again next year, this is just a waste of our time.' This guy has forgotten he's an elected official.' I got up to leave and I said, 'You don't have job security and you will not be back again next year.'" (Coley does not live in Matheny's district.)
According to Coley, Matheny was supported in the meeting by a representative of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, the local chapter of Phyllis Schlafly's right-wing organization. It was the Eagle Forum that pushed for the Tennessee legislation originally, enlisting Arizona-based attorney David Yerushalmi's help in drafting the bill. But Matheny's argument that he has strong grassroots backing is misleading, Coley says, because the tea party is not fully on board. "Not the way Matheny is trying to make it look. Basically, when I told Matheny that, he told me he didn't believe me. I told him 'You can believe what you want; I've got the Knoxville Tea Party on speed dial—you can call them. I didn't threaten him with bodily harm, I threatened him with removal from office."
If there was a clear takeaway from the 2010 elections, it was this: No government bureaucrat should ever come between you and your doctor—unless you're a woman. Two identical bills in front of the Michigan state legislature would add more obstacles to women seeking abortions in the state; under the proposed legislation, doctors would be required to perform an ultrasound, ask the woman if she'd like to listen to the heartbeat, and—in a new twist—"offer to provide the patient with a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus." Reports the Michigan Messenger:
All of this is to be done at least two hours before the abortion procedure and women would be required to sign a statement acknowledging that these offers had been made...
"We are all for maximum information being given to any woman seeking an abortion, or any other major operation, for that matter," said James Muffett, president of Citizens for Traditional Values which supports the legislation. "It seems quite suspect that abortion providers do not already do this. Maybe they know that there really is a living baby in the womb and if the mother saw that, she might change her mind."
As currently written there are no exemptions, which means that doctors would be required to offer a photograph of the ultrasound, even to women who have been the victims of rape or incest.
As we've previously reported, in recent months conservative lawmakers have unleashed a flood of anti-choice legislation—often with potentially radical consequences. In Nebraska, a law enforcement official testified that a proposed bill to legalize "justifiable homicide" in defense of the unborn could lead to violence. A similar bill in South Dakota would have permitted the use of lethal force to protect a fetus could have allowed the killing of abortion providers. In Texas, a proposed bill would have outlawed all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. And at the national level, a Republican effort to redefine rape (part of the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act") ultimately fizzled after a public outcry.
On Wednesday, members of the North Carolina House debated HB 640, a bill to ban the use of Islamic Shariah law in state courts. This is nothing new: Since the beginning of 2009, two dozen states have considered such proposals, stemming from concerns that unless serious action is taken, American citizens will be forced to adhere to a draconian interpretation of Shariah. That's the argument, at least, but through each of these bills, there's been one nagging flaw—no one can explain, when pressed, why such legislation is necessary.
At this point, the drill is getting kind of familiar. How familiar? Well, here's Laura Leslie, of Raleigh's WRAL:
Rep. Verla Insko asked [State Rep. George] Cleveland twice for an example of a case that would show a need for the bill. "I do not have any specific examples off the top of my head," Cleveland finally replied.
Hey, that sounds similar to the scene on Tuesday when the Missouri House voted on a bill to ban Islamic law from state courts:
When Will Steger was 15 years old, he and his brother piloted an old motorboat down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans. At 17, he journeyed to the Arctic. At 41, he became the first man in history to travel unsupported to the North Pole and come back alive. He's traveled across Antarctica by sled (another first), hopped freights, and found his purpose at a mountain monastery.
But there's just one challenge the Arctic explorer couldn't complete: Keeping Tim Pawlenty honest on global warming.
After working closely with Steger for two years to combat climate change, the former Minnesota governor and current GOP presidential contender abruptly reversed himself on the issue in 2008, just as his name was being floated as a possible presidential running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Steger and Pawlenty haven't spoken since. Today, the politician who once cut a radio ad with Janet Napolitano calling for a federal cap on greenhouse gas emissions calls his work on climate change "stupid" and says the science is uncertain at best.
"I'm baffled by that—did he actually say that?" says Steger, when asked about Pawlenty's recent statements. "I'm baffled by that. But I think he's getting information from the wrong source and it's really too bad for our children. It's reckless."
Remember that whole brouhaha last year about the folks who were suing to block the construction of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee? To refresh your memory: The plaintiffs argued, in part, that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is a totalitarian ideology and not a religion (the Justice Department disagreed). The stakes were high. As the plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon Jr. explained, construction of a new house of worship in central Tennessee was part of the Muslim Brotherhood's plan to, eventually, raise the "flag of Sharia" over the White House and subjugate the citizenry. A county judge found this argument unpersuasive, and ruled that construction could continue on the Islamic center.
Brandon, however, promised that very day that Murfreesboro had not seen the last of Joe Brandon Jr. And now, the mosque opponents are back in court, with a fresh set of complaints, 14 new plaintiffs, and a legal argument we'll diplomatically call "novel." Per the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal:
They contend that [plaintiff Kevin] Fisher has standing because he's an African American Christian who'd be discriminated against and subjugated as a second-class citizen under Shariah law and be denied his civil rights; [plaintiff Lisa] Moore has standing because she's a Jewish female who's targeted in a Muslim call to kill Jews in "jihad" in support of Palestine and as a woman whose rights would be subordinate to those of men in Shariah law; and [plaintiff Henry] Golczynski, who lost a son killed while serving in the U.S. Marines in a combat in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Shariah law.
In other words, they're suing Muslims in central Tennessee for future crimes they might commit, because of past actions taken by Muslim insurgents in...Iraq. I see no way this can fail.
But wait, this story gets more interesting. The plaintiffs have also raised concerns about the presence of security cameras at the site of the Islamic center's construction site. Brandon alleged that the cameras violated his right to privacy, because they were able to film his car every time he drove by (one can only imagine the intrusion he endures every time he uses an ATM). The cameras were placed there by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which launched a hate-crime investigation last summer into a case of suspected arson at the mosque site.