Not this Islam. Simon Fernandez/FlickrIt's easy to forget, what with the killer grizzlies and the guardian porpoises and the election and all, that Islam is currently on trial in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Actually, it's been on trial since September. Looking to block construction of an Islamic community center, local activists took the issue to court, alleging that the mosque is not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is not a religion*. It's an ingenious (and expensive) tactic. But will it work?
With arguments set to wrap up this week, things have gone pretty much as you'd expect. The federal government has stepped in to say that, yes, Islam is a religion—and a pretty big one at that. City authorities have testified that, yes, Muslims do have a right to build their community center in Murfreesboro, but that if anyone tries to impose Sharia in Middle Tennessee, they'll be on it. And the plaintiffs, as the AP notes, have taken full advantage of their platform to sound the alarm of impending doom. Sometimes that means paying witnesses to read printouts they found on the Internet; sometimes that means exchanges like this:
"Do you remember Jim Jones who killed all those people who drank the Kool-Aid," Brandon asked Burgess. "Is that what's going on with the [Islamic Center of Murfreesboro]?" Brandon also asked each commissioner if they believed in tenets of Sharia law that plaintiffs claim ICM members will institute in Murfreesboro. "Do you believe in having sex with children," Brandon asked Farley to the gasps of the audience and a quickly sustained objection that the court was degrading into a circus.
When we last heard from Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's issues director was calling for the public stoning of Tillikum the killer whale, for its role in the death of a trainer at Sea World last spring. "When an ox gores a man or woman to death," Fischer declared, quoting Exodus, "the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten."
The whale was not stoned (in fairness, it wasn't eaten, either) but Fischer seems undeterred in his assault on charismatic megafauna. Here he is yesterday, reacting to a Los Angeles Timesarticle about Wyoming's threatened grizzlies:
One human being is worth more than an infinite number of grizzly bears. Another way to put it is that there is no number of live grizzlies worth one dead human being. If it's a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have to go. And it's time.
It's hardly an isolated incident; earlier this year, Fischer called the grizzly, "a fierce, savage unstoppable killing machine." This time, he's offered a solution: "Shoot these man-eaters on sight."
[State Rep. Debbie] Riddle set up some folding chairs and pitched a make-shift campsite outside the floor of the Texas House of Representatives beginning on Saturday afternoon to make sure she was the first in line when the chief clerk's office opened for early filing this morning. She spent both Saturday and Sunday night sleeping on the lobby floor.
"A visitor that walked by told me that I reminded them of the kids that camp out for Duke basketball tickets in Durham, North Carolina," Riddle said. "It was eye-opening to realize that people think it's normal to be passionate about something like college basketball, but odd to be passionate about your state's politics."
Hook 'em. The main prize, as Riddle brags on her website, was HB 17, which more or less parrots Arizona's SB 1070, allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they pull over for a traffic stop. Another proposed bill requires parents of public school children to provide proof of citizenship (pdf) and/or immigration status, which would then be forked over to the state, as part of an effort to "identify and analyze any impact on the standard or quality of education" from illegal immigration. Yet another bill seeks to crack down on "sanctuary cities." Riddle, who made a name for herself as the Paul Revere of the "terror baby" menace, also introduced two bills (one that would increase the penalty for driving without a license, and one requiring valid ID in order to vote) that took on immmigration indirectly.
As I noted last month, it's no sure thing that immigration reform will pass in the Lone State State, where the party's biggest donors would prefer to see inaction. But after a landslide election (GOPers gained 44 seats in the Texas house) and with the base so fired up its leaders are literally squatting on the floors of the legislature, don't expect conservatives to back down so easily.
Looking out on the floor of the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland, you'd never think that the 2010 elections have been an utterly catastrophic disaster for the Democratic party. As I'm typing this, there's a conga-line—or something close to it—forming on the floor below the stage, and a dozen or so couples are cutting a rug to the swing band up above. Occasionally, the crowd will get restless, and a chant of "Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" will begin, and then sputter out after a few short bursts. They're all here for Jerry Brown, the state's once-and-future governor (and secretary of state, and attorney general, and mayor of Oakland), who's just defeated Meg Whitman and is expected to address supporters here later tonight.
California might be the one state in the union tonight where Democrats can feel legitimately good (if still a little confused) about the way things turned out. Sure, they'll lose a few House seats, but Barbara Boxer held onto her senate seat, and Brown, despite a $141 million-challenge from former eBay CEO Whitman, returned the governor's mansion to the Democrats for the first time in seven years. Proposition 23, the ballot provision that would have reversed the state's progressive climate change law, went down to defeat. All is well for Golden State Democrats. Or at least as well as you'd hope, given the circumstances.
"I don't care what's going on in the rest of the country," says Marianne Kearney-Brown of Napa. "Because we're gonna have Jer-ry Brown!”
Really, the only real setback was the defeat of Prop 19, which would have legalized marijuana. But to the provision's supporters, who assembled just down the street from Brown's victory party, in the parking lot of the pot-centric Oaksterdam University, losing was hardly the end of the world.
As Nela Mendoza of Oakland explained to me, "If it passes, well, fuck, we'll burn, dude! And if it doesn't pass...we'll burn anyway." Word.