Right Opinion

Defunding the Police Is Nothing but Radical

Tony Perkins · Jul. 10, 2020

Whether it’s the coronavirus wreaking havoc in our healthcare system or the riots on the streets, Americans have weathered a difficult few months. If there was ever a time when our nation could benefit from some grownups in Washington D.C., now is the time. But that appears to be asking too much as liberal politicians continue to advance a radical agenda that would only further tear our country apart. The latest example, which would defund law enforcement and shift the money to social programs, was unveiled on Monday.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), two members of the so-called “Squad” which also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), announced a proposal that would strip local police departments of federal money and block funds used to finance the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Obviously, at a time of societal unrest, defunding our police is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. In fact, Congressman John Rutherford (R-Fla.), the former sheriff of Duval County in Florida, told me Wednesday on Washington Watch that this proposal to defund the police is “insane.”

The hypocrisy of the left on the issue of police reform is clear. If Democrats were serious about police reform, they wouldn’t have blocked Senator Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) recent bill that actually provided some common-sense reforms. But this bill was blocked by Democrats in the Senate who are more interested in political theatre than meaningful action.

Thankfully, not all Democrats are actually on board with defunding the police. In fact, according to Congressman Greg Steube (R-Fla.), the proposal is so absurd that even most Democrats hope it does not see the light of day: “The moderate Democrats want to try to stay away from that as much as they can,” Steube explained. “But they can’t because the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is calling for this.” A bill that would release prisoners and shut down prisons, getting rid of law enforcement in America is just “crazy.”

The rising crime rates are linked to lawlessness like Seattle's autonomous zone. It will only get worse, especially as some Democratic leaders opt for government funding to be placed elsewhere. This absurd idea is slowly becoming a reality in big cities under leadership which does not have their community’s best interest in mind. But not only will the police get less funding, but “we’re going to take away their weaponry and not allow them to be able to defend themselves against gangsters and criminals.”

Congressman Rutherford echoed the absurdity of all this. Being a former sheriff, Rutherford is aware of the importance in keeping the community safe. He actually has experience keeping crime rates down: “And I attribute that to really what I call the PIE of fighting crime. And […] the P is prevention. The I is their vision. And the E is enforcement.” Yet, “[i]f you cut either one of those legs of that three-legged stool, Tony, the whole system is going to collapse.” The not-so-astonishing thing that happened after many police were laid off: “Crime went up.”

He continued, “this has taken us nearly three decades to see … a steady reduction in crime from the 1970s.” There’s a risk of upending this trend now. The risk also applies to law enforcement officers themselves, many of whom are being threatened by the implications of being defunded; and not only them, but their families.

Those who actually have experience with these issues understand the risk and dangers of what the radical left is proposing. Nevertheless, Democratic leaders still support the movement to defund the police. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s radical positions are gaining traction with some on the Left, despite many of her fellow, more moderate Democrats wanting nothing to do with it, as Steube pointed out for us. Tlaib recently tweeted how proud she was to stand against police, a radical position out of touch with the needs of most Americans and most minorities in the communities in need of protection.

Originally published here.

SCOTUS Delivers Wins for Religious Liberty

Wednesday, the Supreme Court delivered two noteworthy victories for religious liberty. In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the court upheld a Trump administration policy protecting conscience and religious freedom in the context of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the court robustly defined the First Amendment rights of religious schools and institutions to determine who will teach and defend the tenets of their faith.

The first case is a saga that stretches back nearly a decade. Under the ACA, employers had been required to provide “preventative care and screening,” which had been interpreted by the Obama administration to include some abortion-causing drugs and services. As a religious organization, the Little Sisters of the Poor raised a conscientious objection to this mandate on the grounds that it contradicted the religious beliefs of the group. Threatened by tens of millions of crushing fines and harassed by those who desired to destroy the right to freely live out one’s faith and moral beliefs, the group received a victory in 2017 when the Trump administration decided that it would reverse the oppressive policies of the previous administration and not force entities to cover abortion-causing drugs and related services in violation of their consciences.

As the court observed, “for the past seven years,” the Little Sisters, “like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to [this] decision — have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Wednesday, the court vindicated their fight.

In the 7-2 opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the majority ruled that, “[…] the plain language of the statute clearly allows” the Trump administration to do this and promulgate protections under “religious and moral exemptions.” As FRC’s Travis Weber told me on Washington Watch, the “opinion said basically the government had the statutory authority to issue this rule under the Affordable Care Act and related regulations and related laws.” Further, the administration properly followed the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition to delivering a substantial win for religious liberty, the fact that seven justices agreed the administration acted properly affirms the legitimacy of the religious freedom policies the administration had advanced here.

In Our Lady of Guadalupe School, the court outlined First Amendment protections for religious liberty that will have important implications in the years ahead. The case arose because a teacher claimed she was improperly fired from a religious school. Yet as the court noted in an opinion joined by seven justices, religious entities must be the ones to determine who transmits their religious beliefs — the government cannot meddle here. As Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “[s]tate interference in that sphere would obviously violate the free exercise of religion, and any attempt by government to dictate or even to influence such matters would constitute one of the central attributes of an establishment of religion. The First Amendment outlaws such intrusion.”

But which employees carry on the faith of such institutions? As Travis observed, rather than just look at their titles, “the court quite rightly digs down deep, more deeply and says you have to look at what the person does, what the employee does for the institution, whether their role is one in which they’re entrusted with carrying forth the doctrines of the institution or the school and says, look, if they are, the school can determine or the religious institution can determine to fire them.”

Exactly right. More of such protections will be needed in the years ahead. In this case, as well as the first, the Trump administration’s policies and positions advanced through the Department of Justice were vindicated at the court. Both of President Trump’s appointments to the court were on the right side of the cases, and Justice Gorsuch joined strong concurrences in both cases (one authored by Justice Alito and the other by Justice Thomas). Alarmingly, Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor offered words of disdain and hostility to religious belief and dissented in both cases.

Even in the courts, religious liberty hangs in the balance. For those who say elections don’t matter in such cases, they need to think again.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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