Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon


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11Federal Judge Rules NSA Phone Spying Program Unconstitutional

The United States’ National Security Agency has been a source of controversy ever since former employee Edward Snowden leaked details behind the government organization’s phone spying program, raising questions about individual privacy and safety as well as government transparency. 

In response to Snowden’s leaks, conservative activist and Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit against the NSA in June. In a recent ruling by a U.S. District Court, Judge Richard Leon found that the organization’s phone spying program violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches without the use of a warrant. 

Leon wrote in the case’s ruling that the NSA’s collection of data is analogous to an unlawful search of an individual. 

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systemic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote. 

The common argument in support of the NSA’s phone-spying program is that it protects the collective public from the possibility of a terrorist attack. In Judge Leon’s ruling, he claimed that he didn’t believe this explanation was justifiable, especially considering the lack of evidence that the program has actually prevented an attack thus far.

“I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism,” he said.

According to the Huffington Post, Klayman’s suit against the Obama administration is yet another ploy in order to get the commander-in-chief out of office. Klayman has flirted with religiously-charged remarks in several of his anti-Obama speeches, including a Veteran’s Day rally in which he alluded that he believed Obama to be Muslim when he urged his followers “to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out.” 

It has not yet been reported how the lawsuit will advance through the courts, but this is likely the first victory in a lengthy series of legal battles being waged by Klayman.

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11Indian Court Criminalizes Homosexuality Once Again

LGBT people in India were hit with a massive setback this week after a court decided to overturn a 2009 decision that decriminalized homosexuality. Homosexual acts were illegal under an old law still on the books, but in 2009, it was ruled unconstitutional. Now, activists in the country are facing a fresh challenge, as the law that says gay sex is “against the order of nature” is back on the books.

Section 377 Indian Penal Code was decriminalized in 2009 and served as a major win to gay rights activists in the country. Many objected the ruling, however, and groups have fought to overturn it in the four years since the landmark decision. A New Delhi court came to the ruling originally, but now, after much opposition, they have decided that the decision to change Section 377 should be left up to Parliament, not a court.

Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati said during initial arguments that British rulers imposed Section 377 of IPC upon the country and that India had a better level of acceptance for homosexuality before it came about long ago.

“The introduction of Section 377 in the IPC was not a reflection of existing Indian values and traditions, rather it was imposed upon Indian society by the colonisers due to their moral values,” said Vahanvati. “The Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the IPC had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex.”

After this week’s ruling, gay rights activists say that this is a huge setback for their years of work to overturn Section 377.

“It’s a black day for us,” said Anjali Gopalan, founder of HIV/AIDS awareness group the Naz Foundation. “I feel so exhausted right now thinking we are being set back by 100 years … I think it’s pathetic and sad.”

“Now the conservatives have won,” said social scientist Sanjay Srivastava to BBC News India. “This verdict is remarkable and bizarre. How can a court take away a fundamental right which has been already given to people? It is a huge setback for the gay community. And it makes India look thoroughly stupid internationally.”

Those that petitioned to have Section 377 of IPC be made law again say, however, that gay sex is unnatural and that the 2009 ruling should never have happened in the first place.

“Only a man and a woman constitute a family and contribute for the holistic development of a child, which is not possible without a father and a mother,” said Amod Kanth, head of an Indian children’s welfare organization.

Still, LGBT activists are hopeful that Section 377 can once again be deemed unconstitutional when it heads to Parliament.

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11Sen. Ted Cruz Calls Overruling of Texas Anti-Abortion Law Unconstitutional

Though a federal court decided that part of the Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital is unconstitutional Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz said he doesn’t accept the verdict.

"This law is constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent protecting the life and health of the mother and child,” Cruz said “I hope the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Texas' reasonable law."

Cruz insisted that the law protected the health of women and their unborn children.

Texas attorney general Greg Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry have also taken stances against the decision.

Abbot promised to appeal the case to the Fifth Circuit Court, and said he would be unsurprised if the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Perry said the decision would not hinder Texas in protecting women from so-called abortion mill horror stories. The governor promised that Texas would fight to enforce laws passed by elected officials and that reflect the values of the state.

In opposition to Cruz’s opinions, President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards called the verdict a victory for Texas women, noting that the law itself had been unconstitutional and not the dismissal of it.

Sources: The Huffington Post, LA Times

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11Texas Anti-Abortion Law Blocked By U.S. Federal Judge, Declared Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade found abortion to be a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution in 1973, and pro-life individuals, groups and politicians have been fighting the decision ever since.

One of abortion’s strongest critics has long been the outspoken Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Now, a federal judge has claimed that the governor's new anti-abortion legislation is unconstitutional. 

The state’s new legislation, which Perry signed into law in July, had a wide range of restrictions on abortions. The legislation would limit abortions to taking place in surgical centers and would ban all abortions taking place after the 20th week of pregnancy. Several other provisions were included in the bill, which Gov. Perry claimed would “further cement the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built.” 

Although these laws were expected to be enacted on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked their implementation with a last minute decision declaring their unconstitutionality. Yeakel had been hearing pleas from attorneys representing groups such as Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations throughout the past few weeks, who had sued the state after the bill was signed into law. 

Since the new law required abortion doctors to have admitting to privileges to a hospital within 30 miles from the clinic, pro-life groups estimated that over one-third of abortion clinics throughout the state would be forced to close, NBC News reports. 

More information as to the law’s status is currently unfolding, as Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Greg Abbott is expected to file an emergency appeal of Yeakel’s decision, according to NBC News.

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11Utah Cites "Procreation" as Reason to Defend Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

As the tide seems to be turning in the national conversation on marriage equality states that passed laws to define marriage are finding that they are losing ground in both court and the court of public opinion.

Utah state attorneys are defending an amendment made to their constitution that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman on the grounds that it serves the state’s interest in “responsible procreation.” However, three same-sex couples are suing the state claiming the law is discriminatory and violates their rights.

Utah argues, in motions filed last Friday, that their marriage laws are not discriminatory and are designed to meet “a compelling government interest” and does not simply further a moral view that same-sex marriage is “wrong.” So, attorneys for the state of Utah are turning toward the tried-and-true claim that same-sex marriage does not further the government’s interests because they cannot procreate.

The state says that Utah is one of the most “child-centric” states in the nation and has the most marriages in the union. They argue, “Same-sex couples, who cannot procreate, do not promote the state’s interests in responsible procreation (regardless of whether they harm it).”

However, if children are the lynchpin of the state’s argument, they might find themselves on shaky ground. While it remains true that same-sex couples cannot biologically produce children together, that hasn’t stopped them from becoming parents. The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law studied census data earlier this year and determined that Salt Lake City has the highest rate of same-sex parents in the United States. They don’t have the largest gay community in the country, but according to a Utah resident, “it’s ingrained in our culture that family is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, you still want that.”

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11New Hampshire School Bans Prayers Against Gun Violence for Not Being All-Inclusive

Concord High School in Concord, N.H., recently banned a mother from performing public prayers against gun violence on the school’s front steps.

Lizarda Urena, a mother of two tenth grade students who attended Concord High School, had been praying to end gun violence on school grounds every morning. While just about everybody can get behind the message of less gun violence in schools, not everybody was happy with the prosthelytizing.

The school district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation after a parent complained to the organization.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion, including religious exercise such as prayer, ” the letter reads. It goes on to cite a laundry list of court cases including Engel v. Vitale and Lee v. Weisman. Indeed, this is not an issue of opinion — the Supreme Court has been quite clear about this issue.

Students can pray all they want publicly or privately, but the school cannot endorse any religious belief or practice, which allegedly happened when the school principal gave Urena permission to prosthelytize.

Urena argued that she was not trying to prosthelytize.

"What I am doing here is for our peace and our love, because the Bible says love your neighbor as you love yourself, and when I'm here it symbolizes peace and love and care," Urena said.

While that may be true, praying and quoting scripture also represents Christianity, which is in itself a form of prosthelytizing.

Urena now plans to pray across the street from the school at the gas station, but it is unclear whether prayers will have any impact on gun violence from so far away.

Do you agree with Urena on this issue? Do you think that she should be able to pray on school steps in defiance of Supreme Court rulings? 

Source: Christian Post

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11Gun Crowd Prepares to Fight Illinois Assault Weapon Ban

The state-wide ban on concealed carry weapons in Illinois was recently found to be unconstitutional. Gun rights activists are hoping to carry that pro-gun momentum into a campaign against other gun control legislation.

Gun enthusiasts gathered in Lake County to discuss their options. Mike Weisman, the second vice president of the Illinois State Rifle Association, warned gun owners of looming gun control policies.

"There is litigation around the country on ordinances like this, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more," Weisman said.

Many gun rights advocates fear that the looming concealed carry law will spark a flurry of gun control restrictions across Illinois localities. Nearly 50 firearm owners gathered in Buffalo Grove recently to talk about opposing the assault weapon bans that politicians are currently considering in places like Highland Park, Deerfield, Buffalo Grove, Lake Forest and Waukegan.

Weisman warned that these laws would "create criminals out of law-abiding citizens" by turning AR-15s and other assault weapons into illegal weapons.

Gun advocates are starting with the simplest approach: just ask nicely. Weisman encouraged gun owners to simply ask their representatives to support gun rights. If that approach fails, then it might be necessary to be a bit more tenacious.

Gun supporter Scott Haugh, an attorney, offered some advice from a legal perspective. He told his colleagues to tell lawmakers, "if you pass this, this is going to be filed." Illinois legislators might think twice about passing gun control policies under the threat of costly litigation.

Others argued that gun owners should speak the language that everybody understands: money.

"I do a lot of shopping in Deerfield, and I will withhold my money from local businesses," said Daniel Easterday of Highland Park. "I will not give one cent. I'll move. I'll take my whole family and I'll move."

Petitions, litigation, and boycotts — with so many Illinois gun owners rallying around the recent pro-gun momentum, the Prairie State might undergo a miniature revolution as it leaves behind its reputation as one of the strongest gun control states in the nation.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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11Eric Holder Calls Kansas Law that Criminalizes Federal Gun Control "Unconstitutional"

Trouble is brewing between Kansas and Attorney General Eric Holder. Kansas legislators recently passed a law that made it illegal for the federal government – or anyone else, for that matter – to enforce federal gun control laws. Holder responded by calling the move unconstitutional.

Unsurprisingly, Holder’s argument relies on the power of the federal government. He wrote in a letter to Governor Sam Brownback, “In purporting to override federal law and to criminalize the official acts of federal officers, [the law] directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional. Federal officers who are responsible for enforcing federal laws and regulations in order to maintain public safety cannot be forced to choose between the risk of a criminal prosecution by a state and the continued performance of their federal duties.”

Right now the ball is in the court of Kansas legislators. Holder promised the Kansas governor that the federal government would go about business as usual, effectively ignoring the law because “Federal officers […] cannot be forced to choose between the risk of a criminal prosecution by a state and the continued performance of their federal duties.”

If Kansas lawmakers stick to their guns, then Holder will “take all appropriate action, including litigation if necessary” in order to maintain the federal government’s supremacy as the top dog.

Holder’s letter of warning might come off as a bit oppressive, but the Constitution is quite clear on this issue. The Supremacy Clause reads, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Of course, state legislators and gun rights advocates might argue that the federal government should take a closer look at the Constitution, namely the Second Amendment.

That’s a separate issue, though. Regardless of whether or not federal gun control regulations are unconstitutional, Kansas’ attempt to rebel against the federal government will likely end with a failed court battle. Very few courts would rule against the federal government in a Supremacy Clause dispute.

Source: Washington Times

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