Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Liberty Counsel bullies Mt. Horeb Schools, transgender student with legal threat

Conservative organization describes girl in school district as having a "mental disorder"

The Mt. Horeb School District’s Early Learning and Primary Center had planned to discuss an important topic with students in its care -- that is, before a conservative organization threatened them with legal action.

One of the students, born as a boy but who identifies as a girl, entered the district this year. In order to produce a hospitable environment for that child and others to learn in, officials in the school district determined it was imperative to explain to the children what that meant exactly.

But the district also understood that some parents would object to their children being exposed to the discussion. So they sent home a letter to parents alerting them that a conversation between teachers and students would happen regarding gender identification in general.

In the letter, they assured parents that they “respect[ed] the beliefs and convictions of all families,” and that, if anyone wanted their children withdrawn from the discussion, it was their right to do so.

The letter was sent four days before the talks were scheduled to occur. That’s admittedly not a lot of time for parents to get in touch with school administrators to let them know of any objections -- on that, the district erred.

Some concerned parents took issue with the timing, but also with the topic itself. The school had planned to read a book called “I Am Jazz,” which details the life of a child that identified more with the gender that was opposite to what they were genetically born as.

Those concerned parents contacted the Liberty Counsel, a self-described “policy organization with an emphasis on religious liberty issues.” They sent a scathing letter (PDF) to the district explaining that the short notice wasn’t the only issue they had with the topic at hand.

“The District is not free to override parental rights and religious beliefs, by subjecting impressionable children to confusion about something as important as gender and sexuality,” their letter stated, adding that, “If harm results to children, including gender confusion, violations of restroom privacy, or other harms, all options will be explored, including a federal lawsuit against teachers and staff in their official and individual capacities for violation of parental rights” -- emphasis theirs.

The Liberty Counsel seems to be concerned for potential “harm” caused to children by introducing the topic of gender identity to kids. But here’s the thing -- there’s no confusion brought in the classroom whatsoever. By the age of four, most kids already know what gender they gravitate towards being. In most cases, this gender identity corresponds with what the child is anatomically. In some cases, it doesn’t, and the child identifies with the opposite gender that they were born as. And in some cases, they identify as neither, or both male and female.

No discussion is going to cause children to feel differently about who they are. It might, however, open the eyes of some children who were already confused about their gender. That’s what the Liberty Counsel is truly afraid of.

What’s worse than these threats of legal action is how this family of the child involved must feel. All they want is a place that their child can feel accepted at -- but according to the Liberty Counsel, that child is experiencing nothing more than a “mental disorder” for identifying as a girl -- a stigmatizing classification that the American Psychiatric Association dropped years ago.

Just as it’s not the school’s place to tell parents what to believe, it’s not the Liberty Counsel’s place to tell students that they are broken. The school did the proper thing by telling parents they had the option to opt out of the lesson plan. The Liberty Counsel, however, decided to bully the school and this child’s family into canceling the lesson altogether.

I bet the Liberty Counsel feels like they won a big victory for “religious liberty” by shutting the district down. In reality, the Liberty Counsel has exposed themselves to be the real oppressors, disallowing open discussion on a topic that is very important to a little girl and her family in a small community in Wisconsin.

Monday, November 23, 2015

7th Circuit Court makes right decision on unconstitutional "admitting privileges" law

Law "would actually endanger women's health" according to court ruling

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that Wisconsin’s law requiring abortion clinics to have “admitting privileges” to area hospitals is unconstitutional.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2013, would have greatly limited the number of abortion providers in the state, including one in Milwaukee (PDF) that would had to have closed were it not for the 7th Circuit Court decision this week.

Admitting privileges, which (according to is “the right of a doctor, by virtue of membership as a hospital's medical staff, to admit patients to a particular hospital or medical center,” is the latest way for many conservative lawmakers to limit abortion services to women without outright banning the practice.

Texas also sought to institute such a law, only to have federal courts strike it down as well. But before the courts could intervene, the state law in Texas resulted in dozens of clinics being shut down, which may have resulted in hundreds of thousands of self-induced abortions according to the University of Texas. That’s a dangerous outcome of the law, and is one of the many reasons why it was struck down as a barrier to abortion services in that state as well as many others.

One additional reason? The “admitting privileges” rule is an undue burden that isn’t necessary. From Daily Kos (emphasis in bold added):
...when there’s an emergency, admitting privileges become irrelevant. Under a 1986 federal law known as EMTALA, hospitals are required to provide care to anyone who needs emergency care...


Think of it this way: If you’re walking down the street and have a heart attack, it doesn’t matter who your personal doctor is, or whether he/she has admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where you are: You can be taken to any hospital emergency room, get admitted, and receive treatment, even if your doctor isn’t there, and even if you don’t know a doctor within 30 miles of the hospital.
The 7th Circuit Court stated quite clearly in its ruling that there wasn’t any need for admitting privileges, and that the requirement didn’t do anything positive for women in the state. “There is not a rational basis for your statute because it doesn't provide any health benefits for women seeking abortion,” Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, said during oral arguments earlier this fall.

In the court's decision today, Posner wrote, “What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women's health -- and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women's health.”

He’s absolutely right, and the court made the right call. Women have an inalienable right to make this decision for themselves. That decision shouldn’t be hindered by any state law that requires unnecessary and sometimes unattainable barriers for abortion providers.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Violent Trump supporters demonstrate what it really means to say “All Lives Matter”

Problems with racism exist nationally, but hit home hard in Wisconsin as well

Frequently when Black Lives Matter protesters make their presence heard at any given event, it’s almost a guarantee that those who oppose them and their efforts will counter with the shrill line of “All Lives Matter.”

They must feel clever in making that assertion. After all, all lives DO matter -- to say otherwise suggests that there is preference for one group over another. Therefore, in the minds of the All Lives Matter camp, they hold the erroneous opinion that the BLM movement is promoting itself over all other lives.

But this misses the point entirely: it’s not that BLM supporters are saying only black lives matter, but rather that it’s time that black lives start to matter as equally as white lives. All lives ARE supposed to matter -- but it seems that in reality, black lives matter less than white lives do, and tragic events over the past few years seem to demonstrate such.

In short, the “Black Lives Matter” moniker isn’t a promotion of black lives over all other lives, but rather for black lives (and others) to achieve real equality in America.

Right now we live in a nation, to paraphrase George Orwell, where all lives are equal, but some are more equal than others. The letter of the law may say that black lives are equal to white lives, but in practice that’s clearly not the case.

A recent campaign event held by Donald Trump grants us more visual detail of what the All Lives Matter counter-protesters are all about. During the event, a BLM protester is visibly pushed, shoved, and kicked by Trump supporters. As he’s being escorted out of the area -- still being shoved while leaving -- chants of “All Lives Matter” begin.

This is precisely the irony that the All Lives Matter crowd is apparently unaware of -- as they kick and berate a black man, they insist that all lives are equally important. The abuse they lay onto this individual is evidence that all lives don’t really matter to them. Their words don’t match their actions.

They are proud to expel and beat this man as Trump himself says to “get him out of here” indignantly on the microphone. What they don’t realize, however, is that their violent acts justify exactly what the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to expose: that the lives African Americans aren’t valued as equally as white lives are in America.

This certainly isn’t the only incident that puts this willful ignorance of a problem into light. Countless examples in law enforcement and the criminal justice system demonstrate the unfair treatment of blacks as well. When a black woman is sentenced to twenty years in prison for shooting a warning shot against an abusive husband, but a white teen is acquitted of all charges for driving drunk and killing four because his upbringing was “too affluent,” there’s clearly a double standard evident in this country for everyone to witness.

But these actions being a part of the presidential campaign trail, the fact that a frontrunner’s supporters are proud of their violence against a physically defenseless black individual (all while Trump seems to look on approvingly), is even more telling of the problem.

The process of selecting a presidential candidate should itself be an all-inclusive event, discriminating against none and surely putting no one in harm’s way for expressing an opinion. A protester at a closed event can rightly be removed, but not through violent means that puts his health at risk.

Our state has its problems with this as well -- black lives should matter, but they don’t seem to matter much in Wisconsin. We’re seemingly satisfied with an education system that has the largest achievement gap in the nation between white and black students. Our justice system is equally riddled with problems: blacks are imprisoned in Wisconsin at a rate that’s higher than any other state in the country.

These issues need to be addressed. And until our elected leaders fix them, we cannot allow anyone to say with a straight face that “All Lives Matter.”

Actions speak louder than words. And our actions, throughout the U.S. and in Wisconsin, are undoubtedly showing us that some lives don’t matter as much as others. We have the power to change that -- and we must change it, sooner rather than later.