- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Sept. 25

The TimesDaily on a new agency to examine how state funds are being spent:

'Bunch of dudes' in Hollywood to blame for my 'hyper-sexualized' image, complains Johansson
Evangelist Franklin Graham calls impeachment hearing 'a day of shame for America'
Adam Schiff cracking under 'point of order' pressure

A newly created agency whose goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of state services officially begins its work next week.

The 12-member Commission on Evaluation of Services, which meets for the first time on Monday, will include six lawmakers and six other members appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey.

The rationale behind the agency is solid. As the demands for state funds grow, lawmakers want programs receiving funding to be checked out to make sure they are still meeting the needs of the populations they are serving.

It’s a common sense approach to budgeting the public should embrace with open arms.

Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the legislation that was approved this past session in both the House and Senate without opposition. His service on the House General Fund budget committee spawned the idea for the legislation.

He said too often he found himself having to approve funding for services that he knew little or nothing about. He had no idea if the money was being used as it was supposed to be used, and he didn’t know how many people were benefitting from the funds.

Simply put, Wingo wanted to “understand where the people’s money is going.”

That should be a goal of each and every one of our state lawmakers.

Critics of the legislation have characterized it as a witch hunt solely dedicated to shaming agencies. Some of that criticism is nothing more than an effort to protect the inflow of state cash. An agency that is fiscally responsible and is meeting its stated public obligations has nothing to fear.

In fact, the scrutiny of state agencies could prove beneficial to those agencies that are truly doing a good job. Funds being allocated to services that are no longer necessary, or those with diminishing success, can be reallocated to the more efficient agencies.

“Everyone is in this to try to find a better, leaner way to do business,” said Wingo of the commission’s purpose.

With funding requests for state agencies outpacing the available revenue on an annual basis, it’s important for lawmakers to have as much information as they can get so that funding decisions can be educated choices, not rote approvals.

Online: https://www.timesdaily.com/


Sept. 25

The Decatur Daily on a lawsuit against the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center and an organization it called a “hate group”:

The Southern Poverty Law Center is at its best when it provides legal representation to the poor and other disenfranchised groups, seeing that they have access to a legal system that is supposed to protect all of us, regardless of race, creed or class.

The SPLC keeps its name in the headlines and the donations coming into its already stuffed coffers, however, by tracking hate groups, so it has an incentive to find a lot of them, even if some of the hate groups on its map are just one guy with a P.O. box.

Yet even if the SPLC is a little loose with its definitions, it has a First Amendment right to call things as it sees them, just as the rest of us have a First Amendment right to disagree from time to time.

With that in mind, we agree with U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s decision last week to throw out a complaint filed against the SPLC by Florida-based Coral Ridge Ministries Media Inc.

“Coral Ridge, also called James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, sued the nonprofit law center, Amazon and others in 2017 because it wasn’t included in a program that lets Amazon customers donate to nonprofit groups,” The Associated Press reported. “The suit said the refusal was because the law center had labeled the ministry a hate group for its stance against homosexual behavior.”

Judge Thompson ruled that the SPLC has a First Amendment right to make the claim, although he did not, as The AP noted, address whether Coral Ridge is actually a hate group.

Whether or not a group is a “hate group” is ultimately a matter of opinion rather than fact, and while people aren’t entitled to their own facts, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no matter how ridiculous, foolish or just plain wrong everyone else might think it is.

To take just the issue at hand, the United States has seen a dramatic shift in recent years regarding attitudes toward sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, and while it might not be helpful for the SPLC to go around labeling everyone on the opposite side of that shift a “hate group,” it would be far worse if everyone could go around suing people for their opinions.

Thompson’s ruling came down just days after another federal judge tossed a separate lawsuit against the SPLC. In that suit the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies had claimed the SPLC had violated federal racketeering laws by branding it a hate group.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the Center for Immigration Studies’ complaint, but refused to impose the sanctions on the center that the SPLC requested. She also declined to rule on the free speech issues involved, confining her decision to the Center for Immigration Studies’ unfounded racketeering claims.

We firmly believe the best response to speech one doesn’t like is more speech. So, if Coral Ridge and the Center for Immigration Studies want to turn around and say the real hate group here is the SPLC, they have a First Amendment right to do so.

They could even point to the numerous internal scandals the SPLC has faced in the past year, including having to dismiss its founder, Morris Dees, amid misconduct allegations. That is how free speech works.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/


Sept. 24

The Gadsden Times on two controversial events making headlines at Jacksonville State University:

“JSU Strong” was the rallying cry adapted by Jacksonville State University after the March 2018 tornado that devastated its campus and the surrounding city.

It fit well; the university and those who are connected to it and love it have shown admirable determination and resilience in their response to an event that inflicted still-visible scars.

We’ll see if they can summon up those same characteristics in dealing with a situation 180 degrees removed, which has produced embarrassing and negative headlines and media attention for JSU in recent days.

Part One: Eleven warrants for second-degree rape and one for second-degree sodomy have been issued in connection with a string of alleged rapes both on and off campus.

The legal code definition of those charges indicate the two reported victims were underage. The incidents allegedly took place between Jan. 1 and Sept. 3, and were reported to the Jacksonville Police Department on Sept. 11.

Nine suspects between the ages of 18 and 22, from throughout Northeast Alabama, were arrested and released on bond.

University officials insist “there is no reason for students on campus to feel unsafe.” We’d have been stunned if they said otherwise, but JSU students who have spoken to the media agree with that assessment and have cited the security protocols in place at the school’s dorms.

Of course that’s not going to stop people from speculating or subdue their imaginations, especially when the subject is so lurid. We don’t think it’s out of line to wonder whether this is an isolated situation or if similar things have happened in the past.

Still, it seems like the university is on this - with a lot of eyes watching for oversight - so the best thing is to let the law enforcement and legal processes play out.

Part Two: JSU on Saturday (Sept. 21) called an emergency meeting of the board of trustees to evaluate the employment status of President John Beehler, who has led the university since 2015. (Discussion of the rape allegations and pending litigation also was on the agenda).

Many observers were expecting Beehler’s ouster at the meeting. Instead, following a long executive session, the board’s Evaluation Committee recommended - and the full board granted him - 90 days of family medical leave, beginning Oct. 1.

Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Killingsworth, Provost Dr. Christie Shelton and Vice President for Finance and Administration James Brigham will run the university in Beehler’s absence.

University officials stressed in a press release Monday that granting Beehler the leave had nothing to do with the rape accusations, that it was to deal with medical issues involving several close family members, and called the timing “unfortunate.” Call us suspicious, but we’d be surprised if the subject wasn’t mentioned. …

We can say - and it’s not crawling out on too thin a branch, despite the university’s protestations otherwise - that Saturday’s result after so long a discussion seemed more like a punt (an apt metaphor given that it took place prior to a JSU football game) to buy some time to reach a mutually acceptable resolution, rather than a definitive action.

That means more uncertainty, which means more pressure on the trio who’ll be driving JSU’s “car” to keep it steady during this troubled time. …

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com/


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