Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America enjoy watching the Washington Post get called out for false reporting on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Matt Lee of the Associated Press. They also wonder what Mike Flynn has to say to congressional investigators based on reports Flynn wants immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. And they unload on liberals for sneering at the boundaries Vice President Mike Pence and his wife have established to protect their marriage.
Lawyers for a Christian florist vow a vigorous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after a state supreme court ruled unanimously Thursday that their client violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
All nine justices ruled for the State of Washington and plaintiffs Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed and against Baronelle Stutzman and her store, Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts.
“Discrimination based on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” wrote Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud in the court’s opinion. The court further stated that the state’s anti-discrimination law does not infringe upon Stutzman’s freedom of religious expression.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Stutzman, begs to differ.
“They’re wrong,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued Stutzman’s case before the Washington State Supreme Court.
“We’re deeply disappointed with today’s court decision. The first amendment protects Baronelle’s rights as a small business owner and a creative professional. She has loved and respected everyone who has walked into her store. She served this gentleman (Ingersoll) for nearly ten years and simply declined an event, one ceremony that was a religious ceremony because of her religious convictions,” said Waggnoner.
While not stunned by a liberal court ruling against her client, Waggoner says it’s a mind-boggling ruling when the state conceded the crux of Stutzman’s case.
“Even in oral arguments, the Attorney General of the State of Washington conceded that Baronelle’s design of custom arrangements was expression. The court’s opinion says she intended to convey a message. The first amendment clearly protects this activity and these designs as pure speech,” said Waggoner, who says Stutzman will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson is making name for himself. In addition to vigorously prosecuting Stutzman, Ferguson also took the lead in challenging President Trump’s executive order on travel from seven nations plagued by Islamic terrorism.
Waggoner says Ferguson is clearly trying to make an example of Stutzman.
“One wonders why it was so personal and vindictive. If it was about the principle of law, the attorney general could have just sued Baronelle’s business. Instead, he chose to pursue her in her personal capacity. The ACLU has also been behind this. They also sued on behalf of clients in this case. They also are suing her personally. Everything she own’s is at risk,” said Waggoner.
“The civil fines are relatively low. The court hasn’t decided in terms of what she must pay the couple that’s represented by the ACLU. But where the stick is and the real threat to business owners and creative professionals is in the attorneys’ fees. She’s required to pay attorney’s fees, which could exceed seven figures,” said Waggoner.
Alliance Defending Freedom has set up a web page for anyone interested in helping Stutzman face the financial challenge.
Waggoner says Stutzman has 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and then wait to learn if the court will hear the case. She is hopeful there will nine justices on the court by the time any oral arguments take place.
Waggoner is fully confident the Constitution is on Stutzman’s side.
“In the first amendment, our rights and protections for free speech and free exercise of religion protect her right to do that. Nor did she violate the statute. She didn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. As I said, she served him for ten years. This was about her religious convictions and a sacred religious ceremony,” said Waggoner.
And Waggoner says there’s plenty of legal precedent on Stutzman’s side as well.
“The law in this area is clear and the court misrepresents that law in its decision. The U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have said these types of discrimination laws can’t be used to trump first amendment rights. The government cannot use it’s power to force someone to promote a message or celebrate a ceremony in violation of their conscience,” said Waggoner.
Waggoner says how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in this case will have a profound impact on our nation.
“If the Supreme Court sides with Baronelle Stutzman, it reaffirms that tolerance is a two-way street and that the government cannot use its power to crush people and crush dissent, crush those that don’t agree with the government’s ideology at that point,” said Waggoner.
“All civilizations have had the freedom to believe what they want. What has made America unique is the freedom to live out those beliefs in the marketplace in a peaceful way. That’s what’s at stake in this case
Four young adults in Chicago are facing a wide array of criminal charges after they live-streamed their torturing of a mentally disabled man, but the episode is also triggering a backlash against the media for allegedly treating the case differently because the perpetrators are black and the victim is white.
The video shows the victim blindfolded and gagged . The alleged perpetrators cut the victim’s sweatshirt and a piece of his scalp. Screamed insults also pepper the 30-minute video, including rants of “F–k Donald Trump” and “F–ck white people.” While the video lasted half an hour, the entire ordeal played out over 1-2 days.
On Thursday, Chicago police announced charges against Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper and Brittany Covington, all 18 years old, as well as 24-year-old Tanishia Covington. All have been charged with a hate crime, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery.
While members of the media are expressing outrage across the board, critics point out the anger seems much more subdued than if the races were reversed.
The firestorm over media reaction began Wednesday, when CNN’s Don Lemon rejected the opinion of a guest that the torture was the result of evil
“I don’t think it’s evil,” he said. “I don’t think it’s evil. I think these are young people and I think they have bad home training,” said Lemon.
“I have no idea who is raising these young people, because no one I know on earth who is 17-years-old or 70-years-old would ever think of treating another person like that,” he continued. “You wonder, at 18-years-old, where is your parent, where is your guardian?” added Lemon.
Another panelist in the CNN discussion, Democratic strategist Symone Sanders, wasn’t sure hate crime charges were appropriate.
At least one prominent black conservative is shaking his head that Lemon could not see evil in the video.
“The mainstream media appears to have this thesis: When a minority does something so wicked, so depraved they come up with an excuse. When a non-minority does the same thing, they can never see an excuse,” said Horace Cooper, an attorney and co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. Project 21 is a national leadership network of black conservatives.
Cooper is quick to point out that poor or non-existent parenting may well play a role in the depravity of the four people charged, but that doesn’t change the fact the video depicted evil.
“If he had said, ‘This is evil and it probably stems from bad parenting,’ he probably could have gotten my acquiescence and support for his observations. The destruction of the family in America, and in particularly in the black family, has wrought victimhood in so many ways,” said Cooper.
“I can’t [explain] a person who looks at this video and listens to what happens and then learns that this took place over several days and not think ‘evil’ as the first mindset that comes,” said Cooper.
The frustration with the media boiled over again Thursday afternoon, when Washington Post columnist Callum Borchers wrote that the video serves as a validation of Trump voters’ concerns over media bias, Chicago violence and targeting of Trump supporters.
But he also claims there is a valid reason why this story is getting far less coverage than if the perpetrators were white and the victim black.
“If the attackers had been white and the victim had been black, the incident would have, of course, conjured America’s ugly history of white mobs committing violence against black people. There is no parallel history of the reverse happening on anything remotely approaching the same scale,” Borchers wrote.
Cooper is stunned by that rationale.
“I’m appalled. Martin Luther King said that he longed for an America where people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” said Cooper.
Cooper says the media, and the rest of us, need to call out evil without regard to the demographic issues involved.
“We ought to be able to come together as a society – and I mean by society the mainstream media. We will give no space, no quarter to this kind of behavior,” said Cooper, who also says the Obama administration’s silence on the issue until late afternoon Thursday is also telling.
“I’m also disappointed that the President of the United States hasn’t issued a statement – and not just this particular case, hasn’t found an example like it to issue a statement. no one from the Department of Justice has issued a statement,” said Cooper.
Given Obama administration action in other racially charged cases, Cooper says the silence here is deafening.
“It sends the signal that somehow the depravity that we witnessed is different because this individual isn’t a minority. I think that is completely wrong. That is completely obnoxious. And it runs afoul of the whole idea that all Americans are equal before the law,” said Cooper.
The four suspects will face the legal system, as announced by the Chicago police on Thursday. However, Cooper points out that the same Justice Department that parachuted into Ferguson looking at hate crime charges in the Michael Brown case was nowhere to be found this time.
“Why hasn’t the media called out the Department of Justice for its silence on this matter, for it’s lack of regard for the depravity that is witnessed here. If this isn’t a civil rights violation, I guess I don’t understand what one looks like,” said Cooper.