Sean Combs leads four black artists as world’s highest paid musicians

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs was ranked the world’s highest-paid musician on Wednesday in an annual list that saw black artists take the top four spots.

FILE PHOTO: 2017 Billboard Music Awards – Photo Room – Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., 21/05/2017 – Sean Diddy Combs.

Combs, who is also a hip hop producer and entrepreneur, earned an estimated $130 million for the year, according to Forbes, mostly from his Bad Boy Family Reunion tour and the sale of his Sean Jean clothing line.

Fellow American Beyonce ranked second, with earnings estimated at $105 million from her Formation world tour and hit album “Lemonade,” while Canadian artists Drake ($94 million) and The Weeknd ($92 million) rounded out the top four.

British band Coldplay pulled in an estimated $88 million to take the No. 5 spot.

Forbes compiled the list after estimating pre-tax income for the 12 months from June 2016 to 2017 based on interviews with managers, agents, lawyers, interviews and data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and tracking firm Nielsen.

Last year’s top two artists – Taylor Swift, and British boy band One Direction – both slipped out of the top 10 this year. Swift did not tour this year and released her latest album in November, while One Direction are on hiatus as its members pursue solo careers.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘Get Out’ Wins Big With African American Film Critics Association

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” dominated the awards handed out by the African American Film Critics Association, which announced its 2017 winners on Tuesday.

Jordan Peele’s socially-conscious thriller was named the best picture of the year, and also won awards for Daniel Kaluuya for best actor and Peele for best director and best screenplay.

Other winners included Frances McDormand, best actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Laurence Fishburne and Tiffany Haddish, best supporting actor and actress for “Last Flag Flying” and “Girls Trip,” respectively; “Detroit,” best ensemble; and “Crown Heights,” best independent film.

Animation, documentary and foreign-film awards went to “Coco,” “Step” and “The Wound.”

The full list of AAFCA winners:

Best Picture: “Get Out”
Best Director: Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Supporting Actor: Laurence Fishburne, “Last Flag Flying”
Best Supporting Actress: Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”
Best Comedy: “Girls Trip”
Best Ensemble: “Detroit”
Best Independent: “Crown Heights”
Best Animated: “Coco”
Best Documentary: “Step”
Best Foreign: “Wound”
Best Screenplay: “Get Out”
Best Song: “It Ain’t Fair” from “Detroit,” the Roots featuring Bilal
Best New Media: “Mudbound”
Best TV Series (Comedy): “black-ish”
Best TV Series (Drama): “Queen Sugar”
Breakout: Lakeith Stanfield, “Crown Heights”

AAFCA Top 10 Films of 2017
1. “Get Out”
2. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
3. “Coco”
4. “Girls Trip”
5. “Detroit”
6. “Call Me by Your Name”
7. “The Shape of Water”
8. “Gook”
9. “Crown Heights”
10. “Marshall”

AAFCA Top 10 TV Programs of 2017
1. “Queen Sugar”
2. “Underground”
3. “Insecure”
4. “Master of None”
5. “black-ish”
6. “The Handmaid’s Tale”
7. “Dear White People”
8. “She’s Gotta Have It”
9. “The Defiant Ones”
10. TIE “Guerilla” and “Snowfall”

Read original story ‘Get Out’ Wins Big With African American Film Critics Association At TheWrap

Making Citizens’ Lives Better

Photo

President Harry Truman with his Committee on Civil Rights, Oct. 29, 1947. Credit Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

THE GIFTED GENERATION
When Government Was Good
By David Goldfield
Illustrated. 534 pp. Bloomsbury. $35.

Approaching the midpoint of this good-hearted book, David Goldfield pauses to reflect on the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, who, to Brooklynites, “were less a baseball team than part of the family,” whose players “lived scattered about the borough among their fans.” It’s a vanished world, one in which the Dodgers would soon move to “new houses, new roads, new schools, new infrastructures and new lives” in California. Evoking, and mourning, that world — sometimes with appealing personal stories — helps drive “The Gifted Generation,” which Goldfield says is intended as “a compelling brief for government activism on behalf of all Americans.”

The phrase “gifted generation” refers to the boomers, although with expansive actuarial boundaries. The first wave, born in the 1940s, might have watched the Dodgers in Ebbets Field; they would lead very different lives from those born in the 1950s. Many of these men and women, now well past middle age, were “gifted” in the sense that they benefited from the gifts that were given to their parents, chief among them the G.I. Bill of Rights, an enormous jump-start that provided World War II veterans with the means to go to college, buy a house and join the growing, and comfortable, middle class. “Of the many gifts to the gifted generation,” Goldfield writes, “this federal policy was among the finest. It fulfilled both the short-term economic needs of the nation and the long-term educational needs of a transforming economy.” This is cheering stuff, a reminder that America, which was already a great nation, became a greater nation when government policies were able to help release the potential of its citizenry.

These gifts, though, were by no means universally bestowed. African-Americans got shortchanged by agencies that administered the G.I. Bill; private colleges kept control of their admissions policies; and minorities continued to face exclusion and quotas. (Goldfield’s pages are filled with freshly unearthed nuggets, like the fact that in 1951, American Airlines ordered its ticket agents to segregate passengers.) Nor were these gifts guaranteed to last: For instance, in terms of careers and incomes, children no longer do better than their parents, numbers that declined sharply between 1940 and 1980.

In these early stages of the Donald Trump era, there’s something almost old-fashioned in the notion that government can, and should, work to make life better. If that’s an idea whose time has gone, Goldfield points his finger at President Ronald Reagan, who liked to say, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” (Bill Clinton, in his 1996 State of the Union speech, said in Reaganesque style that “the era of big government is over,” though he added that “we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves.”) The aim of “The Gifted Generation” is to make a reader ask what has been lost, and why.

Photo

Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has a romantic view of three presidents who, apart from having been reared in rural America, could not have been less alike: Harry Truman, a New Deal Democrat, forced (after the sudden death of Franklin D. Roosevelt) to come to terms with postwar America; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Truman’s successor, a five-star general and middle-of-the-road Republican, who preserved the status quo; and Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texan, whose presidency promoted antipoverty programs as well as major advances in civil rights and health care, but who was consumed by the divisive Vietnam War. All three, Goldfield believes, moved the government “to extend the pursuit of happiness to a broader population,” and all three “perceived that the nation could not be whole until everyone had the opportunity to succeed. They knew from personal experience that government was not only good but also necessary to address society’s inequalities.”

Continue reading the main story

The Alabama Senate Race: A Religious Experience

GALLANT, Ala. — At Roy Moore’s home church here on Sunday, there wasn’t much talk of the upcoming Senate election — even though throngs of cameras waited outside to catch a glimpse of the elusive Republican candidate.

After the Sunday service began at Gallant First Baptist Church, Rev. Tom Brown offered a prayer.

“Lift up brother Roy and his family,” Brown said. Earlier, he had also reminded the worshippers that a bus for Montgomery was leaving at 4 p.m. Tuesday. (He told reporters afterward that it was bound for Moore’s election night rally.)

Fifty-five miles south of Gallant, Rev. Arthur Price did reference the race, telling his flock at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, “There’s too much at stake for us to stay home,” according to The Associated Press.

Price did not endorse Democrat Doug Jones at the service, but the message was likely clear. As a prosecutor, Jones convicted members of the Ku Klux Klan responsible for a 1963 bombing in that very church, which killed four young African-American girls

Talk of politics at church is not a new phenomenon in Alabama. And religion has permeated the Senate contest, which at times seems to be a fight over the soul of the Yellowhammer State.

After Moore was accused last month of pursuing, and in two cases assaulting, teenage girls when he was in his 30s, his first public appearance came at the Walker Springs Road Baptist Church in Jackson.

“This is a spiritual battle,” the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice said. He’s denied any wrongdoing.

Jones and his allies have argued that Alabama deserves better, and Alabamians should show the world they reject Moore’s divisive rhetoric.

Watch: In Alabama Race, Jones Has Funding, Moore Has Trump, Bannon Support

For both campaigns, the religious community is key to boosting turnout ahead of Tuesday’s election, especially with black voters for Jones, and rural, white voters for Moore.

While Moore has been absent from the campaign trail in the days leading up to the election, Jones has traversed the state, stopping at a number of African-American churches.

“This is the Bible Belt. And we take very seriously our religion and our faith,” said Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell as she stood outside the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in her hometown of Selma.

“Faith guides us and that’s really important for all Alabamians,” Sewell said. “So I think going to visit churches is a way to connect with people and a way to remind people of the Tuesday election.”

Pews to polls

Both campaigns have been using their connections in the religious community to boost turnout heading into the special election.

Since the primary, the Moore campaign has touted its grass-roots network which is based largely in churches.

“We’ve been going from church door to church door,” Moore adviser Brett Doster said in September.

He said the campaign had a network of supporters in more than 600 churches throughout the state. Doster also noted earlier this month that the campaign has church coordinators in all 67 counties. He did not respond to recent requests for comment.

Moore has traveled to churches throughout his campaign, speaking about the importance of returning to God and protecting the Constitution.

Suzelle Josey, who works with the Moore campaign and volunteered for his first campaign for state Supreme Court, said his base comprises people whose values are “faith, family and freedom.”

“Are you going to find a lot of them in the churches? Absolutely,” she said.

Jones has also made the rounds at churches.

“People of faith tend to vote and it’s a good opportunity for Doug Jones to talk about his own faith and the fact that he is a regular churchgoer,” Jones campaign chairman Giles Perkins said.

A Jones campaign source said the team had volunteers and supporters in churches throughout the state, likely in every county as well.

Alabama GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne said it was not unusual for campaigns to tap into church networks and designate volunteers in various churches to help get people to the polls.

“In a low turnout race — pretty smart,” he said.

Religious outreach is certainly not the only priority for the campaigns.

“There’s a tendency to oversimplify what the turnout operation needs to look like in African-American communities,” said Montgomery-based pollster Zac McCrary, who is doing polling for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

McCrary said the Jones campaign has to use other tools, such as ads, mailers and community organizing, to turn out voters.

But churches provide the opportunity for candidates to be in front of a lot of people at once.

Eighty-six percent of Alabamians identify as Christians, according to the Pew Research Center, and 77 percent described religion as very important. Eighty-four percent said they attend services at least once or twice a week.

Churches in Alabama also have a strong tradition of political organizing.

“Church is what got us the Voting Rights Act,” said Juanda Maxwell, 59, as she left an event with Jones, Sewell, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma.

“We started from here at Brown Chapel and that got it for us in ’65,” Maxwell said. “If you target the religious community, the community that has character … then you’re more likely to succeed. That’s where our base is.”

But people on both sides noted that churches have to be careful about not overtly endorsing or opposing one candidate. Doing so would jeopardize their tax-exempt statuses as nonprofit groups. 

One church in rural Opelika experienced an internet backlash when a photo of its sign circulated online.

“They falsely accused Jesus! Vote Roy Moore,” read the sign in front of Living Way ministries, a small brick building.

The sign outside of the Living Ways Ministries church in Opelika, Ala., reads "They Falsely Accuses Jesus!" (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A sign outside the Living Ways Ministries church in Opelika, Ala., with the reference to Roy Moore removed. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On Monday, the eve of the election, the explicit reference to Moore was gone, but the words, “They falsely accused Jesus!” remained.

Religious rhetoric

Both sides have employed religious references.

Moore typically refers to God and the Founding Fathers — not surprising for someone dubbed the Ten Commandments judge. (Moore was removed as chief justice for defying a federal order to remove a statue of the Commandments from the courthouse.)

He has not appeared in public often since the allegations surfaced, but when he has, it’s largely been at churches.

There he’ll employ a similar stump speech that includes the argument that straying from God, and embracing issues like same-sex marriage, has caused devastation (including the  9/11 terrorist attacks).

Moore’s supporters admire his convictions and willingness to talk about their shared Christian faith.

“I just believe he’s the right guy,” said one older woman leaving Moore’s home church Sunday. “The Christian person.”

The allegations against Moore led to a mixed reaction from evangelicals. Some pastors asked to be removed from a previous list of supporters.

Dana Hall McCain, 44, wrote an op-ed in the Dothan Eagle calling on evangelicals to reject Moore and recognize that engaging in partisan politics is not an effective way to improve society.

“I feel like we have believed this lie that we can bring the world to Christ from the ballot box,” McCain said. “And I think scripture is clear that we bring the world to Christ through Gospel and through love.”

Other faith leaders came to Moore’s side, with some flying in from across the country for a press conference defending the former judge after the allegations were published.

Brown, who leads Moore’s home church, is sticking by him. He said he would consider voting for Moore even if the allegations were true, due to Jones’ pro-abortion rights position.

Abortion is an issue that has energized conservative voters in recent decades, and could cause some Republicans who don’t like Moore to vote for him anyway.

Moore has made it central to his closing argument.

On Sunday, he released a new video ad in an email to his supporters. The 90-second video includes images of a baby growing in the womb and ends with the phrase, “We dare to defend life,” a nod to the state motto, “We dare defend our rights.”

Jones has made his campaign about “kitchen table issues” such as jobs, education and health care, and emphasized that he is the candidate who can bring people together.

The Democrat has discussed his own Christian faith along the way. Rev. Bill Morgan,  his former pastor at the Canterbury United Methodist Church, described Jones and his family as “ordinary church people” who “don’t wear their religion on their sleeves.”

One of his high-profile surrogates did not shy away from drawing on religion in the final days of the race.

Sen. Cory Booker traveled to Alabama over the weekend to headline a rally for Jones on Saturday, and to attend predominantly African-American churches with Jones and Sewell on Sunday.

The New Jersey Democrat brought that same energy from church to a campaign field office in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon. His stump speech at times morphed into a sermon, calling on volunteers to show that Alabama is a place of love and mercy.

And it resonated with the Jones supporters crammed into the office.

“We’ve got to remind people that faith without works …” Booker said, beginning a Bible verse. But the volunteers finished it for him, saying together, “is dead.”

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Controversial Alabama special Senate race now in the hands of voters

Roy Moore is accused of making sexual advances on teenagers. He denies the claims.

BRYNN ANDERSON/AP

Roy Moore is accused of making sexual advances on teenagers. He denies the claims.

Alabama voters have headed to the polls in Alabama’s special Senate election and faced two choices: Either continue the “Trump miracle” in Washington or allow “decency” to prevail back home.

At the centre is Roy Moore – “Judge Moore,” to his supporters. The 70-year-old Republican was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, and now he’s attempting a political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

In Moore’s path is Democrat Doug Jones, 63, a former US attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four black girls in a 1963 church bombing.

Doug Jones, the Democratic opponent of embattled Republican nominee Roy Moore, says he's focused on the voters of ...

Doug Jones, the Democratic opponent of embattled Republican nominee Roy Moore, says he’s focused on the voters of Alabama, not on critical tweets from President Trump.

More than two dozen people stood in line in the chilly morning air early Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZ Time) at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham, to cast their ballots in a stadium office. Blue-tinted posters of college football players and cheerleaders lined one wall, and about 20 Doug Jones posters were planted near the parking lot.

READ MORE:
* US Senator: Roy Moore ‘unfit’ to serve in the US Senate
* Trump campaigns for Moore, Senate candidate accused of teen sexual abuse
* Republican leaders back Moore despite allegations
The Washington Post exposes false claims against Roy Moore
Donald Trump backs Roy Moore despite teen sex abuse claims
Moore accused of initiating sexual encounter with 14-year-old

“I do not want to see Roy Moore go in there. We don’t need a pedophile in there,” said Teresa Brown, 53, an administrative assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who was voting at Legion Field. “We need someone that’s going to represent the state of Alabama, work across party lines … just be there for all the people, not just a select few of the people.”

Mary Multrie, 69, who works at a children’s hospital and voted for Jones, said she was not influenced by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore because she already did not like him. “He’s not a truthful man,” Multrie said of Moore. “He talks about God, but you don’t see God in his actions.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said that turnout for the special election could be as high as 25 per cent of registered voters.

The winner will take the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate majority. A routine election in Republican-dominated Alabama wouldn’t be expected to alter that balance, because Alabamians haven’t sent a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress since 1992. US President Donald Trump notched a 28-point win here in 2016 and remains popular in the state.

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But Moore’s baggage leaves the outcome enough in doubt that both Trump and his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, have weighed in with last-minute robocalls trying to sway voters.

The intensity also has spawned a steady stream of fake news stories that fill social media feeds of interested people in Alabama and beyond. An Associated Press analysis, in cooperation with Facebook, counted as many as 200 false or misleading reports heading into the weekend. One website claimed one of the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct had recanted. She did not. Meanwhile, Moore’s detractors took to social media to claim he had written in a 2011 textbook that women shouldn’t hold elected office. He didn’t.

In his final pitch before polls opened across the state at 7am Central Time (2am Wednesday NZT), Jones called the choice a “crossroads” and asked that “decency” prevail.

“We’ve had this history in the past, going down the road that … has not been productive,” Jones said. “We’ve lagged behind in industry. We’ve lagged behind in education. We’ve lagged behind in health care. It’s time we take the road that’s going to get us on the path to progress.”

At his own election eve rally, Moore again denied all the allegations, calling them “disgusting” and offering voters a clear measure: “If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me.” Earlier in the day, Moore cast himself as the victim. “It’s just been hard, a hard campaign,” he said.

For Alabama, the outcome could be defining.

Democrats and moderate Republicans see an opportunity to reject a politician who is already regular fodder for late-night television and enough of a curiosity that Chinese leader Xi Jinping paused a presidential meeting in Beijing recently to ask Trump through an interpreter, “Who is Roy Moore?”

Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, confirmed publicly that he wrote in a “distinguished Alabama Republican” rather than vote for Moore.

Many Republicans, however, see an opportunity to defend the state’s conservative, evangelical bent in the face of unfair liberal criticism while delivering another victory for Trump and sending an anti-establishment senator into a federal government that has been reflexively unpopular among Alabama majorities for generations.

Trump’s campaign architect and former White House adviser Steve Bannon told Moore supporters on Monday evening (Tuesday NZT) that the race is a “national election” that will determine whether the “Trump miracle” continues. Moore says he is aligned with the president and he makes similar arguments to Trump, blasting “the elite” in the “swamp” of Washington DC.

For Jones to win, he must build an atypical coalition, maximising turnout among African-American voters and white liberals who often don’t combine for more than 40 per cent of the electorate, while coaxing votes from enough white Republicans who can’t pull the lever for Moore.

One of Jones’ celebrity backers framed the choice as being much less complicated.

“I love Alabama,” said Leeds native and former NBA basketball star Charles Barkley, “but at some point we’ve got to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘We’re not a bunch of damn idiots.”‘

Polls will close at 7pm Central Time (2pm Wednesday NZT).

 – AP

Alabama’s turbulent Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones now in hands of voters

BIRMINGHAM, ALA.—Alabama voters headed to the polls Tuesday in Alabama’s special Senate election and faced two choices: Either continue the “Trump miracle” in Washington or allow “decency” to prevail back home.

At the centre is Roy Moore — “Judge Moore,” to his supporters. The 70-year-old Republican was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, and now he’s attempting a political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

In Moore’s path is Democrat Doug Jones, 63, a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four black girls in a 1963 church bombing.

More than two dozen people stood in line in the chilly morning air early Tuesday morning at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham, to cast their ballots in a stadium office. Blue-tinted posters of college football players and cheerleaders lined one wall, and about 20 Doug Jones posters were planted near the parking lot.

“I do not want to see Roy Moore go in there. We don’t need a pedophile in there,” said Teresa Brown, 53, an administrative assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who was voting at Legion Field. “We need someone that’s going to represent the state of Alabama, work across party lines … just be there for all the people, not just a select few of the people.”

Article Continued Below

Mary Multrie, 69, who works at a children’s hospital and voted for Jones, said she was not influenced by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore because she already did not like him. “He’s not a truthful man,” Multrie said of Moore. “He talks about God, but you don’t see God in his actions.”

Roy Moore, left, was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, and now he's attempting a political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. Doug Jones, right, a former U.S. attorney, is best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four Black girls in a 1963 church bombing.
Roy Moore, left, was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, and now he’s attempting a political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. Doug Jones, right, a former U.S. attorney, is best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four Black girls in a 1963 church bombing.   (Brynn Anderson & Justin Sullivan / The Associated Press & Getty Images)  

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said early Tuesday that turnout for the special election could be as high as 25 per cent of registered voters.

The winner will take the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate majority. A routine election in Republican-dominated Alabama wouldn’t be expected to alter that balance, because Alabamians haven’t sent a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress since 1992. President Donald Trump notched a 28-point win here in 2016 and remains popular in the state.

Read more:

Final push for Roy Moore, Doug Jones before Tuesday’s Alabama Senate election

‘One of our attorneys is a Jew,’ Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s wife Kayla says

Women who accused Trump of sexual assault say his election was ‘heartbreaking’

But Moore’s baggage leaves the outcome enough in doubt that both Trump and his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, have weighed in with last-minute robocalls trying to sway voters.

The intensity also has spawned a steady stream of fake news stories that fill social media feeds of interested people in Alabama and beyond. An Associated Press analysis, in co-operation with Facebook, counted as many as 200 false or misleading reports heading into the weekend. One website claimed one of the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct had recanted. She did not. Meanwhile, Moore’s detractors took to social media to claim he had written in a 2011 textbook that women shouldn’t hold elected office. He didn’t.

In his final pitch before polls opened across the state at 7 a.m. CST Tuesday, Jones called the choice a “crossroads” and asked that “decency” prevail.

“We’ve had this history in the past, going down the road that … has not been productive,” Jones said. “We’ve lagged behind in industry. We’ve lagged behind in education. We’ve lagged behind in health care. It’s time we take the road that’s going to get us on the path to progress.”

At his own election eve rally, Moore again denied all the allegations, calling them “disgusting” and offering voters a clear measure: “If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me.” Earlier in the day, Moore cast himself as the victim. “It’s just been hard, a hard campaign,” he said.

For Alabama, the outcome could be defining.

Democrats and moderate Republicans see an opportunity to reject a politician who is already regular fodder for late-night television and enough of a curiosity that Chinese leader Xi Jinping paused a presidential meeting in Beijing recently to ask Trump through an interpreter, “Who is Roy Moore?”

The wife of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is defending her husband against accusations of bigotry by pointing out his record on supporting African Americans and adding that one of their attorneys is a Jew. (The Associated Press)

Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, confirmed publicly that he wrote in a “distinguished Alabama Republican” rather than vote for Moore.

Many Republicans, however, see an opportunity to defend the state’s conservative, evangelical bent in the face of unfair liberal criticism while delivering another victory for Trump and sending an anti-establishment senator into a federal government that has been reflexively unpopular among Alabama majorities for generations.

Trump’s campaign architect and former White House adviser Steve Bannon told Moore supporters Monday evening that the race is a “national election” that will determine whether the “Trump miracle” continues. Moore says he is aligned with the president and he makes similar arguments to Trump, blasting “the elite” in the “swamp” of Washington, D.C.

For Jones to win, he must build an atypical coalition, maximizing turnout among African-American voters and white liberals who often don’t combine for more than 40 per cent of the electorate, while coaxing votes from enough white Republicans who can’t pull the lever for Moore.

One of Jones’ celebrity backers framed the choice as being much less complicated.

“I love Alabama,” said Leeds native and former NBA basketball star Charles Barkley, “but at some point we’ve got to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘We’re not a bunch of damn idiots.’”

Polls will close at 7 p.m. CST.

English Woods

This story is part of WCPO.com’s Our Forgotten Neighborhoods series. You can scroll to the bottom for the other stories in the series.

For 65 years, a remote hilltop just west of the Mill Creek was the site of one of Cincinnati’s largest public housing projects. 

Today, English Woods is a no-man’s land. The brick, townhome-style apartments were torn down more than 10 years ago. Old streets lead to nothing but tall grass and weeds.  Much of the 50-acre site is fenced off. Discarded pop bottles, cigarette wrappers and other garbage accumulates.

That may all change.

The owner of the sprawling property, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, has plans that, if they come to fruition, will transform the forgotten neighborhood.  

The housing authority wants to essentially recreate the lost community of English Woods. 

The former English Woods public housing project is ripe for redevelopment. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

The agency wants to build what it calls “an urban village,” that would include new housing as well as retail and other amenities. The agency says it wants extensive landscaping, tree-lined streets, underground utilities, a walking trail, sports courts, a sprayground, space for health care and educational services and a hilltop overlook.

It would be nothing less than the creation of a new neighborhood, a creation overseen by the region’s largest public housing agency.

“We want to make it a walkable community where lots of different income levels can partake in a great neighborhood,” said the housing authority’s CEO, Gregory Johnson.

It may be the largest project ever undertaken by the housing authority. It’s certainly the largest since the $200 million CityWest project in the West End that dates to 1999.

That’s the vision. The details are still to be determined. Housing authority officials are seeking ideas from private developers and have formally requested proposals. By last week’s deadline, CMHA had received three proposals.

Debris and garbage has accumulated around the English Woods site. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

“We want to take a look at what creativity developers have and how they would plan on financing that,” Johnson said.  “Then we want to see how that fits in to the neighborhood and if that’s supported by the neighborhood, and then make the best choice for the organization and the surrounding community.” 

Johnson said one or two developers will be selected who will take the lead on the design of the project, although CMHA will likely continue to own the land.

It’s an ambitious plan to repopulate one of the largest tracts of land available for development in the city of Cincinnati.

The English Woods site has largely lain fallow since 2005, when CMHA tore down about 700 units of public housing. The two-story brick townhomes had been built around 1940. Nearly all the residents were African American.

Today, it’s an eerie scene. Only one street, Sutter Avenue, runs through the property. Metro’s 49 bus still stops there.

An old basketball court, with the asphalt cracked and the backboards removed, is overgrown with weeds. Unused wooden utility poles lean precariously. The shell of the English Woods Market still stands, with its sign advertising “Hot Fast Food,” “Beer & Wine,” and “Checks Cashed.”

Emily Maxwell | WCPO

And while most of the site is empty, people still live in English Woods.

In the middle of the acreage stands a 15-story apartment building. Marquette Manor, also owned by CMHA, provides housing for low-income seniors in 139 one-bedroom apartments. CMHA plans to demolish the tower and replace it with 146 new one-bedroom units in low-rise and “cottage-style” buildings.

Marquette Manor could be torn down and replaced by low-rise apartments. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

On the eastern end of the neighborhood is the Sutterview community. Sutterview is composed of 114 units of CMHA-owned housing, townhome-style buildings constructed in 1960. 

CMHA officials plan to renovate those units.

Surrounding neighborhoods will also be affected by the repopulation of English Woods. The communities of North Fairmount, South Fairmount, South Cumminsville, East Westwood and Millvale all surround English Woods and all suffer from poverty, population loss and disinvestment.

Staying engaged with those communities at each step of the decision-making process ahead will be critical for public support and to ensure the ultimate plan is in keeping with the larger community’s needs.

A project of this scale can go awry. The CityWest project, located in Cincinnati’s West End, has been troubled. Lenders filed for foreclosure and CMHA sought to remove the manager of the project, Boston-based The Community Builders, because of problems with maintenance, rent collection and overall management. TCB still manages that project.

The Sutterview Apartments are CMHA-owned and may be renovated. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

Pamela Adams, president of North Fairmount’s community council, is optimistic about the impact the project could have on her neighborhood next door. She says her community has shared ideas about what they would like to see. “We wanted a grocery store there. We wanted to put a community garden there. And some other retail space.”

North Fairmount resident Lawrence Jones, the vice president of that neighborhood’s community council, said, “They should build stand-alone housing where people can own the property that they’re living in. That’s how you give somebody a hand up and not a handout.”

Sister Barbara Busch has worked with residents of South Cumminsville and other impoverished neighborhoods for decades. She’s optimistic about the plan, but says she will encourage vigilance.

“We’ve committed to working with those neighborhoods to try to keep them engaged,” she said.

The English Woods community and its neighbors in South Fairmount and North Fairmount were engaged in a detailed study and a plan, published in 2013, to develop and improve those neighborhoods.

That plan, the Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Plan, recognizes new, affordable housing as “a possible use” for English Woods, but also recommends more creative uses. Planners advocated for uses that would create jobs, such as light industry or offices. A “live/learn space” that would provide housing and support for first-generation college students, as well as university incubator space, were recommended. Space for urban farming was also suggested.

The plan’s 10-year strategy for the neighborhoods calls for the possibility of office or industrial use to be evaluated in the first three years and for a business anchor to be established by year seven.

CMHA’s only comment on the difference between the 2013 plan, which it participated in, and its current proposal was: “The development will consist of housing and very little retail will be involved.”

It is critical that CMHA officials keep the surrounding neighborhoods – and their elected representatives – informed and engaged as this redevelopment plan moves forward. It is a big idea that will remake a neighborhood and affect the surrounding communities, all of which have suffered from years of neglect. Broad community feedback is essential.

Vice Mayor David Mann was the only Cincinnati City Council member to respond to our inquiry on what should be done with English Woods. CMHA CEO Johnson briefed him on the project only after WCPO.com’s questions. Mann is optimistic – “This is not your grandfather’s CMHA – that’s good,” he said.

But he and others cautioned that the details will be all-important. It is not a good sign that the housing agency has refused WCPO’s request to release even the names of the three developers who have submitted proposals for English Woods.

That’s not a good way to start a community conversation about a project that will change the face of Cincinnati. The housing authority management should become much more transparent and accessible to the communities at every step of the way on this important project. 

What To Watch And What’s At Stake In The Alabama Senate Race

Election Day is finally here in the Alabama Senate race.

Voters are deciding between Democrat Doug Jones, a former prosecutor, and Roy Moore, the former state Supreme Court chief justice. Moore, popular with evangelicals in the state, has been embroiled in controversy. Multiple women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and assault; many of them were teenagers at the time they say the misconduct took place. Moore denies any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, Moore’s candidacy — controversial before the allegations — has driven a wedge through the GOP. Establishment Republicans are on one side, and President Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon are on the other. Whatever happens on Tuesday night, there will be consequences felt from Birmingham to the Beltway.

Here’s what to watch and what the results could mean:

What time do polls close and when do we expect results?

Poll close at 8 p.m. ET. Given how close the race is expected to be, don’t expect results for a while after polls close.

Keys to the race: How many Republicans stay home?

President Trump holds a vest reading “Bikers For Trump” during a rally in Pensacola, Fla., Friday. There, he gave his most full-throated endorsement of Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama yet. Nicole Craine/Bloomberg hide caption

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Nicole Craine/Bloomberg

President Trump holds a vest reading “Bikers For Trump” during a rally in Pensacola, Fla., Friday. There, he gave his most full-throated endorsement of Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama yet.

Nicole Craine/Bloomberg

The president seems to believe Moore’s denials. Trump explicitly endorsed Moore and campaigned for him in neighboring Pensacola, Fla., which is in the Mobile, Ala., media market. But other Republicans disagree.

The state’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, for example, says that he can’t vote for Moore and will write in another Republican. The question is how many other Republicans will also make that determination.

For Jones to win, a lot of them will have to do it. Trump won this state after all, 62 to 34 percent in 2016 and won more votes than any presidential candidate (a little over 1.3 million).

One liberal group is running a Facebook ad encouraging Republicans to Roll Tide and write in Nick Saban, the larger-than-life coach of the University of Alabama football team.

[embedded content]

American Bridge 21st Century via YouTube

Does Jones fire up black voters?

Arguably bigger than whether Republicans stay home is if Jones can fire up black voters.

Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones speaks as he hosts a “Women’s Wednesday” campaign event on Dec. 6 in Cullman, Ala. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones speaks as he hosts a “Women’s Wednesday” campaign event on Dec. 6 in Cullman, Ala.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Off-year special elections can be particularly difficult for Democrats to turn out minority and young voters. But turning out black voters is key for Jones. African-Americans make up about 27 percent of Alabamians (and about 23 percent of registered voters).

In 2008, when Barack Obama was on the ballot, black voters voted in outsize numbers, making up 29 percent of voters and leading Obama to receive the most votes for any Democratic candidate in Alabama’s history (more than 813,000).

To put the significance of the black vote into perspective: roughly three out of every four votes Obama got were from black voters.

And Jones has a story to tell. He prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing that killed four little girls in a Birmingham church. Last month, he called it the “most important thing I have done.”

Jones campaigned with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former President Barack Obama recorded a robocall for him.

NPR correspondent Debbie Elliott, who lives in Alabama and has been covering the state for more than 30 years, says to watch the cities (Jefferson County, where Birmingham is, and Montgomery made up 28 percent of Obama’s 2008 vote total), but also Macon County (Tuskegee) and Dallas County (Selma) for signs of how much Jones is winning black voters.

Elliott also reports, though, seeing Jones signs pop up in rural areas, where Trump signs were as well. Does Jones cut into margins in Madison (Huntsville) Mobile or Tuscaloosa — or even strong Trump counties, like Cullman, where Jones was campaigning last week?

Of course, African-American voters can only take a Democrat so far in Alabama. Obama still lost 60 to 39 to John McCain.

The consequences: What if Moore wins?

A Moore win puts Republicans in a pickle.

Do they move to expel the senator whom the grass roots just picked and possibly cause an uprising in the base? Or do they let him stay and further risk credibility on the issue of sexual misconduct?

Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate from Alabama, smiles as he speaks during a campaign rally in Fairhope, Ala., Dec. 5. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate from Alabama, smiles as he speaks during a campaign rally in Fairhope, Ala., Dec. 5.

Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If Moore wins, it will draw a bright line between the parties. Democrats would try to paint the party as too extreme and be more than happy when Moore speaks out in the hallways of Congress, forcing GOP members to have to support or denounce his statements — be it on race or on people who are gay, lesbian or transgender. Democrats would hope that by highlighting Moore being accepted into the GOP caucus, they could trigger buyers’ remorse in 2018 among Obama-turned-Trump voters.

On the other hand, Republicans can try and dismiss the allegations against Moore as politically motivated (as Moore himself has done) and old, and hope to bait Democrats — again — into a culture war. It’s something the Democratic base can’t seem to resist. Instead of running against the tax bill or health care or talking about how they plan to bring back a fairer economy that works for everyone, Democrats would be at risk of repeating 2016.

What if Jones wins?

It would send shockwaves. Democrats would be ecstatic. First, the Senate would narrow to just a two-seat Republican majority, 51-49, making legislative success that much harder for President Trump and Republicans. Democrats would also suddenly see a narrow window open to possibly taking back the Senate next year.

And yet, some Republicans would privately breathe a sigh of relief. The Senate wouldn’t have to contemplate expulsion — and the GOP wouldn’t have to worry as much about being painted as complicit.

A Jones win would also give the anti-Moore, anti-Trump Republicans some ammunition for their warnings that the party needs to moderate or lose — even in places like Alabama. It would indicate nowhere is safe and give Republicans what they hope is enough time, months before the first 2018 primaries, to pick candidates who can win.

Otherwise, think of how emboldened the Bannon wing of Trumpism — and Trump himself — would be.

Native Americans Feel Invisible In U.S. Health Care System

Anna Whiting Sorrell, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwest Montana, had hernia surgery a couple of years ago. The Indian Health Service picked up a part of the tab for the surgery but denied coverage for follow-up appointments. Mike Albans for NPR hide caption

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Mike Albans for NPR

Anna Whiting Sorrell, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwest Montana, had hernia surgery a couple of years ago. The Indian Health Service picked up a part of the tab for the surgery but denied coverage for follow-up appointments.

Mike Albans for NPR

The life expectancy of Native Americans in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average.

There are many reasons why.

Among them, health programs for American Indians are chronically underfunded by Congress. And, about a quarter of Native Americans reported experiencing discrimination when going to a doctor or health clinic, according to findings of a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Margaret Moss, a member of the Hidatsa tribe, has worked as a nurse for the Indian Health Service and in other systems. She now teaches nursing at the University of Buffalo.

She says she has seen racism toward Native Americans in health care facilities where she’s worked, and as a mom trying to get proper care for her son.

Once, when she was on a health policy fellowship with a U.S. Senate committee, Moss’ son had a broken arm improperly set at a non-IHS health facility in Washington, D.C.

She asked the physician about options to correct it, but he told her it was fine, she said. “Even when I, as an educated person using the right words was saying what needed to happen, [he] didn’t want to do anything for us even though we had a [health insurance] card.”

Moss then reluctantly pulled out a business card with the Senate logo, she recalled, and was instantly transformed in the doctor’s eyes from “this American Indian woman with my obviously minority son” to someone he could not afford to dismiss.

“It wasn’t until the person … felt they could get in trouble for this … then the person did something,” said Moss. “I felt like it was racism. Not everybody has a card they can just whip out.”

She says she feels discrimination is more overt, “in areas where American Indians are known about,” like the Dakotas and parts of the American Southwest, but also exists in places without big tribal populations.

In the NPR poll, Native Americans who live in areas where they are in the majority reported experiencing prejudice at rates far higher than in areas where they constituted a minority.

In places where there are few American Indians, Moss says, “people don’t expect to see American Indians; they think they are from days gone by, and so you are misidentified. And that’s another form of discrimination.”

Health care systems outside the Indian Health Service generally see very few Native American patients, because it’s so hard for American Indians to access care in the private sector. A lot of that has to do with high poverty and uninsured rates among American Indians, who also often live in rural areas with few health care providers.

“The strikes against people trying to get care are huge: geographic, transportation, monetary,” Moss says.

A persistent myth inside and outside Indian Country is that Native Americans get free health care from the federal government.

“I hear that all the time,” says Moss, sighing.

Sorrell started exercising and going on walks after her experience with hernia surgery. Mike Albans for NPR hide caption

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Mike Albans for NPR

Sorrell started exercising and going on walks after her experience with hernia surgery.

Mike Albans for NPR

The federal government promised to take care of Native Americans’ health when it signed the treaties in which tribes gave up almost all of their land.

“Unfortunately, they have not kept up their end of the bargain,” Moss says.

Congress has long failed to allocate enough money to meet Native American health needs. In 2016 it set the Indian Health Service budget at $4.8 billion. Spread across the US population of 3.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, that’s $1,297 per person. That compares to $6,973 per inmate in the federal prison system.

Moss says the IHS can be less an aid to people than another bureaucratic barrier. “It is highly complicated,” Moss says, “even if you took out the racism, perceived or real.”

The IHS isn’t insurance. It’s more like the Veterans Administration, running clinics and hospitals where its members can get care. But the IHS is far smaller than the VA.

Federal funding is also supposed to pay for care in the private sector that IHS hospitals can’t provide. But, quoting a sardonic joke familiar to many in Indian Country, Moss says it’s well known that “you’d better get sick by June, because there won’t be any more money, or it’s life and limb only, those are the things that would be authorized.”

Anna Whiting Sorrell, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwest Montana experienced that firsthand. The IHS picked up part of the tab for her hernia surgery at a hospital outside of the IHS a couple of years ago, but when it was time to schedule follow-up appointments, Sorrell was out of luck.

“It got denied. My follow-up got denied,” Sorrell says. “[The hospital] didn’t even ask if I was willing to pay,” she says, and that felt like discrimination. “They would assume that other non-Indians would pay for it themselves, why do we as Indian people not get to make those decisions ourselves?” Sorrell asks.

She felt like she was falling through a crack in the health care system at a particularly poignant time.

Anna and her husband, Gene Sorrell, outside their home in Evaro, Mont. Anna eventually received follow-up care for her surgery, but the process took years. Mike Albans for NPR hide caption

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Mike Albans for NPR

Anna and her husband, Gene Sorrell, outside their home in Evaro, Mont. Anna eventually received follow-up care for her surgery, but the process took years.

Mike Albans for NPR

“I was 57 years old. My mom died at 57,” Sorrell says. In Montana, the life expectancy for Native American women is 62, that’s 20 years less than for non-Native American women. The life expectancy for Native American men in Montana is 56.

With help from her tribe, Sorrell eventually got her follow-up care, but her journey from diagnosis to actually getting surgery took years, and the University of Buffalo’s Margaret Moss says a lot of Native Americans just give up.

“That is the idea out there in Indian Country … , ‘I’m not even going to try, because it’s not going to happen.’ Or they hear so many stories of people who did try, and it didn’t happen,” Moss says.

That means a lot of American Indians simply put up with what she calls, “tolerated illness.

“They say they’re fine, but they’re not,” Moss says, and their health problems often progress until it’s too late for treatment to help.

Anna Whiting Sorrell, a health care administrator for her tribes, says she is optimistic that the Affordable Care Act will make a big difference for Native Americans. It gives lower-income people access to affordable insurance coverage outside the IHS. Many Natives Americans who weren’t eligible for Medicaid before the ACA now are, too.

Moss is more skeptical that the ACA will make a big difference, in part because of entrenched institutional discrimination toward Native Americans in healthcare.

“Until attitudes change,” Moss says, “we’re still going to be in a sad situation.”

Our ongoing series “You, Me and Them: Experiencing Discrimination in America” is based in part on a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. We have previously released results for African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, whites and women.

You can follow Montana Public Radio’s Eric Whitney on Twitter: @MTPRND

Gay Wedding Cakes Not a Constitutional Right

One wonders if the case currently before the Supreme Court did not involve the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop refusing to be coerced to violate his religious conscience by providing a wedding cake for a gay wedding that celebrates gay marriage, but rather a Muslim bakery being forced to bake a cake decorated with a cartoon picture of the prophet Muhammed covered with bacon sprinkles.

Creative expression in any form is free speech which, along with freedom of religion, is supposedly protected in the First Amendment. People should not be compelled to write or say things they do not believe or agree with, whether it be in the form of ink on paper or frosting on wedding cakes.

In this case, as Jordan Lawrence writes in National Review, the line between providing a service and expressing a view are being deliberately blurred by liberals to destroy both free speech and religious liberty:

The government must not force creative businesses to create messages that they oppose. During the Masterpiece Cakeshop oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the two attorneys opposing cake artist Jack Phillips argued that the justices should not protect Phillips’s freedom to abstain from creating expression he disagrees with. Their primary argument was that, in their opinion, it is too difficult to draw lines protecting people’s First Amendment right against compelled speech, so the high court should not protect Jack’s rights….


David Cole of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the Supreme Court should conclude that anything Phillips would create under some circumstances, he must create in all contexts…


(But) a cake artist who agrees to design a rainbow cake for a Noah’s Ark–themed Sunday-school party should not be forced against his will to make the same cake for a same-sex wedding (like the one that the same-sex couple who visited Masterpiece Cakeshop eventually got for their wedding reception). Neither should a cake artist who would craft an elephant-shaped cake for a party at the zoo be forced to create the same cake for a Republican-party celebration. Nor should a cake artist who is willing to design a cake saying “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” for a Christmas party be required to make that cake for a party hosted by Aryan Nations.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is different than saying a hotel or restaurant cannot refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation. Baking is a wedding cake is a creative process and you cannot force a baker to create something that violates his religious beliefs anymore than you can force a writer to put on paper opinions he or she vehemently disagrees with,

That gay marriage is a looming threat to religious liberty as observed here, and may lead to an era of religious persecution not seen in since the days of the Roman Empire, are seen in the chilling redefinition of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, and the Senate’s only lesbian.

Baldwin made her remarks on the June 27, 2015 broadcast of “Up With Steve Kornacki” on MSNBC. In a transcript posted on Newsbusters, Baldwin ignored the fact that it was religious persecution in Europe that led to people fleeing here seeking religious freedom on an individual as well as institutional level:

Certainly the first amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don’t think it extends far beyond that. We’ve seen the set of arguments play out in issues such as access to contraception. Should it be the individual pharmacist whose religious beliefs guides whether a prescription is filled, or in this context, they’re talking about expanding this far beyond our churches and synagogues to businesses and individuals across this country. I think there are clear limits that have been set in other contexts and we ought to abide by those in this new context across America.”

Baldwin, in arguing that there is no individual right to religious liberty and expression, misreads the Constitution with its mandate saying Congress shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It is a key phrase in the First Amendment, leading off the Bill of Rights. These are individual rights fought for in the American Revolution. These rights are not limited to institutions but apply to all individuals, just as the Supreme Court has decided the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not just to state-ordained militias.   

Baldwin had been asked the question, “Should the bakery have to bake the cake for the gay couple getting married? Where do you come down on that?” She came down on the side of government coercion and the proposition that church is something you do on Sunday for an hour and otherwise shouldn’t act on your religious beliefs in your daily life.

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa tried to act on their faith but were ordered to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple based on an order from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. As the Washington Times reported:

The order affirms an initial ruling in January that found Aaron and Melissa Klein had violated Oregon civil-rights law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony in 2013 and ordered them to pay damages to Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman.

In Iran, gay wedding cake and pizza requests are handled a bit more harshly and with more finality than a simple statement from a business owner that his or her faith won’t allow them to cater the affair. If two gays contemplating marriage had walked into a Tehran pizza shop like Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, the pizza shop that refused to cater a gay wedding, hanging in the public square and not a simple refusal would have been a likely outcome.

Crystal O’Connor, member of the family that owns Memories Pizza, told local ABC news affiliate that she agreed with Indiana’s version of the federal RFRA signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told local station ABC57. Her beliefs and rights and the beliefs and rights of the owners of Sweet Cakes and Masterpiece Cakeshop should be respected

The Hobby Lobby case revolved around the belief of the owners that people should be free to act on their faith in their daily lives which includes their business life. It is a belief shared by many including the Founding Fathers. As Investor’s Business Daily observed:

So do scores of Catholic and non-Catholic institutions and businesses who argue either that the way they run their private businesses is an extension of their faith or that a church, something the federal government seeks to redefine, is not something that happens one hour a week on a Sunday but 24/7 through the hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and charities they may operate. They argue that acting out their faith through their works should not be illegal.

To gay advocates, acting on your sincerely held religious beliefs is bigotry. They ask that their lifestyles be respected as well as their newly discovered right to marriage, found in the “penumbras and emanations” of the Constitution that also gave us the right to abortion. Neither abortion nor marriage is mentioned specifically in the Constitution, but religious liberty and those who saying acting on your faith is bigotry are physicians sorely in need of healing themselves.

Sen. Baldwin’s definition of religious liberty is not that much different than Lenin’s and Stalin’s. Investor’s Business Daily once quoted Cardinal Francis George regarding ObamaCare and its imposition of the contraceptive mandate on religious institutions:

“Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union,” Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George recently wrote.


 “You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society.”

One wonders what would happen, or should happen in Sen. Baldwin’s view, if a gay couple walked into a bakery owned by African-Americans and asked for a Confederate flag on their wedding cake. The irony here is that those who profess to be the most tolerance exhibit the most intolerance. If you demand tolerance of your lifestyle, you should exhibit tolerance of other people’s religious beliefs. Otherwise it is you who are the hypocrite and the bigot. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy may have tipped his hand in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, noting in comments during oral arguments:

All eyes were fixed on the perennial swing Supreme Court jurist as attorneys argued in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and conservatives had to like Kennedy’s brushback to Colorado’s lawyers early in the hearing. According to the Wall Street Journal’s live blog, Kennedy wanted to know how the state tried to accommodate the baker’s rights to speech and religious expression, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with the response:


Justice Anthony Kennedy told a lawyer for the state that tolerance is essential in a free society, but it’s important for tolerance to work in both directions. “It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” of the baker’s views, he said.

Well said. Indeed, the road to oppression and the end of liberty is paved with political correctness.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.              

One wonders if the case currently before the Supreme Court did not involve the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop refusing to be coerced to violate his religious conscience by providing a wedding cake for a gay wedding that celebrates gay marriage, but rather a Muslim bakery being forced to bake a cake decorated with a cartoon picture of the prophet Muhammed covered with bacon sprinkles.

Creative expression in any form is free speech which, along with freedom of religion, is supposedly protected in the First Amendment. People should not be compelled to write or say things they do not believe or agree with, whether it be in the form of ink on paper or frosting on wedding cakes.

In this case, as Jordan Lawrence writes in National Review, the line between providing a service and expressing a view are being deliberately blurred by liberals to destroy both free speech and religious liberty:

The government must not force creative businesses to create messages that they oppose. During the Masterpiece Cakeshop oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the two attorneys opposing cake artist Jack Phillips argued that the justices should not protect Phillips’s freedom to abstain from creating expression he disagrees with. Their primary argument was that, in their opinion, it is too difficult to draw lines protecting people’s First Amendment right against compelled speech, so the high court should not protect Jack’s rights….


David Cole of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the Supreme Court should conclude that anything Phillips would create under some circumstances, he must create in all contexts…


(But) a cake artist who agrees to design a rainbow cake for a Noah’s Ark–themed Sunday-school party should not be forced against his will to make the same cake for a same-sex wedding (like the one that the same-sex couple who visited Masterpiece Cakeshop eventually got for their wedding reception). Neither should a cake artist who would craft an elephant-shaped cake for a party at the zoo be forced to create the same cake for a Republican-party celebration. Nor should a cake artist who is willing to design a cake saying “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” for a Christmas party be required to make that cake for a party hosted by Aryan Nations.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is different than saying a hotel or restaurant cannot refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation. Baking is a wedding cake is a creative process and you cannot force a baker to create something that violates his religious beliefs anymore than you can force a writer to put on paper opinions he or she vehemently disagrees with,

That gay marriage is a looming threat to religious liberty as observed here, and may lead to an era of religious persecution not seen in since the days of the Roman Empire, are seen in the chilling redefinition of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, and the Senate’s only lesbian.

Baldwin made her remarks on the June 27, 2015 broadcast of “Up With Steve Kornacki” on MSNBC. In a transcript posted on Newsbusters, Baldwin ignored the fact that it was religious persecution in Europe that led to people fleeing here seeking religious freedom on an individual as well as institutional level:

Certainly the first amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don’t think it extends far beyond that. We’ve seen the set of arguments play out in issues such as access to contraception. Should it be the individual pharmacist whose religious beliefs guides whether a prescription is filled, or in this context, they’re talking about expanding this far beyond our churches and synagogues to businesses and individuals across this country. I think there are clear limits that have been set in other contexts and we ought to abide by those in this new context across America.”

Baldwin, in arguing that there is no individual right to religious liberty and expression, misreads the Constitution with its mandate saying Congress shall pass no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It is a key phrase in the First Amendment, leading off the Bill of Rights. These are individual rights fought for in the American Revolution. These rights are not limited to institutions but apply to all individuals, just as the Supreme Court has decided the Second Amendment applies to individuals and not just to state-ordained militias.   

Baldwin had been asked the question, “Should the bakery have to bake the cake for the gay couple getting married? Where do you come down on that?” She came down on the side of government coercion and the proposition that church is something you do on Sunday for an hour and otherwise shouldn’t act on your religious beliefs in your daily life.

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa tried to act on their faith but were ordered to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple based on an order from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. As the Washington Times reported:

The order affirms an initial ruling in January that found Aaron and Melissa Klein had violated Oregon civil-rights law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony in 2013 and ordered them to pay damages to Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman.

In Iran, gay wedding cake and pizza requests are handled a bit more harshly and with more finality than a simple statement from a business owner that his or her faith won’t allow them to cater the affair. If two gays contemplating marriage had walked into a Tehran pizza shop like Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, the pizza shop that refused to cater a gay wedding, hanging in the public square and not a simple refusal would have been a likely outcome.

Crystal O’Connor, member of the family that owns Memories Pizza, told local ABC news affiliate that she agreed with Indiana’s version of the federal RFRA signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told local station ABC57. Her beliefs and rights and the beliefs and rights of the owners of Sweet Cakes and Masterpiece Cakeshop should be respected

The Hobby Lobby case revolved around the belief of the owners that people should be free to act on their faith in their daily lives which includes their business life. It is a belief shared by many including the Founding Fathers. As Investor’s Business Daily observed:

So do scores of Catholic and non-Catholic institutions and businesses who argue either that the way they run their private businesses is an extension of their faith or that a church, something the federal government seeks to redefine, is not something that happens one hour a week on a Sunday but 24/7 through the hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and charities they may operate. They argue that acting out their faith through their works should not be illegal.

To gay advocates, acting on your sincerely held religious beliefs is bigotry. They ask that their lifestyles be respected as well as their newly discovered right to marriage, found in the “penumbras and emanations” of the Constitution that also gave us the right to abortion. Neither abortion nor marriage is mentioned specifically in the Constitution, but religious liberty and those who saying acting on your faith is bigotry are physicians sorely in need of healing themselves.

Sen. Baldwin’s definition of religious liberty is not that much different than Lenin’s and Stalin’s. Investor’s Business Daily once quoted Cardinal Francis George regarding ObamaCare and its imposition of the contraceptive mandate on religious institutions:

“Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union,” Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George recently wrote.


 “You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society.”

One wonders what would happen, or should happen in Sen. Baldwin’s view, if a gay couple walked into a bakery owned by African-Americans and asked for a Confederate flag on their wedding cake. The irony here is that those who profess to be the most tolerance exhibit the most intolerance. If you demand tolerance of your lifestyle, you should exhibit tolerance of other people’s religious beliefs. Otherwise it is you who are the hypocrite and the bigot. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy may have tipped his hand in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, noting in comments during oral arguments:

All eyes were fixed on the perennial swing Supreme Court jurist as attorneys argued in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and conservatives had to like Kennedy’s brushback to Colorado’s lawyers early in the hearing. According to the Wall Street Journal’s live blog, Kennedy wanted to know how the state tried to accommodate the baker’s rights to speech and religious expression, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with the response:


Justice Anthony Kennedy told a lawyer for the state that tolerance is essential in a free society, but it’s important for tolerance to work in both directions. “It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” of the baker’s views, he said.

Well said. Indeed, the road to oppression and the end of liberty is paved with political correctness.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.