Month: December 2013

Alabama must strengthen its open meetings law (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

View full size One of the hallmarks of limited government is the people's ability to know what their public officials are doing by having reasonable notice and access to meetings, debates, votes, transcripts and other public records. Conservatives often light up the switchboard on Capitol Hill on the eve of major votes. We've melted the phone lines over amnesty, the debt ceiling and a few other issues. We can do that because there are laws forcing government to operate openly, with a few exceptions for security and privacy. These are commonly known as "open meetings laws" and "sunshine laws" because they open the doors of committee rooms and shine a light into the murky business of governing. They allow people time and access to voice their opinion and provide a record to hold officials accountable. Sunshine laws are an essential link in the chain that restrains government from overstepping its bounds. But the sun doesn't need to shine in the Alabama State Legislature, at least according to our state's highest court. "The Alabama Constitution does not require the Legislature to conduct its meetings in public," wrote Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin in a September ruling that unanimously blocked a lawsuit challenging the Alabama Accountability Act. The law allows some students in failing public schools to receive state tax credits to attend private schools. Members of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) claimed the Legislature violated the state's open meetings law when Republicans worked the bill rather...ahem...discreetly through a conference committee…

New book tells what happened to Obama campaign’s ‘Julia’ (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

In the spring of 2012, President Barack Obama's campaign released an advertisement titled "The Life of Julia." The ad included a series of illustrations showing how government programs would help a fictionalized woman named Julia – and how conservative ideas would allegedly harm her – during 12 pivotal years in her life, beginning at age 3 and ending at age 67. The ad sparked a lively debate. "It is one of the most brazenly statist pieces of campaign literature I can ever remember seeing," wrote David Harsanyi in Human Events, under the headline, "Who the hell is 'Julia,' and why am I paying for her whole life?" Who is Julia? This month I answer that in my newly released novel titled "A Forgotten Man." The book is the first in a planned fiction series that tells the rest of Julia's story, showing the complete impact of an increasingly large and powerful central government on the lives of Julia and those around her. When Obama's ad was released, liberals hailed it as an example of how big government policies help everyone, and women in particular. Conservatives criticized it as an example of a bloated and ineffective government intruding into every aspect of our lives. Rush Limbaugh said that the ad was "a perfect illustration of liberal cradle-to-grave care for every citizen, with the government making every decision, making everything possible, and leaving nothing to chance." The Obama campaign touted the ad as an example of the benefits of government services, institutions…

We should hold deadbeat parents more accountable (Opinion from J. Pepper Bryars)

Margaret Thatcher, the conservative icon and former prime minister of Great Britain, had strong opinions about what she believed were the declining expectations of fatherhood and the simultaneous rise in the welfare state. "A man has no greater duty than to put a roof over his family's head and to put food upon the table," Thatcher pointedly said during an interview with journalist Michael Brunson, criticizing the trend of fathers leaving their children's upbringing to someone else. Brunson later said that Thatcher's views were "very old fashioned values but ones that which, in her book, stood the test of time." The trend observed by Thatcher in the 1980s didn't shrink. It grew, and it now touches every segment of society. Sarah Palin, another conservative icon and former vice presidential candidate, called Levi Johnston a "deadbeat dad" last month after he asked for joint custody of the son he had with Palin's daughter Bristol. He reportedly owes nearly $70,000 in back child support. Johnston isn't the only deadbeat, of course. We all know a few. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last month, only 62-percent of the $38-billion owed in child support was paid to the nation's 14.4 million custodial parents in 2011, the last year data is available. The report also showed that only 43-percent of custodial parents received the total amount of child support they were due, with the rest having to accept what's given when available, taken when possible or simply nothing at all. What's to…

Pope Francis cannot change the Catholic Church’s doctrine (Opinion from Pepper Bryars)

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass at the Vatican. (File) Those expecting changes to the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion, same sex-marriage and women priests were probably disappointed by the publication last week of Pope Francis's first apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," in which he affirms the unchangeable nature of those and other doctrines. "Pope: Church's teaching on abortion is unchangeable" and "Pope backs male priesthood" read the headlines from Birmingham-based EWTN Global Catholic Network. "The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," the pope wrote concerning abortion. "This is not something subject to alleged reforms or 'modernizations.' It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life." The pope also wrote that the "reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion." When the pope was quoted – or misunderstood, rather – earlier this year saying that the church mustn't be "obsessed" with abortion, same-sex marriage and birth control, many developed the mistaken belief that he was signaling a coming change in doctrine. While the 55,000-word document is still being studied for its implications, it's becoming clear that the pope's earlier statements signaled a change in the only power he holds over doctrine – the manner in which it is explained. "There are major commentators and influential pundits who seem to want the church to be anything other…