Month: October 2014

Alabama’s rank-and-file conservatives should support House Speaker Mike Hubbard: opinion

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (file)J. Pepper Bryars President Harry Truman is believed to have said that, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." The same could be said about every state capital and county seat in America. There's just no loyalty in politics. That wasn't the case last week in Lee County, Alabama. About 30 lawmakers gathered at the Auburn University Hotel in a very public display of support for House Speaker Mike Hubbard after he was indicted by a special grand jury in the county and charged with felony ethics violations. There were so many lawmakers present that AL.com columnist John Archibald quipped, "I think there is a legislative quorum in this press conference." They didn't mince words in their vocal support of the first Republican Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives since Reconstruction. "When you do big things you make enemies and unfortunately that is happening here," said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, who represents Lee County as part of Alabama's 3rd Congressional District. He added that the indictment was "Chicago-style gutter politics that has no place in Alabama or Lee County." Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, said Hubbard was "our friend and our speaker." Several other influential lawmakers voiced their support, as well, putting to rest any ideas that Hubbard might be successfully challenged for his leadership position in Montgomery. Auburn's mayor and the head of the local Chamber of Commerce also voiced their support from the…

Ebola crisis reveals differences between liberals and conservatives: opinion

Ebola virus (L) and Enterovirus 68 (R) (CDC)J. Pepper Bryars There may only be a few Ebola cases in the United States, but the entire country is worried sick. Every day, travelers from Ebola-plagued regions of Africa arrive at U.S. airports, the Centers for Disease Control doesn't seem to be in control of much of anything and our leaders are struggling to inspire confidence in the government's response. "In the event that Ebola spreads to Alabama, we are ready and we are prepared to respond," said Gov. Robert Bentley at a recent news conference at the Alabama Department of Public Health in Montgomery. What does that even mean, specifically? Most people don't know, and I doubt our leaders know, either. They're probably just trying to keep everyone calm. Meanwhile, both political parties have stitched the crisis into a political football to kick around during the midterm elections. Republicans fault incompetent officials, and there's certainly truth to that. It's imperative that our government's efforts be overseen by the best and brightest in medicine and disaster response, not lawyers or bureaucrats (as is the case).¬† Democrats blame insufficient budgets, and resources are part of the issue, too. It's also imperative that we sufficiently equip those tasked with stopping the virus. But is either imperative being accomplished? I'm not so sure. In any event, the bipartisan criticism reveals less about our government's ability to control pandemics than our own unrealistic and borderline ideological belief than it even can. That's the real conservative vs.…

Conservatives should be cautious about school prayer efforts: opinion

State Rep. Steve McMillian, R-Gulf Shores, is pushing legislation that would encourage prayer in public schools. (File)J. Pepper Bryars Religious conservatives have been trying to restore prayer in our public schools since it was banned decades ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. They have good reasons; show me someone who regularly prays and I'll show you someone who is joyful and blessed That's why supporters of school prayer would be pleased to learn that lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill to guarantee that students and their teachers have the right to pray in public schools in Alabama. "We believe it will restore the rights of children to have voluntary religious activities in school," said one of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores. The bill would protect praying, expressing religious beliefs, distributing religious literature, organizing prayer groups and expressing religious views in homework assignments. That probably sounds great to those of us who support public prayer and religious freedom, but the devil is often in the details. One of those details is that the bill would also allow teachers to participate in religious activities with their students. "A local board of education may not prohibit school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are initiated by students at reasonable times before or after the instructional day so long as such activities are voluntary for all parties...," reads an early draft of the bill. That could be a big problem. Even though some view prayer…

Alabama’s new parental consent law protects minors and the unborn from abortion: opinion

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia Minors in Alabama must be at least 14-years old to operate a personal watercraft by themselves, 16-years old to get a driver's license and 17-years old to watch an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian. Then there are all those permission slips required for school field trips, sports programs and extra-curricular activities. The trend is clear - kids need parental guidance and permission to do certain things in our society. But until a new law went into effect last summer, a teenage girl could obtain what amounted to a judicial rubberstamp to bypass Alabama's parental consent law and get an abortion. Now that law is under attack. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed a federal lawsuit¬†challenging the measure's constitutionality. Susan Watson, the organization's executive director, said in a news release that minors will be treated like criminals if they need an abortion without parental consent. "This law aims to shame a young woman into not having an abortion," Watson said. No, it doesn't. Alabama's parental consent law aims to protect the life of an unborn child, the health of a teenage mother, the rights of her parents and the interests of the state. Courts simply didn't have to consider any of those factors before enactment of the law, which was sponsored earlier this year by State Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia. "This act clarified previous law to provide judges and court officers with much-needed guidance on the procedures for these types of…

Alabamians should send prayers and money to Christians in Iraq: opinion

Iraqis attend Mass at the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest in a 7th-century monastery overlooking Alqosh, Iraq. (AP file) Imagine that you're at church with your family somewhere in Alabama. Maybe you're singing along with the choir at Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, or listening to a sermon at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, or maybe you're kneeling during the Eucharistic prayer at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Huntsville. Wherever you are, you're in God's house. Now imagine that you hear a loud explosion outside, then gunfire. Your ears are ringing, and your nose is filled with the smell of fire and gasoline. You grab your children and hold them close. Their eyes are wide with fear, and they're asking what's happening. You tell them "It's okay, baby. It's okay," but you aren't sure it is. You turn around just as the doors bursts open, and dozens of black-clad men march down the aisle, shooting into the air screaming for everyone to get on their knees. They block the exits and point their rifles into the pews. The man in front of you screams and collapses to the floor. They behead your pastor, without a word of warning. You look to your children; your little girl has started to cry, and your boy is stunned with terror. You cover his eyes. It all happened in about 45-seconds. You look up, shaking with rage, but mostly with fear, and see the leader turn to the congregation…