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How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of 'Religious Freedom' Laws

They've been the driving force behind anti-LGBT legislation. But now their numbers are falling off.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
(Map from Gallup) Southern states still rate among the highest in the country for church attendance, as the map shows. But recent surveys suggest that once-dominant white evangelicals are in decline in the South. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies . L ast month, Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called "religious freedom" bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country. A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn't go far enough . North Carolina's Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won't support his state's proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion...

March Madness: How Title IX Just Totally Rocked Your Sunday

During Women's History Month, it's important to remember how recently female athletes were excluded from college basketball.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome) South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell (25) and Alaina Coates (41) react after defeating Florida State in a women's college basketball regional final game in the NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, Sunday, March 29, 2015. A t two minutes to go, Tiffany Mitchell dribbles to the top of the court and passes to teammate Aleighsa Welch . Welch takes the ball through the middle for an inside layup. South Carolina is up on Florida State, 69-67. Then with a little more than a minute on the clock, Mitchell makes a three-pointer. South Carolina is leading 72-67. Taking on Florida State in this year’s March Madness competition, South Carolina is the first of the elite eight to make to the final four, with a final with a score of 80-74. Over the length of the entire game, South Carolina led for less than four minutes. Mitchell went into the final two minutes of the game with 14 points under her belt. Then she scored seven more. Seeing the sport played at such a high...

7 Reasons Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

iStockPhoto/© porcorex
iStockPhoto/© porcorex This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post . O ur current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer—yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? Let me suggest seven reasons: 1. The Discrediting of Politics Itself The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded. The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties—with lazy phrases such as "Washington is broken," or "politics is broken," or "partisan bickering." (...

The Many Ways the University of Oklahoma Fraternity Scandal Reveals America's Racism Denial

Bill Kristol blames rap music. And the fraternity's lawyer says the racist chanters were "tarred and feathered." (Yes, he did.)

(Photo: MSNBC Morning Joe screenshot)
W hat does a white person have to say or do to be considered racist? If you think a little ditty about lynching makes the cut—you’re wrong. On March 8, video surfaced online of the Greek organization Sigma Alpha Epsilon at University of Oklahoma singing a rousing rendition of a song about lynching. Yes, in 2015—not 1815. “You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me! There will never be a n****r in SAE,” sang the fraternity brothers while they rode a charter bus either to or from an event, wearing tuxedos. Captured on video, Parker Rice and Levi Pettit —the students leading the chant—sang as if they were at a pep rally and their school was headed to a big championship game. They were joined by an ad hoc group of background singers that formed among the party-goers. When news of the video broke, students protested and University of Oklahoma president David Boren responded swiftly and rapidly, as did the national president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The chapter was shut...

Photo Essay: Vigil for Slain Chapel Hill Muslim Students

While the media lit up with arguments over whether or not Craig Hicks's execution-style killing of three young Arabs was a hate crime, the UNC community gathered to commemorate the lives of the slain. 

(Photo / Jenny Warburg)
This editor's note has been corrected to accurately state the academic affiliations of the slain students. O n February 10, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was in her apartment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, when a man came in and shot the three of them, execution-style. The newlywed couple was in their early 20s; Razan Abu-Salha was 19. Barakat was a student at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, where his wife, Yusor, was recently accepted for admission. Razan Abu-Salha attended North Carolina State University. Neighbor Craig Hicks was subsequently charged with the murders. Law enforcement officials said that Hicks's actions stemmed from a parking dispute; Barakat's father and many others called it a hate crime motivated by the murderer's contempt for either his targets' Islamic faith, or against Muslims, period. Family and friends of Barakat and the Abu-Salbas gathered on the university...

Rand Paul's Attack on Jeb Bush's Pot 'Hypocrisy' Heralds a Signal Issue for 2016 Campaign

With pot legalization measures appearing on 2016 ballots in some six states, presidential candidates will have to answer a tricky question.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, speaks with reporters as he arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, December 16, 2014. T he Republican presidential nominating contest has barely begun, and already we're talking about marijuana. This is yet another issue most Republicans would just as soon not discuss, since public opinion is moving away from them and they haven't quite figured out how fast they should follow after it. But at the moment, Jeb Bush can thank Barack Obama for paving the way for him to dismiss his own youthful pot smoking as no big deal—at least nothing that should make anyone want to vote against him. The new information about young Jeb's experimentation with cannabis comes from this article by the Boston Globe 's Michael Kranish on Jeb's years at the Phillips Andover Academy. While, as a general matter, no adult human should be judged on what they did in their...

McMorris-Rodgers and Anti-Choice Marchers All For 'Life' Until It's Born

She's all for the fetus, until it's born and needs health insurance. Or anything.

(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
E very January 22, anti-choice activists travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Life. It’s their way of marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade , the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states. The signs carried by the marchers always declare their love of babies and their desire to protect families. Their end goal, however, is to eliminate abortion nationwide; the organizers have also recently taken on the false and scientifically incorrect idea that oral contraceptives are actually abortifacients. Science be damned, the march is usually attended by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country—including a congressional delegation. This year, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, a Republican from Washington State, together with Representatives Dan Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois; and Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican, will be represent Congress at the march. U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina,...

The True Cost of Teach For America's Impact on Urban Schools

Why are school districts paying millions in "finder's fees" to an organization that places people without education degrees to teach in urban schools—even where applications from veteran teachers abound?

(AP Photo/Andy King)
(AP Photo/Andy King) In a February 4, 2011 photo, Erin Gavin, a Teach for America teacher, listens to students during a group discussion with seventh-graders at a Brooklyn Center School in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. In 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a line item that would have granted $1.5 million to TFA. In debates over education policy in urban school districts, few topics are more contentious than the role played by Teach For America, the national organization that recruits elite college graduates to teach in low-income urban and rural schools for two years. It is not uncommon to hear veteran teachers, who majored in education and often have advanced degrees, complain that their profession is diminished by what they see as a preference for TFA recruits who did not study education. Parents are heard to question the qualifications and commitment of TFA’s novice educators, given the assumption that their sign-up for a two-year stint suggests only a fleeting interest in...

Nationwide Ferguson Protests Don't Halt For the Holidays

(Mo. Die-In: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson; DC Die-In: Flickr/Joe Newman)
T hanksgiving in America is a hallowed tradition; Thursday is for eating the traditional dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes, and the next day is for the frenzy of commerce known as Black Friday. But this year, the holiday weekend looked a little bit different, as protesters across the nation leveraged the rituals that kick off the holiday season to call for racial justice. After St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced on Monday night that no charges would be filed against Darren Wilson—the white officer who shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August—protests erupted in major cities throughout the United States. And the ever-vigilant protesters were not going to let Thanksgiving celebrations stop them from being heard. If anything, they used the holiday as an opportunity to call attention to their cause. On Tuesday, protests were organized in New York City, Washington D.C, Los Angeles, Nashville, Minneapolis, Atlanta,...

To Save the Right to Choose Nationwide, Reproductive Justice Advocates Need a Southern Strategy

A new amendment to Tennessee's Constitution lays a framework for ending abortion rights. If allowed to stand, women and girls in poor communities will suffer the most. 

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Signs outside a polling place support different opinions on an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee. The amendment would expand the power of legislators to pass more abortion regulations. T his past Election Day, the people of Tennessee awoke to a state in which the right to an abortion is no longer secure. Amendment 1 to the state constitution could mean that politicians soon vote to take away the right within the state. The passage of Amendment 1 gives politicians far-reaching power to restrict many forms of birth control and abortion. Most ominously, if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned, the passage of Amendment 1 lays the groundwork to eliminate all abortion access in Tennessee. In the run-up to the election, anti-choice politicians in the state masked their strategy to eliminate abortion access by framing their position as an issue of free speech, saying the voters had been silenced by a decision by...

We Let Bill Cosby Into Our Homes, So He Owes Us an Explanation

America's once-favorite TV dad needs to take his own advice.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Entertainer and former classmate Bill Cosby speaks during a public memorial service for Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at Temple University in Philadelphia. W hile the natural inclination is to separate Bill Cosby’s television character from his real life persona, the show we remember so fondly was not called The Huxtable Show . It was The Cosby Show . We did not really welcome Heathcliff into our homes. We welcomed Bill. It is Cosby, the accused serial rapist of 15 women from whom we await an explanation. He has the time: His planned NBC project was just pulled in the face of these resurfaced allegations. He won’t be cashing any residual checks from shows streamed on Netflix because like any contagion, everything Cosby is associated with is now contaminated. This reckoning particularly stings because of Cosby’s decades-long campaign of respectability politics within the black community. For years he has offered a socially...

How Democrats Can Win Back the White Working Class and Increase Turnout Among Blacks and Latinos

(Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr/Creative Commons License)
(Photo: CNV Sioux Falls, SD Action via Flickr) Demonstrators in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, urge fellow citizens to vote for the November 4 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. The demonstration took place on Saturday, September 27. T he voting turnout in this year's congressional and gubernatorial elections was the lowest since 1942. Much of the story was in young people, poor people, black and Hispanic citizens, who tend to support Democrats, voting in far lower numbers than in 2008 or 2012. The Democrats just weren't offering them very much. But the other part of the Election Day story was older voters and the white working class, especially men, deserting the Democrats in droves—again, because Democrats didn't seem to be offering much. Republicans, at least, were promising lower taxes. Turnout on average dropped from 2012 by a staggering 42 percent. But as Sam Wang reported in a post-election piece for The American Prospect , the drop-off was evidently worse for Democrats...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Watch Party Dispatch: At Howard University, Mentors Challenge Young Activists' Ideas of Victory

For the African-American community, given all the obstacles, an uptick in turnout can be a victory in and of itself.

(Ayanna Alexander)
Ayanna Alexander Signs decorate the Howard University meeting room where the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable gathered students for a midterm election results watch party on November 4, 2014 A s the midterm results rolled in, what was projected by the oddsmakers came to pass. Some mixed emotions, but mostly utter disappointment over the GOP takeover, filled all of my social media feeds. I took my solace in the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Unity Election Night and its "What Say You" political conversation on the campus of Howard University, the historically black institution where I attend college. Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 50-something, and each person in the room seemed determined to stay positive in her comments, despite any qualms about what the new political landscape could mean for America, and especially for the lives of African Americans. At the beginning of the evening, most of those gathered...

Watch Party Dispatch: Undaunted By Grim Outcomes, Pro-Choicers Gather to Plot the Future

They had hoped for a better night, but they're already thinking ahead to 2016.

(Kristen Doerer)
Kristen Doerer Young pro-choice Democratic activists gather at Local 16, a Washington, D.C., bar, to watch election results of the midterms on November 4, 2014. W alking into the Local 16 bar on U Street in Northwest DC, I was surprised to hear the buzz of an energized crowd. I was, after all, walking into a Women’s Informational Network, also known as WIN, Election Day watch party. The stormy forecast for Democratic candidates and the recent attacks on abortion rights doesn’t necessarily lend hope to WIN, a political and social network of young, pro-choice, Democratic women. Local 16, a popular weekend destination for young professionals, is a dimly lit bar. Red walls and warm orange lights resembling rustic chandeliers lent a cozy quality to the room. An overwhelmed bartender moved quickly behind the counter, taking happy hour orders. CNN played on two different screens, the sounds of which were drowned out by the hum of a crowded bar. With happy hour extended to 10:00 p.m., the WIN...

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