Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reps. Poe & Conyers Lead Bipartisan House Coalition to Stop Government Surveillance and Hacking

Washington, D.C. - February 13, 2016 (The Stuff Gazette) -- Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) along with Congressman Blake Fahrenthold (R-TX) and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5321 the Stop Mass Hacking Act. This is the companion bill to legislation introduced on the Senate side by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). The Department of Justice has recently moved to make an administrative rule change to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that would give the government the ability to hack the computers of a massive amount of American citizens just by obtaining a single warrant. If Congress does not act by December 1, 2016, this change will be in effect. The Stop Massive Hacking Act prevents these changes to Rule 41 from going into effect.

“Government does not have the authority to unilaterally legalize widespread government hacking,” said Rep. Poe. “Americans have rights. It is Congress’ responsibility to safeguard the constitutional rights of the people they represent from a power hungry Executive Branch. As such, we are moving to stop this change that condones hacking the property of the very people we are entrusted to protect.”

“I stand by the Stop Mass Hacking Act because I am not yet convinced that the proposed changes to Rule 41 are wise or necessary,” said Rep. Conyers. “This rule change is designed to streamline investigative techniques that allow law enforcement to gain unauthorized access and control to remote computer systems. Until Congress has had an opportunity to examine this proposal in detail—and until we have adequately addressed the privacy concerns raised by my colleagues—this rule change should not take effect.”

“This bill hits pause on a new rule which facilitates hacking of foreign entities and hijacking devices owned by the victims of malware attacks without their permission,” said Rep. Lofgren. “These troubling activities, and the international, privacy, and security ramifications which may arise as a result, deserve serious deliberation and debate in Congress.”

“We’re in the midst right now of one of the biggest battles in the privacy world that we have faced,” said Rep Farenthold. “Because of the horrendous terrorist attacks we’ve witnessed, there’s a willingness to give up some of our freedoms and privacy in order to feel safe. That’s completely understandable, but if we keep down this path, we’re going to wake up in a few years in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ This is why, as we fight for security, the intrusion on privacy

necessary to fight the war on terror needs to be narrowly tailored and aggressively overseen.”

“Representatives Poe, Conyers, Farenthold and Lofgren are leading the fight to protect Americans’ freedoms by introducing the Stopping Mass Hacking Act in the House of Representatives,” said Senator Wyden. “They’re proof that a growing, bipartisan coalition agrees that this expansion of the government’s hacking and surveillance authority simply goes too far.”

Byrne Defends Efforts to Protect Religious Freedom

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) spoke out today in support of efforts to ensure religious freedom protections for faith-based organizations and businesses.

Byrne’s speech came following intense debate in the House of Representatives last week on an amendment by Congressman Steve Russell (R-OK) that would ensure religious freedom protections for religious corporations, religious associations, religious educational institutions, and religious societies. The Russell Amendment applied only to those four categories of religious entities.

The Russell Amendment was included in the National Defense Authorization Act when it passed the House on May 18, 2016.

A transcript of Congressman Byrne’s remarks can be found below.

Byrne said: “Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, the gentleman from Oklahoma, Mr. Russell, offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act regarding religious freedom.

“Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have attempted to use this amendment as a wedge in an effort to divide the American people. I want to take a minute to discuss the true facts about its impact.

“In September of 1789, the First Congress considered the demands made by many participants in the state conventions called for ratifying the U.S. Constitution. In response to many of these concerns, Congress approved, by voice vote, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and sent it to the states for ratification. It was ratified in December of 1791.

“The first two clauses address religious freedom. The first prohibits an ‘establishment’ of religion, so that citizens would not be forced to support a national church as was the case in Great Britain.

“The second clause prohibits any government act that inhibits the ‘free exercise’ of religion by a citizen, thereby assuring that the government cannot dictate religious beliefs or interfere with citizens as they practice and live out their faith.

“Historically, we have a proud tradition of Republicans and Democrats working together to protect Free Exercise under the First Amendment. A great example of this is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed the House by voice vote in 1993.

“Unfortunately, basic principles of free exercise are under attack today. In response, Mr. Russell’s limited amendment would extend religious liberty protection to four categories of government contractors.

“It is important to note that one doesn't lose Constitutional rights if he or she seeks to become a contractor of the government. Hence, contractors are protected in the ‘free exercise’ of their religious beliefs and practices. The Russell amendment makes explicit these contractors' rights to such protection in the employment of people who work for them.

“So let’s look at the Russell amendment. It states: ‘Any branch or agency of the Federal Government shall, with respect to any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society that is a recipient of or offeror for a Federal government contract, subcontract, grant, purchase order, or cooperative agreement, provide protections and exemptions consistent with Sections 702(a) and 702(e)(2) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . and section 103(d) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.’

“Again, note that the Russell Amendment is limited to these four categories of religious entities and does not apply to other private entities or individuals.

“Mr. Speaker, the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a landmark civil rights law which bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title 7 of the Act deals with discrimination in the work place. Section 702 specifically protects the four categories of religious employers listed in the Russell amendment.

“Hence, the Russell Amendment extends to these four categories of religious entities when they are working for, or when they attempt to do work for, the government, the same religious liberty rights they have had for over 50 years when operating in the private sector. This approach is neither new nor novel.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 extends many of the same rights granted under the 1964 Act to people with disabilities. Section 103(d) allows the four categories of religious entities to give ‘preference in employment to individuals of a particular religion’ and to require that ‘all applicants and employees conform to the religious tenets of such organization.’

“Again, the Russell amendment extends to these four categories of religious entities the same religious liberty rights they have had for over 25 years when operating in the private sector to when they seek to do business with the government.

“The opponents of the Russell Amendment say it provides for discrimination against the LGBT community. A simple review of the Amendment and the underlying Federal statutes demonstrates an absence of any reference to LGBT persons.

“Indeed, the Russell Amendment is narrowly drawn to apply only to the four categories of religious entities in their employment of individuals to carry on their work. Any service or product produced by such an entity in a government contract would have to be provided to whomever the government requires and that obviously, and appropriately, will include those in the LGBT community.

“Mr. Speaker, if the Russell Amendment is discriminatory then so is the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If allowing a religious entity to employ persons who share its beliefs is discriminatory than the First Congress, the heavily Democratic Congress of 1964 and the Democratic controlled Congresses of 1990 and 1993, as well as Presidents George Washington, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, were all supportive of discrimination.

“It is certainly fair to debate the law of our country as it applies to LGBT people, and their status under the law has undergone rapid change in the last 15 years. But it is inaccurate to portray the Russell Amendment as anything other than a narrowly drawn effort to protect religious freedom.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Obama's New Restroom Rules Outcry

Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-LA, 5th), introduced legislation on Monday, May 23, that seeks to halt the Obama administration’s executive overreach regarding the transgender bathroom directive handed down to public schools.

Earlier this month, President Obama issued a directive stating that any public school that failed to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded to their “gender identity” would be found in violation of Title IX. He warned that such a violation could result in the loss of federal funds.

However, Title IX has been widely interpreted to refer to biological sex since it became enacted in 1972. It was originally passed to rectify inequality among the sexes, particularly in regards to athletic opportunities and after school programs.

The bill Dr. Abraham introduced Monday, HR 5307, amends Title IX by simply clarifying that “the term ‘sex’ means with respect to an individual the biological sex of such individual.”

“For 40 years, society and law have interpreted Title IX to refer to a person’s biological sex. Now the President and liberal activists are distorting that meaning to circumvent Congress to enact their radical social agenda. My bill removes any ambiguity in the law to ensure that Title IX's true intent is respected. Transgender bathroom policy decisions should be made on the local and state levels, not by an over-reaching Executive Branch that twists the law to suit its own purposes,” Dr. Abraham said.

The definition of “sex” found in Dr. Abraham’s bill follows the same guidelines used by other arms of the federal government, such as the Census Bureau, which uses biological sex to carry out its constitutional duty to count and catalogue American citizens. The definition is also consistent with the widely accepted medical definitions used by the American Psychological Association.

“The American people are sick and tired of their voices in Congress being ignored by a president who tries to rule like a dictator. Laws are made in Congress, not the White House. The President has no authority to ignore Congress and impose sweeping societal changes that fly in the face of the law, and he certainly has no authority to withhold congressionally appropriated funds to schools that fail to comply with his agenda. Congress should swiftly pass my bill to show the people that their Congress will not stand for an Executive Branch that ignores our Constitution,” Dr. Abraham said.

"The U.S. Department of Education’s transgender directives just released reveal a new desperation by this administration to impose their liberal agenda on their way out the door,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL, 4th). "The Administration should not jeopardize the safety of our children in their efforts to force Americans to accept their LGBT political agenda.”

“Threatening to cut off funding to public schools, which are diligently working to educate our children, is nothing short of blackmail. We must continue to push back against this Administration’s almost constant attempt to circumnavigate Congress and the Constitution.”

“To that end, I will be joining several of my Congressional colleagues in signing a letter to the President, expressing great concern over these guidelines and reminding Mr. Obama that he cannot infringe upon the constitutional right of Congress to appropriate funds.”

In Washington, Congressman Aderholt serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies for the powerful House Appropriations Committee; he is also a member of the Committee’s Defense Subcommittee, the Committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, and the Helsinki Commission.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX, 36th) on Friday introduced the Student Privacy Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 5294) to ensure local schools, as well as public and private colleges, are not forced to carry out the Obama Administration’s misguided transgender bathroom policies.

“The Obama Administration’s reinterpretation of current law would jeopardize the privacy and modesty of every child in America,” said Rep. Babin. “It is wrong to force upon tens of millions of American elementary, middle and high school students mixed gender bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms, but that is exactly what the Administration is doing. The federal government should not be in the business of throwing common sense and decency out the window and forcing local schools to permit a teenage boy who ‘identifies’ as a girl to use changing rooms, locker rooms and bathrooms with five year-old girls.”

H.R. 5294 would prevent the federal government from enforcing the policy by completely invalidating the May 13th directive by the Department of Education and Department of Justice. Furthermore, the bill would prevent the federal government from issuing any further guidance of similar nature unless Congress directs it to do so.

Recently, the House failed to pass an amendment barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.

Apparently, there had been a federal complaint against Sumner County, Tennessee schools filed by the ACLU.

“Washington liberals’ campaign to compromise the safety and privacy of our students in the name of hyper-political correctness has now hit our backyard,” said Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN, 6th) . “These days, a complaint by the ACLU is a sure sign you’ve done something right. From the organization’s work to silence expressions of faith in our schools to their attacks on laudable organizations like Boy Scouts of America, they’ve lost all credibility with Tennesseans and they know it. Nonetheless, if the ACLU wants to pick a fight with our Sumner County educators, then they’ll have to pick a fight with me as well. I sent my children to Sumner County public schools. I know our Director of Schools and the Chairman of the Board of Education. I have the utmost confidence in their ability to offer accommodations for transgender students while maintaining reasonable policies that protect the privacy and security of the student population as a whole and I stand with them in the face of this blatantly political complaint.”

She recently blasted Obama's bathroom agenda saying, “This attempt to bully our local schools into submission to the Obama Administration’s agenda is shameful and a gross abuse of the federal government’s power. It has nothing to do with compassion for minority student populations and everything to do with political opportunism for the next election. We all agree on the rights of students to be treated with dignity and respect, but that right must also exist alongside the rights of students to maintain their privacy and safety in their own schools. As a grandmother of young girls, I believe the Obama Administration is now directly responsible for endangering our students. It is worth noting that this directive does not carry the force of law and I would encourage Tennessee school officials to continue following their consciences. States like Tennessee should be able to make these decisions for themselves without fear of reprisal from a heavy-handed federal government. That is why, later this year when our appropriations bills come to the House floor, I plan to introduce an amendment barring the Department of Education from withholding funds from states that pass commonsense legislation protecting our children from sharing a bathroom with students of the opposite sex.”

“It’s absurd that the Obama Administration is threatening to take legal action against local school districts and imposing their agenda against the wishes of parents and teachers,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) “School districts have a right to make these decisions for themselves. I have never once had a student, parent, or teacher complain about this issue before. With the many serious problems our country faces, including $19 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, millions of migrants flooding into Europe, and our open southern border, it seems they could have found a better use for their time. It is a shame that President Obama is distracting from our country’s many serious problems with this needless Federal bathroom policy – yet another example of executive overreach,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA, 7th).

“Schools should not be punished by the Federal government for failing to implement this misguided, ‘Washington knows best’ policy,” he added.

U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, and U.S. Reps. Markwayne Mullin, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, Steve Russell, and Jim Bridenstine have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Education (ED) demanding that the administration retract the May 13, 2016, guidance on transgender students.

Officials from 11 U.S. states sued the Obama administration on Wednesday to overturn a directive telling schools to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity, decrying the policy as "a massive social experiment."