CP Opinion: What Religious Freedom?

Today, while much of the nation is still celebrating this week's presidential inauguration, we want to call attention to another day the president has asked America to commemorate. President Obama recently proclaimed January 16 Religious Freedom Day.

Let's be blunt: this proclamation has people familiar with the president's notably poor record on religious freedom scratching their heads. It almost seems like a bad joke.

The proclamation rightly commends founding fathers Jefferson and Madison for their defense of the rights of all men to "profess...their opinions in matters of religion." And it says, "[R]eligious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe."

All tremendous words! So the disconnect with the president's actual record on religious freedom could not be more dramatic and disturbing. Here are just three of several examples:

A few weeks ago, the White House announced that Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio would offer the benediction at the upcoming inauguration. Giglio's laudable efforts in combating sexual trafficking had earned him the attention and praise of the president. However, when a blog broke the "news" that Giglio had preached the biblical message concerning the morality of sexual relations, he was pressured to step aside. Giglio learned that under the current administration, a pastor holding the positions set forth in the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and other faiths is disqualified from participating in one of the great ceremonies of our civic life.

In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Resources implemented a rule under Obamacare that forces employers to subsidize the cost of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. With the narrowest of exceptions, all organizations are required to comply, regardless of any conflict with the mandates of conscience. This includes faith-based hospitals, charities, schools, small businesses and major corporations like arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby and Bible publisher Tyndale, which face huge fines for each day they fail to comply with the rule.

Finally, the Obama administration ordered the Justice Department to cease enforcement of the duly enacted Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Clinton, and ended the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. One not-so-unintended result of these actions is that American military chaplains are being pressured to accommodate and affirm same-sex sexual conduct and relationships despite their religious convictions.

These three examples should send chills down the spines of those who understand the centrality of religious freedom to the America of the last two centuries.

Of course, attempts to limit the place of religion are not new. There have been ugly efforts to compel nurses and doctors to refer for, and even perform, abortions. Some so-called "anti-discrimination" statutes require religious institutions and businesses to engage in activities they judge to be immoral. Catholic adoption and foster care placement services have actually been forced out of operation in some places because their conscientious policy is to place children in homes where they will have the benefit of a married mother and father.

The Manhattan Declaration was written in response to these sorts of violations. It reads in part:

"Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well."

Sadly these words are now more important than ever. All Americans ought to be alarmed by the recent developments we've mentioned, regardless of whether they share the particular faith convictions of those involved. We hope people will stand up for religious freedom and will read and sign the Manhattan Declaration at ManhattanDeclaration.org. As Dr. King wrote in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, we are connected in an "escapable network of mutuality" and so "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Timothy George, Robert George, and Eric Metaxas are members of the board of directors of the Manhattan Declaration (ManhattanDeclaration.org), a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christians launched in 2009 to advocate for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/what-religious-freedom-88774/#r6gcoFXYmr65W70f.99 


S.C. Senate Approves Election Law Fix

A bill meant to prevent another ballot-tossing election mess is heading to the South Carolina House.

The Senate had a third reading Wednesday for legislation syncing the candidate filing process for incumbents and those seeking to be officeholders. It also allows those who don't file properly to pay a fine and remain on the ballot, as long as they fix it before primaries.

"We fixed it!" said Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, noting that the bill is designed to address only last year's election debacle. "I tried to keep from wading into the weeds. We needed to respond and address what happened last year."

About 250 candidates were kicked off primary ballots last June after back-to-back decisions from the state Supreme Court over improperly filed financial forms. Their ouster stemmed from confusion over a 2010 law requiring online filing, which failed to match up separate sections of state law.

The bill received tentative approval in the Senate last Thursday, but debate continued on the specifics. A compromise on who would receive candidates' paperwork allowed the bill to advance to the House. It directs candidates to give their candidacy statement and pay fees at their county election office, rather than to local party leaders.

Martin said that while he wanted to keep party leaders more involved in the process, the bulk of the Senate wanted one central location for all candidates to turn in forms.

Candidates would then have until March 30, the filing deadline, to turn in their financial disclosure form online. If they miss that deadline, they could pay a fine. The current law requires those seeking office to turn in all paperwork at the same time.

The bill does not change the filing timeframe. An earlier version had shortened it from two weeks to one.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/South-Carolina-Senate-passes-election-law-fix-4218032.php#ixzz2IrfrMyBs


S.C. Board May Have Violated State Constitution on Health Care

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board violated the constitution when it voted to split the cost of increases in public workers' health insurance premiums between employers and employees, an attorney argued before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

"The General Assembly alone has the power to tax and spend," Allen Nickles told justices, saying the panel infringed on the separation of powers when it raised rates on both by 4.6 percent.

Nickles represents public workers who are suing the Budget and Control Board over its August vote to split the cost of the increases. Lawmakers had already agreed to fully cover the premium hikes as part of a larger compromise on worker pay, seeking to provide workers who had gone four years without a raise with a noticeable increase in their paychecks.

The final budget increased most state workers' salaries by 3 percent, but also required them to contribute more toward their retirement. It also distributed the necessary $20.6 million to agencies, school districts and public colleges to fully cover premium hikes.

But Gov. Nikki Haley, chairwoman of the board, convinced a majority to disregard the budget and split the cost of the hikes between employers and workers. The board ultimately voted 3-2 to raise rates on both by 4.6 percent starting Jan. 1. On average, agencies will pay an extra $19 monthly, while employees and retirees will pay $7 more.

Some public employees sued, saying that the panel lacked the authority to raise premiums in spite of lawmakers' action.

"The Budget and Control Board is empowered only to act within its delegated authority," Nickles said Wednesday. "Where the heck do the Budget and Control Board ... get the authority to substitute their judgment for the General Assembly?"

If the board's vote is deemed invalid, the ruling would automatically apply to the more than 234,000 public workers and retirees who have health insurance through the state health plan, Nickles has said. More than 400,000 residents are covered through the plan, when including spouses and children.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SC-Supreme-Court-mulling-state-health-premium-suit-4217840.php#ixzz2IrfM6gBs


Senior Center Welcomes Alzheimer Support Group

On Wednesday, the Senior Center hosted it's first gathering for the Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Group. The group will meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month from 10:30 until 1130 am. Alzheimer's Association Caregiver Support Groups provide emotional, educational and social support for family and friends of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other, related dementias.  

"The Anderson County Senior Citizens Program is pleased to welcome the Alzheimer's Association's Caregiver Support Groups to the Jo Brown Senior Center," said Director Kelly Jo Barnwell. "They will be a wonderful addition to our Anderson community!" 

Caregiver Support Groups are free and open to anyone caring for a person with Alzheimer's or related dementia. If you need an in-home care sitter in order to attend a group, learn how to access this service at no cost by calling the Alzheimer's Association in advance at 800.272.3900. 

For more information about the group, please contact Support Group Facilitator Cecilia Lewis at 864.642.6780


Colbert's Sister Could Face Sanford for Scott Seat

It's official: Comedian Stephen Colbert's sister is now a Democratic candidate for Congress.

Amanda Loveday, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told USA TODAY that Elizabeth Colbert-Busch filed her paperwork about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to run for the vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

Colbert-Busch is the business-development director at Clemson University's wind-turbine facility and an older sister of the Comedy Channel host.

Her entry into the race has some political insiders salivating at the prospect of a match-up against Republican Mark Sanford, the former governor who admitted he had an extramarital affair in 2009. It's going to be a crowded GOP field, but Sanford, who previously represented the House district, has the highest-name recognition in the bunch.

Speaking of big names, one Republican candidate is already on TV with a campaign ad. That would be Teddy Turner, a high school teacher who happens to be the son of CNN founder Ted Turner. The biographical spot explains that the young Turner went to Russia to "work as a cameraman and left as a conservative."

Republican Tim Scott resigned from Congress to accept appointment to the U.S. Senate. Primaries will be held March 19. The general election is May 7.


Friday Open House Marks Anniversary of Community Center

The Anderson County Parks Department and County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd is hosting an Open House to mark the third anniversary of the Broadway Lake Community Center at McFalls Landing Friday at 6 p.m. at the center at  1625 Broadway Lake Road. The public is invited.


Teen Birthrate Drops in S.C.; Anderson Down 2.2 Percent

For the fourth consecutive year, teen birth rates in South Carolina have declined, once again reaching an all-time low. Information released by the Department of Health and Environmental Control shows a teen birth rate for 15-19 year olds of 39.1 per 1,000, correlating to an 8% decline from 2010-2011. Anderson County posted a 2.2 percent drop.  Since 1994, the same year the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign) was established, the state has seen a 39% decline in the teen birth rate.

Forrest Alton, Chief Executive Officer of the SC Campaign, is cautiously optimistic. “This is certainly a time to pause and celebrate our accomplishments,” said Alton. “However, we cannot become complacent and think we have the problem solved. In South Carolina 6,000 young women under the age of 20 become mothers each year and our state still ranks 11th highest in the US for teen births – there is clearly plenty of work left to be done.”

Experts suggest a variety of reasons for these improvements, but four main ideas seem to emerge as most likely. First, teens should be applauded for making responsible decisions. Teens today are choosing abstinence at a higher frequency, and if they do have sex, are using contraceptives more consistently than in the 1990s. Second, teen pregnancy is now seen as a critical issue. In a recent statewide survey of South Carolina adults, 95% agreed that teen pregnancy is an important issue, and nearly 85% support school-based sexuality education. Third, there has been an increased investment in schools, resulting in more and more school districts teaching from sex education curricula that have proven results. Finally, older youth (18-19) who drive teen pregnancy rates in South Carolina, have received more attention and targeted efforts. 

Alton believes that together we can continue to improve the delivery of age appropriate, research proven sex education in public schools; enhance the conversations about love, sex and relationships parents are having with their children; and increase access to condoms and other forms of contraception for sexually active youth. “If we focus our work and investment in these three areas, we will undoubtedly continue to see progress.” 

Despite recent declines, too high rates of teen pregnancy in South Carolina are directly associated with indicators of academic achievement, child health and economic stability. Given the high stakes, Alton suggests that everyone has a role to play in prevention. “The time is now for each of us to step up and make an investment in a brighter future for South Carolina’s young people.” 


Legal Pad: Divorce Creates Insanity in Families

By M. J. Goodwin/Founding Attorney, Goodwin & Pruette, Attorneys at Law, LLC 

Even though it was well over twenty years ago, I vividly recall my first day of “Domestic Relations” class in law school.  My professor, twice divorced himself, stood at the podium and stated loudly:  “Every human being going through a divorce is legally insane.  Remember that.  Write that down.”  Of course this got some chuckles from the class and then we dove into the material.  I wrote it down as instructed.  And I might have forgotten it had I not written it down.  It wasn’t on the exam for the course and it wasn’t on the Bar exam.  It was lost for a few years in the minutia of legal study and early practice as an Assistant Solicitor.  However, as a young lawyer striking out on her own in 1994, after three years in criminal court, I dug out those notebooks and saw that first line of notes.  I was opening a Family Law practice.  I already had a few clients.  It finally hit home as to what my professor had meant.  

I remember well my first domestic client.  He was going through a divorce.  There was one child of the marriage, a daughter, who was 11 years old.  His wife was attempting to severely restrict his access to the child for no sound reason.  And this was slowly driving him insane.  So my role as his attorney was to get him through the divorce equitably and preserve his relationship with his child, a relationship that his wife was fighting so hard to destroy.  We ultimately were able to do just that.  He actually ended up with joint custody after a hard fought battle.  But the battles take their toll, financially and emotionally.

My first Guardian ad Litem cases were equally enlightening.  One involved a child of a couple who ended their marriage in a murder-suicide, whose grandparents fought a long battle for her future.  That child suffered a lot.  Both sets of grandparents suffered a lot.  Another involved a man who had fathered two children and who blew in and out of their lives like the wind, touting his “parental rights” to them.  Again, a lot of suffering to go around.

My point is that Family Court is a place that is about much more than law.  It is about families.  Ideally, our families are our source of joy.  They can also be our source of “crazy.”  When lawyers and the Family Court become involved, my professor’s words ring true.  I would re-word it a little.  I would venture to say that every litigant in Family Court is undergoing some level of extreme psychological and emotional stress.  These clients are best served by an attorney who understands that and who serves not only the client’s legal interests, but recognizes the emotional and psychological issues and points them out to the client.  Certainly a lawyer cannot serve as a mental health counselor. But a good lawyer will be familiar with local programs, support groups and counselors to help their clients get through the Family Court process. 

M. J. Goodwin is the founding attorney of Goodwin & Pruette, Attorneys at Law, LLC.  She has practiced in South Carolina’s Family Courts since 1991.

**Disclaimer:  M. J. Goodwin, is a partner in Goodwin & Pruette, Attorneys at Law, LLC, which is located at 113 North Main Street, Anderson, SC 29621.  864-375-0909.  The information in this column is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice for any given situation.  Only clients who have hired M. J. Goodwin, Attorney at Law, LLC, are receiving actual legal advice that pertains to their particular situation.  If you would like to hire M. J. Goodwin, Attorney at Law, LLC to represent you in your family, criminal or civil court action, please call 864-375-0909.


AnMed LifeFlight Receives Full Accreditation

AnMed Health LifeFlight has received full accreditation from The Commission on the Accreditation of Medical Transport Services (CAMTS). AnMed Health LifeFlight, a medical helicopter transport service, provides highly-skilled teams of flight nurses and paramedics to care for heart attack, stroke and trauma patients. 

CAMTS is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality and safety of medical transport services. CAMTS accreditation is a voluntary process and focuses on the delivery of quality patient care and safety in the transport environment. The accreditation process involves an onsite survey and a broad review of all aspects of the operation. To maintain accreditation, a program must be in significant compliance with the CAMTS Accreditation Standards and demonstrate a high level of overall quality in service. 

LifeFlight, which operates a Bell 407 helicopter, is only the fourth accredited program in South Carolina. 


S.C. MLK Rally Focus on Mental Illness

President Barack Obama's inauguration was the highlight Monday of a subdued Martin Luther King Day rally at the South Carolina Statehouse.

The rally had one of the lowest turnouts since it began in 2000, in no small part because the nation's first black president was taking his oath of office for the second time about 400 miles away. Rally organizers set up a large TV screen to show the inauguration, and one of the biggest cheers of the day came after the president was sworn in again.

After years of focusing on traditional civil rights themes like voting rights or removing the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds, the South Carolina NAACP focused on mental health for this year's rally.

"Yes, mental health matters, even in a state that makes no sense," said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The rally was again held on the front lawn of the capitol, where a Confederate flag flies on a pole beside a monument to soldiers who died fighting for the South in the Civil War.

The first MLK Day rally by the NAACP in South Carolina was held in 2000, when tens of thousands of people came to the Statehouse to call for the Confederate flag to come down from the capitol dome. The NAACP was against the compromise which moved the flag from the dome to its current place by the monument.

And organizers have never left the flag out of their remarks. North Carolina NAACP President William Barber again had the main speech calling for the removal of the flag.

"Nobody gave us the right to vote. We died for it. We bled for it. We suffered for it. To hell with that flag," Barber said, gesturing to the Confederate flag flying in front of him. "We're under the American flag now."

But most speakers called for better mental health care, pointing out how hard it is to strive for the equality King dreamed of in a society where people who need help for mental illness are turned away. Richland County Probate Judge Amy McCulloch told the crowd how 73 percent of the people who go through the county's new mental health court, which focuses on treatment, have gone at least a year without committing another crime or being recommitted because of a severe, untreated mental illness

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Mental-health-focus-of-SC-NAACP-s-King-Day-rally-4211364.php#ixzz2IfbWgyk0


County Finance Committee to Meet Tuesday

The Anderson County Council Finance Committee will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m at the historic courthouse downtown. Items on the agenda include new microphones for council, airport enhancements and bids on a Liberty Highway pump station.



Jeremiah Dews to Perform Jan. 23 in Clemson

CLEMSON — Performer Jeremiah Dew takes a journey through the African-American experience in his one-man show “One Voice” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, in Tillman Hall auditorium.

Dew’s show focuses on eight influential voices, including Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and President Barack Obama. Dew portrays all eight people in the show, presenting a narrative that spans the 1820s to present day.

Dew, also known as “JDew,” is an emcee, entertainer, producer, storyteller and host. Clemson students and fans know him as the on-court emcee and hype man at home basketball games. He also works for the Greenville Drive at Fluor Field, where he emcees on the field, produces music videos and entertains fans.

Dew serves on the board of directors for the Greenville Little Theater and appears in shows. He is owner of Gamemaster Entertainment. He received a degree in mass media with a minor in broadcast journalism from Bob Jones University.

This show is free and open to the public. It is a part of the Clemson’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of integration. For more information about the anniversary, visit the website


Public Records Law Bill Worries Some Local Governments

South Carolina residents told legislators Thursday that a bill strengthening the state's public records law is desperately needed, but advocates for local governments and law enforcement contend the proposal goes too far.

A House panel heard testimony, but took no action, on a bill designed to force public agencies, governments and school districts to respond more quickly to Freedom of Information Act requests and to bar them from charging excessive fees.

“There's a lot of stonewalling out there,” and governments are getting away with it under the current law, said its sponsor, Rep. Bill Taylor. “The spirit of that law has been diverted.”

It's his second attempt at making it easier for residents to access public documents. The House approved a similar bill last year, but it died in the Senate. A major change in his latest proposal is designed to settle disputes quickly and cheaply.

Currently, the only way to force a public body to comply is to sue in circuit court, which means hiring a lawyer and possibly waiting years for a decision. While the law allows offenders to be charged with a misdemeanor, no one's ever been convicted, said Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association.

Taylor's bill would allow appeals to a local magistrate. But under a proposed amendment, the appeal would instead go to the Administrative Law Court, deemed to be a better choice with judges more familiar with public records laws. That amendment will likely be taken up Tuesday, when the subcommittee next meets.

That provision helps both sides, Taylor said, since agencies can also seek relief from “those handful of people who just want to make a nuisance of themselves,” to possibly narrow the scope of a request or dismiss it.

With so many people wanting to testify on the proposal, the panel ran out of time Thursday before needing to be in House chambers.

“I think this is a desperately needed law,” said Alberta Wasden of Wagener.