Posts

Florida’s State Senator Alan Hays takes up a new cause: D’Sousa’s film America

We know from our work with Florida State Senator Alan Hays (R District 11-Umatilla) that once he signs on to important legislation he is virtually unstoppable. That was the case in his four year battle to get a unique version of American Law for American Courts (ALAC) passed and enacted into law in the Sunshine State. Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, Florida Christian Family Coalition executive director Anthony Verdugo and I know his effectiveness, up close and personal, from working with him on the successful passage of ALAC in the 2014 legislative session.

Senator Alan Hayes

Florida State Senator Alan Hays

But that wasn’t all, he led the charge in the Florida Senate passing important legislation during the same legislative session assuring that world history texts used by school local districts are reviewed to assure that they are both accurate and fact-based. Back in the 2012 we also worked with him in successfully passing a Florida version of the Stand with Israel Resolution with unanimous bi-partisan vote.

Now, Hays has a new cause. According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, Hays will introduce a one page bill in November 2014 mandating the viewing of Dinesh D’Souza’s new docudrama, America: Imagine the World Without her  in 1,700 Florida public middle and high schools, unless objected to by parents.  D’Souza’s also produced the docudrama 2016: Obama’s America. His latest film launched this month is based on the companion book by the same title, currently No. 2 on the New York Times best seller list. This despite the rising conservative media star D’Souza’s  political finance legal problems.

Watch the Trailer for America.

The Hollywood Reporter report noted Hays’ reasons for his proposed legislation:

Hays said the purpose of his proposal is to introduce more balance into Florida schools.

“I saw the movie and walked out of the theater and said, ‘Wow, our students need to see this.’ And it’s my plan to show it to my colleagues in the legislature, too, before they’re asked to vote on the bill,” Hays said.

I’ve looked at history books and talked to history teachers and the message the students are getting is very different from what is in the movie,” Hays said. “It’s dishonest and insulting. The students need to see the truth without political favoritism.”

“The most dreaded disease in America today is political correctness. We need to inform our students of our whole history, and teach them how to think, not what to think,” Hays said. “Let them talk with their teachers, their peers and their parents, then draw their own conclusions. But they need both sides, and this movie shows a side they just aren’t seeing.”

Hays said his intent is to reach out to charitable groups that would supply schools with the necessary copies of the movie so as not to burden Florida taxpayers.

As Hays noted, that might mean pairing off D’Sousa’s  with  the oeuvre of liberal filmmakers currently shown in Florida’s schools. The Hollywood reporter noted:

To that end, Hays said he wouldn’t object if teachers paired America with a liberal film to show the political differences. Indeed, many schools already show Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and some of Michael Moore’s left-leaning films, though it’s certainly more unusual to actually require the viewing of a particular movie, as Hays intends with his bill.

We wish Hays the best on his new cause. American history, taught in public school classrooms, doesn’t need inaccurate politically correct meta narratives passed off as truth.  Bravo to our friend Sen. Hays for picking up the cudgel on this important initiative.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

Florida Legislature Passes Two Landmark Bills: Textbooks and American Laws for American Courts

Senator Hays

Florida Senator Alan Hays.

After four years of trying in the face of misinformed opposition, an amended version of American Law for American Courts (ALAC) SB 386 passed the Florida Legislature this week.  The Senate sponsor of SB 386, Senator Alan Hays, Republican of Umatilla, said on Monday, April 28th when the Senate voted to pass the measure by 24 Republicans to 14 Democrats:

I am delighted that my colleagues in the Florida Senate passed SB 386 – The Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases -this morning.

It is my fervent desire to make sure everyone in a Florida courtroom is  protected from the imposition of any foreign law that may diminish the rights of that person which are afforded by our US and Florida Constitutions.  This bill codifies case law to offer those protections and is a welcome addition to the statutes of our state.

I sincerely appreciate the efforts of many others who assisted in the passage of this landmark legislation.

Fl. Rep. Mike Hill

Florida Rep. Mike Hill

House Rep. Mike Hill, Republican from Pensacola, a member of the Subcommittee on Civil Justice, following   House approval on April 30th of HB 903 by 78 Republicans to 40 Democrats, said:

I am honored to join my colleagues and vote ‘yes’ on the bill that passed the Florida House today codifying that American law only will be used in Florida courts.  It is our duty to do so as I took an oath to protect the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Florida.

The Amended version of SB 386 was adopted to overwhelm five Amendments put up by opposition minority Democrats prior to the floor debate that began last Friday, April 25th.The compromise reached was to take up an Amendment formerly offered and waived by Republican Senator David Simmons of Altamonte Springs in previous House and Senate Committee hearings. The Simmons Amendment would codify Florida case law. However, it would assist in addressing Sharia compliant parental abduction in violation of Florida, US and international law.Given Florida legislative procedures, the House passed the Senate version.Now the measure awaits enactment into law upon review by Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Rabbi Jonathan H. Hausman small

Rabbi Jonathan Hausman

Rabbi Jonathan Hausman and I were in the Florida House Public Gallery on Tuesday, April 29th witnessing the floor debate with questions from opposition Democrats to House bill sponsor Rep. Neil Combee.   Misinformed, they persisted in asking why the measure was necessary and alleged conflicts over recognition of Israeli rabbinic divorce decrees and business contracts.Rep. Combee cited both lower court and appellate level cases in which foreign law had been recognized that did not comply with the comity principles under Florida practice as justification for passing the measure.

The alleged problems cited by Democrat members of the Florida House; i.e., non-recognition of Israeli family court decisions had been investigated and found misleading. That effort was based on published research by Professor Daphna Hackner, a Tel Aviv University Family law expert and arguments presented in a video and letter to Florida legislators by Rabbi Hausman, a member of two state bars and expert in both Jewish Halacha and Islamic Sharia.

Prior to the Senate and House deliberations on SB 386/HB 903 we suggested to the bill sponsors that the Amended version be reviewed by Stephen M. Gelé, Esq. of the New Orleans law firm of Smith Fawer LLC.  Today, despite his being on vacation, Gelé sent his assessment on the legislation that we received via Christopher Holton of ACT!  Gelé said:

The Florida Legislature recently passed SB 386, a bill that will help protect Floridians from foreign law that is inconsistent with American values, such as Islamic Sharia law.  When hopefully signed into law by Governor Scott, the bill will: help protect Florida parents who face loss of their children to a foreign custody judgment; help protect spouses who face unfair foreign judgments of divorce, spousal support, or marital property distributions; help protect parents and spouses from marital contracts (including Islamic marital contracts often named mahrs) that would force decisions regarding child custody, spousal support and marital property distributions to be decided in foreign courts or under foreign law in American courts; and, help protect parents and spouses from having disputes regarding child custody, spousal support and marital property distributions from being dismissed by Florida courts in favor being decided in  foreign courts.

Although American and Florida courts have held in the past that foreign law should not be applied when the foreign law offends public policy, this concept has not previously been strengthened by statute. Further, under current Florida child custody statutes a judge can refuse to enforce a foreign custody judgment only “if the child custody law of a foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.”  Unfortunately, statements by the U.S. State Department suggest that “fundamental principles of human rights” should be interpreted more narrowly than most Americans would interpret the phrase.  However, SB 386 allows a Florida judge to refuse to enforce a foreign custody judgment under the much broader standard of whether the judgment offends the public policy of Florida.

Therefore, the most important effect of the change in the law would be to protect parents from losing their children to foreign custody decrees, which has happened before.

Margaret McLain

Prof. Margaret McLain

Gele’s comments are reflective of a new theme adopted based on the recommendation by Kansas House Speaker Pro TemporeRep. Peg Mast. Mast successfully secured bi-partisan support for passage of ALAC in the 2012 session in Topeka. She suggested emphasizing protection of “fundamental Constitutional rights” for Florida women and children. That meant putting a human face to the theme of the foreign law war on women and children. This was reflected in New English Review  interviews with two women.

One interview was with retired Arkansas State University Professor Margaret McClain. She spoke in Tallahassee on March 13, 2014 to a group of citizen lobbyists about the abduction and removal of her five  year old daughter Heidi to Saudi Arabia by her Saudi ex-husband in violation of state, federal and international law, but condoned under Sharia

Yasmeen A_ Davis  NER interview 3-17-14

Yasmeen A. Davis

Then there was the interview with Floridian Yasmeen A. Davis who told about her abduction by her Saudi father at age 11 and her treatment under Sharia in his home in Saudi Arabia until rescued by her family at age 13.  Now 28 she still suffers PTSD from the episode.

One of the premiere groups in providing ground forces to obtain commitments for the legislation is the Christian Family Coalition (CFC) of Florida led by its highly effective executive director, Anthony Verdugo. CFC has more than 5,000 members and supporters working with over 1,000 Churches in the state. CFC demonstrated its prowess by supporting social issue legislation that passed the Florida legislature and a bi-partisan Support for Israel resolution in 2012.  CFC made the legislation a priority for passage in 2014 and held several training sessions with members to equip them with FAQs documents and arguments as to why the bills should be passed countering the misinformation of opponents.  On March 13, 2014  following talks by both Senator Hays and Professor McClain at the CFC’s Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee, 75 citizen-lobbyists fanned out buttonholing Senators and Representatives presenting the rationale behind  the CFC legislative priorities.  By the afternoon of March 13th, these CFC citizen lobbyists had successfully obtained 39 commitments in support of bills and other CFC legislative priorities.

Fl Rep Matt Gaetz

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz

Without the dogged determination of the legislation’s sponsors like Sen. Hays and Rep. Combee with the support of advocates in the House Reps. Mike Hill, Larry Metz and Matt Gaetz, what occurred this week might not have happened.

That was abetted by a new and important theme, protecting the Constitutional rights of women and children.  This was assisted by able ground forces from the CFC and other concerned citizen activists securing legislator commitments.

But that is not all that occurred in Tallahassee this week.

Earlier this month, Sen. Hays had also deftly maneuvered a companion measure directed at text book review, SB 864, passed the Senate with a thin vote tally of 21 Republicans  to 19 Democrat. The measure would reverse State Department of Education control over selection of textbooks returning that role to Florida’s 67 school districts, requiring open public hearing on texts used in courses.  SB 864 was largely prompted by a different issue; objections of parental groups in several Florida counties about the treatment of Islam and Muslim culture in world history textbooks that are on the Florida State Department of Education list of approved texts.

Today, the House passed the amended SB864/HB 921 by a resounding bi-partisan 117 yeas with 2 not voting.

Fl Rep_ Larry Metz

Florida Rep. Larry Metz

Like the experience with SB 386, SB 864/HB 921: “on K to 12 instruction materials”, was amended following a conference with both Senate and House sponsors and consultation with the Governor’s office.  While it may require clarification that standards of fact-based accurate depictions in world history texts should be adhered to, the legislation does create a process giving parents relief who object at the school district  level  to specific instructional material triggering  a public hearing.  The legislation  also adds requirements that instructional materials “accurately portray the religious and physical diversity of our society”. Further, it makes the school district boards responsible for the content of all instructional materials used in the classroom.  One important requirement is that the amended legislation would add a new topic in the curriculum specified in 1003.42, F.S. –“the events surrounding the terrorist attacks occurring on 9/11/01 and the impacts of those events on the nation”.

Those of us who have been involved with the support of both measures consider them landmarks for possible consideration in other US states.  This might not satisfy all of the concerns in certain quarters; however, they reflect two well turned precepts.  Voltaire wrote: “a wise Italian says that the best is the enemy of the good”.   German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck said:  “politics is the art of the possible”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Meet The Florida Citizen Lobbyists backing ALAC in the 2014 Legislative Session

The Florida version of the American Law for American Courts (ALAC) is up for its fourth try in the 2014 Legislative session in Tallahassee. In contrast to prior years, there is concerted effort by bill sponsors, Sen. Alan Hays (R- Umatilla) and Rep. Neil Combee in the House of Representatives to seek Senate and House leadership, as well as Committee commitments for passage of the bills. There is also  new message that was conveyed to Florida legislators on both House and Senate Committees; Senate Bill 0386/House Bill 903:  “acceptance of foreign law in certain cases”.  The message is that ALAC guards against the recognition of foreign laws in Florida Courts in violation of fundamental Constitutional rights of all citizens, especially women and children.

Professor Margaret McClain

Professor Margaret McClain at CFC 2014 Legislative Prayer Breakfast, Tallahassee

That message was communicated  at the March 13th  Florida Christian Family Coalition (CFC)   Annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast by Professor Margaret McClain , a retired Arkansas State University professor, whose  daughter Heidi  was kidnapped at the age of 5 and removed to Saudi Arabia by her ex-Husband..  See our New English Review article, An American Child Kidnapped in Accordance with Shariah.  Professor McClain’s experience was also  amplified  in a recent  Iconoclast  interview  with  Yasmeen Alexandria Davis, a Florida young woman, who at  13 years of age  was  rescued from  a kidnapping by her Saudi father through the resourcefulness and persistence of her mother and grandmother. Her Saudi father relentless keep tabs on her through a  US lawyers and an ex-FBI agent retained by him. See An American’s Rescue from Abduction to Saudi Arabia.

Both incidents were violations of state, federal and international conventions on parental kidnapping, but sanctioned under Sharia Islamic law. Professor McClain and Yasmeen Alexandria Davis testified about abduction of American children to  Saudi Arabia  in a panel of such women, children, and a father at a US House 2002 Government Reform Committee chaired by former Indian Republican Rep. Dan Burton. Professor McClain  gave proof f to the CFC lobbyists based on her personal experience why passage of ALA in Florida was needed to protect American women and children against alien laws that imperil their  fundamental Constitutional  and basic human rights. The CFC has made passage of ALAC a priority in the 2014 legislature.

Sen_ Alan Hays Sponsor of ALAC

Sen. Alan Hays, Sponsor of Florida ALAC, SB 0386 at CFC Legislative Prayer Breakfast, 2014.

The 75  trained men and women, members of the CFC who heard Professor McClain and ALAC Senate Bill sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays,  Rep. Larry Ahern, sponsor of  a bill, Offenses against the Unborn Children (OAUC), fanned out to meet legislators. They  were  equipped with FAQs sheet on why ALAC  is needed and a  list of nearly  two dozen Florida lower court and appellate cases in which foreign laws were recognized . How effective were they? According to a report by the CFC:

They met with a total of thirty-nine (39) lawmakers and secured thirty-two (32) co-sponsors/supporters on our legislative priorities. Nineteen (19) co-sponsors and supporters on American Laws for American Courts and thirteen (13) co-sponsors and supporters on the Offenses Against the Unborn Bill.

Neither they nor CFC’s executive director, Anthony Vertigo is resting on their laurels.  They are planning another Legislative Prayer Breakfast and Citizen Lobby Day in Tallahassee the week prior to the close of the Florida legislative session on May 2nd, to assure that those ALAC commitments and others are honored.

Anthony Verdugo  CFC executive director

Anthony Verdugo, executive director, CFC Annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast.

CFC, according to its executive director Verdugo has been going to Tallahassee for 10 years to lobby on issues like ALAC and OAUC.   CFC has more than 1,500 pastors and churches and over 16,000 members in Florida.  Its scorecard in conducting Citizen Lobbying on social issues of concern has been effective..  Verdugo said in an email that CFC’s among successes were the bi-partisan Stand for Israel resolution, Prayer Time in Schools, etc. – Parental Notification, Ultrasound Bill, Boy Scout Resolution, and Parental Rights Resolution. A so-called Anti-Bullying and Domestic Partnership bills were dropped.  “All told, we have made the difference on about [a] dozen bills over the last ten years”.

While it is too early to tell, the fourth try at passing ALAC is yielding some initial success, The House version of ALAC HB903 passed the House Civil Justice  Subcommittee on March 18th on a partisan vote of 8 Republicans to 4 Democrats.  The House version of ALAC has been also referred  to the Judiciary Committee for a hearing.  That  is the last Committee hearing  before a  Floor vote is  to be scheduled.  A looming first hearing on the Senate version, SB 0386, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 25th before the Senate Judiciary Committee..  SB0386 has  also been referred to  Government Oversight and Rules before a possible floor Vote.

ALAC in Florida may have better prospects than in the three previous sessions. The evidence  from research of   recognition  of foreign laws in a significant number of lower court and appellate level decisions  in Florida may answer legislators’ questions of why it is needed. Protection of Florida’s women and children from foreign laws appears to  put a human face on why ALAC should be passed.  Nonetheless,  political horse trading will be  crucial in navigating the legislative process to a possible successful conclusion in the 2014 session in Tallahassee.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.