“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.
Call him Howdy.
Howdya avoid a civil discussion about concerns you have with a colleague’s bill?
Howdya skip reading the law you accuse citizens of breaking?
Howdya ignore the truth?
“Go, Howdy, go!” his sycophants chant in response to the social media narcissism of Adam Morfeld. Senator Adam Morfeld, that is. Um, lawyer Adam Morfeld, that is.
The preppy infantile lawyer, who has never practiced law, but fancies himself as a legal scholar, sits on the Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee, which recently heard a bill introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman that seeks to protect the religious liberties of foster care and adoption agencies. That’s right, scandalous liberties enshrined in the First Amendment. Sen. Kolterman introduced the bill at the urging of faith-based foster care and agencies that have seen similar agencies in other states shut down in recent years.
Now Howdy, as well as the ACLU and Nebraska Appleseed, attacked the bill as an attack on LGBTs, as they call them. [News Flash: The ACLU once upon a time defended the Free Exercise Clause staunchly. That was once upon a time.] Nevermind that the bill doesn’t single out LGBTs. Nevermind that the bill doesn’t prohibit placement of foster kids with LGBTs. Nevermind that there are 19 foster care agencies in Nebraska that do place kids with LGBT parents. Nevermind Sen. Kolterman’s bill wouldn’t change that. Nevermind that the bill doesn’t mention the science that shows that kids are better off with a mommy and daddy.
And nevermind that the beliefs of faith-based foster care agencies find their way into the other standards, such as cleaning up your mouth, attending church, being married to the one you’re shacking up with, etc. Nevermind these agencies testified that the same faith that leads them to serve leads them to follow some moral standards that some in the world doesn’t like. Nevermind that the supporters of Sen. Kolterman’s bill politely and respectfully and honestly testified before the committee, while the non-hating opponents cackled and mocked one of the foster care agency reps for saying one of his best friends was gay. (How is that funny?) Nevermind, in contrast, the opponents pounded on the table and shouted at the committee. Howdy says the bill is about hatred and discrimination. And he knows it.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Howdy decided to strut his legal stuff. He questioned the head of a nonprofit foster care agency – you know, a worthy legal adversary – and after, in his self-inflated mind, withering “cross-examination” by himself and another lawyer-in-name-only, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, he leveled the boom:
“I was just looking up in the federal code here and it states specifically under section (d) here: All organizations that receive federal financial assistance under social services programs should be prohibited from discriminating against beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of social services programs on the basis of religion or religious belief. Accordingly, organizations, in providing services supported in whole or part of the federal financial assistance and their outreach activities related to such services, should not be allowed to discriminate against current or prospective program beneficiaries on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a religious practice.”
“I would just like to note for the record that you have admitted in this committee hearing that you are violating federal code.”
Harsh accusations, those, Howdy. After Howdy warned the nonprofit head that he ought to lawyer up, the Chairman of the committee, Sen. Les Seiler (who has actually practiced law, in Hastings) politely asked Howdy for a reference to the legal authority, but this caused the Howdy to stumble a little. Here’s the exchange:
SENATOR SEILER: What’s the cite on that, the U.S. Code?
SENATOR MORFELD: I’ll send it to the committee, but it’s…(don’t make me do this in public; I’m just learning to tie a tie by myself).”
SENATOR SEILER: No, make it for the record.
SENATOR MORFELD: Make it for the record (really, please don’t do this to me)? It is ….
(Folks, those ellipses (…) are not ours; they’re those of the committee clerk, who transcribed the drama. What you’re seeing is the Chairman cutting Howdy off, essentially saying, “knock this crap off, and give me the citation to our federal code.”)
SENATOR SEILER: You should have it right there. (You little moron, you just quoted for 55 seconds from it.)
SENATOR MORFELD: Yep (you’re right, I do), section (d) of the (um, er, uh) executive order, and I could send that executive order to you.
SENATOR SEILER: This executive order doesn’t cut the law (muster?). You said you were quoting from the U.S. Code.
SENATOR MORFELD: Yeah, it’s the executive…(I’m so busted)…I apologize, it’s the executive order, yep (call me Howdy).
And so it went. Howdy the Brave put on a performance that would make Perry Mason blush, although not for the reasons Howdy might tell himself to believe.
Undeterred and not one to pass up time showing off his crooked little neck on the air, Howdy interviewed with KETV, now getting his citations straight (you never know, the Chairman might be watching):
“I was shocked they are violating a clear executive order by President Bush that’s been long-established.”
Nevermind that the executive order Howdy quoted in small part is intended, as a whole, to encourage faith-based foster care agencies to be part of the social services system. The order expounds on the importance of their inclusion and role in the system. (BTW…Unlike Howdy, we actually checked this with a lawyer who’s defended the religious liberties of groups for years.) Nevermind that the order, which was signed by President George W. Bush and restated by Sen. Obama, while not compulsory, was put in place to protect faith-based agencies. Nevermind that the beneficiaries referred to are foster kids, and not LGBT parents. Nevermind that no agency known to this writer has discriminated against a child because they identify as gay or lesbian. Nevermind.
As if all this were not enough of a demonstration of his legal prowess, Howdy wrote a letter the following week to the CEO of the Department of Health and Human Service, demanding that the Department investigate foster care agencies for discriminating on the basis of, get this, religion. Howdy asked the Department to terminate its contracts with the agencies. Howdy named names and quoted quotes. (Or at least he said he was quoting quotes. More on that shortly.) Ever shy of media attention, Howdy immediately forwarded the letter to the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star, both of which seized the story and ran with it, prominently linking Howdy’s letter.
Here are the quotes Howdy attributed to one of the agencies in his open letter:
“Christian Heritage admitting: ‘We won’t hire a homosexual,’ and ‘We wouldn’t work with a gay family,’ and ‘We work with married, opposite sex couples who sign a statement of faith and are actively involved with a biblical, orthodox Christian Church.’”
He want so far as to cite, in a footnote, the “transcript of Judiciary Committee hearing held 2-17-16 for LB 975.”
Maybe Howdy, who obviously had thought about the letter over the weekend – and probably consulted with other legal minds at Appleseed and ACLU – should have waited a couple more days for the actual transcript from the hearing. Some quote-checking may have slowed him down or made him honest, or maybe – we suspect – it would not have made much difference to him at all.
The actual transcript from the Judiciary Committee hearing held February 17, 2016, for LB 975 in fact contains none of those alleged quotes. It doesn’t contain any statements even resembling them.
These aren’t misquotes, folks, these are fabrications. They are make-believe. Nevermind.
And they were re-published in the state’s major print newspapers.
Now, Howdy, young barrister, please check the notes from your Media Law class last semester for the definition of libel. Or maybe you missed that class, and Legal Ethics too. And you might want to consider self-reporting to the Nebraska State Bar’s disciplinary counsel. All that said, you’ve made the case, not your case, but the case – Senator Kolterman’s case – for why LB 975 is actually needed.
Because of anti-religious bigots like Howdy.