Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Cullman Times on Roy Moore’s future in Alabama politics:
Roy Moore, the former and twice-booted chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is searching his ego once again about a run for public (office).
With decision-time nearing for who officially will challenge Democrat Doug Jones for a the U.S. Senate seat he holds, Moore is expected to make an announcement on his intent Thursday.
Considering that Jones beat Moore by 22,000 votes and overcame long political odds to win in an overwhelmingly Republican state, Moore is likely feeling a little bruised for all the ridicule he suffered in opening the gate for a Democrat to step in.
The last campaign saw numerous accusations hurled at Moore by women who said he was sexually aggressive toward them when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. Moore has denied all of the allegations and believes the election was stolen from him.
But even with stories from Moore’s long ago past, true or false, the reason he did not win by a landslide had much more to do with his conduct as chief justice.
In 2001 Moore was elected to the position of chief justice, but he was removed from the position in November 2003 by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for refusing a federal court’s order to remove a marble monument of the Ten Commandments that he had placed in the rotunda of the Alabama judicial building.
Moore later sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2006 and 2010, but lost in the primaries. He was again elected chief justice in 2013, but was suspended in May 2016 for defying a U.S. Supreme Court decision about same-sex marriage.
Whether anyone agrees or not with Moore’s religious or political views, he clearly failed to grasp and uphold the duties of the chief justice. As the (top) jurist in the state, Moore was obligated not to put personal beliefs or make demonstrations that exude bias or intimidation to those who rely on the integrity — the fairness — of that office.
The attention that Moore has brought to Alabama has consistently been negative, sometimes embarrassing. The best path for Moore to ride is the one that keeps him out of politics.
The Gadsden Times on Alabama’s recently passed chemical castration law:
We’ve never hesitated to chide Alabama’s lawmakers for actions that have been fruitless upraised middle fingers to the federal government, or have produced ridicule outside the state.
So to be fair, we’re going to offer them support for the latest thing that has landed them in the headlines, in cable news discussions and on partisan political websites or blogs.
Gov. Kay Ivey this week signed into law a bill requiring anyone convicted of a sex offense against a victim under age 13 to undergo “chemical castration” before he can be paroled from prison.
For every man who just winced at “that word,” no actual surgery is involved. The bill, by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, requires inmates to begin taking, a month before their scheduled release date, a drug that inhibits their production of testosterone, the hormone that powers the male sex drive.
They must continue taking the drug (and paying for it out of pocket) until a judge tells them they can stop. Otherwise, they go back behind bars to complete their sentences and could be charged with an additional Class C felony.
The idea is that reducing testosterone will make an offender less likely to repeat his crime. There is evidence — the director of the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma Alabama shared some with the Washington Post — that the practice can lower recidivism rates.
Alabama is not out in the ether with this. Six U.S. states — California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Wisconsin — and the territory of Guam also can impose the requirement as a condition of release, sentencing or supervision for a convicted sex offender.
However, it’s Alabama that’s being lambasted for “a return to the dark ages” in a headline on Salon, referencing a quote from a state ACLU official who opposes the law, saying it “presents serious issues about involuntary medical treatment, informed consent, the right to privacy and cruel and unusual punishment.”
Well, an inmate who doesn’t want to undergo the procedure absolutely can say “No.” He just doesn’t get parole.
The testosterone-reducing drug does carry side effects (anemia, bone loss, breast growth, depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart and kidney issues, and weight gain). We trust that will be stated up front — if not, it should be, and medical screening should be done before the drug regimen starts — so an inmate can balance those downsides against the upside of getting out of a cage when choosing what to do.
Anyone sentenced to prison for a sex crime against children generally goes on a permanent sex offender list even if he (or she, although this law is useless with that gender) serves every second of his term. Because society has judged that offense to be especially heinous and recidivism rates are so high, those folks basically forfeit, until death, any real right to privacy.
And again, nobody’s using a scalpel here, so we fail to see the cruelty and unusualness, unless someone’s going to stretch that definition to include inconvenience or not giving someone a break (who hasn’t exactly earned one — we’re talking about the convicted here, not the accused or suspects).
This isn’t a “give ’em the meds and be done with it” fix. The treatment only works on people who have a true sexual attraction to children — and that’s not everyone in prison. There are people with sick minds, filled with sick fetishes and fantasies that they turn into reality for assorted reasons, sometimes just out of sheer evil. This law won’t stop those types of predators.
The likelihood is that it will be applied judiciously if not rarely, given that the most vile sex offenders aren’t likely to have much success with the parole board.
Still, this could cut into some truly unacceptable numbers — the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that more than 57,000 U.S. children were sexually abused in 2016, and we’ve reported the increased number of local cases requiring the James M. Barrie Center for Children’s services.
That’s why we think this effort is justified, even if the gains are small, and should be vigorously defended against the inevitable constitutional challenges. Alabama got this one right.
The Florence TimesDaily on the University of Alabama’s return of a multi-million dollar donation from Hugh Culverhouse, Jr.:
Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr.’s $26.5 million donation to the University of Alabama’s law school was the largest in the institution’s history, and the university thanked him by renaming the law school in Culverhouse’s honor.
But the gift wasn’t so large it bought the university’s integrity.
Culverhouse made not just state but national news when he called for a boycott of the University of Alabama in response to the Alabama Legislature passing a near-total ban on abortion. Even with some people already talking about boycotts following the passage of the bill sponsored by Decatur Republican Terri Collins to challenge Roe v. Wade, Culverhouse’s remarks stood out.
Here was a wealthy businessman, lawyer and philanthropist calling for a boycott of the very institution to which he’d just given a record donation. That is a statement.
But if it all seemed a little too quick, a little too convenient and a little too calculated to grab national attention, perhaps that’s because it was.
The University of Alabama responded by saying its dispute with Culverhouse predated the abortion law. Instead, it was about the university’s refusal to give into demands that, as the university described them, amounted to Culverhouse seeking to micromanage the law school in exchange for his donation.
That’s the sort of thing that, if true, and allowed to go on, can cost a university its accreditation.
So, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees did the responsible thing. It voted Friday to send Culverhouse’s money back. Within hours, the wire transfer was complete, and Culverhouse’s name was literally removed from the law school.
Nevertheless, Culverhouse persisted, claiming the university’s decision to return his money was retribution for his call for a boycott of the university over the restrictive abortion legislation, never mind it’s a strange sort of retribution that entails giving back $26.5 million.
So, over the weekend university officials released a selection of emails backing up their claim the dispute with Culverhouse not only predated but had nothing to do with abortion.
In a May 25 email, dated four days before Culverhouse’s boycott comment, university Chancellor Finis St. John IV “authorized a university lawyer to prepare an outline of what needed to be done to return the gift,” according to The Associated Press. St. John wrote, “We need to do this immediately because it will only get worse.”
Culverhouse said he believed this email was “manufactured,” the AP reported.
That seems, to put it modestly, unlikely. It seems more likely Culverhouse threw his weight around and was surprised when the university didn’t cave. He then used the abortion law as a convenient excuse to lash out.
This is not the first time the Culverhouse family has played hardball with the state of Alabama only to end up embarrassed.
Culverhouse’s late father, Hugh Culverhouse Sr., an Alabama grad for whom the university’s school of business is named, owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and infamously botched signing Auburn’s Bo Jackson, who took a pay cut to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals rather than play for the Bucs, after he became convinced Culverhouse Sr. deliberately tried to sabotage Jackson’s baseball career.
It appears now it’s twice that a Culverhouse has come to Alabama thinking money trumps principles. We are happy to report that both times, principles won out.