Grammy-winning artist Chance the Rapper has just gifted $1 million to Chicago’s public schools, where he received his education as a child. The money will benefit the arts and extra-curricular programs of ten elementary and high schools in the area.
Chance stated in a press conference, “I’m honored to make this donation to Chicago Public Schools Foundation and help cultivate Chicago creative minds. I’m committed to helping Chicago’s children have quality learning experiences that include the arts.”
Chicago schools have been dealing with budget issues for years, and spending cuts have disproportionately affected arts programs. Chance has been a strong advocate for improving education standards in Chicago: earlier this month, the artist met with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to share his concerns about recent education budget cuts. He has received praise from various members of the community and from such notable figures as Michelle Obama, who described the artist as “an example of the power of arts education.”
Chance desires his gift to be “a call to action,” and hopes that further measures will be taken to reintroduce various after-school and arts activities to Chicago public schools. The artist stated that he will “do all I can to support Chicago’s most valuable resource: its children.”
Well publicized both state-wide and nationally, the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Case is once again making news with their new representation, C. Boyden Gray and First Liberty Institute.
Back in 2013, Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of the bakery, refused to bake a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding ceremony. The Klein’s hold that it is within the scope of their constitutional rights to have freedom of speech and practice of their religion. Part of that practice to them was refraining from participation in any marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples.
The state charged them with a fine for causing emotional and mental damages to the homosexual couple. The latest advancement in the case occurred in December when the Kleins paid $136,927.07 to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, while waiting to hear form the Oregon Court of Appeals.
In anticipation of their appeal, C. Boyden Gray has taken the lead as their new lawyer. Former ambassador to the European Union and White House counsel for President George H. W. Bush, Gray stated, “America is a great nation because we celebrate diversity of thought… Our rights to free expression and religious liberty are some of our most cherished American freedoms. We must safeguard these rights for everyone American – including Aaron and Melissa Klein.”
First Liberty Institute, from which Gray is volunteering, is a legal organization committed to protecting religious liberty in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. They claim to win over 90% of their cases, and are dedicated to protecting the religious rights of people in the business place like the Klein family.
First Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford stated, “The government should never force people to violate their conscience or celebrate causes they don’t believe in… As the Kleins’ new appellate team, we are committed to fighting for their First Amendment freedoms of religious liberty and free expression.”
After months of scrutiny by the public and the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, Marion County Judge Vance Day maintains that he was denied his First Amendment rights by being charged with violating the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct. Now the commission is seeking additional money from the Oregon Legislature to pay for the expenses of this highly controversial religious liberty case.
Judge Day was brought under investigation by the commission last year because of complaints about his refusal to perform marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples. Not wanting to make a public statement about his choice, Day had initially been referring couples to other judges to perform such ceremonies. In the state of Oregon, judges do have the right to not perform marriage ceremonies, yet problems arose from those offended by his religious convictions. He later made the decision to refrain from carrying out any marriage ceremonies at all.
On January 25th, the commission recommended that Day be removed from the bench. The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to hear testimony about his case in June.
On Wednesday, members of the Commission appeared before the Joint Sub Committee on Public Safety in the Oregon Legislature to request more funds for what they refer to as “extraordinary expenses.” They requested an extra $172,000 to cover the costs of investigation and assisting in the prosecution of Judge Day. The sub-committee granted the request, which will be rolled into the 2016 session budget reconciliation bill which has yet to pass out of the Legislature.
The commission presented a list of violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct that Judge Day had been found guilty of. These included his solicitations of funds for the non-profit Partnership for Veterans at Risk to display war memorabilia in the courthouse. This display included an original painting of Adolf Hitler, among other items, which some deemed offensive, though it was part of a World War Two memorial.
Aside from these complaints, the most public issue was Judge Day’s views of same-sex marriage. While the commission voted that he be removed from his position, Judge Day has confirmed that he will fight to remain on the bench and maintain his constitutional religious rights.
“Judge Day has not discriminated against anybody,” said Kevin Mannix, a Salem area attorney and friend of Day. “…Across the board he’s simply said ‘I’m not performing wedding ceremonies’.”
Discussing the problem of when constitutional rights come in conflict with one another, Judge Day said in an interview, “What are we going to do with judges like myself who have a firmly held religious belief, whatever area? Whether they be of a Judeo-Christian viewpoint, Muslim viewpoint…a Hindu viewpoint. Do those firmly held religious beliefs somehow…deserve a lesser species of protection? I don’t think so.”
Conservatives in Oregon made a strong statement of what they believe earlier this month when a crowd of over 1,700 people gathered in downtown Portland for the 2016 Freedom Rally at the Oregon Convention Center.
The Rally, now in its third year, was larger than any previous year. The sponsors were several grassroots conservative organizations that represent various conservative values, including Oregon Family Council, Oregon Right to Life, Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, Oregon Women’s League, and the Taxpayer Defense Project. These organizations all work together under the banner of the Oregon Liberty Alliance, a loose coalition of these and other conservative groups.
The Freedom Rally was initially created to protest the liberal Republican Dorchester Conference to show that Oregon Republicans still unite around the traditional Republican coalition values: fiscal responsibility, protection of life, public safety, religious liberty and family values. While the Freedom Rally is no longer held at the same time as Dorchester so there is no longer a competition for attendees, it continues to become a focal point for conservative activists, candidates and others to network and show that they are in touch with Republican roots.
Booths were set up to inform attendees of various conservative groups, causes, and candidates as well. These included Stand Up Girl, Damsels in Distress, the Oregon Republican Party, Parents’ Rights in Education, Freedom Foundation and numerous candidates for various offices including presidential, gubernatorial and congressional.
The event, showcasing perhaps one of the biggest gatherings of conservative activists in Portland, hosted guest speakers including Fox News Contributor Todd Starnes, columnist Michelle Malkin, writer and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and Congressman Greg Walden.
Michelle Malkin in particular energized the crowd with her fiery speech. “They’re always telling social conservatives…to tone it down,” she said, following up by sharing what her mom used to tell her when she was growing up: “What good are your words if you can’t speak them?”
Last summer, St. Joseph Health System and Providence Health & Services signed a letter of intent to merge the Catholic non-profits, to be run by Providence CEO Rod Hochman. The new Providence St. Joseph Health would incorporate 50 hospitals in multiple states, the majority of them in Oregon and Washington.
There is concern coming from the National Nurses Union with fears that jobs may be threatened by this merger. Malinda Markowitz, vice president of the NNU said, “This merger must ensure that all the hospitals remain open, that all jobs and services are maintained—and that the new organization is held accountable for providing charity care and community benefits to the communities it serves.”
Current Oregon Statute 65.803 1 (a) and (b) outlines that mergers of this sort are to be reviewed by the Attorney General. However, Providence and St. Joseph have made an official request for a waiver of this process, due to the exception that both are non-profit groups.
In December, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated in a letter that she was going to “consider granting a waiver of the approval requirements.” In response, the NNU has proposed a refutation to Rosenblum with their aforementioned concerns. One of their main contentions included fear about the reduction in abortion and physician-assisted suicide services.
St. Joseph Health President and CEO Deborah Proctor stated, “We are two mission-focused organizations which truly have the potential of being better together, delivering outstanding clinical care and providing a compassionate presence in all the communities we serve.” Part of their shared mission includes religious and ethical restraints on abortion and physician-assisted suicide.
The merger would extend them across eight states, creating one of the largest Catholic healthcare providers in the United States. “Providence and St. Joseph Health’s missions are aligned to improve the quality of care, increase access and make care more affordable for everyone,” stated Hochman.