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Alabama editorial roundup

October 04, 2017 - 12:15 PM

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Sept. 28

Times Daily of Florence on how the separation between church and state is relevant to the recently elected Republican nominee for Alabama U.S. Senator:

It's nothing new for Alabama politicians to tout their faith and wield it like a ticket to gain entrance to the halls of government power. It is unusual, even in Alabama, for a politician to be as aggressive as Roy Moore has been in using elected office as a tool to advance religious beliefs.

Moore on Sept. 26 won the GOP runoff for U.S. Senate. That likely guarantees voters in the state — and onlookers around the world — will continue to watch a campaign that merges secular and religious views. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore frequently used his office to advance his own perception of God's will, a practice that in each of his two terms caused his ouster. He has done the same in his campaign, and there's no reason to think he would do different as a U.S. senator.

As the results of that Tuesday's election make clear, many Alabamians share Moore's views of the proper relationship between church and state. One who did not share that view is Roger Williams, a devout Puritan minister in colonial America. In 1644 Williams warned, in words later echoed by Thomas Jefferson, of the consequences of opening a gap in the "wall of separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the World."

Williams' determined belief that there should be a separation between church and state was formed both by bitter wars in England sparked by conflicts between Roman Catholics and the Church of England, and by Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded by Puritan leader John Winthrop in 1630. Winthrop and his followers left their homes to escape the Church of England, and in America set up a colony he described as a "city upon a hill" dedicated to God. Winthrop offered a Boston post to Williams when he journeyed to America, but Williams declined.

Errors in religion are inevitable, Williams believed, because fallible people interpret God's will. Sit through any good Sunday school discussion, and this point seems obvious; all the differing views can't be correct. Williams therefore rejected efforts by the colony to prevent errors in religion. Government, he concluded, must remove itself from anything involving the relationship between God and man. The alternative was a government that forced citizens to abide by the possibly mistaken religious views of those in power, a scenario that would require hypocrisy of the faithful.

Williams' views on the need for a wall separating government and religion were often attacked, and led to his banishment from the colony. The extent of his piety, however, was not questioned. His words and actions reveal a man completely devoted to God.

After his banishment, Williams formed a settlement he called Providence, in what is now Rhode Island. As its founder, it was incumbent upon Williams to draft a political compact for Providence. The compact was more notable for what it did not say than for what it did. Unlike Massachusetts, it did not claim that the town was to be a model of God's kingdom. The compact did not claim the town's government would advance God's will. Indeed, the founding document written by this devout Puritan made no mention of God at all.

Williams' insistence that church and state remain separate was not motivated by a protection of government, which he viewed as inherently flawed because it was a product of humans. His concern was that allowing government to meddle in religion — to cloak narrow religious views with the power of the state — would interfere with the relationship between God and humans. It would result in hypocrisy as citizens sought to conform to the religious beliefs of those in power.

Moore's past use of government to impose his religious beliefs on others damaged the state. But more importantly, as Williams pointed out, it intruded upon the all-important relationship between individuals and God.



Sept. 25

Opelika-Auburn News on the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old student on a late-night bus providing service to Auburn University:

The Auburn community continues to deal with the aftermath of last week's shocking news about the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old university student on a late-night Tiger Transit bus.

And deal with it, it must, in decisive and public fashion.

Many questions remain that must be answered and addressed so that the message is clear that this type of heinous crime must be fought with all resources and awareness.

It must be fought by the courts, by the university, by the community, and by potential victims themselves.

Better ride policies, better surveillance tools, more education and safer practices that involve us looking out for one another and for ourselves, are among the weapons that must be explored and implemented.

Evidence indicates that wasn't the case on homecoming weekend at Auburn University when a co-ed found herself alone around midnight and incapacitated on a bus with two male Tiger Transit employees who later were arrested on sexual assault charges, including rape, according to police.

Students interviewed after learning of the story said the awareness level already is higher, with many female students saying they would no longer ride alone during late-night hours.

Auburn police wasted no time investigating and should be commended for quick work in making the arrests and gathering evidence, and likewise the county's district attorney minced no words in forcefully condemning the crime and promising justice.

The university made the right moves in alerting students of the incident and urging caution and awareness, including issuing a safety tip sheet worthy of attention.

It was a good move for Auburn to announce Friday that new security measures would be implemented on its Tiger Ten late-night bus service, the nightly shuttle service operated by Tiger Transit, including hiring a firm to place security personnel on each bus running on a late-night route.

Likewise, it's good that all employees of First Transit, the parent company of Tiger Transit, will be trained in the university's Green Dot Bystander Intervention program, which provides training for how to interrupt and prevent acts of violence. It's also welcome to hear a trained employee will monitor the real-time camera system on the late-night buses and report back to police.

Auburn University rightly enjoys touting the friendliest village with its latest public relations campaign slogan that "This is Auburn!"

This type of crime isn't Auburn, and there can be no room for tolerance of any type of sexual assault.

Such attacks as this on a Tiger Transit bus will be, as it should, handled with all due diligence to prevent any future such incident.

We send our prayers and best wishes to the victim and her family and encourage her toward a speedy recovery.



Sept. 25

The Tuscaloosa News on issues that candidates should be focused on:

The world is changing and it is changing in a hurry. But the startling thing about the rapid change isn't that it is happening in a few select industries. It isn't even that it is happening in all industries. It is that it is happening in ways that no one is talking about.

The digital revolution is no less transformative than the Industrial Revolution. The difference is that the Industrial Revolution took generations to unfold. The digital revolution is happening in a couple of decades. Perhaps the rate of change is what has so many on their heels, particularly government.

As the next campaign cycle unfolds, watch the politicians in our state debate issues like Confederate monuments. Their topics will be hot-button issues like that one because those issues evoke strong emotions. But ask yourself this, will your life or the life of your children change fundamentally because what some city did with a statue? You might have strong emotions about the issue, one way or the other, but in the end, it won't change your daily life.

Meanwhile, we have several crisis situations brewing in this state that no one seems to be discussing.

Quick, think of one thing that our state has failed to provide for its people. There's a pretty good chance that education quickly came to mind. That's because failing to educate its most disadvantaged children and winning football games are the two longest standing traditions in Alabama.

If education didn't come to mind first, chances are roads did. No wonder. Drive down just about any road, highway or interstate in any corner of this state and you're going find that it might be the only thing that Mississippi does better than us. Our roads are terrible.

We pay for education through the sales tax. We pay for roads primarily through the gas tax.

But sales tax revenue is being depleted because of the rise of online shopping. Tuscaloosa officials say a conservative estimate is that the city lost $5.3 million in sales tax revenue this year. That number will continue to rise.

On Sept. 21 Mercedes-Benz announced it will invest $1 billion to set up electric vehicle production at its plant in Vance. That's outstanding news for the local economy as it will create about 600 new jobs. But Mercedes-Benz isn't the only auto manufacturer moving to electric cars. The entire industry is moving that way. Earlier this month, Tesla announced it was about to start selling an electric semi-truck. There are even charging stations now available around Tuscaloosa. It is coming and quickly. Companies don't invest that kind of money without expecting a return.

So what happens to the gas tax? Say we start losing a million here and a million there for a few years. Pretty soon, it adds up.

We need to demand that our candidates for office quit talking about issues that divide us. That might fire up a voting base but it doesn't help us prepare for a better tomorrow.


News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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