Turkey Has Imprisoned an American Pastor for One Year

October 7, 2016. It’s been almost one year since Dr. Andrew Brunson was unjustly imprisoned without charges in Turkey. Imagine spending a year in a Turkey prison as a hostage.

Unfortunately, most Americans have no idea what is really happening in Turkey.

Turkey has long been an ally of the United States, but has chosen to complicate and weaken its relationship with the United States and other free nations of the world through its increasingly oppressive policies.

On August 25, 2017, the Turkish government issued two new emergency decrees. Article 74 of decree 694 states that “with the exclusion of Turkish citizens, those who are prisoners or convicts, upon assurance that they will not be punished because of their race, ethnic origin, religion or citizenship, that they will not be subjected to demeaning punishment or treatment, or be subjected to torture or mistreatment, can be returned to another country or exchanged for prisoners or convicts in another country when national security or the country’s interests so require and upon request of the Foreign Minister, with the recommendation of the Justice Minister and the approval of the President” (emphasis added).

Despite this clear authority to simply release Dr. Brunson, who has been a pastor in Turkey for two decades, President Erdogan has recently admitted that Turkey is holding an American citizen as a hostage in hopes that the United States will turn over a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania.

President Erdogan’s suggestion that the United States should make a hostage-style prisoner swap for an innocent American imprisoned in Turkey is appalling and will not be taken seriously.  The United States will not stand idly by as these oppressive tactics target American citizens.

Turkey’s historic commitment to religious freedom and the rule of law has rapidly diminished in recent years. In the US Commission on International Religious Freedom 2017 Annual Report, Turkey was listed as a Tier 2 country of concern, meaning “nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC standard.”

In recent years, there have been multiple well-known cases of American citizens detained in foreign countries. In some cases, the foreign government used local laws which are inconsistent with international human rights norms to justify violations of religious freedom. In other cases, they have imposed arbitrary charges (like in Dr. Brunson’s case) such as a claim of threat to national security, to justify the detention and harassment of individuals on the basis of their religion.

Our nation’s relationship with Turkey is clearly moving in the wrong direction. It’s unacceptable for a NATO ally to unjustly imprison an innocent American. If this is how Turkey treats an American like Andrew Brunson, other Americans should hesitate before taking their business to Turkey. It is not worth the risk.

Congress has provided the Executive Branch with sanction authority for use against government officials responsible for routine and egregious violations of human rights, especially religious freedom. It is time for the United States government to use these authorities to secure the release of Americans unjustly detained around the world, including Dr. Andrew Brunson.

Video: Oklahoma Congressman’s Town Hall Outburst

Bald-faced lies and uncontrolled outbursts are unacceptable from a child, let alone a Congressman.

At least a Congressman should know better!

3rd term Congressman Markwayne Mullin, however, continues to lower the expectations bar. Between a recent town hall rant and laying the groundwork to break his term-limit pledge, Rep. Mullin is showing unbounded contempt for his constituents.

“That’s bull crap. I paid for myself”

Holding town hall meetings during Congressional recess provides Representatives with an important opportunity to hear directly from their constituents and give them an unvarnished appraisal of what is going on in DC…But Markwayne Mullin’s constituents got more than they bargained for when they showed up for the meeting in Jay, Oklahoma last week.

While responding to a constituent’s question, Mullin further solidified a reputation for condescension by telling Oklahoma voters that he owes them nothing, because his lifetime taxes paid exceed his Congressional salary.

You said you pay for me to do this? That’s bull crap. I paid for myself.

The video above isn’t the only time that Rep. Mullin has tried to tell his constituents that he doesn’t owe them anything. Apparently he’s made a habit of using that line but it’s only recently become widespread in the news.

As an Oklahoma voter pointed out on Markwayne’s Facebook, “A man who believes that he is paying his own way in Washington will never feel obligated to represent the needs of his constituents. He only works for himself and therefore cannot lead.”

Since the outburst, Rep. Mullin’s constituents, news outlets and even international attention have all weighed in and the response is unanimous: Rep. Mullin needs a civics lesson.

Lying is Apparently OK if God Tells You To…

During his first campaign for Congress, Mullin gained significant traction as a result of a 3 cycle term limit pledge. If elected, Markwayne promised that he would only run for two subsequent terms, capping him at 6 years as a Representative…Well, he’s laying the groundwork to break that pledge by running a 4th time…and he’s blaming God for the lie

Oklahoma has a growing tradition of legislators self-imposing term limits on themselves. Sen. Coburn is a great example of this, both during his tenure in the House and Senate. Oklahomans repeatedly rewarded his conviction and Dr. Coburn stayed true to his word. In fact, Dr. Coburn endorsed against Rep. Mullin in the 2016 primary race in large part due to the fact that Mullin was already back-tracking on his term-limits pledge.

Recently, Mullin has filed his 2018 Declaration of Candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission, further stoking the idea that he plans to officially break his word.

Through it all, Mullin’s staff have pushed the narrative that basically amounts to, “He hasn’t broken his word YET!” At the same time, they are putting out statements declaring that Mullin wants to “be a career legislator.

The fact of the matter is that if Rep. Mullin had an ounce of conviction, related to keeping his word, he would have done what Rep. Bridenstine last cycle and clearly stated that he would be keeping his promise and not seeking another term in 2018. All this waffling and blaming God for encouraging him to lie is absolutely embarrassing.

Mullin is Everything Wrong with DC

Rep. Mullin is a prime example of everything wrong with Washington, DC. His word can only be counted on if it currently aligns with his personal best interest. From his ignorance of basic civics and absence of even an ounce of humility to his casual relationship with the truth, there is no doubt that Oklahoma’s 2nd District deserves better than Rep. Mullin has to offer.

UPDATED: Education showdown in Oklahoma

In the world of public education, what is best for students can easily get lost in the myriad bureaucracy of state and federal regulations, not to mention constant budget cuts and the flurry of classroom trends that seem to come and go faster than a politician can change positions on an issue.

Such is the case in Oklahoma, where a substantial number of local school systems are bucking state leaders – including Governor Mary Fallin – over how long the school week should be.

The tiff began more than a year ago, when the state announced significant education funding cuts to help make up for a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, an action that left district superintendents scrambling to come up with the means to adjust.

Enter the four-day school week.

While knocking a day off the school week won’t save a billion dollars statewide, in rural systems with large service areas and small student bodies, the savings in diesel fuel alone can often mean the difference between filling an empty teaching position and filling classrooms beyond their normal capacity.

A year ago, Newcastle superintendent Tony O’Brien told the Oklahoma City NBC affiliate, “We are conservatively saying we’re going to save at least $100,000-$150,000, that will be in utilities, transportation, another big cost is in substitute teachers we won’t have to hire.”

In February – just over halfway through Newcastle’s first year under the plan – O’Brien again spoke with the NBC affiliate, saying “I’ve saved almost a teacher in diesel probably already.”

Considering that Newcastle is a southern suburb of Oklahoma City, the savings for more rural systems – which make up the bulk of those opting for a 4-day week – may be even greater.

Systems adjusted their daily class schedules and annual school calendars to make up for the lost time, as well as adding 45 minutes to each day. Teachers and administrators say that students have fared well with the changes, and though some parents say they struggle to find childcare for younger children on Fridays, many are happy with the change. The initiative seems to be yielding the desired result, with no negative impact on student performance.

Enter state lawmakers.

In a state with a well-known conservative Republican governor like Fallin, one would think that increased local control over education would be seen as a good thing – especially when it comes to cost-saving moves that do not negatively impact student outcomes.

One would be wrong, at least in Oklahoma.

“We must have five-day school weeks,” Fallin said during this year’s State of the State address. State Senator Kyle Loveless agreed, introducing a bill that would mandate a five-day week for the state’s schools. As quoted in the more recent NBC story, Loveless stated:

“We need to have kids in schools five days a week … It is a bad PR, a bad image problem, bad optics to the state when we have 100 school districts that have gone to four days.”

Really. A state legislator says that local school systems cannot solve this problem – which, remember, was created by the state legislature – via a method that works for them, for their community, and (lest we forget) for their students because it’s “bad optics” to do so. Amazing.

These statements seem to be in direct contrast to the position Fallin has taken previously on local control. Upon signing legislation in 2015 to expand charter school opportunities statewide and bring charter approval under the authority of local boards, Fallin  had this to say:

“The legislation provides more local control for parents and school administrators.”

For his part, O’Brien doesn’t seem ready to budge.

“My school board is the guys who know what’s best for my kids, not somebody at 23rd and Lincoln,” he said, referring to the state legislative offices in Oklahoma City.

Though Loveless’ bill never made it out of committee, another version did. HB1684 requires that any school system following a four-day week submit a plan to the state board of education each year detailing “the intended educational and fiscal benefits and the anticipated impacts or outcomes the plan will have in the school district including a discussion of any potential disadvantages that have been identified by the school district”.

HB1684 passed in the House and is currently under consideration in the Senate. O’Brien stated in an email conversation this week that “This amounts to another unfunded mandate for each of us who has chosen to use a four day week”.

For the sake of the Oklahoma’s students, let’s hope that state lawmakers allow the focus to remain on programs that actually work at the local level rather than on what those programs look like at the state level.

*** If you live in Oklahoma and wish to express your thoughts on this or any other educational issue, start by contacting your local school superintendent. Then call your representatives in the state legislature and share your thoughts with them. You’d be surprised how great a difference one single contact can make.

This story has been updated to include information regarding pending legislation.

Oklahoma House Bill Gives Fathers a New Role in Abortion Fight

This is an interesting, and needed advancement for fathers’ rights.

Oklahoma state Representative Justin Humphrey has introduced a measure that would require written consent of the fathers of unborn children before an abortion could be performed.

The name of the man responsible would also have to be disclosed, and while Humphrey admits it may not be constitutional, the bill was moved forward Tuesday by a state House committee.

“My bill would stop an abortion if a father does not agree to the abortion,” Humphrey told the state House Public Health Committee, according toThe Oklahoman.

“The thing that I wanted to spark in a debate is that fathers have a role. Exactly where that role is, I’m not sure,” he told reporters later.

Their role is to be the complementary agent to the mother’s role, Sir.

They provide for, nurture, give guidance and protection to their children.

Why is this a difficult concept?

The legislation does exempt abortions sought because of rape, a threat to the health of mothers, or incest, but research has shown that only a very small percentage seek abortions because of those reasons.

If you combine rape, incest, health of the mother and possible health of the baby as reasons for obtaining an abortion, the number is still less than 8 percent.

The vast majority of abortions are due to irresponsible sex practices, with an uncomfortable portion of that number being because the mother is angry at the father.

The state House committee also approved a measure to block abortions performed solely because a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome or another genetic condition.

The Oklahoma actions are part of a wave of new measures restricting abortion rights in state legislatures across the country.

While abortion advocates rage and wail, these states are setting in place commonsense restrictions to the abortion industry.

Texas legislators are hearing testimony on Wednesday on a bill that would ban so-called partial birth abortions, and on another that would ban what abortion opponents term “dismemberment” abortions. A third bill would tighten restrictions on how an aborted fetus would be disposed of.

In South Dakota, the state House this week passed a measure increasing penalties on abortions performed after 19 weeks of pregnancy.

The Arkansas state House on Tuesday passed a measure banning abortions on the basis of a fetus’ sex. And in Florida, legislators are working on a bill to allow patients who have had abortions to sue physicians for physical or emotional damage up to 10 years after the procedure took place.

Pennsylvania’s state Senate passed a measure early Wednesday to block abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will veto the measure if it makes it through the Republican-controlled state House.

Wyoming legislators are debating whether to make selling fetal tissue or cells a felony, and considering another measure requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound.

Note to Wyoming legislators: JUST. DO. IT.

The Guttmacher Institute has pointed out that in 18 states, 50 new restrictions on abortion have been enacted in the last year.

They also point out that the restrictions are coming, even as the reported cases of abortion in the U.S. seems to be on the decline.

Yes. This is a good thing, so let’s continue to push those numbers down, shall we?

The Real Reason Leftwing Groups Are Freaked Out by Trump’s EPA Pick

Leftwing groups are freaking out about Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General and Donald Trump’s nominee for the EPA. It is safe to say that the collective meltdown over Pruitt is greater than over any other Trump pick. You probably have no idea why and it has nothing to do with climate change.

Superficially, progressives are saying that Pruitt is a climate change denier and has no business managing the agency he sued so often. But that’s just cover.

The real reason has everything to do with money.

With the blessing of the Department of Justice, the EPA has been going after major corporations and telling those corporations that they can pay a massive fine to the federal government or pay a lesser amount to various environmentalist groups.

More often than not, to get the EPA off their backs, the companies fork over money to leftwing run environmentalist groups. Those groups then begin a vicious cycle. They start hounding the corporations that give them money, file complaints with the EPA, then get the EPA to shake down the companies for more money.

Congress investigated this and the House of Representatives produced a report on what the Department of Justice is doing with corporations. The EPA, in particular, uses what’s called its “settlement fund.”

Here’s what a congressional investigation found:

A year-long Committee investigation has revealed that the DOJ is pushing and even requiring settling defendants to donate money to non-victim third-parties. Donations can earn up to double credit against defendants’ overall payment obligations, while credit for direct relief to consumers is merely dollar-for-dollar. What is more, documents show that groups that stood to gain from these mandatory donations lobbied DOJ to include them in settlements. DOJ has funneled third-party groups as much as $880 million dollars in just the last 2 years. These payments occur entirely outside of the Congressional appropriations and grant oversight process. What is worse, in some cases, DOJ-mandated donations restore funding that Congress specifically cut.

[Emphasis added]

For a good explanation of what the federal government does, see this National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website that explains the process.

Enforcement actions brought by governmental authorities for violations of environmental or other natural resource laws are often settled on terms that require defendants to make community service or restitution payments. In turn, these types of payments are generally required to be applied in a manner that provides some redress for the underlying violations.

At the federal level, “community service” is expressly allowed as a condition of probation by the United States Criminal Code (18 U.S.C. §3563(b)(12)). In turn, the United States Sentencing Guidelines allow community service where it is reasonably designed to repair the harm caused by the offense (U.S.S.G. §8B1.3). Additional requirements for appropriate community service measures are outlined in the United States Attorneys’ Manual, which expressly allows “organizational community service” in settlements of environmental prosecutions. Many federal environmental prosecutions do indeed include community service payments as part of their ultimate settlement.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation uses money it gets to fund conservation programs. They have actually done some pretty amazing things. But other organizations are not so great and use the money to further harass private sector corporations, which cannot write off those payments for tax purposes.

When you hear environmental groups complaining about Scott Pruitt, remember that these groups are going to get hit hard financially because the EPA will get out of the business of shaking down corporations to fund leftwing groups.

Jarrin Jackson: a Conservative Fighter in Oklahoma

It’s a story that never seems to end: well-intentioned Republican runs for Congress in a conservative district, wins, goes to Washington and promptly moves to the Left. Rep. Markwayne Mullin represents Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District and is in his second term, and while he may have started with the best of intentions the voting record he’s amassed during his time in Congress has been less than stellar – especially for someone who represents a deeply Republican district.

Fortunately, conservative voters in OK-2 have a choice on Tuesday, June 28. They can either keep Mullin, who voted to resurrect the Export-Import Bank, a crony capitalist institution that substitutes politically motivated subsidies for market-driven loans, or they can vote for Jarrin Jackson, a proven conservative fighter who wants to shake things up in Washington.

That part about Jackson being a proven fighter is literally true. An Oklahoma native endorsed by former Sen. Tom Coburn (R), Jackson joined the U.S. Army after 9/11 and graduated West Point as an Infantry officer. He spent seven years in the Army serving as a company level officer during two combat deployments to Afghanistan.

The Madison Project, which works to elect members of Congress who are just as conservative as their districts, has endorsed Jackson in his bid to unseat the status quo.

When incumbent Rep. Mullin began to walk-back his previous commitment to serve only three terms, Sen. Coburn, who held himself to self-imposed term limits in both the House and Senate, blasted the move and endorsed Jackson. “My biggest issue is he is not keeping his pledge and his honor,” Coburn told an Oklahoma radio station recently. “When you make a commitment to somebody you are going to do something, and then you start wavering on that commitment, you have no standing with me at all after that.  My opinion is, he drank the kool-aid, he loves the position.”

Loving that position has come at a cost for Mullin and not just in terms of his voting record or the integrity of his term-limits pledge. In early 2014, Mullin was investigated by the House Ethics Committee for continuing to appear in advertising for a family owned plumbing company (free media time for a sitting member of Congress) and misidentifying $600,000 in outside income he and his wife earned from the businesses.

That’s not the only time Mullin’s ethics and his plumbing businesses have been scrutinized. In 2012 the Associated Press noted that while Mullin bashed the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the government spending “stimulus” package passed by Congressional Democrats at the request of President Barack Obama, his companies made hundreds of thousands of dollars from contracts funded by the ARRA.

Whether or not Mullin’s antics catch up to him is in the hands of Oklahoma voters, who have in Jarrin Jackson a serious, conservative alternative.

Just a Reminder

There is a lot of moral preening going on about Clayton Lockett’s execution. Liberals are calling it botched. He was executed. The execution did not go as planned and he subsequently died of a heart attack. As I noted on twitter (Aaron Gardner came up with it), “For liberals a botched execution is when the convict dies, a botched abortion is when the innocent live.”

The left is terribly outraged about Clayton Lockett’s death. They likewise have a hard time understanding how someone can be pro-life, but also support the death penalty. These people treated Kermit Gosnell as a local crime story, but demand national outrage over Clayton Lockett’s execution.

One person not morally preening or saying anything at all on the matter of Clayton Lockett’s execution is Stephanie Neiman. In all the discussion over how Clayton Lockett was executed, few have paid attention to Miss. Neiman.

Clayton Lockett beat her, bound her with duct tape, covered her mouth, shot her, then buried her alive.

Just remember that while you are posturing over how Clayton Lockett died.

The post Just a Reminder appeared first on RedState.

T.W. Shannon for U.S. Senate

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I was genuinely disappointed that Jim Bridenstine did not get into the race in Oklahoma. He would have been the best candidate hands down. But we must take the race as it is, not as we wish it to be. That leaves a potential rock star and a congressman.

Count me with T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma. Sarah Palin has already endorsed him. I’m sure others will join in soon.

T.W. Shannon is the Speaker of the House in Oklahoma. He is a small government conservative and he has shown he can learn from his mistakes. Shannon was, at first, willing to consider health care exchanges in Oklahoma. But he listened to the voters and turned his back on the idea. His opponent seems to march to the beat of Washington.

T.W. Shannon is going to become a rockstar within not just the GOP, but the conservative movement. I believe he will also be more consistently conservative in his votes than his opponent. I hope you will join me in supporting T.W. Shannon for the U.S. Senate in Oklahoma.

The post T.W. Shannon for U.S. Senate appeared first on RedState.