A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers

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A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:

The Anniston StarReligious beliefs and the law

Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky, is getting her uncomfortable 15 minutes of fame because she won’t follow the law.

Davis is a devout Christian, but that’s not why she’s in jail. She’s not being persecuted for her faith, despite what some of her supporters — including Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — have claimed.

She’s in jail because she won’t perform her duties as the Rowan County clerk. It’s that simple. Federal law, backed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, says same-sex unions are legal. This week, a federal judge stopped the national sideshow that has surrounded Davis’ Kentucky office. Davis refused any compromises from the court and went to jail. Meanwhile, the county’s deputy county clerks began issuing licenses to same-sex couples on Friday.

The law won, and rightly so.

It’s an odd comparison, but Davis’ story is similar to that of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose 2003 Ten Commandments fiasco ended with Moore, like Davis, on the losing end. For months, Moore defied a judge’s order and refused to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building. Protests ensued. Moore’s cause — an unconstitutional merging of church and state — became national news. And Moore’s defiance didn’t keep the monument in place. It was removed, per the judge’s order.

The law won, and rightly so.

The Birmingham News – The University of Alabama must reinstate ‘Dixieland Delight’

The University of Alabama’s SGA is likely going to have a very exciting and active week ahead of itself. The vast majority of students on campus are familiar with, and proud of, the tradition of having Dixieland Delight played in Bryant-Denny Stadium during the fourth quarter of home games. It is truly a time when the stadium comes together and unites as one.

Unfortunately, last year, in response to our fans acting less sportsmanlike than we usually do during the playing of the song, the athletics department made the decision to remove the song from our game day playlist. Naturally, many students were upset with the decision, wanting a chance to reform in a way that we could not only reinstate the playing of Dixieland Delight, but preserve it for everyone to enjoy for years to come.

I decided to act, crafting legislation that requests the athletics department to allow Dixieland Delight to be played once more in our treasured stadium, while stressing the importance of good sportsmanship on Crimson Tide game days. We want to assure the outside world that having good sportsmanship on Alabama game days is as much of a tradition to us as winning is.

Although open to the public, Senate meetings do not usually draw large crowds. I wanted to change that for this coming week. I feel that the most effective change in government comes from involving as many people as possible – stressing that we all have the capacity to play a role (no matter how big or small) to bring good change on campus. As a proud student body, we will find firsthand this Thursday, that only when we are united, acting in solidarity, are we as productive and strong as we can be.

Not much is clear about what will happen after the meeting. The only thing we do know is that the normal Senate chamber with a maximum capacity of 80 people will not be able to hold us for this week. The Athletics Department, Dean of Students, and the rest of our administration have been very helpful in helping us find a venue to accommodate the crowd. I thank them for that.

The Decatur Daily – Legislators get one final budget chance

Gov. Robert Bentley’s call for the second special session of the Legislature includes many of the proposed tax increases that failed to gain ground in the previous special session. Whether they stand a snowball’s chance is doubtful.

He is asking lawmakers to increase the business privilege tax, raise cigarette taxes and eliminate the individual income tax deduction for the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, which is paid in equal parts by employers and employees.

Bentley said these three changes would generate $260 million annually, which would close the General Fund revenue gap.

What’s new in the special session call from the previous one is a catch-all for “any other revenue measures that provide revenue for the General Fund.”

That wide-open phrase gives legislators an out to take action on a number of adjustments that would help close the budget gap. Preventing large corporations from dodging income taxes would be a good start.

There won’t be any painless solutions to the state’s financial problems. They’ve been brewing for years, and there are no more reserves from which to draw money.

Some lawmakers want to divert the use tax from education to the General Fund. Bentley proposes budget “reforms” that would further rob schools of money. Neither is an acceptable solution. School funding has not recovered from levels attained before the 2008 recession.

Public education should be a strength for any state. Without it, the workforce is at a competitive disadvantage, which would in turn affect the state’s ability to attract high-wage employers.

Dothan Eagle – Behind the 8-ball

Could 2015 be the year that it all crumbles around us? If it isn’t, it won’t be because of Alabama’s stellar leadership.

The start of the new fiscal year is less than a month away, and the State of Alabama doesn’t have a General Fund budget. Anyone who has paid even scant attention to current events knows that there is a dire need for new income to bridge a gap of about $300 million between revenue and expenditures, but after the Legislature’s regular session and one special session, lawmakers have produced exactly zilch, and have actually dug the hole deeper by wasting as much as another half-million dollars on the unproductive special session.

The governor has called another special session to commence just after Labor Day. It promises to unfold like a train wreck.

Since the last special session, the governor’s wife of 50 years has filed for divorce, and while the court case has been sealed, there is rampant salacious speculation about the governor’s personal life. At least one lawmaker has called for the governor’s resignation. The governor, whose political power was already waning, is now completely hamstrung.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, under indictment for more than a year on a raft of corruption charges related to his elected position, remains as powerful as ever, and has successfully put off his trial until next year.

Goat Hill is a strange place where marital discord will all but topple a politician while charges of corruption slide off like mud.

Will we see a budget that’s anything more than a hurriedly cobbled-together measure to prop us up for another year? Considering what’s unfolded thus far, when our state is so deep behind the 8-ball, we suppose anything is possible.

The Enterprise Ledger – Can we get to the kickoffs already?

Kickoff for big-time college football begins Thursday night, and I, like any other prognosticator, will be as clueless as trying to read Nick Saban’s mind on who his quarterback will be, that is until about week 5 of course when I will act like I know quite a bit more than I do right now.

Last year, I thought Oklahoma was the best team in college football until it suddenly became obvious it was no better than the third-best team in its own conference, a Big 12 that has defended about as much as I have Hillary Clinton… it simply hasn’t happened.

I thought, like most, that Jacob Coker would beat out Blake Sims for the Crimson Tide’s quarterback last season. And I surely thought he would be the obvious choice this year.  Even if he gets the nod, he has been anything but a sure bet for the Fighting Sabans.

Then there’s Auburn, whose defense looked like it belonged in the Big 12 last season, but who has upgraded significantly with Will Muschamp as its defensive coordinators. We shall see if the Gus Bus can crank out the points per usual with its new quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, and if Muschamp can teach his new defenders how to actually tackle this season.

Here’s what I do know prior to the season starting:

Despite the silly barking of Mike Leach at Washington State, whose team is awful by the way, the SEC is still far and away the best conference in all of college football, from top to bottom, upper tier, lower tier, however you want to look at it.

ESPN has downgraded significantly with its Game Day crew. Rece Davis aside, Danny Kanell is simply awful and Joey Galloway just comes across as one bitter person. I cannot and will not listen to Kanell’s constant whining, and Galloway makes it very obvious why he is considered one of the worst free agent signings in Bill Belichick’s otherwise stellar history at New England with his angry attitude. I get the feeling Galloway is wanting to fight each time he’s on air.

I realize that Lou Holtz spit on our television sets each Saturday and he and Mark May all too often talked about Notre Dame and Pitt, but at least those two came across as knowledgeable and fun-loving, traits  ESPN has not filled with their departure.

Fox is No. 1 in news, so perhaps it can up its sports coverage and do something to battle the worldwide leader in sports.

If Mark Richt and Georgia lose a game in which it’s favored, there will be more firing mobs that he may withstand this time (I repeat for the umpteenth consecutive season, it seems).

Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks will lose at times, but is anyone other than perhaps Saban and Urban Meyer ore safely employed?

Speaking of Meyer, his Ohio State Buckeyes should have an easy route to Game 11, a showdown with Michigan State. But, why do many make it out to seem Ohio State was a powerhouse last year. The Buckeyes lost to a weak Virginia Tech squad and squeaked past an average Penn State team in overtime, beat Minnesota by a touchdown, struggled with a bad Indiana squad and even limped past a very bad Michigan team. This was hardly a powerhouse team. In fact, there was not a powerhouse last season.

I don’t recall a season lately where so many teams have a shot at winning it all. Considering the softball of schedules and the paths to get there, here’s my Final 4: Ohio State, TCU, Notre Dame and Georgia. (Caution, these picks are subject to change on a weekly basis.)

Can we get to kickoff already?

TimesDaily – Hits and misses

Few choices limit council’s options on animal shelter

Florence and Lauderdale County’s inability to find a space to construct it’s animal shelter after two years of appropriating funding is embarrassing. Frankly, it has taken too long for this project to unfold, and that has become an unfortunate point of criticism.

In an effort to push the project along, this week Mayor Mickey Haddock brought a proposal to City Council to locate the animal shelter between Fairgrounds Road and Cox Creek Parkway. That idea was seen by some residents as a racially influenced decision to put less welcoming facilities in minority neighborhoods.

We don’t think the suggestion was racially motivated. Remember, at present there are only two sites under consideration — so the choices for a suggestion were limited. That, however, has been a known factor for months, which has given opponents of both sides ample time to make their case against their respective locations. Until this week, none stepped forward.

A new animal shelter is needed and must be built. We hope our citizens and city leaders don’t look at the shelter as an eyesore or a problem. To the contrary, it can stand as evidence of a thriving community that loves and cares for its animals.

Decatur, for instance, built an animal shelter at the edge of one of its city parks, and people enjoy the easy access to adopt pets. The building is far from a burden, and animals are let out only during certain hours. Noise is far from a problem, and those exercising in the park enjoy seeing the pups run a few times a day.

We know prime real estate is costly, but the shelter should be in a place of easy access and reasonable visibility to run efficiently.

The Gadsden Times – Smothers ran life hard, with passion

This column is being republished in honor of Times Sports Editor EmeritusJimmy Smothers who died Aug. 31 and was buried Sept. 3. His column occupied the left rail of the sports section routinely on the opening weekend of college football. This column originally appeared in The Gadsden Times on May 26, 2011, after Smothers was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Experiences during the past weekend went a long way in awakening and cementing heart-felt memories in my mind.

Back-to-back nights of watching a couple of people I respect enter vastly different phases of their lives brought things into perspective as nothing else could.

One person is a legend in his field, having retired several years ago after garnering the respect of his profession through a lifetime of sports writing. The other is a teenager, who’s about to embark on a path of higher learning.

Saturday night I had the privilege of watching Times Sports Editor Emeritus Jimmy Smothers be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham. A night later, I sat in an auditorium for the high school baccalaureate service of my daughter, Ariel.

The two occasions seemed unrelated until their paths crossed front and center in my mind.

As I watched and listened to a man I admire accept the highest honor that can be bestowed on someone in sports in this state, I had no idea how his life’s work would impact me less than 24 hours later, while I listened to Hoover football team chaplain Terry Slay deliver a speech of faith, hope and encouragement to young minds.

The Huntsville Times – The real differences between Alabama and Wisconsin

I spent the first twenty years of my life in my native home Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And, I recently celebrated my 40thbirthday and 20th anniversary as a proud Alabamian. This gives me 20/20 vision when it comes to comparing what it is like to live in Alabama and Wisconsin.  The commonalities are few and far between.

Football

If I was comparing any other state to Alabama, I would argue that University of Alabama fans rival any other collegiate or professional football team fan base. But, we are talking about the home of the Green Bay Packers.

Cheeseheads stand alone.

They literally own stock in their team! Sure, their stock offers no dividends or appreciation and those funds are explicitly for the maintenance of Lambeau Field, but fans take their stake in the team personally.

That’s why you see dozens of fans at the stadium in the middle of smothering snow blizzards, doing their part to help their team have great football games. No other team in the country – collegiate or professional – can claim that kind of loyalty, decade in and decade out, good times and bad.

Still, we know Alabama has done a spectacular job serving their community, especially Tuscaloosa. Former star center, Barrett Jones, showed us what he believed in when he popped up in Haiti, just to pitch in on post-earthquake rebuilding efforts. That’s modelling the best behavior, unpretentious and about the business of doing good. Who could forget seeing the entire team, hustling like their lives depended on picking up debris in mere hours after the Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011.

Press-Register –Mayor Stimpson & Mobile are cruising for a caption contest

Sandy Stimpson, Mobile’s resident big game hunting mayor, seems to have bagged a Carnival cruise ship for Mobile and Alabama’s lonesome port. Contract details are still being worked out.

Is it too early for Sandy to start yelling “I’m king of the world!” …? Mobile has been jilted by Carnival before, you know.

You tell me what Sandy is screaming. It’s a caption contest. And the “king of the world” line has already been taken.

It’s a long Labor Day weekend, so have a few drinks and have some fun with it. I’ll be checking in to see how this ship is sailing.

Cheers, y’all.

Montgomery Advertiser – Some Bentley divorce story reporting questionable

A few years before his recent departure from “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart conducted a brilliant examination of the way a certain 24-hour news network manufactures a news narrative by using a mishmash of opinion and news programming to turn speculation and uneducated opinion into a story.

Using clips of Fox News’ coverage of an alleged “indoctrination of children” taking place at an Illinois elementary school, where a grainy video showed kids singing a song that included the name of the current president, Stewart walked through how the opinions of Fox commentators and guests – which were mostly absurd comparisons of this video to communist China and North Korea – were utilized by Fox’s news programming to magically turn the video into a straight news story by cleverly masking the source of the information.

“Some are comparing the video to North Korea,” Fox anchors said. “There are those” who were saying it was indoctrinating the kids, they told viewers.

And tah-dah, a living, breathing news story is born – one that can be printed in the news section of the website and referenced as a source itself to justify future stories on the topic.

This tactic is not exclusive to Fox News, and it is not limited to utilizing your own fact-less commentary from your own uninformed hosts and guests.

In this day and age, social media, blogs and talk radio work just as well, and they provide a never-ending supply of “some people are questioning” sourcing when they really want to report something but are missing verifiable proof.

There has been a lot of that going on of late in the reporting about Gov. Robert Bentley’s divorce and the possible reasons behind it. And much of it has come from one of the state’s largest news organizations, al.com.

Opelika-Auburn News – Increase respect, decrease bloodshed

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

When he was shot and killed in Fox Lake, Ill., on Tuesday, Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz became the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in the last month, the fourth in 10 days, and the 26th in 2015, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

That number is alarming, but it’s a 13 percent decrease from the same period last year, and a considerable improvement over the worst half-year period over the past five decades. In 1973, 84 officers were shot and killed in the first six months alone. Through the early 2000s, the six-month average fell to 29.

Meanwhile, at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. At the rate of 2.6 deaths per day, the Post analysis said, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.

No one set of circumstances fits each of these situations, and no one portion of society is completely to blame for the bloodshed. Police have been ambushed by deranged people; unarmed civilians have been shot while posing no apparent threat; police have been forced into situations where they have to shoot an armed person threatening police or other civilians.

The Second Amendment gives American citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but certainly this much bloodshed between civilians and police was not what the Framers had in mind.

We long for a day that never really existed, when the townspeople of Mayberry respected Barney Fife’s authority even though they knew his bullet was in his pocket and not his gun, when Barney and Sheriff Taylor showed respect for the townspeople and solved all of Mayberry’s problems in time for a plate of Aunt Bea’s fried chicken.

The Tuscaloosa News – Witt’s legacy at UA deserves to be honored

When George Denny arrived at the University of Alabama campus in 1912, its student body numbered in the mere hundreds. It wasn’t far removed from its days as an all-male institution run as a military school. You could almost still smell the smoking embers of a campus that was burned to the ground only 47 years earlier.

When he retired from the Capstone in 1936, UA was a 20th-century public university with thousands of students. Where once the student body had been almost entirely from Alabama, it now boasted a diverse group of students from all over the country. The Crimson Tide was an athletic powerhouse whose name was splashed across the nation’s newspapers.

There’s a reason the obelisk at the center of campus is named for George Denny. There’s a reason people remember him today. He had a vision and he made it reality.

For the same reason, people will remember Robert Witt a century after his arrival at UA. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the University of Alabama, Witt’s face would be chiseled in the granite of that escarpment next to Denny’s.

When Witt, who recently announced he will retire in 2016 as University of Alabama System chancellor, arrived at the university in 2003, it had grown little in the previous 25 years. In 1979, it had a student body of more than 18,000. The number had risen and fallen, but it had reached a peak of 20,333.

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