- Republicans proposed a measure dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill after San Antonio refused to let a Chick-fil-A open in the city’s airport because of its support of anti-LGBT groups.
- The bill says that the government cannot take adverse action against a person or company based on their religious beliefs.
- It passed through Texas’ Senate last week and passed in the House on Monday.
- Democrats fear that the move will allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
What Started the Bill?
The Texas House passed a piece of legislation on Monday dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill.
The bill was created after the San Antonio City Council voted to block a Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport. City Councilman Roberto Treviño released a statement saying that San Antonio does “not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”
The anti-LGBTQ behavior he referred to includes Chick-fil-A’s reputation for donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ agendas. According to ThinkProgress, the company gave $1.8 million to a variety of charities known to promote anti-LBGTQ messaging in 2017. One of the charities, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, received $1.6 million dollars, and bars employees from participating in “homosexual acts.”
What Does the Bill Say?
Texas Republicans disagreed with San Antonio’s vote. Attorney General Ken Paxton opened an investigation into whether or not this violated the first amendment, while members of State Congress started drafting a controversial piece of legislation.
Their bill says that the government cannot take any “adverse action” against a person or company based on their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
Getting the bill to this point was not easy for Texas politicians. A version drafted by the House was killed by Democrats earlier in the month. The state’s Senate then pushed its own version though, which passed on Thursday with a vote of 19-12.
According to NBC News, the vote was held without prior notification, meaning that the public did not have the opportunity to provide their take on the bill before the vote took place.
On Monday, the bill then passed in the House with a vote of 79-62, with only one Republican voting against it. The House ended up making some changes to the legislation before giving it their okay. Their amendment removed a section that gave the state’s attorney general the right to bring forward lawsuits against cities to “enforce compliance.”
Democrats Fear LGBTQ Discrimination
Democrats fear that this bill will allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the state. Texas’ LGBTQ Caucus fought against the bill, which was debated for two hours on the house floor on Monday.
During the debate, a member of the caucus, Rep. Erin Zwiener, said that the bill would be an attack on LGBTQ Texans.
“Members, this bill is here, being debated on the floor today, to make LGBTQ Texans feel less than, to make us feel attacked by our government,” she said.
Rep. Julie Johnson, an out lesbian and one of the founders of the LGBTQ caucus also spoke out against the bill. Johnson told NBC News it was a “concerted effort to violate the constitutional protections that we’ve had for centuries with the separation of church and state.”
However, Republicans maintain that the bill is about protecting religious freedoms and companies like Chick-fil-A. Rep. Matt Krause, who sponsored the bill, said that it does not discriminate.
“Look at the language in this bill,” he said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.”
What Comes Next
The House is expected to toss the bill back to the Senate on Tuesday for final approval of the changes. Once the Senate approves the House’s changes, it gets sent over to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
Abbott has already indicated his support for the bill. On Monday he tweeted he would let us know if he would sign the bill after eating dinner, along with a photo of a Chick-fil-A cup on his desk.
However, even if he passes it, some think it will see blocks in court.
“I have no doubt that if passed, SB 1978 will be fought in the courts at every level and at great expense to the taxpayers.” Rep. Johnson said. “To vote yes today is to put your signature on that invoice.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Texas Tribune) (San Antonio Express)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.