From NFL Cheerleading to Fighting Human Trafficking

Dotti Groover-Skipper

Florida is a target state for traffickers, with the Tampa Bay area as a top destination for this monstrous activity. Tampa Bay has a lethal combination of tourism, world famous beaches, hospitality and agricultural industries, sports arenas, a military base, international seaports and airports, as well as a destination spot for one of thelargest adult entertainment industries in the nation. This combination attracts all forms of human trafficking which has become a larger money maker than selling drugs, as the human "product" can be used and re-used over and over again.

What Happens Next in the 20 States That Still Ban Gay Marriage?

Participants celebrate the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Kansas City, Mo. on June 26. Photo by Sally Morrow/RNS.

The Supreme Court’s decision to sit out the legal battle over same-sex marriage will — for now, at least — leave the future of laws prohibiting gays and lesbians from marrying in the hands of lower state and federal court judges. But it also almost certainly means the couples challenging those laws are more likely to win in the end.

The court said Oct. 6 that it would not hear appeals from five states whose same-sex marriage bans had been invalidated by lower federal courts. The decision, issued without explanation, will likely lead to recognition of gay marriages in 11 more states. It also allows an avalanche of legal challenges to the remaining bans to keep going forward in state and federal courts, where gay and lesbian couples have overwhelmingly prevailed.

The court’s decision leaves unchanged 20 state laws blocking same-sex unions. Each is already under legal attack, facing challenges in state or federal court, and sometimes both. Challenges to marriage bans already have reached a handful of state appeals courts and the federal appeals courts for the 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th circuits.

Some of those judges had been waiting to see what the Supreme Court would do. The court’s instruction Oct 6. was: Proceed.

'We Are Not an Island'

MARQUETTA L. GOODWINE, a computer scientist, mathematician, and community organizer, grew up on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. On July 2, 2000, Goodwine was “enstooled,” in a traditional African ceremony, as “Queen Quet,” political and spiritual leader of the Gullah/Geechee Nation that extends from coastal North Carolina to Jacksonville, Fla.

“A lot of people don’t know that we exist,” she told Sojourners. “People are unaware that there is a subgroup of the African-American community that’s an ethnic group unto itself, with nationhood status for itself.”

Queen Quet, and the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition she founded, are actively engaged in battling environmental racism and climate change. As a cultural leader of an Indigenous community, she works to preserve her people’s heritage in the land and stop corporate encroachment. As a spiritual leader of a people who practice a unique form of faith that adheres to Christian doctrine while being distinctly African, she nurtures her people’s tradition of communal prayer, song, and dance, as well as their connection to Praise Houses, the small places of worship built on plantations during slavery.

Sojourners contributing writer Onleilove Alston, lead organizer in Brooklyn for Faith in New York, a member of the PICO National Network, sat down with Queen Quet on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, to learn more about the Gullah/Geechee people, their spirit, and their struggle for justice. —The Editors

THE GULLAH/GEECHEE PEOPLE are the descendants of African people that were enslaved on the Sea Islands. We are descendants of Igbo, Yoruba, Mende, Mandinka, Malinke, Gola, Ife, and other ethnic groups from the Windward Coast of Africa, as well as Angola and Madagascar.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

COMMENTARY: Anti-Muslim Bigotry Taints Florida Ban on Foreign Laws

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure known as a “foreign law ban.” Photo: Meredyth Hope Hall, courtesy Rick Scott.

This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure widely touted as a “foreign law ban.” But proponents of such bans should not be too quick to claim victory.

The version of the ban that Scott signed merely mirrors decades-old legal principles that Florida courts have used to resolve international disputes — namely, that they will not apply foreign law if it “contravenes the strong public policy of this state or if the law is unjust or unreasonable.”

This is a far cry from foreign law bans in states such as Kansas and Arizona, which demand their courts to reject foreign laws or judgments if they come from a country that does not protect rights in the identical way we do.

Pastor of Florida Megachurch Resigns Over 'Moral Failure'

Image via Wiki Commons

Pastor Bob Coy resigned Sunday from Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Image via Wiki Commons

Florida megachurch pastor Bob Coy has resigned from his 20,000-member Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale congregation over a “moral failing.”

A statement on the church’s website reported the news: "On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985."

A call to Coy on Sunday was not returned. But it appears extra-marital affairs may have been one reason.

Stand Your Ground Has No Moral Ground

 Justice for Trayvon rally, by Light Brigading / Flickr.com

Justice for Trayvon rally, by Light Brigading / Flickr.com

The problem is the systemic injustice inherent in Stand Your Ground laws: just feeling like you are being threatened can justify your response in “self-defense.” Under Florida self-defense laws now, someone can use even lethal force if they “reasonably believe” it is necessary to defend their lives or avoid great harm. How does a jury decide what a “reasonable person” would do under all the circumstances? Even if Dunn really believed there was a gun in the black teenagers’ car and there wasn’t one, he could still be justified in shooting into the car according to Stand Your Ground. The New York Times quoted Mary Anne Franks, an associate law professor at the University of Miami saying, “This trial is indicative of how much of a problem Stand Your Ground laws really do create … By the time you have an incident like this and ask a jury to look at the facts, it’s difficult to re-create the situation and determine the reasonableness of a defendant’s fear.” And unfortunately, the law creates an opportunity for racial factors — whether they’re conscious or not — to trump facts when even one juror who is sympathetic to a defendant’s “reasonable” fear can prevent prosecution.

A Prayer for Marissa Alexander

Jesus Cervantes / Shutterstock

A woman praying. Jesus Cervantes / Shutterstock

Jesus, please be with Marissa Alexander today.

You know Marissa, the 32-year-old mother who fired a warning shot in the air to ward off her then-husband who was threatening to abuse her. You know that she tried to claim stand your ground and was denied by State Attorney Angela Corey who said Alexander fired her shot out of anger, not fear. You know that Corey’s office prosecuted George Zimmerman and did not block Zimmerman’s lawyers from embedding the language of the stand your ground statute in his jury’s instructions. You know that Zimmerman was declared not guilty based on that language, while Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison because of 10- to-20-year mandatory minimum sentencing requirements in Florida. 

Mistaken Identity Brings Threats to Pastor Zimmermann

Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Protestors at the Minneapolis rally in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in July, 2013. Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Death threats were the last type of phone calls George A. Zimmermann thought he’d get after serving for 55 years as his Pennsylvania community’s preacher.

And he never thought he’d be mistaken for the man headlining news these days: George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

Zimmermann, 78, retired to Deland, Fla., 16 years ago from his post at Georgetown United Methodist Church in Paradise, Pa. He said his time in Florida had been relatively peaceful and uneventful — until the phone calls began trickling in.

Trayvon and George: A Tale of Two Americas

donatas1205 / Shutterstock

Hand painted acrylic United States of America flag. donatas1205 / Shutterstock

The recent “not guilty” verdict out of Sanford, FL, reflects the principle of the American legal system that if there is reasonable doubt, courts will err on the side of innocence. I dispute neither the principle nor the decision by the jury. But that doesn't leave me satisfied about the outcome.

Jesus said that true justice exceeds that of “the scribes and Pharisees” — and the same could be said of the prosecution and defense. Legal justice seeks only to assign guilt or innocence. Holistic justice works for the life, liberty, and well-being of all. And it especially works for reconciliation between the two Americas that can be identified by their reaction to the case.