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Saturday, September 28, 2013
Fair advice on a fowl decision
A chicken in every district!
Sounds tailor-made for a political campaign, but don’t look for the bumper sticker.
In his dual roles as attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli’s advisory opinions have stirred political passions on a host of social issues. But sometimes, even a master at stirring the pot is left to deal with chicken feed.
And still he gets headlines.
The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors was split over a request by some residents to allow chickens in most areas zoned residential. So the board voted to amend the county’s zoning ordinance by easing the restrictions in some, but not others — depending on voting district. But can it do that, the county attorney asked the A.G.’s office.
Cuccinelli called foul, writing: “On its face, the February amendment treats similarly situated persons within the same zoning district differently.” That’s unreasonable and arbitrary.
There don’t have to be chickens in every electoral district, but properties with like zoning should be treated alike across all.
An A.G. who relishes a good fight won’t ruffle many feathers with this one — outside of Spotsylvania County, anyway.
Keeping faith with democratic values
Virginia Beach approved plans this week for construction of the city’s first mosque, but what should have been the conclusion of a routine piece of business became something sinister.
The sole councilman to vote against the plans charged the next day that the mosque will be a threat to national security. And in a newspaper interview, Bill DeSteph made loose allegations that the nonprofit Crescent Community Center that is planning to build the mosque is getting the funding from the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads — which, he says, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Both organizations flatly denied the accusations. And DeSteph produced nothing to back them up. He did say he passed them on to the FBI, which issued a statement: “The FBI does not investigate individuals absent specific information that they are committing crimes or pose a risk to national security. We do not investigate people based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment, or based solely on their race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation.”
DeSteph says he has nothing against the Muslim religion — though he has been a member of ACT! for America. Its mission: to defend democratic values against the “assault of radical Islam.”
DeSteph’s brand of fear-mongering has no place in a society that protects people’s freedom of religion.
Crescent Community Center directors, on the other hand, issued a statement expressing appreciation for the city permit and the rights afforded under the Constitution: “We recognize that those rights do include freedom of speech, no matter how inaccurate or ill-informed that speech may be.”
They get it.
A split decision
An update on Virginia’s ban on advertising alcohol in college newspapers, which a U.S. magistrate ruled unconstitutional back in 2008, but was reinstated by a federal appeals court panel: This week, the full 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled that the Alcoholic Beverage Control ban is, indeed, unconstitutional — in some cases.
It violates the First Amendment rights of Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times and the Cavalier Daily at the University of Virginia, the court reasoned, because most of their readership is 21 or older, legal drinking age. The ban prohibits those readers “from receiving truthful information about a product they are legally allowed to consume.”
But the ABC regulation is not unconstitutional on its face, the court ruled, noting that it “attempts to keep would-be drinkers in the dark based on what the ABC perceives to be their own good.”
Which is not to say it succeeds.
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