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Democracy

Democracy

A police officer makes a profound statement after pulling over a Black teen

The teen’s emotional response hit him like a punch to the gut.


“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value."

In October 2016, that was a quote from Albert Einstein that sat atop the Facebook page of Tim McMillan, a police officer in Georgia.

McMillan become a sensation after a post he wrote on his Facebook wall went viral in 2016. In his post, he explains how he pulled over a Black teen for texting while driving:



“I pulled a car over last night for texting and driving. When I went to talk to the driver, I found a young black male, who was looking at me like he was absolutely terrified with his hands up. He said, 'What do you want me to do officer?' His voice was quivering. He was genuinely scared," McMillan wrote.

Police officer Facebook post

Officer Tim McMillan talks about pulling over a Black teen

Image via Facebook

But McMillan said he wasn't interested in harassing or arresting the young man, let alone inflicting violence upon him. Nonetheless, the teen's emotional response hit McMillan like a punch to the gut.

“I just looked at him for a moment, because what I was seeing made me sad. I said, 'I just don't want you to get hurt.' In which he replied, with his voice still shaking, 'Do you want me to get out of the car.' I said, 'No, I don't want you to text and drive. I don't want you to get in a wreck. I want your mom to always have her baby boy. I want you to grow up and be somebody. I don't even want to write you a ticket. Just please pay attention, and put the phone down. I just don't want you to get hurt,'" he wrote.

McMillan said the interaction made him reflect on a deeply personal level about the national attention being paid to acts of police violence against Black Americans, particularly young Black men.

“I truly don't even care who's fault it is that young man was so scared to have a police officer at his window. Blame the media, blame bad cops, blame protestors, or Colin Kaepernick if you want. It doesn't matter to me who's to blame. I just wish somebody would fix it."

This story originally appeared on GOOD.


This article originally appeared on 08.31.18

Democracy

Attorney argues why Louisiana law requiring the 10 Commandments in classrooms is un-American

He says that it's unconstitutional is only the beginning of the problem.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion.

On June 19, 2024, Louisiana governor Jeff Landry signed a new law requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed, in “large, easily readable font,” in every public school classroom from kindergarten to state-funded universities. The move prompted an outcry from Americans citing the first amendment clause that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Defenders of the law contend that the Ten Commandments are not solely religious in nature, and the language of the law refers to them as "foundational documents of our state and national government.” But the ACLU and other civil rights organizations immediately announced that they would fight the law in the courts. A similar law in Kentucky was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.

Author and attorney Andrew Seidel took to X to argue why the law is not only unconstitutional, but un-American.


Seidel begins by sharing that the first commandment in the specified text that the law requires be posted in classrooms states, "I AM the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

"The point of this bill is to give the false impression that America is a Christian nation," Seidel wrote in his thread. "That's Christian Nationalism."

Seidel says that the first commandment directly conflicts with the founding principles of the United States.

"No law—and this would be a law—can tell an American to worship a god, let alone which god. Americans are free to be godless (as a growing number are), or, if they wish, to worship every god from every holy book."

He pointed to the law's sponsor, Rep. Dodie Horton, stating in her explanation of why she proposed the bill: “I'm not concerned with an atheist. I'm not concerned with a Muslim. I’m concerned with our children looking and seeing what God’s law is."

In addition to the establishment of religion as a constitutional problem, Seidel shared that the Louisiana law uses an edited version of the Ten Commandments in the text that the state specifies.

Seidel explained that there are various translations and interpretations of the Ten Commandments, and that such differences have been the basis of different schisms within Christianity itself, not to mention "as James Madison put it, the 'torrents of blood' that have been spilled, trying to impose a state-sanctioned version of religious truth."

"That's what Louisiana is doing here," Seidel wrote. "Imposing it's version of religious truth on kids in public schools. It's gross."

Seidel then explained the issue with Louisiana's editing of the King James Version of the Ten Commandments, paring it down and removing certain phrases.

"If the state can rewrite one religion’s holy book, it can rewrite yours. Louisiana does not have this power. Nor does it have the power to impose that religious edict on a captive audience of your children."

"This is the worst kind of big government conservatives claim to oppose," Seidel added. "More to the point, this is one reason we have the separation of church and state, and it’s precisely how that separation protects everyone and helps ensure the foundational value of religious freedom. It not only prevents the state from weighing in on religious disagreements, scriptural discrepancies, and theological debates, but also refuses to empower the state to force its preferred scripture or religious doctrine onto we the people."

Imagine if a state legislature with Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist-majority decided that an excerpt from one of those faith's holy books prohibiting the worship of any other deities was required to be posted in every public school classroom. The same people who are pushing for and praising this law probably wouldn't stand for it.

Opponents of the Louisiana law argue the idea that the U.S. was founded on the principles found in the Ten Commandments is negated as soon as you put the first commandment up against the first amendment. The U.S. was largely founded on the principle of religious freedom. The first amendment prohibits the government from telling the people what to believe or whom or how to worship. The first commandment specifically states whom the people must worship, and the second, third and fourth commandment specify how they should worship and there therefore incompatible as government-sanctioned messages.

Virtually no one is arguing that all of the Ten Commandments are bad. Not killing, lying or stealing are standard moral codes for the vast majority of humanity, regardless of religious background. But the others are very much asserting Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, and Seidel says for the government to require that assertion in classrooms is blatantly unconstitutional and un-American as well.

You can find Andrew Seidel's books, "The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American" and "American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom" on Amazon.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

When people move in and refuse to move out, what do you do?


Squatters' rights laws are some of the most bizarrely misused legal realities we have, and something no one seems to have a good answer for. Most of us have heard stories of someone moving into a vacant home and just living there, without anyone's permission and without paying rent, and somehow this is a legal question mark until the courts sort it out.

According to The National Desk, squatters' rights are a carryover from British property law and were created to ensure that abandoned property could be used and to protect occupants from being kicked out without proper notice. It should go without saying that squatter law isn't meant to allow someone to just take over someone else's property, but sometimes that's exactly what happens.

It's what happend to Flash Shelton's mother when she put her house up for rent after her husband passed away. A woman contacted her with interest in the property, only she wanted to do repairs and look after the home instead of paying rent. Before anyone knew it, she had furniture delivered (which she later said was accidental) and set up camp, despite Shelton's mom not agreeing to the arrangement.


But since the woman had expressed her intention and already moved in, the matter was out of police hands, as Shelton found out when he tried to contact the local sheriff.

“They said, ‘I’m sorry but we can’t enter the house, and it looks like they’re living there, so you need to go through the courts',” he shared in a YouTube video.

Shelton rightfully didn't want the expense of a court battle, so he took matters into his own hands—not with violence, but with logic. He had his mom lease the home to him, and then told the squatter that she had to move everything out because he was moving things in.

“If they can take a house, I can take a house," he said.

He was calm and clear about her having to get everything out within the day or he would have people come and take it, and thankfully, she didn't put up a big fight.

That experience made him realize how squatter law can be abused, but that there's a faster system for removing a squatter than to go through the court system. If a squatter can move in and force a homeowner to take them to court to prove they are living there illegally, then he could simply move in alongside the squatter, putting the squatter in the position of having to take the homeowner to court instead.

"The legal process is so slow, and at some point when they're in there, you're going to feel like they have more rights than you do and that's how you're going to be treated. So even though you it's your house and you're paying the mortgage or whatever, at some point squatters feel like they have more rights than you, so they don't have an incentive to leave until a judge tells them to, until they're actually ordered to, and that could take months."

After successfully removing the squatters in his mother's house, Shelton has been tackling similar squatter situations for other homeowners in California, earning him the nickname "The Squatter Hunter."

"All I'm doing is becoming a squatter and flipping this process on them," Shelton told CBS News. "I figured if they could take a house, I could take a house."

According to CBS, he's successfully removed a dozen squatters in the past year. ""I'm not going in and I'm not hurting anyone," he said. "I'm not kicking them out, I'm not throwing them out." He's literally just moving in himself, setting up cameras, and then creating small annoyances until the squatters get fed up enough to move out.

California isn't the only state that has seen issues with squatters. There are squatter stories from all over the U.S. of people moving into a property and refusing to leave without a court order, tying owners up in lengthy, expensive legal battles.

Shelton even has a Change.org petition to try to get squatter laws changed to "make squatting in residential maintained homes criminal." Making squatting illegal "will shift the burden of proof onto the squatter and make the crime punishable with restitution an option for damages," the the petition states.

Watch Shelton share his personal story:

This article originally appeared on 4.5.24

Democracy

15 million Americans have medical debt crushing their credit scores but that's about to end

This is great news for the millions of us with outstanding medical bills.

Millions of American families are trying to pay off medical bills that put them into debt.

A new proposed rule from the Biden administration could spell some relief for people with outstanding medical bills.

According to data collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 15 million Americans are carrying $49 billion in medical debt that shows up on their credit report, potentially having a negative impact on their credit score. A new rule banning medical debt from credit reports would change that.


In the U.S., people's ability to get approved for a car loan or a mortgage to purchase a house depends heavily on their credit score or FICO score. People with a strong credit history, who make payments on time and don't carry too much debt, will usually have a good credit score and an easier time being approved for loans with the best interest rates. A low credit score makes getting a loan more difficult or more expensive.

Unfortunately, circumstances out of people's control, like medical care that puts them thousands of dollars in debt, can negatively impact their credit score.

"Medical debt makes it more difficult for millions of Americans to be approved for a car loan, a home loan or small business loan, all of which in turn makes it more difficult to just get by, much less get ahead. And that is simply not fair," Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters via teleconference.

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra also shared that having medical debt is not a fair indicator of someone's true credit habits.

"Medical debt on a consumer credit report is a very different type of debt than a mortgage, an auto loan, or a credit card," Chopra explained. "Sometimes, as is the case with a visit to the emergency room, the debt is taken on unexpectedly and in a time of crisis. Medical bills are also frequently subject to coding errors, charity care mistakes, or complexities with insurance. A decade ago, the CFPB found that medical debts were overly penalizing consumer credit scores, and we have consistently found that medical billing data on a credit report is less predictive of future repayment than other debts."

Chopra also called out the predatory practices that have influenced credit reporting systems when it comes to medical debt, providing an unfair disadvantage to consumers.

"Some have seized on medical debts as a major moneymaking enterprise," he said. "These entities purchase medical debt, sometimes for pennies on the dollar, and they can cash out big by getting consumers to pay up on those debts. And one of the easiest ways they can do so is by threatening to park that medical debt on the credit report, where it might impede a consumer’s ability to get approved for a loan. In this way, the credit reporting system more closely resembles a weapon for debt collectors rather than a tool for lenders to assess someone’s likelihood to repay a loan."

Chopra also pointed out that the three big credit reporting agencies——Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—voluntarily removed some medical debt from credit reports, only certain kinds. CFPB research found that although the number of Americans with medical debts on their credit report had decreased, the numbers were still substantial and disproportionately impact low-income Americans. Additionally, the average medical debt on credit reports had increased from $2,000 to over $3,100.

Vice President Harris said that this change would result in millions of Americans seeing a 20-point increase in their credit score on average, allowing for 22,000 more approved mortgages to buy a home. She also called on states, cities and hospitals to join the Biden administration in forgiving medical debt.

According to ABC News, the rule has been in the works since September and could go into effect early next year.