TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Cop Said Michael Brown Reached for the Officer’s Gun

Officer Darren Wilson told investigators that Michael Brown reached for Wilson's gun

The police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and that Brown reached for his gun, The New York Times reported late Friday. The story marks the first time the officer’s account of the shooting that sparked weeks of protests and sometimes violent clashes between outraged citizens and police has become publicly known.

Citing unnamed government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation, the Times reported that the police officer, Darren Wilson, told investigators he was in fear for his life as he and Brown struggled for the officer’s gun. Wilson also said that Brown punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.

FBI forensics tests confirm the gun was fired twice in the car, with the first bullet hitting Brown in the arm and the second bullet missing its target. Forensics tests also show Brown’s blood on the gun, on the inside of Wilson’s car door panel and on Wilson’s uniform.

Wilson’s testimony to investigators, however, contradicts some witnesses’ accounts, and does not fully answer still-looming questions raised by the shooting. Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, said Wilson’s story doesn’t explain why the officer fired at Brown multiple times after leaving the vehicle, for example.

“What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” said Crump. “The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.”

[New York Times]

TIME justice

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law to Stand Ahead of Midterms

Voter ID Test
A voter shows his photo identification to an election official at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 26, 2014. Eric Gay—AP

Three justices issued a dissent calling the law "purposefully discriminatory"

The Supreme Court decided Saturday that Texas can enforce its controversial voter identification law in November’s midterm elections, despite recently blocking several similar laws in other states.

The law, which requires Texas voters to show photo identification like a driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport, is championed by some who argue that it reduces voter fraud. However, critics say it’s a means of disenfranchising voters, particularly minority groups and the poor, who can be less likely to have the government-issued identification required by the law.

While the Court left its decision over the law unexplained, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a dissent criticizing the voter ID rules, calling them “a purposefully discriminatory law” that undermines “public confidence in elections.” Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Ginsburg’s dissent, the New York Times reports.

A report released this month by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office showed that voter ID laws similar to those in Texas contributed to lower voter turnouts in two states in 2012—between about 2.2 and 3.2 percentage points in Tennessee and 2 percentage points in Kansas. Those declines were greater among younger and black voters.

Critics of the Texas law say it would disenfranchise 600,000 registered voters in Texas, disproportionately affecting blacks and Hispanic or Latino voters. Texas officials have countered by saying that estimates of the number of people who could be deterred from voting by the law are unfounded.

After many months of legal wrangling, the Texas law, first passed in 2011, was blocked earlier this month by Texas Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi. The Supreme Court’s decision overturns Gonzales’ injunction against the law, allowing it to be applied.

In the absence of an official explanation of the Court’s decision, some observers are speculating the justices allowed the law to stand to prevent confusion so close to the November’s elections. Those observers feel that reluctance to disturb the status quo as voting looms near has been the single common thread tying together several of the Court’s seemingly discordant decisions regarding voter ID laws in recent weeks.

[New York Times]

TIME conflict

See a Rare Civil War-Era Photo of a Slave from Robert E. Lee’s Household

Selina Gray Robert E. Lee Civil War Slaves Arlington Cemetary
National Park Service curator Kim Robinson holds the photo of Selina Gray, right, who was in charge to care for Arlington House where Gen. Robert E. Lee had lived in for 30 years, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va on Oct. 9, 2014. Jose Luis Magana—AP

The image depicts Lee's head housekeeper

The American Civil War was a remarkable conflict for many reasons — not least of which is that it’s widely considered to be the first photographed war. Never before had those removed from the battlefield by geography or by time been able to see up close what it looked like.

But, compared to photographs of soldiers and generals, photographs of those over whom they fought — the slaves of that era — are much rarer, which is part of the reason why the image above is so noteworthy.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the National Park Service had revealed the image, which shows Selina Gray and two younger girls. Gray was head housekeeper at the Arlington, Va., home of General Robert E. Lee. It bears the inscription “Gen Lees Slaves Arlington Va.” A Park Service spokeswoman told the AP that such portrait-style photography of slaves was extremely unusual because they were thought of as property.

According to Arlington House’s official website, when the Union army seized Lee’s home, Gray helped protect many Lee family heirlooms that had once belonged to George Washington. And now another artifact of the past will join Arlington House’s history: this photo will go on display to the public on Saturday.

See more photographs from the Civil War era here on TIME.com: Faces of the Civil War

TIME Civil Rights

Read MLK’s Moving Words Upon Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

MLK Speech
From the Dec. 18, 1964, issue of TIME TIME

The news that the Civil Rights leader would get the prize broke 50 years ago, on Oct. 14, 1964

When the Nobel Prize Committee announced 50 years ago next Tuesday that Martin Luther King Jr. would receive the Peace Prize, reactions were — unsurprisingly — mixed.

As TIME noted in its Oct. 23, 1964, issue, those who opposed the Civil Rights cause were outraged: the news, said one Louisiana segregationist, was evidence of Communist influence on the Committee. But beyond the bigoted strongholds of Jim Crow, support for the decision was widespread. King, at the time the youngest person ever to get that particular honor, said that he would dedicate all of the $54,000 that accompanied to award to toward the cause of equal rights.

The Civil Rights leader was, TIME reported, getting a routine physical on the day the news broke. But when he appeared in Oslo that December to collect the award, he got the chance to speak eloquently about about why that funding was still desperately needed — and why he felt a Peace Prize was appropriate for a movement that had a lot of fighting left to do.

Here’s the excerpt of his speech that TIME published in the Dec. 18 issue:

“I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered.

“Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.”

… “After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is profound recognition that non violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time—the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life which surrounds him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daylight of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

“I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

“Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired, and with renewed dedication to humanity. I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owner—all those to whom beauty is truth and truth, beauty—and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

Read TIME’s full report on Martin Luther King Jr’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, here in the archives: Race: Two Perspectives

The full speech can be found here, at the official website of the Nobel Prize: Nobel Peace Prize 1964, Acceptance Speech

TIME Supreme Court

Meet the Lawyers Fighting for Religious Freedom Today Before the Supreme Court

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty outside of the Supreme Court in Washington. Courtesy Becket Fund

Arguing for a Muslim prisoner's right to grow a beard is just the latest effort for the firm that won the Hobby Lobby case

Gregory Houston Holt wants to grow a half-inch beard but he can’t, and that’s a problem. Holt is Muslim and he believes that wearing a beard is a requirement of his Salafi faith. But he’s serving a life sentence for attempted murder in Arkansas, where the Department of Corrections has banned beards as a potential security threat. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Holt’s case, and just as interesting as the outcome of his claim is who will argue it for him. Holt, who now goes by the name Abdul Maalik Muhammad, has put his faith not in a big name first amendment litigator nor in the secularist American Civil Liberties Union, but in the lawyers of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Holt’s faith in the Becket Fund is well founded. A small, non-profit public interest law firm, with just eleven litigating attorneys and a $5 million annual budget, the Fund is a rising star in Washington. Everyone from unknowns like Holt to corporate giants like Hobby Lobby, which this year won expanded religious exemptions from Obamacare, turns to Becket for high profile cases at the high court. Its lawyers are most famous for arguing the often politically incorrect view that the constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion has been eclipsed in recent years by government deference to other parts of the constitution. That’s no easy task, since arguments over religious liberty can be some of the thorniest, and most heated, in America.

But the Becket lawyers are shaking up Washington for a simple reason: they win. Over 20 years, Becket has won 85% of its cases–from 1920-2000, the ACLU averaged a little over 65% in religion cases at the Supreme Court, according to the website procon.org. The Supreme Court repeatedly cites the Fund’s briefs in decisions, and Becket’s first case at the Court in 2012 was a 9-0 slam dunk, ruling that the government cannot interfere with a religious group’s choice of whom to hire, even when the employees claim they were discriminated against because of their physical disabilities. Becket is mastering a pattern, supporters say: identify religious litigants with strong claims, present compelling constitutional arguments, and recruit top free exercise litigators. The result is a resurgent ascendancy of religious freedom relative to other rights. “They have outsized success in these cases coming to the court and winning them at the court,” says Viet Dinh, former U.S. Assistant Attorney General and professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “In many ways I think of them as God’s ACLU.”

Every generation has its own fight over religious freedom—it’s a debate that has driven the American story from the day the pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower. The influx of Catholic immigrants after the Civil War prompted the rise of the Blaine amendments to stop public funding of religious education. Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to salute the flag sparked national debates during World War II. Public school prayer, nativity displays, and the pledge of allegiance prompted the fights of the later 20th century.

It was in the midst of those debates, in 1994, that Kevin “Seamus” Hasson founded the Becket Fund. Hasson, a Catholic lawyer specializing in religious liberty law at Williams and Connolly, felt that the conversation about religion in America was becoming one great non sequitur—one side was arguing that religion was not a societal good while the other insisted that America was a Christian country. Hasson believed that religious liberty comes not from the government or from faith itself, but rather from human dignity. “What we require freedom for is to seek the true, the good, and the beautiful, embrace whatever it is we believe we have found, and express it according the full measure of humanity,” Hasson, who retired in 2011 due to Parkinson’s, says.

Though many of its recent and more prominent clients have been Christian, the Becket Fund has made a point of not pegging itself just to Christian interests, taking on Muslim and Jewish clients, and even more obscure religious causes, like those of a Santeria priest in Texas. Unlike commercial for-profit firms, Becket relies on donors to underwrite its free representation of clients. Some 70% of its donations come from individuals, usually in $25,000 to $100,000 chunks, says Becket Fund president Bill Mumma. The firm’s lawyers are first amendment religious liberty specialists, but the Fund requires they also all be faithful—employees include Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, Muslims and others.

Becket broke onto the national scene thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Its clients Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school, and Catholic organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor and Eternal Word Television Network, are among the 319 plaintiffs claiming the law’s requirement to provide female employees with insurance plans that include payment for various contraceptives violates religious freedom. But Becket also focuses on low-profile, high-impact cases. The Fund defended Amish men in upstate New York who said local building regulations infringed on their traditional construction methods. It backed a Sikh woman who wanted to wear a kirpan, a small, religiously-symbolic knife, at her job in a government building. Becket has also mastered plain English press releases and media-savvy optics. When the Supreme Court ruled with Becket that Hobby Lobby should have a religious exemption from the contraception mandate, Becket’s female lawyers, not its male ones, were front and center on TV.

Ultimately, though, Becket’s success comes from higher courts’ openness to new interpretations of the First Amendment’s religious protections. For the last half of the 20th century, the Supreme Court read the amendment’s ban on state-established religion and its guarantee of free religious exercise largely as protecting minorities including smaller sects, women and others. Under recent, more conservative courts, Becket has found sympathy for the idea that majority Christian religions get those protections, too, especially when they face off against local, state and federal governments. That casts religious freedom in a similarly broad jurisprudential light as the First Amendment’s subsequent guarantee protecting free speech. “The overall trend is the court coming to a good place for the proper accommodation of religious views,” says Georgetown’s Viet Dinh, and “that is largely due to the work of the Becket Fund.”

The next big question for Becket is how broad that approach can go—and which other government-protected rights the Supreme Court believes should rank below religious freedom. America’s rapidly shifting views on sexuality, and the government’s willingness to protect same-sex relationships, will soon conflict with groups that believe their religious freedom includes the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Mumma suggests his firm will remain on the front line of that fight. “Anytime the government moves strongly closer to or farther away from those big issues that religion occupies, you are going to get religious liberty cases,” he says. “I think we are not yet done with that sort of big round of religious liberty cases.”

For now, Becket’s small team of lawyers is already working on some 40 cases. Firm leaders say it has no plans to expand, instead maintaining its focus on finding and litigating high-impact cases. “When the music stops and we go into court, it really matters whether our lawyers have written a good brief, made a good argument, are able to present a case that’s compelling to judges of all political flavors,” says Mumma. “If we can’t do that it doesn’t matter how much public attention we get.” So far, that strategy is working.

TIME Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Leader Cornel West Thinks You Should Know About

The noted thinker tells TIME that Martin Luther King, Jr., couldn't have done what he did without this one woman

For this week’s issue of TIME, Cornel West — acclaimed thinker and activist — sat down to talk with Belinda Luscombe about his new book, Black Prophetic Fire. The book, which he wrote with Christa Buschendorf, looks at the work of six leaders from African-American history. But, as is pointed out in the video above, those six leaders aren’t all equally well known: the book moves from the most famous Civil Rights names, W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr., to a name that may be unfamiliar to those not versed in the subject.

That name is Ella Baker — and, in West’s words, she was “one of the greatest.”

So what did she do? Ella Baker worked with the NAACP starting in 1940, and was motivated by the Montgomery bus boycott to dedicate herself further to the cause of civil rights. In the mid-1950s, she worked alongside King during the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). When lunch-counter sit-ins began to become a powerful form of nonviolent protest, another civil rights group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), came together — with Baker leaving SCLC to throw her lot in with the younger group. SNCC became one of the most important organizations in the civil rights movement, and Baker stayed active in the cause for the rest of her life.

She never became as famous as her contemporaries — but, if you ask Cornel West, that doesn’t mean she’s any less important.

“I think that people lead in a lot of different ways,” he told TIME. “You can lead quietly by example, and that’s what she did.”

TIME People

Al Sharpton Turns 60

From the time he preached his first sermon at age four, Sharpton has spent a career on the pulpit and in the spotlight

TIME Civil Rights

Hear Cornel West Recount His First Political Memory

The activist and commentator talks about Dr. Martin Luther King's vision of justice

In new book Black Prophetic Fire, renowned speaker, activist and social commentator Dr. Cornel West discusses the black prophetic tradition.

Working with editor Christa Buschendorf, West discusses six key figures: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells and Martin Luther King Jr., the latter of whom makes up his first political memory.

In an interview with TIME, West recalled getting to see the Civil Rights icon speak, when West was just 10-years-old. But even though he was so young at the time, West remembers knowing that “this brother was for real when he talked about love. And he knew justice is what love looks like in public.”

West went on to discuss some of King’s later writing, in which he heavily criticized the Vietnam War. “He’s always maladjusted to injustice,” West said.

TIME Drugs

Colorado Court to Decide Whether Smoking Pot is a Fireable Offense

Brandon Coats
Brandon Coats works on his computer at his home in Denver on Dec. 6, 2012 Ed Andrieski—AP

A quadriplegic man who uses medical marijuana says he was unfairly dismissed from his job for partaking in a legal activity outside of work hours

Colorado’s Supreme Court is set to rule whether an employer can fire a worker for using medical marijuana, which is now legal in the state.

The court was due to hear arguments Tuesday in a case that will test the boundaries of state laws to legalize the substance. Both medical and recreational marijuana have been made legal in Colorado.

Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic user of medical marijuana, sued his former employer, Dish Network, for firing him in 2010 after a drug test came back positive for marijuana, Colorado Public Radio reports.

Coats maintains that he needs the drug to alleviate debilitating muscle spasms, and that he has struggled to find a steady job ever since being fired. His attorney cites a state law prohibiting employers from firing employees for legal activities outside of work, while Dish Network argues that marijuana remains a federally prohibited substance.

Neither the state’s medical marijuana law nor the statute permitting recreational marijuana use require employers to tolerate marijuana use, and lower courts have sided with the employer in the Coats case.

“There’s a lot of people out there like me who would like to have a job but cannot,” Coats said, according to Colorado Public Radio, “because their impairment requires them to use marijuana, and because marijuana’s looked down on for employment, they’re not able to get jobs,”

[CPR]

TIME Guns

Louisiana Restaurant Owner Gives a Discount to Gun Owners

"I just need to see a weapon"

A local restaurant owner in Louisiana will give a 10 percent discount to any customers that show him their guns—and not the arm muscle kind.

Kevin Cox, owner of Bergeron’s Restaurant in Port Allen, is bucking a corporate trend by encouraging, rather than banning, firearms in his Cajun food establishment. Cox said he’s frustrated with chains like Target, which requested in July that customers not bring their weapons into stores, NBC33 reports.

“I keep hearing so much about people banning guns,” Cox told NBC33. “Target’s banning guns and these people are banning guns. Don’t they realize that that’s where people with guns are going to go? I want to take the opposite approach. How can I make my place safer?”

Cox said some 15 to 20 people take him up on the discount offer every day.

“I just need to see a weapon. I need you to be carrying a gun,” he told NBC33.

[NBC33]

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