All posts from “May 2009”

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May 31, 2009

Late-term Abortion Doctor Shot Dead in Church

George Tiller, one of the few doctors to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death today in a church in Kansas.

Tiller, 67, was shot in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was a member. According to the Wichita Eagle, he was serving as an usher at the church and handing out bulletins to people going into the sanctuary minutes before being shot. A 51-year-old male suspect was arrested about three hours later.

The New York Times offers more background on Tiller.

Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered.

He had also been the subject of many efforts at prosecution, including a citizen-initiated grand jury investigation. In the latest such effort, in March, Dr. Tiller was acquitted of charges that he had performed late-term abortions that violated state law.

Several pro-life groups have issued statements condemning the killing.

Continue reading Late-term Abortion Doctor Shot Dead in Church...

May 28, 2009

Focus on the Family: 'The Obama administration is really listening'

A representative of Focus on the Family attended a faith-based office discussion on children in foster care, and a follow-up CitizenLink article seems cautiously optimistic.

Kelly Rosati, adoptive mother of four and senior director of Focus on the Family’s Sanctity of Human Life department, was among those in attendance.

“The Obama administration is really listening," she said, "and wanted to know from those on the front lines what could be better done to serve the kids in America’s foster care system."

Unfortunately, the president supports placing some of those kids with homosexual couples.

This takes a different tone from the pretend letter that Focus on the Family Action issued just a few weeks before the election, which said that several events would take place during an Obama administration, including terrorists attacks on four U.S. cities.

May 27, 2009

Democratic Club Attempting to Regain Status at Liberty University

Members of Liberty University's Democratic Club met with Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. today to develop a proposal that would let the club regain official status while promoting a pro-life agenda, according to the local newspaper.

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On Monday, Falwell wrote on the university's website that the club can continue to meet on campus but will no longer be officially recognized.

"Liberty University is pro-life and believes that marriage between one man and one woman provides the best environment for children," he said. "Liberty University will not lend its name or
financial support to any student group that advances causes contrary to its mission."

Ray Reed writes that the club is drafting an apology to the school and a retraction of some statements it made to the news media last week that accused university administrator Mark Hine of saying a person could not be both a Democrat and a Christian.

May 26, 2009

Focus on the Family Action on Sotomayor

Focus's political arm released a statement attributed to Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht. As with other pro-life groups, the statement doesn't talk about Judge Sotomayor's legal decisions but rather focuses on the 2001 Berkeley speech and the 2005 Duke panel.

“With President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the country is again confronted with the question: What type of justices should sit on the Court? Americans overwhelmingly support justices who base decisions on the law and the Constitution, practice judicial restraint, and believe judges should never make policy," Hausknecht said in the written statement. “From what we know about her, though, Judge Sotomayor considers policy-making to be among a judge’s roles, no matter what the law says. She disregards the notion of judicial impartiality, even stating that as a Latina woman with her life experience she should ‘more often than not’ reach a better conclusion than a ‘white male who hasn't lived that life.’"

May 26, 2009

Speaking of Stephen Carter...

'I have been rooting for her all along,' says the Yale Law prof and former CT columnist.

The former Christianity Today columnist, now writing for The Daily Beast, writes, "I have been rooting for [Sonia Sotomayor] all along. Not only because I know her, but because everything I know about her suggests that she will be a fantastic justice. ... I suppose the left will not be entirely happy with the president’s choice, and the right, not entirely unhappy."

May 26, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Prop. 8

But the 18,000 same-sex marriages between May and November are still valid, court says.

Christianity Today readers interested in the California Supreme Court decision and related news coverage will also be interested in Books & Culture's new review of Andrew Marin's Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

May 26, 2009

Pro-Life Group Consensus on Sotomayor: 'Activist'

More reactions to Obama's Supreme Court nominee continue to come in from pro-life groups. So far all include a reference to Sotomayor's "where policy is made" comment, and none include a reference to her decisions related to abortion.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice calls the Sotomayor nomination "a very aggressive decision that will trigger a national debate on the issue of judicial activism."

Mario Diaz, Policy Director for Legal Issues for Concerned Women for America, called Sotomayor's "policy is made" statement "a very dangerous way of looking at the role of a judge for those of us who value our freedoms as guaranteed in the Constitution."

Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright is more troubled by a 2001 speech Sotomayor made at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, in which she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The comment "reveal[s] her immodest bias," Wright said.

The full speech is worth reading, not least because Sotomayor makes repeated reference to Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby by Yale Law School professor (and former CT columnist) Stephen Carter.

"I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group," she wrote. She continued:

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage. ...

I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering.

May 26, 2009

Hope

Faint praise from before today's Supreme Court announcement.

Worth noting: Before today's news, LifeNews called Sotomayor "The only potential Supreme Court justice who may provide hope for pro-life advocates."

Update: Be sure to read LifeSite's Steven Ertelt explaining the characterization in the comments section, below.

May 26, 2009

The Offhand Comment Pro-Life Groups Don't Like

Expect to hear a lot of discussion about 'where policy is made.'

Expect to see a lot less discussion of Sotomayor's two abortion-related decisions than interpretation of this quote, said in an ambiguously humorous context:

All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is - Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law,' I know. Okay, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know. Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating. Its interpretation, its application.

Indeed, Americans United for Life's first press release on Sotomayor says nothing about Center for Reproductive Law & Policy v. Bush or Amnesty America v. West Hartford. Instead, the group says:

For all the President's talk of finding "common ground,' this appointment completely contradicts that hollow promise. Judge Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the 'National Abortion Control Board,' denying the American people to right to be heard on this critical issue. This appointment would provide a pedestal for an avowed judicial activist to impose her personal policy and beliefs onto others from the bench, at a time when the Courts are at a crossroad and critical abortion regulations – supported by the vast majority of Americans – like partial-birth abortion and informed consent laws lie in the balance.

May 26, 2009

The Sotomayor Decision Pro-Life Groups Aren't Sure About

In 2004, she ruled that a group of clinic protesters could proceed with its suit.

In 1989, members of Amnesty America entered an abortion clinic in West Hartford, Connecticut, chained themselves together, and blocked the entrance. When police arrived, the protesters used passive resistance to continue their protest (among their techniques: covering their hands in maple syrup to make handcuffs less useful).

The police dragged the protesters out anyway, and Amnesty America members sued, saying several of them suffered lasting physical damage from the police officers' actions (among the claims: an officer rammed a protester's head into a wall).

A district court issued a summary judgment for the town of West Hartford, but Sotomayor's Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and sent it back to the lower court for a jury trial.

"It is entirely possible that a reasonable jury would find, as the district court intimated, that the police officers' use of force was objectively reasonable given the circumstances and the plaintiffs' resistance techniques," Sotomayor wrote. "Because a reasonable jury could also find that the officers gratuitously inflicted pain in a manner that was not a reasonable response to the circumstances, however, the determination as to the objective reasonableness of the force used must be made by a jury following a trial."

Sotomayor also warned the group that its lawyer was unprofessional. He "has hardly acted as an effective advocate for his clients by presenting briefs so haphazardly prepared that they contain almost no legal argument," she wrote. His behavior was so bad, she wrote that, "we would be within our discretion to summarily dismiss this appeal. We opt, however, to consider the merits of this appeal because plaintiffs' claims are substantial enough to merit a trial, and declining to consider this appeal would unfairly penalize plaintiffs for Williams's failings as an advocate."

Pro-lifers seem unimpressed by the decision. "Though not concerning abortion policy directly, the case is viewed as a stand against free speech for pro-life advocates," says a briefing at LifeNews.com. Eh? It's hard to see the decision as anything but a good thing for this particular pro-life group. The question is more about how large the decision's implications are.

May 26, 2009

The Sotomayor Decision Pro-Life Groups Like

In 2002, she rejected a challenge to Bush's Mexico City Policy.

Shortly after President George W. Bush reinstituted the Mexico City Policy (which bars government funds to groups that support or perform abortion), the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy sued.

The pro-choice group's argument was that the Mexico City Policy unconstitutionally violated rights of speech (since it couldn't "actively promote" abortion) and association (it couldn't work with abortion rights advocacy groups overseas) as well as the constitution's Equal Protection Clause (it wasn't on "equal footing" with prolife groups in competing for funds).

When the case came before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Sonia Sotomayor (whom President Obama this morning nominated to the Supreme Court) ruled against the Center for Reproductive Law & Policy.

"The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds," Sotomayor wrote.

Does that mean she's pro-life? No. It means she had read Rust v. Sullivan, the 1991 Supreme Court's decision that said Congress could prohibit federal funds for "programs where abortion is a method of family planning."

May 26, 2009

AP: Obama picks Sotomayor for Supreme Court

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President Obama will choose U.S. Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court today, according to an AP report.

Sotomayor (SUHN'-ya soh-toh-my-YOR') will take retiring Justice David Souter's place if she is approved by the Senate. She would be the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

According to the New York Times Caucus blog, Obama's short list included Federal Appeals Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Obama will make the announcement at 10:15 Eastern. You can watch live on the White House website. Check back here for updates.

May 19, 2009

How to Evangelize in Afghanistan

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President Obama has pledged to make the war in Afghanistan a top foreign policy priority. He has maintained strong relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (inset photo) and spoke out in favor of winning the conflict there.

But the military strategy, just like the Bush administration, has come to dominate the American response from keeping the Karzai regime in power to fighting the Taliban.

From an evangelical point of view, the Obama administration goals do not seamlessly match up with gospel priorities. The situation is complicated significantly by the number of evangelicals in the Armed Services in Afghanistan and many of them are commited to spreading the gospel.

Note this recent article from Al Jazeera English language service:

US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan's predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.

Military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were also filmed with bibles printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him".

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

Here is the You Tube/Al Jazeera segment:

This entanglement of fervent faith and lethal military might sure looks like a potentially dangerous combination to me. What do you think?

This kind of effort touches on a wide collection of missiological issues. Certainly, Christians worldwide endorse the place of military chaplains and the universal right of people to spread their faith.

However, the US military mission gets intermingled with the freedom of religious expression and outreach. On the receiving end in Afghanistan, I imagine this is pretty confusing for Muslims.


May 17, 2009

GQ: Bible Verses Covered Pentagon Reports

Bible verses were used on cover sheets for intelligence reports written for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials, according to GQ magazine.

One of the cover sheets features a photo of a tank in the sunset inlaid with Ephesians 6:13: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

A "World Intelligence Update" included Proverbs 16:3: "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" above a picture of a machine-gunner.

Lawrence Di Rita, former Pentagon spokesman, told David Sanger of The New York Times that he had no recollection of the briefs, and that the secretary would not have tolerated them for long.

"The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have used these reports to somehow curry favor over at the White House is pretty laughable," Di Rita told Sanger. "He bristled anytime people put quotes or something extraneous on the reports he wanted to read."

May 17, 2009

Obama Addresses Abortion, Religion, and Race at Notre Dame

President Obama addressed abortion for the first time since his election during his speech to Notre Dame graduates today.

"So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term," Obama said to applause.

"I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away," Obama said. "No matter how much we may want to fudge it ? indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory ? the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable." He called for a respectful debate with "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words."

Obama re-told his conversion story of how he worked as a community organizer with church members. "I found myself drawn ? not just to work with the church, but to be in the church," he said. "It was through this service that I was brought to Christ." Obama also noted his African American race and the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Here are some clips edited by the Associated Press:

Here's a video from Politico where a person in the audience starts to heckle Obama:

The full text of Obama's prepared remarks continue after the jump.

Continue reading Obama Addresses Abortion, Religion, and Race at Notre Dame...

May 17, 2009

Opinion: Who Cares About Notre Dame’s Graduation?

If you're reading this, you're likely one of the few people who know about the controversy over President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame.

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According to a Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life poll, 52 percent of Americans had heard nothing about "criticism of Notre Dame for abortion opponents for inviting Barak Obama to speak at its graduation and receive an honorary degree." Among Catholics who attend mass every week, one-third had heard "nothing at all" and another third had heard "very little."

The criticism of Notre Dame is not a grassroots movement. It is but the recent incident in an elite debate over the nature of Catholic higher education. It is a debate that is difficult to navigate because of the complexities of Catholic social teaching and intellectual history.

At most (but not all) Catholic colleges and universities, there are no religious restrictions. People of all faiths can attend, work, and teach. There is a Catholic ethos and a commitment to Catholic morality and values. It is telling that opposition to Obama is not about his own faith - even among opponents would be acceptable for Notre Dame to honor someone who does not recognize the authority of the Catholic Church so long as the person supports the Church's moral teaching.

This has raised the question - what is "Catholic" about Catholic higher education?

Continue reading Opinion: Who Cares About Notre Dame’s Graduation?...

May 15, 2009

Gallup: More Americans 'Pro-Life' Than 'Pro-Choice'

A new Gallup poll suggests that for the first time in more than 10 years, more Americans are calling themselves pro-life than pro-choice when asked about abortion.

More Republicans increasingly calling themselves pro-life, a shift from 60 percent to 70 percent, while there was no significant change among Democrats. The poll conducted May 7-10 suggests that Catholics and Protestants are also becoming increasingly pro-life.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center also suggested that fewer Americans support legalized abortion, but the survey did not use language like "pro-choice" or "pro-life." In that survey, 46 percent of Americans supported legalized abortion while 44 percent said it should be illegal. Both surveys suggests a shift in abortion views, but it's unclear whether the words pro-life or pro-choice effected the Gallup poll outcome.

A separate poll conducted by CNN April 23-26 suggested that 49 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-choice while 45 percent of them consider themselves pro-life.

May 13, 2009

Would You Buy a Book by Sarah Palin?

Sarah Palin will become an author in 2010, the year she's up for re-election. The book will be co-released by HarperCollins' Harper and Zondervan for the Christian audience.

Palin has agreed to talk about the Katie Couric interviews, Bristol's pregnancy, family, religion and politics.

"There's been so much written about and spoken about in the mainstream media and in the anonymous blogosphere world, that this will be a wonderful, refreshing chance for me to get to tell my story, that a lot of people have asked about, unfiltered," Palin told the Associated Press. "Being a voracious reader, I read a lot today and have read a lot growing up. And having that journalism degree, all of that, will be a great assistance for me in writing this book, talking about the challenges and the joys, balancing the work and parenting, and, in my case, work means running the state."

Politico's Mike Allen writes that the Zondervan edition could be a little bit different.

The book might have a slight addition on faith for the Zondervan edition. The Bible publisher is part of the same company, and its sales reps have close relationships at Christian bookstores that can get better display for political titles. Barnett has made similar deals for other authors whose faith is an important part of their story, including Dan Quayle, Oliver North and Bill Bennett.

Two years ago, Palin told PBS' Charlie Rose one of her favorite writers is C.S. Lewis ("very, very deep"). It'll be interesting to see how much Palin addresses her faith and whether Christian audiences will buy it just because of the author or because of the content.

Would you buy a book by Sarah Palin? Why or why not?

May 12, 2009

GOP Head Steps Back from Comments on Romney's Mormonism

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has apologized for a recent comment he made that linked Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign to Republicans' concern about
Romney's Mormon faith.

"It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism," Steele told a caller May 8 on a radio talk show when he served as a guest host for conservative Bill Bennett.

The audio and transcript of the portion of the show featuring Steele's comments were posted on Think Progress, the Web site of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Republican National Committee responded by telling reporters that Steele considers Romney to be a "respected" part of the GOP.

"Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted," RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in The Hill newspaper. "Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction."

Continue reading GOP Head Steps Back from Comments on Romney's Mormonism...

May 8, 2009

CatholicVote.org's New Video

Fox agrees to air new pro-life ad.

CatholicVote.org, which received praise and panning for its "Imagine" video, has just put together a new offering as part of its "Life: Imagine the Potential" campaign. Organizer Brian Burch says the Fox network has agreed to air the ad during the finale of "American Idol." Like "Imagine," this one is well worth your 60-second investment.

May 8, 2009

Jack Kemp's Spiritual Secret

Peggy Noonan provides a loving tribute to "an optimist not in the modern and prevalent sense of being too stupid to know things can go bad, but in a way that suggested an informed sunniness."

Jack Kemp died this week at the age of 73. According to columnist Peggy Noonan, the late NFL quarterback, congressman from Buffalo, HUD secretary, and vice presidential candidate was spiritually grounded and supported by a praying wife, Joanne.

She picked their first house because it was near her church, Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, Md. For 38 years she's led a Christian study group that meets every Friday morning at her home. She did the same in Buffalo. "He was the power of political ideas, she was the power of spiritual ones," says their son. She has devoted her time and energy to friends, neighbors, husband, Prison Fellowship, groups that advocate for the unborn, four children and 17 grandchildren. She is one of those who quietly make it possible for Washington to function, however imperfectly, as a real and coherent community.

Once before I was to give a big speech, I saw her in the audience and told her I felt nervous. "Then we must pray," she said, and did, unselfconsciously, with focus, in a gray folding chair in a cavernous auditorium with hundreds of people milling about. That's who was behind Jack Kemp. No wonder he did what he did.

May 8, 2009

Focus on the Family Defends Miss California, Dobson to Interview Prejean (Updated)

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, said the Christian community should stand behind Miss California, even after a racy photo of her appearing in panties appeared on a gossip blog.

"In her moment of truth, standing on a national stage and defending marriage, that meant more for the cause of marriage than anything else," he said.

Several conservative Christian groups praised Carrie Prejean for her voicing her opposition to same-sex marriage during the Miss USA pageant. After a racy photo of her was posted on the web, Prejean said her Christian faith was under attack and that the photo was taken while she was a teenager.

CitizenLink writes, "Daly pointed out that we are all sinners, saved by grace."

"I think at this moment, we should stand behind Carrie," he said. "The reality is we're all fallen people, we're all made in God's image, and Jesus has come to set us free."

Dobson will interview Prejean for a two-day broadcast starting Monday.

Update: Jim Daly told Christianity Today that the Prejean interview was taped before the semi-nude lingerie photos emerged, so there will be no questions asked about them on broadcast. But James Dobson does plan to make a brief statement at the beginning of the show.

"Within the Christian community, it's a fair debate about what she's done in the modeling industry. But it's a distraction to the more important story of religious freedom," Daly said. "Pageantry and underwear commercials: We would not encourage Christian women to go do those things. At the same time, no matter what your profession, I've heard of God using it and radical grace breaking through. It can find any of us at any times in our lives: the alcoholic, the prostitute, the model, the businessman that's having an affair. I'd hate to have the Christian community focus on poor decisions she's made as opposed to celebrating that she had the courage to speak for biblical truth."

Continue reading Focus on the Family Defends Miss California, Dobson to Interview Prejean (Updated)...

May 7, 2009

Why HIV/AIDS is going to get worse under Obama

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More news about the fiscal 2010 Federal Budget is trickling out this week. Less than expected funding for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB is not what many public health professionals were hoping for.

In fact, some are saying President Obama has broken a campaign promise he made last year to increase by $1 billion the total amount allocated to fighting HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.

The Center for Global Health Policy said:

Leading disease experts said President Barack Obama's 2010 budget proposal for global health falls far short of what is needed to combat the deadly twin epidemics of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Details on global health spending were released by the White House today, and a preliminary analysis indicates the President is proposing only $165 million in additional funding for bilateral AIDS as well as the US contribution to the Global Fund. "This proposal is even worse than we had feared. With this spending request, Obama has broken his campaign promise to provide $1 billion a year in new money for global AIDS, and he has overlooked the growing threat of tuberculosis," said the Center for Global Health Policy's Director, Christine Lubinski. While malaria receives a significant boost, Obama's call for a meager increase in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) budget is no match for the scope of the AIDS crisis, which killed 2 million people in 2007, nearly 5,500 a day. Obama's detailed budget blueprint comes as developing countries are struggling to preserve their fragile health systems. In several countries, drug shortages and treatment program cutbacks now threaten the lives of millions of HIV/AIDS and TB patients. This unfolding health crisis could quickly spread, as people who stop treatment become far more infectious. Treatment disruption can also lead to drug-resistance, an extremely expensive and potentially deadly development.

Meanwhile, the President has named his top person on HIV/AIDS. He is a career physician with a long-standing focus on HIV: Dr. Eric Goosby (photo above).

Continue reading Why HIV/AIDS is going to get worse under Obama...

May 7, 2009

Debating the Day of Prayer (Update)

President skips ceremony but defends National Day of Prayer in court.

The National Day of Prayer, held annually on the first Thursday of May, is today generating not just supplications to heaven, but wrangling on earth. The Obama administration, in a departure from its predecessors, is marking the day with a statement but not the President's attendance at a ceremony. Meanwhile, some religious groups and others are criticizing the President for stepping back from involvement. However, the administration and some Republican lawmakers are defending the constitutionality of the observance by fighting atheists in court.

Here is the text of the President's proclamation:

Continue reading Debating the Day of Prayer (Update)...

May 5, 2009

Southern Baptists' Top Ethicist Calls Waterboarding `Torture'

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, a leading Christian conservative who helped advance the Bush administration's agenda on a range of social issues, said Monday that the formerly sanctioned practice of waterboarding of suspected terrorists is torture and
"violates everything we stand for."

Land, who is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, repudiated the simulated drowning techniques in an interview with Religion News Service.

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According to recently released memos, federal agents under Bush waterboarded two suspected terrorists 266 times in attempts to extract information.

"I consider waterboarding torture," Land said. "One of the definitions of torture is that it causes permanent physical harm. I can't separate physical from psychological. And I can't imagine that being repeatedly subjected to the feeling of drowning would not, in some cases, cause lasting psychological trauma."

But Land also criticized President Obama for publicly releasing Bush-era documents that authorized particular interrogation techniques.

"To leave open the possibility of prosecuting men for what the Justice Department had declared was legal, I think is a horrific mistake," Land said. "If it were to lead to trials of some sort, it would rip the country apart."

Continue reading Southern Baptists' Top Ethicist Calls Waterboarding `Torture'...

May 5, 2009

Maine Lawsmakers Approve Same-Sex Marriage

D.C. votes to recognize other states' gay marriages.

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Lawmakers in Maine voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage this afternoon. Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, could veto the bill, The New York Times writes. The Catholic Diocese of Maine and the Maine Family Policy Council, an affiliate of the Family Research Council, will be among the groups lobbying Mr. Baldacci to veto the bill.

Mr. Baldacci opposed same-sex marriage before the bill was introduced this year, but he has since said he is keeping an open mind.

Mr. Baldacci’s spokesman, David Farmer, said he was still mulling his position on the bill and would not make a final decision until after it reached his desk. That could be as soon as tomorrow, when the State Senate is scheduled to formally enact it. Mr. Baldacci will have 10 days to act on the bill once it is delivered to him.

The D.C. Council also voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The New Hampshire House is expected to take up the bill at tomorrow.

In case you've lost track, Maine would join Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, and Massachusetts in legalizing same-sex marriage.

Update: Maine Governor John Baldacci signed the bill today legalizing same-sex marriage.

May 5, 2009

Miss California Says Racy Photos Posted to Mock Faith

Miss California Carrie Prejean responded to a Web site that posted racy photos of her by saying it was an attempt to mock her Christian faith.

"I am a Christian, and I am a model," Prejean said in a statement. "Models pose for pictures, including lingerie and swimwear photos. Recently, photos taken of me as a teenager have been released surreptitiously to a tabloid Web site that openly mocks me for my Christian faith. I am not perfect, and I will never claim to be."

A gossip blog posted photos of Prejean wearing only pink panties with her back turned to the camera.

Prejean was praised by several conservative Christian groups for her voicing her opposition to same-sex marriage during the Miss USA beauty pageant. She was then offered a scholarship by Liberty University and portrayed in a National Organization for Marriage advertisement. According to the website this morning, she was invited to the Values Voter Summit, a conference put on by Family Research Council Action.

Katelyn Beaty has posted previous commentary over at Her.meneutics, CT's new women's blog.

May 4, 2009

Obama Plans Proclamation, Not Event, for National Day of Prayer

The Obama administration says it will issue a proclamation marking the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, but appears to be moving away from the White House ceremonies hosted by former President George W. Bush.

"President Obama is a committed Christian and believes that we should be engaging Americans of faith in efforts to renew our country," a White House official said.

"He is following the tradition of Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and others by signing a proclamation honoring the National Day of Prayer, while continuing to work with communities of faith to improve our country."

During Bush's eight years in office, prominent evangelicals, including National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman Shirley Dobson, and her husband, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, gathered each year for an East Room ceremony on the first Thursday in May.

"We are disappointed in the lack of participation by the Obama administration," Shirley Dobson said in a statement issued by the task force on Monday. "At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer."

Continue reading Obama Plans Proclamation, Not Event, for National Day of Prayer...

May 2, 2009

Former VP Candidate Jack Kemp Dies

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Former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp has died, according to the Associated Press. Kemp was diagnosed with cancer in January.

Kemp ran on the presidential ticket with Sen. Bob Dole in 1996. A 1996 New York Times article provides more background on Kemp's faith and politics.

After his marriage, Mr. Kemp became a Presbyterian. He does not like to talk about his religion, although he says he has become a born-again Christian. He is a staunch opponent of legal abortions. But as a politician, he has always been more interested in economic issues than in the social issues like abortion that dominate the political thinking of organizations on the Christian right.

May 1, 2009

Torture vs. Abortion & Same-Sex Unions

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A new study suggests that evangelicals are the most likely religious group to justify torture. Around 60 percent of evangelicals said use of torture against suspected terrorists can often or sometimes be justified, compared to 50 percent of Catholics 46 percent of white mainline Protestants who said the same thing, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. David Neff takes a look at the survey over at CT's liveblog.

Meanwhile, the latest national survey suggest that overall support for legal abortion is down 8 percent from last August. Just 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion, down from 33 percent in August and mid-October and 28 percent in late October.

Also, a new Quinnipiac poll suggests that while Catholics support same-sex civil unions 68 -27percent, evangelicals oppose the unions 61-34 percent. Catholics support gay adoption 61-33 percent, while evangelical Christians oppose gay adoption 64-30 percent.

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