All posts from “July 2009”

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July 30, 2009

Late Jack Kemp Given Medal of Freedom

This morning, the White House announced that the late Jack Kemp, a hero of many political conservatives, prolifers, and many conservative evangelicals, would be awarded the Medal of Freedom. (See below for the full list, which also includes Desmond Tutu and Rev. Joseph Lowery.)

Kemp's biography reveals a person of conviction who lived out his life in the public through sports, politics, and social activism, motivated by his faith convictions. He joined his wife's Presbyterian church after their marriage.

In the New York Times obit from this past May, there was this comment:

"Jack Kemp is the indispensable political leader of the modern conservative economic revival," Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution in Washington, said recently, adding, "Jack's role in developing and exploring the potential of supply-side economics in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for Reagan's economic program."

Kemp was indeed a rare person and most conservatives (I hope) will salute the decision of the Obama administration to grant Kemp this kind of recognition. His voice certainly is missed in the current political debates in Washington.

Continue reading Late Jack Kemp Given Medal of Freedom...

July 29, 2009

State Senator from the Bible Belt Resigns

Tennessee Republican Paul Stanley announced yesterday that he was resigning from the state Senate after his affair with an intern became public.

"I have decided to focus my full attention on my family," the a 47-year-old evangelical said in a statement. Stanley defended his support of a ban on adoptions by unmarried couples in a radio interview yesterday.

"Whatever I stood for and advocated, I still believe to be true," he said. "And just because I fell far short of what God's standard was for me and my wife, doesn't mean that that standard is reduced in the least bit."

The intern's boyfriend had threatened to release nude photos of her unless Stanley paid him $10,000, according to news reports.

July 28, 2009

Obama Touches on Religious Freedom

President Obama touched on religious freedom and human rights at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in front of about 200 Chinese officials on Monday.

[T]he United States respects the progress that China has made by lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Just as we respect China's ancient and remarkable culture, its remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds. And that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States.

Support for human rights and human dignity is ingrained in America. Our nation is made up of immigrants from every part of the world. We have protected our unity and struggled to perfect our union by extending basic rights to all our people. And those rights include the freedom to speak your mind, to worship your God, and to choose your leaders. These are not things that we seek to impose -- this is who we are. It guides our openness to one another and to the world.


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Continue reading Obama Touches on Religious Freedom...

July 28, 2009

Study: One-Third of Americans Volunteer through Religious Organizations

The White House is promoting a new report that suggests that about 36 percent of Americans volunteer through a religious organization in 2008, more than any other type of organization. However, only about 15 percent of nonprofit charities report partnerships with faith-based organizations.

The Volunteering in America 2009 report found that the number of volunteers increased by a million, totaling 61.8 million Americans who volunteered in 2008 for 8 billion hours.

"Using this information, nonprofit organizations can work to create new partnerships focusing on volunteer service," Joshua DuBois, director of the White House's faith-based office, said in a statement. "There are millions of volunteers who want to be a part of critical efforts from mentoring children to improving schools to helping their neighbors meet their basic needs. The President has called upon all of us to join together in these difficult times, and this report highlights the possibilities of doing just that."

The top rated states were Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Vermont, and North Dakota.

The top rated cities were Minneapolis-St Paul, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Kansas City, Columbus, Oklahoma City, Hartford, Denver, and Washington, DC.

July 27, 2009

Pro-life Leaders Urge Action Against Abortion Health Care

If you tried to log on to the Stop the Abortion Mandate webcast Thursday night, your connection may have timed out like mine did. According to moderator David Bereit 36,187 people were all trying to stream the live event at the same time.

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Recent media coverage of the debate about abortion and health care reform may have heighted interest in the webcast. (Christianity Today has blogged about it here and here).

Pro-life leaders participating in the webcast included Kristen Day of Democrats for Life, James Dobson of Focus on the Family (with a pre-recorded message), Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), but not former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. His absence after originally being included in the list of participants was not explained, although he blogged against universal health care on the same day.

Webcast speakers focused on abortion. "What you probably haven't heard is that the health care bill being advanced by Democrats is the abortion industry's dream come true," said Dobson, who opened the presentation with his pre-recorded statement. He continued:

The health care bill will force taxpayers to fund a huge abortion industry bail-out, even though the majority of Americans oppose abortion. In addition, it will mandate that virtually every American will be coerced into a health plan that covers abortion, and it would require that health care providers that are opposed to abortion violate their own consciences by performing abortions at the risk of losing their own jobs. It will be a disaster for the sanctity of human life and an assault on the moral values of every American who is forced to support the killing of babies.

Continue reading Pro-life Leaders Urge Action Against Abortion Health Care...

July 24, 2009

Christians Gather to Influence Middle East Policy

More than 4,000 people attended John Hagee's Night to Honor Israel dinner in Washington D.C. earlier this week, according to Erick Stakelbeck's report for CBN news. Speakers at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) event included Senator Joseph Lieberman, Fred Barnes, Gary Bauer, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via satellite).

This year, CUFI delegates will ask their representatives on the hill to support Israel by respecting the government's decisions, and to support further legislative sanctions against Iran. Another topic of concern to CUFI and its pro-Israel members is America's foreign policy toward Israel undergo under the new administration. Hagee told Dan Gilgoff:

I have some concerns about President Obama's approach to peacemaking. He may believe that by securing concessions from Israel he will get leverage with which to win reciprocal concessions from the Arabs down the road. Yet I do not believe that the history of Arab-Israeli peacemaking to date supports this view.

Continue reading Christians Gather to Influence Middle East Policy...

July 22, 2009

Abortion Weighs Down Healthcare Debate

President Obama said the public should become less focused on whether abortion would be covered under federal healthcare in an interview with Katie Couric last night.

KATIE COURIC: Do you favor a government option that would cover abortions?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know-- the-- the-- the-- what I think is important, at this stage, is not trying to micromanage what benefits are covered. Because I think we're still trying to get a framework. And my main focus is making sure that people have the options of high quality care at the lowest possible price.

As you know, I'm pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition-- of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of-- you know, government funded health care. And, you know, my-- you know, rather than wade into that issue at this point-- I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station.


(h/t Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Continue reading Abortion Weighs Down Healthcare Debate...

July 21, 2009

Health Care Reform With Abortion Strings Attached?

Pro-life organizations are launching efforts to combat proposed health care reform that could fund abortions. The groups' concern revolves around the definition of the "essential benefits" that would be mandated for all insurers to cover under any new plan.

The New York Times reported last weekend that an Obama administration official did not rule out the possibility that abortion could be covered. Peter R. Orszag, the White House budget director, said: "I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate."

Pro-life groups are concerned that abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood will succeed in defining abortion as an element of "women's basic health care." Several leaders will participate in "Stop the Abortion Mandate" webcast at 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. The speakers will include Mike Huckabee, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Kristen Day of Democrats for Life, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, and Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

Continue reading Health Care Reform With Abortion Strings Attached?...

July 21, 2009

Yale Law's Stephen Carter: Empathy an 'Empty Standard'

The novelist and law professor supports Sotomayor, critiques Obama.

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Former CT associate editor Edward Gilbreath has interviewed former CT columnist (and novelist and Yale Law professor) Stephen Carter over at UrbanFaith.com. They discuss Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and then briefly touch on race relations, education reform, and, oh yes, Carter's new novel, Jericho's Fall.

A sample: Gilbreath asks Carter "as a law expert and an African-American" what he thinks of President Obama using the criterion of "empathy" in selecting a nominee. Here is Carter's response:

Continue reading Yale Law's Stephen Carter: Empathy an 'Empty Standard'...

July 20, 2009

Mormon President Meets with Obama

President Obama met with with Mormon president Thomas S. Monson today, a meeting that was prompted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is Mormon. Monson presented Obama with a breakdown of his family history.

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"I enjoyed my meeting with President Monson and Elder Oaks. I'm grateful for the genealogical records that they brought with them and am looking forward to reading through the materials with my daughters," Obama said in a statement. "It's something our family will treasure for years to come."

The Salt Lake Tribune gives some background for the visit. Two church leaders attended Obama's inauguration and attended the a prayer service at the National Cathedral the next day. Former President George W. Bush stopped in Utah twice during his last term to talk with church officials.

Update: Here's the press release from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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July 20, 2009

Hate Crimes Legislation Moves Forward

The Senate voted July 16 to close discussion and attach the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as an amendment to the Department of Defense Act. The act would add sexual orientation to the category of hate crimes, and the House pass a similar version earlier this year. Changes can still be proposed today, according to the Associated Press.

Because the act is attached to the larger Department of Defense (DOD) spending bill, the entire bill still has to be discussed in a conference committee for both the House and Senate in order to produce a final version. The Washington Times writes about the legislation’s past failures:

Senate Democrats have pushed the hate-crimes legislation since 1993 and successfully added it to two of the past three defense authorization bills, though both times it was removed in negotiating a final version with the House.

Emboldened by having a Democrat in the White House, supporters are optimistic it will make it to Mr. Obama's desk this year.

Because the act is attached to a DOD bill which contains extra funding for F-22s that President Obama has publicly opposed, proponents of the act are expressing concern that even if the bill comes out of committee with the act intact, the president might veto it despite his support for hate crimes legislation.

Continue reading Hate Crimes Legislation Moves Forward...

July 16, 2009

Obama's Recent Catholic Picks

President Obama chose Regina Benjamin as surgeon general earlier this week, earning initial praise for rebuilding her clinic after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and than destroyed by a fire a year later. She has also done missionary work in Honduras was awarded a medal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

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But McClatchy reports that Benjamin "supports the president's position on reproductive health issues." White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said, "Like him she believes that this is an issue where it is important to try and seek common ground and come together to try and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. As a physician, she is deeply committed to the philosophy of putting her patients' needs first when it comes to providing care."

Life News reports that in 1996, she spoke in favor of the American Medical Association's governing body vote to "urge medical schools to expand their curriculum" to teach "more about abortion."

A 2007 interview with the Catholic Digest suggests that her Catholic faith influences her medical practice.

Continue reading Obama's Recent Catholic Picks...

July 15, 2009

Gerson: Francis Collins Signals Maturity for Evangelicalism

Christian groups took notice when President Obama chose evangelical scientist Francis Collins as the new head of the National Institutes on Health, despite some questions about his support for embryonic stem-cell research.

Michael Gerson writes for the Washington Post that his appointment signals that evangelicalism is growing up.

Collins's appointment says something good about the maturity of modern evangelicalism, which is starting to abandon some of its least productive debates with modernity. Criticisms of evolution, rooted in 19th-century controversies, have done little more than set up religious young people for entirely unnecessary crises of faith as they encounter scientific knowledge. In the running conflict of modern biology and evangelicalism, Collins is a peacemaker.

Gerson also writes that it signals maturity for President Obama. "In the process, Obama has affirmed something important: that anti-supernaturalism is not a litmus test at the highest levels of science," he writes.

If you want a few chuckles, take a look at this 2006 video where Stephen Colbert heckles Collins a little bit about science and faith.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Francis Collins
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

Colbert asks, "Are you going to be the only Christian in hell?"

July 13, 2009

Conservatives Offer Last Words as Sotomayor Hearings Begin

Senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor began today as the Supreme Court nominee tried to preempt some of her critics.

"The task of a judge is not to make law," she said in her opening statement. "It is to apply law."

Norma McCorvey, known as "Jane Roe" during the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, was arrested after she yelled that Sotomayor was "wrong" during Sen. Al Franken's opening statement.

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McCorvey became pro-life and converted to Catholicism after she befriended with one of an Operation Rescue leader.

Richard Land and other conservatives are concerned that Sotomayor would be an activist judge.

"The bottom line is that Sonia Sotomayor is an unpredictable wildcard," Land said in a statement today. "Across the issues her record is either far too thin or hidden behind non-published orders and per curium opinions. Simply put, placing Sonia Sotomayor on the highest court in the land jeopardizes our nation's commitment to equal treatment under the law."

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, plans to testify on Sotomayor's connection to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed several briefs related to abortion while she was on its governing board.

Continue reading Conservatives Offer Last Words as Sotomayor Hearings Begin...

July 10, 2009

Pope Meets Obama with Abortion as Topic No. 1

President Obama met Pope Benedict XVI for the first time today in a closed-door meeting that a Vatican statement said covered multiple topics but focused on the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion.

The pope also gave Obama copies of his recent encyclical on the global economy and a statement of Catholic teaching on bioethics, which Benedict's personal secretary said would help Obama "better understand" why church positions are at odds with the president's.

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Obama's visit to the Vatican came at the end of the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, 70 miles northeast of Rome, which Obama told the pope had been "very productive."

Benedict greeted Obama outside his private library shortly before 4:30 pm, and escorted the president inside for a 30-minute private conversation. Although Benedict speaks fluent English, the leaders were joined by two interpreters seated on either side of the pope's desk.

A Vatican statement released shortly after the meeting made it clear that while the two men discussed a number of issues, abortion was at the top of the pope's agenda.

"In the course of their cordial exchanges, the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all ... such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one's conscience," the Vatican statement said.

Continue reading Pope Meets Obama with Abortion as Topic No. 1...

July 8, 2009

Obama names Francis Collins Head of NIH

President Barack Obama chose Dr. Francis Collins - who led a team to map and sequence human DNA and determined its functions - to lead the National Institutes of Health, according to the AP.

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Obama called Collins "one of the top scientists in the world." Obama said, "His groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease."

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. But he may be more widely known for his 2007 best-selling book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief." Collins also received a
Christianity Today's Book Award in 2007 for his book The Language of God: 'A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Collins converted to Christianity after reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He recently helped found the BioLogos Foundation, a website that attempts to bridge gaps between science and religion.

Christianity Today has interviewed Collins twice: "The Genome Doctor" and "Creation or Evolution? Yes!"

July 8, 2009

Obama to Meet Pope for the First Time on Friday

President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI will meet for the first time face-to-face on Friday during Obama's trip to Italy for the G8 summit.

The meeting will likely be characterized as a clash of the pro-life and pro-choice agendas. As early as November of last year, Time magazine predicted this meeting and asked: "Will the Pope and Obama Clash Over Abortion?" Abortion and other topics related to bioethics are expected to be raised at the meeting. Time's latest story reports:

To paint the Obama-meets-Benedict dossier in broad strokes, says one senior Vatican diplomat, "it's basically the reverse of Bush." In other words, the Pope tends to appreciate the new President's less aggressive approach to foreign affairs, while he disagrees on ethical matters such as abortion rights and stem-cell research - whereas President George W. Bush was seen by the Vatican as one of the few like-minded Western leaders on social issues, but whose invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by the Vatican.

In preparation for the meeting, Obama reached out to the Catholic community in the U.S. at a roundtable with mostly-Catholic news service reporters on July 2. At the meeting, Obama emphasized his respect for the Catholic Church and referenced his personal experience with the social work of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, an early supporter of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Continue reading Obama to Meet Pope for the First Time on Friday...

July 7, 2009

Christian Left Takes Messages to the Air Waves

Radio waves appear to be the conduit for Christian activism this summer. Christian organizations are running political ads "framing the issue as an urgent matter of Biblical morality," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The American Values Network spent nearly $200,000 placing radio ads advocating action against global warming, according to the report. Previous ads have described the effect of climate change and the need for "redemption."

The Wall Street Journal points out that at least one of the American Values ads supported by name the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which passed the House last week.

Last weekend, radio ads sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, and the PICO National Network ran in five states urging "people of faith" to ask their senators to support health care reform.

Continue reading Christian Left Takes Messages to the Air Waves ...

July 6, 2009

Palin Resigns. What's Next?

If you haven't heard yet, Sarah Palin resigned. Some people were on vacation and enjoying fireworks when that went down.

Politico's Jonathan Martin examines why Palin could have made the move.

The performance, by these lights, adds credence to the claims of some associates that Palin - burned by the intense scrutiny on her and the crossfire that swirls around her - is so fed up that she's ready to get out of elective politics. Even if it's only the small stage of Alaska politics she hopes to escape, skeptics say Friday's events also diminished and perhaps even demolished what was left of her viability as a 2012 presidential candidate.

But her defenders believed an unorthodox move, even if risky, has a clear logic and may only further increase her standing with conservatives who don't care what establishment figures in or out of the GOP think. Leaving the governor's office at the end of this month leaves her free to travel the country, command large speaking fees, and begin the process of rallying her devotees without pesky home-state opponents criticizing every move.

As pundits weigh Palin's chances of running for President in 2012, a recent poll suggested that evangelicals have been some of her strongest fans. But as Steve Waldman wonders, what happens if Palin faces Mike Huckabee?

July 2, 2009

Conservatives to Sanford: Get Your House in Order

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's saga has taken a turn with the latest revelations that he had "crossed the line" with other women. Al Mohler, Charles Colson, and La Shawn Barber seem pretty disgusted with his "love story" description.

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"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford told the Associated Press. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

As Dan Gilgoff noted, few conservative Christian organizations have spoken up on Sanford while politicians and pundits discuss whether he should resign. But here's Mohler's latest.

David acknowledged the reality of his sin, expressed his hatred of the sin, and became a model for us all of repentance. Governor Sanford, on the other hand, demonstrates the audacity to speak wistfully of his sin, longingly of his lover, and romantically of his descent into unfaithfulness.

Governor Sanford is no King David, and the people of South Carolina -- as well as the watching world -- now observe the sad spectacle of a man who, while admitting to wrongdoing, shows no genuine repentance.

...If the governor is really serious about demonstrating character to his four sons, he should resign his office and give himself unreservedly to his wife and family.

Colson and others discuss Sanford's use of biblical analogies on The New York Times website.

Having read the governor's latest statements about several prior dalliances (enough confessing already, please) I think he needs to go home, and get his own house in order before he can do much for the state of South Carolina.

It's time to bring this tawdry and embarrassing soap opera to a quick ending. I pray for the governor, his wife and his four kids. Get that together, governor, and everything else will fall into place.

Continue reading Conservatives to Sanford: Get Your House in Order...

July 1, 2009

Conservatives Launch New `Freedom Federation'

A new federation of two dozen conservative Christian groups announced plans today to work together to strategize around moral values they feel are under attack across the
country.

"We are not wed to a particular partisan candidate or party," said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and an organizer of the Freedom Federation. "We are wed to core shared values."

Those values include opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and pornography and support for religious freedom, limited government and the right to own firearms.

The announcement followed a meeting of some 30 leaders who began a dialogue but did not draw up concrete action plans. Several leaders said work could include addressing health care reform and immigration reform and opposing gay marriage.

Asked if the federation is a response to the new Obama administration, with which many of the affiliated organizations often disagree, Staver said: "It certainly has heightened the concern. It didn't start the concern."

Continue reading Conservatives Launch New `Freedom Federation'...