All posts from “December 2009”

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December 31, 2009

Most Read Politics Posts of 2009

It's that time of the year where we tend to reflect on news, ideas, and events of the past 12 months. Here are the top 10 most read blog posts from 2009 (You can see 2008's most read here). Readership piqued around the inauguration, but Newt Gingrich's conversion, President Obama's church attendance and Carrie Prejean also grabbed your interest.

1. Gingrich to Convert to Catholicism

2. Rick Warren's Inaugural Invocation

3. Gay Bishop Kicks off Celebrity-filled Event

4. Has Obama Chosen a Church?

5. Warren Affirms Obama's 'Desire to be President of Every Citizen'

6. A reference to research on embryos?

7. Miss California Says Racy Photos Posted to Mock Faith

8. PIC Apologizes for not Broadcasting Robinson's Prayer

9. Obama Surprises Church with a Visit

10. Obama Addresses Abortion, Religion, and Race at Notre Dame

December 28, 2009

Senate's Health Care Bill Includes Abstinence Ed. Funding

The health-care reform bill passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve includes $50 million for states to use for abstinence education funding, the Washington Post reports. Under President Bush, abstinence programs received about $150 million per year but the federal budget signed by President Obama does not include funds directed towards them.

The initiative includes $25 million for new, innovative programs that could potentially embrace those encouraging abstinence. But it does not earmark funding for programs focused on maintaining virginity. Some said the move was aimed at mollifying conservative critics, but [Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association] and others remained skeptical.

"There is absolutely no priority given to risk avoidance," Huber said. "So there is no certainty that even one dollar would go to this approach."

Huber estimated that more than 130 programs around the country, serving perhaps 1.5 million youths, will lose funding by September unless at least some money is restored through the health-reform legislation.

In September, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) pushed for the inclusion of an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee bill that would provide the funds for abstinence education programs.

"I was as surprised as anyone to see abstinence-only education programs funded in the final Reid health care bill. There must have been some Democrats who wanted to see the abstinence-only language included," Hatch said in a statement.

The House and Senate still must reconcile their versions of health-care legislation. According to the Post, the House bill includes $50 million to fund sex education programs while the Senate's version includes $75 million for additional sex education programs.

December 22, 2009

What Baby Jesus Symbolizes for Obama

President Obama visited a Boys & Girls Club in Washington, D.C. yesterday to deliver some cookies and talk about the baby Jesus.

When Obama said it's important to remember why Christmas, one of the children piped up and said, "I know!" Obama asked, "Do you know?" The child said, "The birth of baby Jesus." Here's how Obama responded, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

The birth of baby Jesus, and what he symbolizes for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect. And so I just hope that spirit of giving that's so important at Christmas, I hope all of you guys remember that as well. You know, it's not just about getting gifts but it's also doing something for other people. So being nice to your mom and dad and grandma and aunties and showing respect to people -- that's really important too, that's part of the Christmas spirit, don't you think? Do you agree with me?

He asked the children if they had an interesting observation.

Child: I know why we give gifts to other people.
Obama: Why is that?
Child: Because the three wise men gave gifts to baby Jesus.
Obama: That's exactly right. ... You know, the three wise men, if you think about it, here are these guys, they have all this money, they've got all this wealth and power, and yet they took a long trip to a manger just to see a little baby. And it just shows you that just because you're powerful or you're wealthy, that's not what's important. What's important is what's -- the kind of spirit you have.
So I hope everybody has a spirit of kindness and thoughtfulness, and everybody is really thinking about how can they do for other people -- treating them well, because that's really the spirit of Christmas.

December 21, 2009

Senate Passes Test Vote as Sen. Nelson Announces Support

Conservatives lash out against Nelson who had said he would filibuster the proposal because he said it funded abortions.

The Senate voted for cloture this morning on an $871 billion bill to extend health care coverage to most Americans.

Senator Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, the last holdout, said Saturday that he would support the bill after Senate Majority leader Harry Reid unveiled his final package of changes. Nelson had said he would filibuster the bill because it federally funded abortions.

Here's the difference between abortion funding in the House and the Senate versions of the health care proposal, according to Paul Kane of the Washington Post.

Under the new abortion provisions, states can opt out of allowing plans to cover abortion in the insurance exchanges the bill would set up. The exchanges are designed to serve individuals who lack coverage through their jobs, with most receiving federal subsidies to buy insurance. Enrollees in plans that cover abortion procedures would pay with separate checks -- one for abortion, one for any other health-care services.

This was an effort to comport with the 32-year prohibition against federal funding for abortions, but the Nelson compromise is a softening of the House language, which was written by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). The Stupak amendment forbid any insurer in the exchange "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" -- a position that abortion rights advocates suggested would have led to many insurance providers dropping abortion coverage.

The Associated Press also offers a summary of the differences.

Conservative groups like Americans United for Life (AUL) and Family Research Council (FRC) sent out e-mails in opposition to Nelson's support.

Continue reading Senate Passes Test Vote as Sen. Nelson Announces Support...

December 15, 2009

D.C. Council Passes Bill Allowing Same-Sex Marriage

The Washington, D.C. City Council passed a measure Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage, and opponents plan to try to get it overturned in Congress or at the polls, The New York Times reports.

“The City Council’s action today is not the final word,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville and chairman of a group called Stand4MarriageDC.

Mr. Jackson said he would lobby Congress to intervene, but he acknowledged that such a move threatened to upset some of his local supporters, who may be put off by the prospect of subverting local autonomy.

Mr. Jackson’s group is challenging in court on Jan. 6 the city’s Board of Elections and Ethics decision not to hold a referendum on the matter.

Last month, Maine voters overturned the state legislature's passage of a same-sex marriage law. The New York state Senate recently rejected a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage while New Jersey's legislature postponed a vote on same-sex marriage after the measure seemed headed for defeat.

December 8, 2009

Breaking: Senate Rejects Abortion Restrictions in Health Bill

Majority leader Harry Reid may not have the necessary votes to move health-care reform bill to passage without key prolife Dem.

The Washington Post and ABC News reported just a few minutes ago that the Senate defeated Senator Ben Nelson's amendment that would have restricted abortion coverage in insurance policies purchased by people receiving federal subsidies under the Senate's proposed health-care reform bill. The amendment was defeated 54-45.

Nelson had threatened to filibuster the bill unless the abortion restrictions were added. Without Nelson's vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may not have the necessary votes to move the bill toward passage. Reid hinted that he may try to find another way to satisfy Nelson's concerns and win his vote.

December 4, 2009

Huckabee: Religion Had Nothing to Do with the Commutation

Several media outlets have connected Mike Huckabee's commutation of Maurice Clemmons, who fatally shot four police officers earlier this week, to the former governor of Arkansas's background as a Southern Baptist pastor. Huckabee defended himself in a column for Human Events.

Religion had nothing to do with the commutation. It’s been erroneously expressed that my own personal faith or the claims of faith of the inmate factored into my decision. That is simply not true and nothing in the record even suggests it. The reasons were straightforward -- a unanimous recommendation from the board, support from a trial judge and no objections from officials in a case that involved a 16 year old sentenced to a term that was exponentially longer than similar cases and certainly longer than had he been white, upper middle class, and represented by effective counsel who would have clearly objected to the sentencing.

Christianity Today recently posted a November interview with Huckabee.

December 2, 2009

New York State Senate Defeats Same-Sex Marriage Bill

The New York State Senate voted 38-24 against a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. The State Assembly had approved the legislation, and Gov. David A. Paterson had said he would sign the bill.

Had the legislation passed, New York would have become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Last month, Maine barred same-sex marriage through a referendum after the legislature had legalized it. New York does not have a referendum process like Maine. Here's more from Reuters:

New York's Democratic-controlled state assembly has easily passed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage three times, but the legislation was never voted upon in the senate until now.

The Democrats hold a senate majority of 32 to 30, but several Democratic senators opposed legalizing gay marriage.

...Gay marriage activists will likely now turn their attention to New Jersey, where the Democratic-controlled state legislature is considering taking up the issue before Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office in January.

December 1, 2009

Huckabee's Clemency under Scrutiny after Police Killings

Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee faces criticism for granting clemency nine years ago to Maurice Clemmons, who fatally shot four police officers and was killed this morning in Seattle.

In a statement, Huckabee blamed “failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. ... This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

David Waters at the Washington Post and Dick Polman at the Philadelphia Inquirer suggest that Huckabee's previous role as a Southern Baptist pastor could have factored into his decision.

Joe Carter, the former research director of his presidential campaign, wrote for First Things that "His naivete about how his actions would be judged was compounded by his own belief in the nobleness of his motives."

"Judging from the records, the governor also seemed to put a lot of weight on conversion stories—a common trait among evangelicals, who believe the gospel is sufficient for restoration and redemption of character," Carter wrote. "The opinion of clergy appears to have carried a great deal of weight in the decision-making process."

During the 2008 election, critics pointed to Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who murdered and raped again after being freed in 1999. Carter continues:

Ironically, what makes Huckabee such an appealing presidential candidate -- his empathy for all people and genuine belief in the individual -- is also the trait that will prevent him from ever reaching the White House. His experiences and intuitions that served him well as a minister of the gospel were not always applicable in of governor of a state. The unfortunate reality is that for politicians, unlike pastors, there are limits to compassion.

Continue reading Huckabee's Clemency under Scrutiny after Police Killings...