All posts from “May 2010”

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May 24, 2010

Where's the Democratic Faith Outreach?

The Democrats were all about faith in the 2008 election, sponsoring official faith-based panels at the Democratic National Convention and nominating a candidate who spoke openly about his faith. In contrast, the Republicans held one unadvertised prayer breakfast with muffins and plastic cups of orange juice in a renovated bar-turned-church, and their nominee rarely spoke about his faith.

Leading up to the 2010 elections, however, the Democratic National Committee's faith staff of more than a half-dozen has shifted to one part-time employee, Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post reports.

[Former Virginia Governor Tim] Kaine, who chairs the DNC, and other party leaders say the decrease in paid faith staff reflects a change in how the party does outreach -- not a shift away from religious voters. The party, at the behest of the White House, has reshaped how it reaches out to all constituency groups and has opted to expand its network of grass-roots volunteers and shrink its national staff of organizers who were in the past broken down by race and religion.

Although a party spokesman said its faith outreach staff had been dismantled when Obama took office, Kaine said that a staff member who also does African American outreach has been assigned to oversee faith as well but had been on a medical leave. The party will be hiring more faith staff and crafting a faith outreach plan as the fall election season gets closer, said Kaine, who rejected the idea that the effort was diminishing on his watch.

Boorstein reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $82,000 on faith outreach in 2008, but a spokesperson couldn't name expenses for 2009 or 2010. The Eleison Group, which does faith consulting, worked on more than 40 campaigns in 2008, but it has no 2010 national campaign contracts right now.

May 21, 2010

Evangelicals Push `Theology of Sex,' Abortion Reduction

The National Association of Evangelicals on May 20 launched an initiative to reduce abortions by promoting a "Theology of Sex" for churches and pledging to find common ground with opponents on abortion.

"There's a sense that, whatever our laws are, abortion is a problem because of the underlying issues of how we treat sex," said Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the Washington-based umbrella organization.

NAE leaders have concluded that churches are not doing a "good job" of teaching about sex and marriage and should better address the high percentage of cohabiting unmarried young adults, including many evangelicals.

"Addressing that subject will do a lot, we think, to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and the number of abortions," Carey said.

Continue reading Evangelicals Push `Theology of Sex,' Abortion Reduction...

May 19, 2010

Evangelicals Call for Prison-Rape Reforms

Evangelicals are calling on the Obama administration to enact long-promised prison reforms, saying the incarcerated deserve protection from violence and rape.

In 2003, former president George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which aimed to lower the estimated 13 percent of inmates sexually assaulted each year.

The bill called for the Department of Justice to research prison rape and requires prisons to establish prevention programs.

Now, the National Association of Evangelicals is urging the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to follow up on the standards proposed.

NAE President Leith Anderson and Director of Government Affairs Galen Carey wrote on May 10 to Attorney General Eric Holder that "those behind bars deserve the same protections against violence as those on the outside."

The NAE pushed for the rape commission to adopt the standards from the 2003 act regardless of the government's tight budget, suggesting that the reforms will reduce recidivism and lead to cost savings.

In 2003, the bill drew support from varied religious and advocacy groups including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition of America, the NAACP and Human Rights Watch.

Like the NAE, the Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner reaffirmed the organization's stance in a Jan. 5 letter to Attorney General Holder -- saying that "tens of thousands of adults and juveniles are still sexually abused each year because officials have not instituted basic measures to protect them."

According to the Department of Justice Web site, Holder appointed members to the review panel on Jan. 1 in order to assist the Bureau of Justice Statistics in identifying common characteristics of prison systems and prisoners involved in prison rape.

May 18, 2010

Ind. Rep. Mark Souder to Resign over Affair with Staffer

Indiana Rep. Mark Souder admitted to having an affair with a staffer and said he will resign today. In a 2004 interview with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly where he spoke at length about evangelicals, he described his church as somewhere between fundamentalist and evangelical.

According to news reports, Souder said in a statement that he “sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff."

“In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain,” he said, according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. “I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.

Souder said his job in Congress was all-consuming, “especially in a district with costly, competitive elections every two years. I do not have any sort of ‘normal’ life – for family, for friends, for church, for community.” According to the bio on his website, he and his family attend Emmanuel Community Church, a church associated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, in Fort Wayne.

“As I leave public office, my plans are focused upon repairing my marriage, earning back the trust of my family and my community, and renewing my walk with the Lord,” he said.

Continue reading Ind. Rep. Mark Souder to Resign over Affair with Staffer...

May 16, 2010

What Glenn Beck Told Liberty Graduates

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Liberty University yesterday before giving the commencement address to 8,650 students--the school's largest graduating class ever.

Beck, who attended one semester of college because he could not afford to finish, gave a faith-filled message, according to a recap on the school's website.

Beck, who is Mormon, said speaking at Liberty is “an endorsement of your faith. This is a time when we all need to come together. We may have differences, but we need to find those things that unite us.”

... Beck urged graduates not to underestimate the power of the atonement. When he was 13, his mother took her life. He said he nearly followed in her footsteps.

“As a man who needed the atonement … I read the promise. He will carry your burdens. I made Him a promise. You keep your word and I will keep mine,” he said. “He will never break his promise, and now it’s all up to me. [The atonement] is the most powerful thing you will ever encounter.”

The original story on Liberty's website did not note that Beck is a Mormon; however, Falwell noted in a statement that speakers have represented a diversity of religious beliefs.

“The baccalaureate ceremony always includes a gospel message brought by someone who is in complete theological alignment with the university,” Falwell said. “Commencement, however, has always featured leaders from all walks of life and all faiths who share the university’s social values and traditional family values. Commencement speakers have included representatives from the following faiths: Roman Catholicism, Judaism, mainline Protestant denominations such as the Episcopal Church, and even some speakers with no religious affiliation at all.”

Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave the keynote address at the Baccalaureate Service on Friday. Yesterday, Beck read from his journal he originally wrote for his daughter.

“Your father loves you and so does your heavenly Father. … As long as we have today, we can change the world. … Marry for love, marry for laughs, but mostly importantly as my wife Tania taught me, marry for God. Without God, life’s storms are too strong to withstand. … Life is hard, and then it gets harder. Then you die. But every second of life is worth it. … Always forgive, but don’t forget so much that you put yourself in the same situation. … Freedom and rights are given to man by God, they are his, we are the guardians. … Read the Scriptures every day — they are alive. He speaks to you through them.”

May 14, 2010

Evangelicals Find New Unity on Immigration

In the shadow of Arizona's strict immigration law, a broad range of evangelical leaders are speaking in support of comprehensive immigration reform, with more specifics than some were able to embrace before.

At the same time, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, New York's Charles Schumer, is hoping evangelicals will nudge their allies in the GOP to push an on-again, off-again immigration bill through Congress.

The renewed push came in the form of a full-page ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, paid for by the National Association of Evangelicals, and a three-page policy proposal from Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal firm.

The NAE statement calls for keeping families intact, securing national borders, and establishing a path to legal citizenship for qualified people who want to become permanent residents.

"Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each others' positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions," the ad reads.

"This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate."

The Liberty Counsel blueprint was even more specific, calling for a "just assimilation" of those seeking legal citizenship that includes lessons in English and U.S. history. It says temporary worker visas recognize the need for "field workers to engineers" in U.S. companies.

"America deserves a just immigration policy," the statement said, "one that begins with securing, not closing, our borders, one that provides a temporary guest-worker program, and one that offers a pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency."

Continue reading Evangelicals Find New Unity on Immigration...

May 9, 2010

Obama Will Nominate Elena Kagan for Supreme Court

President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the next Supreme Court justice, according to several news reports.

Kagan, 50, was formerly dean of Harvard Law School, was a law professor at Harvard at the University of Chicago, and served as Associate White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton. The New York Times reports that her lack of judicial experience could help and hurt her confirmation process.

As solicitor general, Ms. Kagan has represented the government before the Supreme Court for the past year, but her own views are to a large extent a matter of supposition.

Perhaps as a result, some on both sides of the ideological aisle are suspicious of her. Liberals dislike her support for strong executive power and her outreach to conservatives while running the law school. Activists on the right have attacked her for briefly barring military recruiters from a campus facility because the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military violated the school’s anti-discrimination policy.

Replacing Justice Stevens with Ms. Kagan presumably would not alter the broad ideological balance on the court, but her relative youth means that she could have an influence on the court for decades to come, underscoring the stakes involved.

Focus on the Family Action's CitizenLink and Family Research Council have written about Kagan's issues related to homosexuality. If Kagan is nominated and confirmed, she would also be the third Jewish justice on the current bench, and there would be no Protestants on the high court.

May 6, 2010

Christians Defy Judge's Ruling and Mark National Day of Prayer

For years, the annual National Day of Prayer observances on Capitol Hill had become almost routine affairs as mostly conservative Christian groups bowed with legislators to pray for the soul of America.

But this year, after a federal judge ruled the law creating the day is unconstitutional, Thursday's events took on an air of defiance as organizers accused nonbelievers of threatening their religious freedom.

"I think it is waking people up across this land," said evangelist Franklin Graham, the honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who was disinvited from Pentagon observances because of his remarks on Islam.

"I think people realize, many Christians, how we're losing our religious freedoms a little bit every day and if we don't stand up and exercise the freedoms that God has given us in this country, we will lose them."

Graham began the day praying on the sidewalk outside the Pentagon, after military officials withdrew his invitation to speak because his comments about Islam -- he's called it an "evil and wicked religion" -- were "problematic."

Across the country Thursday, organizers said more than 40,000 events were scheduled to be held at parks, churches and courthouse steps -- more than any other year and an increase of more than 15 percent from last year.

Shirley Dobson, leader of the task force and the wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, noted that the nationwide observances are voluntary.

"Citizens can choose to pray or not to pray," she said. "No one is required to participate, despite what the opponents of public prayer say."

She was thankful that the Obama administration is appealing the April 15 decision by Wisconsin federal judge Barbara Crabb -- who ruled observances could continue as her decision is appealed. Dobson said the Pentagon's rescinded invitation was "dishonoring" to Graham and his son, Edward, an Army captain now serving in Afghanistan.

"This situation that's come up the last several weeks serves as yet another indication of the relentless assaults against our religious liberty," she said.

Continue reading Christians Defy Judge's Ruling and Mark National Day of Prayer...

May 4, 2010

Dobson Switches to Rand Paul for Senate

James Dobson has switched his endorsement from Trey Grayson to Rand Paul in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Dobson said that “senior members of the GOP” mislead him by saying that Paul, who is the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, was pro-choice. He said that Paul identifies with the tea party and calls him "my kind of man." Here's a portion of the advertisement Paul is running in Kentucky:

Have you ever made an embarrassing mistake? I did just that last week. I was given misleading information about the candidacy of Dr. Rand Paul, who's running in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Senior members of the GOP told me that Dr. Paul is a pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent. But now I've received further information from OB-GYNs in Kentucky whom I trust and from interviewing the candidate himself. I now know he is avidly pro-life, he believes life begins at conception, he opposes ear-marking, he supports Israel, and identifies with the tea party, and believes in homeschooling. Sounds like my kind of man.

A few weeks ago, CT noted that few conservative Christian groups are promoting tea party events, and last month, Chuck Colson expressed caution about the tea party movement.

When he first backed Grayson, Dobson said, "Trey Grayson is the only candidate with the conviction to lead on the issues that matter to Kentucky families. His unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life and the family resonates with me. I know that he will be a leader on these issues, not just another Senator who checks the box."

In unrelated news, Dobson's Family Talk broadcasts began yesterday. Earlier, Dobson had endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry right before he ended his radio program at Focus on the Family.

He also supports Dan Coats for his old Senate seat in Indiana who faces the Republican primary today.