All posts from “April 2011”

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April 29, 2011

Are White House Easter Controversies Just Rotten Eggs?

A few conservative activists accuse Obama of intentionally ignoring Easter, while others are taking issue with his choice of church. Last week, President Obama hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. On Easter, President and his family attended Easter services at historic Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. Monday featured the annual White House Easter Roll. But in today's political climate, even Easter can be controversial.

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When a member of the White House press corp asked on Monday why the president did not issue an Easter proclamation, Jay Carney said that Obama and his family went to church to celebrate Easter, but he was unsure if a proclamation was sent out.

For the American Family Association (AFA) the lack of an official proclamation was “an intentional act of disrespect.”  The AFA said he ignored Easter, but “he has released statements in honor of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha, holidays which most Americans cannot pronounce and certainly do not celebrate.” The AFA encouraged people to send an e-mail to the president over the issue.

The lack of proclamation was featured in a Fox News story that was subsequently picked up by the  Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which referenced it on Twitter: “The White House failed to release a statement recognizing the national observance of #Easter or Good Friday. http://ow.ly/4Hoo8 @foxnews"

While the White House did not issue a proclamation, it did host an Easter prayer breakfast April 19 with around 130 Christian leaders in attendance. Obama initiated the prayer breakfast last year.  In his remarks at the breakfast, Obama explained the purpose for the breakfast and the importance of Easter:

"I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason -– because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective," Obama said. "…And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection."

The Family Research Council FRC noted that the group of clergy included clergy from “non-traditional groups, among them clergy from homosexual and pro-homosexual denominations, one considered a forerunner in shaping homosexual theology.” 

In a very different take on the breakfast, ThinkProgress.com criticized the breakfast for featuring two prominent “anti-LGBT pastors,” Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Tim Keller, who “preach that homosexuality is among the sins for which individuals should seek repentance.”

Continue reading Are White House Easter Controversies Just Rotten Eggs?...

April 28, 2011

Panel Cites Egypt for Religious Freedom Violations

A religious freedom watchdog panel has added Egypt to its list of the worst violators of religious liberty, citing attacks on Coptic Christians that occurred surrounding the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak.

“The Egyptian government engaged in and tolerated religious freedom violations both before and after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11,” said Leonard Leo, chairman of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which released its report Thursday.

“In his waning months, religious freedom conditions were rapidly deteriorating and since his departure, we’ve seen nothing to indicate that these conditions have improved.”

Members of the independent commission also continued their criticism of the Obama administration for not making religious freedom a higher priority.

“President Obama’s administration has yet to break from the practice of previous administrations of keeping the issue of religious freedom on the margins of U.S. foreign policy,” the report states.
Leo acknowledged the recent confirmation of the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook as the new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and said he hopes it will lead to “meaningful actions” in the near future.

Commissioners, who are appointed by the president and members of Congress, listed a total of 14 countries that they recommend the State Department designate as “countries of particular concern.” The department currently lists eight such countries, a number that remains unchanged since President George W. Bush left office.

Countries on the State Department’s list include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.

In addition to Egypt, USCIRF says the list should also include Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

State Department spokesman Evan Owen differed with the commission’s analysis, saying his department issues reports on both religious freedom and anti-Semitism, and now has special envoys for both areas. He said the department will consider USCIRF’s recommendations as it weighs updating its list of the worst violators of religious freedom.

“It’s a long process and with the appointment of an ambassador for religious freedom, we expect it to be a more streamlined process in the future,” he said.

April 21, 2011

Fast over Budget Goes Without Gushee

Activists and members of Congress are nearing the end of a fast over cuts to federal programs aimed at assisting the poor in the U.S. and globally. HungerFast.org, a collection of relief and hunger organizations that opposed cuts, says more than 30,000 people have joined the fast, including members of Congress and celebrities.


There is one notable—and vocal—absentee: David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Gushee said that the fast was well-intentioned but did not address the nation's fiscal issues in the right way.

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“While I admire the compassion for the poor that motivates these actions, I think this is a time for deliberative decision-making about our nation’s long-term fiscal responsibility and moral sanity rather than a moment for dramatic gestures,” he said.

Gushee said the U.S. needs to address its structural fiscal problems. He called for a debate over the size and role of the military, the cost of health care, means-tests for Social Security, reductions in government spending and tax breaks, and tax increases for everyone but the poor.

“If we followed this kind of rational path toward fiscal solvency, tackling the big issues in a grown-up way, then we wouldn’t have to resort to showy, irrational budget-hacking or dramatic gestures of protest in response,” Gushee said.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis, a participant and advocate for the fast, said that deficits are moral issues, including how they are reduced.

“Of course, many Americans, including in the faith community, believe that rising deficits are immoral and a threat to our future,” said Wallis. “But how you reduce a deficit is also a moral issue, and to do so by further impoverishing the poor in order to add more wealth to the wealthy is not an acceptable political or moral strategy.”

The fast has been spearheaded by former Congressman and Ambassador Tony Hall. He said budgets are moral documents and that the recent budget compromise shows that the poor are not a national priority.

“I believe fasting, when done with the right heart and the right motive, gets God’s attention,” Hall said. “Hopefully this fast also gets the attention of politicians who would balance the budget on the backs of the poor. It’s time to call on God.”

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Criticism of the budget as immoral has also come from the right. Social conservatives backed efforts to ban any federal funding of Planned Parenthood, to curtail the Environmental Protection Agency, and to repeal the health care law passed last year.

“Sadly, the Senate rejection of the defunding of Planned Parenthood and of ‘Obamacare’ means that these two moral blights on the American governmental landscape survived for a little longer,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins also agreed that budgets are moral documents.

“Budgets that shift the burden of responsibility to future generations, while seeking to use taxpayer funds to eliminate those same future generations through abortion, are not only immoral choices, but irresponsible as well,” Perkins said.

April 20, 2011

Majority of Americans, Evangelicals Disapprove of Obama & Congressional Leaders

In Washington, cherry blossoms are in bloom. Love for political leaders, however, is not. A majority of Americans do not approve of how President Obama is handling critical issues such as the situation in Libya or the deficit, according to the April political poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll suggests that Americans also are pleased with leaders in Congress.

While Obama’s overall approval rating was 47 percent, approval of his handling of the deficit was only 33 percent. He fared better for his handling of the situation in Libya, with 41 percent approving. Support was, not surprisingly, highest among Democrats, over 60 percent of whom gave Obama thumbs up on both issues. Republicans were not impressed, with less than one-in-ten approving of his handling of the deficit.

Evangelicals were similarly disapproving of Obama. Only 13 percent approved of his handling of the deficit; 25 percent approved of his job on Libya. This was lower than approval ratings for other religious groups, though mainline Protestants and Catholics showed a similar pattern of having higher approval for Libya than the deficit. Black Protestants and those who are not affiliated with a religious tradition showed the same level of support for Obama's handling of both issues.

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But if GOP leaders expected evangelicals to approve of Republican leaders in Congress, they were disappointed. Overall, the public does not look kindly on Congress. Roughly a third approved of Republican leaders in Congress. The same proportion approved of Democratic leaders.

As with Obama's approval rating, there is a partisan split, but not as much of a religious one. Republicans approved of GOP leaders (60 percent) but not Democratic leaders (10 percent). Democrats were the opposite with 59 percent approval for their party's leadership and 15 percent approval for the Republicans.

Evangelicals were the most approving of religious groups of the Republican leadership, but a majority disapproved of the GOP and only 43 percent approved. Mainline Protestants and Catholics disapproved of both parties, and only a third of each tradition approving of each party's leadership. Black Protestants and those unaffiliated with a religious tradition had higher approval of Democrats than Republicans in Congress.

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It is unclear from the poll whether the lack of support among evangelicals reflects a low view of Republican leaders per se. While evangelical approval of GOP leaders was not as lopsided as the approval among the rank-and-file Republicans, evangelicals were the only religious group to have a higher approval rating for Republican leaders than Democratic leaders.

Editors Note: The Public Religion Research Institute provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from the poll. However, CT is responsible for all analysis and interpretation of the results. Around one-fifth of Americans are identified as white evangelicals in the poll. The margin of error for subsamples is larger than for the poll as a whole. The results are descriptive; religious differences could be due to partisanship, ideology, income, or other factors.

April 19, 2011

Keller, Jakes Among Obama's Prayer Breakfast Guests

President Obama spoke of the “grace” demonstrated by the resurrection at the Easter prayer breakfast Tuesday morning in the East Room of the White House.

Pastor Tim Keller of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Bishop T. D. Jakes of The Potter’s House in Texas also spoke at the event. The breakfast is a “good excuse to bring together people who have been such extraordinary influences in my life and such great friends,” the president said in his opening remarks. Keller’s attendance was his first visit to the White House.

Other guests also included Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, Suzan Johnson Cook, the president’s recently confirmed ambassador of international religious freedom, and faith leaders from Protestant, Catholic, and other religious groups. North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley and National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson were among participants in a list provided by the White House.

The president noted recent storms that have swept North Carolina, specifically pointing out Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and his wife, Dee, who “will be helping those communities rebuild after the devastation.” He also singled out USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah for his work with faith leaders.

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Obama acknowledged the “hustle and bustle” as the “inbox keeps accumulating,” to a chuckling audience. Easter puts everything into perspective, the president said. “Everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways,” he said. “And I admit that my plate has been full as well.”

But Holy Week is a reminder of God’s grace, Obama said after reading Isaiah 53:5. “This ‘Amazing Grace’ calls me to pray,” he said. “It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of … his Son and our Savior.”

Over a breakfast of mini foods—including mini yogurt parfaits, muffins and bagels—attendees also heard prayer from Episcopal Bishop Vashti McKenzie and the Rev. Sharon Watkins and performances by the Washington Performing Arts Society Children of Gospel Choir and gospel singer Wintley Phipps.

“You notice that these days prayers are on an iPad,” the president said, pointing out the Apple device when he introduced Bishop McKenzie for the opening prayer. McKenzie thanked God for Easter as the “reversal of Good Friday” in her prayer.

The breakfast was hosted on the Tuesday before Easter in order to avoid conflict with Holy Week services, a White House official said. Joshua DuBois, the head of White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, opened the event with a short guest list and limited press coverage.

The president said that he plans to make the event, now in its second year, “annual” from now on. “The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. Last year, Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels and Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen attended the breakfast.

April 18, 2011

Evangelicals Named To Ministry Watchdog Panel

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has announced members of a commission to advise a Capitol Hill review of financial reform of religious groups.

Secularists, however, say the panel's all-evangelical leadership will be unable to police other evangelicals.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked the council to lead an independent review of "self-reform" of religious organizations after he concluded a three-year probe of alleged lavish spending by six major broadcast ministries.

On April 13, the ECFA said the 15-member panel will include Oral Roberts University President Mark Rutland, Campus Crusade for Christ President Stephen Douglass and megachurch leaders Joel Hunter and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer.

Sean Faircloth, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, criticized the choices.

"Stacking this so-called 'independent' commission with people representing only one narrow religious viewpoint is entirely inappropriate," he said.

ECFA President Dan Busby said the commission will seek advice from legal experts, leaders from a variety of faiths, and representatives of mostly secular nonprofits. The three-year process will include public meetings where anyone can make suggestions, he added.

"We have made a significant effort to set up a framework that will provide broad, broad input," he said in an interview Thursday.

In a statement, Grassley said the commission's mix of input is "important because some of the issues raised by my staff report apply to all charities, not just religious organizations."

April 15, 2011

Senate Confirms Johnson Cook for Religious Freedom Ambassador

The Senate has confirmed Suzan D. Johnson Cook to be ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

President Obama waited until June 2010 to send a nomination to the Senate, and then the Senate then failed to act. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) put a hold on the nomination, effectively vetoing it, according to Samuel G. Freedman of the New York Times.

The Obama administration submitted her nomination again in February. Last month, a group of faith leaders sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging them to emphasize religious freedom in foreign policy.

Johnson Cook, also known as "Dr. Sujay," retired in 2009 as pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Church. Last week, she compared herself to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "This will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest nomination," she said at a dinner held last week. "But we thank God to just be in the number."

April 15, 2011

Religious Americans More Likely to Display Flag

A new poll suggests that 78 percent of religious people display the American flag while 58 percent of nonreligious people do the same. The poll finds that evangelicals are the most likely to show off the stars and stripes.

The American flag is a ubiquitous part of life in the United States. People pin it to their jackets, hang it outside their homes, and stick it to the bumpers of their cars. In its March 30-April 3 survey, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked 1,507 Americans if they “display the American flag, in places such as at your home or office, or on your car or clothing.” Three-quarters of Americans said they displayed the flag.

Showing off the American flag is most common among those who belong to a religious tradition; 78 percent of religious Americans show off the flag. More than 80 percent of evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics display the flag. Black Protestants are slightly less likely to do so, but overall the differences between religious groups are small and are not statistically different from each other.

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Together, members of these religious traditions are more likely to display the flag than those who are not affiliated with a religion. About one-fifth of Americans are not actively part of a religion. Only 58 percent of these unaffiliated display the flag.

Even though the flag is a national symbol, it is more likely to be displayed by those on the right than the left. The vast majority of political conservatives display the flag (87 percent). Liberals (55 percent) and moderates (75 percent) were less likely to do so.

Pew also asked about the flag as part of a series of questions on the Confederate flag and the American Civil War, which began 150 years ago this week.

Continue reading Religious Americans More Likely to Display Flag...

April 14, 2011

National Day of Prayer Ruling Overturned

A federal appeals court today ruled 3-0 that dismisses a lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer. The decision overturns last year's ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb that ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to bring the lawsuit against President Obama. "But unless all limits on standing are to be abandoned, a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury in fact," the court said in its opinion.

President Truman signed into law in 1952 a Congressional resolution establishing a National Day of Prayer. The Justice Department had appealed Judge Crabb's decision.


April 12, 2011

Effort to Curtail the EPA Fails Despite Southern Baptist Backing

The budget compromise approved by Congressional leaders last Friday made few evangelical leaders happy. The deal dropped the ban on funding to Planned Parenthood sought by social conservatives. Cuts to foreign aid and hunger programs remained despite outcries from relief organizations. Also dropped was an attempt backed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to curtail efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate green house gases.

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The fight against the EPA began last summer when the agency announced that it would begin regulating CO-2 emissions despite failed efforts in Congress to pass so-called “cap and trade” legislation. The Senate voted last year to stop the EPA, and despite lobbying by the ERLC, the American Family Association, and business groups, the effort failed.

With more Republicans in the Senate this year, the GOP leaders in the House and Senate tried again with a two-prong approach: stand-alone legislation to block the EPA and provisions in the budget negotiations that would strip the EPA of funds needed for the new regulations.

When the Senate voted on the stand-alone legislation last week, the ERLC sent an “Action Alert” urging people to ask their Senators to vote for legislation that would stop the EPA's plan to regulate greenhouse gases. The ERLC said that the regulations would unnecessarily hurt the economy.

“The poor would be hit especially hard,” the ERLC action alert said. “Making this worse, the whole basis for the policy—catastrophic, human-induced global warming—is not even settled among scientists, who are growing increasingly skeptical of such human impact.”

Continue reading Effort to Curtail the EPA Fails Despite Southern Baptist Backing...

April 8, 2011

Is the Possible Government Shutdown Dispute Really Over Abortion?

As the deadline looms to pass a funding measure or shut the government down, budget negotiations took a familiar twist today as some suggested that the debate hinges on abortion funding. The government cannot directly fund abortions, but many social conservatives say that funding other Planned Parenthood services ends up allowing it to provide abortions. A similar issue became a central issue in the health care debates last year until the final compromise.

The New York Times ran with with a early headline, "No Deal Overnight on Federal Budget as Abortion Remains Sticking Point" and a corresponding editorial that blames the Republicans' refusal to bend based on the issue on abortion. The Wall Street Journal says, "Abortion Returns to Center Stage." Businessweek says, "Abortion, Spending Divide Leaders Trying to Avert Shutdown."

However, most of the people making the case that the issue revolves around abortion appears to come from Democrats. The Hill reports that House Speaker John Boehner rejected claims that abortion is the central issue.

“There’s far more than one provision that’s holding up any agreement, I can tell you that,” Boehner said.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post tweeted, "I don't know if the shutdown is really hung up on Planned Parenthood. But if public perceives it is, GOP is toast."

Jay Newton-Small of Time magazine reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said House Speaker John Boehner is pushing a rider that would enable governors to do what they want with Title X funding, a $327 million program which provides grants for clinics like Planned Parenthood that most conservative governors would defund.

Reid was asked by CNN's Brianna Keilar if he'd offered Boehner more money to drop the Title X rider. He said he had, but that Boehner had turned him down. This surprises me as I've always been under the impression that Boehner was using the policy riders as leverage for more cuts -- that he never really expected to move the needle on abortion, climate change or health care reform. The brouhaha over the riders must be taken with a grain of salt as it behooves Dems to portray Boehner as obsessed with "extreme" riders rather than negotiating in good faith on funding the government. Given that even Michele Bachmann called on Boehner to drop the riders and just pass a "clean" one week extension to give negotiators more time*, I'd be surprised if the only issue at play here is truly Title X.

*Bachmann voiced support for dropping riders for a bill that would insure that military paychecks continue in the event of a government shutdown. Her office made clear Friday that she does not support stripping riders that deal with abortion from the main 2011 continuing resolution bill that is now being negotiated by Boehner, Reid and Barack Obama.

Update: Boehner insisted again today that the debate is not over abortion and said, “Stay tuned. Keep the faith,” National Journal reports.

The lawmaker said Boehner reiterated that the hold-up is spending cuts, and not policy riders, contrary to what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., has suggested. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., explicitly asked the speaker if the hold-up was “women’s rights” and Boehner said it was not.

Some conservative groups are suggesting that abortion does remain an issue. “The President has singled out Planned Parenthood, a significant financial and political supporter for special attention and protection,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List said in a statement.

Talking Points Memo reports that some Republican lawmakers are urging Boehner to drop the social issues discussion.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) another pro-life conservative echoed his call on MSNBC Thursday, saying the GOP should "move on."

"I'd like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don't have complete control of the elected government," Toomey said. "I think what we should do is cut spending as much as we can, get the policy changes that we can, but move on, because there are other, bigger battles that we are fighting."

The post also raised the question over whether the tea party is putting more prominence on fiscal issues over social issues.

April 8, 2011

Arkansas Court Overturns Law Against Gay, Unmarried Couples Adoptions

The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled against a law that banned both gay and straight unmarried cohabiting couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents. Arkansas voters approved “Act One” in November 2008. Yesterday, the court decided that such an across the board ban violated the right to privacy by forcing couples into a choice between sexual intimacy and parenthood.

“The choice imposed on cohabiting sexual partners, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is dramatic,” the court said in its ruling. “They must chose either to lead a life of private, sexual intimacy with a partner without the opportunity to adopt or foster children or forego sexual cohabitation and, thereby, attain eligibility to adopt or foster.”

The Arkansas-based Family Council Action Committee (FCAC) sponsored Act One and assisted in the defense of the law. FCAC president Jerry Cox called the ruling “anti-child” and “the worst decision ever handed down by the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

Continue reading Arkansas Court Overturns Law Against Gay, Unmarried Couples Adoptions...

April 6, 2011

Embattled Religious Freedom Envoy the New `Iron Lady'

The Obama administration's embattled nominee for religious freedom ambassador is comparing herself to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as she tries for a second time to land
the post.

"They called Margaret Thatcher the `iron lady,"' the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook said Tuesday in an address to a dinner of religious liberty advocates. "Change the name. It's mine now."

Cook was nominated for the post last June but her nomination stalled and expired in December. President Obama renominated her in February after critics complained the longtime vacancy reflected a low priority for the issue.

Critics, including some on Capitol Hill, have questioned whether the retired New York City pastor lacks enough direct experience to help guide policy on an issue that's at the heart of numerous international conflicts.

"This will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest nomination," she said. "But we thank God to just be in the number."

Cook was introduced by the legislative affairs director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who said attendees hope she will be the next ambassador. As she did at her recent Senate confirmation hearings, Cook recounted her international travels and work after 9/11 as a New
York police chaplain.

Continue reading Embattled Religious Freedom Envoy the New `Iron Lady' ...

April 6, 2011

Majority of Evangelicals Prefer Government Shutdown to Budget Compromise

The federal government is, once again, nearing a government shutdown due to the impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over this year's budget. The key issue is how much to reduce discretionary spending. For evangelical political leaders, the fiscal fight represents a moral battle where there is little room for compromise.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests that a majority of Americans want legislators to compromise, but evangelicals want politicians to stand their ground.

Pew asked the public how they wanted lawmakers who share their views to do. A majority of Americans (55 percent) said that their legislators should “be more willing to compromise even if that means they pass a budget [I] disagree with.” Only 36 percent said lawmakers should “stand by their principles even if that means the government shuts down.”

Evangelicals are more likely to want lawmakers to say, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Among the major religious groups in the U.S., evangelicals are the most likely to agree that their lawmakers should not compromise even if it leads to a shutdown. A majority (51 percent) took this position; 39 percent favored a compromise.

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This attitude on the budget is not found among other religious groups. Black Protestants are the most in favor of compromise (72 percent). A majority of other groups including Mainline Protestants (52 percent), Catholics (63 percent), and nonreligious people (55 percent) support compromise even if it means a budget that they disagree with.

Social conservatives want to keep in a complete ban on funding for Planned Parenthood. Advocates for relief organizations are conducting a month-long fast to raise awareness of cuts to aid for the world's poor. Both groups are calling on lawmakers to resist any compromise that violates these issues.

Continue reading Majority of Evangelicals Prefer Government Shutdown to Budget Compromise...

April 4, 2011

State Laws That Lower Abortions

The U.S. House of Representatives and many state legislatures are considering new abortion-related policies, but will these efforts actually result in fewer abortions?

A new study suggests that the number of abortions is reduced when states enact parental involvement/consent laws, informed consent laws, and restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion. University of Alabama political science professor Michael J. New published the study in the March State Politics & Policy Quarterly.

Parental involvement laws require minors who are seeking an abortion to have the approval of a parent. Informed consent laws require doctors to inform women on the risks associated with an abortion, details about fetal development, and the resources available for pregnant women and mothers. As of 2005, 33 states had parental involvement laws on the books, and 34 had informed consent requirements.

Both types of laws were unconstitutional prior to the 1992 Casey decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then the courts have ruled that these laws are constitutional because they do not place an “undue burden” women's access to abortion services.

The number of abortions in the U.S. has dropped significantly since the Casey decision. From 1990 to 2005, the annual number of abortions dropped by around 22 percent, from just over 1 million to 820 thousand.

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New found that some of this reduction is due to changes in state laws. He examined the abortion rates for each state from 1985 through 2005 and found that prohibiting Medicaid-funded abortions reduce abortions by 7 to 8 percent. This finding has a direct bearing on debates in Congress, which is considering new laws that would codify restrictions on abortions funding in the health care law passed last year.

Continue reading State Laws That Lower Abortions ...