All posts from “July 2011”

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July 29, 2011

Debt Limit Fight: Is There a Christian Compromise?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delayed a vote yesterday on his plan to raise the federal debt limit because he did not have enough votes, according to Politico. Within his own party, freshman and tea party legislators wanted Speaker Boehner to push for more restrictions on spending. From the other side of the aisle, Democrats (including more conservative “blue dog” Democrats) opposed it. Indeed, the only bipartisan cooperation found this week in Washington appears to be an agreement to oppose any compromise on the debt limit. The House could vote on a plan to raise the debt ceiling today.  

The plan proposed Boehner would raise the debt limit (enough to cover until around February 2012). The plan is facing strong opposition from both sides of the aisle.

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Breakpoint's Charles Colson said the inability for those on the right and the left to come together is a sign that Washington is broken. Colson said that leaders in Washington need to do the right thing for the country despite the political costs.

“I’ve been involved in or fascinated by politics for more than 50 years,” Colson said. “But in all these years, I’ve never seen the kind of chaos, recalcitrance, and perhaps downright obstructionism that I’m witnessing in the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling.”

Colson is not alone. A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that 68 percent of Americans believe that legislators should compromise rather than stand by their principles, even if that means the government will default. Support for compromise was greatest among Democrats, but a majority of Republicans also preferred to give up some of their positions to get a deal.

Continue reading Debt Limit Fight: Is There a Christian Compromise?...

July 28, 2011

Herman Cain Apologizes to Muslim Americans

Republican primary candidate Herman Cain released a statement of apology on his recent remarks on Muslims and Islam. Most recently, the GOP hopeful said he supported the banning of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Cain apologized yesterday after meeting with Muslim leaders from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia.

"While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends," Cain said. "I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully."

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Cain has made several comments about Muslims and Islam during the campaign, but he recently attracted national attention for saying that communities should be allowed to prohibit mosques. Cain said on Fox News Sunday that Muslims do not have a constitutional right to worship. According to Cain, Islam is not just a religion--it is “both religion and of set of laws, Sharia law.”

Cain also said he would be wary of allowing a Muslim in his cabinet because he or she might be a terrorist.

“If you at my career, I have never discriminated against anybody because of their religion, their sex, or origin, or anything like that,” Cain said. “I'm simply saying I owe it to the American people to be cautious because terrorists are trying to kill us. And so, yes, I'm going to err on the side of caution, rather than on the side of carelessness.”

Cain's recent comments are not his first on Muslims. In March, Cain told Christianity Today that he resented Muslims who try to convert people in America, a “Judeo-Christian nation.”

And so I push back and reject them trying to convert the rest of us. And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them. Now, I know that there are some peaceful Muslims who don't go around preaching or practicing that. Well, unfortunately, we can't sit back and tolerate the radical ones simply because we know that there are some of them who don't believe in that aspect of the Muslim religion. So their role is to be allowed to practice their religion freely, just like we should be allowed to practice our religion freely, and not try to convert the rest of us.

Continue reading Herman Cain Apologizes to Muslim Americans...

July 26, 2011

Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK

Recent data suggests that Americans for the first time since 1973, a minority says homosexual relations are 'always wrong.'

The state of New York began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this week. New York's decision to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples, which affects the third-largest state population in the U.S., is seen by many as an important symbolic victory in the fights over gay rights and marriage.

In the days leading up to the new legislation, proponents of gay marriage said that traditional marriage advocates would find themselves on the wrong side of history. A long-running beliefs poll indicates a dramatic shift in views of homosexuality in recent years: What was once widely believed to be wrong is now considered morally acceptable by a majority of Americans.

From 1973 to 2010, the General Social Survey (GSS) has asked Americans if they think sexual relations between same-sex couples are wrong. Up until 2008, a majority of Americans have answered that such behavior is 'always wrong.' But the latest GSS, conducted in 2010, finds that only 46 percent of Americans hold this position.

The GSS, a federally-funded survey, is considered the gold standard for polling on social behaviors, attitudes, and values and has asked the same question on homosexual behavior since its inception: “Are sexual relations between two adults of the same sex always, almost always, sometimes, or never wrong?” Until the 1990s, opposition to homosexuality ran high. Nearly seven-in-ten Americans said same-sex sexual relations were always wrong.

But the early 90s saw a dramatic change in views toward homosexuality.


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Continue reading Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK...

July 25, 2011

Obama Keeps Status Quo for Religious Hiring

President Obama suggested recently that he does not plan to change an executive order that permits some faith-based organizations that receive federal funding to discriminate in hiring based on applicants' religious beliefs. The comments appear to be the first Obama has made on the issue since his presidency.

A Maryland town hall attendee who works for Secular Coalition for America asked Obama about statements he made as a candidate in 2008 when he said, "If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help, and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

Obama said said something similar in his remarks Friday. “It’s very straightforward that people shouldn’t be discriminated against for race, gender, sexual orientation, and - or religious affiliation,” he said.

But Obama also appeared to suggest that he does not plan to rescind an executive order that states that that while federally-funded religious organizations cannot discriminate against beneficiaries, they “may retain religious terms in its organization's name, select its board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in its organization's mission statements and other chartering or governing documents.”

Obama appeared to maintain the status quo.

“I think that the balance we’ve tried to strike is to say that if you are offering - if you have set up a nonprofit that is disassociated from your core religious functions and is out there in the public doing all kinds of work, then you have to abide generally with the non-discrimination hiring practices,” he said. “If, on the other hand, it is closer to your core functions as a synagogue or a mosque or a church, then there may be more leeway for you to hire somebody who is a believer of that particular religious faith.”
Organizations like the ACLU called on the president to rescind the executive order last month while several faith-based groups responded with a letter to Obama.

In 2009, the Obama administration decided to delay a decision on whether religious groups who hire based on the religious background of job applicant can receive federal funding.

July 21, 2011

Obama Meets with Christian Leaders over Budget

The President endorses message of reducing deficit while protecting the poor.

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At a White House meeting with Christian leaders, President Obama endorsed the goal of reducing the federal deficit without harming those most in need. The leaders represented the Circle of Protection, a diverse, non-partisan coalition that represents evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and other Christian groups.

"The President embraced the principle that as we work on deficit reduction the poor should be protected," said National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) vice president Galen Carey, who attended the meeting.

The meeting with Obama came after several meetings between the Circle and high level White House staff. Those meetings included discussions of specific policies, but the Circle wanted to meet with the President because they wanted him to better articulate the need to protect programs for those in poverty.

The 40 minute meeting Wednesday afternoon included only a dozen of the members of the Circle. Evangelicals in attendance included the NAE's Carey, Salvation Army national commander William Roberts, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez, and Sojourners president Jim Wallis (see full list at the end of this post).

For Rodriguez, the timing of the meeting was "divinely ordained." The meeting was announced on Monday. On Tuesday, the so-called "Gang of Six" in the Senate announced that there had been a breakthrough in bipartisan negotiations over the debt limit and the deficit. Their proposal would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next ten years. The plan includes both spending cuts and increases in tax revenue. The President met with the Circle on Wednesday. After a discussion and a prayer, Obama left the meeting to attend meetings with congressional leaders on the budget. According to Rodriguez, the Circle expects to hold a public event with the President in the future.

Continue reading Obama Meets with Christian Leaders over Budget...

July 20, 2011

State Dept. Tries to Raise Visibility of Religion

Often accused of ignoring religion as they craft foreign policy, the White House and State Department are trying to show that religion is a rising priority for U.S. diplomacy.

The most recent case in point: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Istanbul last week (July 15) promoted a new U.S.-backed international agreement to protect freedom of speech and religion, an accord described by her department as a "landmark" change.

"These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places," Clinton said, "and they are certainly essential to democracy."

Elsewhere in the State Department, its school for Foreign Service officers rolled out a new course last month on how diplomats can practice "religious engagement."

And the National Security Council is touting a new partnership with the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which represents a "renewed focus on the intersection of religion and foreign policy across the United States government," faith-based director Joshua DuBois wrote in a July 11 blog post.

Continue reading State Dept. Tries to Raise Visibility of Religion ...

July 20, 2011

Co-Founder of Evangelicals for Mitt Wrote Bristol Palin's Memoir

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Few 20-year-olds write memoirs. Fewer still see their books on The New York Times bestsellers list. But Bristol Palin has turned her three years in the national spotlight into a publishing success. Like many public figures, Palin employed the help of a professional writer, in this case Nancy French, a writer and activist who co-founded Evangelicals for Mitt (EFM) in 2005. Today, French and EFM continue to campaign for Mitt Romney among evangelicals, many of whom are wary of supporting a Mormon candidate.

Palin told Christianity Today that French's backing of Mitt Romney was not a problem, even if Palin's mother, Sarah, ran for president, too. "Regardless of who she votes for politically or anything like that we're still going to be really close," Palin said.

French is no stranger to memoir writing. She has two of her own. Her latest, released less than two weeks after the Palin's Not Afraid of Life, is Home and Away, written with her husband about his decision to enlist. Nor is this her first co-authored memoir about someone in the political spotlight: In 2007, she was hired to help Ann Romney write her memoir on life in the Romney family. That project remains an as-yet unpublished manuscript.

French started campaigning for Romney's first try at the GOP nomination through EFM. French, her husband (who is senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund), and others formed EFM. Their first target was the 2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference. The SRLC is a gathering for Bible-belt conservatives, just the type of social conservatives who look sideways at Romney because of his religion and his record as Massachusetts governor. Supporters sported t-shirts that read "Yankee Governor, Southern Values." EFM helped Romney win second place behind Sen. Bill Frist (who was the home-state favorite).

After the SRLC straw poll, French and other founders of EFM were named as vice-chairs of the Romney campaign's National Faith and Values Steering Committee. Later, French was hired by the Romney campaign to help it get on the ballot in Tennessee (French's home state).

Today, EFM remains a small but effective group. It describes itself as a "first and foremost, group of friends." On Facebook, it has around 900 supporters (compared to over one million for the main Romney page). Last year, Romney again won the SRLC presidential straw poll even though Romney skipped the event.

That support could be traced directly back to the work of EFM. Like most straw polls, voting is not free. Voting is open to attendees only, who pay at least $119 to go to the conference. According to The Washington Post, EFM gave away 200 tickets for free to Romney supporters. As a cosponsor of the event, EFM also gave out merchandise and hung banners in the exhibit hall. The time, effort, and over $23,000 in tickets paid off. Even though Romney skipped the conference, he won the straw poll by one vote over Rand Paul. It was a win that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and other media took as a sign of Romney's possible support among southern conservatives.

July 15, 2011

Map: Record Number of State Abortion Laws in 2011

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States have enacted a record number of state laws restricting abortion in 2011. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, reports that in the first six months of this year, there have been 80 state laws that restrict abortion.
The number of laws passed is more than double the number of laws in any previous year (the previous record was 34 restrictions in 2005). Many of these laws included multiple restrictions on abortion, resulting in over 100 new policies designed to lower abortion in the states.
Overall, 19 states have enacted some restriction on abortion. The most common restriction was to limit abortion coverage in health plans that will be offered in the health exchanges (eight states). These exchanges are part of President Obama’s health insurance reform passed last year. Other popular changes included bans on the use of telemedicine, changing abortion reporting rules, and requiring a fetal ultrasound before performing an abortion.

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Geographically, most of the restrictions occurred in the band of states between the rockies and the Mississippi River. Indiana, Kansas, North Dakota, Utah, and Nebraska enacted major provisions to restrict abortion. Few restrictions were enacted on the Pacific coast or New England.
The reason for the geographic pattern is the parties that control the legislatures. After the 2010 election, Republicans made gains in most states; the Democratic Party lost legislatures and governorships in many states. Abortion restrictions were much more likely to pass in states where Republicans controlled both the legislature and the governorship. Republican states were 10 times as likely to enact a law restricting abortion than a Democratic state. GOP states were four times as likely to do so than states with divided government.

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July 14, 2011

Bachmann's Marriage Vow Controversy; Pawlenty, Romney Say 'I Don't'

In the race for the Republican nomination for president, candidates are showing their conservative credentials by signing pledges. There is at least a pledge to not raise taxes, a promise to slash spending to balance the budget, and a pro-life pledge. But the most controversial is the "Marriage Vow Pledge" put forth by the Iowa-based Family Leader. Michele Bachmann, who is leading in the polls in Iowa, was the first to sign it (Rick Santorum is the only other candidate to sign).  It was a decision that has resulted in her entanglement in controversies ranging from questions about race to sexuality.

"The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY" calls on candidates to support marriage both in policy and in their personal lives. Unlike other pledges this campaign season, the “Marriage Vow” avoids ambiguous platitudes. Instead, it lists detailed arguments and policy proposals (complete with references and footnotes). And it may be the specificity of the pledge that pulled Bachmann into so much controversy.

The pledge included a preamble that listed evidence that marriage in America is “in crisis.”  The very first claim made was that marriage among African-Americans was stronger under slavery than it is today.

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President,” the Marriage Vow said.

After the vow was criticized for implying that African-Americans were better off under slavery than they are today, the Family Leader removed the statement from the preamble. The group said the statement was being “misconstrued.”

Julie Summa, a spokeswoman for the Family Leader, told Politico, “It was not meant to be racist or anything. It was just a fact that back in the days of slavery there was usually a husband and a wife.”

Forbes' Osha Gray Davidson interviewed Lorraine Blackman of Indiana University, who is the lead author on the study the Marriage Vow cites as evidence for this statistic.

“That’s just wrong,” Blackman told Davidson. “It is a serious error.”

Blackman explained that while African-American two-parent families were higher in the past, the Marriage Vow was completely false because slaves could not marry.

Bachmann told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the candidate pledge did not include the preamble with the slavery statement and that she opposes slavery.

“I just want to make it absolutely clear, I abhor slavery,” Bachmann said. “Slavery was a terrible part of our nation's history. It is good that we no longer have slavery. And under no circumstances would any child be better off growing up under slavery. But that isn't what I signed. That isn't what I believe.”

The Marriage Vow controversy was not limited to the reference to slavery. There were also questions about the details in the pledge itself. A few of the more controversial policies in the pledge include opposition to same-sex marriage, pornography, “seduction into promiscuity,” keeping women out of military combat, supporting safeguards against adultery in the military, and “extended 'second chance' or 'cooling-off' periods for those seeking a 'quickie divorce.'” 

The pledge also opposes polygamy, in part because the Family Leader believes polygamy would aid the advancement of “Sharia Islam.”  The pledge says that polygamy is “a demographic and strategic means for the advancement of Sharia Islamist misogyny, for attacks upon the rights of women, for the violent persecution of homosexuals, for the undermining of basic human rights, and for general religious and civil intolerance for Jewish, Christian and other non-Islamic faiths under Sharia law.”

Continue reading Bachmann's Marriage Vow Controversy; Pawlenty, Romney Say 'I Don't' ...

July 12, 2011

NBC Apologizes to Congress for Edited Pledge

WASHINGTON--NBC has issued a formal apology to more than 100 members of Congress for omitting the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance during a patriotic montage that aired last month.

The letter, signed by Kyle McSlarrow, president of NBC Universal, comes in response to a complaint by 107 members of Congress alleging that a montage shown during coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament obscured America's religious heritage.

The montage featured video of schoolchildren saying the pledge alongside images of soldiers and American flags, but did not include the phrase "under God." It also omitted "one nation" and "indivisible."

McSlarrow expressed regret over the segment, saying "a serious error in judgment was made by a small group of people. To be absolutely clear, this was not an ideological decision by the company and was not discussed with or approved by any senior NBC official."

The letter also stressed that action had been taken, noting, "The employees involved have been reprimanded. And we have already implemented a new checks and balances process for pre-produced pieces, ensuring that nothing will go on the air without senior-level approval."

The letter was addressed to Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and Mike McIntyre D-N.C., who co-chair the Congressional Prayer Caucus, but was also sent to more than 100 other members of Congress.

July 12, 2011

Conservatives Push 'Cut, Cap, and Balance' Pledge: What Would it Do?

With the federal debt the number one political issue in Washington, conservative groups are asking candidates to sign  “cut, cap, and balance” pledge, calling for drastic cuts in spending to curb debt. Many of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary have already signed on (Michele Bachmann is the one notable exception). The pledge would do more than cut spending; it would make current Republican proposals in Washington seem tame.

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The pledge includes three proposals:

– Cut spending to decrease next year's deficit

– Cap spending to “enforceable levels”

– Pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Together, these policies would mean severe cuts in domestic programs than even the Republican budget proposal passed by the House of Representatives. The so-called 'Roadmanp for America's Future' was proposed by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). The roadmap includes cuts to both discretionary and mandatory spending, changes to the tax code, and a reform of welfare and health programs.

The roadmap is nothing if not bold—for some, its cuts are draconian, for others it is the kind of radical reform needed. Regardless, it is less severe than the cuts that would result under the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” pledge.

The budget amendment alone would mean cutting the equivalent of all discretionary spending, including the entire defense budget. Under the current budget, mandatory spending (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) alone is nearly as much as government revenue. Add in interest payments on the debt, and the result is a deficit. To achieve a balanced budget, Congress would need to find over $1 trillion dollars to cut from the budget. The roadmap, even with its arguably rosy economic assumptions, does not foresee a balanced budget any time in the next decade.

Continue reading Conservatives Push 'Cut, Cap, and Balance' Pledge: What Would it Do?...

July 10, 2011

Exclusive: Focus on the Family Responds to TOMS's Founder Apology

Blake Mycoskie distanced himself from the organization yesterday.

Focus on the Family still hopes to broadcast an interview with TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie after the entrepreneur distanced himself from the organization yesterday. In an apology to some upset that he would partner over an "anti-gay, anti-choice" group, he said, "TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all."

Focus President Jim Daly recorded an interview with Mycoskie in front of about 1,500 people on June 30 in Orange County, California at a "Style Your Sole" event.

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Daly said he hopes to still be able to broadcast the interview. "By contract, TOMS has the right to block broadcast of the program," Daly said in a statement sent to CT. "We hope they won't do that, but we have yet to hear directly from Blake or anyone at TOMS about this situation.” As CT reported in its July cover story, Focus was applying in May to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa. (Update: A spokesman told CT by mutual agreement, Focus set aside the idea of becoming a distributor before the California event because it did not have the capacity to meet the volume requirements for TOMS distributors.)

After groups that disagree with the ministry over same-sex marriage and abortion criticized Mycoskie for appearing at the event, he apologized, saying, "Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event." Mycoskie was not specific in what policies he disagrees with Focus on.

Focus's daily broadcast reaches about 2 million listeners in the U.S, according to the organization. “We interviewed Blake because we thought his story would inspire other Christians to act on their faith like he has and to help others in need,” Daly said.

Mycoskie attends Los Angeles-based Mosaic Church, led by Erwin McManus, according to a recent report. He has partnered with other Christian organizations like Willow Creek and will speak at Catalyst this October.

TOMS held a "Style Your Sole" event at Texas-based Abilene Christian University (ACU) last year. ACU was featured in a New York Times feature in April headlined “Even on Religious Campuses, Students Fight for Gay Identity." The university had declined to allow formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.

In 2009, Mycoskie visited the White House to meet with President Obama's administration and other business leaders on U.S. economic policy. The for-profit company donates shoes to children for each lightweight pair sold, reaching its millionth pair donated milestone last year.

Focus has kept its stance on same-sex marriage while shifting its emphasizing to more of an advice and counseling ministry on family, parenting, and marriage. For instance, its recent broadcasts include "Keeping the Romance Sizzling" and "Nurturing God's Gifts in Your Child."

“Yes, we believe marriage is a sacred, lifetime union between one man and one woman. Yes, we advocate in the public policy arena for laws that uphold that truth,” Daly said in the statement. “But the same Bible that tells us God's design and intent for marriage tells us all people are created in His image and are worthy of dignity and respect."

The organization's tone has shifted since its founder James Dobson left in 2010 and set up his own radio program Family Talk with his son, Ryan. Dobson continues to warn his listeners of the political climate.

"At stake are policies that should concern millions of Americans, including federal funding for abortions, amnesty for illegal aliens, open homosexuality in the military, further assaults on religious liberty, and universal health care legislation amounting to rationing and the denial of medical services for older Americans," Dobson wrote in a newsletter last year. "The possibility of 'death panels' looms before us."

Continue reading Exclusive: Focus on the Family Responds to TOMS's Founder Apology...

July 9, 2011

TOMS Shoes Founder Distances Himself from Focus on the Family

Christianity Today recently published a cover story on Focus on the Family's shift away from politics back towards an emphasis on the family. Backlash, surprisingly, has come from a brief mention towards the end of the piece about its budding relationship with TOMS shoes, a company that donates shoes to children for every pair sold. After receiving criticism for partnering with Focus, founder Blake Mycoskie posted on his blog that "TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all."

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Mycoskie partnered with Focus on the Family for a "Style Your Sole" event with about 500 people on June 30. Esther Fleece, who heads the organization's millennial outreach and gave CT permission to post the picture to the right, noted Focus's former dress code when she posted the picture on Facebook: "From panty hose and ties to staff in TOMS." Focus President Jim Daly is second to the left.

The partnership between Focus and TOMS prompted sites like Jezebel to question whether TOMS should partner with an "anti-gay, anti-choice group?" Ms. Magazine started a petition on Change.org that has received about 500 signatures, asking TOMS to drop its relationship with Focus.

Here's what Mycoskie posted on his blog:

Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly.

Furthermore, contrary to what has been reported, Focus on the Family is not a TOMS giving partner.

So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud.

To clarify, the CT report said that Focus is "working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa," not that it was already a distributor. Here's the full context:

As this issue of Christianity Today goes to press, the ministry is scheduled to highlight the work of Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, a company that donates shoes to an impoverished child for every pair sold.

"A year ago, they were like, 'Who's that?'," Fleece laughs. Now the company is working to become a TOMS international distributor in Africa. "We're making slow strides here."

CT has contacted Focus for its response. (Update: Focus responds here)

Mycoskie has been attending Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, led by Erwin McManus, according to a piece earlier this year from John Brown University's newspaper. In his TOMS role, he has partnered with other Christian organizations in the past. He recently did an interview with Catalyst's Brad Lomenick and will be a speaker at the October conference. He has also been a speaker for Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit. In his MySpace bio, his favorite books include the Bible, John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, and C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.

Continue reading TOMS Shoes Founder Distances Himself from Focus on the Family...

July 8, 2011

House Directs Pentagon to Uphold DOMA Law on Gay Marriage

House lawmakers voted Thursday (July 7) to order the Pentagon to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

In an amendment to a larger Defense Department funding bill, the House voted 248-175 to restrict the Pentagon from granting same-sex couples the same rights or benefits as married couples. The amendment is also aimed at keeping military chaplains from officiating at same-sex weddings.

The move comes at the Pentagon appears poised to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. After the Obama administration called the 1996 law unconstitutional and signaled it will no longer defend it in court, conservatives said the Pentagon needs strict guidance on following the law.

Earlier this year, the Navy suspended a plan to allow Navy chaplains to conduct same-sex weddings on military bases in states where it is legal. After pushback from religious conservatives, Navy officials agreed to study the issue further before adopting any new policies.

“I believe it’s incumbent on the Congress to make this issue very clear so that we don’t have confusion on these military bases when we talk about same-sex marriages,” said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

The House has yet to act on another amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., that would prohibit the Pentagon from implementing a chaplain training program on the repeal of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that amendment “would substitute Congress’s micromanagement for the judgment of our military leaders on training issues, and it is a transparent attempt to interfere with the repeal of DADT in any way possible.”

July 8, 2011

The Surge in Sexuality Debates

President Obama had declared June as national “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month,” just in time for heated debates over same-sex marriage and similar issues.

1. Social Conservatives: New York Gay Marriage is Harbinger of Civilization's Decline

By far, the most important event—symbolically and substantively—in June was the extension of marriage to same-sex couples in New York. Social conservatives were not reticent in expressing their concern. CBN's Pat Robertson compared the America to Sodom, warning that God may withdraw his favor for the United States because of laws like the New York marriage law.

“In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived,” Robertson said. “It’s not a pretty world we live in right now, and we need all of God’s help we can get. And I don’t think we are not exactly setting ourselves up for His favor.”

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Breakpoints's Chuck Colson said the redefinition of marriage would lead to “social pathologies of every sort.”

“Redefining marriage and family is precisely what the same-sex 'marriage' debate is all about … If same-sex 'marriage' advocates are successful in spite of their meager support, make no mistake, [social] pathologies will only grow, just like I've seen in prisons for 35 years,” Colson said.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the New York law was the result of political arm-twisting and possible vote buying.

"Enormous political coercion has resulted in a profound failure of moral courage in the New York Senate. A clear majority of the people of New York oppose counterfeit 'marriage,' but Gov. Cuomo and anti-family lawmakers have shown that their allegiance is to a small but vocal minority seeking to redefine marriage and family,” Perkins said.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the greatest concern was the lack of a residency requirement. Couples do not need to live in New York to receive a marriage license. Land said this would mean that same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“This is probably the biggest challenge to traditional marriage that we've seen. New York, what happens in New York matters. Probably even more than what happens in California when it comes to the culture. Particularly since there is no residency requirement to get married,” Land said. “I guarantee you this action by the New York State Assembly and Cuomo has already signed it will bring same-sex marriage to a house near you."

Land's warning echoes his concern with same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa two years ago, when he said Iowa would become “the Las Vegas of same-sex 'marriage' for America.”

“And you know those folks won’t be resettling in the Hawkeye State, but will be heading back home–perhaps to your state,” Land said.

2. Al Mohler Targeted for “Appearing to Pander to the Homosexual Lobby”

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to a question during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting on comments he made to the Christian Science Monitor. Mohler was quoted as saying that Christians had practiced a “form of homophobia” by not being truthful about the nature of sexuality. Mohler said it was wrong to say that sexuality is only a choice.

Continue reading The Surge in Sexuality Debates...