All posts from “September 2011”

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September 30, 2011

Military Chaplains Allowed to Perform Gay Weddings

The Pentagon has issued a memo allowing military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages if it is allowed by the law and the chaplain's beliefs.

Last week, the military ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, raising questions about the ability military chaplains will have to express their views on homosexuality.

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"A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law," a memo released Friday says. "Further a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion."

In May, the Navy initially said it would same-sex marriages and then reversed its decision on marriages on military bases.

Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley said in the new memo that "a military chaplain's participation in a private ceremony does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by [the Department of Defense]."

The Pentagon says Defense Department property may be used for private functions as long as it is in line with the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and local laws. Five states recognize same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

September 29, 2011

The Difference Between Michele Bachmann's and Rick Perry’s Liberty University Pitches

An analysis from someone inside the university.

Two presidential contenders took up Liberty University’s standing offer to all 2012 candidates to address students at the school’s thrice-weekly convocations. Michele Bachmann spoke yesterday in Liberty’s 10,000-seat Vines Center, following an appearance by Rick Perry on September 14.   

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Bachmann’s closest aide is reportedly Brett O’Donnell, the former coach of Liberty’s championship debate team, a fact that may have helped her to outshine her contender between the appearances.

Perry seemed less at home than Bachmann in speaking before a college audience, admitting that he had to look up the word “convocation” before coming, and a pun he made on the word fell flat.

Bachmann was introduced by Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., as a “constitutional conservative” committed to “bold reforms” in fighting the “evils of big government,” as well as a “defender of the unborn” and a “deeply committed Christian.” Falwell also noted her role as the first woman elected to Congress in Minnesota.

Not many presidential candidates can claim that behind their success stands a supportive man, but Bachmann’s husband accompanied her to her talk at Liberty. Seated on the stage, his quiet presence offered a different angle on the gender issue raised at a presidential debate this summer when a reporter asked Bachmann if she would submit to her husband if elected.

Bachmann, who won a straw poll at Liberty last April, presented the simple message, “Don’t Settle” and tailored it to the student audience whom she identified as “in the decade when the fundamental decisions of life are made.” She told the students, “You stand to be the first generation in in America’s 235 years that may not do better economically than the previous generation.”

Continue reading The Difference Between Michele Bachmann's and Rick Perry’s Liberty University Pitches...

September 28, 2011

Obama Heckled as 'Anti-Christ,' Affirms 'Jesus Christ is Lord' (Video)

A heckler interrupted President Obama's fundraising event in Los Angeles Monday night with calls that Obama was "an anti-Christ."  The heckler, identified as David Serrano, stood just feet in front of the president. The Secret Service quickly removed him. The episode, however, gave Obama one more opportunity to restate his Christian beliefs.

Serrano interrupted Obama's introductory remarks at the fundraiser. "Jesus Christ is the one and only true and living God, the creator of the heavens and the universe," Serrano said. "Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is God. You are [the] anti-Christ." 

Obama did respond immediately to Serrano, who chanted "Jesus Christ is God" while the Secret Service escorted him out of the crowd.

“First of all, I agree that Jesus Christ is the Lord. I believe in that,” Obama said. He then pointed out that the man may have left his jacket. Whether this was a concern for security or an attempt to "give him his cloak also," Obama insisted the man take his coat with him. That is, until a woman said it was her jacket.
The president then returned to his speech.  "All right, where was I? It is good to be back in L.A," Obama said.

Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, told the New York Daily News that Serrano is not new to local political events. He frequently interrupts public meetings with similar statements.

"He yells out his statements, which are very mistaken, odd interpretations of scriptures. He's been pretty close to being thrown out of our meetings," Bell said. “He's not a pleasant guy. He talks about Jews in his diatribes and seems very anti-Semitic. I don't have the impression he's dangerous, but he has issues that could use some help.”

Serrano's heckles did not come cheap. The 1,000 attendees paid $250 to $10,000 to hear Obama give a campaign speech at the L.A. House of Blues. Serrano has been released by the Secret Services without charges.

September 22, 2011

Some Evangelicals Line Up Behind Rick Perry

From media mavens to grassroots activists, conservative Christian leaders are heaping praise on presidential candidate Rick Perry, an early but important show of support from a vital GOP constituency.

Initially unimpressed with the 2012 presidential field, some of these evangelicals now herald Perry's late entry as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

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Like Reagan, they say, Perry is a big-state governor, a staunch conservative and, significantly, a fellow Christian.

Perry, in turn, has suffused his campaign with religion, building on strategies honed for years in Texas politics.

He has huddled with social conservatives at a Texas retreat, hosted a high-profile Christian prayer rally in Houston and recited his prodigal-son spiritual testimony at the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.

On Tuesday (Sept. 20), Perry said his Christian faith includes a "clear directive" to support Israel, a view shared by many evangelicals, who believe God gave the land to the Jewish people.

Early returns suggest the Texas governor's efforts are paying off, particularly among elder evangelical statesmen:

-- Donald E. Wildmon, founder and former head of the American Family Association, is endorsing Perry. The Mississippi-based AFA organized and spent $600,000 to finance Perry's prayer rally, called "The Response," and later directed its 30,000 participants to a new Christian
voter-registration campaign.

"I think the overwhelming majority of what's often called the `religious right' will support the governor," said Wildmon, whose organization boasts a mailing list of 60,000 pastors and operates 180 radio stations. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help the man get
elected."

-- Former Focus on the Family head James Dobson has gushed over Perry on his new radio show, calling him a "deeply committed Christian" and a courageous leader. Dobson was a co-organizer of The Response and will reportedly appear with Perry at an event in Orlando next month.

-- Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. has mused that Perry could be another Reagan and called him "one of the most pro-life governors in American history." Falwell also said he admires the governor's "guts" for suggesting that Texas could secede from the union.

Continue reading Some Evangelicals Line Up Behind Rick Perry ...

September 22, 2011

After Troy Davis: The Religious Belief Breakdown on the Death Penalty

The execution of Troy Davis last night in Georgia has reinvigorated public debate over the death penalty. Davis was convicted in the 1989 murder of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. The execution made headlines because there were questions raised about the evidence in the case, including recantations by seven of the nine witnesses against Davis.

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The execution was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, former president Jimmy Carter, and governments around the globe. In the U.S., most Christians support the use of the death penalty to punish murders. Unlike Catholics and mainline Protestants, evangelicals support for capital punishment remains high even among those who say their views are shaped most by their religious beliefs.


Public opinion on the death penalty has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. According to polls by Gallup, support for the death penalty was highest in the late 1980's and early 1990's. At that time, 80 percent of Americans said they favored executing murderers. Since then, support has dropped to 64 percent.


A 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found support for the death penalty was very high among white evangelicals. Much of these differences were due to race or ethnicity. Three-quarters of evangelicals favor the use of capital punishment. White Mainline Protestants had a similar level of support. Only 60 percent of Catholics approve of the death penalty, but this lower level of support is due to Hispanic Catholics. (only 43 percent support). Black Protestants are the most opposed to the death penalty, with only a third approving of the death penalty.

Continue reading After Troy Davis: The Religious Belief Breakdown on the Death Penalty ...

September 21, 2011

Clock is Ticking for Religious Freedom Panel

The independent and bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom could be forced to shut its doors if the Senate does not vote by week's end to reauthorize the panel.

The commission appears to be in legislative limbo after the House voted Sept. 15 to extend the panel for an additional two years. The commission is authorized through Sept. 30, but both houses of Congress are scheduled to be in recess starting Monday (Sept. 26).

Before the House vote, Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., urged fellow members to support the watchdog panel that monitors the persecution of religious minorities across the globe. But he worried that the Senate might not act in time.

"Quite frankly, I believe that some over there and this very administration would not mind seeing this commission shut its doors," said Wolf, who authored the original 1998 legislation that created the commission.

The House voted 391-21 in favor of reauthorization; a spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kalinda Stephenson, the Republican staff director of the congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said advocates for reauthorization had hoped it would occur earlier this year.

"With all the budget cuts, people don't see religious freedom as a priority," she said.

Continue reading Clock is Ticking for Religious Freedom Panel ...

September 20, 2011

Baylor Study: The Politics of God's Plan for Your Life

Those who agree strongly that “God has a plan for all of us” are least supportive of government programs that help those out of work.

A new study by Baylor University finds that belief that God has a plan for your life leads to less support for government programs. The Baylor Religion Survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans agree that “God has a plan for all of us.” Those who agreed more strongly were more likely to see financial success as the result of hard work and ability. As a result, they were also least supportive of government programs that help those out of work.

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The Baylor survey found that 41 percent of Americans strongly agreed that God has a plan for everyone; another 32 percent merely agreed. Holding the belief appears to shape views of poverty and government. Those who strongly agree that God has a plan for everyone were much more likely to “some are meant to be rich and some are meant to be poor.” This is still a minority view: only 15 percent of those that strongly agree believe in poverty being fated. Still, this was three times greater than for those who did not strongly agree that God has a plan.

Those who believe God has a plan for everyone apparently see this plan including the rewarding of hard work and ability. Those who strongly believe in God's plan were twice as likely to also believe success is achieved by ability rather than luck (39 percent vs. 17 percent).

As belief in a divine plan grows, so does belief in a major part of the American dream. The survey asked if Americans agreed that “anything is possible for those who work hard.” A majority who strongly agreed in God's plan also agreed with this statement about hard work. Support was lowest among those who did not believe in a divine plan. Those who do not believe in God's plan were half as likely to agree that anything is possible with hard work.

Continue reading Baylor Study: The Politics of God's Plan for Your Life...

September 14, 2011

Poverty on the Rise: Children and Vulnerable Hit Hardest in 2010

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that poverty is continuing to rise in the United States. The poverty rate—the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line—reached 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009. There are now more than 46 million people in poverty and nearly 50 million without health insurance coverage. Poverty is now the worst it has been since 1993.

The situation is even worse for children: One in four children under six years of age now live in poverty. This is nearly twice the rate of poverty for adults, and the situation for children is made worse if they live in a single-parent household. Only 6.2 percent of families led by married parents are below the poverty line. If a wife is absent, the chances of living in poverty jump to 15.8 percent. Without a husband, a family does even worse. Nearly one in three families headed by single mothers lives below the poverty line.

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Poverty continues to be worse for other vulnerable people in society. There are stark contrasts between key demographic groups in America. Compared to where they were in 2009, those with disabilities were hit hardest by the economy. They have a poverty rate twice that of those who are not disabled. African-Americans and Latinos also continue to have a poverty rate twice that of Whites (not Hispanic) or Asian-Americans. Citizens are more economically secure than those living in the U.S. who are not citizens.

Continue reading Poverty on the Rise: Children and Vulnerable Hit Hardest in 2010...

September 13, 2011

State Dept. Chides Eight Countries on Religious Freedom

The State Department on Tuesday designated eight nations as the most serious violators of religious freedom, naming the same countries as the Bush administration.

The list of "Countries of Particular Concern" includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan; all but Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan also received sanctions.

While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has issued previous reports on religious freedom, Tuesday's report represented the first time the Obama administration has published its list of the world's worst violators.

The mid-year report focused mostly on problems and progress during the second half of 2010. But it also included more recent developments, including the assassinations of prominent critics of Pakistan's blasphemy law and the bombing of a church in Egypt that killed 22 people and injured about 100 more.

"It is our core conviction that religious tolerance is one of the essential elements not only of a sustainable democracy but of a peaceful society that respects the rights and dignity of each individual," Clinton told reporters at a press briefing.

Continue reading State Dept. Chides Eight Countries on Religious Freedom...

September 7, 2011

Perry Addresses HPV Vaccine, Death Penalty at Debate

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry squared off over their jobs records at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. The two frontrunners for the nomination took center stage at the GOP debate that kept most of its focus on economy.

The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California was also Perry’s debate debut. Perry, who announced his candidacy last month, has edged ahead of Romney this week in nationwide polls. Most questions at the debate, even though posed to the other six candidates, focused on Romney’s and Perry’s positions.

Perry reaffirmed previous statements he’s made on the campaign trail regarding climate change, capital punishment and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Although Perry said last month that his decision to issue an executive order mandating a vaccine against the sexually transmitted HPV was a “mistake,” at the debate he stood by his reasons for the decision. “At the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives,” Perry said, adding that he “probably” should have let the Texas state government legislate the decision rather than ordering it as governor.

Perry said he felt like "a pinata at the party" after receiving criticism for his decision from Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

When asked about Texas’ death penalty, referring to the 234 executions during Perry’s three terms as governor of the state, Perry paused for applause from the audience. "I think Americans understand justice," Perry said. “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."

Continue reading Perry Addresses HPV Vaccine, Death Penalty at Debate ...

September 7, 2011

Evangelicals Left Off 9/11 Memorial Events

Two high-profile memorial services for September 11 have drawn protests from faith leaders and religious organizations who have objected that an event plans de-emphasize the role that Christians played in the aftermath of the attacks.

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President Obama will attend an event at the Washington National Cathedral on the evening of September 11 where he will deliver remarks at what appears to be a more secular service but is expected to include some form of benediction.

A 9/11 interfaith prayer vigil at the Cathedral earlier in the day will include Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane, Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche of Tibet, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, Dr. D.C. Rao, a representative of the Hindu and Jain faiths and Imam Mohamed Magid.

A representative of the Southern Baptist Convention pointed out that the list of prayer participants does not include any evangelicals. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, protested that for a church service, the line-up seemed better suited for a meeting of the United Nations.


According to Richard Weinberg, the National Cathedral’s director of communications, the choice of participants emphasized diversity in order to “appeal to as many in the country as possible.”

“The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives,” he told Fox News Radio.

In comparison, on Sept. 14, 2001, evangelist Billy Graham spoke at the National Cathedral, speaking explicitly of Jesus on the cross as the comfort in a time of great need.

New York City’s 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero, which both Obama and former President George W. Bush plan to attend, does not include any members of the clergy. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) wrote to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to request that prayer be included in the event.

"On September 11, 2001, our nation prayed," wrote Forbes, who is co-chair of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. "And on September 11, 2011, our nation will pray once again."

Continue reading Evangelicals Left Off 9/11 Memorial Events ...

September 7, 2011

Hearing: Speed Bump Unlikely to Derail Proposition 8 Appeal

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys went before the California Supreme Court Tuesday to argue that they should be allowed to continue to appeal an earlier ruling. The ruling overturned Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment authored by ProtectMarriage.com and passed by the voters in 2008. Tuesday’s hearing addressed a much more narrow question, one that could stop the appeal from proceeding.

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At issue is whether or not ProtectMarriage.com has “standing.” In federal courts, people cannot sue someone simply because they believe a law is unconstitutional. The party bringing the lawsuit must be able to show that they are actually impacted by the law. For example, when Proposition 8 passed, same-sex couples sued the state of California who were able to claim that the proposition kept them from marrying. The lawsuit could not be brought by a heterosexual couple who wanted to argue against the amendment.

When the Proposition 8 case went to the federal courts, the state of California refused to defend the amendment. Then attorney general (now governor) Jerry Brown said he agreed with the plaintiffs' claim that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. The court allowed ProtectMarriage.com to stand in and provide a defense of the proposition. But when Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional, he also warned that the ProtectMarriage.com may not have standing to file an appeal because they had failed to show how they were personally harmed by same-sex marriage.

Continue reading Hearing: Speed Bump Unlikely to Derail Proposition 8 Appeal...

September 2, 2011

Rick Perry Talks Politics, Faith at Private Retreat

Evangelical political activists attended a two-day retreat with Texas Governor Rick Perry last weekend, the L.A. Times reports.

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The GOP presidential candidate met with social conservative leaders who grilled Perry on his faith and his politics at a remote ranch west of Austin, Texas. According to the L.A. Times sources, Perry convinced his guests that he was one of them.

The retreat, named “Call to Action,” featured representatives from prominent evangelical and socially conservative political organizations. Participants included Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land, and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Participants were asked not to take pictures, record the event, or disclose details of what was said. Sources for the L.A. Times said Perry gave his testimony, which included a recommitment to his faith following his stint in the Air Force. He also promised to stand firm in opposing same-sex marriage and abortion.

Continue reading Rick Perry Talks Politics, Faith at Private Retreat...