All posts from “Issues”

February 2, 2012

Christians Join Fight Against Cockfighting

Concern is focused on the state of South Carolina, where critics are trying to strengthen state laws against the practice.

Christian leaders are teaming with animal rights advocates to fight against cockfighting, calling the practice of watching and betting on roosters who fight to the death antithetical to biblical values.

"Christians should stand up and speak out against this barbaric practice, which horrendously abuses God's creatures," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Concern about cockfighting is focused on the state of South Carolina, where critics of the practice are trying to strengthen state laws against it. Though cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, it remains a misdemeanor in 11 of them, including South Carolina.

The Humane Society of the United States describes cockfighting as "a lucrative crime, with gambling winnings offsetting even the maximum misdemeanor fines." The group is working with such groups as the South Carolina-based Palmetto Family Council to toughen legislation against what some describe as a "blood sport."

Oran Smith, the Palmetto Family Council's executive director, said South Carolina is increasingly attracting people interested in watching cockfighting and betting on the outcome.

"As a matter of state pride, we must strengthen our laws now," he said.

Smith's organization has produced a video that has drawn praise from the Humane Society. "Wonton cruelty toward animals is frankly unbiblical and un-Christian," Smith says in the video.

In the video, Land says humans are called to "respect every living thing ... Cockfighting is a pornography of violence. People who watch it are going to be brutalized by it."

January 27, 2012

Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics

CBS responds to backlash over coverage of March for Life, demonstrating contentious public opinion.

Like every year since 1974, pro-life demonstrators participated in this week’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. to protest the Supreme Court's decision. Organizers hope that the march brings focus to the issue of abortion, but they are often dismayed by event coverage. This year, pro-life activists were particularly upset with coverage by CBS, which posted a slideshow that initially only featured images of those protesting the March for Life. CBS has since changed the content so that it now includes photos of pro-life participants.

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The backlash over coverage highlights the contentiousness that surrounds abortion nearly four decades after Roe v. Wade. The country has seen significant changes in abortion politics over the past four decades, and today slightly more Americans lean in a more pro-life direction.

At the time of Roe, few Americans had given much thought to abortion as a political issue, candidates rarely mentioned it, and political parties did not consider putting an abortion plank in their platforms. It was not until 1984 that the Republican and Democratic parties took clear opposing positions on abortion. Today, however, nearly all Democratic members of Congress vote in favor of pro-choice legislation and nearly all GOP candidates are consistently pro-life on abortion. Republican and Democratic parties often use the issue as an ideological litmus test.

Continue reading Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics...

December 24, 2011

Evangelical Leaders Side with Catholics on Insurance Mandate

Catholics who have pushed back against a White House policy that would require many religious insurers to cover contraception are getting a high-profile assist from dozens of evangelical leaders.

"We write in solidarity, but separately -- to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption," the leaders wrote Wednesday (Dec. 21) in a letter to President Obama.

Like Catholic officials, the evangelicals object to a mandate under the health care reform law that would require employers to offer insurance coverage for contraception to employees, including treatments that some equate with abortions.

"It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy," they wrote.

Signatories include National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson; Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land; Focus on the Family Senior Vice President Tom Minnery; and Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance.

The letter to Obama was sent the same day that evangelical Colorado Christian University joined Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school, in suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the rule, which is scheduled to take effect in August.

An HHS official said the department is reviewing public comments on the proposed religious exemption on contraceptives.

The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, voiced his concerns to Obama in a meeting, and said the president promised to "look long and hard" at the issue.

December 20, 2011

Social Conservatives, Sebelius Agree—for now—on Contraception and Adoption

As head of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius oversees many hot button issues important to social conservatives. And for at least a few days this December, Sebelius and social conservatives have found themselves on the same sides.

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Opposition to Sebelius began before she even entered the administration.

“It is a sad day for America and for America’s unborn children that Governor Sebelius, who is no friend to those unborn children, has been confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said back in 2009.

Since then, distrust and criticism of Sebelius has grown. The new health care law expanded the power of the head of HHS.

But this December, social conservatives have been surprised by some small Christmas miracles.

On December 7, Sebelius rejected the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendation to make the emergency contraception Plan B One-Step available as an over-the-counter drug without an age limit. Sebelius said the drug would still be available behind the counter but would not be available to girls 16 years old or younger.

Harvard University's Daniel Carpenter wrote in the New York Times, "For the first time in American history, a cabinet secretary — and by extension, a president — has overruled a drug-approval decision by the Food and Drug Administration."

Continue reading Social Conservatives, Sebelius Agree—for now—on Contraception and Adoption...

November 22, 2011

Congress Protects Hunger Programs from Budget Cuts

Religious groups lobbying for hunger programs were pleasantly surprised last week when President Obama signed the agriculture appropriations act. The law unexpectedly protected—and even expanded—programs aimed at reducing hunger both in the United States and around the globe.

When Congress considered spending reductions this summer, a broad coalition of religious leaders and international aid organizations mobilized to keep funding for hunger programs. Evangelical and other Christian groups formed the Circle of Protection, a coalition that lobbied the president and congressional leaders not to cut back on aid to vulnerable populations.

World Vision president Richard Stearns wrote an open letter to Congress last month, calling for the protection of humanitarian programs. “The United States’ global humanitarian programs are some of the most cost-effective programs within the federal budget,” Stearns said. “Together, they amount to $50 per American per year, just 14 cents per American per day. There are very few places within the federal budget where such a small amount of money can directly save so many lives.”

Continue reading Congress Protects Hunger Programs from Budget Cuts...

November 9, 2011

National Association of Evangelicals Calls for Nuclear Cutbacks

The National Association of Evangelicals on Tuesday (Nov. 8) called for greater precautions with nuclear weapons and a renewed effort toward disarmament.

"The rules have changed in the past 25 years," NAE President Leith Anderson said. "Nuclear weapons don't serve as a deterrent to the dangers of our post-Cold War era, which include rogue nations and terrorist groups."

The resolution calls for taking a second look at the Cold War doctrine of deterrence in light of shifting global politics, and challenges the U.S. to pursue new negotiations with Russia and other nuclear countries.

It does not, however, call for unilateral disarmament.

The resolution also challenges the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which would create significant impediments for countries to develop new, usable nuclear weapons. The U.S. is one of only nine remaining nations that must ratify the treaty for it to come into force.

The board of directors of NAE, which represents more than 45,000 churches from over 40 evangelical denominations, approved the resolution at its semiannual meeting in October.

Anderson said nuclear stockpiles should be "a matter of national attention" because "one of the greatest terrorist threats would be a dirty bomb or some rogue nation that used a nuclear weapon."

With the nation's current attention focused almost exclusively on the economy, NAE Vice President Galen Carey said a nuclear attack would cause tremendous economic devastation.

"Over time, if we're able to negotiate a multilateral reduction to nuclear weapons, it may also lead to some savings in the national budget," said Carey.

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...

August 3, 2011

Sojourners, FRC Ads Duel over Poverty Programs

Family Research Council (FRC) recently released a new ad, saying that Christian leaders who are trying to protect poverty programs “well-meaning but misguided.” FRC's Faith Family Freedom Fund released radio ads in Ohio and Kentucky in response to a Sojourner-sponsored campaign. Sojourners' ad calls on Christians to join the Circle of Protection, a broad coalition of Christians that wants to reduce the debt without harming programs aimed at helping the poor.

Sojourners' ads hit the airwaves last week, targeting Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The Sojourners ads feature local pastors calling for protection of the poor. The Ohio ad, for example, featured Pastor Nan Erbaugh (Lower Miami Church of the Brethren) who lives in Boehner's district. She said in the ad,

The Book of Proverbs teaches that “where there is no leadership, a nation falls” and “the poor are shunned, while the rich have many friends.” Sadly, Congress has failed to heed these Biblical warnings, and our own Rep. Boehner is risking the health of our economy if America defaults on its debts. All to protect tax cuts for the rich and powerful.

In budget debates, the rich have many political friends and lobbyists. The poor and needy do not. That's why thousands of pastors are joining a Circle of Protection to protect programs that keep the most vulnerable from going without food, shelter, and medicine.

Please join this growing chorus of faithful Americans by telling Representative Boehner not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. He is responsible to all of us, not just a few at the top. (listen to the Ohio ad)

The FRC countered the Sojourners ads with one of its own. The group said it was “countering an ad campaign by Sojourners opposing necessary cuts to government spending.” The FRC ad featured pastors who said government programs hurt the poor and get in the way of charity. The Ohio ad featured Pastor J.C. Church (Victory in Truth Ministries, Bucyrus, Ohio) and Bishop Harry Jackson (Hope Christian Church, Washington, D.C.):

Continue reading Sojourners, FRC Ads Duel over Poverty Programs...

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 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.”

May 27, 2011

Report: Wealthy Give Less to Religious Groups, More Sensitive to Tax Savings

A report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that proposed changes to the tax code could reduce charitable contributions. However, the CBO does not expect religious organizations to be affected because religious donors are less sensitive to the tax benefits of contributions. Instead, it is the charities favored by the rich—the arts, education, and healthcare—that are more likely to see lowered donations.

Congress is currently considering possible changes to the current tax code, which allows individuals to deduct their charitable contributions from their taxable income. President Obama has proposed a reduction in how much contributions would those making more than $250,000 a year. Rather than receiving a tax savings of 33 or 35 percent (the tax rate for the higher-income brackets), these income earners would receive a 28 percent tax savings.

This type of reduction is most likely to affect donations to large institutions such as colleges, hospitals, and foundations, not churches and smaller religious charities. Using data from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the CBO reports that those with the highest income give the least percentage of their donations to religious organizations.


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Continue reading Report: Wealthy Give Less to Religious Groups, More Sensitive to Tax Savings...

May 6, 2011

Bipartisan Criticism Targets Department of Justice’s Adult Porn Enforcement

This week's congressional oversight hearings of the Department of Justice (DOJ) focused on issues of homeland security and the legal questions (re)ignited by the death Osama Bin Laden Sunday night. The hearings also addressed other issues, from online poker to how the NCAA conducts football championships. One criticism levied by both liberals and conservatives was the DOJ's handling of adult obscenity or illegal hard-core pornography.

Criticism of the DOJ's enforcement of adult obscenity has been simmering for years. Despite the ubiquity of pornography on the Internet, there have been few prosecutions of adult pornography.

One suspected reason was the prioritization of child pornography. These cases left few resources for the enforcement of adult obscenity laws. To fix this, the DOJ initiated the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, a special unit within the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). In February, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer put an end to the task force by rolling it back into the CEOS.

DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney told Politico the move “provides for increased collaboration among experienced attorneys and agents, and gives our prosecutors the most solid foundation possible for pursuing their mission.”

For anti-obscenity activists, the elimination of the task force was a sign that the DOJ was not taking illegal adult pornography seriously.

Social conservatives mobilized to put pressure on the DOJ. This effort was led by Porn Harms, a website that provides research on adult pornography. Porn Harms was founded by Patrick Trueman who is a former head of CEOS.

Earlier this week, Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink and other groups joined Porn Harms on a campaign to tell the DOJ to enforce obscenity laws. The DOJ responded by asking the company running the toll-free phone campaign to stop, which it did. Porn Harms quickly arranged another number for people to use.

On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan coalition in each chamber wrote Holder to ask about the DOJ's policing of adult obscenity.

Continue reading Bipartisan Criticism Targets Department of Justice’s Adult Porn Enforcement...

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 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...

March 25, 2011

Chaplains Offered Exit Plan as Gay Training Starts

The Army has started training chaplains on the repeal of the ban on openly gay military members, saying those who are unable to follow the forthcoming policy can seek a voluntary departure.

"The Chaplains Corps' First Amendment freedoms and its duty to care for all will not change," reads a slide in the PowerPoint presentation, released to Religion News Service Thursday. "Soldiers will continue to respect and serve with others who may hold different views
and beliefs."

Critics familiar with the Army presentation, however, say the military is essentially telling chaplains who are theologically conservative that they are not welcome.

"U.S. Army now warning chaplains: If you don't like the homosexual agenda, get out!" reads a headline on the website of Mass Resistance, an anti-gay group based in Waltham, Mass.

President Obama signed a law repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell last December, but the new policy will not take effect until 60 days after Obama and military leaders are assured that it will not harm military readiness.

Lt. Col. Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains, said about half of the military service's 2,900 chaplains have received the training, which started in February and is likely to
conclude in April.

"Our training is an opportunity for our senior chaplains to have an honest and open conversation about the repeal policy, its effects on them and their ministry," Birch said. "And it's going very well. ... In no way are we giving the message, shape up or ship out."

Birch said only one Army chaplain has left the service over the pending repeal of Don't Ask/Don't Tell.

Continue reading Chaplains Offered Exit Plan as Gay Training Starts ...

March 25, 2011

Tennessee Amends Anti-Shariah Bill

Tennessee lawmakers are rewriting a bill that described Islamic law as a threat to U.S. security and seemed to equate peaceful Muslim practices with terrorism.

State Sen. Bill Ketron and House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, both Republicans, offered the revision after questions arose about the proposed bill's constitutionality.

"The revision reflects our original intention to prevent or deter violent or terrorist acts, but does so without any room for misinterpretation regarding the language's affect on peaceful religious
practices," said Ketron.

Muslim and civil liberty organizations strongly criticized the original bill, saying its focus on Shariah law unfairly targeted Muslims and equated religious rituals such as dietary restrictions with
terrorism.

The bill now contains no references to Islam, but will allow Tennessee to prosecute those who offer financial or material support to known terrorist entities.

"I think it's a victory for common sense and legislative restraint," Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Tennessean. "This is a win for Tennessee's Muslim community."

January 28, 2011

Abortion: Not Part of the State of the Union, Responses

Presidents have often included some mention of abortion in their State of the Union addresses. This week, President Obama broke from this tradition.

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His speech on Tuesday featured both big ideas and specific policy proposals. It did not, however, include any nod to pro-choice groups.


Abortion was notably absent Republicans' responses, too. The official Republican response by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) only alluded to abortion when he said that one responsibility of government was "to protect innocent life."  He did not reference any specific policies.


Tea party leader Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), who is pro-life, also remained mum on the issue during her alternative GOP response to the SOTU.


Ashley Horne of Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink said, “What I would have loved to see was the GOP to give a little more attention to the life issue. The GOP rode in on a wave of pro-life voters. This is why they're here. Pro-family, pro-life voters, the conservative movement ushered them in. And for good reason."


The House of Representatives is expected to take up several pro-life bills, including the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. This bill would permanently ban the prohibition against using federal funding to pay for abortions. Currently, the ban must be renewed each year, and the ban on federal funding for last year's health care law is an executive order.


Continue reading Abortion: Not Part of the State of the Union, Responses...

December 30, 2010

Pro-life Efforts to Watch in 2011

Although November’s mid-term elections halved the number of pro-life Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, there are hopeful signs for pro-life legislation in the New Year.

January will mark the beginning of the arguably most pro-life House ever,” according to a statement released by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairman of the bi-partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has stated that “he wants to be the most pro-life Speaker ever” and Americans United for Life chose Boehner for an award.

The House will likely tackle the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 5939) in the upcoming legislative session. Introduced by Smith and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in July, Smith said the bill is designed to protect conscience clauses in health care nation-wide. Protecting existing conscience rights remains a high priority in 2011. The Alliance Defense Fundsays that the Obama administration “wants to dismantle” a rule passed by the Bush administration in 2008 that prohibited recipients of federal money from discriminating against healthcare professionals refusing to participate in procedures, such as abortion, for reasons of conscience.

Prohibiting the use of federal money to support abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, will also appear on the legislative agenda. The Title 10 Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (HR 614), co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), would prohibit all federal assistance to organizations performing abortions during the period of assistance. Pence said that the act would close the loopholes in the Hyde Amendment, which allows federally-funded organizations to perform abortions if such procedures are separately funded. In June,the Government Accountability Office foundthat over $1 billion in taxpayer money went to pro-abortion organizations in the past 8 years.

Various states are also expected to tackle pro-life issues in 2011. According to an unreleased NARAL Pro-Choice America analysispreviewed to Politico, the number of anti-abortion governors rose from 21 to 29 in the November election, and the number of states with governments where the governor and the majority legislature are both considered anti-abortion increased from 10 to 15.

In states ranging from Iowa to Tennessee, where anti-abortion legislation has often stalled in committee, anticipation is building that a change in leadership could change the prospects for pro-life legislation as well. Kansas provides one example, where current Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson vetoed a measure preventing the re-establishment of a late-term abortion clinic in the state (following the death of George Tiller and the subsequent closure of his clinic in Wichita). However, Parkinson’s replacement, Governor-elect Republican Sam Brownback, told supporters he would sign any pro-life bill that made it to his desk.

Following Nebraska’s lead—the state passed a late-term abortion ban this year based on the concept of fetal pain—pro-life organizations expect more states to challenge abortion laws by proposing restrictions related to fetus age. Several states, including Kansas, New Jersey, and South Carolina, considered bans on post-viability abortion (abortion past the age a fetus is considered able to live outside the womb) in 2010, according to Americans United for Life. Typically, the “post-viability” age is considered to be between 21 to 28 weeks (Roe v. Wade established viability as “about” 28 weeks); Nebraska’s ban sets the restriction back to 20 weeks. “[F]rom our perspective, if we aren't bucking up against Roe, we're not doing our job,” said Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin. "So we did our job in Nebraska and now it's time for the other states to do their job."

Other possible state legislation proposing abortion restrictions will likely include laws requiring an ultrasound to be shown to the patient prior to an abortion--such as the one passed by Oklahoma this year--and measures responding to this year’s federal health care reform that would ban insurance coverage of abortion at the state level.

December 18, 2010

Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Moves Forward

The Senate blocks the DREAM Act.

The Senate voted today to proceed to debate on a bill ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which clears the way to repeal the law.

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama vowed to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked the repeal while delaying a vote on the DREAM Act. Today the Senate blocked the DREAM Act, which carves out a path to legal status for foreign-born children brought to the United States illegally.

Some chaplains had voiced concerns over the repeal, saying that they could be accused of discrimination if they addressed homosexuality. Earlier this year, the Southern Baptist Convention said that a large percentage of currently serving military personnel said they would not reenlist or would end their careers early should the policy be repealed. The National Association of Evangelicals would not encourage chaplains to resign if the law was repealed.

The Washington Post provides the breakdown of votes for DADT.

Senators voted 63 to 33 go proceed to debate on the bill. Fifty-seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus and six Republicans -- Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio) -- voted yes. Four senators -- Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) -- did not vote.

A final vote on the bill is expected Sunday; a simple majority is required for final passage.

The vote came amid an unusually busy Saturday for the Senate, with consideration of gays in the military, the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty and a bill providing a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants.

The New York Times reports on how it came back to the Senate floor.

Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over the ability to debate the measure.

In a last-ditch effort, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing the ban. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.

Politico has more details on its final passage.

The repeal, however, wouldn’t take effect immediately. Obama, Gates Mullen would have to certify to Congress that they have reviewed the Pentagon report on the impacts of repeal, that the Defense Department is prepared to implement repeal and that doing so would not harm military readiness, troop morale, and recruiting and retention.

The policy would be repealed 60 days after the president submits the document.

December 9, 2010

Senate Blocks DADT, Delays DREAM Act

Senate Republicans blocked an effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" today, garnering 57 of the 60 votes needed. The Senate attempted a vote in September to change the military's policy barring openly gay members from serving.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted yes. The Wall Street Journal reports that other Republicans were willing to support the repeal but said the Senate needed to consider tax and spending legislation first.

The Senate delayed a vote on the DREAM Act, which carves out a path to legal status for foreign-born children brought to the United States illegally. The House passed the the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act Wednesday. Last week, Regent University President Carlos Campo was included on a White House conference call supporting the DREAM Act.

December 3, 2010

Military Chaplains Voice 'Intense' Views on Gay Ban

A long-awaited report on the possible repeal of the military's ban on openly gay members says the chaplains corps has "some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views" on the issue.

The comprehensive review, issued Tuesday (Nov. 30), concluded that "special attention" should be given to the concerns among the approximately 3,000 chaplains in the military services when and if a repeal is implemented.

The report said some chaplains condemned homosexuality as a sin and said they could not support homosexuals, while others said "we are all sinners" and chaplains should care for everyone.

Nevertheless, the report concluded that existing regulations protecting chaplains' First Amendment rights are "adequate" for the ban's repeal.

"Service members will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs," the report said. "They must, however, continue to respect and co-exist with others who may hold different views and beliefs."

Some retired chaplains and leaders of agencies that endorse chaplains have been outspoken against a repeal, with some predicting it could prompt an exodus of chaplains from the military.

The report said the military heard from 77 of 200 endorsing agencies, and none said they would withdraw endorsements of chaplains if a repeal occurred. It said just three of about 145 chaplains who took part in focus groups said they would seek to leave the military if there was a repeal.

Officials of some chaplains' organizations that have opposed the repeal questioned the report's claims of sufficient protections for chaplains who oppose homosexuality.

"I do not expect that anyone who holds fast with the truth as it is in the word of God ... to be allowed to continue on and to advance in their career as I did," said James Poe, a retired Navy captain and former secretary of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain
Endorsers.

Other retired chaplains seem unwilling to suggest that chaplains should walk out on the troops if the ban is repealed.

"I have said, 'Before you consider resigning and leaving, recognize that you are there for your people in the positive and the negative,"' said Paul Vicalvi, a retired Army chaplain who directs the Chaplains Commission for the National Association of Evangelicals.

"I'm telling them not to retire. ... Now some of them may say, `I just can't operate in this environment,' but that's not coming from me."

But with the release of the report, Vicalvi remains concerned that chaplains will be prevented from counseling military members about their biblical interpretations on homosexuality.

Continue reading Military Chaplains Voice 'Intense' Views on Gay Ban ...

November 29, 2010

Pew: Half of Evangelicals Oppose Gays Serving Openly in the Military

Most Americans (58 percent) say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Twenty-seven percent of Americans oppose homosexuals to serve openly.

About half (48 percent) of white evangelical Protestants oppose letting gays serve openly in the military, while 34 percent support a reversal of status quo. Among all Protestants, 34 percent oppose the idea while 49 percent favor it.

A few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would release a study of the effects of a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal tomorrow. The Washington Post reported earlier that the study concludes the military can lift the ban with only minimal risk. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said yesterday that leaders are nowhere 'near' votes to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell."

November 3, 2010

California Rejects Marijuana Initiative

Marijuana appeared on many ballots this year. Arizona and South Dakota appeared ready to reject ballots legalizing marijuana for medical use, declining to join the 13 other states that have done so.

California considered but rejected the most radical measure with the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act (Proposition 19), which would allow adults 21 and over to grow, possess, and privately consume up to an ounce of pot.

Supporters often push legalized marijuana as a fresh source of tax revenue for cash-strapped states. "No matter what happens (with Prop 19), it's now undeniable that national public sentiment is increasingly turning against the idea that responsible adults should be criminalized for using a substance less harmful than alcohol," said Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project. Critics note that states where medical marijuana is legalized often experience a glut of dispensaries (marijuana dispensaries now outnumber Starbucks stores in Denver and Los Angeles) and questionable prescriptions for everything from cancer to a headache. Others warn that legalizing marijuana for medical use leads down a slippery slope to de-criminalizing pot completely, using California as an example.

Oregon voters were considering an expansion to existing marijuana laws this year: Voters decided whether to authorize state-licensed dispensaries for medical marijuana. Meanwhile, in Colorado, the medical marijuana industry provided generous contributions to favorable candidates and there is already evidence of campaigns for a vote to expand its use to be included in the 2012 election. The expanding consensus toward legalizing marijuana for various uses indicates “the increasingly relativistic tone that our country is adopting,” according to Billy Atwell, coordinator for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Atwell also points toward research finding that the only legitimate use of medical marijuana is in pill form.

November 2, 2010

FRC Takes Aim at Republican Rep. on Gay Rights

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Family Research Council Action PAC launched a late radio ad campaign against Republican Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of New Orleans for his support of gay rights legislation.

Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator who leads the organization, told the Times-Picayune that Cao was the only Republican candidate targeted with an FRC attack ad this fall. The ad ends with the tag line, "Washington doesn't need more liberal Republicans. Stop Joe Cao on Election Day."

"Who is Rep. Joseph Cao representing in Washington?" the FRC ad asks. "Cao has repeatedly voted for extra protections for homosexuals at the cost of religious liberty. Cao voted to use the military to advance the radical social agendas of homosexual activists and he voted for a so-called hate crimes bill that places your personal liberties at jeopardy."

Cao co-sponsored both the Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2009 and House legislation to repeal the policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces, known as "don't ask, don't tell."

"I believe it is a human rights violation to impose government-sanctioned penalties on a group of people just because of their sexual orientation, just as it would be a human rights violation to impose penalties on a group because of its religious affiliation or race," Cao said. "I will continue to fight for the protection of human rights for all people."


Cao told the newspaper, "As a former Jesuit seminarian and practicing Catholic, it is ridiculous to say that I have ever taken a position against religious liberties. I am, however, a champion of human rights and justice for all."

Cao faces Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond and Perkin's preference, independent candidate Anthony Marquize. In 2008, FRC endorsed Cao and Tony Perkins included Cao in his column, "The Good News on November 4."

In the 2nd congressional district Anh "Joseph" Cao defeated the ethically challenged Congressman William Jefferson. Jefferson has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office. The pro-life Cao won despite running in a district that is 28 points more Democrat than the national average.

November 1, 2010

Court: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Remains

A federal appeals court decided today to allow the military to continue to enforce its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Politico reports.

An earlier District Court judge’s ruling found that the ban on openly gay military members was unconstitutional. The panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit voted 2-1 today to extend a stay, lifting the lower judge’s order that kept the military from enforcing the policy.

Josh Gerstein reports that the ruling means the statute will likely to remain in place for months or years for another appeal, unless President Obama convinces Congress to repeal the law. In September, the Republican Party blocked a vote in the Senate to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” blocking a defense authorization bill.


September 21, 2010

GOP Stalls 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal

The Republican Party blocked a vote in the Senate to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” earlier today. The Senate could not close debate on the issue due to a filibuster, which blocked the defense authorization bill.

Several moderate Republicans have said they would vote to end DADT after they review a Pentagon study of the policy, the Washington Post reports.

In 1993, President Clinton signed the law that says if openly gay military personnel will be discharged. The reversal has been a rallying point for many conservative groups.

Senate Democrats were also considering an amendment that would lift restrictions on abortions at military hospitals, according to the Washington Times.

Republicans have a lot riding on Tuesday, said Charles Colson, a longtime evangelical activist.

"The Republican leadership would be pretty stupid if they didn't fight this issue," Mr. Colson said. Should the GOP fail to filibuster the plan, he said, "I think it would turn [social and religious conservatives] off from the Republican Party."


During his first State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama pledged to work with Congress to overturn DADT. The Post reports that advocates for a DADT repeal want another vote in December after the election.

June 18, 2009

NY Women to Bank on Donating Eggs for Research

The state's Stem Cell Board agreed last week to compensate women who donate their eggs for research purposes.

In a majority vote last week, the Empire State Stem Cell Board (ESSCB) decided to pay women up to $10,000 who donate their eggs for embryonic stem cell research, making New York the first state to do so.

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Composed of a funding committee and ethics committee, the ESSCB agreed June 11 to compensate women using taxpayer-backed grants "for the expense, time, burden and discomfort associated with the donation process - within specified limits - as is currently permitted when women donate oocytes for reproductive purposes in New York State," according to its statement. California and Massachusetts, leading states in embryonic stem cell research, have laws prohibiting the practice.

A day after the vote, Father Thomas Berg, a member of the ESSCB ethics committee, decried the decision in a National Review Online op-ed, noting the many health risks involved in egg donation, including most commonly ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can lead to loss of fertility and death.

Continue reading NY Women to Bank on Donating Eggs for Research...

June 12, 2009

Groups Fight Legalized Online Gambling

Several Christian groups signed a letter this week to as the House to oppose a bill that would legalize online gambling in the U.S.

"The prevalence of gambling addiction is three to four times higher with Internet gambling versus noninternet gambling. ... online gambling represents a highly invasive and reckless form of taxation dependent on human exploitation," the statement says.

Signers included Focus on the Family Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Gary Bauer, president of American Values, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, and Tom McClusky of Family Research Council.

The government started enforcing the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act this week by seizing more than $30 million in assets. The signers also urge the House to oppose a bill that would give banks more time to comply with UIGEA.

April 1, 2009

NAE President Wades Carefully into Immigration Debate

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals took a rare step into the immigration debate Tuesday, saying that the long waiting period for citizenship must be
shortened.

"There are inconsistencies and many outdated aspects of immigration laws, and I think they are therefore unjust and unfair," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The NAE consists of 79 different member denominations, which is one of the reasons Anderson said he is hesitant to make strong statements on immigration. The NAE is drafting a resolution on this issue, and Anderson said the first draft found support at a board meeting in March.

"There was a very positive response that this was an important issue, and I think that makes sense because so many of our evangelical denominations have significant growth through the Hispanic community, and the Hispanic community is increasingly a major part of the evangelical movement through the United States so of course we care about that," Anderson said.

Continue reading NAE President Wades Carefully into Immigration Debate...

December 12, 2008

Vatican condemns popular infertility treatments

The Vatican's highest doctrinal body on Friday condemned advanced infertility treatments and contraception technologies and reaffirmed its strong prohibition of embryonic stem
cell research.

The long-awaited document, "Dignitas personae" ("The dignity of a person"), was released by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.

Church officials said the document was meant as an update to a 1987 statement under Pope John Paul II. While the two documents are complementary, the newer one covers 21st-centry medical advances that were not even on the horizon 20 years ago.

Like the 1987 document, the new 36-page statement condemns in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and all other techniques that involve "replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure."

Vatican officials know from long experience that their pronouncements on sexual and medical ethics are bound to generate controversy and resistance, and the response from the liberal wing of the U.S. church was swift and strong.

"There is little new in the statement, but it remains difficult to reconcile the Vatican's self-avowed pro-life approach with the rejection of in-vitro fertilization and embryo freezing, not to mention the condemnation of the potential of stem-cell research,'' said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, which supports abortion rights and access to contraceptives.

Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco who now heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was not present at a press conference to announce the release of the document.

At the press conference, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, acknowledged that the document would encounter a variety of reactions, including indifference, ridicule, and accusations of "dark obscurantism that impedes progress and free
research."

In the document, church officials attempted to cast ethical and scientific debates in starkly human terms. An embryo is referred to as a "human being in his or her embryonic state,'' not a cluster of cells that is subject to "manipulation'' or "utilitarian treatment'' in a laboratory.

Moreover, the Vatican strongly states that reproductive technologies that may appear to be life-giving or life-affirming, such as IVF for infertile couples or stem cell research from discarded embryos, are actually destructive to the most nascent of human lives.

The Vatican appeared to give its blessing to treatments like Viagra and other measures that "assist the conjugal act, either in order to facilitate its performance or in order to enable it to achieve its objective once it has been normally performed.''

But included on the Vatican's prohibited list:

-- Newer forms of birth control, including the "morning after" pill (which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg) and RU-486 (which eliminates an already implanted embryo). Both "fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral." Those who seek or prescribe such methods "generally intend abortion,'' the document said.

-- Genetic testing of embryos before their implantation through IVF, which the Vatican called tantamount to abortion and an "expression of a eugenic mentality."

-- Research that uses stem cells derived from embryos because the removal of those cells "invariably causes the death of the embryo."

-- Fertility treatments that involve the creation of multiple embryos that may or may not be used in seeking pregnancy. The "number of embryos sacrificed, even in the most technically advanced centers of artificial fertilization, hovers above 80 percent," the document said.

Yet on the delicate question of what should happen to those unused embryos, the document offers few clear answers. So-called "prenatal adoptions,'' in which one couple would "adopt'' another couple's excess embryos, is unacceptable because it would involve unnatural procedures, the congregation concludes. The Bush administration has supported such efforts.

"Abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved," the document states, quoting a statement by John Paul II that "there seems to be no morally licit solution" to the problem.

The Rev. Robert A. Gahl Jr., an American who teaches ethics at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said the church is still debating the proper response to excess embryos.

His own proposal is to "release them from their frozen captivity," so that they can be cared for by their natural or adoptive parents until their natural deaths a few days after thawing.

Yet at the end of the day, Gahl said one of the document's most significant contributions is its definition of a human embryo as possessing the "dignity proper to a person."

"This is an even more forceful rejection of the arguments that (Vice President-elect Joe) Biden and (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi were making this summer, that the church is undecided about the status of the fetus," Gahl said. "From now on, those sorts of opinions are off the map."

December 10, 2008

State panel urges same-sex marriage for New Jersey

New Jersey should enact a law allowing gay marriage and waste no time passing it because the state's civil unions law fails to adequately protect same-sex couples, a report to be released Wednesday said.

The final report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission says it gathered "overwhelming evidence" that the civil union law not only fails to provide the same protections as marriage, it also has created economic, medical and emotional hardships for gay couples.

The state panel concluded that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is as unjust as government imposing racial segregation laws against African-Americans.
"Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now," said the report.

The 79-page report is the work of a 13-member panel created to evaluate the impact of the 2006 civil union law, which was supposed to provide the rights and responsibilities of marriage under another name. It will be forwarded to Gov. Jon Corzine and state lawmakers.

"The report is a sweeping indictment of the failure of the civil union law," said commission vice chairman Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality, which is campaigning to legalize same-sex marriage. "The report asks Governor Corzine and the Legislature: Do you want equality or not? If so, there is only one way to go."

About 3,353 couples have entered into civil unions, according to Goldstein. He said his organization has received 1,502 complaints about civil unions.

Corzine could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He has said previously he would sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but wanted to deal with the issue after the November presidential election so a possible backlash would not be exploited by conservatives for political gain.

Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, a Democrat, said the report "should spark a renewed sense of purpose and urgency to overcoming one of society's last remaining barriers to full equality for all residents. As I have said many times before, same-sex marriage in New Jersey is only a matter of `when,' not `if."'

John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage and a leading opponent of gay marriage, pledged to make it an issue in next year's state elections.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only states that issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. California did until last month, when voters approved a proposition outlawing same-sex marriage.

The commission's interim report in February found civil unions are "not clear to the general public" and confer "second-class status" on the couples who form them.

Three months ago, representatives of the state's Catholic bishops, the Knights of Columbus and other groups held a press conference to denounce the commission as biased, and demanded that it be scrapped and reconstituted.

December 8, 2008

Montana Okays Doctor-Assisted Suicides

A state judge has ruled that doctor-assisted suicides are legal in Montana, the Associated Press reports.

"The patient's right to die with dignity includes protection of the patient's physician from liability under the state's homicide statutes," Judge Dorothy McCarter wrote in the ruling late Friday.

The state attorney general's office had argued that intentionally taking a life was illegal, and that the issue was the responsibility of the state Legislature.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders had argued the state has no evaluation process, safeguards or regulations to provide guidance or oversight for doctor-assisted suicide. The state also said it was premature to declare constitutional rights for a competent, terminally ill patient because the terms "competent" or "terminally ill" had yet to be defined.

Amy Beth Hanson writes, "McCarter's ruling makes Montana the third state after Oregon and Washington to allow doctor-assisted suicides. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that terminally ill patients have no constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide but did nothing to prevent states from legalizing the process."

November 18, 2008

Child Hunger Rose 50%

Campaign coverage perpetuated a myth that the economy suddenly went south when Lehman brothers collapsed in October. For many people the effects of the weak economy had been felt long before that.

Here's the most striking example:

New government figures show that almost 700,000 children went hungry in the United States at some point in 2007, up more than 50 percent from the year before to mark the highest point since 1998. And that's even before this year's sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.

For those who need an economic reminder why society traditionally frowned on unmarried women having babies outside of wedlock, consider that the highest rates of "food insecurity" were families headed by single mothers.

In practical terms, what does this mean? 93% of those in this category said they were "eating less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food" and 65% said they "had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food."

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

November 4, 2008

Mostly Disappointed Focus Gears Up for Obama Presidency

It's mixed news for Focus on the Family tonight. But in Focus's CitizenLink webcast, senior vice president Tom Minnery called it "A tremendous night for the cause of righteousness" on account of the success of the marriage ballot initiatives in 3 states.

In saying that the organization had expected those to be the "bright spots" this election night, co-host Stuart Shepard pointed out that there was little hope for Focus's presidential pick to win. They were sorry, Shepard said, to see Ohio go to Obama.

He encouraged Phil Burris of Citizens for Community Values in Ohio to vent a little about his frustrations with McCain; Burris obliged, saying they recommended McCain not out of excitement over his candidacy but out of fear of Obama.

Tony Perkins, who spoke with Minnery and Shepard soon after McCain conceded, encouraged listeners to put aside anger and bitterness. "This was not a rejection of conservative values," he said, but a rejection of Republicans who had abandoned conservative principles. "Clearly, our work is cut out for us."

September 10, 2008

Another Reason Democrats Must Care About Abortion Reduction: The Latino Vote

Little known fact: most of the impressive gains that George W. Bush made among Hispanics in 2004 were actually among Latino evangelicals. In other words, it was his appeal to evangelicals that did it as much as his appeal to Hispanics. They liked his conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage, and his evangelical faith.

But because the Republicans are now increasingly viewed as anti-immigrant, Democrats have a shot this year. According to Newsweek, these voters are taking a look at the Democrats broader social justice agenda but also still care about abortion.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

September 8, 2008

Do vice presidents really matter?

According to Legal Times, they matter quite a bit in picking Supreme Court nominees and other judges. (Link via Melissa Rogers.)

September 5, 2008

Rodriguez: Republicans need to accommodate immigrants

Immigration remains a central issue for millions of Americans this election, but the issue was barely touched at either convention.
Eva Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Evangelical Women’s president, said that many Hispanics are confused about this election. Rodriguez gave the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.

How did you get invited to pray at the convention?
I know they were Googling names. I guess my name came up. I run the women’s task of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. They saw my videos and they also know my husband, Samuel Rodriguez. He’s been with McCain a few times and they know each other personally.

Did they ask you to change the prayer at all?
They did not. I sent it in a week prior so they knew what they were getting into.

Do you have any sense of how Hispanic evangelicals will vote this year?
I think we’re very confused this year. Out of all the elections, this has been a very difficult one to pick, because we have a brown person in the Democratic Party. You gotta be honest, it makes you proud. I think at the end of the day, you look at morals. It’s awesome to have a brown person running. We always go back to morals.

Barack Obama doesn’t have morals?
Well he does, but not to the extent that the Republican Party does – Marriage between a man and a woman and abortion. Those are the two main issues that have been brought up. Of course, immigration, John McCain has fought for.

What kind of immigration policy are you looking for?
We’re looking for something in between, but we’re not getting anything right now. I’m very disappointed because here, they haven’t touched it. About 60 percent of the people in my congregation are immigrants. Our hope is that John McCain will continue on with immigration reform.

What do people think of Sarah Palin’s candidacy?
We are very excited, not only because she’s a woman, but her religious beliefs are there. When it comes to morals and having a woman I think has been awesome – awesome pick.

What do you think about the election so far?
I think immigration is going to be a big one. The Republican Party has to try to accommodate us a little bit. We’re going to make the majority in a few years. They need to start thinking about us. We’re going to be important, but in about eight years, we’re going to be extremely important. We’re talking about down the road, the Republican Party is going to have to change, whether they like it or not. They need to listen to McCain a little bit more. Hispanics are growing, we’re moving up, we’re going to college, our kids are graduating. Our votes are going to count.

September 4, 2008

Which Party Is Better on American Poverty?

I'd like to take a brief break from politics to talk about an actual issue of concern to many religious voters.

Both Republicans and Democrats this year devote extensive portions of their platforms toward helping to alleviate poverty in Africa. The new emphasis in the Republican Platform reflects both George W. Bush's significant work in this area and the seismic shift in the evangelical movement, emphasizing African poverty like never before. This has prompted conservative evangelicals to argue that they care just as much about poverty as liberals, who have been arguing aggressively that the Religious Right agenda misses the voluminous teachings by Jesus about the poor.

But when it comes to American poverty, there are still rather striking differences in the two parties' level of interest, at least judging from the platforms.

For one thing, the Democratic platform has a section called "poverty" and the Republicans doesn't.

To be fair, the Republican Party position has always been that a growing economy, individual initiative and a thriving charitable sector were the most important cures to poverty. So they would argue that the platform planks on tax cuts and energy production would count as anti-poverty measures. Still, it must be said that the Democratic Party platform committee appears to have spent a great deal more time thinking through the implications of policies specifically for the poor. Certainly they've spilled a lot more ink on the subject, devoting about four times as many words to the topic.

For now, I offer no assessment of the quality of their proposals, and note that the volume of words doesn't equate to effectiveness. But I wanted to merely lay out what they had to say. If religious voters are serious about poverty becoming part of the Christian agenda, they need to look at how the parties approach the topic.

Here are excerpts from the two party's platforms related to poverty:

Continue reading Which Party Is Better on American Poverty?...