If only the Democrats were as smart, and could communicate as brilliantly as Jon and team.
First, they satirize Fox's, and the Right's, guilt by association reasoning:
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party
Then, they cleverly devastate Fox's duplicitious fear mongering with an "either they're evil or stupid" bit:
Without question, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s “Christmas” retort to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) will be the most memorable moment of her confirmation hearings. Graham asked, “Christmas Day bomber. Where were you at on Christmas Day?” Kagan, whose day job is solicitor general of the United States, seemed confused by his query and started answering him seriously. But Graham cut her off and said, “No. I just asked where you were at on Christmas.”
Kagan’s response -- "Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant" -- was brilliant in its humor, timing and the self-effacing manner in which it was delivered. Despite the laughter in the chamber, it was one of those “only in New York” references that might go over the heads of a few folks. Even Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) admitted that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explained it to him before the hearing. Then Schumer kindly pointed out that Chinese restaurants are the only places that are open on Christmas Day, which is vital in a city where making reservations IS making dinner. For those of you out there who are in need of a similar cultural life raft, take a look at this instant classic video from Saturday Night Live.
Check out Kagan's other funny moments here.
One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.
The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.
Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.
So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.
In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)
Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.
If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.
That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.
As in many Jewish households, the Obama Seder seems to take on new meaning each year, depending on what is happening in the world and in participants’ lives (for this group, the former is often the same as the latter).
The first one took place at the bleakest point of the campaign, the long prelude to the Pennsylvania primary, which was dominated by a furor over Mr. Obama’s former pastor. “We were in the desert, so to speak,” remembered Arun Chaudhary, then and now Mr. Obama’s videographer, who grew up attending Seders with his half-Jewish, half-Indian family.
Check out Rep Steven King's claim that today's vote is an "affront to God" and Rep Paul Broun as her refers to the Civil War as the "Great War of Yankee Aggression" (apparently it wasn't just extremists within the Tea Party whose racism was on display yesterday):
In breaking publicly with Roman Catholic bishops over the health care bill, a group of nuns has once again exposed the long-running rift between liberal and conservative theology in the Catholic Church.
The issue dividing them is whether the Senate version of the legislation goes far enough in limiting the use of federal subsidies paid for insurance policies that cover abortion. Progressive Catholics, including the group of more than 50 nuns representing thousands more from various religious orders, said this week that they would support the Senate bill. The traditionalists, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said they would oppose it.
Although both the nuns and the bishops firmly oppose abortion, they have reached different conclusions about the bill, a divide that is also playing out more broadly among other groups that oppose abortion.
These include Democrats in the Senate like Bob Casey of Pennsylvania who are comfortable with the restrictions in the Senate health care bill and Democrats in the House like Bart Stupak of Michigan who are fighting for tighter restrictions. That divide is proving central to the outcome of the health care debate — Mr. Stupak and his allies were continuing to fight Friday night — as Democratic leaders scrambled to come up with the votes to pass the legislation.
“It is an utter mystery to me” how religious groups that oppose abortion could read the same bill so differently, said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that supports the bill.
Sister Simone, who described herself as anti-abortion, said she did not believe that the Senate version of the bill would make abortion more widely available. She did not directly criticize the bishops, but said “some people could be motivated by a political loyalty that’s outside of caring for the people who live at the margins of health care in society.”
The Senate bill allows any state to ban the use of federal subsidies to buy insurance plans that cover abortion. In other states, insurers would be required to place subsidy money in separate accounts from dollars for private premiums and use only the private money to pay for abortions.
The bishops argue that the Senate legislation, which the House is expected to adopt, could nonetheless result in federal money being used for abortions.
“In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born,” said Cardinal Francis George, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a written statement this week.
The nuns who have endorsed the health care bill and their supporters say that is not so, suggesting that they see no need for the more restrictive language on abortion in the bill passed by the House last year.
One of the tragedies of the viciously politicized battle over health-care reform is the defection of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops from a cause they have championed for decades.
Indifferent to political fashions, the bishops were the strongest voices in support of universal health coverage, a position rooted in Catholic social thought that calls for a special solicitude toward the poor.
Yet on the make-or-break roll call that will determine the fate of health-care reform, bishops are urging that the bill be voted down. They are doing so on the basis of a highly tendentious reading of the abortion provisions in the Senate measure. If health reform is defeated, the bishops will have played a major role in its demise.
The provisions they dislike were written by two Democratic senators strongly opposed to abortion, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Pro-choice groups condemned the Nelson-Casey language from the start.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called their amendment "anti-choice," "outrageous" and "inexplicable." Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women were equally critical.
But the Nelson-Casey language still didn't go far enough for the bishops. This week, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, claimed the flaws and loopholes in the bill's abortion section are "so fundamental that they vitiate the good that the bill intends to promote." As a result, he said, "the Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed."
Fortunately, major Catholic leaders -- most of them women in religious orders -- have picked up the flag of social justice discarded by a bishops' conference under increasing right-wing influence.
On Wednesday, a group representing 59,000 Catholic nuns plus more than 50 heads of religious congregations issued a strong statement urging "a life-affirming 'yes' vote" in support of the Senate bill. "While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all," the statement said, adding that the bill's support for pregnant women represented "the real pro-life stance."
"We as sisters focus on the needs of people," said Sister Simone Campbell, a spokeswoman for the group. "When people are suffering, we respond."
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, loyally refuses to criticize the bishops but argues that their interpretation of the abortion language is simply wrong. She, too, released a forceful statement in support of the Senate bill.
"We looked at the bill. We spent a lot of time with Sens. Casey and Nelson," she said in an interview. "We agreed to support it because we believe it meets the test of no federal funding for abortion. Perhaps the language is not the way I would write it, but it meets the test. . . . I was not going to take a little bit of abortion [in the bill] to get federal funding."
She added: "I can't walk away from extending coverage to more than 30 million people."
Okay, fellow Catholic school alums, which side would you put your money on to prevail in this one?:
Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama's health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.
Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don't go far enough.
The letter says that "despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions." The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and "this is the real pro-life stance."
EJ Dione's reaction is worth reading.
First from Prescriptions:
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a Washington-based advocacy group, sent a letter to members of Congress on Friday urging support for the Senate-passed health care bill and expressing its view that the bill contains sufficient provisions to prevent the use of federal money to pay for insurance coverage of abortions.
Then the Wash Post:
A group representing Catholic hospitals Saturday rallied behind President Barack Obama's health care bill ahead of a House vote in which anti-abortion lawmakers could play a decisive role.
The chief executive of the Catholic Health Association, Carol Keehan, wrote on the group's Web site that although the legislation isn't perfect, it represents a "major first step" toward covering all Americans and would make "great improvements" for millions of people. The more than 600 Catholic hospitals across the country do not provide abortions as a matter of conscience.
The association's support widens a split among abortion foes on whether the bill goes far enough to prevent taxpayer funding for the procedure. House Democratic leaders are trying to turn that debate to their advantage as they press for a vote on Obama's bill as early as this coming week. Winning over even a handful of anti-abortion Democrats could help Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., find a clear path to the 216 votes she needs for passage.
Major anti-abortion groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, are adamantly opposed to the legislation, preferring stricter restrictions passed last November by the House.
Keehan said in an interview that she believes the approach now in the bill would work just as well to keep federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion.
"On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement," Keehan said. "On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ with Right to Life."
The current legislation would allow private insurance plans operating in a new insurance marketplace to cover abortions, provided they do not use taxpayer funds. What makes that tricky is that many of the plans' customers would be receiving federal subsidies to help pay their premiums. So the legislation requires plans offering abortion coverage to collect a separate premium from their policyholders. Those separate checks would have to be kept in a different account from money for other health care services.
NY Times (For more, see A Blue View's Denialism category and/or buy the book that named the phenomenon: Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives):
Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.
In Kentucky, a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”
The bill, which has yet to be voted on, is patterned on even more aggressive efforts in other states to fuse such issues. In Louisiana, a law passed in 2008 says the state board of education may assist teachers in promoting “critical thinking” on all of those subjects.
Last year, the Texas Board of Education adopted language requiring that teachers present all sides of the evidence on evolution and global warming.
Oklahoma introduced a bill with similar goals in 2009, although it was not enacted.
The linkage of evolution and global warming is partly a legal strategy: courts have found that singling out evolution for criticism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.
Yet they are also capitalizing on rising public resistance in some quarters to accepting the science of global warming, particularly among political conservatives who oppose efforts to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases.
In South Dakota, a resolution calling for the “balanced teaching of global warming in public schools” passed the Legislature this week.
“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant,” the resolution said, “but rather a highly beneficial ingredient for all plant life.”
The measure made no mention of evolution, but opponents of efforts to dilute the teaching of evolution noted that the language was similar to that of bills in other states that had included both. The vote split almost entirely along partisan lines in both houses, with Republican voting for it and Democrats voting against.
For mainstream scientists, there is no credible challenge to evolutionary theory. They oppose the teaching of alternative views like intelligent design, the proposition that life is so complex that it must be the design of an intelligent being. And there is wide agreement among scientists that global warming is occurring and that human activities are probably driving it. Yet many conservative evangelical Christians assert that both are examples of scientists’ overstepping their bounds.
John G. West, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a group that advocates intelligent design and has led the campaign for teaching critiques of evolution in the schools, said that the institute was not specifically promoting opposition to accepted science on climate change. Still, Mr. West said, he is sympathetic to that cause.
“There is a lot of similar dogmatism on this issue,” he said, “with scientists being persecuted for findings that are not in keeping with the orthodoxy. We think analyzing and evaluating scientific evidence is a good thing, whether that is about global warming or evolution.”
Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist who directs the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and has spoken against efforts to water down the teaching of evolution to school boards in Texas and Ohio, described the move toward climate-change skepticism as a predictable offshoot of creationism.
“Wherever there is a battle over evolution now,” he said, “there is a secondary battle to diminish other hot-button issues like Big Bang and, increasingly, climate change. It is all about casting doubt on the veracity of science — to say it is just one view of the world, just another story, no better or more valid than fundamentalism.”
Not all evangelical Christians reject the notion of climate change, of course. There is a budding green evangelical movement in the country driven partly by a belief that because God created the earth, humans are obligated to care for it.
Yet there is little doubt that the skepticism about global warming resonates more strongly among conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular. A survey published in October by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that white evangelical Protestants were among those least likely to believe that there was “solid evidence” that the Earth was warming because of human activity.
Only 23 percent of those surveyed accepted that idea, compared with 36 percent of the American population as a whole. [For more see New Poll Shows Fewer Americans "Believe" Global Warming]
Read the depressing Texas Tribune story.
An unusually broad array of religious groups sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress on Wednesday calling on them to pass a comprehensive health care bill [pdf].
The 58 national and 80 local groups signing the letter represent evangelicals, most mainline Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Quakers and Mennonites. Some of the signatories are health care providers, and some work with low-income communities. Some are religious orders of Catholic sisters.
The letter says that while no reform bill will be perfect, “Turning back now could mean justice delayed for another generation and an unprecedented opportunity lost.”
The letter does not specifically endorse the president’s proposal or the House or Senate bills. But one of the coalitions that signed the letter, the PICO National Network, which represents a thousand congregations across the country, has applauded the president’s plan, saying it would go further than the Senate plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income families.
The last-minute lobbying push caps a year in which religious groups that support a health care overhaul were drowned out by religious leaders who opposed it, often because of concern that it did not adequately restrict coverage of abortion.
A study of middle-school students that found for the first time that abstinence-only education helped to delay their sexual initiation is already beginning to shake up the longstanding debate over how best to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”..
Dr. Jemmott’s research followed 662 African-American students at urban middle schools, who were paid $20 a session to attend the classes, plus follow-up and evaluation sessions. The abstinence-only classes covered HIV, abstinence and ways to resist the pressure to have sex ...
The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, appears just as the Obama administration is eliminating federal financing for abstinence-only programs, and starting a pregnancy-prevention initiative that will finance programs that have been shown in scientific studies to be effective.
Recognizing the political sensitivity of the research, and how unexpected are its results, the journal ran an accompanying editorial cautioning that public policy should not be based on the results of a single study and that policy makers should not “selectively use scientific literature to formulate a policy that meets preconceived ideologies.”
“The results may be surprising to some in that the theory-based abstinence-only curriculum appeared to be as effective as a combined course and more effective than the safer-sex only curriculum in delaying sexual activity,” the editorial said. “None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use.”
The executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, Valerie Huber, said she hoped that the new study would lead to restored federal support for abstinence programs.
“The current recommendation before Congress in the 2011 budget zeroes out abstinence education, and puts all the money into broader comprehensive education,” Ms. Huber said. “I hope that either the White House amends their request or Congress acts upon this, reinstating abstinence education.”
Ms. Huber also said she found it especially interesting that African-Americans were the focus of Dr. Jemmott’s study since, she said, “our critics would contend that the abstinence message would be least effective with the most at-risk youth.”
Even longtime advocates of comprehensive sex education heralded the findings.
“This new study is game-changing,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in a statement. “For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex and reduce their recent sexual activity as well. Importantly, the study also shows that this particular abstinence-only program did not reduce condom use among the young teens who did have sex.”
Ms. Brown noted that the abstinence-only classes in the Jemmott study centered on people with an average age of 12 and that unlike the federally supported abstinence programs now in use, did not advocate abstinence until marriage.
The classes also did not portray sex negatively or suggest that condoms are ineffective, and contained only medically accurate information. Dr. Jemmott’s abstinence-only course was designed for the research, and is not in current use in schools.
The first NY Times article sets the appalling scene:
“We walk on the streets knowing that at any moment someone could be knowing you and there could be mob justice,” said Stosh Mugisha, a woman who is going through a transition to become a man. “You feel embarrassed by someone touching you. People provoke us. But I just play it cool. Keep a low profile. It is terrible.” ...
Anti-gay sentiments are one thing, and hardly unique to Uganda. But what seems different here is the level of official, government-sponsored anti-gay hate speech.
“I detest gays in my heart,” said Kassiano E. Wadri, a member of Parliament and the chief whip of the opposition. “When I see a gay, I think that person needs psychotherapy. You need to break him.”
Then the second article describes the American evangelical role in Uganda's state sponsored oppression:
Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.
The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.
One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.
Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”
The Ugandan government, facing the prospect of losing millions in foreign aid, is now indicating that it will back down, slightly, and change the death penalty provision to life in prison for some homosexuals. But the battle is far from over.
Instead, Uganda seems to have become a far-flung front line in the American culture wars, with American groups on both sides, the Christian right and gay activists, pouring in support and money as they get involved in the broader debate over homosexuality in Africa.
“It’s a fight for their lives,” said Mai Kiang, a director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a New York-based group that has channeled nearly $75,000 to Ugandan gay rights activists and expects that amount to grow.
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.
This Christmas season, 78% of Americans identify with some form of Christian religion, a proportion that has been declining in recent decades. The major reason for this decline has been an increase in the percentage of Americans claiming no religious identity, now at 13% of all adults.
The trend results are based on annual averages of Gallup's religious identity data in America that stretch back over 60 years. One of the most significant trends documented during this period is the substantial increase in the percentage of American adults who don't identify with any specific religion. In 1948, only 2% of Americans did not identify with a religion. That percentage began to rise in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eleven years ago, in 1998, 6% of Americans did not identify with a religion, a number that rose to 10% by 2002. This year's average of 13% of Americans who claim no religious identity is the highest in Gallup records.
The percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic, Protestant, or some other non-Catholic Christian faith has been concomitantly decreasing over the years. This suggests that one of the major patterns of religious transition in America in recent decades has been the shift from identification as Christian to the status of having no specific religious identification.
In 1948, 91% of Americans identified with a Christian faith. Twenty years ago, in 1989, 82% of Americans identified as Christian. Ten years ago, it was 84%. This year, as noted, 78% of all American adults identify with a Christian faith.
There has also been a slight increase in the percentage of Americans who identify with a religion that is not specifically classified as Christian. Sixty years ago, for example, 4% of Americans identified with a non-Christian religion. By 1989, 9% of Americans were in this non-Christian religion category, the same percentage as today.
Does the decrease in religious identity signify that religion is losing its importance for Americans? There was a substantial drop in the percentage of Americans who said religion was "very important" in their lives between the 1960s and the 1970s -- from 70% in 1965 to 52% by 1978 -- but in recent decades, this "very important" percentage has remained relatively steady. The overall figure today -- 56% -- is slightly higher than it was 31 years ago.
There has been a slight tendency over the years for Americans to shift from a "fairly important" category to the "not very important" category in answer to this religious importance question. The percentage saying religion is not very important in their lives was routinely in the 12% to 15% range from 1978 through the early years of this decade. In more recent years, this percentage has drifted slightly upward, and is at 19% this year ...
Although a little more than one out of five Americans do not identify with a Christian faith, the Christmas season has ramifications for a broader segment of society. A Gallup survey conducted last year showed that 93% of all American adults said they celebrated Christmas.
In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church.
The Senate bill, approved Thursday morning, allows any state to bar the use of federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion and requires insurers in other states to divide subsidy money into separate accounts so that only dollars from private premiums would be used to pay for abortions.
Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.
The same day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the proposed compromise “morally unacceptable.”
The divide frames one of the most contentious issues facing House and Senate negotiators as they try to produce a bill that can pass in both chambers.
For months, the bishops have driven a lobbying campaign to bar anyone who receives insurance subsidies under the proposed overhaul from using them to buy coverage that included abortion. Citing the bishops, a group of House Democrats forced their liberal party leaders to adopt such a provision and threatened to block any final legislation that fell short of it. Abortion rights supporters, in response, have vowed to block any bill that includes such a measure.
Officials of the Catholic hospitals’ group and the nuns’ Leadership Conference of Women Religious declined to comment.
Catholic scholars say their statement reflects a different application of church teachings against “cooperation with evil,” a calculus that the legislation offers a way to extend health insurance to millions of Americans. For the Catholic hospitals, that it is both a moral and financial imperative, since like other hospitals they stand to gain from reducing the number of uninsured patients.
And in practical political terms, some Democrats — including some opponents of abortion rights — say that the Catholic hospitals’ relative openness to a compromise could play a pivotal role by providing political cover for Democrats who oppose abortion to support the health bill. Democrats and liberal groups quickly disseminated the association’s endorsement along with others from the nuns’ group, other Catholics and evangelicals.
“I think it is a sign that progress is being made, that we are getting there,” said Representative Steve Driehaus of Ohio, one of the Democrats who forced the House to adopt the stricter restrictions in its bill. The hospitals’ statement, he said, recognized the Senate’s compromise as a meaningful step, making him “optimistic” that Democrats could find a bill that he and other abortion foes could support.
Other abortion opponents argue that liberals are overstating the hospital association’s influence. “They don’t carry the same sway,” said Representative Bart Stupak, the Michigan Democrat who led the effort that resulted in the House bill’s including a full ban on abortion coverage in any subsidized health insurance plan.
Mr. Stupak said he still had commitments from at least 10 Democrats who voted for the House bill and pledged to vote against the final legislation if it loosened the abortion restrictions — enough to keep the bill from being approved. “At the end of the day we are going to have something along the lines of my language,” he said. Abortion rights supporters said the signs of openness from Catholic groups were helping some Democratic abortion foes accept the Senate compromise.
Five college-age Northern Virginia men were arrested in Pakistan this month after allegedly being recruited over the Internet to join al-Qaeda, and many Washington area Muslims are questioning whether condemnation is enough ...
Since Sept. 11, 2001, as American Muslims have seen repeated arrests of young European Muslims on terrorism charges, many in this country came to believe that the stronger integration of young American Muslims in the United States would help immunize them against the disaffection that leads to extremism. Magid said he has met in recent years with other Muslim leaders to talk about social networking to counter radicalism in Europe, "but we never thought about it for here."
Now, Magid said, "I have to be a virtual imam," meaning that Muslim groups need a larger and more effective online presence. Referring to extremists, he said: "Twenty-four hours, they're available. I want to be able to respond to that."
Until now, many Muslim leaders have focused on what they considered external threats to young people, such as Islamophobia or the temptations of modern, secular life. Now they say it is time to look inward, to provide a counterweight to those who misinterpret Koranic verses to promote violence -- and to learn what rhetoric and methods appeal to young people.
Radicals "seem to understand our youth better than we do," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation. "They use hip-hop elements for some who relate to that." Bray said "seductive videos" gradually lure young people, building outrage over atrocities committed against Muslims. Extremist videos "play to what we call in the Muslim youth community 'jihad cool' -- a kind of machismo that this is the hip thing to do."
For some, a new approach cannot come too soon. Zaki Barzinji, 20, a Sterling native and former president of Muslim Youth of North America, said mosques are "sort of in the Stone Age when it comes to outreach. Their youth programs are not attractive, not engaging . . . . They're shooting in the dark because it's always adults who are planning this outreach."
Nor is the threat limited to the Internet, Barzinji said, adding that groups of "traveling Muslim proselytizers" sometimes appear at Virginia Tech, where he is a senior, often attracting foreign students, who tend to be more socially isolated.
A November CNN interview:
In honor of Hanukkah beginning tonight at sundown, and from the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up dept at A Blue View, Utah's senior Senator, and Mormon:
Read the back story at the NY Times.
Thanks to A Blue View reader Ross for forwarding this to me. From Nbntube:
Nefesh B'Nefesh brought over 150 participants together on Ben Yehuda Street for the first ever Jerusalem flash mob in honor of Hanukkah.
Follow up to: "Swiss Ban Building of Minarets on Mosques"
In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam and undermined the country’s reputation for religious tolerance, the Swiss on Sunday overwhelmingly imposed a national ban on the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques, in a referendum drawn up by the far right and opposed by the government.
The referendum, which passed with a clear majority of 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, was a victory for the right. The vote against was 42.5 percent. Because the ban gained a majority of votes and passed in a majority of the cantons, it will be added to the Constitution.
The Swiss Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the rightist Swiss People’s Party, or S.V.P., and a small religious party had proposed inserting a single sentence banning the construction of minarets, leading to the referendum.
The Swiss government said it would respect the vote and sought to reassure the Muslim population — mostly immigrants from other parts of Europe, like Kosovo and Turkey — that the minaret ban was “not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.”
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the justice minister, said the result “reflects fears among the population of Islamic fundamentalist tendencies.”
While such concerns “have to be taken seriously,” she said in a statement, “The Federal Council takes the view that a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies.”
The government must now draft a supporting law on the ban, a process that could take at least a year and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights.
Of 150 mosques or prayer rooms in Switzerland, only 4 have minarets, and only 2 more minarets are planned. None conduct the call to prayer. There are about 400,000 Muslims in a population of some 7.5 million people. Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, said Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Switzerland.
“Most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote,” said Farhad Afshar, who runs the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland. “Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community.”
The Swiss vote reflected a growing anxiety about Islam, especially its more fundamentalist forms, in many countries of Western Europe. France, for example, has been talking about banning the full Islamic veil as a way to stop the influence of the more fundamentalist Salafist forms of Islam, popular among some of the young and also converts.
D.C. Council members are hardening their opposition to the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington's efforts to change a proposed same-sex marriage law, setting up a political showdown between the city and one of its largest social service providers.
Several council members said Thursday that Church officials miscalculated by saying this week that their Catholic Charities organization will have to end its contracts with the city if the proposal passes without changes.
"It's a dangerous thing when the Catholic Church starts writing and determining the legislation and the laws of the District of Columbia," said council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), chairman of the Human Services Committee.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, countered that the city is "the one giving the ultimatum. We are not threatening to walk out of the city," Gibbs said. "The city is the one saying, 'If you want to continue partnering with the city, then you cannot follow your faith teachings.' "
Under the bill, headed for a council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Church officials say Catholic Charities would have to suspend its social services work for the city, rather than provide employee benefits to same-sex married couples or allow them to adopt.
Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), one of two openly gay members of the council, said Thursday morning that he hoped to reach a compromise with the Church. He noted that it is a major provider of services for immigrants in his ward.
Late Thursday, however, Graham said he had changed his mind after reviewing same-sex marriage laws in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. He asked why the Church has not abandoned services in those states. "If the Catholic Church has been able to adjust in Connecticut, I think they can certainly adjust here," Graham said.
Catholic Charities in Boston halted its adoption programs with the city because Massachusetts requires that agencies not discriminate against same-sex couples as potential parents.
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said he plans to meet with his colleagues Friday to discuss the issue. But he added, "I don't know where the compromise would be. "It seems to me if they choose not to provide those services, we will have to find someone else," Gray said ...
At issue is $18 million to $20 million in city funds for 20 to 25 programs run by Catholic Charities, said Edward J. Orzechowski, the charity's president and chief executive officer ...
"We're going to continue to serve those in need," Orzechowski said. "But how we do that, where we do it and the manner in which we do it is what's at risk."
Orzechowski said many of the people who work for Catholic Charities and receive its services are from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, but giving same-sex spousal benefits to staff members or placing adoptive children with gay couples would violate Church tenets.
Linda C. McClain, a law professor at Boston University who is studying the same-sex marriage debate nationwide, said the outcome of the standoff between the District and the Church could have far-reaching implications for other states ...
"This case really pits the commitment to religious freedom against the importance of anti-discrimination," McClain said. "The courts have been pretty clear that you can't force a religious organization to express a message it doesn't agree with. . . . But it's a tougher case to say you won't be able to provide services to the poor because of this."
More than 200 members of the city's clergy who support same-sex marriage issued a statement Thursday denouncing Church's stance. "To hold hostage the rights of human beings over this, I think, is just really despicable," said the Rev. Dennis W. Wiley, co-chairman of D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality. "There are others who can step up to the plate who would love to have the contracts."
Some Catholics also expressed their frustration with the Church. "It's totally embarrassing," said Kathy Boylan, a member of the peace movement Catholic Worker ...
Several council members said the Church is asking them to undermine the 1977 Human Rights Act, which protects gays and other minorities. "It's not even a slippery slope. It's a wire that would be tripped," Wells said.
Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) said the Church, which has tax-exempt property and often interacts with the city government, should be wary of picking a fight.
"I am proud they have done so many community service things, but I would hope this would not be a line in the sand," he said.
Though they helped to perpetuate discrimination in marriage in California, the Mormons just came out against discrimination in housing & jobs in Salt Lake City. Though I don't agree with the line they've drawn, I understand and applaud it. The NY Times:
The Mormon Church has been a target of vituperation by some gay rights groups because of its active opposition to same-sex marriage. But on Wednesday, the church was being praised by gay rights activists in Salt Lake City, citadel of the Mormon world, for its open support of a local ordinance banning discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing and employment.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously Tuesday night, made Salt Lake the first city in Utah to offer such protections. While the measure probably had majority backing on the seven-member City Council anyway, the church’s support was seen by gay activists as a thunderclap that would resonate across the state and in the overwhelmingly Mormon legislature, where even subtle shifts in church positions on social issues can swing votes and sentiments.
“It’s the most progressive and inclusive statement that the church has made on these issues,” said Will Carlson, the manager of public policy at Equality Utah, the state’s largest gay rights group. “What they’ve said here is huge, in protecting residents in other municipalities, and statewide.”
In its statement backing the ordinance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that while it remained “unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman,” the question of how people were treated on the job and in finding places to live were matters of fairness that did not have anything to do with marriage.
“Across America and around the world, diverse communities such as ours are wrestling with complex social and moral questions,” Michael R. Otterson, a church spokesman, said in a statement to the City Council. “The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against.”
Mr. Carlson at Equality Utah said the wording of the church’s statement was crucial. The church previously had used more neutral language when asked about antidiscrimination statutes or hate-crimes legislation, often saying that it was “not opposed” to such measures.
About 100 cities in the United States have passed similar housing and employment protection statutes, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national gender rights organization. Salt Lake’s ordinance will take effect next April, and will authorize the mayor to appoint an administrator to investigate complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Editors Note: This story is the result of a two-year CNN investigative report into peace talks held between the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and the Libyan Government which recently culminated in the LIFG, a militant jihadist group once close to Osama bin Laden, repudiating al Qaeda. "The Jihadi Code," a documentary on the breakthrough against al Qaeda in Libya, airs on November 15 at 1200 GMT.
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- From within Libya's most secure jail a new challenge to al Qaeda is emerging.
Leaders of one of the world's most effective jihadist organizations, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), have written a new "code" for jihad. The LIFG says it now views the armed struggle it waged against Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime for two decades as illegal under Islamic law.
The new code, a 417-page religious document entitled "Corrective Studies" is the result of more than two years of intense and secret talks between the leaders of the LIFG and Libyan security officials.
The code's most direct challenge to al Qaeda is this: "Jihad has ethics and morals because it is for God. That means it is forbidden to kill women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the like. Betrayal is prohibited and it is vital to keep promises and treat prisoners of war in a good way. Standing by those ethics is what distinguishes Muslims' jihad from the wars of other nations."
The code has been circulated among some of the most respected religious scholars in the Middle East and has been given widespread backing. It is being debated by politicians in the U.S. and studied by western intelligence agencies.
In essence the new code for jihad is exactly what the West has been waiting for: a credible challenge from within jihadist ranks to al Qaeda's ideology.
While the code states that jihad is permissible if Muslim lands are invaded -- citing the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine -- the guidelines it sets down for when and how jihad should be fought, and its insistence that civilians should not be targeted are a clear rebuke to the goals and tactics of bin Laden's terrorist network.
CNN was given exclusive access to the Abu Salim jail where the code was written to talk to the LIFG prisoners. The jail has a bloody reputation; in 1996 prison guards put down a revolt by allegedly killing more than 1,200 prisoners in less than 24 hours. Read how CNN got inside the prison
We also had exclusive access to the story behind the new code from two of its principle architects. <Continue reading.>
Interesting approach from the MCC:
Quinn suggests we "broom the Muslims out of the military," says internment "worked" during WWII:
I'm surprised they didn't also comment on Barack Obama's ability to dance. From the NY Times:
Two Republican county chairmen in South Carolina have apologized for a newspaper op-ed article that stereotyped Jews as financial penny pinchers.
The chairmen wrote the article in The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg, S.C., on Sunday in defense of Senator Jim DeMint’s opposition to Congressional earmarks, comparing his fiscal watchfulness to that of Jews.
“There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves,” the opinion article stated. “By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.”
A Democratic state senator, Joel Lourie of Kershaw and Richland Counties, who is Jewish, called the comment “disgusting” and “unconscionable” and said it represented “prejudice in its purest form.” He called for the two chairmen to lose their positions in the state Republican Party and asked Mr. DeMint and Karen Floyd, the state party chairwoman, to denounce their comments.
The authors, Edwin O. Merwin Jr., chairman of the Bamberg County Republican Party, and James S. Ulmer Jr., chairman of the Orangeburg County Republican Party, issued statements of apology on Monday.
The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported that Mr. Ulmer had e-mailed a statement explaining that the comment was one he had “heard many times in my life, truly in admiration for a method of bettering one’s lot in life.”
“I sincerely apologize for this great error,” he wrote in the e-mail message. “I meant absolutely nothing derogatory by the reference to a great and honorable people. I hope that anyone and all who were offended by my comment will accept my humble apology.”
Mr. Merwin said that he concurred with Mr. Ulmer’s statement. “At this time, I wish to deeply apologize for any material included in that letter that would be considered anti-Semitic in any way,” Mr. Merwin said in a statement. “I have always abhorred in the past, and shall continue to do so in the future, anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever.”
Mr. DeMint said the reference to Jews was “thoughtless and hurtful,” and said the authors were correct in apologizing. Ms. Floyd said that the apology would end the matter, and that the two men would retain their jobs.
The article was the latest controversy in a tumultuous year for South Carolina Republicans. In June, Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina. In September, Representative Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” during a speech by President Obama to Congress.
The Nobel Committee proves yesterday's post, Sorry Conservatives, Barack Obama Is Good for America's Reputation. From Nobelprize.org:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
From the Anne Frank House:
July 22 1941. The girl next door is getting married. Anne Frank is leaning out of the window of her house in Amsterdam to get a good look at the bride and groom. It is the only time Anne Frank has ever been captured on film. At the time of her wedding, the bride lived on the second floor at Merwedeplein 39. The Frank family lived at number 37, also on the second floor. The Anne Frank House can offer you this film footage thanks to the cooperation of the couple.
I don't know why, but I was surprised by how modern & cosmopolitan everything looked.
A Sudanese woman who was imprisoned for wearing trousers deemed "indecent" has been released after the country's journalist union paid a $200 fine on her behalf.
Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who had been found guilty of flouting the country's decency laws, said after being released on Tuesday that the fine had been paid without her permission.
"I am not happy. I told all my friends and family not to pay the fine," she said.
A Khartoum court on Monday ordered al-Hussein to pay a fine or face a month in jail, but she was spared a possible penalty of 40 lashes.
Al-Hussein refused to pay, preferring to go to jail as a means of challenging Sudan's public order act.
Al-Hussein, a former reporter working for the United Nations at the time of her arrest, said she believed there had been political pressure to free her and bring an end to the case, which has brought attention from media and rights organisations worldwide.
Mohieddin Titawi, the chairman of the journalists' union, said his group had paid the fine because it had a responsibility to "protect journalists when they are in prison".
Al-Hussein was arrested during a raid at a restaurant in Khartoum in July for wearing a pair of green slacks which she later wore in the court hearings.
Ten other women arrested along with al-Hussein have already been whipped for their offence.
Al-Hussein and two others decided to appeal in protest of Article 152 of the Sudanese penal code, which decrees up to 40 lashes for anyone "who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing".
Al-Hussein has said her clothes were respectable and that she did not break the law.
She has also said Article 152 "is both against the constitution and sharia [Islamic law]" and that nothing in the Quran says that women should be flogged over what they wear.
Last year nearly 43,000 women were detained for indecent clothing offences in Khartoum region, according to al-Hussein's supporters.
Women's groups have complained that the law gives no clear definition of indecent dress, leaving the decision of whether to arrest a woman up to individual police officers.
He is having a Ramadan dinner according to the NY Times:
President Obama will hold his first White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan on Tuesday night as part of his effort to rebuild American relations with the Islamic world after years of strain.
The dinner follows in the tradition of former President George W. Bush, who held eight Ramadan dinners in office to stress that America’s war with violent extremists was not a war with Islam. Despite that outreach, Mr. Bush became a polarizing figure to many Muslims, in large part because of the Iraq war and his staunch support for Israel.
Mr. Obama, while adopting a similar message of respect for the religion of Islam, has none of the baggage of his predecessor and some distinctive advantages that aides hope give him credibility. While the president is a Christian, he comes from a family that includes Muslims, and he spent several years as a child growing up in a Muslim country, Indonesia. His opposition to the Iraq war and his tougher stance on Israel also contrast with Mr. Bush’s policies.
Among those invited to the White House on Tuesday night are the ambassadors from most major Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey, as well as envoys from nations with significant Muslim populations like Israel, Germany, India, Britain and France. Also on the invitation list is the chief of mission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Besides the president, the administration will be represented by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Representatives Andre Carson, a Muslim from Indiana, John Conyers of Michigan, Keith Ellison, a Muslim from Minnesota and Rush Holt of New Jersey, all Democrats, are expected as well.Among the community members invited are Lt. Cmdr. Abuhena Saifulislam, a Navy officer who has given the prayer at Mr. Bush’s Ramadan dinner, and Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who has been giving the White House fits with a lawsuit that has forced it to release secret documents on C.I.A. interrogations and detention.
And here he earlier extended his best wishes to Muslims around the world:
From the NY Times:
Seven months after taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is reshaping the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by pushing it back into some of the most important areas of American political life, including voting rights, housing, employment, bank lending practices and redistricting after the 2010 census.
As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring, where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly. President George W. Bush’s appointees had discouraged such tactics, preferring to focus on individual cases in which there is evidence of intentional discrimination.
To bolster a unit that has been battered by heavy turnover and a scandal over politically tinged hiring under the Bush administration, the Obama White House has also proposed a hiring spree that would swell the ranks of several hundred civil rights lawyers with more than 50 additional lawyers, a significant increase for a relatively small but powerful division of the government.
The division is “getting back to doing what it has traditionally done,” Mr. Holder said in an interview. “But it’s really only a start. I think the wounds that were inflicted on this division were deep, and it will take some time for them to fully heal.”
Few agencies are more engaged in the nation’s social and cultural debates than the Civil Rights Division, which was founded in 1957 to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
The division has been at the center of a number of controversies over the decades, serving as a proxy for disputes between liberals and conservatives in matters like school busing and affirmative action. When the Nixon administration took office, it sought to delay school desegregation plans reached under former President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Reagan administration dropped the division’s policy of opposing tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory private schools. And former President Bill Clinton withdrew his first nominee to lead the division, Lani Guinier, after her writings about racial quotas were criticized.
But such dust-ups were minor when compared with sweeping changes at the division under the Bush administration, longtime career civil rights lawyers say.
From the NY Times:
As recently as July, the bishops’ conference had largely embraced the president’s goals, although with the caveat that any health care overhaul avoid new federal financing of abortions. But in the last two weeks some leaders of the conference, like Cardinal Justin Rigali, have concluded that Democrats’ efforts to carve out abortion coverage are so inadequate that lawmakers should block the entire effort.
Others, echoing the popular alarms about “rationing,” contend that the proposals could put a premium on efficacy that could penalize the chronically ill.
“No health care reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa, declared in a recent pastoral letter, urging the faithful to call their members of Congress.
In a diocesan newspaper column this week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver agreed, saying the proposal was “not only imprudent; it’s also dangerous.”
The bishops’ opposition — published in diocesan newspapers, disseminated online by conservative activists, and reported in a Roman Catholic newspaper to be distributed this weekend at churches around the country — is another setback for Mr. Obama’s health care efforts. His administration has been counting on the support of Catholic leaders to help rally believers behind his health care plan. Just last week, he held a conference call with 140,000 religious voters to appeal to what he called their “moral convictions.”
The bishops’ backlash reflects a struggle within the church over how heavily to weigh opposition to abortion against concerns about social justice.
“It is the great tension in Catholic thought right now,” said M. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of law and theology at Notre Dame.
The same question, Professor Kaveny said, set off the debates over whether conscientious Catholics could vote for Mr. Obama despite his support for abortion rights, whether he should be invited to speak at Notre Dame, or whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, like Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., should present themselves for Communion.
Mr. Obama has said the health care overhaul should preserve the current policy that federal money not pay for elective abortions, and congressional Democrats say they are trying to do that. House health care legislation would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to decide whether a proposed government insurance program would cover abortions. But any health insurance plan that does cover abortion — whether government-run or private — would be required to segregate its government subsidies from its patients’ premium payments so that no taxpayer money would pay for the procedure. And all patients would have the choice of plans that do and do not cover it.
From the NY Times:
After an emotional debate over the authority of Scripture and the limits of biblical inclusiveness, leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination voted Friday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.
The vote made the denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest mainline Protestant church to permit such ordinations, contributing to a halting sense of momentum on the issue within liberal Protestantism.
By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)
Just before the vote, the Rev. Mark Hanson, the church’s presiding bishop, led the packed convention center in prayer. When the two bar graphs signaling the vote’s outcome popped up on the hall’s big screens seconds later, there were only a few quiet gasps, as delegates had been asked to avoid making an audible scene. But around the convention hall, clusters of men and women hugged one other and wept.
“To be able to be a full member of the church is really a lifelong dream,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer of San Francisco, who is in a committed same-sex relationship and serves in three Lutheran congregations but is not officially on the church’s roster of clergy members. “I don’t have to have an asterisk next to my name anymore.”
But the passage of the resolution now raises questions about the future of the denomination, which has 4.6 million members but has seen its ranks steadily dwindle, and whether it will see an exodus of its more conservative followers or experience some sort of schism.
“I think we have stepped beyond what the word of God allows,” said the Rev. Rebecca M. M. Heber of Heathrow, Fla., who said she was going to reconsider her membership.
Conservative dissenters said they saw various options, including leaving for another Lutheran denomination or creating their own unified body.
A contingent of 400 conservative congregations that make up a group that calls itself Lutheran Core is to meet in September. Leaders of the group said their plans were not to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church but to try to protect its “true tenets” from within.
Among so-called “mainline” Protestant denominations, distinguishable theologically from their more conservative, evangelical Protestant counterparts, both the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ already allow gay clergy members.
The Episcopal Church has endured the most visible public flashpoints over homosexuality, grappling in particular in the last few years with the consecration of gay bishops. It affirmed last month, however, that “any ordained ministry” was open to gay men and lesbians.
Earlier this year the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a measure that would have opened the door for gay ordination, but the margin was narrower than in a similar vote in 2001. The United Methodist Church voted not to change its stance barring noncelibate homosexuals from ministry last year, after an emotional debate at its general conference.
But the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbued Friday’s vote with added significance, religion scholars said.
Wendy Cadge, a sociology professor at Brandeis University who has studied Evangelical Lutheran churches grappling with the issue, said, “It does show, to the extent that any mainline denominations are moving, I think they’re moving slowly toward a more progressive direction.”
Describing the context of Friday’s vote, several religion experts likened it to the court decision last year in Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage.
“In the same sense that the Iowa court decision might have opened people’s eyes, causing them to say, ‘Iowa? What? Where?’” said Laura Olson, a professor of political science at Clemson University who has studied mainline Protestantism. “The E.L.C.A. isn’t necessarily quite as surprising in the religious sense, but the message it’s sending is, yes, not only are more Americans from a religious perspective getting behind gay rights, but these folks are not just quote unquote coastal liberals.”
The denomination has struggled with the issue almost since its founding in the late 1980s with the merger of three other Lutheran denominations.
In 2001, the church convened a committee to study the issue. It eventually recommended guidelines for a denominational vote. In 2005, however, delegates voted not to change its policies.
On Friday, delegates juggled raw emotion, fatigue and opposing interpretations of Scripture.
Before the vote but sensing its outcome, the Rev. Timothy Housholder of Cottage Grove, Minn., introduced himself as a rostered pastor in the church, “at least for a few more hours,” implying that he would leave the denomination and eliciting a gasp from some audience members.
“Here I stand, broken and mournful, because of this assembly and her actions,” Mr. Housholder said.The Rev. Mark Lepper of Belle Plaine, Minn., called for the inclusion of gay clergy members, saying, “Let’s stop leaving people behind and let’s be the family God is calling us to be.”
From the NY Times:
President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.
As the president returned to the health care debate after two days of silence, the administration encouraged Republicans to take part in the negotiations. Still, Democratic leaders moved ahead with plans to advance a measure next month with or without Republican cooperation.
The White House acknowledged that its handling of the debate had been inconsistent, with Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, saying, “I don’t think anybody here believes we’ve pitched a no-hit game or a perfect game.”
Mr. Obama did not wade into the uproar among Democrats over whether the bill would have a public insurance component, a key point of contention, but rather tried to correct what he said were untruths about the plan.
“You’ve heard that there’s a government takeover of health care. That’s not true,” said Mr. Obama, who went on to call other assertions, like a death panel for the elderly, “an extraordinary lie.”...
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the panel, said in a statement that no health care plan had yet found the kind of broad support he thought necessary to move ahead.
“That doesn’t mean we should quit,” Mr. Grassley said.
Highly critical statements by Mr. Grassley of Democratic health care proposals — coupled with near blanket rejection by other Republicans — led top Democrats to suspect that no Republicans would be willing to vote for a health care plan.
A spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said the leadership had not reached a decision that Democrats should try to force through a health plan on their own ...
In a late-afternoon telephone call with religious leaders on Wednesday, Mr. Obama cast the difficulty of the health care debate in terms larger than his presidency, comparing it to the creation of Social Security and Medicare.
“These struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear,” he said. “That was true in the debate over Social Security, when F.D.R. was accused of being a socialist. That was true when J.F.K. and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”