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On Watch in Washington October 17, 2012

BATTLEGROUND STATES – HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT

Since Obama’s lackluster showing at the first debate two weeks ago, the race has tightened across the board, both in national surveys and where it matters most — in the 11 battleground states that will decide the election.

In every state still considered up for grabs Nov. 6, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls shows Republican nominee Mitt Romney has gained ground on the president — and has taken the lead outright in Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

“There’s a sense that Romney is an acceptable alternative president right now,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “A great many people did not view it that way before. That is critical for making this election a referendum on Obama’s record.”

The two men face off again Tuesday night at Hofstra University for their second debate, during which Mr. Obama will try to make up for what he said was an uneven performance the first go-around.

He also is hoping to tamp down the renewed enthusiasm for Mr. Romney, who voters said won the debate, which helped propel him to gains in the polls.

In Florida, where Mr. Obama held a lead of 3 percentage points before the first debate, Mr. Romney now leads by an average of 3 points in the RCP average. In North Carolina, host to the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Romney is pulling away with a lead of 5 points after being tied with Obama on the day before the Oct. 3 debate.

In Virginia, where Mr. Obama led consistently before the first debate by 2 to 8 percentage points in the RCP average of polls, his lead over Mr. Romney has shrunk since the debate to less than 1 percentage point.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the razor-thin margins in swing states are no surprise and that the campaign always has expected a tight race.

But the campaign moved swiftly to discredit a USA Today/Gallup survey released Monday that gave Mr. Romney a 5-point edge (51 percent to 46 percent) in 12 swing states, saying the poll also showed Mr. Romney tied with Obama among women who are likely to vote — something the Obama camp said is impossible to believe.

Obama campaign pollster Joel Benenson said Gallup’s survey was “an extreme outlier, defying the trends seen in every other battleground and national poll.”

“This result underscores deep flaws in Gallup’s likely-voter screen,” Mr. Benenson said. “Gallup’s data is once again far out of line with other public pollsters.”

He said in 14 state polls conducted across eight swing states since Oct. 4, Mr. Obama led among women “in every single one.”

Obama’s pollster argued that bias was built into the Gallup poll.

“For example, Gallup asks voters both whether they have voted in their precinct before and where people in their neighborhood go to vote,” he said. “This creates a bias against registered voters, who are more likely to move from time to time, such as young voters, renters, minorities and urban dwellers, all of whom tend to lean toward the president.”

Four years ago, Mr. Obama won among women by a 13-percent margin over Republican nominee John McCain.

The complaints about polls are a reversal from three weeks ago, when Republicans were complaining that surveys were skewed toward Mr. Obama. GOP pollsters said some polls were sampling a higher percentage of Democrats than they should have been.

Ms. Psaki said the polls are helping determine Mr. Obama’s campaign schedule. After this week’s debate, Mr. Obama will campaign in Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia.

But the polls have turned in nearly every swing state. In Ohio, Mr. Obama’s pre-debate lead of as much as 8 percentage points is down to about 2 points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. That same slippage has happened elsewhere across the industrial Midwest, including in Michigan, where a 10-point lead for Mr. Obama on Oct. 2 has slipped to 4 points, according to the RCP average.

As the campaign heads into the final three weeks, Mr. Obama sent a fundraising email to supporters Monday declaring, “This race is tied.”

“What we do over the next 22 days will determine not just the next four years, but what this country looks like for decades to come,” Mr. Obama said in his pitch for more donations.

One ominous development since the first debate has been a shift in Florida polls among Hispanic voters away from Mr. Obama. A Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 survey released Thursday had Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama in a virtual tie among that state’s Hispanics, prompting a senior Obama adviser to comment on the same day, “That’s an impossibility.”

But a Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll released Monday also showed a tightening of the race among Hispanic voters in the Sunshine State, with Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney 51 percent to 44 percent, just half the 15-point margin by which Mr. Obama won Florida Hispanics in 2008.

Nationally, the same survey showed Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney 66 percent to 31 percent among Hispanics. Pollsters said the difference in Florida is the Cuban-American community, which is largely Republican and could be more enthused about Mr. Romney’s performance in the first debate.

A Politico/George Washington University poll released Monday puts Mr. Romney in the lead, 50 percent to 48 percent, in the most competitive states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

But Mr. Obama’s top aides say he has leads in Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and other battleground states that Mr. Romney will be hard-pressed to overcome.

The candidates will debate for a third and final time on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. (Contributor: Excerpts from Dave Boyer and the The Washington Times, Real Clear Politics)

Pray that the full truth regarding platform stands be understood by the U.S. electorate. Pray that the remaining debates will help make clear the issues that are before our nation. Pray for righteous leadership to prevail.

“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

TAX-RAISERS LACK COMPASSION

If you were unemployed, would you prefer a job or a handout? Most people would say a job because of the self-respect that comes with being productively employed. What is not widely recognized is both the emotional and physical damage long-term unemployment does to many people.

Over the past several decades, there have been many studies about the effects of long-term unemployment on individuals. If you do a Google search of such studies, you will find a remarkable consensus among the researchers—even though some are funded by government, some by labor groups and some by employer groups. In sum, all agree that death rates increase markedly for those who lose their jobs. The unemployed, not surprisingly, are much more prone to develop stress-induced conditions such as diabetes and depression. Not being able to find work is stressful, particularly for those with family responsibilities.

It is interesting that even though nearly all agree that involuntary unemployment is harmful to the individual and society, many policymakers are willing to accept it rather than focus on what can be done to prevent it.

Most people understand why taxing those who create jobs (generally upper-income people) will mean the creation of fewer jobs. Economists may argue about how many jobs will be destroyed for any given tax increase on job creators, but no one who understands the law of supply and demand will argue that there is no effect. Likewise, most people understand that a business that has to endure many expensive regulations will not have the funds to create as many new jobs or will be forced to increase prices for its products or services to cover the cost of the regulations. Higher prices mean fewer sales and, hence, fewer jobs. None of the above is rocket science, so most people “get it.”

Current U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is $15.6 trillion. If the economy grows at an average of 2 percent annually over the next eight years (in real dollars), the GDP will be $18.3 trillion in 2020. (In reality, the economy has grown at an annual rate of about 2 percent since the end of the current recession in the spring of 2009, and now it is growing at less than 2 percent.) However, if the economy grows at an average rate of more than 4 percent, as it did from 1982 through 1989 under Ronald Reagan or from 1995 through 2000 under Bill Clinton), GDP will be about $21.4 trillion in 2020, or almost 20 percent larger in real terms than at a 2 percent growth rate.

Because of population growth, it takes an almost 3 percent economic growth rate to create enough new jobs to prevent the real unemployment rate (the percentage of the adult population not at work) from rising. Thus, at a 2 percent growth rate, the percentage of the adult population at work will continue to decline. However, at an average growth rate of 4 percent, involuntary unemployment will almost disappear (staying between 4 percent and 5.5 percent) and the economy will be near full employment. There always will be some unemployment because of people between jobs or unwilling to accept jobs they don’t like in hopes of finding a better one.

Many advocates of increasing taxes acknowledge that higher taxes, particularly on labor and capital, will slow economic growth, but they claim “the government needs the money.” Part of the mistake they are making is treating tax revenue as a constant function of the tax rate rather than a variable that is dependent on the size of the economy. The Romney-Ryan plan is to have tax reform that produces about 18 percent of GDP in federal tax revenue (approximately the historical average of the past 40 years). Their economic plan, like Reagan’s, is designed to achieve an average economic growth rate of 4 percent or higher, resulting in approximately $3.9 trillion in tax revenue in 2020 (eight years from now) and full employment.

The Obama administration not only wants to keep the present economic policies, which are resulting in less than a 2 percent growth rate, but also to increase tax rates, which will further reduce economic growth. The administration claims the tax-rate increases will produce tax revenue at about 20 percent of GDP, but at a 2 percent average growth rate, it will only result in federal revenues of about $3.7 trillion in 2020 — less than the Romney-Ryan plan. The Obama administration has claimed incorrectly for the past four years that its policies will result in 4 percent growth rates. Those policies have only achieved a 2 percent growth rate, yet somehow we are expected to believe that raising taxes on job providers will increase growth and job creation.

Obama and his Democratic allies like to say they want to return to the Clinton-era tax rates (actually, they are proposing higher rates, given the additional taxes from Obamacare), but they leave out the fact that federal spending during the second Clinton administration was just 18 percent of GDP, not the current 23 percent. The empirical evidence (contrary to left-wing dogma) shows that economic growth and job creation slow as government gets bigger.

Those who support politicians whose policies are almost certain to produce low growth at best and then claim they care about the physical and mental well-being of the unemployed are either ignoring the historical evidence or are hypocrites. They are not compassionate. (Contributor: Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth – The Washington Times)

Pray for sound understanding by the newly elected leaders in regards to economic growth. Ask the Lord to give wisdom to our national financial leaders and administrators.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

POLITICALLY CORRECT DICTIONARY?

Since the 1960s, a “correct” political language has been imposed on Americans.

For example, none of the following set of terms was in the New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language in 1971: African-American, entitlement, environmentalism, Hispanic, multiculturalism, Native American, nonjudgmental, sexism, victimization. Just 15 years later, all of these leftist terms were in Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary of 1986.

A further sampling from now-widespread leftist terminology would include: feminism, Chicano, sensitivity training, homelessness, consciousness-raising, right-wing extremism, Islamophobia, bullying, male chauvinism, no-fault divorce, racial profiling, lifestyle, Christian fundamentalism, social safety net, bilingual education, sexual harassment, hate speech, underprivileged, same-sex marriage, and social justice — the politically correct synonym for socialism.

Left-wing activists have seen to it that students entering universities receive lists of forbidden words, such as the use of “man” in generic reference to human beings (for example, the word “congressman” for any member of Congress, which is said to be an affront to women). Those lists provide substitute diction for the censored words (e.g. “freshperson” for freshman).

American children nowadays begin learning the concepts of environmentalism and homosexual “marriage” as early as first and second grade.

Language activists also redefine words. “Discrimination,” which used to mean to make distinctions, now means to manifest prejudices. “Abortion” used to mean destroying human life in the womb; now it means the right to choose without regard to what is chosen. The word “diversity” had its meaning changed to the forced matriculation, hiring and promotion of “underrepresented classes.” The term “budget cut” now refers to an increase in government funding that is below the previous year’s percentage of increase.

Even core words of America’s culture have been redefined. “Freedom” has become liberation from the authority of the Ten Commandments. “Equality” means giving special privileges to “victims of oppression.” “Patriotism” means the desire to transform America.

The goal in many of these vocabulary changes is to form a new primary identity. By giving women, blacks, persons of Mexican ancestry, homosexuals and other such “identity groups” a sense of belonging to oppressed biological classes, language activists have forged a weapon for class struggle that is more effective than economic status.

When oppression is defined biologically — skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation — the idea of oppression persists no matter how well off an individual may be because no one can change his or her biology. Oppression based on biology can only be eliminated through cultural “transformation” (i.e., the creation of a new culture).

The widespread use of politically correct language is “deconstructing” American culture. Our shared belief in God-given, equal birthrights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is being destroyed, along with belief in constitutional government, Judeo-Christian morality, marriage, the free market and personal responsibility. These American cultural beliefs are being replaced by the ideas that society is responsible for everybody’s welfare, that government regulation must be centralized and unlimited, that only justice that is “social” matters and that “saving the planet” has far greater value than the “greed” that leftists claim is the essence of a free-market economy.

After two generations of being browbeaten by accusations of “sexism” and “racism,” many Americans have accepted the ideology of the left and have stopped acting on the cultural beliefs that made us a great nation and have attracted more immigrants to the United States than to any other country in the world.

Candidates for Congress often promise to make decisions to rein in runaway government spending. The politically correct language that is producing socialistic ways of thinking and behaving here in America prevent those promises from being kept. (Contributor: John Harmon McElroy – The Washington Times)

Pray that God’s Word is honored and shown preeminence in the decision making in all governmental affairs. Pray that legislators and policy makers balance God’s will for national concerns with all policy decisions. Pray that U.S. legislation be tempered with righteous discernment.

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalm 19:12-13)

DEBATE REMARK ON CONTRACEPTION NOT TRUE

America’s Catholic bishops have a problem with Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that religious institutions won’t be required to pay for insurance coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortion.

They say it isn’t true.

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear,” Biden said during his debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday. “No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital — none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

The U.S. Conference of Bishops disagreed, and issued a letter on Friday taking issue with Biden’s position.

“This is not a fact,” the letter states. “The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain ‘religious employers.’ ”

The bishops argue the White House offered a proposal in February that essentially would have put the responsibility of providing such drugs and services on the institution’s insurance companies. The offer was essentially rejected, and the issue is being played out in roughly 40 lawsuits, including one filed by the University of Notre Dame, in 12 federal courts across the country.

“That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to ‘Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital,’ or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served,” the bishops’ letter continued.

They also said the proposal does not even “potentially” relieve organizations from the obligation to pay for contraception and to be a “vehicle” to get contraception.

The White House did not respond to a request Monday for comment.

The group also said the organizations will have to serve as a “vehicle” because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries, the group said. (Contributor: Fox News)

Pray that truth will triumph over lies, deceptions, and distortions of the truth regarding any issue that is currently before the American people. Pray for a greater understanding of the issues facing our republic with our economy, tax structure, Obamacare, death panels, abortion, homosexual agendas and any other issue that will have serious moral ramifications for our country in the days ahead.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:22-23)

MOSLEM REBELS INK PHILIPPINE PACT

Moslem rebels and the Philippine government overcame decades of bitter hostility and took their first tentative step toward ending one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies with the signing of a preliminary peace pact that provides both hope and challenges.

The framework agreement creates a roadmap for a final peace settlement. It grants minority Moslems in the southern Philippines broad autonomy in exchange for ending more than 40 years of violence that has killed tens of thousands of people and crippled development.

It was signed Monday in Manila’s Malacanang presidential palace by government negotiator Marvic Leonen and his counterpart from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohagher Iqbal. Also witnessing the historic moment were President Benigno Aquino III, rebel chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim – who set foot in the palace for the first time–and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose country helped broker the deal.

About 200 guerrillas and followers, all in dark business suits, joined the crowd of diplomats, officials, and police and army generals in a chandelier-lit hall to witness the signing. In their southern Philippine strongholds, thousands of guerrillas waved flags and gathered to celebrate.

“The framework agreement before us will bring to an end the violence which claimed so many lives, and cut short so many futures,” Najib said. He said the deal would protect the rights of minority Moslems while preserving the Philippines’ territorial integrity.

“After four decades, peace is within reach,” he said, adding that he hopes large numbers of Filipinos displaced by decades of strife, including many who fled to Malaysia, will be able to return to normal life.

But he cautioned that the agreement “does not solve all the problems, rather it sets the parameters in which peace can be found.”

The 13-page document outlines general agreements on major issues, including the extent of power, revenues and territory granted for a new Moslem autonomous region to be called Bangsamoro in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. The large number of army troops will gradually be replaced by a regional police, who could enlist qualified guerrillas, officials and the rebels said.

It calls for the establishment of a 15-member Transition Commission to draft a law creating the new Moslem-administered region. The 11,000-strong rebel army will be deactivated gradually “beyond use,” the agreement says, without specifying a timetable.

The United States, has deployed hundreds of counterterrorism troops in the southern Philippines since 2002, welcomed the signing, saying it “marks another step toward ending insurrection and restoring good governance.”

There is no formal link to what is happening in the Philippine Islands regarding this step toward peace with the Moslems and with what is happening in a parallel movement with thousands of Philippine citizens coming to the Lord Jesus Christ in a recent revival. One could draw a direct spiritual conclusion. George Otis, Jr. has been researching the increase in Christian revival in the Philippines.

(Contributors: Jim Gomez and Hrvoje Hranjski for the Associated Press, Huffington Post, GlowTorch.org Transformation)

Pray that this truce between Philippine Moslems and the Christian Church in the Philippines will be immolated in other countries throughout the world. The Lord has swept that country with a revival effecting every aspect of their society, let’s pray He does this in America.  Pray for continued peace for this war torn country, and pray that the Philippine people will come to know and rely upon their true Savior, Jesus Christ. Give thanks for their increase in salvation testimonies. Pray for an increase in harvest of souls. Pray that many Moslems will come to submit to the One True God and Creator of the universe.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12)

DOES VOTING MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Perhaps I’d be more inclined to vote if I felt it would really make a difference, but I’m skeptical, to say the least. Can you give me any evidence that would convince me otherwise?

Our nation’s recent political history is sprinkled with examples of when election outcomes hinged on a handful of votes. I recall former senator Bill Armstrong, who invested twenty-eight years of his life in public office, relating the story of his good friend Representative Lou Wyman’s campaign. When Wyman ran for a Senate seat, he lost by twelve votes statewide. Other instances in which candidates squeaked through by the narrowest of margins include Averill Harriman’s gubernatorial election in 1954, George McGovern’s senatorial campaign in 1960, and John Warner’s run for the Senate in 1978. All were decided by one vote or less per precinct.1 And don’t forget the Nixon/Kennedy electoral results of 1960; when the dust had settled, the presidential prize was awarded based on an average margin of only one-half vote per precinct nationwide.

Even when elections do not appear to be closely contested, it is a moral outrage that more Christians do not take their voting responsibilities seriously. If they did, this would be a very different nation, and a better one. But for reasons beyond my comprehension, evangelicals are either too involved, too preoccupied, or too disinterested to hold our elected officials accountable and keep our democracy on track.

Because so few citizens vote, many of us are unaware that a small minority actually dominates national politics (not to mention local elections). To illustrate, let’s hypothesize that the country as a whole goes to the polls at the rate of ten out of every twenty people. If evangelicals stepped up their voting involvement to thirteen out of every twenty, instead of accounting for only 20 percent of the overall vote, their proportion of the votes cast would increase to nearly 25 percent. Did you know that if most of that additional 5 percent vote had been directed to the loser in four of the presidential elections that have taken place since World War II, it would have tipped the scales in favor of the loser?2 And obviously, more is at stake than merely the influence of chief-executive policy for a four-year term–judicial appointments made by the president can directly impact our culture and our families for half a lifetime or more.

Your vote is crucial if we are to reintroduce the traditional, family-friendly values on which our nation was founded. A great member of the British Parliament, Edmund Burke, said something years ago that still resonates today: “All that is necessary for evil to prevail in the world is that good men do nothing.”3 So get involved! The same Jesus who multiplied the young lad’s loaves and fishes will be faithful to multiply the efforts of those of us who honor His name in the political arena.

Footnotes

1. Focus on the Family, “Being a Responsible Citizen,” Senator William Armstrong, guest, 4 November 1994.
2. Anne Marie Morgan, “Election 88: Why You Should Vote,” Focus on the Family (September 1988): 2–3.
3. Paraphrase of Edmund Burke quote from Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents, 23 April 1770.

(Contributor: DrJamesDobson.org)

Give thanks to the Lord that we live in a country where we can elect righteous leaders to govern our society. Pray that those who go to the polls in this coming election will chose righteousness over any other issue. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

$19 BILLION IN GOVERNMENT WASTEFUL EXPENSES REVEALED

Known simply as the Waste Book, the report is a watch list of eye-opening expenditures, which Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma blames on a “let them eat caviar” attitude in Washington — at a time when “23 million of our fellow Americans do not have good jobs,” Coburn notes.

Senator Coburn, while chiding the agencies that spend this money for their “lack of judgment,” said Congress is also to blame for failing in its oversight duties.

“We’re running trillion-dollar deficits. The way you get rid of trillion-dollar deficits — a billion at a time,” Coburn told Fox News last Tuesday.

Here are some highlights of the report:

— Though skeptics say there’s no such thing as a free cellphone or service funded by the federal government, Coburn’s report shows otherwise. It estimates that taxpayers are subsidizing phone service at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion a year. Though the roots of the program can be traced back to an effort in the 1930s to make sure all Americans had access to telecommunications, it has morphed into a program that provided free cell service to some 16,500,000 participants last year.

— Though NASA has no plans or budget for any manned spaceflights to Mars, the agency spends about $1 million each year on developing “the Mars menu.” It’s an effort to come up with a variety of food that humans could eat one day on Mars.

— A $325,000 grant for the development of “Robosquirrel” – a robotic rodent designed to test the interaction between rattlesnakes and squirrels.

— An estimated $70 million loss for producing pennies. According to the Waste Book, “The cost to produce a penny in 2012 is more than two times its actual value.” After the pennies are manufactured and sold at face value, taxpayers are left to cover the loss.

— The report spotlights widespread abuse of the food stamp system — including an exotic dancer who earned more than $85,000 a year in tips, but also collected nearly $1,000 a month in food stamps while spending $9,000 during that time period on “cosmetic enhancements.”

— Nearly $700,000 from the National Science Foundation to a New York-based theater company so it could develop a musical about climate change and biodiversity. “The Great Immensity” opened in Kansas City this year. Along with the songs one reviewer described as sounding like “a Wikipedia entry set to music,” the audience was also able to experience “flying monkey poop.”

In all, the 2012 Waste Book report details 100 examples totaling nearly $19 billion. Coburn acknowledges that’s a drop in the bucket in contrast to the overall federal deficit, which tops $16 trillion, but he says the items are snapshots of the bigger problem.

“Would you agree with Washington that these represent national priorities, or would you conclude these reflect the out-of-touch and out-of-control spending threatening to bankrupt our nation’s future?” he said. (Contributor: Senator Tom Coburn’s Report, Fox News)

Give thanks for the exposure of this wasteful spending and misappropriation of tax payers funds. Pray that these funding errors will be stopped and that sound financial principles will be established to make sure that this waste will not be repeated. Pray for wisdom to those who are overseeing the distributions of tax payer funded operations.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

CONGRESSIONAL PRAYER CAUCUS – CURRENT ISSUES FOR PRAYER

Urging the President to preserve religious hiring rights – Congressman Randy Forbes and Congressman Mike McIntyre sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to maintain current policies that allow faith-based organizations that consider religious criteria in their employment decisions to perform contract work for the federal government.

Supporting legislative prayer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit – Thirteen Members of the House of Representatives have joined the Family Research Council (FRC) in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of legislative prayer.  The Lakeland City Commission in Florida had a policy of inviting clergy to offer invocations at the beginning of its meetings.  The Atheists of Florida sued, arguing that because most of the prayers were offered by Christian clergy, the prayers were “too sectarian” and thus violated the Establishment Clause.  The brief submitted by the Members argues that courts do not have the jurisdiction to delve into the inner workings of a deliberative body’s meetings because of the constitutional separation of powers between the branches of government.

Supporting the freedom of school boards to open meeting with prayer – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting a resolution introduced by Congressman Tim Walberg that supports the freedom of school boards to open meetings with prayer.  H.Res.662 expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that school boards are deliberative bodies similar to city and county councils and state legislatures, and should be treated as such for purposes of analyzing the constitutionality of their prayer policies.

Working to protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting H.Res.489, introduced by Congressman Doug Lamborn, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those that celebrate Christmas.  Each year during the Christmas season, there are increasing efforts to remove religious symbols and references from the holiday.  H.Res.489 emphasizes that the First Amendment does not require bans on religious references to Christmas, and supports the use of these symbols by those who celebrate Christmas.

Urging Vanderbilt University to protect religious student groups – In October of 2011, Congressman Randy Forbes led 22 Members of Congress in sending a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos of Vanderbilt University, urging him to ensure that the school’s nondiscrimination policy was not being interpreted in a manner that discriminated against religious student groups.  Several religious student organizations at Vanderbilt, including the Christian Legal Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, were placed on “provisional status” for requiring their student leaders to share the groups’ religious beliefs.  Thirty-five Members then sent another letter in May of 2012, expressing continuing concern that the school’s nondiscrimination policy requires all student groups to open leadership positions to all students, yet exempts fraternities and sororities from the requirement while refusing to exempt religious student groups.

Fighting attempts to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance – Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus lead in sending a letter to NBC, expressing concern over the network’s omissions of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance twice in a video montage aired during coverage of the U.S. Open.  In response to the letter sent by 108 Members of Congress, the network reprimanded the employees responsible for the omissions and implemented safeguards to prevent similar instances in the future.

Opposing efforts to remove a memorial cross honoring military veterans – In January of 2011, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a cross displayed at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California was unconstitutional.  Members of the Prayer Caucus signed on to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Ninth Circuit asking the full court to reconsider the case, and asserting that the cross’s presence at the memorial is constitutional.  After the Ninth Circuit declined to reconsider the case, Members joined the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in submitting an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States, asking the Court to take up the case and reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision.  In June of 2012, the Supreme Court announced that it would not review the case; however, Justice Alito issued a statement saying the appeal may have been premature and the Court may reconsider the case after the district court issues a final order on the fate of the memorial.

Urging religious freedom protections for service members – The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military raised concerns that service members whose consciences or religious beliefs conflicted with homosexual behavior would face discrimination and disapproval.  Members of the Prayer Caucus sent a letter to President Obama, urging that specific religious freedom and conscience protections be adopted during implementation of the repeal to formally assure all Americans that our citizens need not leave their faith at home when they volunteer to serve.

Affirming America’s rich spiritual heritage – Co-chairmen of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, Congressman Forbes and Congressman McIntyre, reintroduced legislation to recognize our nation’s religious history.  H.Res.253, America’s Spiritual Heritage Resolution, affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our nation’s founding and subsequent history, and designates the first week in May as America’s Spiritual Heritage Week.

Working to decrease frivolous lawsuits challenging public expressions of religion – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting H.R.2023, introduced by Congressman Dan Burton, which would ensure that the legal system is not used to extort money from state and local governments through frivolous lawsuits against public expressions of religion.  H.R. 2023 would not prevent parties from filing lawsuits alleging Establishment Clause violations, but it would require each side to pay its own attorneys’ fees.  The bill would limit the remedies available to the suing party, so the only relief available would be that the state or local government would be required to stop its public expression of religion, if the court deems it unconstitutional.  The result would be a decrease in frivolous lawsuits and the assurance that state and local governments are not intimidated into halting constitutional public expressions of religion.

Recognizing the significant impact of the Ten Commandments on America’s development – Members of the Prayer Caucus are supporting H.Res.211, introduced by Congressman Louie Gohmert, which recognizes the significant contribution that the Ten Commandments have made in shaping America’s principles, institutions, and national character.  The bill supports designating the first weekend in May as “Ten Commandments Weekend.”  (Contributor: Congressional Prayer Caucus)

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