September 19, 2012
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Middle East violence is shaking up a presidential race that otherwise looks stubbornly stable, and tight. President Barack Obama holds a tiny edge, Republican Mitt Romney is seeking a breakthrough message, and three debates are ahead in the campaign’s final seven weeks.
Republicans and Democrats agree the election probably will be decided on Obama’s jobs-and-economy record. Both campaigns are gearing up for the new week by trying to shift the focus back to that issue. But foreign policy leaped to the forefront in recent days when protesters attacked U.S. diplomats and missions in the Middle East, and it’s unclear when it will recede.
Criticisms of Romney’s quick-draw response to the protests underscored both his foreign policy vulnerabilities and the difficulty in knocking off an incumbent, despite a struggling economy.
As unrest abroad continues, Obama is launching an aggressive effort to convince voters in the most competitive states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia – that his economic policies are working and that Romney is risking the nation’s recovery with a plan that caters to multimillionaires over the middle class.
Romney is trying to get back to the economy, his strength, even as a new national survey by The New York Times and CBS News finds that he has lost his longstanding edge on the question of whom voters view as most likely to restore the economy and create jobs.
“Beating an incumbent is never easy,” Romney told ABC on Friday. He dismissed polls that show Obama ahead. “I’m doing well … and this is a campaign which I think will come into focus as the debates occur.”
Frustration is showing in some GOP circles because Romney has failed to move ahead of Obama despite months of highlighting the nation’s high jobless rate and the millions of dollars spent pushing an economic message on TV. Romney allies are urging him to find a message that will persuade disillusioned voters to give him a chance. They reject the notion that Romney is careening from topic to topic, despite recent emphases on Medicare and international leadership.
Diverse advice is pouring into Romney’s camp: Paint Obama as a weak leader at home and abroad; shift the focus firmly back to the economy; fire up the conservative base; concentrate on the relatively small number of undecided voters.
Some of Romney’s associates, including his running mate, say personality, not policy, may hold the key to reassuring wary voters.
“I’m not the only one who has told Mitt that maybe he needs to talk more about himself and his life,” Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, told conservative activists Friday.
The buttoned-down Romney has relatively little time to show a warmer, more assuring side to voters. Three presidential debates in October may offer his best chance.
In the race to reach 270 electoral votes for victory, polls suggest Obama holds slight edges in the crucial states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia and New Hampshire. And internal polling by both campaigns shows close races in Colorado, Iowa and Nevada. Both sides agree that Romney is doing better in North Carolina, which Obama narrowly carried in 2008.
The wild card might be Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state, which Obama won by 14 percentage points over Arizona Sen. John McCain. Both campaigns are spending money there. Vice President Joe Biden visited Wisconsin on Thursday, and Obama is scheduled to go this coming week.
Ohio and Florida are the most coveted toss-up states. Romney’s election is not assured even if he wins both. A failure to carry either state would almost surely doom his chances.
Obama’s prospects in Ohio appear to have improved lately, perhaps because his rescue of the auto industry is generally popular. Still, Ohio Democrats are not celebrating.
“We’ve seen plenty of examples of how dynamic these races are,” said Greg Haas, Democratic chairman of Franklin County. “I don’t think anyone on our side is, or should be, taking it easy.”
In Florida, the biggest battleground prize, Republicans worry that Romney can’t seem to close the deal in a state hampered by high unemployment and home foreclosures. Democrats, however, fear Obama’s edge in the state may be fleeting and they fret about Florida’s undecided voters. They’re also nervous about legal battles over state voter laws that could cut into Obama’s support among minorities.
Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said fears about turnout keep him up at night.
“It’s a huge state, requiring a massive effort,” Arceneaux said. “It’s the largest and strongest ground game this state has ever seen. But knowing what we have to get done in the next eight weeks, we worry about it.”
The campaign’s final seven weeks will dump new torrents of TV ads on the few competitive states, fueled by the eye-popping fundraising of Romney, Obama and their supporters. In a single visit to New York City last week, Romney collected $7.5 million at three events, his campaign said.
The TV spots’ effectiveness could fade as weary viewers tune them out. That would elevate the importance of the “ground game” _ the phone calls and door-to-door contacts the parties use to bring their voters to the polls.
In an election this tight, virtually any factor _ turnout, a debate gaffe, an economic surprise _ might decide the outcome. Or it might turn on a mundane, hard-to-measure event, such as Romney suddenly finding ways to connect with voters who are within inches of abandoning the president.
“A lot of them I talk to are tired of Obama, but they’re not sure they like Mitt Romney either,” said Deb Gann, head of the Fayette County Republican Party in Iowa. “A lot of people I talk to just don’t know who is the lesser of two evils.”
For now at least, Democrats are buoyed by what they see as Romney’s lurches from subject to subject. They pointed to his quick denunciation of the Cairo embassy’s appeal for calm last week when Moslems began rampaging in protest of an amateur video that denigrates Islam.
Democrats accused Romney of politicizing a tragedy. Hawkish conservatives cheered Romney’s claims that Obama shows weak, halting leadership overseas.
Obama aides said Romney has miscalculated, failing to assure Americans he would respond in judicious, level-headed ways to crises. Other Democrats said Romney is grasping for any rung that might move him up the ladder.
“The central premise of his candidacy – that he will be better than President Obama in dealing with the economy — just isn’t working,” said Democratic consultant Jim Manley. “They keep on allowing themselves to be distracted by divisive social policy issues that are really out of the mainstream. And if Romney really is relying on foreign policy as his best shot to oppose the president, he’s in deep, deep trouble.”
Not so, said veteran GOP strategist Terry Holt. (Contributor: Excerpts from Associated Press “With 7 weeks to go, Obama-Romney race still tight”)
Pray that all candidates embrace the truth about what is important in this coming election. Pray that the issues of abortion and marriage be counted in the balance of the vote decisions. Pray that a free market be sustained for national growth and positive world leadership. Pray that God’s will will be “done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:20-21)
The United States and its allies have launched a major naval exercise in the Gulf that they say shows a global will to keep oil shipping lanes open as Israel and Iran trade threats of war.
Publicly announced in July, the operation, known as IMCMEX-12, focuses on clearing mines that Tehran, or guerrilla groups, might deploy to disrupt tanker traffic, notably in the Strait of Hormuz, between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.
The start of the event, with a symposium for officers from more than 30 navies, came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. television viewers on Sunday that Tehran was close to being able to build a nuclear bomb; his words fuelled talk of an Israeli strike, and of Netanyahu pressuring Obama to back Israel as Obama battles for re-election.
Military officials, diplomats and analysts – as well as Iran itself – all sought to play down the significance of the timing and to stress the defensive and hypothetical aspects of the exercise, which moves on to the water from Thursday with ships from a much smaller number of nations taking part in maneuvers.
However, it was a clearly deliberate demonstration of the determination on the part of a broad coalition of states to counter any attempt Iran might make to disrupt Gulf shipping in response to an Israeli or U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities – a form of retaliation Iran has repeatedly threatened.
A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.
In the event of war, the main threat to the multi-national force will come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy, which is expected to adopt an “access-denial” strategy in the wake of an attack, by directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping and mining vital maritime chokepoints in the Persian Gulf.
“This exercise is about mines and the international effort to clear them,” Vice Admiral John Miller, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told officers assembled for the symposium at his fleet headquarters in Bahrain on Monday.
“Represented here are the best of our individual countries’ efforts dedicated to securing the global maritime commons.”
As well as Britain and France, the main European naval powers, a number of Middle Eastern states are taking part, along with countries from as far apart as Estonia and New Zealand.
“The demining efforts are clearly in preparation for a showdown with Iran,” said Hayat Alvi of the U.S. Naval War College, “Presumably in the context of either an Israeli strike targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities, or some provocation that leads to an Iranian response in the Persian Gulf region.”
U.S. forces in the Gulf include two aircraft carriers on permanent station, though these will not take part in the latest exercise – one of dozens held by the fleet every year. For its part, Iran has said it will hold a major air defense exercise next month, showing its ability to protect nuclear sites.
Western powers are also involved in planning a major naval exercise to be held in the eastern Mediterranean next month.(Contributor: Excerpted from reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Marcus George; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by David Stamp with Reuters News Service, Telegraph News)
Pray that our military and governmental leadership have wisdom from the Lord in matters of military power projection. Ask the Lord to give clear understanding to our naval commanders as to how to best maintain peace if possible in a region that is primed for war. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem as a part of your prayer.
“A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8)
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:8-9)
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1)
After days of anti-American violence across the Moslem world, the White House is girding itself for an extended period of turmoil that will test the security of American diplomatic missions and Obama’s ability to shape the forces of change in the Middle East.
A representation of the American flag was burned amid a protest in Hyderabad, India, on Friday.
Although the tumult subsided Saturday, senior administration officials said they had concluded that the sometimes violent protests in Moslem countries may presage a period of sustained instability with unpredictable diplomatic and political consequences. While pressing Arab leaders to tamp down the unrest, Mr. Obama’s advisers say they may have to consider whether to scale back diplomatic activities in the region.
The upheaval over an anti-Islam video has suddenly become Mr. Obama’s most serious foreign policy crisis of the election season, and a range of analysts say it presents questions about central tenets of his Middle East policy: Did he do enough during the Arab Spring to help the transition to democracy from autocracy? Has he drawn a hard enough line against Islamic extremists? Did his administration fail to address security concerns?
Mr. Obama’s policies escaped serious scrutiny in the initial days after the attack that killed four Americans in Libya last week, in part because of the furor over a statement by Mitt Romney accusing the president of sympathizing with the attackers. White House officials said they recognized that if not for Mr. Romney’s statement, they would have been the ones on the defensive.
As of Saturday night, the worst of the crisis appeared to have passed, at least for now. The Egyptian government, responding to administration pressure, cracked down on protesters in Cairo on Saturday, and in Libya the government rounded up suspects in the violence that killed four Americans on Tuesday. Leaders in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia appealed for calm.
Still, images from the past week of American flags being torn down and burned, an Islamic flag being raised and embassies being overrun by angry mobs introduce a volatile element into a re-election effort in which foreign policy has been a strength. Some critics and commentators were already evoking the images of the Iranian hostage crisis that doomed another presidency.
“After Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden, in killing Qaddafi and in not blowing up Iraq, I think Obama and his aides figured, ‘We’ve got this box pretty well taken care of,’ ” said Michael Rubin, a Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Bush administration official, referring to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.
“Now that gets thrown up into the air,” he said. “Instead of Obama being the successful guy that got Bin Laden, we’re talking about Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter, and that’s not something the campaign wants to see.”
Mr. Obama came to office vowing to recalibrate America’s relationship with the Moslem world after the Iraq war and gave a high-profile speech in Cairo outlining a new era of fraternity. Caught off guard by cascading revolutions in the Middle East, he eventually supported rebels who overthrew Egypt’s longtime president and ordered airstrikes that helped bring down Colonel Qaddafi, who was later killed.
But his administration has struggled to find a balance between supporting democracy and guarding national interests in the region as authoritarian governments have been replaced by popular Islamist parties much less tied to Washington. To the extent that the United States supports greater democracy, it may not defuse anti-American rage in a region with no real history of popular rule, and with deep economic troubles. His citing of Libya as a model of transition now looks suspect, and the United States has been powerless to stop a bloody crackdown in Syria.
Administration officials say they are acutely aware of the risks, and they worry that the violence could rage for a while, because with every new protest more people are exposed to the inflammatory American-made anti-Islam video that has fueled so much anger. Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen on Saturday called for further attacks against American embassies.
“The reality is the Middle East is going to be turbulent for the foreseeable future and beyond that,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official in the Bush administration. “It’s going to present the United States with any number of difficult choices. It’s also going to be frustrating, because in most instances our interests are likely to be greater than our influence.”
White House Administration officials say the people in the streets are not the ones who won the elections, but those who lost, and that the new governments largely have condemned the violence. Mr. Obama’s outreach, they said, has improved the position of the United States in the Moslem world. “We have made significant inroads in demonstrating that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, and isolating Al Qaeda as an element within Islam,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “But it clearly remains the case that there are persistent challenges in parts of the Arab world. It’s been building up for a very long time.” (Contributor: Excerpts from The New York Times, Council on Foreign Relations)
Pray that our U.S. diplomatic corps be given godly wisdom in how best to bring balance and peace to the Middle East factions that are waging this upheaval. Pray that our government officials will foster policies that build positive relationships with Middle East governments that seek peaceful and stable policies towards one another.
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
The Treasury Department is resisting General Motors’ push for the government to sell off its stake in the auto maker, The Wall Street Journal reports. Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company’s reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions. Earlier this year, GM GM -1.20% presented a plan to repurchase 200 million of the 500 million shares the U.S. holds with the balance being sold via a public offering. But officials at the Treasury Department were not interested as selling now would lead to a multibillion dollar loss for the government, the newspaper noted. (Contributor: Wall Street Journal)
Pray for sound financial leadership principles to be applied to this GM economic crisis. Pray that U.S. financial policy be established and sustained that would not allow free market principles to be circumvented or abused. Pray for a sound, protected, and free market that seeks its own level.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
For a number of years now, retirement and financial experts have bemoaned the fact that baby boomers and others who should be thinking about retirement saving are nowhere near ready to retire. Some blame the failure of 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) retirement plans to fill in the gaps left by elimination of corporate pensions. Others argue that American adults of all ages are simply not saving enough.
Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, it is possible to compare the preretirement spending habits of today’s middle-aged workers (45 to 54 years old) and today’s older workers (55 to 64 years old) with the spending habits of those age groups 20 years ago. What, if anything, changed over the past 20 years? Real incomes for these age groups have not changed much. But the portion of disposable income households spent on certain categories of goods and services has increased.
Spending More on Education. From 1990 to 2010, education expenditures increased the most — by 80 percent for 45 to 54 year olds and 22 percent for 55 to 64 year olds. As with health care, the cost of a college education has grown faster than income for decades. Thus it is not surprising that a recent analysis by the New York Federal Reserve Bank found that one-third of the nation’s student loan debt is held by individuals over the age of 40.
Though some individuals choose to further their own education during midlife, it is likely that many baby boomers are helping their college-age children with college expenses and loan payments.
Spending More on Adult Children. A recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education found that more than half of parents are helping to support their adult children. Among parents of 18-to-39 year-old children:
Fifty-nine percent of parents are providing financial support to adult children who are no longer in school.
This support takes the form of living expenses (48 percent), transportation costs (41 percent), spending money (29 percent), medicals bills (28 percent) and paying back loans (16 percent).
Another survey found that two out of five parents have paid off debt for their adult children, including 29 percent who had paid off student loans for their children.
Spending More on Mortgage Debt. Housing, however, is typically the largest monthly consumer expenditure. Home mortgages comprise almost three-quarters of all consumer debt, and three-fourths of middle-aged and older workers’ households have mortgages. From 1990 to 2010 the share of expenditures on housing — including principal, mortgage interest, taxes, maintenance and insurance — for these age groups increased about 25 percent. For 55 to 64 year olds, nearly half of this increase was due to an increase in the interest portion of housing expenditures — even though mortgage interest rates have fallen over time. The portion of income they spend on mortgage interest increased 47 percent, from 4.3 percent to 6.3 percent.
Are baby boomers buying more home than they can afford or are prices for a basic home simply outpacing income growth? The median house size has increased from 2,080 square feet in 1990 to 2,392 square feet in 2010. Since the mid-1990s, the Federal Housing Authority allowed more borrowers to qualify for loans with lower down payments. This action began a proliferation of loans that required little or no down payment. Furthermore, after 2000, home price growth outpaced income growth, peaking in 2004 and 2005. Home prices began falling dramatically by the end of 2008, but many households were underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth.
Moreover, the average age of the first-time home buyer increased from age 28 in 1985 to age 35 in 2011. As the age of the first time homebuyer increases, the probability that a household will carry a mortgage into its pre-retirement years also increases. In addition, due to the availability of home equity loans, many boomers who were previously close to paying off their homes could be refinancing or tapping into home equity. In fact, it is estimated that 15 percent of all baby boomers will not get out of debt in their lifetimes.
Not Spending More on Entertainment. Contrary to some perceptions, baby boomers have not increased their spending on frills, such as entertainment or dining out. Indeed, their spending on some consumption categories fell from 1990 to 2010:
- Food purchases (including restaurant spending) fell 18 percent for 45 to 54 year olds and 20 percent for 55 to 64 year olds.
- Household furnishings fell nearly one-third for 45 to 54 year olds and one-fourth for 55 to 64 year olds.
- Clothing expenses showed the steepest decline, falling 42 percent for 45 to 54 year olds and 70 percent for 55 to 64 year olds.
The decision to forgo present consumption for future retirement savings is a matter of individual choice. Contrary to the belief that the savings rate has been stagnant, or even declined, retirement accounts appear to be playing a larger role for baby boomers. However, retirement savings is nowhere near the 10 percent that is often recommended as the share of income that should be dedicated to savings. (Contributor: National Center for Policy Analysis)
Pray for financial wisdom from the Lord regarding all decisions in the days ahead. The Lord directs us to not lean on our own understanding. Pray that all U.S. citizens will treasure God’s Word. Pray that we as a nation will do just as the money motto says, “Trust in God.”
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat ‘ or ‘What will we drink ‘ or ‘What will we wear for clothing ‘ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” (Matthew 6:31-32)
“The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
While speaking on the future of Western civilization at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC over the weekend, a retired Army general challenged the pastors of American churches to stand for biblical truth.
Lt. Gen, William Boykin (USA-Ret.), a longtime commander of Special Operations forces who now serves as executive vice president of the Family Research Council (FRC), challenged parishioners and pastors to stay in the culture battle for family values.
“When we have pastors doing that from the pulpits around America, then I think that people respond to that by trying to do the right thing with regards to these issues that are so important and fundamental to the health of our society, like same-sex marriage … abortion and so forth,” he suggests.”
General Boykin is concerned about the growing influence of Islamic extremists, and he believes the church has compromised many fundamental biblical principles.
“There are also a lot of pastors that are living under the illusion that their 501c3 status is jeopardized or that they are threatened by this concept of hate speech,” the FRC executive vice president recognizes. “So as a result of that, a lot of pastors are just not comfortable speaking biblical truth.”
As a senior Pentagon official, Boykin roused liberal activists after the September 11 attacks when he described the fight against terrorism as a Christian battle against Satan. (Contributor: One New Now)
Pray that godly directives for the nation be voiced by the Church. Pray that we as a Christ centered nation will not waver from speaking truth in love with a sound mind. Pray for an informed understanding of God’s will on matters that spiritually affect our nation in the coming elections.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Prov. 29:2)
“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1)
Only time will tell if international pressure on China to halt its forced abortion policy worked.
In the aftermath of international uproar over a picture of a forced abortion victim with her aborted late-term baby lying next to her, China’s Population and Family Planning Commission has issued instructions to halt forced abortions.
Kat Lewis of All Girls Allowed says it “remains to be seen” whether the order has any teeth to it.
“It’s a huge step in that before, when people have complained about forced abortion, they’ve just said that forced abortions don’t happen or that they’re illegal, but they haven’t actually backed it up with any concrete action,” Lewis notes. “So, issuing a directive to all the local offices is a pretty significant step.”
Families still must pay a fine for a birth permit for a second child, and that is usually too substantial to afford. Couples are also threatened with losing their jobs.
“In the last month, two professors lost their jobs at a university because they had a second child,” Lewis reports. “That also inhibits people’s ability to have a second child if they’re threatened with both the huge fine and then the loss of their income.”
Lewis was encouraged to hear the global outcry over the forced abortion policy, and she believes the public will continue to show concern about the issue. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts – One News Now, All Girls Allowed)
Gives thanks to the Lord that there has been a positive response thus far by the Chinese government to cease the forced murder of innocent lives in Chinese provinces just because these babies are girls or that God blessed those parents with more children than the state says that they are allowed to have. God is the giver of life. God is the Creator, it is not the state that determines life but God’s will and authority.
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)
As we head into another election this Fall, we are calling Christians everywhere to two vital activities:
Pray and Vote!
Prayer. It is time for serious, sustained prayer. Go here (40daystosaveamerica.com) to see this opportunity to join with Christians across the country to pray for our nation, its leadership and direction for the 40 days leading up to November 6th starting September 28th. They’re hoping for at least 10 million people to sign up!
In the 2008 presidential election, exit polls reveal that 11% of the electorate was newly registered voters. This can be decisive in an election. Amazingly, 20-40% of eligible Christian citizens are not registered to vote.
www.championthevote.com is an easy to use tool that allows any eligible person in America to register to vote AND to look to see if their family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances around the country are registered to vote. In less than two minutes you can print out, fill in and mail your voter registration.
Opposing hostility towards faith in the Air Force – Congressman Randy Forbes joined Congressman Diane Black and Congressman Todd Akin in sending a letter signed by 66 Members of Congress urging Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to investigate a pattern of hostility towards faith in the United States Air Force. Over the last year, the Air Force has repeatedly capitulated to pressure from outside groups to remove religious symbols and references to faith from the service. The letter calls on Secretary Panetta to issue clear Department of Defense policy guidance, consistent with our Constitution, to preserve the place of religious expression in the military at large.
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 Web Site Current Issues)