September 11, 2012
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American politics are basically tied up. Here is the top line on Real Clear Politics less than two months before the November 6 elections: The Real Clear Politics average for the presidential race shows a dead heat (Mr. Obama +0.7 percentage points), the U.S. Senate is 46-46 with 8 tossups, and the generic congressional ballot is tied.
The HuffPost Pollster reported, “Obama has gained among all registered voters, but the race remains tight among those most likely to vote.”
And while the conventions gave us little indication who will win in November, they offered some insights into how the campaigns think they can achieve victory. Mr. Romney is running as a decisive but largely non-ideological manager. Mr. Obama is running as a proud, even aggressive, liberal (progressive) whose policies just need more time.
In his address to the Democratic National Convention on September 6, Mr. Obama offered the country a full-throated, unapologetic embrace of government. Solving our challenges, he said, will “require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.” The speech was the apotheosis of a campaign that has glorified government at every turn. There was the bizarre website featuring a fictional “Julia” who relies on government assistance to get ahead at every stage of her life, and there was Mr. Obama’s “you didn’t build that” riff—both the comment and the context—diminishing individual accomplishment and celebrating government good works.
In Tampa, the Republicans emphasized competence over ideology. Their critiques of Mr. Obama, particularly in the 10 p.m. hour when most people were watching, focused on his mismanagement of the economy and not his misguided views. And the tone was one of disappointment, not anger. “I wish [Mr. Obama] had succeeded,” Mr. Romney said, “because I want America to succeed.” Although Mr. Obama has expanded the government more than any since Lyndon Johnson, and arguably since Franklin Roosevelt, none of the prime-time speakers at the Republican convention labeled him “liberal.”
More voters identify themselves as conservatives than liberals—one reason conservatives are usually happy to apply that label to themselves and liberals often prefer euphemisms like “progressive.” The latest Gallup survey on ideology finds 41 percent of Americans consider themselves “conservative” and just 23 percent “liberal” (with 33 percent preferring “moderate”).
The same poll finds that conservatives do even better when the question concerns the economy. Some 46 percent of Americans consider themselves “conservative” on economic issues, while just 20 percent describe themselves as “liberal” on economics (and 32 percent say “moderate”) (Contributor: Excerpts from Stephen Hayes Weekly Standard, Real Clear Politics, RealClearPolitics Poll Averages, HuffPost Pollster)
Pray that all candidates honor God’s sovereignty over governmental affairs. In God’s authoritative position which is (“far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” –Ephesians 1:21), every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to God according to Romans 14:11. With His Word pray that all candidates running for office will seek to know the heart of God on matters of governance. Ask the Lord to move upon the hearts of our current leaders so that we might live peaceful lives as One Nation under God.
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” (Romans 14:11)
State prison officials must provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder, because it is the only way to treat him/her “serious medical need,” a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Michelle Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek was named Robert when married to Cheryl Kosilek and was convicted of murdering her in 1990.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf is believed to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.
Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago. Two years later, Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder but stopped short of ordering surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery is a medical necessity.
In his 126-page ruling last Tuesday, Wolf found that surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek and that “there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.”
Prison officials have repeatedly cited security risks in the case, saying that allowing Kosilek to have the surgery would make him/her a target for sexual assaults by other inmates.
But Wolf, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, found that the security concerns are “either pretextual or can be dealt with.” He said it would be up to prison officials to decide how and where to house Kosilek after the surgery.
Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the prisons department, said the agency would have no immediate comment on the ruling.
“We are reviewing the decision and exploring our appellate options,” Wiffin said.
Kosilek’s lawsuit has become fodder for radio talk shows and Massachusetts lawmakers who say the state should not be forced to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex-change operation — which can cost up to $20,000 — especially since many insurance companies reject the surgery as elective.
House Republican Leader Bradley Jones said it is difficult for him to believe that a sex-change procedure is medically necessary.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I have cancer and am in need of treatment,'” Jones said. “It seems to be more medically desirable than a necessity.” He also worried that the decision could open up a “Pandora’s box” of requests for medical procedures from other inmates.
In 2008, Republican lawmakers, including then-state Sen. Scott Brown, filed legislation to ban the use of taxpayer funds to pay for the surgery for prison inmates. The amendment did not make it into law.
Mr. Brown, now in the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday that the surgery would be “an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
“We have many big challenges facing us as a nation, but nowhere among those issues would I include providing sex change surgery to convicted murderers,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to common sense prevailing and the ruling being overturned.” (Contributor: Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle)
Pray for righteous judges in the land.
“God said, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?’ And Solomon said: ‘…O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.’ “The speech pleased the Lord….” 1 Kings 3:5-10
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
The U.S. military on Monday turned over its main battlefield prison and about 3,000 inmates to the Afghan government amid fears that the regime may release hundreds of Taliban insurgents who pose a danger to American troops.
The prison is being transferred amid a spike in insider, or “green-on-blue,” attacks in which Afghan police officers or soldiers turn their weapons on their international trainers. The U.S. military command in Afghanistan has moved to shore up a flawed screening process that has allowed Taliban sympathizers to serve alongside Americans.
“We have a serious trust problem with the Afghan security forces, as evidenced by the escalating ‘green on blue’ shootings,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and an Army contractor. “Turn[ing] over Afghan prison keys to these same people will only make matters worse and cost more American lives.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai celebrated the transfer as a victory for his country’s sovereignty and a step toward a planned NATO troop withdrawal by the end of 2014.
“Now, the Bagram prison is converted to one of Afghanistan’s regular prisons, where the innocents will be freed and the rest of the prisoners will be sentenced according to the laws of Afghanistan,” Mr. Karzai said.
Though not discussed publicly by NATO, a concern about recidivism was evident in the fact that the command conducted painstaking negotiations to ensure that the U.S. maintains some influence on inmates in the prison near Bagram Airfield, north of the capital, Kabul. The U.S. also asserted the right to hold scores of particularly dangerous captives when it signed an agreement in March to cede control of the prison.
“Some 99 percent of the detainees captured before 9 March have already been transferred to Afghan authority, but we have paused the transfer of the remaining detainees until our concerns are met,” said Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition.
Said Mr. Maginnis: “Afghan prisons are full of Taliban and other radicals. Turn them over to questionably reliable Afghan security forces and then stand back as radicals ‘escape’ to join the fight, killing and wounding more Americans. Turning over prison keys at this point is a shot to the foot.”
The AP said the March agreement does not cover the non-Afghans held at Parwan, including some captured in Iraq.
The Obama administration has continued the policy of the George W. Bush administration, which says U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over combatants captured and held overseas. (Contributor: Rowan Scarborough Washington Times, Associated Press, NPR)
Pray for the safety of our troops in Afghanistan. Pray that those who have been released from prison will choose to live peaceful lives with their families and place the acts of war behind them. Pray for the souls of Afghanistan prisoners to be saved.
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
Iran has returned to the front pages after a summer hiatus. Negotiations aimed at preventing the dreaded Persian Bomb have resumed their desultory course. Iran, although suffering from the international sanctions choreographed by the Obama administration, keeps adding new arrays of centrifuges while insisting the program is strictly nonmilitary. Israel is — or maybe isn’t — edging closer to a unilateral strike. The U.S., we learn from The Times’s reliable David Sanger, is considering more and bigger bouts of cybersabotage. Meanwhile, the mullahs are shipping arms to their embattled fellow despots in Syria.
This strikes me as a good time to address an unnerving question that confronts any concerned student of this subject: Can we live with a nuclear Iran? Given a choice of raining bunker-busting munitions on Iran’s underground enrichment facilities, or, alternatively, containing a nuclear-armed Iran with the sobering threat of annihilation, which is the less bad option? As the slogan goes in Israel: “Bomb? Or The Bomb?”
The prevailing view now is that a nuclear Iran cannot be safely contained. On this point both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney agree. They can hardly say otherwise; to even hint that a nuclear Iran is acceptable would undermine the efforts aimed at preventing that outcome. But I tend to think they mean it.
However, there are serious, thoughtful people who are willing to contemplate a nuclear Iran, kept in check by the time-tested assurance of retaliatory destruction. If the U.S. arsenal deterred the Soviet Union for decades of cold war and now keeps North Korea’s nukes in their silos, if India and Pakistan have kept each other in a nuclear stalemate, why would Iran not be similarly deterred by the certainty that using nuclear weapons would bring a hellish reprisal?
Anyone who has a glib answer to this problem isn’t taking the subject seriously. Personally, I’ve tended to duck it, taking refuge in the hope that the tightening vise of international pressure — and a few cyberattacks — would make Iran relent and spare us the hard choice. But that could be wishful thinking. So I’ve spent some time reading and questioning, trying to report my way to an opinion.
Let’s assume, for starters, that Iran’s theocrats are determined to acquire nuclear weapons. Western analysts say there is no evidence yet that the supreme leader has made that decision. But if you ruled a country surrounded by unfriendly neighbors — Persians among the Arabs, Shiites among the Sunnis — a country with a grand sense of self-esteem, a tendency to paranoia and five nuclear powers nearby, wouldn’t you want the security of your own nuclear arsenal?
Let’s assume further that diplomacy, sanctions and computer viruses may not dissuade the regime from its nuclear ambitions. So far, these measures seem to have slowed the nuclear program and bought some time, but Iran’s stockpiles of enriched fuel have grown in size and concentration despite everything a disapproving world has thrown at them so far. So, then what?
A pre-emptive bombing campaign against Iran’s uranium factories would almost certainly require major U.S. participation to be effective, and would not be neat. Beyond the immediate casualties, it would carry grave costs: outraged Iranians rallying behind this regime that is now deservedly unpopular; Iran or its surrogates lashing out against American and Israeli targets in a long-term, low-intensity campaign of retaliation; a scorching hatred of America on the newly empowered Arab street, generating new recruits for Al Qaeda and its ilk; an untimely oil shock to a fragile world economy; an unraveling of the united front Obama has assembled to isolate Iran. All that, and a redoubled determination by Iran’s leaders to do the one thing that would prevent a future attack: rebuild the nuclear assembly line, only this time faster and deeper underground. There is a pretty broad consensus that, short of a full-scale invasion and occupation of Iran, a preventive attack would not end the nuclear program, only postpone it for a few years.
Now imagine that Iran succeeds in making its way into the nuclear club.
Despite the incendiary rhetoric, it is hard to believe the aim of an Iranian nuclear program is the extermination of Israel. The regime in Iran is brutal, mendacious and meddlesome ,toward the Jewish state. But Israel is a nuclear power, backed by a bigger nuclear power. Before an Iranian mushroom cloud had bloomed to its full height over Tel Aviv, a flock of reciprocal nukes would be on the way to incinerate Iran. Iran may encourage fanatic chumps to carry out suicide missions, but there is not the slightest reason to believe the mullahs themselves are suicidal.
The more common arguments against tolerating a nuclear Iran are these:
First, that possession of a nuclear shield would embolden Iran to step up its interference in the region, either directly or through surrogates like Hezbollah. This is probably true. But as James Dobbins, a former diplomat who heads security studies for the RAND Corporation, told me, the subversive menace of a nuclear Iran has to be weighed against the lethal rage of an Iran that had been the victim of an unprovoked attack.
A second worry is that a Persian Bomb would set off a regional nuclear arms race. This is probably an exaggerated fear. A nuclear program is not cheap or easy. In other parts of the world, the proliferation virus has not been as contagious as you might have feared. So the Saudis, who regard Iran as a viper state, might be tempted buy a bomb from Pakistan, which is not a pleasant thought. But Egypt (broke), Turkey (a NATO member) and the others have strong reasons not to join the race.
Most worrisome, I think, is the danger that a crisis between Israel and Iran would escalate out of control. Given the history of mistrust and the absence of communication, some war planner on one side or the other might guess that a nuclear attack was imminent, and decide to go first.
“You would have a very unstable deterrent environment between Israel and Iran, simply because these are two states that tend to view each other in existential terms,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iranian-American Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, who is not an advocate of containment. Against this fear, history suggests that nuclear weapons make even aggressive countries more cautious. Before their first nuclear tests, India and Pakistan fought three serious conventional wars. Since getting their nukes they have bristled at each other across a long, heavily armed border, but no dispute has risen to an outright war.
At the end of this theoretical exercise, we have two awful choices with unpredictable consequences. After immersing myself in the expert thinking on both sides, I think that, forced to choose, I would swallow hard and take the risks of a nuclear Iran over the gamble of a pre-emptive war. My view may be colored by a bit of post-Iraq syndrome.
What statesmen do when faced with bad options is create new ones. The third choice in this case is to negotiate a deal that lets Iran enrich uranium for civilian use (as it is entitled to do under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty), that applies rigorous safeguards (because Iran cheats), that gradually relaxes sanctions and brings this wayward country into the community of more-or-less civilized nations.
That, of course, won’t happen before November. Any U.S. concession now would be decried by Republicans as an abandonment of Israel and a reward to a government that recently beat a democracy movement bloody. We can only hope that after the election we get some braver, more creative diplomacy, either from a liberated Mr. Obama or a President Romney who has a Nixon-to-China moment.
Because a frank look at the alternatives of (a) pre-emptive war and (b) a nuclear Iran should be enough to focus all of our intelligence and energy on (c) none of the above. (Contributor: Excerpts from Op-Ed by Bill Keller – New York Times, Rand, TFC.org)
Note: Intercessors for America does not endorse these opinions necessarily in part or in full, but Mr. Keller’s insights on this issue are worth noting to our readers for prayer.
Pray that the Candidates for the office of president fully understand the implications of dealing with nuclear armaments in the Middle East. Pray that the Lord will give His wisdom to these leaders. The lives of thousands and even millions of people depend upon this solution.
“For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)
Don’t be fooled by the headline unemployment number of 8.1% announced on Friday. The reason the number dropped to 8.1% from 8.3% in July was not because more jobs were created, but because unfortunately more people quit looking for work.
The number for August reflects only people who have actively applied for a job in the past four weeks, either by interview or by filling an application form. But when the average period of unemployment is nearly 40 weeks, it is unrealistic to expect everyone who needs a job to keep seeking work consistently for months on end. You don’t have to be lazy to recoil from the heartbreaking futility of knocking, week after week, on closed doors.
How many people are out of work but not counted as unemployed because they hadn’t sought work in the past four weeks? Eight million.
This is the distressing number that turns up when you do research beyond the headline number. 96,000 new jobs were added last month. This is short of the weak 125,000 predicted by analysts, and dramatically less than the 139,000 the economy had been averaging in 2012.
40.7% of the people counted as unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more-that’s 5.2 million “long-term” unemployed. Fewer Americans are at work today than in April 2000, even though the population since then has grown by 31 million.
We are still almost five million payrolls shy of where we were at the end of 2007, when the recession began.
Pray for creative ways to stimulate financial growth in our labor market. Pray for financial planners to find ways to encourage development that will produce sustained jobs for our families. Pray that our leaders will seek God’s wisdom on how to promote sound and stable growth in our economy.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America.
According to a report by Kevin Lee in PCWORLD online, “Theoretically, the NGI system would be able to use its mugshot database to pick out criminals in a crowd using a face-matching algorithm. The program would scan for faces in footage taken by security cameras or public images uploaded to the Internet. The algorithm would then return a number of hits for investigators to look into.”
With the latest report suggesting the NGI program is now a reality in America, though, it might be too late to try and keep the FBI from interfering with seemingly every aspect of life in the US, both private and public. As of July 18, 2012, the FBI reports, “The NGI program … is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed.”
NGI Program Mission and Goals:
The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation, and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.
Its goals are as follows:
- Public Safety and National Security
- Biometric Leadership
- Efficiency Improvements
- Privacy and Data Protection
- Smooth Transition
NGI is a collaborative effort among the Bureau, the CJIS Advisory Policy Board and members of the Compact Council, comprised of local, state, federal, and international representatives. (Contributor: FBI, Capitol Hill Prayer Partners, PCWORLD, RT.com)
Thank the Lord for His hand in the affairs of men, and especially those who put their faith in the Lord as their Advocate, Deliverer, Redeemer and Friend. Ask that the Lord would give wisdom to those responsible for the safety and welfare of this nation. Ask the Lord to place His restraint upon any who would attempt to abuse the authority granted by this technological leap in surveillance.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NRSV)
While abortion activists claim terminating a pregnancy is safer for the woman, several studies reflect that giving birth is less dangerous.
The latest study involves records on a half-million women in Denmark. It concludes that childbirth is indeed safer than abortion.
Dr. David Reardon of the Elliot Institute explains that statisticians looked at records over a 30-year period before making this analysis.
“[They] were able to look at link records, death certificate records and the complete reproductive history,” he details, “and the results showed that compared to women who gave birth, women who had abortions were about twice as likely to die in each of the ten years following an abortion. It was evident even within the first 180 days.”
Reardon tells OneNewsNow there is a problem with the information presented by abortion proponents in this country.
“[They] basically take reports of maternal deaths and abortion deaths, when there’s no systematic way of gathering them, and they just claim that abortion is like 14 times safer than childbirth,” he says.
“Whereas, in fact, three different data sets from three different countries — the United States, Finland and Denmark — show that the opposite is true, that abortion has a higher mortality rate than childbirth.”
The Elliot Institute founder adds that two of the studies reveal that in the first year after an abortion, the biggest cause of death is suicide. (Contributor: Medical Science Monitor, One News Now, Dr. David C. Reardon)
Give thanks to the Lord that studies like these confirm the truth of God’s Word and His masterful plan of creation. God is the Creator and His ways are perfect.
“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30)
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed as they rushed away from a consulate building in Benghazi, stormed by al Qaeda-linked gunmen blaming America for a film that they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, late on Tuesday evening as another assault was mounted on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The California-born ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw.
“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets in their direction,” a Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters. Airport sources said the bodies were due to be flown from Benghazi to Tripoli.
The attack was believed to have been carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-style Sunni Islamist group that has been active in Benghazi, a Libyan security official said. Witnesses said the mob also included tribesmen, militia and other gunmen.
The attack raised questions about the future U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya, relations between Washington and Tripoli, the unstable security situation in post-Gaddafi Libya and whether more protests might take place in the Moslem world.
The film portrayed Mohammad as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake. In one clip posted on YouTube, Mohammad was shown in an apparent sexual act with a woman. For many Moslems it is blasphemous even to show a depiction of Mohammed.
Mr. Obama, whose administration supported the Libyan insurgency with funds, weapons and training, branded the killing an “outrageous attack” and ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. (Contributor: Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli,Hadeel Al Shalchi in Tripoli, Sarah N. Lynch and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, and Reuters reporters in Cairo and Benghazi; Writing by Peter Millership and Ralph Boulton)
Pray that the insurgents responsible for this crime are caught and given due process of the law. Pray for peace in the region.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
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)
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