Monday, July 19 2004 @ 11:26 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
This week the House of Representatives is expected to address a bill that protects the 1966 Defense of Marriage Act, which explicitly defines marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the "legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife," and makes it clear that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states or countries. In recent years the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been challenged and weakened repeatedly by local and appeals court judges. The new House legislation, H. R. 3313, the Marriage Protection Act (MPA) would preclude federal judges, federal appeals courts, and the US Supreme Court from overturning DOMA.
A variety of conservative leaders and organizations have urged support of HR3313, and most are encouraging voters this week to contact their representatives and urge them to vote for the bill. The conservative Campaign for California Families (CCF) organization is among the MPA's supporters, telling voters to call their Representatives, explaining, "The wonderful impact for family values would be this: HR 3313 would prevent federal courts from exporting homosexual 'marriage' from Massachusetts into any other state."
Another conservative values organization, Concerned Women for America, adds that the MPA "builds a firewall against having same-sex marriage spread through the federal courts like a virus from Massachusetts to the rest of the nation. Without protection like that, by the time we get a constitutional amendment through Congress, it will be too late." Unlike a Constitutional Amendment, FMA requires only a majority vote from both houses of Congress and President Bush's signature to become law.
In the July 1 editorial, Falwell stated, "For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush. The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple." Falwell also asked for donations to a political action committee headed by conservative public interest figure Gary Bauer, American Values.
Lynn argued that Falwell had disseminated the message in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics. He said in a press conference, "I certainly hope that this sends a clear message that religious organizations have got to operate within the federal tax laws restricting partisan politicking. And I think the message is that the campaign has been reckless in its approach to churches, especially trying to lure them into political activities."
Although most people are not aware of it, the IRS guidelines do not preclude all partisan endorsements from religious organizations or their leaders. However, such political involvement is greatly proscribed, can be only a small fraction of the activity and expense of the organization, and must meet other stringent federal guidelines. As a private citizen, Falwell is free to endorse whomever he wishes as his personal opinion. Falwell responded to Lynn's accusations by saying he fell well within the IRS restrictions, noting that the message in his e-mail and repeated on his website both came from his affiliated tax-exempt lobbying organization, Liberty Alliance, not his religious organization.
He explained, "I support President Bush. I support him on Sunday mornings from the pulpit where it doesn't cost the church or anybody anything. I make it very clear, just like at most African-American churches and many liberal churches, that as a tax-paying citizen I vote. And I tell people who I vote for." He indicated that he and Liberty Alliance exercise their constitutional freedom of speech in a variety of forums and on a variety of topics, but that his non-profit, tax-exempt religious organizations as such do not endorse particular candidates or election issues. He accused Lynn and others like him of trying to frighten religious leaders away from standing up for the values important to people of faith and the candidates who promote or protect those values. The conservative media organization NewsMax noted, "Because of Mr. Falwell's high profile, just raising the issue against him again this year may have a dampening effect on other ministers' activities during the fall election."
According to NewsMax, "Corwin Smidt, a political science professor at Calvin College who oversaw a survey of pastors during the 2000 election, said most members of the clergy were reluctant to make political statements even outside of church for fear of alienating some members of their congregations." Smidt concluded from his survey that "about 5 percent of all pastors and about 15 percent of African-American pastors said they had endorsed a candidate for public office from the pulpit."
The dispute between Lynn and Falwell is whether or not Falwell's endorsement more or less fits the pattern of, for example, former Vice President Al Gore speaking before and receiving a large contribution from a Buddhist Temple or the Rev. Jesse Jackson giving a campaign speech in an African-American church service.
In a 2-1 decision Wednesday the US Court of Appeals (6th Circuit) upheld a lower court ruling that a framed poster of the 10 Commandments hanging in the courtroom of Ohio state Judge James DeWeese violates the Constitution. The case began in March 2001 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Judge DeWeese for the 10 Commandments poster, which hung next to a similar poster of the Bill of Rights. Several months later a district court judge ruled that the display was unconstitutional. In October 2003, a conservative civil liberties organization, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) brought the case to the 6th Circuit for review.
Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, commented, "We are disappointed with the decision and believe the appeals court got it wrong." Manion continued, "By displaying a poster of the 10 Commandments in his courtroom, Judge DeWeese merely exercised his constitutional right to help educate and inform the public about the history and foundation of our legal system." He concluded, "While we are disappointed with the decision by the appeals court, the battle is not over -- we will appeal."
The one dissenting vote from the 6th Circuit was from Judge Alice M. Batchelder, who concluded that Judge DeWeese's display did not violate the Constitution. She concluded, "It is not unconstitutional to make observations of historical fact."
Thursday, July 15 2004 @ 08:33 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
UPDATED THURSDAY, JULY 15
The US Senate, which has been debating the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) for the last three days, is nearing a vote. But not a vote on the proposed constitutional amendment. The vote, expected today, is a parliamentary procedure vote on whether or not to suspend discussion of the proposal and actually vote on it. Before the FMA can be voted approved or disapproved, the Senate must vote to close discussion and call for the vote. That first vote, to close discussion, must garner 60 votes from Senators, while the second vote, on the FMA itself, must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate, or 67 votes. Even supporters of the FMA don't believe they have enough supporters in their pockets for either of the votes to pass.
Not only are all the Democrats and several Republicans against the FMA, but some Republicans who agree that legal marriage should be restricted to that between a man and a woman are expected to vote against the procedural motion for other reasons. Some think the timing of the FMA is not right. Others think that supporting the FMA at this time would be more of a political move designed to carry conservative voters in the November presidential elections rather than a move designed primarily for moral or legislative reasons. If the procedural vote does not garner the necessary 60 in favor of ending the discussion, the matter will languish on the floor for an indeterminate time, but almost certainly at least until after the November elections.
Another complication working against supporters of the FMA is that there are actually two versions of the proposal circulating. The official version has 2 sentences -- one defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, and the other restricting courts or other governmental bodies from interpreting the amendment so as to allow gay marriage. Some who support the first sentence believe that the second sentence is ambiguous, unenforceable, and/or so broad that it could preclude same sex civil unions, allowed in several jurisdictions already, and supported as an alternative to marriage by others. The second version contains only the first sentence defining marriage. Detractors of that version complain that it throws open the door for activist judges to "interpret" it in any way they want.
UPDATE THURSDAY: Supporters of the FMA failed to garner enough votes to move the measure from the discussion stage to the vote stage yesterday, Wednesday. The final vote was 50 voting to keep the measure in the discussion stage and 48 for moving it to a full floor vote. Supporters would have needed 12 more votes to move the measure to a full floor vote. Detractors said the failure was an indication that the FMA was doomed to ultimate failure, while supporters said they accomplished their purpose of identifying those who were against the FMA well in advance of the November presidential election. "The battle has just begun," said Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), the main sponsor of the amendment.
In 1997, a monument of the 10 Commandments was given to each of the 4 new high schools build in Adams County in 1997 by the Adams County Ministerial Association. The following year the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a case on behalf of an Adams County citizen, Berry Baker, challenging the display of the commandments on school property as a violation of church/state separation. Berry, who describes himself as the director of the Center for Phallic Worship, argued that if the 10 Commandments were to remain on display, then the schools should also post his donated display of anatomically correct penises with the inscription "love one another."
Although in 2002 the school district added to the 10 Commandments display other historical law statutes, the ACLU argued that they were still promoting religion. The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, declaring in January 2004 that the display of the 10 Commandments was unconstitutional. Since then, the legal history displays have remained, with a conspicuous gap where the 10 Commandments once were displayed as an integral rendition of the historical part they played in the development of law in the Western world.
The ACLJ argues, according to Francis Manion, senior counsel, "This display now is akin to a history display. No one denies that the Ten Commandments are part of secular history."
Local religious leaders have funded not only the original displays, but also the legal fight to retain them. "They wanted us to fight this as far as we can fight this," said the Rev. Kennth Johnson, president of Adams County for the 10 Commandments and a member of the Adams County Ministerial Organization. "This is very important to us."
Wednesday, July 14 2004 @ 10:56 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
As the Senate debates the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) this week, some gay activists are using the opportunity to "out" other homosexuals, lesbians, and bisexuals who have not publicly disclosed their sexual orientation and who are working for members of Congress who support the proposed constitutional amendment. According to John Aravosis and Michael Rogers, two of those spearheading the "outing" campaign, it is necessary for them to expose others so that the members of Congress they work for will realize that their actions in support of the FMA will hurt those who work for them and with whom they have personal friendships.
"Frankly we're giving as good as we get. If they want to have a debate on family values, we'll have one," said Aravosis, a political consultant. "They want to make us second-class citizens, and gay people are aiding and abetting in the effort."
Added Rogers, "We're doing it to expose hypocrisy."
Other gay leaders are not in favor of publicly exposing the sexual orientation of others, even if it is politically expedient. "It's not going to help the cause at all," observed Lynden Armstrong, an aide to Sen. Pete Domenicic (R-NM) and a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Senate Staffers. "It's not going to change the mind of any member" of the Senate, who will vote for either their constituents or their convictions, but not for any staffers who happen to be gay. "Coming out is a very personal process that people go through. It can be emotionally and psychologically difficult . . . it is not fair that they are doing this."
Added Steven Fisher, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian advocacy organization in the US, "We oppose using sexual orientation as a weapon."
Monday, July 12 2004 @ 11:42 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
A federal appeals court three-judge panel ruled June 30 that Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) of Maryland should have the same right as other community groups to pass out fliers at local Montgomery County elementary schools.
A lower court had ruled against CEF, saying that CEF's religious content excluded it from the flier program, even though the program did allow a local Jewish community center and Holy Redeemer Summer Play School to add their fliers to the take-home flier program. The lower court had argued that the community center and play school did not have religious teaching as the core of their programs, while the CEF program focuses on Bible stories, songs, games, and other children's activities oriented around encouraging children to become Christians and follow the Christian way of life.
The appeals court ruled, however, that "the Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment] does not require discrimination against religion," according to Greg Baylor, director of the Christian Legal Society Center for Law and Religious Freedom, which filed suit for CEF. Baylor continued his observation of the appeals ruling: "In fact, they pointed to other parts of the First Amendment, the free speech clause in particular, to conlcude that the school district had to give [CEF] the same treatment that other community groups were allowed to have."
When the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last month 3-2 to remove the tiny cross from the more than 40 year old County Seal in response to threats from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to sue on the basis of church/state separation, citizens of LA County overwhelmingly disagreed with the decision. After rejection of a grass-roots based appeal to the Supervisors to reconsider the decision, citizens rallied to defeat the decision themselves. Led by David R. Hernandez, 28th Congressional District candidate, the "Save Our Seal and Cross" campaign drafted a petition to get the issue on the November ballot through obtaining at least 170,606 valid registered voter signatures to the petitions by the July 9 deadline. When signatures topped 300,000 and a first amendment rights legal advocacy organization, The Thomas Moore Law Center (TMLC) reviewed the petition wording and said it was vulnerable to legal challenges, Hernandez and his supporters opted to "phase two" of the campaign.
Now supporters are issuing a new petition with tighter legal vocabulary in cooperation with TMLC and aiming for 341,212 valided registered voter signatures in the next 120 days, which will automatically enact a county-wide ordinance preventing the county from removing the cross from the official seal. In the meantime, supporters have filed a court request for an injunction that will forbid the Supervisors to remove the cross until the 120 days are expired. Hernandez hopes the first petition's 300,000 signatures will convince the judge that an injunction is the proper action in light of the high probability that the second campaign will be successful.
A draft bill to be published soon for consideration by the Scottish Parliament would make it illegal to send a female out of the country for the purposes of female circumcision, a harmful mutilation considered essential in some African tribal religions. Although the practice is already outlawed throughout the United Kingdom (UK), many African immigrants continue to send their female children -- as young as age 5 -- to their home villages in their countries of origin so that they can receive the controversial mutilation.
If the new legislation is enacted, it will provide for a sentence of up to 14 years for those who violate the law. Female circumcision in the UK is punishable for up to 5 years in prison.
The bill comes from a joint effort between Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell and anti-female circumcision activist Khadija Coll (29), a Scottish citizen from Somalia who is a former finalist in the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year award for her tireless campaigning against the practice of female circumcision. Coll nearly died from complications of her own female circumcision at age 5. She is now married to a Scotsman, Stephen Coll, and is the mother of 2 children.
Coll also plans to open an advice center that would educate African people about the dangers and cruelty of female circumcision. She commented, "If they don't know about the danger they will still do it."
It's traveled a long and sometimes frustrating path since its creation 3 years ago by the Alliance for Marriage organization, but now the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) will come before the US Senate for debate -- and a possible vote -- beginning Monday, July 12.
Both advocates for FMA and opponents are marshalling as many people as they can behind them to influence lawmakers either for or against the Constitutional Amendment proposal.
Supporters and detractors are each asking Americans to sign petitions that will then be presented to the Senate in an attempt to influence Senators' individual votes.
FMA's core statement defines legal marriage as only between a man and a woman, thereby excluding same-sex marriages. The core text of H. J. Res. 56 reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."
Supporters of FMA include the American Family Association, which claims to have signatures already from more than 1.6 million supporters. The amendment is also supported by Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition of America, and many other conservative, family-values supporting organizations, Christian, Jewish, non-Christian, and from other religious perspectives.
In addition to gathering petition signatures and grassroots advocacy or criticism, many organizations are lobbying individual Senators and sponsoring ad campaigns for or against FMA.
While debate is scheduled for next week, many observers on both sides are concerned that Senators may delay voting on FMA until after the November elections, so that their votes will not affect election outcomes. Both sides are uging a vote next week so that pressure can be brought to bear on candidates between now and November.
In the presidential race, Bush and Cheney (incumbant Republicans) support FMA while Kerry and Edwards (presumptive Democrats) oppose FMA. President Bush explained his support for FMA in his January State of the Union Address: "On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage." President Bush added that while public debate is important, "so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight."
FMA, introduced in the House of Representatives, has still not been voted on by the House. It remains in the House Committee on the Constitution and has not been debated on the House floor. If FMA is passed by both the Senate and the House by a 2/3 majority in each, it is then sent to the 50 states, which must ratify the amendment by 3/4 of the 50 states before it could become law. (For further information on the Constitutional Amendment process, see The US Constitution Online).
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26