According to a survey of Minnesotans who defined themselves as "born-again," it is not true that evangelicals overwhelmingly favor conservative or Republican candidates for public office. In fact, the survey concluded, evangelicals are "all over the map," some voting for conservatives like President Bush because of his pro-life and traditional marriage stances; some voting for candidates who are strongly religious but deeply committed to social justice and environmental issues; and some voting for candidates simply because they are in the political party the voter prefers or inherited from his or her parents.
Respondents in the poll who said they had had a born-again experience (one indicator of being an evangelical) were fairly evenly split when asked about a party preference: 39 percent said Republican, 32 percent Democrat and 29 percent Independent. (The March 28-31 poll interviewed people who said they were likely to vote in November.) Those who said they had had a born-again experience preferred Bush over Kerry, 48 percent to 39 percent. (The rest were undecided.)
When respondents were asked if they considered themselves part of the "religious right," their views were far more unified. Among those who identified themselves as part of the religious right, 80% voted for Bush in 2000.
In a move some Democrats are calling election year pandering, Senate Republicans have scheduled a series of hearings this week on the importance, value, and composition of marriage in America. According to a Senate Republican memo obtained by the Associated Press, the meetings are a "full-court push to educate the public on the importance of marriage."
Four committees will hold hearings over the next 2 weeks. The first is scheduled for this Wednesday by a Health subcommittee and is titled "Healthy Marriage: What is it and why should we promote it?"
Democratic critics complain that Republicans have scheduled the hearings because they know that the majority of Americans favor traditional marriage between a man and a woman and so Republicans believe they can attract more voters with their emphasis on hearings about traditional marriage.
Democrat Bruce Cain, a professor at UC Berkeley, complained, "The Republican Party believes that since the majority of Americans favor heterosexual marriage, not gay marriage, and since it's an issue the Democratic Party has a somewhat more complicated position on, anything they can do to keep the issue on the front-burner of politics is a plus."
A new poll of British Members of Parliament (MPs) shows that 57% support the idea of removing the church/state connection between the British government and the Church of England. Nominally, the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth, is not only the head of state but also of the Church of England. This means that her Prime Minister, currently Tony Blair, makes ecclesiastical decisions as well as political decisions. Some traditionalists in the Church of England are particularly displeased with Blair's approval of the Church of England's appointment of gay clergyman Canon Jeffrey John as the Dean of St Albans (see the related Answers In Action article).
The poll, conducted by Communicate Research, queried 201 MPs. Most said they did not think such a change would come within the next 10 years.
Mordecai Vanunu, former Israeli nuclear technician imprisoned for 18 years for divulging Israeli nuclear secrets to the world, was released from Ashkelon's Shikma prison Wednesday and instead of taking up residence in a Jaffa apartment he went directly to the Anglican church in Jerusalem in what some see as a bid for asylum. Vanunu angered the Israeli government in 1986 when he went public with what he knew about Israel's nuclear arms program. Israel, backed by its ally, the United States, has never confirmed Vanunu's claims, but it is generally believed that Israel has an extensive nuclear arms system as part of its defense against nearby Muslim countries and terrorist organizations that have sworn to destroy Israel and return the lands of Palestine to Muslim control. At the time of his disclosures, Vanunu was kidnapped from Rome and returned to Israel by the Israeli special forces. He stood trial and was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison for compromising Israel's defenses. Under the terms of his release Wednesday, he was supposed to refrain from making any mention of Israel's nuclear capabilities or to talk with anyone who might compromise Israeli security. Instead he has continued to call for the Israeli government to open all of its nuclear programs to international inspection. The Israeli government says that he still has information that could compromise Israeli security.
Vanunu, who was an Orthodox Jew, converted to Anglicanism while in prison. It is not known how long he plans to stay with the Jerusalem Anglicans.
Thursday, April 22 2004 @ 12:08 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
UPDATED THURSDAY, APRIL 22.
Tiny Westminster school district in Southern California's Orange County stands apart from every other school district in California for failing to fully adopt state mandated gender anti-discrimination language in order to obtain funding. The new state regulation requires that school employees and students be allowed to define their own gender. In practical terms, this means that someone who is biologically female can define herself "male" and use male restroom facilities and join male sports teams, for example. A majority of the Westminster school board ruled last week to reject the state wording since "gender is determined only at birth" by biology. Over the last week, the board members have met with an attorney to draft compromise language for their policy that meets some of the state requirements yet does not allow victims of discrimination to define their own gender.
The deadline for school districts to adopt the state standard was Monday, April 12. At risk is $8 million in state funding for the district, which serves 10,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
If the state rules that the compromise wording is legal, many other school districts are expected to adopt similar language in an effort to retain state funding but reflect the more conservative stance of their constituents. The Los Angeles Times interviewed Jennifer Pizer, attorney with Lambda, an advocacy group for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals, who said that the Westminster case is an important test of the state's education code and its duty to protect all the students in the state.
The attorney for the majority of the school board, Mark Bucher, thinks his clients will prevail, saying, "Is it discrimination if a man claims he's a woman and says he must be treated as a woman? We believe the answer, under the law, is no." Bucher is co-founder of Education Alliance, a non-profit organization that helps conservative candidates get elected to local school boards.
State Senator Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) has meanwhile introduced legislation that would give greater power to the state superintendent of schools to take over and directly manage school districts that "defy the law." Referring to the Westminster majority he warned, "They need to stop playing games and come into compliance."
UPDATE THURSDAY: Westminster School Board has stood firm in a 3-2 vote to maintain its policy despite state threats to cut off funding. According to one school board member, Judy Ahrens, the state has not yet cut off the funding, nor has it notified the school board that the district is in non-compliance. Some are speculating that the state may be hestitating about following through on its threat to cut funding from any school district that did not adopt the new wording allowing gender to be self-defined.
Multnomah County was the only location in the United States where same sex couples could obtain marriage licenses for the last few weeks. Now, on the orders of Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden, that option is no longer open. The judge said that he thought the Oregon Constitution ought to allow either marriage or civil unions with equal rights to same sex couples, but that such an interpretation would have to come from the Oregon Supreme Court, not from any individual county, court, or judge in the state. Observers estimate that approximately 3,000 licenses have been granted to same sex couples in Multnomah County.
Legislation granting same sex couples marriage status has passed a key California Assembly committee as it works through the California legislature. The measure was passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Measures must pass this committee before they can progress further in the legislative process. AB 1967 would contradict the provisions of Proposition 22, which was passed by California voters and which is called the "California Protection of Marriage Measure." Proposition 22 defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The Assembly bill would grant all marriage rights, including that of legal marriage licenses, to same sex couples.
Pro-family groups in California testified before the committee, pointing out that more than 60% of California voters had approved Proposition 22, that because AB 1967 contradicts Proposition 22 it is both illegal and unconstitutional, and that it contradicts the moral systems that have governed society world wide for thousands of years.
Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families, remarked, "It is strange that the Democrats would risk losing seats in the Legislature over an issue that is so unpopular." Thomasson continued, explaining, "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is to blame for giving permission for his Democrat colleagues to push for homosexual 'marriage' and reject everybody who believes that marriage is for a man and a woman. Does Nunez want people to understand that voting for Democrats now means voting for homosexual 'marriage'?"
Monday, April 19 2004 @ 12:30 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
UPDATED TUESDAY, MARCH 30.
UPDATED FRIDAY, APRIL 2.
UPDATED MONDAY, APRIL 19
Last November Congress passed and President Bush signed into law a bill outlawing a type of late-term abortion commonly known as the "partial birth abortion." Before the bill was even signed, its opponents filed federal lawsuits against it in three different courts spanning the country. Those suits are due to be heard today (Monday, March 29).
The National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and a group of doctors filed suits in New York, Lincoln, Nebraska, and San Francisco to overturn the law. The complainants argue that its language could criminalize more common types of abortion and could be a step in a campaign to abolish legal abortion in the United States. Supporters of the legislation argue that it targets only one procedure used late in pregnancy that is never necessary to protect the life of the mother.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Act has a maximum two year prison term for doctors convicted of performing the procedure, but it has not yet gone into effect because of the lawsuits. It is likely that regardless of the outcome of the suits, the interested parties will continue appeals until the matter reaches the United States Supreme Court.
In 2000 the Court struck down a similar Nebraska law because it did not make exception for the procedure if it was done to preserve the "health" of the mother. The Congressional bill took that into consideration, including wording that "a partial birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman" and that it is "outside the standard of medical care." The American Medical Association does not recommend the procedure (called D&X), but is against legal banning. The College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says alternatives to the procedure usually exist, but that it might be possible that in a given circumstance it may be the best procedure.
The Department of Justice will be defending the law, calling the law necessary to stop a violent practice that is medically unnecessary. In its statement of Friday, March 26, the DOJ stated that it "will be devoting all resources necessary to defend the bipartisan findings of Congress that this violent practice is unnecessary, as well as painful and cruel to the partially-born child."
UPDATE: In opening statements Monday, March 29, a lawyer contesting the law argued in New York's Federal District Court that the law is vague and unconstitutional. Similar statements were made by the attorneys fighting the law in the other two courts in Nebraska and California. Bush administration lawyers argued that the procedure was never medically necessary to protect a woman's health and it caused undue pain to the unborn child, making it an inhumane procedure.
United States attorney Sean Lane, in New York, argued that he would present testimony from doctors who say that they knew of no situation where the procedure would benefit a woman. He stated, "In fact, you will hear that a sugical procedure like partial birth abortion would be a dangerous procedure for women with some conditions . . . [including] leukemia and low blood platelets." He told presiding judge Richard C. Casey that the law's language "narrowly and specifically defines" the abortion procedure that is banned and is no threat to other kinds of abortions.
On the other side of the country, witness Dr. Marueen Paul, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, told a San Francisco courtroom that the procedure was among the safest used in second trimester pregnancies and resulted in far fewer complications than surgery. Dr. Paul testified, "It's like there is an elephant in the room. It's as if there is someone juding what my purpose is and I don't think I can practice medicine well that way." Plaintiffs (those against the law) include the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation and individual doctors from hospitals in different parts of the nation.
The trials are expected to last approximately 3 weeks.
UPDATE FRIDAY: U. S. District Court in New York's federal judge closely questioned a doctor who performs abortions about whether an unborn child feels pain during this kind of abortion, commonly called a "partial birth" abortion. The doctor, Timothy Johnson, is a plaintiff (arguing against the law) in the challenge. Another doctor a day earlier had testified that a fetus sometimes does not immediately die after limbs are pulled off. Johnson replied to the judge's question by saying that he didn't know and knew of no scientific evidence himself on the subject. The judge then asked if the doctor ever considered fetal pain as he was performing this kind of abortion. After stumbling and being interrupted by the judge twice, Johnson finally declared that such a concern did not cross his mind, in fact never crossed his mind.
The questioning concluded with this stark interchange between Judge Casey and Dr. Johnson:
Casey asked if Johnson explained to women that their fetus would be dismembered: "So you tell her the arms and legs are pulled off? I mean, that's what I want to know. Do you tell her?"
Johnson: "We tell her the baby, the fetus, is dismembered as part of the procedure, yes."
Casey asked if doctors tell the women that their procedure includes "sucking the brain out of the skull."
Johnson: "I don't think we would use those terms. I think we would probably use a term like 'decompression of the skull' or 'reducing the contents of the skull.'"
Casey: "Make it nice and palatable so that they wouldn't understand what it's all about?"
Johnson: "We try to do it in a way that's not offensive or gruesome or overly graphic for patients."
UPDATE MONDAY: One of the three trials is entering closing arguments and should end this week. The San Francisco trial began closing arguments on Friday. The Lincoln, NE trial has set closing arguments for June, and the New York case is continuing. Regardless of the decisions rendered in the different courts, the verdicts are expected to be appealed and to eventually wind up before the US Supreme Court. If the verdicts uphold the law, the pro-abortion sides (the plaintiffs) will appeal; if the verdicts void the law, the pro-life sides (the defendants -- in this case the Department of Justice, representing the government, charged with implementing the law) will appeal.
As Senator John Kerry increases his public exposure in his bid for the White House, the wide divide between his campaign platform and core moral values of the Catholic Church, of which he is a practicing member, is causing Church officials to consider what, if anything, the Church should do about distancing itself from the outspoken Catholic Democrat. Kerry is the first Catholic since John F. Kennedy more than 40 years ago to come this close to the US presidency. The Catholic Church is absolutely in support of the preservation of all life, including the preborn, the elderly, the disabled, and those suffering from terminal illnesses. The Catholic Church is also absolutely in favor of marriage as exclusively for a man and a woman. Kerry has spoken in favor of abortion, euthanasia under certain restricted circumstances, and for same sex civil unions with all the legal rights of marriage.
While the Catholic Church where he lives and which he attends on occasion has not said anything against his views, other Catholic leaders have not been so accommodating. When Kerry campaigned in Missouri, Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louise warned Kerry "not to present himself for communion" at any church in his city. Kerry elected to go to the Methodist church. The Archbishop of Boston, Kerry's home town, said elected politicians who favored abortion rights should abstain from taking communion.
Last week Kerry met with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington D.C. and the two discussed Kerry's moral views and political stances. According to those who attended the meeting, Cardinal McCarrick asked Kerry some probing and difficult questions. McCarrick heads a task force that is looking in to how the American Catholic Church should deal with politicians whose public views are at variance with the core moral issues of Catholic faith. Raymond Flynn, chairman of the American Catholic Alliance and a former US ambassador to the Vatican noted, "Just as everybody wants to go to heaven and nobody wants to die, there are politicians who want the profound and significant Catholic vote but don't want to show the necessary level of respect for the Church's values." Flynn said that although Kennedy had to convince non-Catholics that he wouldn't be controlled by the pope, 40 years later Kerry has to "convince Catholics that he is faithful to the values and traditions of the Catholic Church."
Recent polling has discovered that there is a wide gap between religious voters and non-religious voters. According to an article for the Knight Ridder Newspapers, "the religion gap is becoming the country's widest political division." Regular worship service attendees are more likely to vote Republican by a 2-1 ratio while those who don't regularly attend worship services vote Democratic and also account for 2 voters to every 1 Republican. Some speculate that the wide gap is because so many moral issues have become hot political topics as well. Arguments about abortion, public displays of religious heritage (such as the 10 Commandments and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegience), stem cell research and prayer in public schools are hotly debated in the political arena but are of great concern to religious people in general.
John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University in Washington said, "The division is growing wider in American politics. It's almost as if the two sides live in parallel universes."
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