Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bishops Forfeit High Ground.

At Seattle Times, Sam Sperry looks at the USCCBs involvement in health care:

The philosophical and moral aspects of the bishops' political stance are not universally accepted. Nor do they rest on as solid a basis as they might want us to believe.

First, the bishops' position reflects the church's questionable doctrine that human life begins at the moment of conception. Not only is this not demonstrable biologically. There also is no consensus among traditional Roman Catholic authorities on the point, including the venerable St. Thomas Aquinas, the foundational 13th-century scholar of the Catholic Church. When first conceived, a fertilized egg possesses only human potential, not "humanness" itself. When that occurs has never, in moral terms, been satisfactorily resolved.

Second, the bishops' position affects a quality of absoluteness that does not exist.

Catholic doctrine prohibits an abortion in cases of rape or incest. When a woman's life is at serious risk, Catholic teaching holds that her claim on life supersedes that of the fetus or child: in ethical terms, the "double effect."

Moreover, Catholic teaching admits to such taking of life as in self-defense and in its doctrine of a "just war." So even for Catholics there is no absolute aspect to the sanctity of life, however precious we hold life to be.

Finally, the Catholic Church teaches that it is up to an individual, not the church, to resolve matters of conscience as best that individual can inform her or his conscience. For some women, that may include considering an abortion.

In lobbying Congress to adopt the Church's position via the Stupak Amendment, the American Catholic bishops advocate enactment of a particular religious belief, one at odds with many other churches. Many of these churches allow for an abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health of the woman.

The Catholic bishops, then, argue that Congress should enshrine in law a particular belief of their religion. That would not be in the best interest of our multidenominational, multicultural people and would be an abuse of our democratic, nondenominational system of government.

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What Is A Bishop's Place?

Timothy Egan of the New York Times takes on Rhode Island Bishop Tobin's quarrel with representative Kennedy:

In a terse exchange of letters, the bishop said it was “inappropriate” for Kennedy to receive communion. Kennedy responded: “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy of the church on some issue does not make me any less Catholic.”He said later he would have no further comment; that it was “an issue of faith,” between himself and God.The Jesuits were also big on logical thinking, encouraging generations of mushy-headed knuckleheads like myself to bring a rigorous intellectual test to matters of the public domain. With this recent claim of his, Bishop Tobin would have trouble blustering his way past the priests who taught my freshman civics class.There are 65 million Catholics in the United States — 22 percent of the population. And a slim majority of them, 51 percent, believe abortion should be legal in most circumstances, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A full 60 percent support the death penalty, which the church has long opposed.Those numbers mean that more than half of all American Catholics are in a position somewhat similar to Patrick Kennedy’s. To be consistent, the bishop should start checking them off at the altar rail as they line up to receive communion — sinner, saint, sinner, saint, and so on.It’s absurd, dangerous and impossible for any cleric to think he can know the precise state of grace of a fellow Catholic who feels moved to worship publicly. But that is the logical conclusion of the bishop’s campaign.American Catholic bishops wrestled with this question five years ago, regarding the faith of Senator John Kerry, a pro-choice practicing Catholic and the Democratic nominee for president.They smartly refused to issue a blanket order; most bishops wanted no part in such a political inquisition.

Don't miss the comments!


Rep. Lois Capps Refutes Stupak's Continuing Claims.

From RHRealityCheck:

Rep. Lois Capps's picture

On Wednesday, December 9th, the New York Timespublished an op-ed by Congressman Bart Stupak in which he makes misleading claims about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the House Health Care Reform bill. Here, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), author of the Capps Amendment, provides a reality check to the claims in that op-ed.

Bart Stupak's claim: Our amendment maintains current law, which says that there should be no federal financing for abortion.

Reality: The Stupak-Pitts amendment goes well beyond the status quo and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde amendment its proponents claim. It dramatically restricts consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange. In contrast the Capps Amendment would havecontinued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it is paid for with private funds. Reputable third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University, have found that the Stupak amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with private funds.

Stupak's claim: Under our amendment, women who receive federal subsidies will be prohibited from using them to pay for insurance policies that cover abortion. The amendment does not prevent private plans from offering abortion services and it does not prohibit women from purchasing abortion coverage with their own money. The amendment specifically states that even those who receive federal subsidies can purchase a supplemental policy with private money to cover abortions.

Reality: There is nothing in the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to ensure that riders are available or affordable to individuals purchasing coverage in the Exchange. There is no evidence that insurance companies actually offer such riders in the five states that currently require women to purchase a separate rider for abortion coverage. It is not practical to expect women to plan ahead for an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that goes terribly wrong, by purchasing a supplemental rider. Furthermore, if only women of childbearing age purchase such a rider then the premium for the rider will likely cost almost as much as the service.

Stupak's claim: Some opponents of the amendment have tried to argue that it would effectively end health insurance coverage of abortion in both the private and public sectors. This argument is nothing more than a scare tactic.

Reality: It is highly unlikely that any insurance plan is going to go through the pain staking process of setting up two separate plans —one with abortion services offered and one without – to cater to less than 20% of the Exchange participants who are allowed to buy plans that include abortion services. As noted by Robert Laszewski, consultant to the insurance industry, in a recent interview with NPR, it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers. The recent report by George Washington University referenced above similarly concluded that the effect of the Stupak amendment would “militate against the creation of a supplemental coverage market.” The argument that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false.

Stupak's claim: The language in our amendment is completely consistent with the Hyde Amendment, which in the 33 years since its passage has done nothing to inhibit private health insurers from offering abortion coverage. There is no reason to believe that a continuation of this policy would suddenly create undue hardship for the insurance industry — or for those who wish to use their private insurance to pay for an abortion.

Reality: The Stupak-Pitts amendment goes well beyond the status quo and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion in Medicaid programs except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the women, but it allows states to use their own funds to pay for abortions in other cases. Applying this same principle, the Capps Amendment, would have prohibitedfederal funding to pay directly for abortions in insurance plans in the Exchange, but would allow plans to pay for these services using private funding from patient premiums. Just as churches and military contractors are able to segregate federal funds from other sources of funding, insurance companies can do the same.

Stupak's claim: Given that insurance companies are able to offer separate plans with and without abortion coverage now, it seems likely that they would be able to continue to do so on the newly established health insurance exchange.

Reality: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’ ability to cover abortions. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans sold in the Exchange to individuals who receive affordability credits. Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, they would only be able to do so if they offered two nearly identical plans with the only difference being coverage and exclusion of abortion services. Furthermore health insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too small. In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses that purchase health insurance in the new Exchange.

Stupak's claim: It is also disingenuous to argue (as some have) that it would be a hardship for insurance companies to provide plans with and without abortion coverage — when the health care bill as introduced in the House and Senate mandated exactly that. Under language suggested by Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, the new insurance exchange would be required to provide at least one plan that covers abortion and one plan that does not. If offering separate abortion-free plans in this way was acceptable under the Capps language (which has been endorsed by abortion-rights groups), then it should also be acceptable under the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment.

Reality: Under the Capps language the Exchange would have to ensure that there is at least one plan that does not include abortion services and one that does. These plans could be offered by the same company or different companies, so long as consumers were offered at least one of each option. In contrast the Stupak amendment requires private plans that want to offer a comprehensive plan including abortion services – and most private plans currently do offer comprehensive plans – they would have to offer an identical plan that does not include abortion services. So if Blue Cross Blue Shield wanted to offer a comprehensive plan they would also have to offer an identical plan without those services. According to insurance industry consultants like Robert Laszewski it wouldn’t make any business sense to offer a plan that would only be available to such a small number of potential customers (since less than 20 percent of the exchange customers would even be allowed to purchase a comprehensive plan). And that is why anyone in the Exchange – even those paying for insurance completely on their own – wouldn’t have access to abortion coverage. The argument that this amendment won’t restrict access for women who are paying for insurance entirely out of their own pockets is false.

Stupak's claim: While many accusations have been thrown around in recent months, the intent behind our amendment is simple and clear: to continue current law, which says that there should be no federal financing of abortions. Our intent was not to change, add or take anything away from federal law.

Reality: The Stupak-Pitts amendment goes well beyond the status quo and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde amendment its proponents claim. It dramatically restricts consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange. In contrast the Capps Amendment continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it is paid for with private funds. Reputable third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University, have found that the Stupak amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with private funds.

Stupak's claim: This goal is consistent with the opinion of a majority of Americans. Recent CNN and Washington Post-ABC News polls found that 61 percent of Americans do not want taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. And while the Senate voted down a similar amendment on Tuesday, I’m hopeful that the spirit of our legislation will make it into the final bill.

Reality: The Capps language is consistent with both current law and public opinion because it explicitly prohibits federal funding for abortion services except those allowed by the Hyde amendment: rape, incest, and to protect the life of the woman. Furthermore, recent polling conducted by the Mellman Group found that:

  • 54% of voters would oppose a health care reform plan that prevented private insurance plans from covering abortion.
  • 56% of voters believe that those who receive partial subsidies should be able to buy plans that cover abortion – surpassing those who oppose this choice by a 20 point margin.
  • 52% of voters support the “Capps compromise,” which would prohibit federal dollars, including partial subsidies, from being used to pay for abortions, though abortions could be paid using private funds generated by patients’ premiums.
  • 47% agreed that “Political differences should not prevent us from moving forward on an otherwise good healthcare reform plan.”

As pollster Mark Mellman noted a column in the Hill recently (, “Americans do not want reform to be an excuse for tightening restrictions on abortion or for taking away health coverage millions already have. Nor do they want an abortion debate to stop reform. Voters want an abortion-neutral healthcare reform.”

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Bench Plaque Advocacy.

Louisiana Passes Conscience Clause (Provider Refusal) Bill.

There go patients' rights. From Louisiana Medical News:

BATON ROUGE- The LA Healthcare Workers Conscience Act, HB-517, passed late Wednesday afternoon.

Despite efforts to dilute the inevitability of the bill by pro-abortion pols, pro-life legislators fought off the attack against rights of conscience for ALL health care workers.

The bill had been amended days ago so that it only applied to public employees, but Sen. Amedee was able to strip that line from the bill today.

The LA House had originally passed the bill by a 2 to 1 margin of 65 to 33. The Senate followed last week and the final Senate-House conference overwhelmingly passed the conference bill 31-2.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has a strong pro-life record, has promised to sign the bill.

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DC to Allow Local Tax Dollars to Fund Abortions.

From the Washington Post, the whole article below. The measure must yet be approved by the House and Senate. What distinguishes the bill is the use of local funds, not federal funds, to guarantee patients' access to necessary services.

A House and Senate Appropriations conference committee approved legislation late Tuesday that would allow the District to use local tax dollars to help low-income women pay for abortions, to allow patients to legally use marijuana when it is prescribed by a doctor and to continue to fund needle-exchange programs in a bid to limit the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The compromise legislation, which must go before the full House and Senate and could be voted on by week's end, would end decades of prohibitions that city officials and activists say increased the number of impoverished children, expanded the number of people infected by HIV and AIDS, and blocked a District referendum 10 years ago that allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

"This is a great triumph for the District," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Wednesday. Although two votes remain, Norton said, "we think it's over." The financial services legislation that governs District spending is contained in a large package of bills, "and it will be hard to take this one out," she said. "We're almost home free."

The conference committee report could face stiff resistance in the full House and Senate because of the loosened restriction on abortion.

Last week, 35 Republican senators sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a letter warning that they might derail the spending bill if the restrictions on abortion were changed. "We want to assure you that we are prepared to take full advantage of our rights under Senate rules," the letter states.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, called the efforts to separate local from federal funds "an artificial distinction" that has been fabricated for the purpose of allowing abortion. "We see this as an exercise in deceptive labeling," Johnson said. "All of the funds spent by the city government are appropriated by Congress, and this is required under the Constitution so the buck does stop with Congress."

Laura Meyers, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, disagreed, saying the District seeks only the same rights granted to states. "The District of Columbia has been singled out," Meyers said. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the District and states from using federal money to fund abortions, but states are free to use local tax dollars to cover the cost of the procedure for poor women who cannot otherwise afford it.

Meyers said that private donations help some women but that it's possible many are turned away from clinics and hospitals. "Knowing the kind of poverty we have here in the District of Columbia, you're talking about a wide disparity in who has access to care."

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) released a statement calling the action "a bold step" by the Democratic-controlled Congress that amounts to "important, long overdue victories for the District of Columbia and its quest for autonomy and expanded home rule."

In 1998, D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to legalize the possession, use, cultivation and distribution of marijuana if recommended by a physician for serious illnesses. Initiative 59 passed with 69 percent of the vote, but before the law could go into effect, the Republican-controlled Congress enacted an amendment that blocked the city from setting its own drug policies.

It has taken a decade to persuade Congress to remove the impediment, said Bruce Mirken, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

"It's 11 years overdue," Mirken said. "It's about time the citizens of the District of Columbia had their own health policies respected."

If the compromise bill is passed and signed into law by President Obama, the District would join 13 states in legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Final approval of the bill would also allow the District to continue using local tax dollars to fund needle-exchange programs that provide clean syringes to addicts to stem the spread of AIDS. In 2007, Congress ended a decade-long prohibition against city funding, allowing the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration to provide four nonprofit agencies with $700,000 to distribute needles in high drug- trafficking areas.

But in July, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) added a rider to the D.C. appropriations bill that "essentially wipes out the program," Norton said at the time. Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, campaigned against Kingston's amendment and won. "I didn't want to turn D.C. into a colony," he said. "D.C. gets to decide where it can have needle exchange."

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What Now, Catholic Bishops?

Amy Sullivan at Time asks the question we're all asking. What now, Catholic bishops? She writes:

No surprise here. As expected, the Senate voted down the Nelson abortion amendment late Tuesday (technically, they voted to table the amendment, which is essentially the same thing as killing it) by a vote of 54 to 45. Pro-choice GOP Senators Snowe and Collins supported the move, while pro-life Democratic Senators Bayh, Casey, Conrad, Dorgan, Kaufman, Nelson (NE), and Pryor opposed tabling the measure.

Of that group of seven, only Nelson has said he will vote against final passage of health reform because of abortion (among other issues). Which leaves Harry Reid back where he was yesterday--either needing to jump through Nelson's hoops to see if anything could convince the Nebraska senator to vote in favor of health reform, or turn his attention to Olympia Snowe.

Tuesday's vote does put the Catholic bishops conference in the position of following through on its pledge to vigorously oppose health reform if Stupak/Nelson language is not included. That may seem like an automatic next step, and there's certainly no indication that the bishops will change their minds after drawing this particular line in the sand. But remember that they never reached that point during House consideration because of the last-minute deal struck concerning the Stupak amendment. There is something symbolically more weighty about actually working to defeat health reform--a goal that the bishops have supported for decades--than just threatening to do so. And it might be a tougher sell among Catholics in the pews.

Read more:

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Uganda to Drop Death Penalty for Being Gay.

From Queerty:

After international media attention and criticism of the American religious leaders and politicians involved in Uganda's proposed "kill the gays" bill, lawmakers there are planning on dropping the death penalty and life imprisonment punishments.

That's according to Uganda's Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo (pictured), who's backed the persecution of Uganda's gays. Why the changes? "To attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala." That's according to Bloomberg's Fred Ojambo.

So what type of punishment for being gay will the bill include? Thus far, it's unclear. But expect some ex-gay-style reparative therapy up in this bitch: "In addition to formulating punishments for the gay people, the bill will also promote counseling to help 'attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation,' said Buturo."

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Christians Are the New Negro.

We've heard a lot about the fight for Christian laws being similar to the civil rights movement, headed by Martin Luther King Jr. The Manhattan Declaration claimed civil disobedience as justification for discriminating non-Christians. Glenn Beck encouraged tea baggers, conspiracy theorists, and other hyper-right groups to resort to civil disobedience. And Harry Reid compared health care reform to civil rights legislation. Don't forget the Veterans of California who will exercise civil disobedience if their cross is found to be unconstitutional.

It seems both sides of the issue of citizens' rights have been harking their inner MLK lately.

There are no laws that oppress Christians. Of all stripe and denomination, they are awarded their freedom of belief like any other group in society. What they are protesting is that they cannot make laws to impose those beliefs on others. And that they can't missionize their faith with full freedom, like erecting the ten commandments in public buildings. Or discriminate against individuals whose lifestyles they do not agree with. That's called discrimination. Equating Christian inability to discriminate to slavery is a sad ignorance of history and a reduction of the crime that slavery was.

To bolster the "Christians are oppressed just like slaves were" side of things, I've posted an entire martyrdom-complex, hyperbolic, poorly argued article by Pastor Kenneth Hutcherson from World Net Daily today.

What examples of erosion of Christian rights does Hutcherson use? The hate crimes bill! He is oppressed because he can't discriminate against gays? And he pulls out the typical Christian interpretation of the establishment clause which says it is meant to protect religion from the state, not the other way around. Just as blacks were attacked by whites during segregation, he contends (with a bit of gender nonsense), Carrie Prejean and Sarah Palin are attacked! Not exactly great proof of discrimination.

So he resorts to citing to European priests who are sanctioned by the government for discriminating against homosexuals. (I thought we were talking about the US?) And Christmas! He says the war on Christmas is proof of Christian slavery! A "Merry Xmas" sign is just like beating a black man!

Hutcherson's problem isn't oppression. It's that he feels his freedom to discriminate against the members of society he chooses to condemn is impeded. That's called enforcement of equality, Mr. Hutcherson, not oppression.

I did not become a Christian so I would have to fight for my constitutional freedoms all over again.

Growing up in Alabama being black, knowing how that felt and the way I was treated in an all-white world of power and control, I had to fight for equal rights under the Constitution. How ironic now as a Christian to have those same thoughts and feelings again and to have to try and wrestle control of my constitutional rights from the secular community.

Ken Hutcherson
Pastor Kenneth L. Hutcherson

Many reading this may not understand where I came up with this concept of calling Christians "the new Negro."

The reason is because there are undeniable similarities. Jim Crow laws were passed to keep me from having my constitutional rights and my rights under the Declaration of Independence of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though the Constitution gave me those freedoms, man was smart enough to be able to keep me from living those freedoms by saying I was "separate but equal."

Today, my constitutional right of freedom of religion is being eroded again by laws such as the Hate Crimes Bill and repeated attacks by the politically correct crowd. Threats that came along as a result of an African American wanting to get out from under Jim Crow laws were formidable and scary and designed to keep African Americans quiet. The same thing is happening to Christians today.

"Speechless: Silencing the Christians," by Don Wildmon, lays out determined strategy of coalition of liberal secularists, homosexual activists and Fortune 500 companies

Another way secular society is trying to control Christians is by the fallacy of the separation of church and state. That establishment clause was intended to protect the church from the state, not to keep the church from participating in the state. Christians' ignorance of the meaning of the establishment clause has allowed us to be controlled just like the African Americans were in the 1950s and '60s.

Many may question why I'm writing this article because they can't see the fight in our society and world concerning the overt attack on Judeo-Christian values.

If you don't believe one could be attacked for their stand on Judeo-Christian beliefs alone, take the case of Miss California, Carrie Prejean. Look at her refusal to compromise her Christian values. She has been vilified, demonized and lost her title simply because of her constitutional right to freedom of religion. What is so encouraging is that she will not compromise; she will not give up her values and would rather please God than take what the world has to offer her.

Sarah Palin is another example.

The politically correct crowd has a very difficult time dealing with Sarah because of who she is. Mrs. Palin is a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage, pro-hunting, white, conservative, Christian male who happened to have been born a woman! The politically correct crowd knows exactly what to do with a white male with those attributes, but a woman?

She is the perfect picture of the politically correct woman – strong, beautiful, able to both buy and fry the bacon, take care of the family, run an entire state and still take care of her baby. But because of who she is, and because she does not subscribe to politically correct thinking, she has been attacked for no other reason than her Judeo-Christian values, just as African Americans were attacked for no other reason than their skin color.

If you still don't think Christians are being attacked for our beliefs, consider Pastor Ake Green in Sweden and Pastor Stephen Boisson in Canada and many other men of God around the world who have been jailed and had their non-profit status threatened because they dare to callhomosexuality a sin. The sad commentary is many Christians have backed off our God-given responsibility to tell the truth because secular society has deemed the truth "political." Marriage is a church issue, pornography is a church issue, homosexuality is a church issue, and divorce is a church issue. The problem is, as soon as the secular elites named them political, the evangelical church – especially the white evangelical church – retreated and held up the cowardly white flag.

If you don't think Christians have become the new Negro, just look at Christmas! We are no longer able to celebrate Christmas in schools. Even though as taxpayers, our tax dollars help pay for our broken educational system, we are forced to celebrate winter break and the fabulous "holiday tree!"

How about the wonderful greeting, "Happy Holidays!"? Department stores are afraid to put up signs with the word "Christmas" on them. Don't mistakenly think this is anything new. Secular society began taking Christ out of Christmas when they started calling it "Xmas" – and we let it happen.

In my wonderful state of Washington just last year, Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state legislators allowed an Atheist Manifesto to be put up right next to the Nativity scene of our Lord Jesus Christ! I have to say straightforward: the state of Washington is the armpit of the United States, and our lovely legislators are supplying the odiferous scent to the armpit.

Because 2008 was such a disaster, this year there will be no Christmas or religious displays in the Capitol rotunda, period. Oh, except they will put up a huge holiday tree.

Can anybody tell me where common sense is? Everyone in the world knows it's a Christmas tree. This nonsense is all in the name of tolerance toward whom? It's certainly not toward those of us who hold strong Judeo-Christian values. As Christians, it's an attack on what we hold dear. But just like the Negroes, Christians should understand they are not equal under the Constitution's right to freedom of religion.

The only difference between Christians and African Americans is that Christians put up with this intolerance while standing behind the false disguise of humility and love. We are obsessed with showing the world our love when our primary job is to tell them the truth. The Bible does not say, "Sensitivity shall set you free." It says, "The truth shall set you free." Are we not the truth-tellers?

When are we as believers, like the African Americans that came before us, going to say, enough is enough? No more "separate but equal!" Our battle cry is "We are the salt of the earth, onward Christian soldiers and to God be the glory! For in unity we will stand and we will not be stopped!

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DeMint and the "Pro-Life" Agenda.

Check out this interview with Senator Jim DeMint on what the health care bill will cover. He rings the "euthanasia"/assisted suicide bell and talks about the "animosity" this administration shows to a "pro-life" agenda.

His logic would be just fine if there were some facts behind it. His willingness to compromise human rights of his constituents and all Americans is stunning. And religious. And the nonchalance he takes with my reproductives rights should be shaming. He's not speaking for his wife and daughters who have the ability to no manage their health in a way that opposes their conscience. He wants to tell all others what to believe and how to act.

The very simple premise here is this: DeMint and fellow "pro-life" individuals, Senators, Representatives, and activists, claim religious freedom and moral superiority (see the interview at Religion Dispatches today on moral talk) and they want us all to be subject to them.

He assumes that because the "pro-life" segment of society is unwilling to stop at anything less than their moral/religious line, that the Democrats are too. I very much wish he were right.

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Is Morality Good?

ReligionDispatches interviews Hans-George Moeller about his new book, Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality. Here's an excerpt:

The book is very much focused on moral pathologies in North America. I think that moral pathologies in other regions (Germany, China, for instance) show quite different symptoms. Maybe one time there will be a catalogue of the various forms of moral pathologies in different places and at different times.

North American moral pathologies are related to what may be called the “narrative” of American identity and clearly stem, historically speaking, from the fusion of fundamentalist Protestantism and 18th-century Enlightenment political liberalism. Fundamentalist Protestant morality endorses, for instance, strict individual responsibility for one’s sins (and, vice versa, credit for one’s achievements in the world), total commitment to the Christian God and the community united in His name (the family, and, by extension, the nation), and an ascetic lifestyle.

Enlightenment liberalism highlights similar values in a secularized form: individual “pursuit of happiness,” a commitment to “public life,” and the virtues of the commoner (rather than elitist or aristocratic man). It is not difficult to see how such a catalogue of moral ideals can lead to a celebration of vengeance, jingoism, and Puritan ethical prescriptions. In The Moral Fool, I have tried to describe how such moral pathologies have been influencing, for instance, American legal practice (death penalty), protest movements (Abolition, anti-gay sentiments), war rhetorics (just war philosophy), and the mass media (Hollywood movies).

In Europe, moral pathology is closely tied to 20th-century European liberal-progressive Protestantism. In Germany, for example, moral pathologies derive mostly from the traumatic experiences in connection with the Nazi regime. In Germany, a discourse of collective guilt (self-)ascription has produced some sort of moral overcompensation manifesting itself in the form of paradoxical moral arrogance. Germany now conceives of itself as the repentant sinner who, by fully acknowledging his crimes, has become the ethical champion of the world.

To a certain extent, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin represent North American moral pathology, and the Nobel Peace Prize award for Barack Obama expresses European sentiments of moral superiority. This Nobel Prize was supposed to say something like: Now that you have repented the Bush administration’s sins, Europeans welcome you back to the commonwealth of the ethically pure nations.