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Bachmann, Pawlenty, and others compete for Religious Right’s votes in Iowa

August 11, 2011, 6:12 pm | By Beth Dahlman

Inside the Beltway, all eyes are on Ames this weekend, as a number of GOP presidential hopefuls mobilize their supporters in an attempt to display their organizational strength by winning the Ames Straw Poll.

Back at FPL Headquarters, here’s what we’ll be watching in tonight’s debate on Fox News and over the weekend at the straw poll:

  • As the economy remains front and center, what role will divisive social issues play in the straw poll? Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were the only candidates to sign a controversial pledge pushed by the Iowa Family Leader that disturbingly implied that African American children were better off in slavery in 1860 than they are in 2011, based on respective family structures. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney joined Bachmann and Santorum in signing National Organization for Marriage’s pledge stating that as president, they will oppose same-sex marriage. Tim Pawlenty has also gotten into the act, participating in a bus tour opposing same-sex marriage and abortion and advocating for “religious liberty”. (See John’s take on the tour, organized by Religious Right Organizations and opposed by members from Faithful America, who stood up for their values and pushed the Religious Right for not representing mainstream people of faith.) Clearly divisive culture war issues remain alive and well among Iowa conservatives, though not without pushback from progressive and moderate people of faith.
  • Which Herman Cain shows up? Is it the anti-Muslim Cain demanding an unconstitutional religious test for holding public office or the more Muslim-friendly Cain who, at least outwardly, is trying to build bridges with the Muslim community?
  • What happens after Rick Perry jumps in the race? Given that the Texas Governor essentially kicked off his Presidential bid with a controversial prayer rally, one can only imagine that Perry will continue to invoke religion as he makes a play for socially conservative evangelical voters.
  • Will candidates’ inconsistencies on fiscal and economic issues make a difference? In contrast to their small-government, anti-tax rhetoric, it’s recently come to light that Michele Bachmann has repeatedly tried to steer federal stimulus funds to her district, and Mitt Romney, while governor of Massachusetts, told Standard & Poor’s that his tax increases proved Massachusetts was worthy of a higher credit rating.

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Rabbis to Hyatt: Dangerous work conditions aren’t kosher

August 9, 2011, 3:18 pm | By Beth Dahlman

Back in June, a group of clergy released a report on working conditions at Hyatt hotels, based on conversations between faith leaders and Hyatt workers. Their findings, that workers have dangerous workloads (housekeepers cleaning many as 30 rooms per day) and the hotel chain has implemented aggressive anti-union policies, prompted the rabbis in the group to declare the hotel chain “lo kasher” – not kosher. James Parks explains:

While the term “kosher” most often refers to choosing food that has rabbinic supervision or that follows Jewish dietary restrictions, it can also refer to practices or institutions that are “unfit” in an ethical sense. By claiming that Hyatt’s hotels are not kosher, the rabbis are pronouncing the hotels “unfit” in an ethical and spiritual context and urging Jews to avoid contact with Hyatt.

These rabbis aren’t shy about making the explicit connection between Jewish ethics and the struggle for just working conditions at Hyatt. An editorial in the Jewish Daily Forward cheers their efforts:

The extensive documentation and textual support in the rabbinical report is a welcome addition to a growing number of efforts to link Jewish law and scholarship to timely social concerns. Advocates for the environment, labor, sustainable agriculture and development policy increasingly use Jewish language and teachings to frame their arguments. The rabbinic report on Hyatt calls social teachings on labor “the best kept secrets of our religious tradition.” Not anymore.

So far, Hyatt has responded to protests from housekeepers and other workers about these unjust working conditions by cracking down and digging in their heels. Particularly given that Hyatt was for many years owned by a prominent Jewish family, a message that hinges on Jewish ethics seems particularly relevant to the unfolding debate.

You can read more about the campaign and the full report here, as well as learning how you can help with their efforts.

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Gary Johnson’s Sharia Sanity

August 2, 2011, 9:50 am | By Beth Dahlman

gary johnson.jpgLike NJ Gov. Chris Christie last week, Republican Presidential candidate Gary Johnson breathed some sanity yesterday into the absurd “creeping Sharia” panic that has become a favorite talking point on the right:

“I don’t see it happening. I’ve never seen or smelled a whiff of it. It’s a non-existent issue as far as I’m concerned.”

Johnson is correct, and our nation would be much better served if state legislatures followed his example and listened to the facts, rather than the dangerous conspiracy theories of self-appointed (and often woefully uniformed) Sharia law “experts”.

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Republican inspiration: We’re going to hurt some people

July 27, 2011, 12:33 pm | By Beth Dahlman

No, I am not making this up or engaged in some partisan hyperbole. Yesterday, in order to pump themselves up for a tough vote on a draconian debt limit vote, the Republican House caucus watched a clip from the film The Town that contained this bit of dialog:

Ben Affleck: I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is. You can never ask me about it later. And we’re going to hurt some people.

Jeremy Renner: Whose car are we going to take?

Apparently, Allen West was so inspired, he got up and said, “I’m ready to drive the car!”

Now, perhaps the House Republicans don’t make the connection between their policies and the scene from the movie, but the truth is the GOP debt plan is going to “hurt some people.” A lot of people, actually.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House GOP plan is poised to produce “the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.

We’re all hoping (and praying) Congress comes to its senses before America takes another economic beating.

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Free Contraception: Common Ground Victory

July 19, 2011, 3:27 pm | By Beth Dahlman

Today, the Institute of Medicine affirmed contraception as preventative service, smoothing the path for the Department of Health and Human services to include it in the list of services insurers must make available with no cost-sharing (that is, for free) under the Affordable Care Act.

This is a real victory for women, families and those seeking common ground on abortion. Access to contraception is one of the best ways to avoid unintended pregnancies (and thus many abortions).

The report also noted unintended pregnancies are riskier:

Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.

Healthier women, babies and families is a goal people of good will can — and in fact do — support. Despite what the religious right might want you to think, contraception is popular.

Last fall, pro-choice and pro-life leaders came together in support of contraception access, and poll after poll shows the people in the pews are right there with them. Yes, even the Catholics and evangelicals.

Religious right leaders often claim to be the defenders of “the family,” but every time they come out in opposition to commonsense, common ground measures like this, it seems more and more the only thing they’re protecting is an outdated, rigid ideology.

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