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Casey Schoeneberger
Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Press Secretary, came to FPL from NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s Associate Program after studying economics at Saint Joseph’s University. She blogs about tax and budget issues on Bold Faith Type.

New Report Proves Rep. King Wrong on Threat from Muslim-Americans

February 17, 2012, 11:31 am | By Casey Schoeneberger

Contrary to the claims of Rep. Peter King and people promoting anti-Islam bigotry, a new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security confirms that “…the rate of [Muslim-American] radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11.”

As we’ve reported in the past, Rep. King has defended holding hearings that single out Muslim-Americans on the premise that they pose the singularly largest threat to homeland security. While fellow members of Congress  and hearing witnesses attempted to debunk King’s baseless arguments, their testimony largely fell on deaf ears.

If King were to read the report, he would find that radical Muslim-Americans do not comprise a large portion of existing terrorist groups and that ethnicity is an insufficient metric to try to identify terrorists.  From the New York Times:

…no single ethnic group predominated among Muslims charged in terrorism cases last year — six were of Arab ancestry, five were white, three were African-American and two were Iranian, Mr. Kurzman said. That pattern of ethnic diversity has held for those arrested since Sept. 11, 2001…

While Rep. King continues to blast false and prejudiced accusations at Muslim-Americans, the report once again proves that his unsubstantiated claims are narrow-minded and have no place in policy-making.

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Faith Reactions to the President’s FY2013 Budget

February 16, 2012, 12:29 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

With the release of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, faith groups are inserting an important moral dimension to the contentious budget debates in Washington. Just as faith groups mobilized during last year’s budget debate, they are once again working hard to ensure that the President’s budget protects vital human needs programs while speaking out to ensure that Congress does not prioritize  tax breaks for the rich over the needs of the most vulnerable.

The United Church of Christ guide to the federal budget  provides a useful framework for evaluating both President Obama’s and Congress budget priorities.

While we like to define ourselves by these ideals of fairness and generosity, we have spent much of our history trying to make the reality resemble the words. Today—when millions are unemployed, and when many jobs pay too little to lift families out of poverty while other people have unimaginable wealth and proposals abound to cut taxes for those most able to pay—our society is failing to realize the ideals we proclaim.

Our laws and public policy are the blueprints by which we set up the institutions that allocate people’s chances in life.  They can provide opportunity for all, and thereby promote justice, or conversely, they can create opportunity for some and deny it for others.

While acknowledging the need to address deficits, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, was pleased to see that hunger programs are protected in the President’s FY13 budget and has called on Congress to do the same:

We must address our deficits, but we cannot sacrifice our commitment to hunger and poverty. This is not a partisan issue; it is a moral one. In the upcoming budget decisions, Congress must form a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people.

While anti-hunger programs and vital infrastructure investments  are protected in the President’s budget, more work and advocacy are needed to ensure cuts to Medicaid and Medicare programs do not prevent seniors from receiving vital medical treatment

Prior to the release of the President’s budget, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and The Jewish Federations of North America sent a letter to Congress calling on them to oppose radical changes to Medicare and Medicaid that may prevent senior citizens from receiving vital medical treatment:

Within the current framework of Medicaid and Medicare, we believe that it is possible to restrain growth and rein in costs. Any reductions to Medicaid and Medicare should stem from efficiencies that improve service while reducing costs as well as targeted efforts to eradicate fraud, waste, and abuse. The United States is capable of strengthening the long-term viability of these programs without a fundamental restructuring that turns Medicaid into a block grant or Medicare into a voucher.

In part because of last year’s tireless efforts by faith groups and their continued advocacy, President Obama’s FY 13 plan does not include plans to block grant Medicare or Medicaid.

From  Talking Points Memo:

The goal of these reforms is to make these critical programs more effective and efficient, and help make sure our health care system rewards high-quality medicine,” Obama writes. “What it does not do—and what I will not support—are efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher or Medicaid into a block grant. Doing so would weaken both programs and break the promise that we have made to American seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families—a promise I am committed to keeping.

Continued vigilance by faith groups and all concerned citizens  around the country will be crucial to ensuring our neighbors and the most vulnerable people are protected in this ongoing budget fight.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

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FPL News Reel: February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012, 1:59 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel

Why I Wish Catholic Leaders Would Stop Saying Our Church Is Under Attack
By Tara McGuinness — New Republic, Opinion
…if this is really a war against religion, maybe it’s time to ask the people of faith who are supposedly under attack. People like me.

How Obama Set a Contraception Trap for the Right
By Andrew Sullivan — Newsweek, Opinion
This could be the moment when the culture-war tide finally turns and the social wedge issues long deployed so effectively by the Republican right begin to come back and bite them.

Medicaid reforms need not undermine vital services
By David Saperstein and William Daroff — Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Opinion
Leading Jewish organizations have made it a priority to fight to protect the services and benefits that individuals with disabilities and their families receive under the Medicaid program.

Racial reconciliation 2012
By David Gushee — Associated Baptist Press
The racially divided Protestant South of so many centuries, in which we sang many of the same hymns and worshipped the same Jesus in segregated churches, is experimenting here with an unprecedented (re)union.

Faith Leaders to Pres. Hopefuls: Don’t Bring Immigration Rhetoric to Tenn.
By Ethicsdaily.com
Dozens of Tennessee faith leaders urged Republican presidential candidates to keep the bitter rhetoric on immigration out of the Volunteer State.

Fear of Deportation Kept L.A. School’s Parents From Reporting Sex Abuse
By Jorge Rivas — Colorlines
Two teachers have been charged with multiple counts of lewd conduct against several students at Miramonte Elementary—a school in South Los Angeles who’s student body is made up of 98% Latinos and 2% black students. Lawyers say at least three alleged victims have not been interviewed by law enforcement because their parents fear deportation.

Education Justice
By Bob Faw — PBS, Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly
What we’re doing here we’re doing within a Christian context. We believe in God’s word as revealed in Scripture, and that faith informs how you think about students. It informs your efficacy. It informs your belief that every child can learn.

The Red Balloon of Social Justice: Wisconsin One Year Later
By Phil Haslanger — Sojourners, God’s Politics
It was on Valentine’s Day just a year ago that a few hundred University of Wisconsin-Madison students carried heart-shaped balloons and “valentines” for Gov. Scott Walker that said, “Please don’t break our hearts.”

Washington Becomes Seventh State to Legalize Gay Marriage
By Tracy Simmons — Religion News Service
Opponents, however, are determined to overturn the measure by collecting enough signatures to send it to the ballot box. If they collect more than 120,000 names…the law will be put on hold until the November election.

Speaking out for same-sex marriage law, black minister stands apart
By Miranda S. Spivack — Washington Post
[Rev. Delman] Coates… testified with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley during a contentious hearing in Annapolis in support of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Coates is among few African American preachers in Maryland who support the bill…

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FPL News Reel : February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012, 2:00 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel

Both Catholic Health Assn and Planned Parenthood Say They’re Pleased With Contraception Rule Announcement
By Jake Tapper — ABC News
Though they’re on opposite sides of the birth control and abortion debate, both Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued statements Friday morning applauding the compromise…

Evangelicals added weight to Catholic outcry over Obama contraception rule
By Eric Marrapodi — CNN, Belief Blog
…in pushing the White House to change the rule, Catholics were joined by a politically formidable religious group that’s OK with contraception but increasingly sensitive about what they say is a government bent on secularizing the public square: evangelical Christians.

Anatomy of a Mortgage Deal
By Harold Meyerson — American Prospect, Opinion
It’s far from perfect, but a new settlement between homeowners and banks empowers attorneys general to prosecute lenders.

Mortgage Settlement Reached: A Beginning, Not an End
By George Zornick — The Nation
In short: the biggest battles have yet to be fought. And that’s a significant victory, considering the initial deal was supposedly going to let the banks off the hook on just about everything.

Money and Morals
By Paul Krugman — New York Times, Opinion
Lately inequality has re-entered the national conversation…So you knew what was going to happen next. Suddenly, conservatives are telling us that it’s not really about money; it’s about morals.

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say
By Sabrina Tavernise — New York Times
Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.

Backlash against Kris Kobach on immigration is growing
By Mary Sanchez — Kansas City Star, Opinion
“Backlash built this week against the Kansas secretary of state for gallivanting state-to-state, drumming up support for laws bent on driving illegal immigrants out….No, Kobach’s supporters are barking back now. The legislators and taxpayers who bought into his schemes to make the lives of illegal immigrants so hellish that they “self-deport.”

Occupy Our Faith
By Carol Howard Merritt — Christian Century
Why will the movements persist even after the tent poles have been folded up? Because the problems that the Occupiers lifted up are real and they ought to grab people of faith.

As warden, she oversaw executions; now she fights to stop them
By Jacqueline Gilvard Landry — National Catholic Reporter
Woodford became executive director of Death Penalty Focus in April 2011. The nonprofit is part of the SAFE California campaign, but its mission extends beyond California to abolish the death penalty nationally.

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FPL News Reel: February 9, 2012

February 9, 2012, 5:56 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel

Proof that Romney really doesn’t care about the poor
By Andrew Leonard — Salon
David Cay Johnston, tax reporter extraordinaire, takes a close look at Romney’s tax proposals and discovers something…: Romney really doesn’t care about the poor. Romney’s plan, writes Johnston, “would raise taxes on the poorest 125 million Americans while tilting tax cuts further toward the rich.”

Did Santorum Win Big Or Win Squat? What’s A Nation To Believe?
By Ron Elving — NPR
Not only was the Missouri vote a “beauty contest,” binding no delegates, but the turnout there was less than 6 percent of the voting-age population — a paltry number for a statewide primary. Moreover, Missouri’s results were a bit askew because Gingrich did not get on the ballot.

Why White House sees political opportunity in the contraception battle
By Sarah Kliff — Washington Post, Wonkblog
…the White House sees… a chance to widen the reproductive health debate beyond abortion to issues like contraceptives, winning over key demographics of independent voters in the process.

The Contraception Coverage Debate Isn’t Just About the Bishops
By Amy Sullivan — Atlantic, Opinion
[Obama] and his administration committed an unforced error with this policy decision, but he can and should correct it. Admitting that the administration’s initial solution was insufficient isn’t weak. It’s doing right by the brave Catholics who made his health reform law — and this contraception coverage mandate — possible in the first place.

Welcoming the Stranger: Immigration and G92
By Matthew Soerens — God’s Politics Blog
Whether what is happening in Alabama as a result of this law — and, as the program reveals, a great deal is happening, even if most of us outside of the state aren’t paying attention — was the intention of the bill’s authors and supporters is not entirely clear. What is clear, from a Christian perspective, is that the effects are devastating.

Report calls Muslim terrorism a ‘minuscule threat’
By Omar Sacirbey — Religion News Service
The threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism is “tiny” and often exaggerated by government officials, a leading anti-terrorism expert said in a report released Wednesday (Feb. 8).

Group of religious leaders urge legislators to keep Voter ID off ballot
By Rose French — Minnesota Star-Tribune, Acts of Faith
Leaders from different faiths groups gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to voice their opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to have a photo ID.

Clergy Launch Campaign For Student Loan Forgiveness, Aim To Qualify For ‘Public Service’ Rule
By Jaweed Kaleem — Huffington Post
In the small world of seminary training and professional religious jobs, the news that the public service loan forgiveness provision is not an option for religious workers has thrown a wrench in the plans of young pastors, rabbis, imams and other members a profession already known for low pay, long hours and high stress.

10 Things You Should Know About Religion in the 2012 Elections
By Sally Steenland — Center for American Progress
Despite the headline-grabbing appeal of the sensational and the strange, a number of important religious issues and trends have been under-the-radar, misinterpreted, or invisible in the 2012 campaign. Here are 10 things to know about religion that are likely to influence elections this year.

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