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Guthrie interned at Faith in Public Life in Spring 2011.

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand: A Love Affair Against the Common Good

April 11, 2011, 12:33 pm | By ggraves-fitzsimmons

paul ryan.jpgThis week’s Newsweek features a fascinating portrait of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as an acolyte of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Rand, of course, is perhaps the archetypical enemy of the common good. Jonathan Chait writes:

The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites…

One conservative making that point was Ryan. His citation of Rand was not casual. He’s a Rand nut. In the days before his star turn as America’s Accountant, Ryan once appeared at a gathering to honor her philosophy, where he announced, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He continues to view Rand as a lodestar, requiring his staffers to digest her creepy tracts.

While Rand criticized Marxism, she joined in Marx’s condemnation of religion. She called Christianity the “”the best kindergarten of communism possible.” An avid atheist, she saw religions’ support for the common good as antithetical to her individualistic philosophy.

As Paul Ryan leads the Republicans push towards immoral cuts to programs protecting families and the poor while giving tax breaks to millionaires, we must remember his proposal is rooted in Ayn Rand’s twisted view of individualism, not the commitment to the common good that runs through all religions.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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Latino Catholics Support Gay Rights

March 29, 2011, 11:49 am | By ggraves-fitzsimmons

The US Census Bureau reports the Hispanic population is rapidly growing. It accounted for more than half of population growth in the United States in the last decade. 1 in 6 Americans now identifies as Hispanic, as do 1 in 4 American children. And since the vast majority of Hispanics are Catholic (with a growing segment identifying as evangelical or Pentecostal), it’s also important to note that Public Religion Research Institute recently found that Catholic support for gay marriage and civil unions is on the rise.

Conventional wisdom says that while the Hispanic population leans progressive because of immigration, their Catholicism makes them, as a whole, more conservative on social issues. The census report finds otherwise. Latino Catholics support marriage equality more than their white counterparts and far out pace white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and white evangelical Protestants.

Latino Catholic Marriage Support.jpg

The one caveat is that support for civil unions among Latino Catholics is relatively low, demonstrating a divide between those who support full marriage rights for LGBT couples and those who prefer no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. But on the whole, Latino Catholics are more supportive of marriage rights for LGBT couples than any other religious-ethnic group. Going forward, their opinions will be increasingly more important in determining national policy on this issue.

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Just Intervention: Libya and Iraq Compared

March 23, 2011, 4:25 pm | By ggraves-fitzsimmons

As the U.S. takes military action in a third Arab country, it’s important to evaluate the moral considerations of our engagement in Libya. Just War Theory, a centuries-old tradition rooted in Catholic social teaching, can help guide our ethical analysis. As outlined below, just war theory lays out the following key criterion for intervention: just cause, proper authority, right intention, reasonable hope for success, proportionality and last resort. Over at U.S. Catholic magazine, managing editor Bryan Cones is skeptical:

Less than a week into this operation, I worry that what we have is another intervention by Western colonial powers to secure the natural resources of a weaker nation. Muammar Gaddafi, like Saddam Hussein before him, may be a bad man who does cruel things and oppresses his people. But the world is filled with those kinds of people, and we aren’t bombing them.

Other critics, including Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, have made stark comparisons between Bush-era unilateralism and the Obama administration’s rationale for intervention. However, as we evaluate this conflict through a moral lens, we should acknowledge its complexity and pay attention to careful nuance. Using just war theory, it’s helpful to put Libya side-by-side with the Iraq War.

VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
The Architects of Intervention

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; NSC Senior Director for Human Rights, Democracy, and Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power; US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice
Weapons of Mass Destruction, Global War on Terrorism, 9/11, Iraq’s history of hostility toward the US, especially in the first Gulf War, and Saddam Hussein’s repression of civilians
Just Cause

Preventing attacks on innocent civilians and potential genocide; Removing dictator Muammar Gaddafi
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the war as illegal, saying in a September 2004 interview that it was “not in conformity with the Security Council.” In lieu of UN Security Council authorization, Bush claimed authority from a “coalition of the willing,” which included troops from the UK, Australia, and Poland.
Proper Authority

UN Security Council Resolution 1973, authorizing “all necessary measures” to enforce no-fly zone and protect civilians – called for by the Arab League, France, and the UK; full support of UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon
Highly debatable: Cheney and Co., all part of the Project for the New American Century, called for increasing the U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and specifically for invading Iraq as early as 1998. Blighted track record on supporting human rights and unilateral march to war against the will of the UN.
Right Intention

Consistent and proven over time: Samantha Power, the world’s leading expert on genocide and Founding Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard; Susan Rice, Senior Director for Africa on the National Security Council during the Rwandan genocide, has vowed not to see that tragedy repeated and Hillary Clinton (whose husband called not intervening in Rwanda the greatest regret of his Presidency) all have strong track records of supporting human rights.
Defeating the Iraqi Army was easy for the US, but invasion led to occupation, which led to nation-building, which has had mixed results. US still in the country 8 years later.
Reasonable Hope for Success

Enforcing a No-Fly Zone has been successful; preventing genocide seems to be initially successful; pro-Gaddafi forces have stopped their advance on Benghazi.
Shock-and-Awe, full-scale invasion, followed by 8 years and counting of occupation.

Surgical strikes to disable Libya’s air defenses to allow the French and Qatari planes to patrol the No-Fly Zone and the protection of civilians; the mission is limited to enforcing the UN Resolution, which explicitly rules out direct ground intervention that could lead to occupation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was responsible for inspecting Iraq for WMDs, wanted more time. President Bush did give Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave the country, and only then used force to remove him.
Last Resort

Pro-Gaddafi forces were closing in on rebel stronghold in Benghazi, meaning it was no-fly zone or a very good chance of Gaddafi taking back the entire country and having “no mercy;” continuing the apparent genocide he already started.

On CNN, President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya may look similar to President Bush’s march to war in Iraq, but a closer examination reveals important differences.

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Celebrating Health Care Reform

March 22, 2011, 2:50 pm | By ggraves-fitzsimmons

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act turns one year old this week, marking the anniversary of passing this landmark legislation which makes quality health care affordable for millions of un- and under-insured American families, and ends the insurance industry’s most abusive practices. As part of this effort, Faithful America and PICO teamed up to run radio ads on Christian stations in four cities. The ads feature the stories of local people in each city who have already been helped by the health care law:



New Orleans

Kansas City

We’ll also be blogging all this week on how the law works and the ways it’s already helping different groups of Americans.

FPL, along with many faith groups, played in indispensable role in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As we continue the effort to implement the law and defend it from ideologically motivated repeal efforts, it’s nice to pause for a moment and celebrate our success one year ago.

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AUDIO: Kim Bobo and Robby Jones on State of Belief

March 1, 2011, 3:50 pm | By ggraves-fitzsimmons

This weekend, Interfaith Alliance’s podcast State of Belief featured regular FPL allies Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, and Dr. Robby Jones, President and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute.

Kim spoke on the showdown in Wisconsin between unions and Republican Governor Scott Walker. “People are saying this is just wrong, this is not what our traditions teach,” she said. Kim also reported that the 50,000-person strong march on Saturday featured religious leaders in the front of the line, and said the effort represents “Full-court engagement by the religious community on this fundamental right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining.”

Robby spoke about his organization’s poll investigating public opinion of Rep. Peter King’s planned hearings on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” He reported that “Despite the fears that divide Americans along party lines, there is a broad consensus that the hearings should not be focused only on the Muslim community, but instead on religious extremism in all its forms.”

You can listen to the entire show here.

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