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A Valentine Without Love

February 14, 2011, 5:06 pm | By Nick Sementelli

budget_valentine.jpgLast week we blogged about the House GOP’s proposed budget cuts, which would cause great hardship for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet in our weak economic climate. The White House released its official budget proposal today, and while it protects many of the needed programs the GOP wants to destroy, it still includes painful reductions in programs essential to American families.

As a budget showdown looms and crucial protections for families are threatened, prominent faith leaders are sending a special message to elected officials today reminding them that “a budget that leaves out families is like a valentine that leaves out love.”

Behind the effort:

  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  • Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
  • Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Read the full press release here.

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Rep. King Changes Position on Having Law Enforcement Officials Testify at ‘Radicalization’ Hearings

February 9, 2011, 3:12 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Yesterday, Greg Sargent highlighted a New York Times piece in which Rep. Peter King revealed that he will not be having law enforcement officials testify on his hearings about the supposed “non-cooperation” of the Muslim community with authorities.

On Fox News this morning, though, King apparently changed his mind:

KING: I will have them on. That is, again, a totally phony charge. What I said in the New York Times is it’s hard to get active law enforcement professionals to come forward and say publicly what they say privately. But I will have law enforcement people testify.

Of course, it’s not actually hard to find law enforcement officials willing to speak publicly about this issue.

What does appear to be difficult is finding officials willing to testify to the false argument that Muslims don’t cooperate with law enforcement. If all of King’s sources get cold feet when asked to publicly defend their claims, maybe King should re-evaluate their credibility.

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LA County Sheriff Rebukes Rep. King’s Claims

February 8, 2011, 11:54 am | By Nick Sementelli

Rep. Peter King’s central justification for his hearings on “Muslim radicalization” has been the claim that American Muslims aren’t cooperating with counter-terrorism efforts. Despite the statistical evidence to the contrary, King maintains that he’s only relaying the complaints he hears from law enforcement professionals.

While King keeps the details of these complaints private, others who speak up publicly often have something different to say.

Yesterday, at a panel organized by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca commented directly on the upcoming hearings (via Ben Smith):

“If he has evidence of non-cooperation, he should bring it forward…We have as much cooperation as we are capable of acquiring through public trust relationships.”

“I sit on the Major City chiefs association as one of three chairs,” said Baca. “I also sit on the Major County Sheriff’s Association and I’m on the national board of directors of the international association for the sheriffs departments. Here’s the thing: I don’t know what Mr. King is hearing or who he’s hearing it from.”

“Muslim Americans in the county of Los Angeles have been overwhelmingly astounded by terrorist attacks — like everyone else — and overwhelmingly concerned about a non-repeat performance of that kind – and are willing to get involved and help,” said Baca.

These comments echo others by various national security experts who work directly on this issue. Hopefully their opinions will be included in King’s hearings as well.

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A Thorn By Any Other Name

February 8, 2011, 9:34 am | By Nick Sementelli

Thorn.jpgA little-noticed press release on Friday from the House Committee on Homeland Security (chaired by Rep. Peter King) included a big update to King’s upcoming hearings on “radicalization” in the Muslim-American community.

In the “Long-term Outlook” section, the release notes an important change in the description of the hearings:

In March, the Committee will convene the first in a series of hearings examining al Qaeda’s coordinated radicalization and recruitment of people within the American Muslim community.

It would be nice if this new focus on al Qaeda meant King was limiting his hearings to evidence-backed claims about particular terror incidents, but that seems unlikely. So far he has shown no signs that he intends to retract his allegations that radicalization is widespread amongst American Muslims or dis-invite witnesses who attack mainstream Muslim organizations as secret radicals.

In the absence of such changes, the new description seems nothing more than a cosmetic alteration that does not address the faith community’s serious concerns about the hearings.

(Photo by John Desjarlais –Flickr)

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Media Hit of the Week

February 4, 2011, 5:55 pm | By Nick Sementelli

As the health care repeal vote took place in the Senate this week, faith leaders continued to make the moral case for reform. We worked with evangelical megachurch pastor Joel Hunter to place an op-ed in The Hill the day of the vote.

We should not rush a debate about dismantling legislation that was crafted over many months of study and expert input. Provisions that ease suffering, save lives, and attend to the most vulnerable are just now getting started. We can’t turn our backs on those who are already receiving needed protections and benefits: children who will no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, seniors who can now afford prescriptions and seriously ill patients who can no longer be dropped by their insurers. And we cannot forget the millions of Americans who still need the provisions of health care reform that have yet to take effect.

We must not in haste take away concrete protections if all we offer in replacement are vague assurances that we will pass something better at an undetermined point in the future. We must treat the debate as if lives are at stake – because they are. If the Affordable Care Act were repealed tomorrow, how long would it take to reinstitute the protections that are already making a difference for vulnerable Americans?

Read the whole piece here.

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