Cartoon to Start the Day

August 15, 2006, 11:06 am | Posted by

A good laugh from yesterday’s Boston Globe.

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Down, Religious Right Groups Lie, Role Over

August 9, 2006, 2:59 pm | Posted by

Today, the Center for American Progress reports that:

Focus on the Family has mailed brochures to more than 90,000 Missouri homes, arguing that stem cell research under the Missouri ballot initiative would exploit women by luring them into dangerous egg donations. The brochure, “Women’s voices against cloning,” quotes several women’s organizations to show “the risks that this measure [Missouri ballot initiative] poses to women’s health.” The Progress Report spoke with several of the women’s organizations quoted in the brochure who said that Focus on the Family misrepresented their positions and they disagree with the organization’s aims to ban stem cell research. Judy Norsigian, author of Our Bodies, Ourselves, said that while she has some concerns about the somatic cell nuclear transplant (SCNT) technique, she is actually “very supportive of most embryonic stem cell research.”

This follows a disturbing trend among right wing religious groups, one of not checking their facts and even mispresenting reality.

For example, the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures states that the opponents’ argument, that supporters of the Stem Cell Initiative “have a ‘profit motive’ for wanting to pursue stem cell cures, is false and absurd. The truth is, the major medical institutions involved in stem cell research in Missouri – such as the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri – are non-profit institutions.”

Yesterday, the Colorado Springs Independent reported that Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals attacked the Christian Coalition. Why? Because according to him (not the New York Times) the Christian Coalition twisted words. According to his associate pastor, “he was saying the Christian Coalition is not a reliable source of information for Christians.” Ouch!

And finally, the Columbus Dispatch reports:

By Thursday, [GOP] state Chairman Robert T. Bennett knew the party had been caught red-handed and issued an apology to the victim, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee for governor. But the scurrilous mission had been accomplished: Let the whispering campaign begin.

The attack had nothing to do with records or resumes or policy. It was brutally personal — and a lie. The message the GOP had asked its followers to spread across the Ohioscape is that Strickland and his wife are gay, never mind their nearly 20 years of marriage.

In yet another perversion of religion, the state party hired a conservative Christian to do the dirty work, using a computer at party headquarters to spread the rumor via e-mail to “profamily” conservatives. Gary Lankford, headmaster of a Christian home school, started in early July as the Ohio GOP’s “social conservative coordinator.”

That’s four recent examples. Whether a person is progressive or conservative, sloppy research and deliberate dishonesty hurts the cause of faith. As became clear in Ralph Reed’s Georgia defeat, decent folks with faith-full traditions of honesty and good work are beginning to see in the endorsement of Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, and Restoration Ohio a dogged reason to doubt.

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Words of Thanks

August 8, 2006, 3:42 pm | Posted by

I want to thank both Amy and Thurman for taking the time for their stimulating exchange of ideas last week on this blog. It modeled the freedom to discuss controversial topics and civility of tone that should characterize public debates. Faith in Public LIVE will bring similar extended debates to you on a regular basis in this space, so stay tuned in coming weeks.

I also want to take a moment to thank our summer interns who have done such great work with us and are beginning to depart. Lauren, Dave and Alex are sure to go on from here to do fantastic work for justice and the common good in the years ahead. We’ve been lucky to have them in our camp during this exciting summer, and look forward to the arrival of our interns for this fall.

Blessings,

Rev. Jennifer Butler

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Faith in Public LIVE: XPatriated Texan Wraps It Up (Part 8)

August 4, 2006, 6:15 pm | Posted by

Since both David and Amy are busy today, I’ll take on the task of trying to wrap things up. I believe I can summarize Amy’s position as this:

The Casey campaign in Pennsylvania provides an excellent example of how and why Democrats should broaden their appeal to include faith-based groups that can be hostile to some Party positions. By insisting on fair implementation of legal requirements, the Casey campaign turned what appeared to be a partisan-front organization into at least a neutral organization. This is being repeated at state and county levels throughout the country that Democratic chairs are finding that they are the first Democrat ever to talk to some religious leaders. While it won’t convert people overnight, it will at least establish a dialogue and create an atmosphere of mutual respect. This is a promising development and should be embraced by Democrats everywhere.

I agree that it is a promising development, but I caution against making too much of a single example. If the only way to make inroads is to change what we stand for, then we have effectively lost the battle anyway. What I believe we need to do, as Faithful Left activists, is to better organize and to better annunciate a theology upon which liberal ideology can rest. That’s difficult work to do, and it’s going to be messy and a lot of toes are going to be stepped on. But I believe it is vital work if there is to be any longterm “Faithful Left”.

David pointed out that at least some of this work has already been started. We don’t have to start from scratch and that there is still a good bit of work that can be done simply by reaching out to existing groups and letting them know that we exist. Both Amy and I agree with him on this issue and see greater organization (but not necessarily centralization) as a benefit.

Best,

XT

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Faith in Public LIVE: XPatriated Texan on Spending Time Wisely and Developing an Ideological Core (Part 7)

August 3, 2006, 2:19 pm | Posted by

Dear Amy and David,

Don’t worry about the optimism, Amy. We all need plenty of it! Actually, I’m fairly optimistic as well, I guess I just look for boulders on the highway too much.

I realize that I need to clarify something. I don’t think that Casey was able to demand equal time because of his pro-life credentials. That is pure political strategy and simply using the law as it was intended. I still think, however, that his reception by the group has more to do with his pro-life stance than anything else. They may respect him for standing up to his party on abortion and to conservatives on gay marriage, but that’s because he manages to stand up to different people on the two issues. If he was also pro-choice, then he’d have left a much different feeling in their bellies when he walked away. He still could have demanded, and probably received, fair and equal time. The result would have been different, though. In fact, I doubt he’d have decided it was worth his time.

The most precious resource in any campaign is time. The PPN has maybe three or four issues about which they want to hear a candidate speak. If he’s against them on all four, there’s no chance he’ll convince a voter to vote for him. From a campaign perspective, that’s a waste of time. That’s why Democrats have, for so long, eschewed many religious groups. It isn’t going to help them and they might say something that really gets the religious people lathered up. It’s better to let a sleeping dog lie.

In Casey’s case, his pro-life position allows him to make the speech something besides a waste of time. There may be a few voters there that actually vote for him. Regardless, their attacks on him, as Amy points out, are going to be blunted. So while it isn’t his pro-life credentials that get him the time from a legal perspective, it is his pro-life credentials that make it worth his trouble.

The problem that this highlights is that there is no similar left-wing religious organization from which a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate could get an equal political boost. That’s an organizational problem. Pretty much everyone on the left understands that we are decades behind the right organizationally. I believe that is also tied to the lack of an ideological basis (in political terms) and a strong theological basis (in religious terms) for collective action. Until we find an answer for the charge that we “stand for nothing and fall for everything” we aren’t going to change that. People don’t generally get out of bed early to vote or take time away from their family to attend meetings dedicated to “good government” – but if you make it about “liberty” or “doing what is right for your kids”, then suddenly they are interested.

That is currently where the Prevention First strategy is. It’s good policy. As Amy points out, it will do more for cutting abortions than overturning Roe. But, while there is an ideological core to that policy, it is not well articulated. Therefore Senator Reid’s speech has some rhetorical highlights, but no really binding ideas that will draw people out of their shells. Because it lacks a well-crafted ideological core, the only soundbites are policy-heavy and can be spun so hard it makes your head hurt. “Better access to birth control pills” suddenly becomes “Your daughter will be given birth control by her PE teacher and you’ll never know it.”

I want to stress again that it isn’t solely the job of our politicians to make create this ideological core. In fact, due in large part to their need to appeal to a larger group, they can’t. It’s our job as liberal activists to create a rhetorical base that our leaders can tie into in order to make those sound bites. “That isn’t conservative,” was a ludicrous statement twenty years ago. Today, everyone knows what it means – or at least they think they do. Either way, the core is there and it can be used to spin off sound bites in every direction. Since it’s my idea to bell the cat, I’ll take a short stab at it – with the understanding that it is likely to make a lot of people uncomfortable. But I think I’ll do it at my site rather than further sidetracking the conversation here.

Instead, I’ll end today by encouraging the party chairs who are reaching out to groups that may have been less than friendly in the past. You can’t steer a parked car, and it’s better to try and steer some of the politically active in our direction than it is to build an entirely new field of politically active persons. I don’t think that all of these groups are as conservative as the PPN. Rather, they are more “Republican leaning” groups that head in that direction because Democrats simply haven’t tried to engage them. Rectifying that oversight should put a number of races into play that wouldn’t be otherwise. If nothing else, it should help us engage a wider electorate and that should help us be more respectful of differences and perhaps – dare we hope? – bring a more civil discourse to our politics.

All the Best,

Thurman

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