*For RealAbortionSolutions.org, FPL built a coalition of religious leaders who were already dedicated to common ground solutions to reduce abortions to support an ad campaign to raise awareness about this approach. So far, ads have run in 11 states and during the March for Life in Washington, DC.
Tomorrow, Jan. 22, there will be “March for Life” and other anti-abortion rallies all across the U.S. Anti-abortion (or pro-life, if you prefer) groups are especially concerned right now that Congress will pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which would expand abortion rights. The abortion-rights lobby is hoping for a reversal of what they see as restrictive policies under the Bush administration. So there is the potential for increased polarization on the issue. Faith in Public Life and a coalition of “progressive evangelicals” are trying to find middle ground. They’re running print and radio ads condemning the high number of abortions but proposing a four-point solution: expand adoption; support pregnant women and new mothers; increase pre- and post-natal health care; and prevent unwanted pregnancies. The last one means stronger sex education, sure to be controversial. And note there is no mention of legal restrictions on abortions. So it seems unlikely firm pro-life groups will go for the “third way.” It seems more aimed at the public, which polls indicate favor keeping abortion legal but don’t like the high numbers.
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Religious and rights groups are calling on President Barack Obama to make good on his popular catchphrase “Change is coming!” by flooding him with letters requesting support and attention to special causes.
Several groups have already asked the new president to put into action his promise to unite people that traditionally have been in conflict.
Just ahead of the inauguration, several prominent evangelical and progressive leaders came together to issue a “common values” agenda covering divisive cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration reform, and torture.
In the letter sent to President Obama and congressional leaders, the formerly at odds partners offered “a shared vision and a plan for ending the cultural wars.”
Together the two sides called for the reduction of abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.
Moderate evangelical and secular progressive leaders also called on the protection of the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living with an exemption for faith-based employers to refuse to hire on the basis of sexual orientation.
Other issues they agreed on include the unequivocal renouncement of torture by the government and support for an immigration reform that paves the way to an earned path of citizenship for most undocumented residents.
“The culture wars have been characterized by vilifying those who differ from us on provocative issues and treating them as traitors and threats,” said the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Florida.
“I believe we can end those wars by thinking of our differences as ways we can learn from each other and advance without compromising core values,” he said.
Pastor Joel Hunter has prayed with President Obama on several occasions, including during a private pre-inauguration service held at St. John’s Church across from the White House on Tuesday; over the phone on Election Day Nov. 4, before Obama was declared the winner, and at the closing of the Democratic National Convention.
The “Common Values” agenda was spearheaded by Third Way and also included the support of Dr. David Gushee of Mercer University, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, Dr. Robert P. Jones of Public Religion Research, and Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life.
Meanwhile, International Justice Mission – a ministry that works to free those victimized by violent crimes such as sexual violence, trafficking, and slavery – is asking the Obama administration and Congress to make the public justice system more capable of protecting the poor and vulnerable.
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Human rights advocates and religious leaders are calling on President-elect Barack Obama to use his first hundred days in office to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and repudiate the policies of President George W. Bush on an array of issues ranging from detainee torture and rendition to warrantless wiretapping and signing statements.
But with the nation facing the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is unclear whether human rights will become the top priority of the Obama Administration and its allies in Congress.
Nonetheless, such leading organizations as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Human Rights First are demanding that the President-elect take the lead in effecting speedy action.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wants the Obama Administration to close the CIA’s secret detention centers permanently, apply to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the rules used by the U.S. military to prevent coercive interrogation, close the Guantanamo detention center, repatriate or prosecute all detainees, and ensure that prosecutions are conducted in regular courts, not the “substandard” military commissions.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW said, “Barack Obama must seize back the US leadership in global human rights squandered by outgoing President George Bush in Guantanamo Bay and other scandals.”
The group issued a 564-page report on the state of human rights around the world. The report charged that governments opposing basic rights, including those in Russia and China, had rushed to fill a vacuum left by the United States.
It blamed Bush’s “abandonment of long-held principles, including opposition to torture, in the U.S. war against Islamist militants,” but said Obama “could repair the damage once he takes office on January 20. “There is an enormous need for the Obama administration to redeem America’s reputation,” Roth added.
At the same time, a coalition of equally prominent groups issued a similar “Human Rights Call to Action” at a summit in Washington last week. It demanded that the Obama Administration put an end to “torture, arbitrary detention, and extraordinary rendition, including closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and rejecting preventive detention models; ending surveillance abuses, attacks on dissent, and targeting of immigrant groups and other communities of color; and ensuring human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.”
The summit included the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Constitution Project, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the National Lawyers Guild, the Partnership for Civil Justice, the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition, the US Human Rights Network, and Witness Against Torture
Similar demands are being made by a number of religious leaders and organizations.
National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is urging Obama to issue an executive order ending torture one of his first official acts in office. A letter to the President-elect, signed by close to three dozen prominent religious leaders representing America’s diverse faith traditions, said, “Such a step will help the United States to regain the moral high ground and restore our credibility within the international community at this critical time.”
The organization also joined a number of other groups in calling for “an investigation of torture policies and practices since 9/11.” Rev. Richard L. Killmer, NRCAT Executive Director, told us, “In order to create safeguards to make sure that torture does not happen again, it is important to understand what happened. NRCAT supports an independent non-partisan committee of inquiry with subpoena power and sufficient funding to do a thorough investigation and issue a comprehensive report.”
He added, “I think about my seven grandchildren. I can imagine that some day they will say that the United States used to torture, but we don’t do that anymore. The challenge for our nation is to develop sufficient safeguards so that we don’t torture anymore. We need to understand what happen so that those safeguards can be created.”
Another group of prominent religious leaders presented the Obama Administration with what it called a “Come Let Us Reason Together” Agenda. As part of a multi-issue declaration, the group asserted that “The use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.”
Leaders of the group represent such organizations as Third Way, Public Religion Research, Evangelicals for Human Rights, Evangelicals for Social Action, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Faith in Public Life.
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Here’s the question I have for you: Can conservative, moderate and liberal people of faith join together and convince the Obama administration to support their agenda aimed at ending the culture war in America? Moreover, can it be implemented in some form or fashion?
The group “Third Way” is trying to do just that and this morning they have released their blueprint for legislatively tackling the hot button issues of abortion, marriage, torture and immigration. They are also meeting with Obama officials about their agenda today. The group Faith in Public Life has really been behind this effort for quite some time now.
The blueprint is called, “Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Agenda”. There are four main components highlighted below. My analysis follows.
Reducing abortions through common ground policies.
We agree on a goal of reducing abortions in America through policies that address the circumstances that lead to abortion: preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.
Protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living.
Based on a common commitment to fairness and the Golden Rule, we support a policy that makes it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation. We also believe that there must be a clear exemption for faith-based employers. It cedes the ‘right” ground which advances the gay cause
We agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.
Creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform.
We agree that we need secure, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform. We support policies that create an earned path to citizenship and protect families, while securing our borders and treating American taxpayers fairly.
You should read the details of the agenda here. It will give you a better sense of exactly what they are proposing.
Also, read Third Way’s letter to President-Elect Obama here
To see the conservative, moderate and liberal people of faith behind the effort click here.
Where shall I begin? Let’s start with a reality check. This agenda is no small task and the folks who put this together know it.
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Yesterday, evangelicals and political progressives took a significant step towards ending the polarizing “culture wars.” Through a process of dialogue with Faith in Public Life, Third Way and each other, these leaders found common ground on tough political questions from immigration reform to gay rights to abortion, without setting aside their principles.
This collaboration between unlikely allies demonstrates a model for finding a way forward on difficult political questions. We as citizens can learn a lot from this ethos of bridge-building; it’s certainly a productive way to engage with the political process. The agenda this coalition has rallied around – and for which they’ve already starting lobbying– will have significant political implications.
Say yes to working together and realizing our shared values. Sign on as a supporter of a common-ground approach to abortion by joining the Real Abortion Solutions Facebook group. This approach calls for increased access to adoption, the prevention of unintended pregnancies, support for women and families, and better pre- and post-natal healthcare. Also, become a Facebook fan of the common values governing agenda at “Come Let us Reason Together.”
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