Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed!

December 18, 2010, 4:56 pm | Posted by

By a final vote of 65-31, the Senate just voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military’s 17-year-old policy of discrimination against LGBT service members. This victory is a pretty remarkable reversal, considering that 40 Senators filibustered repeal last week, as well as in September. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has long been one of the religious right’s signature issues, and their rhetoric has ranged from the offensive to the apocalyptic. But despite their best efforts, an overwhelming majority of the American people support allowing gay and lesbian people to serve our country openly in the military, and Congress has finally heeded the public’s wishes and embraced American ideals by doing away with the military’s discriminatory practice of dismissing LGBT members of the military.

When Congress took up DADT repeal earlier this fall, my friend (and FPL board member) Rev. Derrick Harkins had this to say:

America’s military should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, just as they no longer discriminate on the basis of race. It’s an issue of basic fairness, as well as a practical matter. The military should not be hampered from recruiting and retaining well-trained, courageous men and women who want to serve their country. Repealing the outdated, impractical, unjust ban of gay and lesbian service members will strengthen America’s military and reflect American values.

Today Congress finally took this long-awaited step toward justice. History will not look kindly on those who used scare tactics and political maneuvering to stand in the way until the bitter end.

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USCCB President Archbishop Dolan Praises Controversial Bill Donohue

December 17, 2010, 10:02 am | Posted by

bill-donohue.jpgTaking to his blog yesterday, newly elected President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, wrote a piece entitled “Why we need the Catholic League, praising the right-wing Catholic group’s figurehead Bill Donohue for his most recent efforts to stir conservative outrage over a manufactured controversy.

Dolan frames Donohue as a noble defender of the Church from anti-Catholic attacks, but ignores Donohue’s controversial history–only acknowledging that “some may take occasional issue with his style.” But the criticism of Bill Donohue isn’t just about style, it’s about substance too. Specifically, his track record of offensive, untrue and stridently partisan statements raise many questions as to whether the top American bishop should be endorsing him.

Donohue’s problematic past includes promoting discredited links between pedophilia and homosexuality to scapegoat gays for the Church sex abuse crisis, blaming sex abuse victims for their abuse, calling Catholics he disagrees with “termites” and accusing them of disloyalty, and stoking anti-Muslim bigotry.

Donohue also has a troubling history of anti-Semitic comments. During an appearance on Scarborough Country in 2004 he claimed:

“Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, OK? And I’m not afraid to say it.”

And given the chance to explain or retract his remarks, he chose to defend them instead.

Donohue’s pattern of bombastic bullying and fear-mongering to stoke the culture wars represents the type of behavior that undermines the Church’s credibility in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Is this really the type of Catholicism Archbishop Dolan wants to endorse?

H/T Our Daily Thread

UPDATE: Catholics United has started a petition asking Archbishop Dolan to disassociate from Donohue.

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Working after Christmas–WWJD?

December 15, 2010, 1:38 pm | Posted by

Earlier this week Senate majority leader Harry Reid announced that he would forgo an extended holiday break and call Senators back to Washington after Christmas to finish all of their important work before the official end of the session on January 4th.

This announcement was welcome news to all Americans awaiting Congressional action on important items like extension of unemployment benefits, funding our troops, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, passage of the DREAM Act, and ratification of the nuclear START treaty.

But Senators Jim DeMint and Jon Kyl, who have been trying to delay votes on these issues, are upset. Rather than admitting their political reasons for opposing work, they’ve come up with a creative excuse: taking votes in the days around Christmas is “sacreligious” and “disrespectful” to Christians.

Mark Kleiman at The Reality-Based Community makes a good point that these Senators might want to check what their own faith tradition says about this very issue:

I would refer Sen. Kyl to the words of a famous rabbi who was challenged by his more orthodox colleagues for healing the sick on a Saturday: Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?

UPDATE: Kyl and DeMint’s comments have caught the eye of national Christian leaders. American Values Network compiled a list today of statements pushing back on these claims:

Christian Leaders Condemn Kyl/DeMint Attempt to Use

Christmas to Derail New START

Arlington, VA–Prominent Christian leaders joined together to decry recent statements by Senator Kyl and Senator DeMint that a vote on New START would be “disrespect[ful]” to Christians and “sacrilegious.” These statements follow a joint press conference last week by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and National Association of Evangelicals calling on the Senate to ratify New START before it recessed–a sentiment that has been echoed by the National Council of Churches and other Christian bodies representing believers from across the theological and denominational spectrum. These leaders argue that Christmas is the perfect justification for the Senate to be working to pass a treaty that is aimed at bringing peace on earth.

“Senator Kyl’s and DeMint’s statements suggesting Christmas is a reason to delay action on a treaty aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear war is a misuse of the Christian holiday. If anything this time of year should be an encouragement for our leaders to work harder for peace on earth in response to God who wills peace for all. Peace is major theme of the Advent season and celebration of Christmas. The National Council of Churches looks forward to being able to celebrate ratification of this treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles and improve verification. Any delay would be contrary to our commitment to peace on earth.”

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches

“In the season when “Peace on earth…” was declared at the coming of the Prince of Peace, there is no better time to ratify the new START Treaty that will make peace and our national security more certain.”

Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, evangelical mega church pastor

“I can think of no more appropriate time of year for the Senate to pass a treaty that promotes peace and good will. Surely that is the kind of gift that is worthy to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. For two Senators who have steadfastly opposed this on political grounds to now use Christmas to justify their position is a cynical manipulation of religion in the worst possible way. It is this manipulation of the Christmas season that is truly sacrilegious.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder Sojourners

“The American Catholic bishops have called on the Senate to ratify the New START agreement. To do so now, in this season that for many marks the birth of the Prince of Peace, would be especially poignant. Senators Kyl and DeMint insist that working on New START over the holidays would dishonor people of faith. That’s transparent. Working men and women are at their jobs in this holy season—before Christmas, after Christmas, and for some even on Christmas Day. I’m convinced the Christ Child specially blesses those first responders, military personnel, health care providers, and other emergency workers who spend His birthday in service to others. Senators, truly honor Christians. Stay at your desks until this work to which you have been called is resolved.”

Stephen Schneck, Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

“Christians can disagree in good faith on the best way to apply our faith in the public arena, but the statements by Senator Kyl and DeMint are the worst examples of faith in politics. They have been working to kill START for weeks. A concern for the faithful isn’t driving their arguments or they would have mentioned faith earlier and Senator DeMint wouldn’t be working to push the debate until Christmas. This is cynical partisan politics masquerading as piety, and our leaders should be above that.”

Eric Sapp, Executive Director, American Values Network

“The attempt by New START opponents to use Christmas for tactical political advantage is profoundly offensive for three reasons. First, this move represents the worst mix of religion and politics. As one who ministers among a rising generation of Christians, I see countless peers walking away from their Evangelical faith because political tactics just like this have sullied the name of Christianity. Our belief motivates us to bring a moral witness to the democratic process — but the cold-blooded use of religion as a political weapon dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ and harms the evangelistic integrity of his church.

Second, the claims made by Treaty opponents are patently unbiblical. The teaching of the New Testament, from Jesus Christ (cf. Mark 2:27) to Paul (cf. Rom 14.5-6), makes clear that the work of righteousness, justice and compassion should never be pre-empted by a legalistic appeal to holidays. And it would be all the more abhorrent if the Prince of Peace’s birth were used to stop a measure to reduce nuclear weapons. Third, those of us who stand within the Just War tradition believe that military service should be exercised as a vocation of peacemaking. The American servicemen and -women deployed abroad will not spend Christmas with their families, nor will they take the day off. Though we wish that all Christians could be with their loved ones this holiday, it should not be too much to ask that Congress not abdicate their duty while so many stand in harm’s way. I hope and pray that all American Christians, especially pastors, will publicly reject any attempt to use our faith for tactical political gain.”

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Founder of Two Futures Project, Chairman of Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons for World Evangelical Alliance

“I think it is more disrespectful to the Prince of Peace to kill a vote on the START Treaty than to vote on that treaty one week after Christmas. Call the session, Mr. Reid. Vote yes, Mr. Kyl and Mr. DeMint, then you can go back home to your families.”

Rev. Dr. David P. Gushee, Co-Founder and Board Chair, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Contact: Eric Sapp, American Values Network


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Praying for DREAM

December 15, 2010, 9:23 am | Posted by

Yesterday over 100 faith leaders and DREAM students from around the country descended on Capitol Hill for an emergency prayer summit, Jericho March around Senate office buildings and visits with key Senate offices advocating for the DREAM Act.

The day started in the chapel of the United Methodist building where Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders and courageous immigrant students who will a gain a chance to achieve their dreams if the bill passes articulated the moral imperative to pass this bill. The inspiring group then marched hand-in-hand around the Senate office buildings, singing hymns all along the way and stopping for a moving prayer service before fanning out in the Hart Senate office building to press their Senators to show moral courage and vote yes on the DREAM Act.

Watch highlights of the day here:

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160 Million Killers, ctd.

December 14, 2010, 1:50 pm | Posted by

Last week I commented on Glenn Beck’s false assertion that 10% of Muslims are terrorists. Thankfully, this didn’t go unnoticed by the wider media either. Fareed Zakaria took to his show on Sunday to call out Beck’s math and his producer’s attempts to justify the smear.

Zakaria does a good job explaining why Beck is wrong, but I think he accidentally hurts his cause by citing an inexact number. Quoting CNN national security expert Peter Bergen, Zakaria says official estimates for the number of terrorists are actually 0.1% Unfortunately, I think either Bergen or Zakaria misspoke (understandable when discussing such small numbers). As I wrote about in an earlier post, 0.1% is still around 1.6 million terrorists, a glaringly high number.

But on the whole, Zakaria’s argument devastates Beck’s absurd claim. Drawing on official State Department data, Zakaria shows that there were 11,000 terror attacks recorded worldwide in 2009. Being generous to Beck, Zakaria shows that even if 100 terrorists were involved in each attack, the total would only be around 1.1 million, putting Beck off by hundreds of millions.

It doesn’t take much precision to best Beck, but the numbers Zakaria cites actually can help us drill down even further. As Zakaria mentions, most of these attacks were committed not by hundreds of terrorists, but by just a handful. Moreover, many of these attackers are repeat offenders. Organizations like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are responsible for hundreds of these attacks by themselves. In fact, the State Department identifies only about 220 groups worldwide responsible for the 11,000 attacks.

Finally, this data is not limited to Islamic terrorists; it includes attacks committed by groups and individuals that span the religious and political spectrum from Columbian drug groups to African Christians and South Asian separatists among others.

While the report gives the estimated strength of some of the listed groups, it doesn’t provide a total estimate of Islamic terrorists. Still it’s nowhere near the 1.6 million mark. More likely are projections by experts like former US counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke who estimates that there are somewhere between 50,000-200,000 members of jihadist groups who are actively involved in terrorist activity.

Zakaria’s push back is a great start towards setting the record straight on Beck’s pernicious attack and others like it. I hope next time he’ll make the case even more thoroughly. Those who blame millions of Muslims for the terrorist acts of a very few deserve to be utterly discredited.

Via Mark Barna at The Pulpit

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