The Baucus Ruckus
As health care reform moved through the Senate this week, Christian political advocacy groups eyed two amendments: one they lost and another they won. The groups carefully followed the Senate Finance Committee hearings on health care legislation proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mon.).
1. Banning Public Funding of Abortion
Several groups lobbied for an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to permanently ban federally funded abortions. Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, and the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) targeted Senators on the committee, but only one Democrat—Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)—voted for Hatch's amendment. The abortion ban failed with a vote of 13-10. Like many groups, Americans United for Life vowed to keep on the issue to ensure that lawmakers fail in any "attempt to 'mainstream' abortion as health care."
2. Funding Abstinence Education
Focus on the Family Action and other groups applauded the committee's decision to provide $50 million for abstinence education programs—funding that was missing from the original plan. The committee voted 12-11 in favor of funding. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) voted with the 10 Republican members of the committee.
President Jimmy Carter is not the only person to cite racism as a reason why people might challenge Obama and his proposals. Sojourners head Jim Wallis wrote that he sees at least some racial subtext in the opposition to Obama and his proposal. Ryan Rodrick Beiler wrote on Sojourners' blog that "the hatred being aimed at our current president is quantifiably different than that unleashed on Bush." Obama receives around 30 death threats daily, four times the number Bush received.
Ken Connor of the Center for a Just Society responded to racism claims, saying the accusations are baseless, and opposition to Obama "is rooted in policy, not prejudice."
Meanwhile, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), criticized Sojourners as having "an almost blind faith that The Welfare State can heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead. But more skeptical minds emphasize that even government programs with lofty goals often have unforeseen tragic and even sinister consequences."
Pro-Gay Bias at Fox News, Congress Weighs Discrimination Act
Focus on the Family Action's Drive Thru blog reported on a Fox News story about "gay" vultures in an Israeli zoo. The "fascinating" part of this story, the blog said, was the "unmistakably pro-gay media bias" at Fox News.
Congress is considering the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Focus on the Family Action opposes ENDA because it "will inevitably threaten the religious beliefs of those who oppose homosexual behavior" and will be costly for businesses.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council submitted testimony against ENDA this week, saying that ENDA was based on the premise that people "are 'born gay' and 'transgender' people are 'born in the wrong body.'" Perkins also opposed making "personal disapproval of these chosen and harmful behaviors (homosexual conduct and sex changes)" into something "officially stigmatized under law as a form of bigotry that is equivalent to racism." On a practical level, Perkins said that ENDA is "a solution in search of problem" and that the real harm will come when ENDA is enacted.