Defending Brit

On Sunday, Brit Hume of Fox News made headlines by saying that Tiger Woods needed the redemption found in Christianity.

"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of redemption and forgiveness offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger is, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world,'" said Hume.

On Wednesday, Hume defended his statements in an interview with Christianity Today. "I don't want to practice a faith that I'm afraid to proclaim," he said. "I'm not going to stand on the street with a megaphone. My principal responsibility at Fox News isn't to proselytize. But occasionally a mention of faith seems to me to be appropriate. When those occasions come, I'll do it."

Political advocacy groups jumped to Hume's defense.

Connie McKay of Family Research Council Action said that "the self-anointed 'smarter than you are class'" was shocked at Hume's statements but would have supported him if he had spoken against Christianity or in favor of the free speech rights of child pornographers.

"No wonder the oncoming political tsunami is about to land this year," said McKay. "The Obama media has so misjudged the American public and their value system that they will soon have to report the demise of their own 'smarter than you are' political water carriers. November cannot come soon enough."

On the Tuesday edition of the 700 Club, Pat Robertson called Hume's remarks "a bold statement." Robertson said, "In politically correct terms, you can't say anything about your faith without somebody jumping down your throat."

For most groups, the issue was the place of faith in the public square.

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote at National Review Online that "most of us spend an inordinate amount of time on shallow discussions about largely inconsequential and evanescent issues; talking honestly about matters of faith and meaning shouldn't be off-limits. In fact, we should welcome such conversations more often."

Tasha Easterling of the American Family Association said that there was a double standard at play. Hume could have used profanity with impunity, but took fire for giving an opinion about his faith, Easterling said.

"As a Christian, I would not be offended if Hume had told Tiger to become a Muslim, and it doesn't offend me when Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins appear on television and declare that Christianity is a crock and everyone should be an atheist. Why? Because that is their opinion. I may not share their beliefs, but they still have a right to … express them," said Easterling.

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Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council also supported Hume's right to share his faith. Sprigg said "Tiger Woods, of course, has an equal right to tell Brit Hume to go jump in a lake. Everyone else should lay off. But Woods would do better to listen to Hume's counsel, and heed it."

The chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, Louis Sheldon, said, "Brit Hume has made atheists and liberals angry, because he told the truth." Sheldon supported both the expression of religious views and Hume's statement that Woods needed Christ.

"The fact is a religious opinion has just as much weight as other opinions and any time is a good time to hear the good news about the love, mercy and justice of Jesus Christ," Sheldon said. "There is hope for Tiger Woods and for all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior."

Top Three Issues

Abortion, moral relativism, and injustice are the three biggest moral issues in America today, according to a poll by the National Association of Evangelicals' large board of directors.

The evangelical leaders mentioned other concerns,  such as sexuality and secularization, but they were not as important as these three issues.

This list of issues differs from the three issues highlighted in the Manhattan Declaration, a document originally signed by Christian leaders and, to date, over 320,000 Christians. The declaration listed life (particularly abortion), marriage, and religious liberty as the key issues of our day.

The issue of abortion edged out moral relativism for the number one concern. The unjust treatment of people was number three. Sammy Mah, president of World Relief, said, "The greatest moral issue in America today is our blindness and silence to injustices here and around the world. Social ills like poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, human trafficking, and so many more are rooted in injustices that must be fought."

Economic and Spiritual Crisis

Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, is beginning a book tour promoting his new book, Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street—A Moral Compass for the New Economy. The book examines how to respond to the economic recession through the eyes of faith.

On Sunday, Wallis wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on how the economic crisis is also a spiritual crisis.

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"We have been asking the wrong question: When will the financial crisis end? The right question is: How will it change us?" said Wallis, who also said he supports increased government involvement in finances. "This could be a moment to reexamine the ways we measure success, do business and live our lives."

Kristen Williams of Faith in Public Life reflected on Wallis' editorial, saying she liked "the idea of reexamining our economic structures and the way we live our lives." She hoped that this year, we will take steps to "fix societal brokenness" and help families with their housing, hunger, and health needs.

Opposition to Transgender Appointee

Another Obama appointee is being opposed by Christian advocacy groups. And like previous targets Kevin Jennings and Chai Feldblum, one of the reasons for opposition is the appointee's sexuality.

Indeed, sexuality seems to be the only reason groups are opposing the appointment. Amanda Simpson, who was a man named "Mitchell" for nearly forty years, is the new Senior Technical Advisor for the Bureau of Industry and Security, which is part of the U.S. Commerce Department. Simpson is a flight instructor and test pilot. She is transitioning from a career in the aerospace industry, most recently in the Advanced Technology Development at Raytheon Missile Systems.

The Family Research Council (FRC) called the appointment of Simpson "another bombshell in [the Obama Administration's] agenda to radicalize America." The FRC does not, however, list any objections to Simpson other than her statement saying that "as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds."

The FRC was further opposed to a new change on the website advertising federal jobs, which now states that the federal government will not discriminate based on gender identity. This applies to federal employment only, but the FRC points out that the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" (ENDA) being considered in Congress would make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Don't let Congress and President Obama force American employers to hire homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers," said the FRC.

Focus on the Family's Monica Schleicher said in a statement that the appointment appeared to be "payback to his far-left base for their political support." Schleicher said that "activists like Simpson are asking the rest of society to radically reorder the ways in which the culture makes reasonable and rational accommodation for the two genders."

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Other Issues

It's the start of a new year. Congress is still in recess. The President just finished his Christmas vacation. This means that groups have less reason to coalesce around one or two issues and have an opportunity (if that's the right word) to discuss issues that irritate them but are not part of the larger political agenda.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association voiced opposition to Erroll Southers, Obama's choice to head the Transportation Safety Association, because of discrepancies in his testimony regarding an incident twenty years ago in which he ran background checks on someone for personal reasons. "The president has a knack for nominating known scoundrels to positions of enormous authority and influence," said Fischer.

•  The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Doug Carlson said that while many Americans are making resolutions to trim back their waistlines, Congress is resolving to increase government by "increasing the waistline of an already bloated government, weighing down Americans with more taxes and higher insurance premiums, and expanding access to abortions nationwide on the taxpayer's dime. Toward that end, one overarching goal overshadows all others: health care reform."

• The outrage over Islam continued this week on The 700 Club. A Wednesday news report from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) caused Pat Robertson to say, "I am appalled. You should be appalled … If we refuse to [recognize the values of Islam] then there's this general statement, 'Well, you have to be tolerant toward everybody's religion and it isn't fair blah blah blah.' Well, if people are trying to kill you, then they are the enemy. And we need to identify them as such because this is a combat and we're in a worldwide struggle. But so far, the government of the United States seems reluctant to call a spade a spade."

• Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) sent an email alert urging people to contact Nickelodeon and ask them to refuse Addicting Games advertising on its and websites. Addicting Games includes sexualized and violent video games. The petition is organized by Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "If we all work together we can keep the corporate pimps accountable!" said the ESA.

• The American Center for Law and Justice is asking for financial support to stop government from requiring radio programs to air opposing viewpoints. "Our government is pushing to manufacture what it calls 'balance' … [sic] forcing broadcasters to air points of view they don't agree with—and can never agree with. It's worse than just the 'Fairness' Doctrine; it's the 'Fairness Doctrine PLUS,'" said the ACLJ. The ACLJ said in an email, "We have learned that this issue is anticipated to be acted upon by the [Federal Communications Commission] early this year."

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• C-SPAN will not be allowed to televise the negotiations over health care reform. For the Liberty Counsel, this decision smacks of Soviet-style message control. "President Obama and the Democratic leadership are trying to exclude the American people from important information regarding healthcare, like the former Soviet Union tried to control the media and shut out public participation," the group said.

Tobin Grant is an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and director of the Tracking American Evangelical Politics project.

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