Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about the past week.
Vetting and Kvetching About Kagan
Heading into a week of Senate hearings, conservatives came prepared with a long list of objections to Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Many groups showed little restraint in their criticisms of the former Harvard Law School dean, some calling for her withdrawal because of her work during the Clinton administration on the issue of partial-birth abortion.
Summing up conservative concerns, Liberty Counsel warned that Kagan would "spend decades … legislating rather than adjudicating and ultimately changing America for the worst."
"Even though she lacks any judicial experience, her expressed views on such critical issues as the First Amendment, the role of the judiciary, the sanctity of human life, and homosexuality, among other matters, are alarming," said Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) president Richard Land.
Focus on the Family's CitizenLink called for people to lobby Senators to vote no on Kagan, whom they said "has spent her professional career working for judges who embrace judicial activism, law schools that indoctrinate it, and presidents who enable it," and whom "has also demonstrated hostility to traditional marriage, support for abortion, and approval of homosexuals in the military."
The American Family Association (AFA) labeled Kagan "a dangerous judicial activist," "anti-military and pro-homosexual," "pro-abortion and anti-life," "antiSecond Amendment," "anti-capitalist and pro-socialist," and "pro-Muslim."
The latest concerns with Kagan's nomination center on her involvement in partial-birth abortion legislation during the Clinton administration. National Review reported that Kagan had suggested new language for a statement by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on partial-birth abortion. Kagan suggested that the ACOG change a statement saying that the procedure was not "the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman" to one stating it "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of the woman." The final ACOG statement included Kagan's suggestion.
Conservatives said the report shows Kagan's willingness to ignore facts in favor of a political agenda. Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins said, "Elena Kagan has trampled every obstacle standing in the way of her pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda. And if the Senate votes to seat her on the highest court in America, the U.S. Constitution will be next."
Bruce Hausknecht of CitizenLink said, "If … Kagan indeed drafted the language in order to soften the report's draft language that Kagan otherwise labeled as 'a disaster,' then she crossed an ethical line between politics and medicine that ought to disqualify her as a Supreme Court nominee."
Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America agreed. "The false report is used in courts to continue an abhorrent, brutal practice that repels people of compassion and decency," said Crouse. "In the meantime, the woman behind such a pivotal lie sits in the catbird seat, practically assured confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice of the United States by complicit senators who control the nomination process — with dozens of television cameras recording her 'charm' and practiced, vapid responses for future generations."
During the hearings, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Kagan about the memo and the ACOG statement.
"There was no way in which I would have or could have intervened with ACOG … to get it to change its medical views on the question," said Kagan. "The only question that we were talking about was whether this statement that they were going to issue accurately reflected the views that had expressed to the president, to the president's staff, to Congress, and to the American public. I do agree with you, this was an enormously hard issue."
The hearing concluded late Thursday due to delays related to the death of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). Witnesses invited by the Republicans included Ed Whelan (Ethics and Public Policy Center), Tony Perkins (FRC), and Charmaine Yoest (Americans United for Life). A vote by the full Senate is expected after the Independence Day holiday.
Faith in Public Life (FPL) took aim at Perkins, who was a GOP witness at the Kagan confirmation hearing. Prior to the hearing, FPL said, "Expect [Perkins] to stick to his usual game plan: spreading mistruths and espousing positions that are out of step with mainstream America and treat facts as an inconvenience." FPL prepared a memo for journalists listing Perkins's "well-established track record of making false claims and espousing positions well outside the mainstream on civil rights, religion, and race."
Limited Religious Liberty Ruling
The Supreme Court often waits until the final days of its session to release its most important rulings. One such ruling was Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez (read CT's full report here). The Court ruled that the Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at Hastings College of the Law in California could not deny membership or leadership to students based on religion or sexual orientation, since Hastings had an "all comers" policy that required all student groups to admit all students, even students who disagree with the beliefs and mission of the group.
Hausknecht of CitizenLink said he expected the case "to be a constitutional case about university 'non-discrimination' policies pitted against the First Amendment's free exercise, free speech, and associational rights of Christian (or other faith) groups on campus when it comes to membership, voting, and leadership positions." Rather than a broad ruling, the Court ruled on groups at public colleges and universities that have an all comers policy like Hastings.
"The good news, if any in this case, is that the Court's decision is narrow. It dealt solely with the school's all comers policy," said Doug Carlson of the ERLC. "Such a policy is uncommon. Schools more often simply have policies that bar discrimination more narrowly, such as on the basis of race, color, age, or religion."
Gregory Baylor of the Alliance Defense Fund said the constitutional issues at stake are still up for debate. "The conflict still exists," said Baylor. "The Hastings policy actually requires CLS to allow atheists to lead its Bible studies and the College Democrats to accept the election of Republican officers in order for the groups to be recognized on campus. We agree with Justice [Samuel] Alito in his dissent that the Court should have rejected this as absurd."
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) also agreed with Justice Alito's dissenting opinion. In a friend of the court brief filed on behalf of Christian college ministries such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Sekulow and the ACLJ stated that religious groups requiring adherence to certain beliefs and practices "is not 'discrimination' but rather part and parcel of what defines them as religious groups. Wooden application of religious 'non-discrimination' policies therefore forces religious groups to choose between their religious identity and access to the forum. … [T]his is a choice that the government, under the Religion Clauses, has no business imposing on religious groups."
Other groups viewed the decision as a major strike against religious freedom and in favor of gay rights.
Perkins of FRC said the Supreme Court was "suggesting that orthodox Judeo-Christian teaching against homosexual conduct is untenable on America's university campuses. This is a grave breach of both freedom of religious speech and freedom of association, and a troubling day for America's long history of protection from religious discrimination."
Traditional Values Coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty said the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for future cases involving religious liberty: "It is also a clear example of what happens when liberals hold a majority on the Supreme Court — religious liberty dies, while the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda is rewarded."
Odds and Ends
• Cultural commentator Chuck Colson saw religious liberty under attack this week. During a speech at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said human rights include the right "to love in the way you choose" and "freedom of worship." In his weekly column at BreakPoint, Colson wrote that the former elevates sexual orientation as a human right and the latter downgrades freedom of religion because freedom of religion is more than mere worship. "The real battle is about whether God is Lord, or whether government is Lord. And make no mistake, if government can redefine or restrict our freedom of religion, our first freedom will be gone," said Colson.
• A radio station has pulled its sponsorship of Lifest 2010, a Christian music and teaching festival, because Sojourners president Jim Wallis was scheduled to speak at the event. Q90-FM said, "We believe the social justice message and agenda [Wallis and Sojourners] promote is a seed of secular humanism, seeking an unholy alliance between the church and government." Wallis responded by saying, "I fear that many in our generation are becoming so biblically illiterate that they are more influenced by the mainstream media and partisan ideology than they are by the Word of God. Social justice is a core part of the Christian calling. It was central to the Old Testament prophets, and it was central to the life and teachings of Jesus."
• Concerned Women for America's Penny Nance said the "crude" in the Gulf oil spill includes the immorality of regulators. Nance said the problem was not a lack of regulation but a set of regulators who not only ignored current regulations but also committed ethical lapses including pornography, inappropriate sexual relationships, and accepting gifts from industry. "Given these recent examples of moral license leading to costly burdens on the American taxpayer, fiscal conservatives should rethink their ideas about giving up on the social issues that we at Concerned Women for America, and our half a million members, care about. Simply put, it costs all of us too much to ignore these issues," said Nance.
• The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP) announced a partnership with Chalice Press to "publish print, digital, and multimedia resources that provide a 'New Evangelical' perspective on human rights, creation care, and other critical issues in order to connect, inform, and mobilize people of faith." NEP executive director Steven Martin said, "We hope this partnership will establish a new voice among evangelicals, a new platform for some authors you already know, and some young voices the world has not yet heard, but needs to."
• In its monthly poll of its board of directors, the National Association of Evangelicals asked, "Do you socially drink alcohol?" Forty percent of the 40 evangelical leaders said yes. Those who drink said they do so with limits. Many commenters who do not drink alcohol added that the reason wasn't biblical prohibition.
• If Kagan is confirmed, the U.S. Supreme Court will not include any Protestant Christians. Kagan's religion, Judaism, became a focus briefly during a rare moment of levity during her hearing. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) asked Kagan, "As we move forward and deal with law of war issues: Christmas Day Bomber. Where were you on Christmas Day?" As Kagan worked through an answer that included reluctance to comment on a pending issue, Graham interrupted, "Naw. I just asked you where you on Christmas." Kagan laughed and then responded, "Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant." After some laughter and banter between senators, Graham said, "You were with your family on Christmas Day at a Chinese restaurant. Ok. That's great. That's what Hanukkah and Christmas [are] all about."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of evangelical leaders who said they drink. Sixty percent of the leaders polled said they do not drink.
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