Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
'We Are All Arizona'
Arizona's new immigration law drew immediate criticism from political advocacy groups last week. The condemnation has continued as groups prepare rallies and protests across the country, including a major event in Dallas, Texas, with the theme "We Are All Arizona."
Gabriel Salguero of Esperanza for America and David P. Gushee of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good called for comprehensive immigration reform in a Washington Post op-ed.
"Immigration reform is a spiritual and moral issue that requires Christians to live up to the meaning of our creed. If Christ welcomed me unconditionally should I do any less with others?" asked Salguero and Gushee. "Silence is not an option."
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, echoed the call for comprehensive reform. Wallis said on MSNBC churches will not comply with the Arizona law because it opposes the gospel.
"This law may force Christians to obey the law or follow their scriptures," said Wallis. "You can't make Christian ministry and Christian compassion illegal and expect Christians to obey the law."
Immigration reform is not a new concern for evangelicals. In October, the National Association of Evangelicals approved a policy statement supporting comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. In 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention also called for such reforms. Speaking at the time, Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the SBC resolution did not mean amnesty but a path to citizenship that includes fines and other requirements.
Not all groups opposed Arizona's new law. Many remained silent on the issue, but Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) said the Arizona law will make people safer and lower government spending.
"In the president's mind, the Arizona law cannot be allowed to stand. It smacks too much of America, too much of self-government, too much of the Constitution, too much of local control, too much of freedom, too much of liberty, and too much of the rule of law to be tolerated," said Fischer.
Fischer also warned that our "America-despising boy president" will soon resort to name-calling because it is "the first and last refuge of a man without an argument."
Preparing for the ENDA
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) is ripe for a play on words. But for conservatives, it is no laughing matter. ENDA is set to be voted upon by Congress as groups are gearing up for a fight.
ENDA would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability in the workplace. Churches and para-church organizations would not be affected, but businesses with 15 or more employees would be barred from discriminating based on these criteria.
Doug Carlson of the ERLC said, "ENDA would force many employers with moral objections to behaviors like homosexuality and cross-dressing to violate their freedom of conscience in employment decisions. That is in stark contrast to current employment protections based on non-behavioral traits such as race, age and gender."
The Family Research Council (FRC) has created a new website devoted to ENDA. The site includes the FRC's arguments against the bill and an opportunity to tell Congress one's position.
The FRC said ENDA "affords special protection to a group that is not disadvantaged." According to the group, ENDA would "tarnish the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement by treating a person's chosen sexual behaviors or their gender self-identification as a protected category in the nation's civil rights laws."
The Traditional Values Coalitionhas its own website on ENDA. While the FRC is focusing on constitutional classifications, the TVC is warning of dangers to children.
"Under [ENDA] your children will be trapped in classes taught by drag queens and transgender activists. Students will be indoctrinated that 'alternative lifestyles' are no different than traditional lifestyles. Young children will be forced to learn about bizarre sexual fetishes—and you will have no say in the matter," the group said.
Should Wall Street Repent?
Jim Wallis of Sojourners certainly thinks so. Wallis supported reforms that would make investment banks and other financial institutions repent—literally turn around—from their past behavior.
"So let's have some sermons on the repentance of Wall Street, some pastoral care for the financial giants who sit in our pews, and maybe even some prayer vigils outside of the nation's biggest banks," said Wallis. "If the banks fail to repent, another financial meltdown could be very near."
The Senate has begun considering a bill that would include new regulations and reforms for the financial sector.
Conservative groups have issued their own statement on reform, which emphasizes no federal bailouts for investment banks. The memo was agreed to by many conservative groups (religious and otherwise), including leaders from FRC, the Traditional Values Coalition, Liberty Counsel, and Concerned Women for America.
The groups said the reform bill being considered would encourage more federal bailouts, restrict credit, and reward special interests.
Tony Perkins, president of FRC, said the bill being considered by the Senate is a reward for the Democrats' supporters, not real reform.
"Instead of addressing the problems that led to our financial meltdown, Democrats have a different strategy: finding ways to make their donors even more reliant on big government," Perkins said.
Graham Can't Pray at Pentagon
Franklin Graham's invitation to the Pentagon's National Day of Prayer services was rescinded because previous statements he has made on Islam, including his statement that Islam was "evil," were considered inappropriate by the Pentagon.
Tony Perkins of the FRC placed the blame on President Obama.
"This decision is further evidence that the leadership of our nation's military has been impaired by the politically correct culture being advanced by this Administration," Perkins said. "Under this Administration's watch we are seeing the First Amendment, designed to protect the religious exercise of Americans, retooled into a sword to sever America's ties with orthodox Christianity."
The AFA called Graham's exclusion from the event, "blatant anti-Christian discrimination" and encouraged people to contact their members of Congress about the incident.
"The signal being sent here is that if you are a Christian who … tells the truth about counterfeit religions, the U.S. military has no use for you," said Bryan Fischer of the AFA.
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discussed Graham's comments on his radio program. Mohler said that Graham's comments were accurate because "evil" is defined as "anything that would compete with the Gospel of Christ." However, explaining this in the public square is difficult, perhaps impossible. Mohler said that a public discussion is often limited to sound-bites that are truthful but inadequate to place the gospel in context.
Odds and Ends
• Focus on the Family Action is opposed to an anti-bullying bill in Illinois that is expected to pass. The group opposes the inclusion of sexual orientation as part of the bill. Also coming out of Illinois, the Illinois Family Institute has questioned whether Focus on the Family has been "emasculated" by asking founder James Dobson to step down as radio host and favoring a less contentious approach to politics.
• Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, wrote for Evangelicals for Social Action on developments for faith-based initiatives. He expressed relief that the administration decided against its campaign promise to prohibit religious-based hiring by faith-based groups. He warned, however, of a government that is too active. "An overly big and active government can wrongly displace the creative initiatives of secular and faith-based community organizations," Carlson-Thies said.
• Mark Earley of BreakPoint supported a recent Nebraska law that would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy because, according to Nebraska, this is when the fetus can feel pain. "As science and technology develop ever more sophisticated ways for us to study the child in the womb, it's getting harder and harder for the pro-choice movement to argue in favor of snuffing out that child's life," Earley wrote. "And who would want to argue in favor of deliberately causing the child pain on top of that?"
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