Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Outlawing Gays in the USA?
Yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast received scrutiny as critics attempted to link its sponsors to Uganda's anti-homosexuality legislation. While the sponsoring group and other American Christians have condemned the Uganda bill, some conservatives voiced support for the criminalization of homosexuality in the United States.
At the prayer breakfast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted Uganda as she emphasized U.S. support for human rights. President Obama was more specific, citing opposition to Uganda's proposed law as an example of possible common ground in our current contentious politics.
"We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are—whether it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda," said Obama.
His statement at the breakfast comes on the heels of his call during the State of the Union address to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, a call that reignited rhetorical fireworks over sexuality in American society. If the President hoped that everyone would oppose bills that criminalize homosexuality, he was to be disappointed.
On Tuesday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews interviewed Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council about the U.S. military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (DADT). Sprigg, FRC's senior fellow for policy studies, said he would support banning all gays or lesbians from serving in the military. At the end of the discussion, Matthews asked Sprigg his view of homosexuality in civilian life:
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should outlaw gay behavior?
SPRIGG: Well, I think it's certainly defensible.
MATTHEWS: I'm just asking you, should we outlaw gay behavior?
SPRIGG: I think that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws in this country, was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.
MATTHEWS: So we should outlaw gay behavior.
(In its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas's anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional and that "the state cannot demean [homosexuals'] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.")
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association agreed with Sprigg. Citing policies and findings of the Federal Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, Fischer concluded that homosexual behavior should be criminalized because it "represents an enormous threat to public health."
"It's a simple matter of common sense, sound public policy, and a concern for public health. … Whatever we think we should do to curtail injection drug use are the same sorts of things we should pursue to curtail homosexual conduct," said Fischer, AFA's director of issue analysis.
Fischer further justified his view by claiming that 1 Timothy 1:8-11 says "those 'who practice homosexuality' should come under the purview of the law just as much as those who take people captive in order to sell them into slavery."
On Sojourners's God's Politics blog, Brian McLaren responded directly to Sprigg's comments. "Even if you agree with the Family Research Council on the issue of homosexuality, and even if you're worried about slippery slopes when it comes to human sexuality, I think you'll agree: there's another slippery slope that's equally easy to slide down, and that's the slide into the kind of Pharisaical religiosity that attempts to make people behave 'morally' through the threat of exclusion, intimidation, and legislation," he said.
Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition emphasized the "slippery slope" in her argument against repealing the current military DADT policy. Lafferty noted that the bill under consideration bans discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identification, which is included in the civilian Employee Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).
"For the time being, the cross-dressers, drag queens, transsexuals, and she-males must remain in the shadows while their gay, lesbian, and bisexual allies work to capture the military," said Lafferty. "Once the 1993 bill is overturned, they'll return to a liberal Congress with a vengeance to demand that transgenders [sic] persons be given the 'right' to openly serve. Sen. Levin, Rep. Murphy, and their other compliant allies will be only to happy to bend over to serve them."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, opposed repealing DADT in the military because it "would engender sexual tension and thereby negatively impact troop morale, unit cohesion, and order."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called on readers to sign an FRC action petition "urging members not to turn the military into a battleground for social engineering." As part of his argument against the repeal of DADT, Perkins said that incidents of same-sex assault and rape in the military "would only worsen once gays and lesbians are empowered to flaunt their sexuality."
Dan Nejfelt of Faith in Public Life described Perkins' comments as an example of the "very little accurate information" found among reactions by conservatives. Indeed, Nejfelt felt the need to explain that Perkins was actually serious about his claim that repealing DADT would result in more sexual assault.
Nejfelt compared comments by Perkins and other conservatives with a statement written by several former military chaplains who support the repeal of DADT.
"The difference between these two different faith voices could hardly be more stark. One group reflects on their own experiences serving military personnel's spiritual needs; the other demonizes the LGBT community, even as they risk their lives to protect this country," said Nejfelt. "For their sake, and for our sake as a nation that claims to uphold equality and dignity, it's a good thing military leadership think more like the chaplains than the likes of Tony Perkins."
Aliens Among Us
The National Association of Evangelicals has renewed another fight, this time over immigration reform. Last fall, the NAE issued a statement supporting comprehensive immigration reform that would include more humane border controls and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Writing on The Washington Post's On Faith site, NAE director of governmental affairs Galen Carey said, "Evangelicals support immigration reform because we treat the biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger not merely as good advice but as divine instruction for our good." Carey said that immigrants are part of churches and communities. "We grieve when families remain separated for decades, when workers are treated unfairly, and when our neighbors lack the basic protection of the law," he said.
According to Allison Johnson, campaign coordinator for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), more than 130 people from all across the country joined a "A Day of Witness and Action on Immigration Reform" events in Phoenix, Arizona. The event was sponsored by the Christian Community Development Association, Sojourners, and the National Association of Evangelicals. Similar events were also held in Denver, Santa Ana (Calif.), Chicago, Memphis, and Miami.
"Some in Washington would have us believe that immigration reform is politically untenable and economically illogical. However, God is on the move among Christians who care about the immigrants in their midst," wrote Johnson on Sojourners's God's Politics blog.
Abstinence Education Study
A study of sex education conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Pennsylvania was hailed by advocates of abstinence education. Published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the study finds that among students in sixth and seventh grade who were in a high risk group for sexually transmitted disease, those who received abstinence-centered education initiated sex less often and had fewer partners than students receiving no sex education.
"Abstinence-centered education is effective with this generation because it provides direction, character education and a guide for healthy living. It gives hope for a brighter future to those regretting their sexual involvement," said Chad Hills of Focus on the Family Action. Hills called on President Obama to fund abstinence education, which was zeroed out of the latest budget.
Tony Perkins of the FRC said, "In light of this research, the administration should reconsider its strategy of slashing abstinence funding in favor sex-ed curriculum that does little more than encourage high-risk behavior."
However, the abstinence education curriculum used in the study did not meet federal criteria for abstinence-only programs. The program told the middle school students to avoid sex until later in life when they could handle the consequences, and it did not portray sex as negative or immoral. The study also found that comprehensive programs that included both instructions on condoms and abstinence education were also effective in changing high risk sexual behavior. Finally, the study compared different education programs against the results of a control group of students who received no sex education; it did not compare the relative success of comprehensive, safer sex, and abstinence-focused programs.
Kristin Williams of Faith in Public Life noted that when advocates present the study as supporting "abstinence-only" education, "the facts get jumbled."
"Seems to me this new research confirms what we already knew—equip kids with information, help them develop the skills to make responsible choices, and encourage them to delay sexual activity, and everybody wins," Williams said.
Last Friday, Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder for the slaying of abortion provider George Tiller.
After the verdict, the National Right to Life Committee reiterated its stance that Roeder's actions "are antithetical to the work of the pro-life movement to protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers." The NRLC used the statement to remind people of the impact of abortion. "NRLC strongly opposes any use of violence as a means of stopping the violence that has killed more than 52 million unborn children since 1973."
Bryan Fischer of the AFA said the verdict was just. "From a biblical point of view, this was certainly a correct verdict for one simple reason: Scott Roeder had no moral authority to do what he did," said Fischer.
Americans United for Life, Focus on the Family Action, and the Family Research Council each condemned the murder last May. Neither group released a statement or commented on Roeder's conviction.
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Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site. Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.
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