Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
The Saints won the Superbowl, but another religious aspect of the game had advocacy groups' attention before the game.
In the days leading up to the big game—which garnered the largest TV audience in U.S. history, with 106 million viewers—CBS's decision to air an ad by Focus on the Family caused controversy. The ad, featuring Heisman Award winner Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam, was expected to be a pro-life ad focusing on the mother's decision to continue her pregnancy despite the urging of her doctors. Instead, it was a light-hearted ad that pointed viewers to the Focus website.
Focus's Gary Schneeberger said that reaction to the ad was much ado about nothing. "This wasn't political. This wasn't advocacy. This wasn't controversial. It's an inspirational story about a mother and son who love each other," said Schneeberger.
Tasha Easterling of the American Family Association and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commision (ERLC) agreed that despite the controversy leading up to the big game, the ad was noncontroversial.
Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice concurred. Kissling was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying "If there had not been all of that publicity over the last two weeks, this ad could have passed almost unnoticed. Who would have known what they're talking about? It's so subtle."
Prior to the game, pro-choice groups including Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the Women's Media Center opposed the airing of the ad. After the game, the Women's Media Center described the ad as a "benign telling of the Tebow family story that attempts to hide Focus on the Family's true anti-choice, anti-woman, and homophobic agenda."
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America commented on NOW's opposition to the Tebow ad. "I find it laughable that NOW has a problem with Tim Tebow sharing his own story. If NOW really cared about women they would stop flacking for the abortion industry and start working on behalf of women and resolving our concerns about real problems such as sexually exploitative and violent content on television," she said.
Debt Relief for Haiti
Political advocacy groups that called for the cancellation of Haiti's foreign debt received good news from the U.S. Treasury Department. It will work with its global partners to forgive the Haitian government's outstanding debts.
Following the earthquake in Haiti, the New Evangelical Partnership (NEP) called for the forgiveness of Haiti's outstanding debt to other nations and institutions. The NEP petition was signed by the leaders of Evangelicals for Social Action, Sojourners, Evangelical Environmental Network, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and other Christian advocacy groups.
This week the U.S. Treasury joined the chorus. Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. will work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the G-7, and other partners to provide "comprehensive multilateral debt relief." The U.S. forgave Haiti's debts in 2009 following Haiti's successful completion of the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative.
The NEP praised welcomed the news, reiterating its belief that "a nation buried in rubble should not also be buried in debt."
Hayley Hathaway of the Jubilee USA Network echoed this celebration on Sojourners God's Politics blog. "For those of us who work for social justice, victory can seem elusive. But then there are times when we mobilize at the right time with the right message and our leaders cannot help but listen and respond," said Hathaway. "This weekend was one of those times."
In other Haiti news, Richard Land asked for prayers and (political) petitions for Baptists arrested in Haiti for attempting to take children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Land said, "[T]hese Christian men and women sought to do even more to help alleviate the suffering of some Haitian children. While they may have been operating from a lack of knowledge about the appropriate process for their humanitarian efforts, we are confident that their intentions were not nefarious."
Don't Ask Don't Tell
The debate over repealing the ban on gays serving in the military continued this week, as political advocacy groups offered more reasons for their opposition to allowing gays to serve openly.
The American Family Association has created a website devoted to disseminating materials on the many other reasons the AFA opposes a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The focus this week: open showers.
"If President Obama, congressional Democrats, and homosexual activists get their wish, your son or daughter may be forced to share military showers and barracks with active and open homosexuals who may very well view them with sexual interest," said the AFA. "Talk about creating a hostile work environment for people who practice normative sexuality!"
Chuck Colson sees the push to repeal the ban as "all about the status of gay men and women in American society" and "the weakening of our moral will," but not "military necessity." For Colson, allowing gays in the military would change the relationships between servicemen and women.
"'All for one and one for all' could give way to 'sexual competition, protectiveness and favoritism,' with disastrous military consequences," said Colson.
The Center for Moral Clarity, the advocacy arm of Rod Parsley's ministry, argued that we should defer to military leaders. However, if it had its druthers, it would allow gays to serve.
"No, we haven't gone soft; we believe what the Bible says when it calls homosexuality a sin. And for gays, that's the good news, because sins can be and are routinely forgiven. It would be spiteful and unbiblical to seek to prevent people from gainful employment on the basis of who they sleep with—we don't do that for teachers or social workers, two equally important professions. Being pro-family, which we are, doesn't make Christians anti-gay," said the CMC.
Faith in Public Life launched a renewed push for immigration reform, which will include 100 local events nationwide. The coalition includes the National Association of Evangelicals, which outlined a list of reforms last fall that includes a path to citizenship and more humane border policies.
Galen Carey, director of government affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, said evangelical pastors have supported immigration reform, but they have grown even more supportive as immigrants join their churches and tell of their problems with the current system.
"This is why we are stepping up our efforts to hold President Obama and members of Congress accountable for their promises to pass meaningful immigration reform this year," said Carey.
The ERLC also put border security and the status of illegal immigrants on its legislative agenda for this year. The ERLC gives greater priority to border security, but it supports a path to legal residency or citizenship "only for illegal immigrants without criminal backgrounds who accept appropriate waiting periods and pay fines and back taxes." In addition, it would require "an ironclad, non-negotiable requirement" that anyone applying for legal residency must be able to read, write, and speak English.
"Sex, Health, and Young People"
Al Mohler, radio host and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, criticized a new document from the International Planned Parenthood Federation that promotes comprehensive sex education for everyone in the world from ages 10 to 24.
Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council also opposed the document, saying it "isn't about doing what is right for young people and certainly not about offering them the very best options in life. It is about advancing an ideological agenda that is hostile to traditional families, religious faith and the good of children."
Mohler said the document concludes that "any religious teachings that restrict sex to marriage must be abandoned in favor of a more pragmatic approach that simply assumes that young people will be sexually active."
"It also accuses religious groups of 'deny[ing young people] the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex.' This intrinsically bigoted misapprehension of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition is repulsive," said Monahan.
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