Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ethics Daily Runs Story on Reconstructionism

Kudos to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for his story on Reconstructionism.

It is hard to know when you can take what North and SBC leaders say at face value. They often obfuscate whenever it helps them accomplish their goals.

My rule of thumb is to watch what they do and see if it matches with what they say.

It is entirely possible that the idea for "conservative" Christians to takeover the institutions of civil government began with North and was then taken up by other hands. It is also possible that the idea did not begin with North and that he was merely the first to report what he had heard religious right leaders like Pressler talking about behind closed doors at meetings like that of the Council for National Policy. That would explain why North appeared surprised by Pressler's reluctance to openly talk about connections between the SBC takeover and the religious "New Right."

There's no doubt in my mind that, behind the scenes, the Republican party is now engaged in a bitter struggle between neo-conservatives and the religious right. At the moment, the mechanisms of power are all in the hands of neo-conservatives. They throw a bone to the religious right now and then. Their biggest bones are the appointments of Roberts and Alito. In the end, those bones will have the most lasting influence on domestic politics.

The neo-conservatives most lasting influence is on foreign policy. The mess they have made in Iraq and the tensions they are fueling in North Korea, Syria and Iran are setting a trajectory that is shaping the world's future for the foreseeable future. That future does not look bright. It looks more like the pre-millenialist vision of Armageddon than the millenial reign that post-millenialists like North had envisioned.

Indecency and Televangelists

The LA Times has published a report revealing that Televangelists are fighting an effort by anti-indecency groups to thwart cable channels offering racy programming.

At issue is whether cable operators should be required to expose subscribers to niche channels, including religious ones, that people might not order on their own.

My vote is to let people choose and pay only for the channels that they want to watch. If that were possible, I wouldn't have any of the religious channels at my house.

There's Horsepower in Chicken Fat

Just when we learn that our lives are going to change because oil production is peaking and world oil reserves are in decline, the lowly chicken may be riding to our rescue.

Associated Press is reporting that researchers have discovered ways to convert chicken fat into a biodiesel fuel.

The biggest obstacle in processing is making sure the fat doesn't turn into soap.

Some day anthropologists are going to write about 21st century Americans putting every part of a chicken to good use, the way they now write about how plains dwelling Native Americans put every part of the Buffalo to good use.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Moyers Speaks Out About Attempts to Silence Him at PBS

In an interview published by Broadcasting & Cable Bill Moyers has his say about the feud between him and former Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Ken Tomlinson. Here are some quotes:

The people at PBS told me they were getting excruciating pressure because of our reporting, including threats to de-fund public television unless "Moyers is dealt with." They never identified the source of that pressure.

. . .

I asked him (Tomlinson) repeatedly. He refused. He didn't even respond. But when all this started to unfold early last year, I asked three times to meet with the CPB board and try to find out what was going on.

I thought we could reason together and maybe agree on how to cooperate to protect Public Broadcasting's independence. I mean, I not only read the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, I helped to create it. CPB's job was to be a firewall between guys like them and the producers, journalists, and content of public broadcasting.

I thought at the time that I was dealing with people who cared about this institution. I didn't realize they had gone over to the dark side.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Podcast: A Mainstream Baptist Perspective on Abortion, Part 2

The second part of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11/28/99 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Rose, a personal friend, and Dr. Vincent Padulla.

This half of the interview discusses the difference between a moderate Baptist and a Catholic perspective on Rose's experiences, abortion in general, and contraception. Discussion is between Dr. Prescott, Dr. Padulla and persons who called-in during the broadcast.

Prior to this interview, Dr. Padulla called-in promoting his convictions each week during broadcasts. Since this interview, he has not called during a broadcast.

Podcast: A Mainstream Baptist Perspective on the Abortion Issue

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11/28/99 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Rose, a personal friend, and Dr. Vincent Padulla. Rose talks about her experience having an abortion and her experience with another very complicated pregnancy that, by extraordinary faith and courage, she was able to bring to a live delivery. Dr. Padulla is a Roman Catholic physician and fervent pro-life advocate in Oklahoma City.

This portion of the interview runs 38 minutes. Lively, but respectful, differences of opinion between equally committed Christians are exchanged in this interview.

National Electronic Conference on the Religious Right

Talk to Action, founded by author Frederick Clarkson, blogger Bruce Wilson, and 14 other writers, will host an electronic conference on the Religious Right tomorrow.

"We are concerned about the theocratic tendencies of the religious right in the United States," said Clarkson. "Among other things, claims that America is a Christian Nation; sectarian approaches to public policy such as efforts to require the teaching of "intelligent design"; the movement to redefine our laws in terms of religious laws; and a growing culture of religious intolerance and religious supremacism. We welcome anyone who shares our concerns to think and learn with us. Strategize with us. Debate with us."

Participants in the pioneering Talk to Action E-Conference include Clarkson; Mother Jones Senior Editor, Monika Bauerlein; Communications Director Richard Reynolds, and contributors John Sugg and Susan Jacoby. Sugg details the role of the theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement in the American Christian Right; and Jacoby counters the Christian right's arguments about the role of religion and government by outlining the intent of the framers of the constitution to clearly separate church and state.

Former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), will also be making a guest appearance. Hart has just published God and Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2005).

Jose Padilla and American Civil Rights

Marjorie Cohn at Truthout has posted a very informative article about how the "Bush game on Padilla may backfire." Jose Padillas is the American civilian citizen who has been held in military detention for the past three years without benefit of a trial. The reasons for holding him have shifted from being a "material witness" to being an "enemy combatant" to "conspiracy to commit murder and kidnap" of persons outside the U.S. Here's Cohn's conclusion:

Padilla has been held by the Bush administration in solitary confinement for more than 3 years without criminal charges. Now, in the government's haste to avoid an unfavorable ruling in the Supreme Court, it has charged Padilla with crimes that may be trumped up. For the first time, Padilla will have an opportunity to tell his side of the story in court; it may be a story of harsh interrogation that the government would prefer to keep quiet. Padilla will undoubtedly be offered a plea bargain to prevent his telling the truth about what happened to him while he languished in military custody for so long. The government may offer Padilla a deal like the one it offered John Walker Lindh, who was also facing life in prison. Lindh was allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges on the condition that he not mention the mistreatment he suffered while in custody.

The legal maneuvering by the Bush administration is "a remarkable game of musical courtrooms," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute for Military Justice. "The Justice Department cannot continue changing course each time action from the courts is imminent," according to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Bill Goodman, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, characterizes the charges against Padilla as a "stale conspiracy" and predicts the government will try to have Padilla's petition to the Supreme Court dismissed as moot. "In my judgment," Goodman said on Democracy Now!, "that borders on abuse of process by the Justice Department. What they are doing is manipulating the process in order to sustain an opinion that says the President can virtually shred the Constitution ... and saying someone who had been held in violation of constitutional principles because he was such a danger to the United States because of these allegations, now they're irrelevant. It's shocking. It's an outrage."

Jose Padilla's case may end up being a lose-lose situation for the Bush administration if the Supreme Court decides to go ahead and hear Padilla's petition anyway. Depending on the composition of the high court after Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing, the Court could place some limits on the President's power to indefinitely detain a US citizen arrested on American soil and held as an "enemy combatant." Padilla could refuse a plea bargain and testify about how he was treated - or mistreated - while in custody. And the defense may have a meritorious motion to dismiss the criminal charges because the government denied Padilla due process by its delay in filing the charges against him.

On Getting the Bigger Picture

Scott Lamb of the Wisdom of the Pages blog has been quick to criticize the blogs I have been posting on the Talk to Action website. Quick responses often occur when you touch a raw nerve.

Lamb's writing demonstrates an inability to comprehend the distinction that I have made between Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism.

He does provide useful quotations from Pressler denying that he is a Reconstructionist.

Now that all of the blogs in the series have been posted, readers should be able to discern for themselves whether Pressler and North could both be classified as Dominionists and whether Pressler has had any connection with North other than a radio interview.

Here are the blogs that deal with Pressler and North:
Learning to be Patient Revolutionaries
From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 1
From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 2

Planes May Replace Troops in Iraq

Seymour Hersh has an article in the current issue of New Yorker Magazine that suggests that the U.S. may be planning to substitute planes for troops in Iraq. Here's a quote:

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President?s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

The article also discusses concerns within the pentagon about giving Iraqi's control over American air power. Here's another quote:

Within the military, the prospect of using airpower as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. "Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else?" another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked. "Will some Iraqis be targeting on behalf of Al Qaeda, or the insurgency, or the Iranians?"

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Road to Dominionism

I posted a couple new blogs on the Talk to Action website yesterday.

From Reconstructionism to Dominionism, Part 1 discusses similarities between the thought of Francis Schaeffer and R. J. Rushdoony. I added podcasts of Bill Moyers interviewing Rushdoony.

From Reconstructionism to Domionism, Part 2 discusses the Reconstructionist agenda and its relation to the broader Dominionist movement. I added podcasts of Bill Moyers interviewing Rushdoony and Joseph Morecraft, of Bill Moyers interviewing Paul Pressler, and an excerpt of Independent Fundamental Baptist Rev. Aubrey Vaughn's part in the Hotze GOP takeover video.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Texan Quotes Robin Meyers on Moral Values

Thanks to Ethics Daily for posting Britt Towery's essay on "Re-thinking Moral Values."

It is good to learn that Baptists in Texas can hear broadcasts of Dr. Robin Meyers sermons at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City.

Many of his sermons are indeed like those of "a voice crying in a wilderness."

Robin is also a noted author. His "The Virtue in the Vice: Finding Seven Lively Virtues in Seven Deadly Sins" is highly recommended. Preachers ought to be able to get some ideas for sermons from the title alone.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

On the SBC and Christian Reconstructionism

I've posted a couple blogs that deal with the SBC and Christian Reconstructionism on the Talk to Action website.

The first blog, "On Restoring America" discusses a video tape I received that gives instructions on how to takeover a Republican party precinct meeting. Audio podcasts from that video are posted with the blog.

The second blog, "On Learning to be Patient Revolutionaries" discusses Reconstructionist leader Gary North's 1988 interview with Paul Pressler about the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Audio podcasts from that interview are posted with the blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

McCain Wants White House Officials Interviewed

The Hill has reported that Republican Senator John McCain has joined efforts to have Senate investigators question Senior White House officials about the intelligence they were receiving on Iraq before we went to war.

The logjam on this issue is breaking.

On Post 9-11 White House Intelligence Briefings

The National Journal has published a story revealing that ten days after the 9-11 attacks the White House received an intelligence briefing that said the U.S. had no intelligence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, the President refused to believe it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Roger Williams Worth Remembering

Thanks to Carlos at the Jesus Politics blog for calling attention to the essay on "Remembering Roger Williams" at Reasononline. Here's an excerpt:

The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, released the same year as his friend John Milton?s defense of the free press, Areopagitica, argued for "soul liberty" for all people, "paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-christian."

Such ideas were far ahead of their time -- perhaps even our time. Milton notably excluded Catholics in his case for free expression, and it would be 50 years before the English crown would officially tolerate dissent just among Protestants. Gaustad notes that Williams' ideas infused the charters of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other colonies with protections for religious freedom. And his notions of a fully secular state found their way into the writings of John Locke, who would have a seminal influence on Jefferson, Madison, and other Founders.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Mother Jones on God & Country

The December 2005 issue of Mother Jones Magazine has some outstanding articles about where the Christian Right is leading us. This issue is essential reading for anyone who needs a clear and concise overview of the Religious Right.

Baptists will be particularly interested in the article by Karen Houppert about the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate at Baylor University.

Everyone who is mystified by the plethora of right-wing organizations, think tanks and foundations will be interested in Frederick Clarkson's Expanding Universe -- the Religious Right's Orbits of Influence. This chart alone is worth the price of a year's subscription to the magazine.

John Sugg does a masterful job explaining the Reconstructionist influence that permeates the thought and influence of the Christian Right.

Adam Piore investigates the expansion of the Salem Communications radio empire.

Michael Reynolds traces the flow of some of the money that has been funding some of the activities of the Religious Right.

Susan Jacoby wrestles with the thorny question of the Original Intent of the framer's of the constitution. Her explanation makes a lot more sense than the mythology being published by David Barton.

There's a lot more in the printed copy than you'll be able to get online, so this one is definitely worth tracking down at the news stand.

VP Accused of Giving Guidance for Torture

Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, Chief of Staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, indicated on CNN yesterday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the "philosophical guidance" and "flexibility" that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities. Here's a quote:
"There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office," he said. "His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department."

Wilkerson also indicated that he believes that torture is still being used on prisoners. Here's another quote.
While he acknowledged having no proof that the United States is torturing detainees, Wilkerson said, "I can only assume that, when the vice president of the United States lobbies the Congress on behalf of cruel and unusual punishment and the need to be able to do that in order to get information out of potential terrorists... that it's still going on."

IMHO, Wilkerson is most certainly right about the U.S. being engaged in a "war of ideas" that cannot be advanced with torture.

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God and Public Schools

USA Today has published an essay by Charles Haynes on The Truth about God and Public Schools.

Haynes does a good job of debunking the myth that God has been kicked out of the public schools.

More Bad News on Global Warming

More bad news about the impact of global warming is coming from multiple fronts.

Common Dreams has posted a story by the Independent/UK on The Big Thaw: Global Disaster Will Follow If the Ice Cap on Greenland Melts. This is a very alarming report.

Another story in the Observer says Millions Face Glacier Catastrophe as global warming hits the Himalayas.

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Talk to Action Launches

A new website dedicated to understanding current religio-political movements and to encouraging an effective response to the Religious Right's theocratic impulses has launched today.

Talk to Action features an impressive and diverse list of weekly contributors. Among them are Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Democracy and Theocracy, Chip Berlet, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America, Esther Kaplan, author of With God on Their Side, and Jonathan Hutson, co-author of Bridging the Racial Divide. Bloggers like Pastor Dan of the Street Prophets blog, Carlos Stouffer of the Jesus Politics blog, Scott Isebrand of the Isefire blog, Lorie Johnson of the Dark Christianity blog, journalist Max Blumenthal, Joan Bokaer of Theocracy Watch and myself will also be making regular contributions.

Talk to Action is an interactive site that welcomes not only your comments but also your diary entries and essays. Here's a link to the page where you can register and become a full participant.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On Chiselling Mistakes into Stone

Everyone has made a simple mistake. Some people chisel theirs into stone.

The dictionary has one spelling for adultery. The ten commandments monument on the courthouse lawn in Stigler Oklahoma has another.

See command VII in the picture. (To see a larger image, click on the picture.)

This is an apt metaphor for the whole ten commandments flap in Haskell County Oklahoma.

John Dean Writes an Open Letter

John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, has written an open letter to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Here are a few paragraphs from Dean's letter:

In light of your broad powers, the limits and narrow focus of your investigation are surprising. On October 28 of this year, your office released a press statement in which you stated that "A major focus of the grand jury investigation was to determine which government officials had disclosed to the media prior to July 14, 2003, information concerning Valerie Wilson's CIA affiliation, and the nature, timing, extent, and purpose of such disclosures, as well as whether any official made such a disclosure knowing that Valerie Wilson's employment by the CIA was classified information."

If, indeed, that is the major focus of your investigation, then your investigation is strikingly limited, given your plenary powers. To be a bit more blunt, in historical context, it is certainly less vigorous an investigation than those of your predecessors who have served as special counsel -- men appointed to undertake sensitive high-level investigations when the Attorney General of the United States had a conflict of interest. (Here, it was, of course, the conflict of Attorney General John Ashcroft that led to the chain of events that resulted in your appointment.)

. . .

Even more troubling, from an historical point of view, is the fact that the narrowness of your investigation, which apparently is focusing on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (making it a crime to uncover the covert status of a CIA agent), plays right into the hands of perpetrators in the Administration.

Indeed, this is exactly the plan that was employed during Watergate by those who sought to conceal the Nixon Administration's crimes, and keep criminals in office.

. . .

With all due respect, Mr. Fitzgerald, I believe you are being had. I believe that you were selected with the expectation that you would conduct the narrowest of investigations, and it seems you have done just that.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

On America's Greatness

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn spoke at the rally for the ten commandments monument in Stigler Oklahoma this afternoon. He said, "The greatness of America depends on its faith, nothing else. . . . We can either deny our heritage, or we can embrace that heritage." He commended the residents of Haskell County for standing up to the ACLU by fighting to keep a granite ten commandments monument that was placed on their courthouse lawn last year.

Before Coburn arrived, the rally began with a call for people to join the "battle" against Satan (i.e. the ACLU) and featured short speeches/sermons by a number of local Assembly of God and Baptist preachers. The rally ended with an altar call for anyone who saw the light to come to Jesus.

In my eyes, America's greatness resides not in it's faith (nations can't have faith, only people can have faith), but in the religious liberty that it extends to everyone -- not just those of the majority faith, but to those of minority faith.

Unfortunately, the understanding of religious liberty among many in Haskell County Oklahoma was expressed by the rally organizer who encouraged people to stop cowering to minorities and stand up for their faith in the public square, a preacher who said the ACLU should go to North Korea, and a preacher's wife who indicated that those who disagreed with them were free to move elsewhere.

All who spoke at the rally did so with genuine sincerity, conviction, and resolve. While the tone was neither hostile nor angry, the message they insist on sending to the world demonstrates 1) extreme insensitivity to persons with different religious convictions 2) a lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and 3) a mythological understanding of American history.

I'll write more on this later.

Looking for a Prophet

Kudos to the Baptist Standard for posting Phil Strickland's speech "Where Have All the Prophets Gone?"

Phil was too ill to deliver it at the Texas Baptists Committed breakfast Tuesday, so George Mason read it at the meeting.

This is an extraordinarily good example of the prophetic leadership that Phil has been providing for Texas Baptists. Here is Strickland's thought provoking conclusion:

We desperately need a "theology of enough." We are stewards, not owners, of what we have, at least in Christian teaching. So do we have any walls around what we will spend on ourselves? Do we have any sense of enough for ourselves? That's where the prophets will emerge.

Ah, but what about one more?denominations. Should they take risk and speak prophetically or declare that the only real role of the denomination is meeting the need of the churches who are a member of the BGCT? To me the answer is easy. Meeting the will of churches, vital as it is, comes in behind one other: listening for and meeting the will of God.

What trumps the prophetic role in denominations is fear of financial loss, and the lack of understanding what crosses they are willing to die on, if any. What is so compelling that a denomination will stand there and ignore the consequences? Do we know the answer to that question? The question must be asked of laypeople and pastors and churches.

A half century ago in this very city some of the brightest lights of Baptists shone in church pulpits. One of the brightest was Blake Smith, pastor of the University Baptist Church. One Sunday morning he stood tall in that pulpit and declared that it was past time that the University of Texas open its doors to all Texas citizens. The time for integration had come. What's more, he said to his all-white church, the time had come for University Baptist Church to open its doors to all for whom Christ died.

Well, right after the benediction the predictable took place. An emergency deacons meeting was called for that afternoon. For hours those men grumbled on about what the preacher had said that morning, about whether he had the right to say those things, about the autonomy of the local church to decide who would and who would not be its members, about whether Blake Smith ought tobe their pastor at all. After all long while, the moderator looked to the back of the room where an old respected judge was sitting quietly. The man said, "Judge, we haven't heard from you on this matter. What do you think?" The judge rose to his feet and said solemnly, "Well, boys, you know I don't like what our pastor said this morning any more than any of the rest of you. But I think Jesus liked it a lot." Motion to adjourn.

Where have all the prophets gone?

Friday, November 18, 2005

An Interview with Paul Krugman

AlterNet has published an interview with Paul Krugman, economist at Princeton University and columnist for the New York Times.

IMHO, Paul Krugman is the best economist in America. His editorials on the NYT now require a subscription. So anything that you can get for free is worth a read.

On the Vice President for Torture

Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner has publicly accused Vice President Cheney of overseeing torture. Here's a quote:

"I am embarrassed that the USA has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible. He (Mr Cheney) advocates torture, what else is it? I just don't understand how a man in that position can take such a stance."

Well said.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Louisiana Baptists Turning Away from Fundamentalism

The Times Picayune is reporting that Louisiana Baptists rejected the fundamentalist candidate for the presidency of their convention and elected a moderate. They also declined to subordinate their state newspaper to state convention control.

Congratulations to the Mainstream Baptists in Louisiana who have been patiently and persistently trying to inform Lousiana Baptists about the dangers of fundamentalism.

Hat Tip to Howie Luvzus for calling my attention to this article.

On Criminal Negligence and Corporate Greed

USA Today has published a story about the toxic chemicals that Dupont has allegedly been putting into our bodies for the past two or three decades. Here's the lead paragraph:

A former engineer for the DuPont company has accused his ex-employer of concealing test results almost two decades ago that showed toxic chemicals leaching out of a paper coating used to give grease resistance to microwave popcorn bags, fast food and candy wrappers, and pizza box liners.

Another article from the Common Dreams newswire says that these toxic chemicals are in the blood of 95% of all Americans:

Breakdown chemicals from these coatings and related sources are now in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent the last several years trying to determine how they get there.

The Ghostbusters Approach to Science

Christ Mooney, in an article for The American Prospect about the Intelligent Design controversy in Pennsylvania, Kansas and now Oklahoma, aptly calls the latest devolution of creationism the "Ghostbusters approach." Here's a quote:

This science-abusing strategy has reached a pinnacle in Kansas, where the state Board of Education, dominated by anti-evolutionists, has adopted standards that call for teaching about alleged "scientific criticisms" of evolutionary theory, and that redefine the nature of science itself to potentially include non-natural explanations. Call it the Ghostbusters approach: According to Kansas, scientists are now free to go hunting for ghosts, genies, and other supernatural entities. If they happen to discover God along the way so much the better, but let no one say the board has explicitly required it.

Rice Gets Commendation from Religious Leaders

Ethics Daily reports that Secretary of State Condolezza Rice has been commended by a group of religious leaders for her leadership toward a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rice has been directly involved in negotiations over security controls at the Gaza border crossing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Proposal in Hot Air Balloon Lands Andi Thomas

Trey Sullivan literally swept Andi Thomas off her feet and had her floating on air -- in a hot air balloon -- when he proposed to her for marriage.

Realizing that the wrong answer could be deflationary, Andi readily agreed.

The couple, now with their feet firmly planted on the ground, are planning an August 2006 wedding.

Andi, a Political Science and Religion major at Furman University, is the daughter of T and Kathie Thomas. She is the Co-founder and a member of the Board of Directors for His Nets. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Global Women.

Trey is a recent Furman University graduate. He is now enroute to a remote location in Northern Africa where he will work with CBF personnel teaching English.

On Iowa's Taxpayer Funded Christian Prison

The November issue of Mercer University's Baptist Studies Bulletin is now online.

Here's a link to my article on Iowa's Taxpayer Funded Faith-based Prison Wing

Falwell Cancels Trip to Oklahoma

Jerry Falwell was scheduled to speak at the pastor's conference for Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma pastors Monday.

Greg Horton, writing for the Oklahoma Gazette, wrote an outstanding article about Falwell's controversial past. (To find Greg's article, scroll down to the third red headline bar) [We must be overloading the Gazette's server, here's a link to a scanned image of Greg's article].

The Oklahoman reports that he cancelled because of mechanical problems with his private plane. Jerry's plane is a Windstream jet that in 1999 was valued at 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 million dollars. It was given to him by the state of Israel for his work on behalf of Israel. (See Grace Halsell's Forcing God's Hand: Why Millions Pray for a Quick Rapture -- and Destruction of Planet Earth, pp. 100-101.)

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Baptist News Roundup

There's too much noteworthy news to comment on all of it. Here's a list of current stories:

Baptist Standard on the BGCT Convention
The Houston Chronicle on the election of the first African-American President of BGCT
The Houston Chronicle on the first Vietnamese Pastor to speak at BGCT
Dallas Morning News on Phil Strickland, Christian Life Commission Director for BGCT
Biblical Recorder on the BSC Convention
ABP on Georgia severing ties with Mercer University
ABP North Carolina votes to exclude gay-friendly churches
ABP on the death of Adrian Rogers
CNN on the death of Adrian Rogers
Baptist Life for a daily news roundup

Update: Here's some links to information about the deteriorating relationship between the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Georgetown College:

Lexington Herald-Leader on Baptists Affirm Split from College
Lexington Herald-Leader on Students to Vote at Baptist Meeting
Lexington Herald-Leader on Baptists' election turning divisive

ACLU Sues to Exapand Religious Tax Exemption

Kudos to the ACLU for suing the state of Georgia for discriminating against minority religions. Here are the lead paragraphs:
Acting on behalf of a seller of spiritual books, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit arguing that a Georgia law exempting the Bible from sale taxes is discriminatory and should be extended to all publications dealing with the meaning of life.

"If they're not taxing someone's holy scriptures, they shouldn't be taxing anyone's," said Candace Apple, who owns the Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. "I'm not willing to stand at the counter and tell someone, 'Oh, sorry, your religion is wrong.'"

Partners in Service

Dr. Charles Wade, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Dr. Rick McClatchy, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas, confer during the Baptist Committed breakfast at the BGCT meeting yesterday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ethnically United Baptists

This year's meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas demonstrated more participation and more unity of spirit and purpose among person's from different ethnic backgrounds than any other Convention of Baptists based in North America.

The racial divisions that previously separated Baptists in America have clearly been dissolved among moderate Baptists in Texas.

Oneness in Christ is truly something to be celebrated. Thanks to Texas Baptists for leading the way on this.

Unfortunately, the clock is still running on Southern Baptists in Texas.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Baptist Joint Committee at BGCT

Allen McFarland, Brent Walker, and Steve Reeves at the Baptist Joint Committee booth at the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Thanks guys, for defending everyone's First Amendment rights.

Historic Day for Texas Baptists

Rev. Dr. Michael Bell, the first African-American to be elected president of the BaptiSt General Convention of Texas, greets Dr. Lavonn Brown and Rev. Dale Geis, the first messengers from a church in Oklahoma to participate as full members of the BGCT.

Dr. Bell, the pastor of Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church in Fort Worth, was elected by an 88% plurality of the vote.

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Preparing for Peak Oil

Thanks to AlterNet for publishing the transcript of a speech by Richard Heinberg to the California Leaders Roundtable Dialogue on Peak Oil. He cites this quote from a report by Robert Hirsch prepared for the U.S. Department of Engergy:

The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past "energy crisis" experience will provide relatively little guidance. The challenge of oil peaking deserves immediate, serious attention, if risks are to be fully understood and mitigation begun on a timely basis. Mitigation will require a minimum of a decade of intense, expensive effort, because the scale of liquid fuels mitigation is inherently extremely large. Intervention by governments will be required, because the economic and social implications of oil peaking would otherwise be chaotic.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Texas Bound

I'm headed to Austin Texas to attend the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

I'll be attending as a guest. Dr. Lavonn Brown and Rev. Dale Geis will be attending as messengers from NorthHaven Church in Norman, OK. As far as I know, this is the first time that messengers from an Oklahoma church will be attending the BGCT convention as fully participating members.

This is yet another sign that the geographical boundaries that separated moderate Baptists are dissolving. NorthHaven Church has no desire to affiliate with the fundamentalist controlled Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. It is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma and, now, the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

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Medicare's Treacherous Prescription Program

Thanks to Truthout for posting Paul Krugman's essay on Medicare's Deadly Donut of prescription drug coverage for the elderly.

Krugman makes it clear that the program benefits least the people who need it the most.

In that respect, it is like the tax cuts over the last five years. They benefit least those who need it most.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Republicans Calling for Able Danger Testimony

It looks like the cover up of the intelligence that the "Able Danger" unit uncovered before 9/11 is about to be revealed. The "Able Danger" intelligence unit identified the leaders of the 9/11 plot more than a year before the attacks.

Republican Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania is calling for a criminal investigation about how this intelligence unit was disbanded and the information it uncovered concealed.

Kudos to Rep. Weldon. It's about time this became a non-partisan issue.

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Robertson Says Dover Deserves Divine Retribution

Yesterday Pat Robertson demonstrated the smallness, pettiness and vindictiveness of his understanding of God. Associated Press reports that on his "700 Club" television broadcast he said,

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city."

In elections Tuesday, the citizens of Dover Pennsylvania replaced every member of their school board. Under the previous board, the Dover school district was sued for requiring that "Intelligent Design" be taught in public schools. Robertson claims that he was trying to warn the citizens of Dover that "our actions have spiritual consequences."

Robertson is right about our actions having spiritual consequences, but he is wrong about God being so self absorbed.

Millions of people watch Robertson's broadcasts every day. His angry diatribes influence the thinking of millions of undiscerning spiritual neophytes around the world. The small, vindictive god that Robertson has created in his own image and then projected onto the universe bears little resemblance to the God that Jesus revealed.

If anyone needs to stop poking his fingers in God's eyes, it is Pat Robertson.

Some day he's going to have to give an account for making God appear so puny and petty on his broadcasts.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Belmont University Ending Relationiship with Tennessee Baptists

Weary of fundamentalist witch hunts, Belmont University has decided to end its relationship with Tennessee Baptists.

Last year the Tennessee Baptist Convention launched an investigation into the orthodoxy of the faculty at three schools of higher education affiliated with the Convention. Belmont was one of the schools investigated.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

AU Faults IRS for Inconsistency

The national office for Americans United for Separation of Church and State has issued a press release about the IRS warning to the liberal church in California that had a guest sermon opposing the war in Iraq on the Sunday before the presidential election last year.

National AU faults the IRS for being inconsistent in applying the regulation that non-profits not "oppose or endorse candidates for public office." They question why the IRS permitted a sermon by Arkansas Baptist minister Ronnie Floyed to go unchallenged.

Peronally, I think the national office is calling this one a little too close. It appears to me that the national office interprets the law to mean that politicians should not be named in sermons (which I agree would be most prudent). They certainly cannot mean that political issues and public policies should not be addressed in sermons.
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Vote Glitch Affects GOP in California

I guess I'll eat some crow on my last post.

Here's a link to information about how GOP Governor Arnold Sscwarzenegger was told that he had already voted when he went to the polls to vote.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Voting Machine Problems in Virginia

WDBJ7 TV in Roanoke, Virginia is reporting problems with the touch screen voting machines being used for the gubernatorial elections there today.

People were having problems getting the machines to register votes for the Democratic candidate.

The report says, "State election officials have been told of the problem. They believe if there is a problem, it could have been caused by the way the machines were stored."

Why is it that whenever there is a problem with electronic voting machines the glitch invariably favors the Republican candidate? Has anyone ever heard of a glitch that favored the Democratic candidate? If votes can be skewed by the way machines are stored, why aren't half of the voters reporting that their vote is being incorrectly tabulated complaining that the vote is being registered for the Democratic candidate?

BBC Reports use of Incendiary Arms in Falluja

BBC has reported that Italian State TV has broadcast a documentary that accuses the U.S. military of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in Falluja. Here's a quote:

The documentary begins with formerly classified footage of the Americans using napalm bombs during the Vietnam war.

It then shows a series of photographs from Falluja of corpses with the flesh burnt off but clothes still intact - which it says is consistent with the effects of white phosphorus on humans.

Jeff Englehart, described as a former US soldier who served in Falluja, tells of how he heard orders for white phosphorus to be deployed over military radio - and saw the results.

"Burned bodies, burned women, burned children; white phosphorus kills indiscriminately... When it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning flesh to the bone," he says.

Last December, the US state department issued a denial of what it called "widespread myths" about the use of illegal weapons in Falluja.

"Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Falluja, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters," the US statement said.

Here's a link to video of the documentary.

Hat tip to Harold Brooks for the video link.

Carson-Newman Professors Survive Witch Hunt

Ethics Daily is reporting that the trustees at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee affirmed their faculty after an investgation found no evidence of "un-Christian" or "non-Baptist" teaching at the school.

Last year, the Tennessee Baptist Convention ordered its Education Committee to investigate the teachings at Carson-Newman, Belmont University and Union University and report back to the convention.

Monday, November 07, 2005

IRS Issues Warning over Antiwar Sermon

The LA Times is reporting that an "Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning" to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. The church is one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches.

Here's a link where you can find the 10-31-04 guest sermon entitled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush" by the church's former rector, George F. Rigas. It was preached two days before the national elections last November.

The IRS contends that the sermon constitutes an attempt to intervene in a political campaign or election.

The sermon is indeed "a searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq." At no time, however, was an explicit endorsement made for Sen. Kerry. Rigas forcefully delineated the differences that he believed Jesus would have with Bush's policies, but he insisted that all congregants should vote their own "values" and "consciences" and acknowledged that Christians could come down on either side.

In my opinion, this sermon did not constitute a violation of laws prohibiting political electioneering by tax-exempt organizations. Whenever I am asked to review possible instances of electioneering by churches, I ignore almost everything that falls short of explict endorsements of candidates and/or political parties by church leaders acting in an official capacity. Preaching about "values," issues and policies -- whether they be from either the left wing or the right wing of the political spectrum -- are constitutionally protected expressions of free speech.

(NOTE: To find the sermon -- click on the ARCHIVES section [toward the bottom of the left hand column on the church's website], then click on SERMONS, then click on 2004-2005 and scroll down to the October 31, 2004 sermon)

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The Latest on the Baptist/Beer Brouhaha

Ethics Daily has posted a story entitled "TV Station Stands Behind Report of Baptist/Beer Brouhaha."

Alabama Southern Baptists have clearly been stung by the criticism they have received about this incident. It is indeed unfortunate that the sacrifices that Southern Baptist volunteers made to help hurricane victims has been overshadowed by this controversy.

Hopefully, when they have had time for reflection, Baptists will decide that the principles of petty legalisms should give way to the grace that meets human need.

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Evangelicals Clash with Inhofe on Environment

The New York Times has published a report entitled "When Cleaner Air is a Biblical Obligation" that describes a clash between the National Association of Evangelicals and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Here's a quote.

Mr. Inhofe has led efforts to keep mandatory controls on greenhouse gases out of any emission reduction bill considered by his committee and has called human activities contributing to global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

"You can always find in Scriptures a passage to misquote for almost anything," Mr. Inhofe said in an interview, dismissing the position of Mr. Cizik's association as "something very strange."

Mr. Inhofe said the vast majority of the nation's evangelical groups would oppose global warming legislation as inconsistent with a conservative agenda that also includes opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. He said the National Evangelical Association had been "led down a liberal path" by environmentalists and others who have convinced the group that issues like poverty and the environment are worth their efforts.

Kudos to the NEA for beginning to publicly address environmental issues. Kudos to Sen. Inhofe for acknowledging that scriptures can be misquoted to support almost anything. If Inhofe could find the humility to question and re-examine his own interpretation of scripture, we might be able to make some progress on this issue.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

On Fireballs and UFO's

Seeing this article, "Fireballs seen over Germany spark UFO Speculation" reminded me of a time about 31 years ago when, for a moment, I thought I might get to see a UFO landing.

It happened when I was serving as a police officer for the Albuquerque Police Department. At about 5:30 AM one fall morning I was driving up a winding dirt road to the Police Department firing range that was on the east side of town. The fog that night diffused the beams from my headlights and made it hard for me to keep my sleepy eyes open. Suddenly, as I drove through a curve between a pair of small hills, a huge fire ball zoomed over the roof of my car and went down into the valley on the other side of the hill. No sooner had I goosed the gas pedal to climb the hill in front of me than another fire ball flashed over the rear end of my car. For an instant I felt like I had driven into the middle of a bad science fiction flick.

Once I climbed a couple hills and had a chance to look back at the lights which were strobing down several hills behind me, I realized that the lights were guiding ordinary airplanes to the runway at the Albuquerque airport.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ancient Church Found at Armageddon

Associated Press is reporting that archaeologists in Israel have unearthed an ancient church at Megiddo in Northern Israel which is believed to be the biblical site of Armageddon.

The church dates from the third or fourth century.

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On Talking to Atheists

Greg Horton at The Parish blog makes some interesting observations on "How to Talk to Heathens."

Greg is a free lance journalist. He just spent some time interviewing atheists about their beliefs. He makes the interesting observation that both fundamentalists and atheists seem to be presupposing some form of universal linguistic objectivity.

Greg correctly highlights the metaphorical nature of language.

Baylor has a new President

Associated Baptist Press reports that John Lilley, current President of the University of Nevada, has been elected President of Baylor University.

The Baptist Standard has detailed information from a press released issued by the Baylor University Public Relations department.

Here are some other news stories about this: Waco Tribune
Dallas Morning News (Registration Required)
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Registration Required)
Houston Chronicle

Congratulations to Dr. Lilley. It certainly looks like Baylor found someone with the background and experience necessary to face the challenges at this vital and important University.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Alito Would Change Church-State Law

Today's New York Times has published a story that says "Nominee is Said to Question Church-State Rulings." Here's a quote:
Mr. Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general, said he and Judge Alito had discussed the Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, which Mr. Cornyn argued in 2000 and lost. The court ruled that the Constitution did not allow student-led prayer before a public high school football game.

"He did commiserate with me a little bit," Mr. Cornyn said. "I hope that he will be able to give the United States Supreme Court's ruling some coherence, because frankly they are way out of step with what the founding fathers intended."

Having lived near Santa Fe, Texas for twelve years, I know the aggressive and assertive form of Christianity that prevails in that community. Anyone who doubts that school prayers were emblematic of the hostile climate toward persons of minority faiths that exists in that school district should read the first footnote of the Supreme Court's decision on that case.

Here's the footnote:
A decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted, that many District officials "apparently neither agreed with nor particularly respected." 168 F. 3d 806, 809, n. 1 (CA5 1999). About a month after the complaint was filed, the District Court entered an order that provided, in part:

"[A]ny further attempt on the part of District or school administration, officials, counsellors, teachers, employees or servants of the School District, parents, students or anyone else, overtly or covertly to ferret out the identities of the Plaintiffs in this cause, by means of bogus petitions, questionnaires, individual interrogation, or downright `snooping', will cease immediately. ANYONE TAKING ANY ACTION ON SCHOOL PROPERTY, DURING SCHOOL HOURS, OR WITH SCHOOL RESOURCES OR APPROVAL FOR PURPOSES OF ATTEMPTING TO ELICIT THE NAMES OR IDENTITIES OF THE PLAINTIFFS IN THIS CAUSE OF ACTION, BY OR ON BEHALF OF ANY OF THESE INDIVIDUALS, WILL FACE THE HARSHEST POSSIBLE CONTEMPT SANCTIONS FROM THIS COURT, AND MAY ADDITIONALLY FACE CRIMINAL LIABILITY. The Court wants these proceedings addressed on their merits, and not on the basis of intimidation or harassment of the participants on either side." App. 34-35.

Here's a link to the entire decision: Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe

Huffington Tells Carville to Take a Vacation

Columnist Arriana Huffington has published an essay that encourages Democratic strategist James Carville to get out of the spotlight and take a vacation.

In this instance, I think she is giving him some good advice.

Richard Land Ready for Subpoena

KRISTV in Corpus Christi reports that Karl Rove gave Richard Land advance notice about the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito. Here's a quote:
Asked if senators might be as curious as they were about Rove's call to Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson, Land says, "If they want to subpoena me to testify, they can subpoena away."

Support for Rove Isolating the President

Doug Thomspon at Capitol Hill Blue says GOP leaders are telling Bush ""Your Presidency is Effectively Over" unless he fires embattled White House advisor Karl Rove.

Here's a quote:
"Right now, George W. Bush is the Republican Party's chief liability," says a GOP strategist who has advised Presidential campaigns for 30 years. "The entire political future of the party and perhaps the nation now rests on the shoulders of a President that no one - Democrat or Republican - believes in or trusts."

Jimmy Carter Blasts Southern Baptist Fundamentalism

Former President Jimmy Carter blasts the values of Southern Baptists and Fundamentalists in his newest book Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis.

A review of the book in Ethics Daily says,

In Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, the 39th president of the United States cites frequently changes in the Southern Baptist Convention to illustrate what he argues is a fundamental shift in U.S. values.

Yesterday, a State Representative in Oklahoma told me that this book clarified the threat of Fundamentalism and the effect that it had on Southern Baptists better than anything that she had previously read. She said she wants to give a copy of it to every member of the state legislature in Oklahoma.

I have not read the book yet. After two ringing endorsements of the book in two days, you can be sure that it is at the top of my list of books to buy and read.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gulags Returning

Everything that Real Live Preacher writes is worth a read.

His essay on the "Return of the Gulag" is worth reading twice.

WBBH News Director Responds to Southern Baptists

Darrel Adams, Executive Editor and News Director of WBBH NBC2 and WZVN ABC7 gave this response to denials that Southern Baptist volunteers from Alabama had sent victims of Hurricane Wilma away from their relief station in Clewiston, Florida without water:

"We stand by the facts reported in our story and witnessed by more than one reporter. No water was being given to the people in line until an alternative to the Anheuser-Busch product arrived."

Historic Speech Online

Senator Reid's historic speech on "National Security Must Come Before Politics" is online.

Here's a link.

One of the best articles describing Senator Frist's reaction to the speech and the importance of the speech is Dana Milbank's story "Mad About You" in yesterday's Washington Post.

Faith-Based Prison on Trial

Media Transparency has published Bill Berkowitz's article "Charles Colson's Christian-based prison project on trial in Iowa."

This will be a precedent setting case that has implications for the constitutionality of using taxpayer funds for many of this administration's faith-based initiatives.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Carter says White House Misled Country on Iraq

Former President Jimmy Carter appeared on the Today Show this morning and said the White House misled the country on Iraq.

He said he supports efforts to force an update on prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Raw Story is reporting that the president was not alone in "fixing" intelligence on Iraq. It says that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee quietly "fixed" intelligence on Iraq to divert blame from the White House.

Alabama Baptist PR Associate Responds to Blog

Keith Hinson, Public Relations Associate for the Alabama Baptist Convention's State Board of Missions sent me the following e-mail:

Volunteers working with the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit honored the request of the host pastor to set aside canned water with an Anheuser-Busch logo. At no time was anyone deprived of water. In fact, there was a huge surplus of bottled and canned water available at the Clewiston relief site. There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers.

It is an absolute falsehood to suggest -- as many irresponsible bloggers have -- that the Baptist volunteers withheld the basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane. Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water.

One may disagree with the strong stand that many Southern Baptists take against the consumption of alcohol. One may even regard such opposition to alcohol as offensive. But it's impossible to say truthfully that this conviction caused any inconvenience or shortage for victims of Hurricane Wilma. The facts are exactly the opposite.

The fact is that virtually all of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serve selflessly -- taking time away from employment and family to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Churches such as First Baptist Church, Clewiston, graciously serve as host sites -- providing a place where food, water and other necessities of life may be obtained by anyone in need -- without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration.

I presume it was sent in response to this blog. Here's the latest follow-up.

Religious Right Silent on Libby Indictment

Kudos to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for his article "Religious Right Quiet about Libby Indictment."

It clearly documents the disparity in response from their vociferous reactions to perjury during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Their silence leaves a distinct impression that some preachers prefer being partisan political operatives more than being prophetic voices in the public square.

BJC Concerned about Alito Nomination

The Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty has posted a story that expresses concern that "Confirmation of Alito could shift court on church-state issues."

Associated Baptist Press has published a story that says "Alito would give Catholics historic majority on Supreme Court."

Advocates for Religious Liberty

From left to right: Jim Huff, Executive Secretary of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United, Paul Simmons, President of national Americans United, Rachel Joseph, Legislative Assistant for national Americans United, and a pedestrian who happened to be walking down the street when this picture was taken. Behind the camera is Beth Corbin, Director of national Americans United's Field Department.

We had just finished an afternoon at the U.S. Senate lobbying against the voucher bills that would give government money to religious and private schools and against amendments that would remove civil rights protections from the bill reauthorizing Head Start.

Chet Edwards Speaks to AU Board

U.S. Representative Chet Edwards of Texas, one of the foremost advocates of Religious Liberty in Congress, spoke to the Executive Board of Americans United yesterday.

He spoke about the unprecedented challenges we face in preserving the First Amendment at this time. He encouraged the board to plan strategically for the next five, ten and twenty years and he suggested that it is time for us to become proactive instead of reactive in finding ways to strengthen and rebuild the wall separating church and state.