RD News Round-Up—Oct.14, 2008

Connecticut Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

On October 10, Connecticut became the third state—after Massachusetts and California—to legalize same-sex marriage. In a 4-3 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state had “failed to establish adequate reason to justify the statutory ban on same-sex marriage.” In its 85-page decision, the justices noted in the majority opinion that they recognized “as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health … that ‘our decision marks a change in the history of our marriage law.’”  

According to the Boston Globe, “The case, Kerrigan v. the state Commissioner of Public Health, was brought by eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by the Madison town clerk. They argued that the state’s civil union law was discriminatory and unconstitutional because it established a separate and therefore inherently unequal institution for a minority group. Citing equal protection under the law, the state Supreme Court agreed. ‘In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry,’ said the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Richard N. Palmer.”  

Tony Perkins, president of Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group, The Family Research Council, which had filed an amicus brief in the case, immediately denounced the court’s ruling, calling it “outrageous” and “shameful.” Perkins said that “This radical redefinition of marriage will have severe consequences for children, families, religious liberties, businesses and every facet of society as we know it.”

Perkins added that the “decision puts marriage at risk all across the nation and highlights the need for a Marriage Protection Amendment to the US Constitution.” He called on “both presidential candidates [to] address the problems created by four activist judges in Connecticut.”   


Faith and Politics: Young Adults in the 2008 Election

Sponsored by Faith in Public Life and conducted by Public Religion Research, “a large national survey with an unprecedented over sample of Americans ages 18-34” was released on Wednesday, October 8. The results of the survey are “analyzed” in a new report titled “The Young and the Faithful” which includes portraits of the political views and issue priorities of two important groups: young Catholics and evangelicals, according to a Media Advisory issued by Faith in Public Life.

The survey found:

  • Monthly worship attenders swing to Obama in 2008. The greatest shift in candidate preference between 2004 and 2008 has occurred among all voters who attend religious services once or twice a month, moving from 49% support for Kerry in 2004 to 60% support for Obama in 2008.
  • More Americans think Obama is friendly to religion than McCain. 49% of Americans say Obama is friendly to religion, while 45% say McCain is friendly to religion. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.
  • Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Obama. Among young first-time voters, who make up close to one-third of this age group (ages 18-34), more than seven-in-ten (71%) support Obama, compared to slightly more than half (53%) of young voters who have voted in previous elections.
  • Younger Catholics more strongly support Obama, abortion rights, and more active government than older Catholics. While older Catholics (age 35 and older) are split between the candidates (46% for McCain and 44% for Obama), among younger Catholics Obama leads McCain by 15 points (55% to 40%). Six-in-ten younger Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to half of older Catholics. Younger Catholics are more pro-government than any other religious group, with two-thirds preferring bigger government with more services, compared to 41% support among older Catholics.
  • Younger white evangelicals strongly oppose abortion rights but are less conservative and more supportive of same-sex marriage than older evangelicals. Young white evangelicals are strongly opposed to abortion rights, with two-thirds saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Yet, less than a majority (49%) of younger evangelicals identify as conservative, compared to nearly two-thirds (65%) of older evangelicals.  Among young evangelicals, a majority favor either same-sex marriage (24%) or civil unions (28%), compared to a majority (61%) of older evangelicals who favor no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.
  • Younger white evangelicals are more pluralistic and more supportive of active government at home and of diplomacy abroad. While less than one-third (30%) of older evangelicals say a person can be moral without believing in God, 44% of younger evangelicals affirm this idea, a 14-point gap. A majority (56%) of younger evangelicals believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace, compared to only 44% of older white evangelicals. Younger white evangelicals are also more likely than older white evangelicals to favor a bigger government offering more services, by a margin of 21 points (44% and 23% respectively).
  • Americans say the economy, energy and gas prices, and health care are the most important issues in 2008. Americans rank the economy (83%) and energy/gas prices (76%), and health care (71%) as the most important issues in the 2008 election. Economic issues topped the list of most important issues among all religious groups.
  • Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008. Only 43% and 28% respectively say these issues are very important issues to their vote in 2008. White evangelicals do not rank abortion or same-sex marriage in their top five most important voting issues.
  • Americans see room for common ground in abortion debate. A majority (53%) of Americans believe political leaders can work to find common ground on abortion while staying true to their core beliefs, including majorities of white mainline Protestants (59%), Catholics (55%), and the unaffiliated (52%).
  • The generation gap on same-sex marriage is large and increasing. Nearly half (46%) of young adults say gay couples should be allowed to marry, compared to only 29% of Americans overall. Over the last two years, support for same-sex marriage among young adults has jumped 9 points (from 37% to 46%), and the generation gap has nearly doubled.
  • Support for same-sex marriage is significant among young religious Americans. Among young white mainline Protestants and Catholics, close to half (48% and 44% respectively) support same-sex marriage. Young white evangelicals are 2.5 times as likely as older evangelicals to say that gay couples should be allowed to marry (25% to 9%).
  • Addressing religious liberty concerns strongly increases support for same-sex marriage. When respondents were provided with an assurance that “no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples,” support for same-sex marriage increased by 14 points in the general population and among younger adults.
  • Young adults prefer larger government that provides increased services. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) young adults say they prefer a larger government providing more services rather than a smaller government providing fewer services. Among Americans as a whole, less than half (45%) want bigger government. The generation gap is evident among every religious tradition. Two-thirds (67%) of younger Catholics say they prefer bigger government, and younger white evangelicals are 21 points more likely than older evangelicals to support larger government (44% to 23% respectively).


    God and the Financial Crisis

    Over the years, it has been fashionable for Christian Right leaders to blame an assortment of crises on an America that is out of sorts with God—see the late Reverend Jerry Falwell’s heaping of blame on gays, lesbians, the ACLU, pro-choicers, and others for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and Pastor John Hagee claiming that Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of responding to Gay Pride event scheduled for New Orleans. Both later apologized—or sort of apologized—for their ill-advised and intemperate statements.

    Michael Heath, the executive director of the Maine affiliate of Focus on the Family Action, the political arm of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and the chair of the board of Americans for Truth—described by Talk-To-Action’s Fred Clarkson as “one of most virulently anti-gay organizations in the U.S.”—has come up with a unique take on the financial crisis.

    Not totally sure whether it is “God’s judgment or not,” Heath suggests a series of adjustments that would allow Americans to get right with God, and for God to “crack a smile”:

    • Put Maine on record as being against abortion the nanosecond the Supreme Court releases the Roe shackle.
    • Defund the Family Planning Association of Maine.
    • Amend Maine’s Constitution to define Marriage.
    • Eliminate domestic partnerships and ignore pleas to create civil unions.
    • Unleash Maine’s private sector to make Maine energy independent.
    • End discrimination against private religious schools and home schools.


    Resurgent Anti-Semitism in Wake of Wall Street Meltdown  

    According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there has been a spike in anti-Semitism—particularly on the Internet—in the wake of the financial crisis.   

    “We know from modern history that whenever there is a downturn in the global economy, there will be an upturn in the level of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and that is what we are seeing now,” said ADL National Director Abe Foxman. “The age-old canards about Jews and money are always just beneath the surface. As we witnessed after 9/11, whenever there is trouble or uncertainty in the economy or world events, Jews become the scapegoats, and ugly anti-Semitic canards are given new life.”  

    The surge in anti-Semitism has been most visible on the Internet. On neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites and blogs, hundreds of comments have been posted “promot[ing] centuries-old stereotypes and conspiracy theories alleging Jewish control of the economy, banking and the government,” YNetNews recently reported. The ADL noted that a number of posts “have gone so far as to resurrect Nazi-era propaganda with threads such as ‘The Jewish Problem’ or comments such as, ‘The Final Solution 2?.’”  


    Christian Professor Concerned that Race Riots Could Follow an Obama Loss  

    David Corbin, a politics professor at The King’s College, a Christian college in New York City, is sounding the alarm that an Obama loss on Election Day could cause riots on the streets in big cities across America. According to OneNewsNow, the online news service of Donald Wildmons’ American Family Association, Corbin “contends there is potential for public riots the night of or after the election, if Obama’s lead in the polls does not translate into victory.”  

    “I don’t think that’s something that we’ve looked at very closely, and I think that this could be a powder keg here as we get towards that day, given that Senator Obama is an African American and given that there might be some backlash if he actually loses,” Corbin explained.

    Corbin is thinking about the strife caused by the Rodney King verdict: “I think a lot of people are looking to an Obama presidency to affirm the notion that somehow Americans aren’t racist and, if for some reason Senator Obama loses, then it’s just, ‘Oh well, it’s said and done. We must be a racist nation.’”  

    While Corbin was contemplating a series of post-election riots, four students at George Fox University, a Christian university based in Newberg, Oregon, confessed to hanging an effigy of Barack Obama from a tree on campus and were suspended for up to a year, the university president announced Tuesday, September 30. According to the Oregonian, “‘Other sanctions include community service and multicultural education, which must be completed before the students can return to campus,’ said Brad Lau, vice president of student life.”  


    Proposition 8 Updates—New Polling Data; Gay Marriage, ‘worse than radical Islam’; and More 

    The Yes on 8 campaign launched its first ad, which features San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom making a speech saying that same-sex marriages are going to happen “whether you like it or not!” It also features Richard Peterson, a law professor at Pepperdine University, claiming that “if Prop 8 fails, people could be sued for their personal beliefs, churches opposed to same-sex marriage could be threatened with losing their tax-exempt status, and suggests that children in public schools would be taught about same-sex marriage.”

    A new poll conducted on behalf of four California television stations on Oct. 4 and 5—after the Yes on 8 campaign had released its Newsom ad—has seen an up-tick in support for a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California. The San Jose Mercury News reported that “SurveyUSA said the Proposition 8 campaign remains too close to call because of potential statistical error, the new poll is the first that shows the measure gaining strength since late September and potentially pulling ahead.”    

    On October 3, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Sandhya Bathija reported on sitting in on conference call sponsored by Concerned Women for America (CWA), and the leaders of California’s ProtectMarriage campaign. The call was led by Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, CA, who is the leader and initiator of Proposition 8—the California ballot initiative that would strip gays of the right to marry.

    Here is some of what Bathija heard from Garlow:

    “When I find myself up past the midnight hour asking ‘why am I doing this?’ I think of the conversation that took place in Cairo, Egypt, between an Egyptian Christian pastor who has been severely persecuted by Islam and a man named Lou Engle” (Engle is the theocracy-minded founder of The Call, a fundamentalist youth movement, who is leading a 40-day fast to pass Proposition 8.)  

    “When Lou was in Cairo, Egypt, this pastor said to him, as a pastor that suffers at the hands of radical Islam, he said, ‘The eyes of the world are on California. We’re watching California and the vote on marriage. Because if you fail there to stop it, if you fail to stop it, what will be unleashed across the world will be a spirit worse than radical Islam.’”

    In late September, Sergey Brin, cofounder and the president of Technology at Google, took a public stand in opposition to Proposition 8. The statement, titled “Our position on California No on 8 campaign” read in part:

    “As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions—Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay—we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on.

    ”However, while there are many objections to this proposition—further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text—it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8—we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.”

    Brin’s stand—along with No on 8 donations from Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, and PG&E—has aggravated a number of Christian Right leaders including Randy Thomasson, the head of the Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), who has called for a boycott of Google. “There needs to be a response from people who will say, ‘I’m not going to put a dime of my money or time into businesses that are attacking the sacred institution of marriage,’” Thomasson told the AFA’s OneNewsNow.

    As of Friday, September 26, according to the Bay Area Reporter, the Yes on 8 campaign had raised about $16.8 million, while about $13 million has been raised by No on 8.


    Rick Warren Sets the Record Straight

    Whatever else Rick Warren may be, he is the master of his own domain; savvy enough to try and control his image and how he is described in the media.   

    After his performance as moderator at Saddleback Church’s presidential forum with Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, Rick Warren recently took exception to the media’s portrayal of him as “Rick Warren, the Hawaiian-shirted preacher,” maintaining that it “started becoming a shtick.” In an early October interview with Christianity Today, Warren said that he hadn’t worn a Hawaiian shirt “in two years” and that he “doesn’t even own one.” Warren also said that he was tired of being labeled the new Billy Graham: “I’m very tired of it. I have said many times, there is no successor to Billy Graham… If there is any successor to Billy Graham, it’s Franklin, who has continued to do evangelism. Most media only have two stories: build you up or tear you down. They are always looking for ‘the next big thing’ to build up.”  

    While miffed at the media for focusing on his laid back Aloha image and the Graham comparison, Warren did acknowledge that the way the media dealt with the presidential forum was “beyond expectation”: “The superlatives used by the media elite were absolutely astounding.”  

    Christianity Today pointed out that Warren’s original PEACE Plan, set forth in 2005, had morphed into “PEACE 2.0 and includes the PEACE Coalition, a three-legged stool of private, public, and church partnerships, as well as a new focus on reconciliation and civil discourse.”  

    Warren described his mission:

    I have these three great objectives in my life. One of them is to restore responsibility to individuals. Everything is a gift from God, and what we do with it, we are responsible to God for—stewardship. The second one is to restore credibility to the church. One thing I wanted to do in this forum is say: The church is at the table, the church is intelligent, and the church believes in the common good, not just the Good News. That leads to the third goal, which is to restore civility to civilization.

    Read the complete Christianity Today interview or a report on how Warren’s PEACE plan is playing out in Rwanda.


    McCain to Gays and Lesbians: Thanks, but no Thanks  

    In an extensive interview with the Washington Blade, a longtime Washington, D.C.-based gay publication, Senator John McCain thanked the Log Cabin Republicans for their endorsement and said that he hoped gay voters would consider voting for him.

    On issues of import to gays, McCain basically said “Thanks, but no thanks.”  

    Keen News Service reported that McCain “implied that he is skeptical about supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, and he dodged a question about anti-gay nominees to the US Supreme Court.” Regarding remarks made earlier in his campaign that he opposed gays adopting children, McCain suggested that his remarks have been “misinterpreted”: “I hope my comments are not misinterpreted,” wrote McCain. “I respect the hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian people who are doing their best to raise the children they have adopted. As someone who adopted a child, Cindy and I know better than most couples the amazing satisfaction that comes from providing love to an unwanted child. I believe a child is best raised by a mother and father because of the unique contributions that they make together to the development of a child.”  

    McCain refused to rule out nominating Supreme Court justices that have made anti-gay rulings, saying that he still believed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is working in the military but he added that he would be “willing to have the policy reviewed to make sure that’s the case.” He also acknowledged that he opposes same-sex marriage, calling it as an issue to be decided in the states.    

    Read more on McCain and gays.


    RD Lagniappe

    • Election Prayers: On behalf of the National Day of Prayer Task Force (http://www.ndptf.org/home/index.cfm), which coordinates the annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, Dr. James Dobson and his wife Shirley are calling on Christians to pray for the election. “The future of our country is too important not to pray,” said Mrs. Shirley Dobson, chairman of the task force, in a recent interview. “As Christians, we’re in a unique position to support our leaders by interceding for them in prayer. Not only will our new president guide us into the critical years ahead, but each elected official will play a key role in determining the welfare and moral direction of our country.”
    • Prayer Suit: The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) (http://www.ffrf.org/), which describes itself as “an educational group working for the separation of state and church,” recently filed suit against President Bush over the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer.  The suit also names White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, and National Day of Prayer Task Force Chairwoman Shirley Dobson, according to Medill Reports (http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/display.aspx).
    • Throwing Bombs, TVC style: In a “Special Report” titled “Meet Some More of Barack Obama’s Political Mentors: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn,” Lou Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) (http://www.traditionalvalues.org/) continues its series of anti-Obama bomb throwing. TVC is also a bit miffed that Oprah has refused to interview Sarah Palin on her television program and has collected 4,000 letters critical of Oprah’s decision.
    • Religious Left Book Launch: The book launch for “Dispatches from the Religious Left:  The Future of Faith and Politics in America,” a series of essays that according to its editor Frederick Clarkson, hopes to engage a “national discussion of what it would take to have a powerful religious movement for social justice in America,” will be held at New York City’s Middle Collegiate Church on Tuesday, October 14.
    • Charities in crisis: The disastrous economic situation with its record number of housing foreclosures and rapidly rising unemployment rates will undoubtedly leave many families in need of assistance. Over the past eight years, the Bush Administration has been dedicated to demolishing the government’s responsibility for maintaining a social safety net and turning those responsibilities over to charities—both faith-based and secular. The financial crisis could have a prolonged and deleterious effect on charities all across the United States. And, last year, according to a report on the Web site Philly, “charitable giving reached an all-time high of $306 billion.” While philanthropists, corporations and foundations continue to award grants, the situation related to charities is likely to “take six months to be felt,” and when that happens, it could spell disaster to those charities dependent on those grants and from charitable donations of ordinary Americans.
    • Wake up, the boycott’s over: On October 9, Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association declared victory over McDonald’s and called off its boycott of the fast food giant. According to an American Family Association Action Alert, “McDonald’s has told AFA they will remain neutral in the culture war regarding homosexual marriage.” The Alert pointed out that “McDonald’s said McDonald’s Vice President Richard Ellis has resigned his position on the board of the NGLCC [National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce] and that his seat on the board will not be replaced. McDonald’s also said that the company has no plans to renew their membership in NGLCC when it expires in December.”