obama administration

Critics Petition Obama to Abolish Faith-Based Hiring Bias

Image via RNS.

Concerned that faith-based groups can discriminate in hiring while receiving federal funds, a coalition of 130 organizations told President Obama the policy will tarnish his legacy of fair and equal treatment for all Americans.

The critics, including religious organizations such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Union for Reform Judaism, asked the president to direct Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review a “flawed” 2007 Justice Department memo that said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides for an override of nondiscrimination laws for government-funded religious organizations.

“RFRA was not intended to create blanket exemptions to laws that protect against discrimination,” says the letter sent to Obama Aug. 20 and announced by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

BREAKING: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel To Resign Under Pressure

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will step down, officials reported Monday.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will step down, officials reported Monday. Image courtesy imagemaker/shutterstock.com

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the third Secretary of Defense to serve under President Obama, will resign under pressure from the White House, according to officials.

Former Senator Hagel is the only Republican serving on the president's national security team. Officials report Hagel struggled to be a strong voice at the Pentagon, but his removal may also be related to the recent midterm elections. According to MSNBC

“He often had trouble articulating the details of many of the operations, many of the incantations, of what goes on here at the White House and he had a difficult time expressing those thoughts,” said NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski. “It appeared he sometimes didn’t even have a grasp of them. And quite frankly, according to one senior official, the White House and the DOD leadership pretty much lost confidence in Hagel.”

Pentagon officials and members of the administration have said Hagel struggled to lead at the Pentagon and be a strong voice within the president’s inner circle. Still, he is the not the first defense secretary to lose his job following midterm losses for the president he serves. Donald Rumsfeld also was fired by former President George H.W. Bush following midterm losses to the Republican party in 2006. 

Read more here

Justices to Take Up Abercrombie & Fitch Headscarf Case

Is Abercrombie & Fitch guilty of religious discrimination? Photo via RNS.

The Supreme Court granted 11 new cases for review Oct. 2, agreeing to rule on controversial topics such as religious freedom, child abuse, immigration, housing discrimination, congressional redistricting and campaign fund-raising by judicial candidates.

While they delayed any decision on same-sex marriage, the justices filled out their docket through January and into February with civil rights cases and others likely to command attention.

Here’s a look at what the justices chose from among some 2,000 cases that accumulated through the summer:

Needed: An International Strategy in Iraq

Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee, via Flickr.com

Iraqi refugee girl with her family at Newroz camp, Aug. 15. Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee, via Flickr.com

The crisis in Iraq poses two challenges — a humanitarian effort to rescue persecuted minorities, and a security mission to suppress the extremist threat posed by the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. is right to play a leading role in aiding the Yazidis, Christians, and other threatened minorities in Iraq. The immediate threat against the Yazidis has eased, but minority groups in the region remain endangered by violent extremism. The Obama administration should work through the United Nations to turn this into a genuine international rescue effort. The greater the degree of international participation and support for the aid mission, the more beneficial and legitimate it will be for the recipients.

The U.S. is also right to call attention to the threat posed by ISIS, but we need to do more to mobilize international pressure against the group. The Islamic State is in many respects more dangerous than al Qaeda. It has conquered Mosul and other major cities, taken control of dams and oil facilities, and is steadily expanding its sphere of influence in Syria and Iraq. It has formed a terrorist army with an estimated 10,000 fighters and is now armed with tanks and advanced U.S. weapons stolen from the Iraqi army. The group poses a significant threat to the security of the region and the world.

Faith Leaders Arrested At White House Calling For Immigration Reform

Via United Methodist News Service

Rev. John L. McCullough of Church World Service arrested in front of the White House. Via United Methodist News Service

More than 100 faith leaders and immigration activists were arrested today during an act of civil disobedience outside of the White House. The activists were calling on President Barack Obama to take executive action to immediately stop deportations and to deal with the crisis of unaccompanied minors at the border.

"We have come to Washington, D.C., to tell to President Obama and Congress that kicking out suffering immigrant families and unaccompanied children is not the answer,” Bishop Minerva Carcaño, the United Methodist Bishop in Los Angeles, said. “Immediately stopping the deportations and extending due process to children escaping the violence of drug cartels, gangs and poverty is the just way to respond."

Other participants in the protest saw the struggle for immigration reform as part of a larger struggle for justice.

"As someone who has benefited from the courage and civil disobedience of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, I cannot stand idly by as I see unjust immigration laws damage our communities and our nation,” Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service, said. “It is a moral imperative that we take action now, particularly after the House Republican leadership has miserably failed to enact immigration reform that the majority of Americans roundly support."

This action comes while the Obama administration is conducting a review of deportation policies and pushing for emergency funding for the crisis of unaccompanied children arriving at the border.

White House Says It Can’t List Westboro Baptist as ‘Hate Group’

Photo courtesy cometstarmoon via Flickr

Westboro Baptist Church members protest at a Presbyterian church in Madison, Wis. Photo courtesy cometstarmoon via Flickr

WASHINGTON — In response to five “We the People” petitions, the White House condemned the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church but said it is powerless to list the Kansas church as a hate group and remove its tax-exempt status.

The White House response on Tuesday said the federal government does not maintain a list of hate groups, instead leaving that task to private organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. Both have called Westboro a hate group.

Our Broken Social Contract

Throughout the years, authors and academic scholars have studied and revealed their opinions of whether economic equality is in fact possible in the United States. A variety of them pose the question of whether or not social struggles in the U.S. stem from economic injustices, or from the lack of our own moral responsibility. The New York Times reports:

With the blessing of the new right, Krueger argues, corporate America has abandoned its commitment to the commonweal over the past three decades. It no longer honors norms of fairness and equality. To Krueger, it is in the economic sphere that American integrity has been eroded and its ideals corrupted.

Read more here.

Detained DREAMer Tells His Story From Behind Bars

Marco Saavedra. Image via TheNIYA.org.

Marco Saavedra. Image via TheNIYA.org.

Editor's Note: A recent news report recounted how activists with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance have placed themselves intentionally in deportation proceedings in order to enter the Broward Transitional Center, an immigration detention facility in Florida. They say they encountered scores of detainees who shouldn't be there under the Obama administration's revised deportation policies. What follows is a first-person account by one of the detainees, Marco Saavedra, a former intern at Sojourners.

I am glad the stories we are finding in this detention center are getting back to you all out there. My name is Marco Saavedra and recently I put myself into deportation proceedings hoping they'd bring me to the Broward Detention Center.

Despite being a DREAMer, the border patrol office I approached looking for a missing friend didn't think twice about detaining me. Little did they know they were doing exactly what we wanted, bringing us to this detention center filled with low-priority detainees.

No one deserves to be locked up like they are inside of this facility.

Lutherans Find Common with Catholics on Obama Mandate

Books image via Shutterstock

Books image via Shutterstock

ST. LOUIS -- Lutherans and Catholics are not historically known for their theological sympathy, but earlier this month the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod told the U.S. House that he will "stand with our friends in the Catholic Church" in opposition to a recent government ruling on contraception.

History aside, the Rev. Matthew Harrison made it clear that the Missouri Synod now has "large consensus with the Roman Catholic Church on moral issues."

"The Christian church is a billion times beyond the Missouri Synod," Harrison said. "Without the Roman Catholic Church in this country, our way would be infinitely more difficult."

New Poll: Public Divided Over Birth Control Insurance Mandate

Info graphic via Pew Research Center.

Info graphic via Pew Research Center.

The American public is closely divided over the federal rule that would require employers, including most religiously-affiliated institutions, to cover birth control as part of their health care benefits, according to the latest survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

On Feb.10, the Obama administration announced it would modify the mandate in response to criticism that the rule would force religious organizations to violate their religious beliefs in providing contraception coverage. The latest Pew survey shows little difference in opinions among people interviewed before the administration’s proposed modification and those interviewed afterward.