Obama

White House Proposal Gives Religious Groups More Say in Birth Control Mandate

RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House.

President Barack Obama talks with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. RNS photo courtesy Pete Souza / The White House.

The Obama administration is offering to expand the number of faith-based groups that can be exempt from the controversial contraception mandate, and proposing that third-party companies administer coverage for self-insured faith-based groups at no cost.

At its heart, the newest offering from the White House would allow religious groups -- dioceses, denominations and others -- to decide which affiliated institutions are "religious" and therefore exempt from the new requirement that employers offer free contraception coverage as part of employee insurance plans.

The proposals are an effort by the administration to blunt criticisms of the controversial regulation, especially by the nation's Catholic bishops, who have been at loggerheads with the White House since President Obama announced the contraception mandate in January.

How to Measure the 'Evangelical Vote'

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A supporter of Newt Gingrich outside church in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In Tuesday’s Mississippi and Alabama primaries, about eight of 10 voters identified as evangelical, locking in victories for former Sen. Rick Santorum, and proving once again the importance of the evangelicals in the election.

Presidential hopefuls are again battling it out to be the God candidate, but the tide of the so-called “evangelical vote” seems ever-shifting. Santorum—a Catholic—is doing better to court most evangelicals, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — a Mormon — is beating out Santorum among Catholics. And according to a recent poll, Republicans in the Deep South are still questioning whether President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Religion matters.

But what does the “evangelical vote” even mean anymore? And can any one candidate really claim it? Even with Santorum’s win Tuesday, a significant number still fell into Romney’s column — and that’s just among Republican evangelicals. Obama was able to draw some evangelical support in 2008 and could garner more in November.

Afghanistan Massacre Shows War Has Failed

Demonstrators carry effigy of President Obama during a protest of a US soldier's

Demonstrators carry effigy of Obama during US soldier's killing 16 civilians. By Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty.

As is increasingly evidenced by developments in Afghanistan from gloomy intelligence reports to the Quran burning to the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, it is long past time for the U.S. military to leave that country.

After weeks of tumultuous upheaval, the slaying allegedly by a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant is just the most recent incident undermining U.S. objectives to win hearts and minds. Frankly, that mission has long been lost.

We are still learning about the Staff Sergeant, a married father of two. It appears he was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan a total of four times. On one of those tours, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but was declared “fit for duty” by the U.S. Army. Afghans would certainly beg to differ. This is also more evidence that the U.S. military cannot be allowed to deploy troops with diagnosed psychological issues—such as Post Traumatic Stress or TBIs, a messaged pushed by a project called Operation Recovery.

Afternoon News Bytes: March 13, 2012

The Psychological Toll Of War (OPINION); Mike Huckabee: 2012 GOP Candidates Must Stop Trying To 'Shred Each Other'; Obama And Cameron Must Strike A Balance Over Afghanistan Withdrawal; Syria Laying Landmines Along Border: Human Rights Watch; Have We Gone From A Mancession To A Shecovery? Not Quite. The Spectacular Triumph Of Working Women Around The World; The Reproduction Of Privilege; Obama Warns Opponents Against 'Using Religion As A Bludgeon In Politics'; Can Progressives Ride The Occupy Train To Congress?; Defining The Occupy Movement: It's Not Just About The Money (OPINION); Where Have You Gone, Mister Rogers?

Afternoon News Bytes: March 12, 2012

The Nuclear ‘Implementation Study’; The Unpersuaded; Latinos See Rise In Poverty & Unemployment; When Will The Christian Right Return To The Teachings Of Their Gospel? (OPINION); What Does the Kony Viral Video Say About Us?; Why It's OK To Let Apps Make You A Better Person; Annan Leaves Syria Without A Deal; Do Atheists Need Religion? (OPINION); Obama's Religion Still A Campaign Issue: Many Alabama, Mississippi Voters Believe President Is Muslim.

Afternoon News Bytes: March 2, 2012

'We Wish Like Hell We Had Never Bought': Voices From The Housing Crisis; One Nation Under Gods; Mass Appeal To Governors: Don't Privatize Prisons; “Green On Blue”; Obama To Iran And Israel: 'As President Of The United States, I Don't Bluff'; For America's Least Fortunate, The Grip Of Poverty Spans Generations; Inequality, Poverty, And Why We're Definitely Not Broke (OPINION); Jacksonville Lawmaker Says No 'Extreme Poverty' In N.C.

The "War on Religion" and the Contraception Debate

There likely was little Sabbath-ing for politicians and journalists this weekend, as the debate over health policy raged across the campaign trail and in the television studios.

In a fiery comment piece in The Los Angeles Times, David Horsey reported that at CPAC, Mitt Romney pledged that he would “reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent human life in this country.”

Speaking on Face The Nation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the contraception controversy is an issue of religious freedom.

Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum laid out his position on the situation very clearly on Meet The Press.

BREAKING NEWS: Obama Exempts Religious Groups from Contraceptive Mandate

Facing growing furor from religious groups, President Obama on Friday unveiled an "accommodation" in which health insurance companies, rather than religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities, will provide employees with contraception coverage.

Houses of worship remain exempt, and the new approach effectively removes all faith-based organizations from involvement in providing contraceptive coverage or even telling employees how to find such coverage. It also maintains Obama's pledge to ensure that almost all women with health insurance will not have to pay for it.

At issue was a mandate, part of Obama's 2009 health-care overhaul, that employers provide free birth-control coverage. The mandate was announced Jan. 20 by Health & Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Religious groups, particularly Catholic, fiercly objected, saying the federal government should not force institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Womens' advocates argued that employees should have access to birth control regardless of where they work.

Sojourners Observes Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

It's National Human Trafficking Awareness Day! Photo courtesy of the Not for Sale Campaign

Today people across the nation (and the blogosphere) are taking part in National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which encourages participants to get educated and get active in the fight to end the suffering of the estimated 27 million persons living in slavery today.

In his speech declaring January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, President Obama intimated a serious commitment to the fight to end modern slavery. This year, Obama and Congress have the opportunity to make historic, bipartisan progress toward this worthy goal.

And it’s not just government that’s getting involved. Just last week, over 42,000 young Christians banded together at Passion 2012 to raise more than $3.1 million dollars to fund organizations fighting to bring prevention, freedom and restoration to those trapped in slavery.

Sojourners has long been committed to the fight to end this abhorrent evil, and the current issue of Sojourners Magazine seeks to engage the topic head-on. 

Inside, we invite you to explore our coverage and involvement in the fight against human trafficking over the past year!

Chris Hedges' Occupy Wall Street Statement

Chris Hedges. Image via Wiki Commons.

Chris Hedges. Image via Wiki Commons.

Chris Hedges' statement on Occupy Wall Street read in part:

As part of the political theater that has come to replace the legislative and judicial process, the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed to a $550 million settlement whereby Goldman Sachs admitted it showed "incomplete" information in marketing materials and that it was a "mistake" to not disclose the nature of its portfolio selection committee. This fine was a payoff to the SEC by Goldman Sachs of about four days' worth of revenue, and in return they avoided going to court. CEO Lloyd Blankfein apparently not only lied to clients, but to the subcommittee itself on April 27, 2010, when he told lawmakers: "We didn't have a massive short against the housing market, and we certainly did not bet against our clients." Yet, they did.

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