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For the fourth year in a row, President Obama is proposing lower tax deductions for the wealthy on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations. And for the fourth year in a row, nonprofit groups say the change would lead to a dramatic drop in charitable giving.
The reduction, included in Obama's 2013 budget proposal, rankled the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
"We were hoping this would not come up again this year. We asked that they not renew it, but unfortunately the request was not taken," said Nathan Diament, the group's Washington director. "It's a real concern."
WASHINGTON — Exhibit A in the fight over President Obama's mandate for religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception: a ham sandwich.
At a hearing Thursday convened by House Republicans to cast opposition to the mandate as a matter of religious liberty, Roman Catholic Bishop William E. Lori invoked the image of a kosher deli forced to sell ham sandwiches.
"The mandate generates the question whether people who believe — even if they believe in error — that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions.
"In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no," said Lori, the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the point man on religious liberty for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The president's plan meant that religious employers — mainly Catholic universities, hospitals and social service agencies — would not be involved in paying for or administering something they deem sinful: contraception. At the same time, all employees would still have access to the same contraception benefit, no matter whom they work for.
Critics of the president's plan, however, didn't see it that way.
"Dangerous and insulting," a group of leading Catholic bishops wrote to their fellow churchmen. "A cheap accounting trick," Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon and several other leading culture warriors complained in an open letter that has generated more than 100 signers.
The "compromise," said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, "asks the parties involved to compromise their reasoning faculties and play a game of 'let's pretend' instead."
Yet that "game," as Douthat put it, is actually a venerable tradition in Catholic moral theology that for centuries has provided a way for Christians to think about acting virtuously in a fallen world.
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President Obama on Friday said that all insurers — not all religious institutions — will be required to offer free contraceptive services to women.
Here's what people are saying about it:
"We’ve been mindful that there’s another principle at stake here –- and that’s the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction. We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”
Family Research Council:
"Liberals say keep your morals out of the bedroom, yet the President's plan forces everyone to pay the cost for someone else's contraceptive use in the bedroom. That's not freedom, it's a mandate."
The people behind a popular chain e-mail about President Obama and the National Day of Prayer might want to think about the sin of omission.
That's omission, as in omitting facts.
The widely circulated e-mail claims that Obama canceled a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House in 2009, but later that year, a National Day of Prayer for Muslims was permitted on Capitol Hill, beside the White House.
The Obama Administration announced earlier today a change to its policy regarding conscience exemptions and contraception coverage for faith based organizations.
Sojourners released the following statement:
We applaud the Obama Administration’s decision to respond to the concerns of many in the faith community around respecting religious liberty. This compromise respects the conscience concerns of those persons and institutions opposed to the use of contraception while still allowing greater access to those services for women who seek it. Expanded access to contraception is important for women’s health and is a key part of our country’s efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and thereby reduce abortions.
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This past Sunday, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the blog Red State wrote a post titled “The Perversion of the Words of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the Sinner Barack H. Obama."
First, I hope that Erickson remembers that in the Christian tradition calling someone a “sinner” is a theological statement of fact, not a pejorative. Labeling another Christian as a sinner in a bold and brash headline is, I am sure, very gratifying, but it hardly sets one up for an argument based in the teachings of Jesus who came not for the healthy but the sick or Paul who labeled himself the “chief of sinners.”
So, let me get this out of the way. I, Timothy M. King, am a sinner too.
The White House has surprised observers and disappointed some liberal allies by signaling that it is willing to compromise and provide a broader religious exemption in its controversial regulations requiring all employers to provide free contraception coverage.
Given that birth control use is almost universal — even among Catholics — many wonder why the Obama administration could wind up retreating on its pledge.
Here are five reasons that may help explain the political dynamic the president is facing:
1. It's about religious freedom, not birth control
It seems like every day we hear from another politician saying that “we are ready to attack Iran if necessary," or from another pundit full of hot air telling us why we should invade Iran right now.
The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has said that he would support “something of a surgical-strike nature, to something of a ‘decapitate the regime’ nature to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether.” President Obama has said: “Every option is on the table.” All of these conversations typically go along the lines of emphasizing how Iran poses a serious and immediate threat to the United States.
As was the case in the conversations leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, there is much heat, and not a whole lot of light.
It’s been several years since I’ve attended a National Prayer Breakfast, the annual event held Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., attended by the President, members of Congress, and guests — about 2,500 of them.
When I lived and worked in D.C. I attended almost every year. Senator Mark Hatfield, for whom I worked, was a faithful member of the Senate Prayer breakfast group which met weekly, and with the group in the House, sponsors the this national event.
My worry always has been that such a gathering merely sprinkles holy water on the nation’s powerful leaders without any real accountability to the prophetic message of the Gospel. As a breakfast speaker one year, Hatfield called for national repentance for arrogance and sin, referring especially to the Vietnam War. His comments broke with the normal rhetorical decorum of the event and angered President Nixon, but received widespread coverage and much respect.
These days, the early-morning prayer breakfast is also accompanied by countless luncheons, dinners, and seminars for people who come from around the nation and the world to attend. The idea behind the prayer breakfast movement is simple: Gather politicians and leaders together in a country (or state, or city) to pray with one another “in the Spirit of Jesus,” and hope that this dependence on God will transcend differences to build a movement grounded in love for one another and one’s neighbor. It’s supposed to be devoid of “politics.”
President Obama connected his faith with his policies toward the poor at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday (2/2/12), a subtle but sharp contrast to remarks made by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney the day before.
"Living by the principle that we are our brother's keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need," Obama said before an audience of about 3,000 at the Washington Hilton. These values, he said, "they're the ones that have defined my own faith journey."
Specifically, Obama said, they translate to policies that support research to fight disease and support foreign aid. His faith, he continued, inspires him "to give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy."
He spoke of how we as individuals acting in community "help bring His kingdom to Earth." And he emphasized the connection between his piety and his public efforts to to make that kingdom a reality.
“I woke up this morning with my mind set on justice...”
So sang Sweet Honey In the Rock’s Dr. Ysaye Barnwell this morning. And, sitting in a room with hundreds of activists, occupiers and people of similar persuasions, it was hard not to embrace that mindset.
Maybe it’s a failing of my own, and a comment on my devotion to the 24-hour news cycle, but recently I have lost sight of the excitement and intent that the Occupy movement originally injected into the psyche of the nation.
Blessedly, this morning’s gathering, in the welcoming environment of Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C., was an opportunity to hear once again words of hope, energy and defiance. The People’s Prayer Breakfast was everything I hoped and expected it to be.
It was friendly, optimistic and (as there should be at any good breakfast meeting), there was food aplenty for everyone in the bustling hall beneath the church — a mishmash of young, old, people of different faith traditions and various cultures. A large contingent of students from a local Quaker school injected a youthful optimism into the morning (filling the energy gap that even a strong coffee could not supply at 7:30 a.m.)
The atmosphere was one of peace and contentment. And yet, at the same time, there was urgency in the voices of those who addressed us.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST, Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C. 9:10 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, please, everybody have a seat. Well, good morning, everybody. It is good to be with so many friends united in prayer. And I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.
I want to thank our co-chairs Mark and Jeff; to my dear friend, the guy who always has my back, Vice President Biden. (Applause.) All the members of Congress –- Joe deserves a hand –- all the members of Congress and my Cabinet who are here today; all the distinguished guests who’ve traveled a long way to be part of this. I’m not going to be as funny as Eric -- (laughter) -- but I’m grateful that he shared his message with us. Michelle and I feel truly blessed to be here.