Prolife organizations rally members against AIDS—and House's AIDS bill
"Fighting AIDS on a global scale is a massive and complicated undertaking, yet this cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties," President George W. Bush said Tuesday (text | audio | video). "When we see this kind of preventable suffering, when we see a plague leaving graves and orphans across a continent, we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not, America will not pass to the other side of the road."

Among those applauding Bush's speech were Focus on the Family's James Dobson, Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, and evangelists Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz.

"Americans can do something about this modern plague—and we must," Colson and William J. Bennett wrote in a Washington Times op-ed that same day (which was very similar to Colson's March 17 Breakpoint radio commentary): "President Bush has correctly identified African AIDS as a humanitarian catastrophe of staggering proportions—one that a strong and merciful nation must throw its considerable resources into fighting. His $15 billion plan to do so is both simple and sensible."

In yesterday's Breakpoint commentary, Colson again affirmed the President's plan, but added a warning: "There's a danger that the President's initiative may be derailed in Congress. The House International Relations Committee failed to pass two critically needed amendments."

One would have set aside at least one third of the funding for abstinence and monogamy programs, and the other would have provided a conscience clause exempting faith-based groups from having to hand out condoms (some say the amendment would also allow groups to hire workers consistent with their religious beliefs).

A third amendment that some other religious conservatives were pushing for would limit funding to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is affiliated with the United Nations.

Focus on the Family sent out a "special alert" e-mail message to supporters, asking them to "express your concern that Congressman Henry Hyde's Global AIDS bill, H.R. 1298, is inadequate to address the AIDS problem in Africa."

"I regret the fact that the White House signaled to the Congress that they were willing to take whatever came over," Dobson told The Baltimore Sun. "We think that's a big mistake, and we regret it."

Michael Schwartz, vice president for government relations at Concerned Women for America, says in a Focus on the Family article that without the amendments, the bill will be a disaster.

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There's still a chance for the amendments. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) promises to revive them today. Whether they'll pass is another issue. "It won't be easy, but it is possible," Pitts told Focus. "[White House officials] do want a bill passed pretty badly, so I suspect at this point they're going to say, 'Let's pass the bill, keep it going in the process, and try to correct some of these things in the conference committee.' "

But if that happens, Family Research Council president Ken Connor told The New York Times, he and his supporters won't be happy. "The AIDS lobby will be very happy, the homosexual lobby will be very happy, the condom crowd will be happy, the Planned Parenthood folks will be happy," he said. "That's not the President's base." He was even more critical of the President in speaking to The Washington Times: "It appears again the White House is so eager for the photo-op of a Rose Garden bill-signing ceremony that it will accept deeply flawed legislation even though it does not embody the principles the President himself laid out." (Connor's comments on the bill in his own "Washington Update" are available here and here.)

U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says the vote will be a watershed. "If the White House tells millions of pro-family voters that they're not interested in seriously promoting our values in the formation of U.S. policy in Africa, then that will greatly undermine the support for the White House and for the U.S. Congress" among conservatives, he told The Baltimore Sun.

Few conservatives seem to be complaining now that anti-AIDS funding could go to groups that encourage abortion overseas. That debate seems to have ended. But at least one faith-based organization is raising a new concern. "To fund HR1298, more than $60 million was cut from child survival programs designed to provide treatment for preventable health problems and common diseases in children under the age of five," says a World Relief press release. "In our fight against AIDS, we must not forget that every day thousands of young children are dying from preventable or curable diseases like dehydration, malaria and pneumonia.  If we fail to teach mothers how to protect their children, more innocent lives will be lost," said president Clive Calver.

[P.M Update: The bill overwhelmingly passed the House this afternoon with all three amendments added. Weblog will have more news, analysis and commentary on the vote tomorrow.]

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Day of Prayer:

Politics and law:

  • Second judicial nominee targeted | Senate Democrats plan filibuster to stop selection of Owen, accusing her of pursuing an antiabortion, pro-business agenda from the bench (The Washington Post)

  • Intolerance swaddled in faith | In advancing religious arguments for public policy, Santorum and others foreclose both debate and compromise—the basic ingredients of democracy (The Washington Post)

  • The Republican theocracy | The Taliban or the Suburban? The Republican Party has patched together a coalition of those who want to keep the government out of your pocket and those who want to put the government in your bedroom (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)

  • Courthouse marrying preachers ordered to stop bickering | Earlier in day lady minister was told she could do no more weddings (The Chattanoogan, Tenn.)

Church and state:

Post-war Iraq:

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Christian response to war:

Missions and Ministry:

  • Nuns told to shape up | Based on the belief "a sedentary lifestyle is deadly," Debbie Mandel has devised a light workout for the sisterhood aimed at alleviating stress and promoting strength and fitness (Reuters)

  • Too broad a church | Bizarre as it may seem to the press, here is a Christian preacher who actually believes in Christ. Not only that, Jensen seems to believe in what he preaches - that Christ is the Son of God and that Christianity is the one true path to salvation (Paul Ham, The Australian)

  • Pentecostals who split plan joint mission | The Church of God and the Church of God of Prophecy—Pentecostal denominations that split in the 1920s—will work together on global evangelism, they announced Wednesday (Associated Press)

  • Thousands turn out at Haitian conference to ward off forces of evil | Some 90,000 Haitians crowded under canopies and parasols Sunday, praying for miracles to cure the physical, economic and political ills that are bedeviling their nation (Associated Press)

  • Also: Haiti makes voodoo official | Voodoo has been practiced in Haiti since the late 18th Century, but only now has it been recognized as a religion on a par with others worshipped in the country (BBC)

James ossuary:

Film, music, and TV:

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  • Faith in Christian music grows | Parents couldn't be happier about the growth (The Times, Northwest Indiana)

  • Mel's religious venture sparks row | Why Gibson is gambling £18m on movie epic about the last hours of Jesus … in Latin (The Mirror, U.K.)

  • Also: Scripting the Scriptures | Mel Gibson's The Passion depicts the last 12 hours in the life of Christianity's founder, and press reports suggest that it places blame for the man's death firmly on Jewish shoulders (Forward)

  • Archbishop's TV debates break new ground | Rowan Williams is the first archbishop of Canterbury to take part in a television series discussing moral issues (The Guardian, London)

  • Edwards leaps for moral high ground | World-beating athlete turned TV watchdog reveals his own tastes: yes to ER, and no to The Simpsons (The Observer, London)


  • Which team does God root for? | If God is an American with a vested interest in American values, He's got to be a baseball fan, probably the ultimate season-ticket holder. But which is God's team? (Robert Rubino, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.)

  • Naples risks 'wrath of God' for linking Maradona with St Paul | Local church upset with renaming stadium to include football payer with saint (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • A holy war in Louisiana | If you still don't buy talk of football being akin to religion in the South, take a look at the latest fuss down in Shreveport, La., the Holy War between Pastor Denny and Pastor Johnny (Mike Fish, Sports Illustrated)

Sexual ethics:

  • Panel delays vote on gay marriage | With House members distracted by the state's fiscal crisis, the Legislature's Judiciary Committee yesterday declined to take any action on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, and possibly block domestic partner benefits (The Boston Globe)

  • Church 'must join wedding market' | Recognition for gay relationships urged in explosive report (The Guardian, London)

  • Also: Bishop tells clergy to cut emphasis on marriage | Clergy should spend as much time helping divorced, unmarried, gay and lesbian couples as they give to couples planning church weddings, says a report sponsored by the Church of England's Bishop of Guildford (The Times, London)

  • 'Gay marriage' bill protested | Activists urge assemblyman to reject equal-rights legislation (Monterey Herald, Calif.)

  • House OKs bill reinforcing Texas' ban on same-sex unions | The Defense of Marriage Act passed overwhelmingly in the House on Wednesday and was sent to the governor, who has said he will sign it (The Dallas Morning News)
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Clergy sex abuse:

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