Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Hoping for Peace
Advocacy groups came back from Easter with an eye toward promoting peace. No, not peace between Democrats and Republicans (we may be more likely to see a lion lie down with a lamb). But from nuclear proliferation to Sudan to religious liberty, groups saw the possibility for greater peace around the world.
Yesterday, President Obama signed a nuclear weapons treaty with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. This treaty comes on the heels of Obama's announcement of a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that limits the use of nuclear weapons to one single purpose—deterrence. The new NPR bars the use of nuclear weapons in conventional warfare against states that have been in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (That means countries like Iran and North Korea cannot rest easy.) The policy also promises that the U.S. will not develop any new nuclear warheads.
David Cortright, contributing editor for Sojourners, wrote, "The new [NPR] is a significant step toward reducing nuclear dangers, advancing global nonproliferation norms, and facilitating further reduction and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), did not share Cortright's optimism. While not addressing any details of the NPR directly, Perkins gave "pointed objections to the flawed theology and failed policy of pacifism embraced by the Left."
"Peace through strength is a tried and true maxim. No one can countenance a nuclear exchange lightly. Yet the sad irony is that if we disarm too much, we invite the potential of a nuclear attack," said Perkins. "While evil remains in the world, we must be vigilant and not allow our hopes for the future to place us in present danger."
The American Family Association's Crane Durham agreed. He said a belief that the new nuclear policies will lead to peace is "naïve."
"Take away our swords (nukes) or willingness to use them, and the negotiation is over; we are at the mercy of our foe's benevolence. Twentieth-century history is replete with examples of mass murder and genocide when we choose to advance these naïve policies," said Durham.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) also focused on the need for peace, but its focus was on the potential for civil war in Sudan.
The NAE is concerned that next week's election could push the country back into civil war. Before 2005's fragile peace agreement, more than two million Sudanese died and millions more were displaced in the long running conflict.
"Sudan will require international assistance for years to come, but more than anything they need a just peace and a stable government," the NAE said. "At this critical moment we call all evangelicals to renewed prayer and action on behalf of peace and freedom in Sudan."
Others this week called for the U.S. to follow through on its foreign policy obligations on religious liberty. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, and Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, rarely see eye-to-eye, but they joined other faith leaders who signed a letter to the President, sponsored by the Institute for Global Engagement and Freedom House. The letter asks the President to appoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom. The letter asked Obama to develop a new strategy that would "bring the practical promotion of responsible religious freedom into the foreign policy mainstream."
Nathan Hitchen, writing for the Center for a Just Society, said that the U.S. should focus its foreign policy efforts, particularly in the Middle East, around religious freedom. For Hitchen, religious freedom is a simpler goal than establishing a democracy; it is also more pragmatic. Elites in repressive societies may be threatened by democracy, but could tolerate greater religious freedom.
"As a moral center for American diplomacy, the call to religious liberty is a mutually inclusive value because it draws on the best of European, American, and Islamic history," said Hitchen. "Presenting religious liberty as the solution gives potential friends of America a more compelling moral reason to join her cause, and consequently opens a way to rehabilitate her badly entrenched reputation."
Fischer's Final Solution?
The Political Tracker has reported on the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, who has previously called for a ban on all Muslims serving in the military. This week, Fischer called for greater action against Muslims.
Simply put: Keep Muslims out of the U.S., and deport the ones who are already here. It's the "compassionate" thing to do.
Here is Fischer's proposal:
First, the most compassionate thing we can do for Americans is to bring a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. This will protect our national security and preserve our national identity, culture, ideals, and values. Muslims, by custom and religion, are simply unwilling to integrate into cultures with Western values and it is folly to pretend otherwise. In fact, they remain dedicated to subjecting all of America to sharia law and are working ceaselessly until that day of Islamic imposition comes.
The most compassionate thing we can do for Muslims who have already immigrated here is to help repatriate them back to Muslim countries, where they can live in a culture which shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals. Why force them to chafe against the freedom, liberty and civil rights we cherish in the West?
Fischer's comments, unlike any other AFA blog post, come with the disclaimer that the AFA has not taken a position on this proposal.
Fischer's argument draws heavily on European critics of Muslim assimilation. (In this case, he cites a study of inmates in Denmark.) In previous posts, he discussed the views of right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has called for a similar ban on Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands.
Odds and Ends
• FRC fights the White House over indentured servitude. Well, not exactly: The Obama administration is examining abuses of unpaid interns. Perkins wants to make sure unpaid internships stick around. "Internships are designed to be educational," he said. "And during a recession like ours, volunteering in key fields is often these grads' last hope for building important contacts to find work. Apparently, the administration doesn't understand what even these beginners already grasp: working for free usually pays off in the long run."
• FRC is also concerned about allowing women to serve on submarines. The reason: it will lead to pregnancies and abortions. According to Perkins, subs have gases that are dangerous for developing babies. Women on subs may become pregnant and put their babies at risk. "Unfortunately for these military moms, the government's solution is often a final one. Abortion," Perkins said.
• Wallis was one of many Christians who met with President Obama as part of the White House Easter prayer breakfast. "The room was full of Christians for 'social justice' just as Glenn Beck has warned us about," said Wallis. "They were sitting at the same tables with or near the president, and clearly having an influence on him!"
• Facing scrutiny for the questionable expenditures of his party, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said that he had a smaller margin for error because he is an African American. Elijah Friedman of the AFA disagreed: "Give me a break. This is the sort of stuff we expect from the Democrats, but when the RNC chairman pulls the race card, you know we've got problems."
• Faith in Public Life's Dan Nejfelt was "stunned" that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's designation of April as Confederate History Month left out any mention of slavery from his proclamation. "To say that the sacrifices and hardships of Confederate Virginians are more significant than those of slaves they owned is inconsistent with the widely held religious precept that all of God's children are equally precious in God's sight," said Nejfelt. McDonnell later apologized and included a statement on slavery in the proclamation.
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