Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Conservatives Ignore Protests
Turn on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News, and you're bound to see coverage of recent tea party protests and pro-gun rallies. But click on your favorite Christian conservative group's blog or open its newsletter and you will more likely read about the National Day of Prayer than the nascent protest movement.
For conservative groups, the tea party is, at best, an movement that overlaps with their agenda. At worst, it is competition for the grassroots of the conservative movement in America. Either way, conservative groups responded to last week's events with noticeable silence.
Indeed, the only groups to discuss the protests of the past week were those who had the least in common with the movement.
Heidi Unruh of Evangelicals for Social Action said that watching the coverage of the protests made her react with anger, curiosity, and fear. Unruh hoped, however, that we could "get beyond knee-jerk reactions to a thoughtful, faith-full response."
This does not mean that Unruh found the arguments behind the tea party persuasive.
"If you think that lifting those in poverty or confronting lingering racial inequities should be a government priority, the good news is that the tea party movement has just delivered this administration a grade of 'A,'" said Unruh. "The bad news is that they want to overthrow the grading system."
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, was most concerned with second-amendment protests that occurred April 19, the anniversary of three historic events: the start of the Revolutionary War; the ATF conflict with the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; and the Oklahoma City bombing.
"It's time we make it clear that different views of the role of government are legitimate and essential to a robust democratic discourse; but the hateful and even violent rhetoric that has been employed in the past, and is now having a resurgence again, is dangerous and destructive and should be renounced and rejected by people of faith and good will across the political spectrum," said Wallis.
Conservatives also saw a threat in the events of last week, but it was from a court, not protesters. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which argued that the National Day of Prayer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The National Day of Prayer has been a federally recognized date since 1952.
"Contrary to her opinion, this ruling does not promote freedom, it crushes it. Americans pray voluntarily. And exercising that right together, as a willing nation, is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended," said Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins. "To imply otherwise is to suggest that the Constitution is unconstitutional. Religion cannot be banned in America because it was never imposed—not by the Founding Fathers, and certainly not by the National Day of Prayer."
The FRC called for the impeachment of Crabb and for more prayer for the country.
Traditional Values Coalition chairman Louis Sheldon joined members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in opposing the ruling.
"Clearly, anyone with the simplest knowledge of American history would realize that the Christian religion was the basis of political liberty in the founding of our nation—and none of the Founding Fathers would have thought that a call for prayer was coercive or unconstitutional," said Sheldon.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said the district court decision "is not only problematic, but represents a real challenge to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment." Sekulow said the National Day of Prayer and similar proclamations and observances reflect the nation's history and are not violations of the Establishment Clause.
Focus on the Family Action's Bruce Hausknecht further defended the National Day of Prayer by discussing one of the earliest such proclamations.
"If the folks who drafted and approved the First Amendment asked the President, only a couple days later, for a proclamation calling for a day of prayer and thanksgiving, you have to conclude that they believed presidential proclamations on prayer were perfectly appropriate," said Hausknecht. "Yet the federal judge in the NDP case avoided that piece of founding history entirely. Why? Didn't fit her narrative? I'll be interested to see what the 7th Circuit makes of that omission if, and when, an appeal reaches it."
Faith in Public Life's Counter-Campaign
The FRC Action PAC has produced a radio ad (mp3) that may be used against pro-life Democrats who voted for the health insurance reform law.
The original ad targeted Bart Stupak, but he has since announced that he will not seek reelection. The ad, however, may be used as a template for opposition to 20 other Democrats the FRC is targeting.
Faith in Public Life (FPL) has issued a point-by-point critique of the ad. FPL was most opposed to the ad's statement that Stupak opened up "the back door for a health care law that would allow our tax dollars to pay for abortions."
FPL also criticized the FRC for its list of "20 in '10," the twenty members of Congress the FRC is targeting in the fall election. FRC Action PAC said these were races that they considered "vulnerable and that will have pro-life, pro-family candidates to fill the void." The list originally included only twelve races, but the FRC Action PAC added eight more after the health care vote.
"The expansion reflects those so called 'pro-life' Democrats who seemed destined to heroism when they joined forces with Bart Stupak on a House bill that would have precluded any use [of] federal dollars for abortion, but who caved under White House and Democrat leadership," said the PAC.
FPL noted that in a recent press release, the FRC Action PAC said that the list included "the districts of 20 Democratic incumbents who voted for President Obama's abortion-funding health care bill." FPL noted that Reps. Glenn Nye and Walter Minnick voted against the health care reform law.
Dan Nejfelt of FPL said that the inconsistencies in the FRC Action PAC's reasoning for placing Democrats on the list of targeted races, and what FPL considers inaccurate or false statements about abortion funding in the health care law, "suggests that the '20 in '10' campaign uses the issue of abortion funding in healthcare as a false pretext to carry water for the Republican party."
Odds and Ends
• Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is picking up the baton from Glenn Beck by attacking Jim Wallis. Calling him a "Socialist Christian," Fischer said Wallis "wants to violate the eighth and tenth commandments." Why? Fischer claimed that Wallis wants to use government to steal money from some and give it to others because of class covetousness. "American society faces a choice. Jim Wallis wants us to build social policy on violations of both the eighth and tenth commandments. Conservatives want us to build social policy on Jesus' words to love our neighbors as ourselves. I'm with Jesus on this one."
• The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said that the federal government is promoting the "gay agenda." As evidence, Doug Carlson pointed to the Census Bureau encouraging same-sex couples who considered themselves married to indicate themselves as such; a proposal by the House ethics committee to have homosexual members of Congress and staff identify partners as spouses on annual financial disclosure forms; President Obama's directive that hospitals allow gay couples visitation and decision-making rights; and the possibility of eliminating the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. "With these and similar initiatives underway, the marriage foundation of our society is rapidly being chiseled away," Carlson said.
• Rob Schwarzwalder of the FRC wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which he objected to the racial classification questions on the 2010 census. "The Census form categorizes people not by citizenship and place of residence, but fundamentally by race and ethnicity. This is un-American," said Schwarzwalder. "Human beings are made in the likeness of their Creator. This, with their citizenship and home address, is really all the Census Bureau needs to know."
• On BreakPoint, Chuck Colson commented on the recent lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Goldman Sachs. Noting the complexities of the case, Colson said that, if true, the allegations indicate a loss of ethics on Wall Street. "The problem is that regulation, however well intended, can't solve the ethical problem," Colson said. "The best regulation can do is to define what people can get away with by drawing a line they can't cross. It does not answer the question, 'What is the honest way to do business?'"
Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site.
Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.