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Haitian Shockwaves

In a week full of political fights over same-sex marriage, groups pause to raise funds for Haiti relief efforts.

Save Lives in Haiti Now

In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, advocacy groups put aside politics to call for support of victims and relief efforts. For a couple of days, groups from the left, right, and middle had a common mission: to help the suffering in Haiti.

Dr. Hubert Morquette, country director for World Relief—one of the many relief organizations that have sent disaster teams—said the situation in Port-au-Prince was "devastating and grave." World Relief is the service arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). "For the longsuffering people of Haiti, a legacy of injustice and extreme poverty has multiplied the impact of natural disaster. Unknown numbers even now stand at death's door," the NAE said in a statement.

Other political groups used their websites and communications networks to promote relief efforts.

The American Family Association website features a new call to action: "Save Lives in Haiti Now." The AFA urged people to support World Vision's Haiti relief effort, making support their top action alert.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, used his Washington Update to point readers to the Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse, and World Vision, asking readers to pray for people hurt by the disaster.

Sojourners used its Facebook page as a way for readers to post links and to offer ways to help Haiti. Readers listed links to many organizations, including denominational humanitarian organizations like Covenant World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, and ministries already in Haiti, such as New Life for Haiti and Compassion International. 

Faith in Public Life linked to a Washington Post list of agencies, including many Christian organizations. 

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) partnered with three organizations: The Hands and Feet Project, Conduit Mission, and Operation Blessing. Supporters of the ACLJ could use text messaging to donate $10 to the ACLJ, which would then send it to the organizations. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ, focused on Haiti in his daily broadcast of Jay Sekulow Live.

Operation Blessing is affiliated with Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Pat Robertson also asked for support for this ministry during the Wednesday and Thursday 700 Club broadcasts.

Outrage over Robertson's Remarks

Despite the widespread support for Haiti from Christian political action groups, the headlines on Christian responses to the disaster focused on Pat Robertson. On Wednesday's 700 Club broadcast, he claimed the problems in Haiti were the result of a centuries old "pact with the devil."

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor," said Robertson.

Robertson also said that he believed that this earthquake could be a "blessing in disguise."

Chris Roslan, a spokesman for Pat Robertson and CBN, released a statement later that day stating that many believe that Haiti is cursed but "Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God's wrath." Roslan said that the full video segment shows that Robertson has compassion for the people of Haiti and is sending humanitarian aid. Condemnation of Robertson's comments Haiti was swift.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed Robertson's comments on his radio program Wednesday. Mohler said that Robertson incorrectly treats the mythical story of the pact as fact and crosses into dangerous territory by claiming he knows God's motives for action.

On Faith in Public Life's blog, Dan Nejfelt wrote that Robertson was wrong about his history and his theology. "The notion that God would smite hundreds of thousands of Haitians because of some alleged 'pact with the devil' more than two centuries ago is just plain hateful," said Nejfelt.

On Thursday's 700 Club broadcast, Robertson interviewed Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing. Robertson reiterated his hope that this could be a "blessing in disguise" because Haiti could be rebuilt stronger than before.

"I'm hard pressed to see any silver lining in this," Horan said.

Taking Marriage to Court

A court case over Proposition 8 moved forward this week as groups submitted briefs in support of the initiative. Proposition 8, which was approved by voters in 2008, is California's state-wide measure that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The case began on Monday following a 5-4 decision by the the U.S. Supreme Court that barred video recording of the proceedings. Supporters of Proposition 8 said they opposed video because the fear of harassment would cause witnesses to refuse to testify. 

The ruling would protect conservatives who testify, said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who also said "militant homosexuals" would use a wide range of tactics, including violence, against anyone who testifies. 

Perkins predicted that the case would eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the Court would have the final say on the law, Perkins said the debate over marriage will continue.

"As with abortion, the Supreme Court's involvement would only make the issue more volatile," said Perkins. "It's time for the far Left to stop asking judges to redefine our most fundamental social institution."

Mario Diaz of Concerned Women for America told supporters, "This case should be relatively easy for any judge" because the people approved the proposition. The problem, according to Diaz, is judicial activism by those who "see themselves as God's tool for the cultural and legal 'advancement' of society." For Diaz, this case is not merely about marriage.

"[The case] is about our form of government," Diaz wrote. "We will see if we are still a self-governing nation, or whether we have lost even more of our freedoms to judicial tyranny."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), also wrote that there are far-reaching implications for the case, saying it extends to faith in the public square.

Across the country, another court was considering the legality of a referendum on marriage.

On Wednesday, the D.C. Superior Court held a hearing on whether a referendum should be allowed on the issue. Proponents of the referendum included a group of pastors led by Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church, and Republican members of Congress. FRC applauded the effort. "Bishop Jackson and other black pastors … understand all too well the ramifications of family breakdown and are activating in record numbers to keep that crisis from expanding," Perkins said.

Kvetch Fest

As advocacy groups gear up for a new year of political action, they lamented events of the past year and plans for the future.

Tom McClusky of Family Research Council Action opposed a second "Contract With America," a ten-point plan Republicans agreed to in the 1994 election in which they gained control of the House. McClusky saidsuch an approach would be a recipe for electoral losses in November. According to McClusky, the Republican Party lost credibility because of policies it supported during the last eight years when it lost "any semblance of fiscal responsibility" and paid "little more than lip service to social conservatives." "Candidates need to run a campaign away from Washington, D.C. while being strong on conservative principles if they want to win elections," McClusky wrote.

The American Family Association weighed in on an issue reported in last week's Tracker, opposing Obama's selection of the transgender Amanda Simpson for an administrative post.

"By appointing Simpson, the president has put the weight of the federal government behind the normalization of sexual confusion, sexual mutilation, and mental health disorders," said AFA's Bryan Fischer. "Simpson, according to the APA [American Psychiatric Association] and the World Health Organization, is mentally ill and should be in therapy rather than in a position of important public responsibility."

Doug Carlson of the ERLC reported a long list of events that he described as weakening religious liberty. Carlson listed Obama's intention to remove some federal health care conscience provisions, the passage of the hate crimes bill that expanded the law to include actions based on a victim's sexual orientation, and the approval of same-sex marriage in D.C. as harmful to religious liberty. Future threats include the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which would protect sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace) and a return of the Fairness Doctrine (which could affect the content of radio shows).

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) compared the Obama administration to a heart attack—it's a change, but not the kind of change you want. TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty said Obama's changes were "undermining fundamental American principles such as those in the U.S. Constitution and Christianity in America." The list of changes Lafferty opposes includes weakness on terrorism, overspending, a dismantling of the military, funding of abortions, and an administration "filled with supporters of unrestrained abortion on demand, far leftists, Muslims, gays, and internationalists who wish to undermine national sovereignty." Lafferty concluded her complaints with links to TVC reports on "Obama's radical Marxist and Islamic background."

Tobin Grant is an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and director of the Tracking American Evangelical Politics project.

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site. Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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