FaithWorld

from The Great Debate:

What’s the 2014 election really about? Religious vs. women’s rights

Demonstrators gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for the "Not My Boss's Business" rally for women's health and rights in Washington

Religious rights versus women's rights. That's about as fundamental a clash as you can get in U.S. politics. It's now at the core of the 2014 election campaign, with both parties girding for battle.

What generated the showdown was last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The decision instantly became a rallying cry for activists on both the right and left. Congressional Democrats are already proposing a law to nullify the decision. “It's shameful that a woman's access to contraception is even up for debate in 2014,” Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) said.   Conservative blogger Erick Erickson crowed, “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer-subsidized, consequence-free sex.”

How did the issue become so big so fast? Because it touches some extremely sensitive nerves in the body politic.

Members of the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood attend a service in Ketchum, IdahoThe question that best predicts a person's politics today is not about income or education. It's religion: How often do you go to church? Regular churchgoers -- including fundamentalist Protestants, observant Catholics, even many Orthodox Jews -- vote Republican. Voters who rarely or never go to church vote Democratic.

President Ronald Reagan brought the religious right into the Republican coalition. The Reagan coalition is the Old America -- and religious rights are a touchstone issue.

from The Great Debate:

Punitive politics: Blame the Puritans

‘Tis the season of giving, charity and good will -- unless you happen to be a Republican, and then ‘tis the season of pusillanimity, churlishness and bad will.

Congressional Republicans seem hell-bent on denying the most disadvantaged among us healthcare, unemployment benefits and, perhaps worst of all, food stamps, from which the House of Representatives slashed $40 billion last month. Elizabeth Drew, writing in Rolling Stone, calls it “The Republicans’ War on the Poor.”

You can attribute these benefit cuts to plain meanness with a dose of political calculation thrown in, as Drew does. But there may be another explanation than congenital cruelty: Republicans believe they are adhering to a principle that they place above every other value, including compassion. That principle is the need to punish individuals whom they view as undeserving.

from Bernd Debusmann:

America’s Republican extremists

The United States is in grave danger from domestic enemies:  Infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood have wormed their way into sensitive government positions, Communists wield influence in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama hates America and is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American Dream.

The first two assertions - Muslim infiltrators and Communists in Congress - come from Republican members of Congress. The third comes from the host of the radio talk show with the biggest audience in the United States. All three merit pondering about the current state of the Republican Party, a mainstay of American democracy for more than 150 years.

A brief look at the details of the claims first. In June, Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview that "it appears there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood." In letters that came to light in mid-July, she asked the inspectors general of four government departments to launch inquiries into the depth of Muslim penetration.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra: Sayonara Santorum

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is featured on a button by a supporter who also wore the politician's trademark vest in this January 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It began and ended at a kitchen table in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum's improbable and surprisingly long run for the White House is over. But the Republican Party will feel the effects of this game-changing gambit cooked up in a kitchen for some time to come.

Santorum offered disgruntled voters true conservative credentials. He brought social issues and religious freedom to the forefront of the national debate. He made Mitt Romney work much harder for the nomination than expected, and lurch to the right in the process. His supporters may not go away quietly or fall behind Romney in lockstep.

from Bernd Debusmann:

Obama and the American fringe

The prospect of President Barack Obama winning another four-year term in November is swelling the ranks of anti-Muslim activists and groups on the extremist fringe of American society. Their growth has accelerated every year since Obama took office in 2009.

So says a new report by a civil rights organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, that has tracked extremist groups for the past three decades and found that last year alone, the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled, from 10 to 30.

Between 2008 and the end of 2011, according to the center, there was an eight-fold increase in the number of militias and "patriot" groups whose members inhabit a parallel universe where the federal government wants to rob them of their guns and their freedom.

from Tales from the Trail:

Santorum courts Texas conservatives

By Judy Wiley

Roughly  1,000 supporters filled the Fairview Farms Corral Barn in Plano, Texas and spilled out the door  of the party hall where they'd come to see the man in the day's political spotlight -- Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

Those who stood outside in the cold could only hear bits and pieces of Santorum's talk, but that didn't stop them from cheering after he raised his voice to declare, "Now is the time for America to rise up and say, "Enough!"

They took up a chant of "We pick Rick," after he asked, "Are you going to give me the opportunity?"

Mormon faith may hurt Romney in U.S. primaries – poll

 Mitt Romney’s Mormonism could hurt the Republican candidate with evangelical voters in his fight for the party’s presidential nomination, but those voters would favor him over President Barack Obama in the general election, according to a newly released poll.

Some 15 percent of evangelical Christians, a key constituency in the Republican presidential nomination battle, say they are wary of Mormonism and will not vote for Mitt Romney, the Pew Research Center poll found.

But those same voters were more likely to favor the former Massachusetts governor, a Mormon, in the November 2012 general election over President Barack Obama, whom they dislike more, the telephone poll conducted Nov. 9-14 found.

from Tales from the Trail:

O’Donnell credits prayer for campaign boost

USA/

Republicans may be abandoning Christine O'Donnell's U.S. Senate campaign. But she still has friends in high places -- really high places.

In fact, the Delaware Tea Party favorite is crediting divine intervention for the successes that her campaign has had.

"The day that we saw a spike in the polls was a day that some people had a prayer meeting for me, that morning for this campaign," she tells the Christian Broadcasting Network, a cable TV channel founded by televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

from Tales from the Trail:

Democrats try turning mosque debate against GOP

Democrats were stunned and somewhat speechless last August when Republicans accused them of proposing "death panels" as part of  their healthcare reform initiative.

This August,  it's the proposed construction of a Muslim cultural center and mosque near lower Manhattan's "Ground Zero" that is dominating the end-of-summer doldrums.  Once again,  Democrats are struggling to gain the upper hand in the debate. AFGHANISTAN/

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Wednesday, saying, "Where a place of worship is located is a local decision." The Democrat may have been tweaking Republicans from across the U.S. who are railing about the New York City mosque all the while complaining about the long, intrusive arm of the federal government.

Support for abortion rights declines in America

Public support for abortion rights is ebbing in America while the issue’s importance has fallen on the public agenda, especially for liberal Democrats, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

In 2007 and 2008, Pew found that supporters of abortion rights outnumbered those saying it should be illegal in most or all cases by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin.

By contrast, in two major surveys conducted in 2009 among a total sample of more than 5,500 adults, views of abortion are about evenly divided, with 47 percent expressing support for legal abortion and 44 percent expressing opposition,” Pew said.