Post-debate poll

 

Comparison of Registered Voters' Presidential Preferences, Before and After First Presidential Debate, 2012

 

Romney Narrows Vote Gap After Historic Debate Win.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Yesterday had been declared “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” by a group of activist pastors and a conservative legal organization.  Over a thousand pastors purposefully violated the law by endorsing, by name, a political candidate, something non-profit organizations are not allowed to do.  They recorded their endorsement sermons and are all going to send a copy to the IRS.

The idea is to force the IRS to take action against them, setting up a court challenge on the grounds that the law violates the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  See Pastors to take on IRS in plan to preach politics from the pulpit | Fox News.

Did any of you pastors take part in this act of civil disobedience?  Did any of you attend a church where this happened?  Do you know of any Lutheran churches that participated (which would seem to be a clear violation not only of the secular law but of Lutheran doctrine with its Two Kingdoms theology)?

Doesn’t this violate Romans 13?  Shouldn’t the churches that did this lose their tax exempt status?  After all, civil disobedience includes taking the punishment for violating the law.  If churches want to exercise a political authority–something that the Reformation utterly opposed when the Pope did this sort of thing–shouldn’t they just abandon their tax exempt status so they can function like other political organizations?  Is it really unconstitutional?  Or is there a case to be made for Pulpit Freedom Sunday?  If so, what is it?

How illegal immigrants inflate the electoral college

Illegal immigrants and other non-citizens don’t have the right to vote, of course.  But, as required by the Constitution, they ARE counted in the census that determines the population of states for the allocation of congressional representatives.  That means a state with large numbers of non-citizens can get more electoral votes, which determine presidential elections, than it would have otherwise.  The breakdown favors the Democrats.  Leonard Steinhorn, a professor at American University, gives the analysis:

An Obama victory could hinge on a quirk in the Constitution that gives noncitizens, a group that includes illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents, a say in electing the president of the United States.

As required by Article I and the Fourteenth Amendment, the decennial census, which allocates to each state its congressional seats and Electoral College votes, is based on a count of all people who live in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike — or as the Constitution phrases it, “the whole number of persons in each state.” That means millions of noncitizens who are ineligible to vote are included in Electoral College calculations, and that benefits some states over others. Most of these noncitizens are here legally; however, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 45 percent of noncitizens are undocumented immigrants.

In 2010 and most previous years, the census did not inquire about citizenship, but the American Community Survey (ACS), which samples our population every month, includes a breakdown of citizens and noncitizens. Plugging the 2010 ACS citizen-only numbers into the Census Bureau’s apportionment formula shows that five states benefit electorally from their noncitizen populations: New York, Florida and Washington each gain one congressional seat and thus one Electoral College vote; Texas gains two; and California — with 5,516,920 noncitizens out of a total population of 37,341,989 — gains five.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana each lose a seat under the official formula as compared with an apportionment that counts citizens only. . . .

Looking at how the states might vote in November, there is no scenario in which Mitt Romney benefits from the inclusion of noncitizens in the Electoral College calculation, but there are several in which Obama could gain three to five Electoral College votes, thus deciding a close election.

via Without voting, noncitizens could swing the election for Obama – The Washington Post.

Prof. Steinhorn gives some reasons why it makes sense to count everybody, citizen or not, though he says the impact on presidential elections needs to be remedied by eliminating the electoral college.

Do you have any other solutions?  Or is this not really a problem?

"Anti-Christianism" TV

Maria-TV is a new Egyptian television station, all of whose employees are women.  Though it’s getting attention in the West because all of its broadcasters wear the niqab, the total covering except for a slit for the eyes, the purpose of the station is to battle Christianity.  (The crusade for all Egyptian women to wear niqab, which the pre-revolutionary secular regime discouraged, itself targets women who are Coptic Christians, whose, of course, reject the veil, making them easily identified.)  This story includes a new word that, unfortunately, may get more and more currency:  “Anti-Christianism.”

Maria TV’s owner, Ahmed Abdallah, is a prominent Salafist preacher, well known in Egypt for his anti-Christian rhetoric. Abdallah and his son Islam, the channel’s chief executive, were arrested last month for burning a Bible during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11.

And while the women who work for Maria TV said they want to promote their belief that all Egyptian women should be covered, the channel also serves as a vehicle for what the chief executive said was an effort to dim the influence of Christianity in the Muslim-majority region. . . .

The all-female Maria TV launched July 19, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, broadcasting for four hours each day using al-Ummah’s satellite frequency. The channel takes its name from Maria al-Qibtiyya, an enslaved Coptic Christian from Egypt who became one of the wives of the prophet Muhammad. The name represents “transferring from slavery to freedom, from Christianity to Islam,” the chief executive said. . . .

The women at the channel say they find it ironic that the niqab is often seen as a symbol of oppression. “My freedom is Islam, my freedom to talk from my niqab, work in my niqab, go to university in my niqab,” the manager said. “So I am trying to bring across the idea that every human has a right to live and choose the lifestyle they find appropriate.”

During the interview, Islam Ahmed Abdallah stood up to answer a cellphone that had been ringing inside a plastic bag. After switching it off, he explained that it belonged to a former Coptic Christian his team had recently converted to Islam. New converts are not allowed to use technological devices during their first three months as Muslims, to prevent relatives or other loved ones from trying to make them reconsider, he said.

Makram-Ebeid, the Coptic woman who served in parliament, said some of her fellow Christians are terrified by what they see as a “wave of anti-Christianism.”

via Egypt’s Maria TV pitches strict vision of Islam – The Washington Post.

Happy Columbus Day!

We should have a discussion for Columbus Day as we have for other holidays.

This day is also observed in Latin American countries as Dia de la Raza, a day to mark the meeting and mixing of Native American and Spanish cultures.  Many Native Americans, especially in the U.S.A., see Columbus Day as a time of mourning.  But other activists use it as a time to celebrate the Hispanic presence in the Americas and to protest what they consider to be injustices, such as restrictive  immigration laws.  Columbus, of course, was an Italian who served the monarchs of Spain.   In the United States, this day is also a time to celebrate the Italian presence!

What is the true meaning of Columbus Day?  (Besides the true meaning that  Columbus discovered America on October 12!)   Is there a Christian dimension to this holiday, or had we better just leave that alone?

Politics as Dante's Inferno

Literature professor that I am, I appreciate this application of the unutterably great Dante to today’s political and cultural woes.  It’s by Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, who got it published in USA Today:

In Inferno, hell is cold at its deepest levels, not hot. People are frozen in place, eternally. Nothing ever changes. . . .

The hell that Dante envisions is a series of concentric circles, containing the souls of people being punished for a variety of sins. His poem is “the drama of the soul’s choice,” according to English crime writer and poet Dorothy Sayers. The seriousness of the sin increases as the observer moves downward from the first circle to the ninth; for instance, the residents of the second circle are being punished for lust, while the souls in the ninth are suffering for treacherous fraud against individuals and communities. . . .

In Dante’s frozen ninth circle, there are two damned souls who do not face each other. Instead, they are pressed together chest to back, with one gnawing the back of the other’s head. I think of my Facebook friends who send blistering political messages, containing insults that they would never deliver face to face. . . .

Says Peter Hawkins of Yale Divinity School, a Dante scholar, “Among the many things lost at this depth is the notion of e pluribus unum, one out of many.” Here, private egos run wild, with no chance of healthy partnership.

In this ninth circle, the man who is eating the other’s head is an Italian count who was betrayed by an archbishop and locked in a tower to starve to death. The two men are traitors who represent corruption within both the state and the church, but what locks them in hell is the hatred they chose in the last moments of their lives. Dante is reminding us that we don’t have to choose that path.

We can all choose to do better, right along with the characters of The Divine Comedy. As the story moves from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso, the focus of the characters shifts — they gradually move from looking at each other to gazing upward toward “the love which moves the sun and the other stars.”. . .

Politics is so often a zero-sum game, with one candidate’s gain coming from another’s loss, but Dante offers a heavenly ideal of sharing and mutuality. “In the Paradiso,” says Alan Jones, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church in San Francisco, “love is the only ‘commodity’ that isn’t diminished by sharing.”

via Column: When politics freezes over – USATODAY.com.


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