Are Gay Priests Who Support Traditional Marriage Hypocrites?

I admit it.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the three priests and one former priest who torpedoed Cardinal Keith O’Brien. 

For those who don’t know, Cardinal O’Brien was an outspoken opponent of the move to redefine traditional marriage. In what appears to at least some people to be a hit job, three priests and one former priest came forward recently with accusations that the Cardinal had made passes at them 30 years ago. All of these men were adults when this is supposed to have happened. One of them even admits that the passes occurred after “late-night drinking.”

They also admit that this occurred over 30 years ago in 1980.

So, other than indicating that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to commit sexual sin with another adult in 1980, when he was not a cardinal or even a bishop, what does all this mean?

It means that a vigorous voice in support of traditional marriage has been silenced at a critical point in the debate. It also means that the British Isles will have no representative in the upcoming election of the next pope.

I do not want to give the impression that I think that what then Father O’Brien did was right.

However, as I have said in other posts, just about any woman in public life could make similar accusations against numerous powerful men. If you want to go back 30 years for these things, I doubt very much that there is a man in public life who could emerge from that kind of open season on their past unscathed. I also don’t think that many women would be in such good shape if you drug out every stupid thing we ever did or said in the name of sexual attraction and then declaimed it as unforgivable.

The last thing I feel like doing is to go into a faint and start fanning myself like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind over news that priests, bishops and, yes, cardinals, have committed sins at some time in their lives. My basic reaction to all this is, “where’s the beef?” Or, maybe I should say, “What’s the beef?”

I am not dismayed or scandalized to learn that leaders in the Church have committed sins. I expect that this is true of every single person on this planet.

There is a world of difference between a drunken priest making a pass at another adult and a bishop or cardinal transferring child molesters around, thereby enabling them to continue molesting children. If you don’t see that, then I don’t think I’m going to try to explain it to you.

One of the more predictable bits of commentary about Cardinal O’brien’s very public disgrace has been that he is a “hypocrite,” since it appears that he is gay and at least somewhat actively so, while he speaks against gay marriage.

This raises a question that has bemused me for a while. The whole basis of this contention about the Cardinal’s “hypocrisy” seems to be founded on the idea that if a person is homosexual, then they must be in favor of gay marriage and if they say otherwise, they are lying. I think this contention is inaccurate. 

Christians often have to chose between what members of “their” group want and following the Gospel. These choices are painful. They frequently result in bitter accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy directed at the Christian by their former friends.

I don’t know Cardinal O’brien, but I do know many gay people, some of whom are deeply committed followers of Christ. At this point in history homosexuals’ standing under the law is in flux. When the question concerns things like civil rights, there is no conflict for a homosexual and their Christian beliefs. In fact, Christianity is, or should be, their strongest advocate.

But the question of gay marriage puts homosexual Christians to the test. If they are a priest or someone else in Christian leadership, the conflict will be even sharper for them simply because they can not sidestep it. They will have to chose between following Christ in matters such as the legal definition of marriage and following the gay community, and they will have to do it publicly.  

Before anyone goes off and throws a pity party for homosexual Christians, I would like you to consider the challenges that women face in their fealty to Christ. The whole question of abortion balances on the shoulders of young women, many of whom are in desperate situations and who were brought to this pass by brutality and misogyny which is often ignored and allowed by various religious leaders. Yet women who follow Christ may not, can not, advocate for the killing of innocents. We are forced instead to advocate for an end to the brutality of abortion and at the same time work for an end to the brutality of misogyny.

That can be difficult, but it is our call as Christian women.

In a similar fashion, Christians who are also homosexuals are called to live out their Christian walk as people who have been the objects of discrimination but who may not take the easy route of following the crowd as they work against this discrimination. They must, like all the rest of us, chose Christ.

It just doesn’t jibe with me that every person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction must, by definition, think and behave exactly like every other person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction. It certainly does not apply to Christians, who must, by definition, be the change agents for the Gospel in a fallen world.

The way that fits Cardinal O’brien’s situation, as well as every other priest, is that whether or they are homosexual or heterosexual, they must be priests and Christians first. It is not hypocrisy for a priest to follow the teachings of his Church. I think it would be hypocrisy for him to do otherwise.

I am not defending Cardinal O’brien. I don’t know him. I don’t know his accusers. I am aware that, as often happens, there may be other charges that come to the fore that change my evaluation of him.

However, as of now, I do not see him as a hypocrite. I see him as a human being who has sinned, but who has also remained faithful to his charge as an officer of the Church.

Every single human being sins. Sexual sin, simply because the temptations are so powerful and universal, are the downfall of many people. However, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not any Church teaching) sexual sin like this, which involves adults in a consenting situation, is perhaps one of the most understandable of sins, coming as it does from our longing to love and be loved.

Is a homosexual priest who follows the teachings of the Church concerning marriage a hypocrite who deserves to be pilloried and disgraced? Absolutely not. 

If the men who made these accusations against Cardinal O’brien were, indeed, politically motivated, they were successful. They have done much harm to the cause of traditional marriage in Britain. They have also made certain that someone who supports Church teaching will not take part in the election of the next pope.

If that was their motivation, they need to look at themselves as people. I am appalled by the tactics the gay rights movement sometimes uses in their fight to redefine marriage. If that is what they did, then I would say that Cardinal O’brien is something of a social martyr for the Church.

A Telegraph news article about Cardinal O’brien’s situation says in part:

The Cardinal Keith O’Brien Downfall video had been ready to run for ages. The story of three priests and one ex-priest complaining of inappropriate behaviour was timed to break when the Scottish prelate retired at 75 next month. The aim was to expose his alleged hypocrisy. To quote our blogger Stephen Hough, responding in the comments to his blog post yesterday, “I’m convinced that what he did (if he did it) was harmless enough, but he may not have thought it harmless if he’d caught other priests doing it … at least until this week.” If the scandal had come to light next month, that would have been nicely timed to ruin the Cardinal’s reputation just when the media would be running retrospective pieces about him. And, of course, it would throw a spotlight on O’Brien’s passionate opposition to gay marriage, effectively silencing the Scottish Catholic Church on this subject, and probably the Church in the rest of Britain, too.

What no one could have guessed is that Pope Benedict would resign, meaning that Cardinal O’Brien would be the only Briton with a vote in the next conclave. The Observer story was brought forward, with devastating results. The four complainants had the good sense – and, arguably, the courage – to inform the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, of their claims. (Mennini, it should be noted, is not in the pocket of the British bishops to the extent that previous ambassadors have been.) So the Vatican already had a file on Britain’s senior Catholic churchman, and Pope Benedict, on being informed of its contents, decided to bring forward O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In other words, the alleged victims of these inappropriate acts were helped by something that the Church’s critics have often refused to recognise: Joseph Ratzinger’s determination to purify the Church of sex abuse, right up until the last week of his pontificate. (Read more here.)

More Than 100,000 March for Marriage in Puerto Rico

Supporters of traditional marriage are showing up to march all over the world.

Paris saw two enormous marches for marriage this past year. The last one drew close to a million people. Puerto Ricans joined in February 18 when more what media experts estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people marched for marriage. This is an enormous showing on an island with a population of only 3.5 million.

Despite this, the news coverage outside the religious press was scanty to non-existent.

It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. Be there, or be square.

A CNA article describing the march says in part:

The president of the United Ministry for the Family, Dr. Cesar Vasquez Muniz, said the demonstration came about “in response to threats against marriage and the family.”

The march “is an act to defend our rights and protect children,” he said.

Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, who took part in the pro-family march, said that when a society dismantles the traditional family, it is destined for ruin and destruction.

A parallel march organized by gay advocates attracted just hundreds of attendees, according to local media reports.

Puerto Rico’s Senate and House of Representatives are currently debating measures that would legalize gay unions, allow same-sex couples to adopt and change the curriculum relating to gender that is taught in schools.

Organizers of the march said the proposals constitute “a legislative attack against our freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and of religion.”

The passage of these measures would lay the foundation for legal discrimination against the Church and Christians, they said, and would lead to the marginalization of Christian values from the laws that govern the island.

It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. For more information, go here

Be there, or be square.

Newly Professed Nuns and Brothers: Mature, Educated, Devout

Nuns and brothers who took their perpetual vows in 2012 are mature adults with work experience who come from Catholic families. 

That’s the basic result of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. 

The survey shows that today’s newly professed religious are well-educated, individuals who have had to overcome discouragement from others in seeking a vocation to religious life. 

One thing that interested me is that age appears to be no impediment for many of these people, since the oldest woman was 66 at the time she professed her perpetual vows and two of the men were over 60. I had always heard that no one who was over 40 could enter religious life. It appears I was wrong.

I think this is great news for people who have come to know Jesus later in life and who feel the call to live out their days as vowed members of a religious community. It is particularly important for women.

In a world where the enslavement and trafficking of women and children is growing apace with rape as an instrument of war and the use of child soldiers, the voice of strong Christian women is badly needed.

The Church needs nuns.

There is a female viewpoint that must be present when dealing with crimes against women and children. Also, many times, women are the only ones who can gain the trust and cooperation of severely victimized people. 

I pray for women religious to step up to this challenge. They are so needed. 

Here are a few facts from the survey that stood out to me. You can read the entire survey here.

The average age of newly professed women is 40, while the average of men is 39. Eighty-give percent of the respondents are cradle Catholics. Seventy-eight percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Ninety-six percent of them have at least one brother or sister; 45% have four or more siblings.

This is a highly educated group of people. Twenty-two percent have a graduate level degree with 60% having a bachelor’s degree. Eight-two percent of them had worked before entering religious life. Eighty-eight percent had participated in ministry activities before entering and 95% had regularly participated in private prayer activity. Sixty-nine percent had participated in Eucharistic Adoration.

Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that they were discouraged from entering religious life by one of more persons. Women were more likely than men to report that they had encountered discouragement about considering a vocation. Men were more likely than the women to be encouraged by their parish priests to think of religious life as a life’s vocation.

The youngest sister or nun was 23 at the time of her profession, while the oldest was 66 years of age. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. The youngest brother was 25 and the oldest is 62. Two of the men are age 60 or older.

Clerical Malpractice and Priests Who Encourage People in Their Sins

Deacon Greg Kandra, who always has the story, published a recent post about a priest in San Francisco who removed the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI because members of the parish complained that they felt hurt by things the Holy Father had said about LGBTQ people.

The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait. In his letter to the parish, he wrote about people who “will not accept us as we are” and what we should do about them. His letter asked parishioners to “forgive” the pope, as if the pope had sinned by refusing to back down on Church teachings.

While I have not read every word Pope Benedict wrote, I have read quite a few of his statements on the question of gay marriage and the responsibilities of political office holders. None of the things I read said anything condemning homosexual people. So far as I know, the Holy Father has always supported the simple truth that homosexuals are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and that they are precious in His sight. 

Despite this, I admit that some of what I read was hard for me to accept. I had gay friends who meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint them by failing to support gay marriage. I wrestled with this, prayed about it and engaged in lots of long talks with my pastor over it. It was a tough one for me.

I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom. I have made egregious mistakes that resulted in great harm to other people by assuming that I knew more about right and wrong than 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

It was not an easy step for me, but I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is to “trust and obey.” What that means for me, as well as for any other Catholic, is that I follow the teachings of the Church. What has happened since I made the decision to bow my head and stop trying to be my own pope is that I have found that the Church proves itself right in the long run. I may have difficulty with a particular teaching at first. I may be so deeply embedded in the world’s reasoning that what the Church says seems upside down to me at first. But I have learned that this is the nature of following Christ.

Jesus’ teachings have always seemed upside down to the world. I believe that is a natural outgrowth of seeing things through eternal eyes versus seeing them with our temporal, fallen vision. It you follow Jesus, you will often be at odds with the world. If you follow Jesus, you will often find yourself practicing one kind of self-denial or another. It may be that you find yourself denying your own selfish impulses to take the easy way out to instead follow Jesus through the narrow way. It may be that you have to go against the popular reasoning and place yourself at odds with the people around you.

This can cost you a great deal. It can cost you your friends, your comfort level with other people, even your job or livelihood. But if you persist in denying Christ with the words you say and the things you do you will  inevitably come to a point where you have denied Him in total. You will no longer be His follower. You will be the world’s thingy person. The cost of that is your soul.

The priest in Deacon Greg’s post missed an incredible opportunity to stand for Christ. He side-stepped a chance to express his vows to the Church in living action in front of the people of his parish. I am sure there would have been painful consequences if he had done this. But I am equally certain that he would have been a much better priest and a much better witness for Christ if he had.

We are not called to duck and cover when the going gets tough for Christians. We are called to persist in following Him, come what may, until the end.

A priest who sidesteps this responsibility and in essence gives people support in their sins is not functioning as their shepherd. Instead of protecting them from the wolves of a culture that tells them their sins are not sins and they can do whatever they want and God Himself is wrong if He disagrees with them, this priest joined that culture and supported it in its contentions.

Gay people are human beings. There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing. Homosexuals are just people who are slightly different from heterosexuals, and that difference is not something that interferes with their functioning as productive people. However, some of the things that homosexual people do are wrong. I’m not going to be specific here, because I am not their priest and it is not my job.

But if it was my job, I would hope that I did not fail them by encouraging them to think that their sins don’t matter. That is not tolerance. It is, in fact the ultimate cruelty. It leads people away from God in the name of God. It is clerical malpractice.

For a Catholic priest to take down the portrait of the pope because parishioners don’t like things the pope has said concerning their sins, is weak in the extreme. Poor, sad priest. Poor, sad parishioners who have such a shepherd.

 

Archbishop Lori Issues Statement of Support for the Health Care Conscience Rights Act

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who is chair of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, has voiced support for the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, authored by Representative Diane Black (R-TN).

Archbishop Lori issued the following statement:

“I am grateful to Congresswoman Black and other sponsors for their leadership today. I welcome the Health Care Conscience Rights Act and call for its swift passage into law. While federal laws are on the books protecting conscience rights in health care, this Act would make such protection truly effective. This overdue measure is especially needed in light of new challenges to conscience rights arising from the federal health care reform act.”

Representative Black’s legislation comes after she and 13 other members of Congress sent a letter to the House leadership requesting that the issue of freedom of conscience be included in the upcoming budget bill. This letter opened the doorway for the Republican leadership to make their stand-off with the President over budget concerns about something noble instead of using it to stop tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. 

Hopefully, they will see it that way and take the action that the signers of the letter asked of them. 

Meanwhile, Representative Black announced at a press conference today that she is authoring a separate statute to guarantee the right of conscience to health care workers. 

If you wish to contact your Congressional delegation to ask them to support both Representative Black’s bill and putting the issue of religious freedom into the budget bill, you can find their emails and phone numbers here

Representative Diane Black Introduces the Health Care Conscience Protection Act

Representative Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and John Fleming, MD (R-LA) announced that they will introduce the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA.)

It is bill number HR 940.

According to Rep Black’s website, HR 940, “offers reprieve from ongoing violations of our First Amendment, including full exemption from the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. HCCRA has 50 original co-sponsors.”

Representative Black allowed individuals who have been harmed by the government’s attacks on freedom of religion to speak at the press conference announcing this bill. They were:

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, RN – New York State nurse who filed suit after her freedom to serve patients according to her conscience was violated. For more information, click here.

·         Susan Elliott, PhD, Director and Professor at Biola University Nursing Department. For more information, click here.

·         Christine Ketterhagen, Co-Owner/Board Member of Hercules Industries, Inc.; Andy Newland, President of Hercules Industries; Bill Newland, Chairman of the Board of Hercules Industries. For more information, click here

·         Sister Jane Marie Klein, OSF, Chairperson of the Board of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (in Mishawaka, IN). Franciscan Alliance is a co-plaintiff with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Representative Black’s website included the following provisions in the Health Care Conscience Act:

HHS Mandate:

Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The HCCRA would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.

Abortion Non-Discrimination:

The HCCRA also protects institutions and individuals from forced or coerced participation in abortion.  In recent years there have been several examples of nurses being told they must participate in abortions. There have also been efforts to require Catholic Hospitals to do abortions, and a Catholic social service provider was denied a grant to assist victims of human trafficking on the basis of their pro-life convictions.  The HCCRA codifies and clarifies the appropriations provision known as the Hyde‐Weldon conscience clause. This is accomplished by adding the protections for health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion to the section of the Public Health Service Act known as the Coats Amendment. It also adds the option of judicial recourse for victims whose rights have been violated under the HCCRA, Coats, or the conscience clauses known as the Church amendments.

You can call your Congresspeople at 202-224-3121. Or you can find their email addresses here

Polls Show Americans Believe in Jesus and the God of the Bible

The more I blog, the more I realize that the reactions of unbelievers are predictable, and if you think about them for a moment, understandable.

It appears that those who oppose traditional Christianity, or who want things, such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage, which traditional Christianity does not support, do not like to hear that anyone, anywhere, disagrees with them. One of their most common shibboleths is that Christians, particularly Catholics, do not believe what their Church teaches and do not adhere to those teachings.

This is repeatedly brought into discussions, usually with vague references to “polls” that indicate this “fact.” The implication of these comments is that if Catholics don’t even support their Church, then traditional Christian teachings are valueless and should be discarded.

But the polls that they reference do not stand up to close inspection. It turns out that the poll numbers in question refer to polls that equate “Catholics” who don’t attend church and have had no contact with the religion they claim, many times for most of their lives.

When Catholics who actually attend mass on at least a fairly regular basis are polled, it turns out that they do support their Church and believe in its teachings. One of the simplest ways to use polls for propaganda is to select a sample of people you poll who will give you the results you want. When pollsters talk about what Catholics believe, their results will be much more accurate if they poll people who are practicing Catholics.

Rasmussen has done a number of polls whose results will come as a surprise to anyone who believes what they read in the anti-Christian, Catholic bashing media. 

It turns out that people feel connected to their churches, that their loyalty to their church comes first after their families, and that a large majority of Americans believe in Jesus and the God of the Bible. 

If this is true, why do our government entities, from school boards to state legislatures and on up to the White House behave as if it wasn’t true? Why do we live in a world where government treats Christians as an ignorant and bigoted minority who must be ignored, and if that doesn’t work, oppressed and forced into silence?

Our country has taken an ugly turn from recent days when “You can go to church as much as you want, but leave it there.” was a hectoring comment that religious elected officials had shoved in their faces. Now, the law itself is beginning to enforce this.

It turns out that these moves toward legal discrimination against people of faith such as the HHS Mandate are being enacted in the face of a confused and propaganda-bound majority. It really is time that Christians stop allowing themselves to be flim and flammed this way.

Here is a summary of a few of the Rasmussen polls I am talking about:

When given a choice between several levels of community beyond their own family, most Americans choose either their church or their country. More than a third of adults (35%) say their strongest personal allegiance other than family is to their church. Nearly as many (31%) say their strongest allegiance is to their country, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults. Just six percent (6%) name the global community as their strongest personal connection, while five percent (5%) name some other community organization. Four percent (4%) each say their town or state represents their biggest personal allegiance. (To see survey question wording,click here.)

Two-out-of-three Americans (64%) believe in the God of the Bible. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey also finds that 12% do not believe in God at all. Eleven percent (11%) believe in some form or essence of God, five percent (5%) in some other form of God, and eight percent (8%) are not sure.  (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Eight-out-of-10 Americans (80%) say that their religious faith is at least somewhat important in their daily lives, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. (Click here.)

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 86% of American Adults believe the person known to history as Jesus Christ walked the Earth 2,000 years ago. Just seven percent (7%) don’t share this belief. (To see survey question wording, click here).

Holiday shoppers, as they have for several years, would prefer to be greeted with signs reading “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” this season. (Click here.)

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that 70% prefer that stores use signs that say “Merry Christmas.” (Click here.)

 

 

Fourteen Members of Congress Sign Letter Asking that Conscience Rights Be Included in Budget Bill

Fourteen members of Congress sent a letter to the House leadership asking that conscience rights be included in the upcoming budget bill. They mentioned specific violations of the right to conscience, including the HHS Mandate. Thirteen of the 14 signers were women. This puts the lie to the claim that women support attacks on religious freedom and individual freedom of conscience such as the HHS Mandate.

This is an unprecedented move by these House members which could have far-reaching consequences for the future of religious freedom in this country. I don’t know if these Congresspeople wrote this letter in response to the call for Congress to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in the sequester/fiscal cliff/budget negotiations. But I do know that this letter came shortly after grassroots lobbying efforts  for this kind of move began.

Fourteen signers out of 453 voting members of the US House may not sound like much, but I think it’s a great start. By putting their names on this letter, these Congresspeople have stepped out in front of the issue of religious freedom and used their clout as members of the majority party to urge their leadership to do the same.

I am going to contact members of my Congressional delegation and ask them to sign on to this letter, as well. Hopefully, we will get many more Republicans and a few Democrats to sign. I am also going to contact those who signed this letter and thank them.

You can contact your Congressman or woman by going here.

 

Book Review: Joining the Present Day Abolitionists

 

Join the discussion on Refuse To Do Nothing or find a link to buy a copy here

I serve on the board of directors of All Things New. All Things New is dedicated to helping women come out of sex slavery, which ranges from trafficking to prostitution.

That position brings me face to face with the reality of what we are doing to our women and children in the name of “victimless crimes.” It has made me aware of how our culture glorifies pimps, excuses johns and victimizes the women and children these predators use and degrade.

Refuse To Do Nothing was written by two women, Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, who had heard similar stories and found that they had to “refuse to do nothing” about the suffering present-day slavery wreaks on both the victims and the victimizers.

I recommend this well-researched book. Instead of just telling us how horrible the problem of present-day slavery is, the book gives simple, do-able ideas for actions that ordinary people can take to help in the fight to end it. There is nothing over the top in any of the ideas these women provide. Each of them is simple, easy to do and, if enough of us do them, effective.

Slavery ended in Great Britain and America largely as a result of Christians, particularly Christian women, who understood the Gospel claim that every human being is beloved of God. They could not abide the contradiction of Christian people owning and using other human beings as chattel.

That understanding is just as true today as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as now, slavery was big business. Avarice and sloth fueled slavery just as avarice, sloth and lust fuel it today.

The idea that prostituted women and children are somehow less than fully human is the basic philosophical underpinning of sex trafficking and prostitution in our world today. The authors of this book rightly identify that sex slavery would go away if men stopped buying women and children. I think that most men would stop buying women and children if they saw what they were really doing.

It is so easy for any one of us to become someone else’s nightmare. All we need to do is subscribe to the world’s opinion that there are human beings who are less than human and we may do to them what we please with no moral harm to ourselves.

However, this idea of the disposable human is entirely opposed to the message of the Gospels. It refutes the meaning of Calvary, when Our Lord died for each one of us. There can be no worthless people to anyone who truly believes the Gospels of Christ.

We have an obligation to the God Who made us to treat one another as fully human. When we do less than this, we separate ourselves from Him in a profound and deeply sinful manner.

I recommend Refuse To Do Nothing to everyone who has a heart for the Gospel value of human life.

Have You Shopped at Hobby Lobby This Month?

I headed to Hobby Lobby as soon as I deposited my paycheck last week. 

I don’t buy big, but I try to buy something every month. It’s the least I can do to support them in their fight for my freedom and yours. 

Hobby Lobby is still embroiled in a bitter court battle with the Obama administration over the HHS Mandate. Owner David Green has said that the company will pay the huge fines the government plans to assess rather than pay for health insurance coverage for abortifacients. Hobby Lobby already pays for birth control coverage for employees who receive health insurance, so that is not the issue.

The real question is whether or not the government can confine First Amendment freedoms to religious institutions, or if those freedoms belong to every American. 

In my opinion, the government position in this is a legalized version of what I was once told about my job as a legislator: You can go to church all you want, but leave it there. The HHS Mandate is an attempt to enforce that outrageous demand by law and to punish those who refuse to adhere to it with crippling fines and penalties.

If this position is allowed to stand, I do not think it will be all that long before similar penalties are imposed on individual people like you and me, and not just Christian businesses.

The thrust of militant secularism is to push people of faith and religious ideas out of the public sphere and into an intellectual and social ghetto. This ghettoizing of people of faith, particularly Christians, is moving along at a fast pace in our Western society. The idea that the government would do something as egregious as the HHS Mandate was something everyone thought was a ridiculous impossibility just a few years ago.

Now, we have most of the press and large swaths of the population, including “progressive” Christian Churches, supporting what amounts to an outright government attack on religious freedom. What was unthinkable a few years ago has come to pass.

It is being pushed on us with lies, distortions and obfuscations from genuine true-believer militant secularists, and those kool-aid drinking Christians who have deluded themselves into thinking that the time when this same sword will be used on them will never come. These sad folks are joining with those who attack their own house and are trying to draw the rest of us into that delusion along with them.

I thank God for people like the owner of Hobby Lobby who are willing to stand for Christ, no matter what the cost.

The Baptist Press recently published an interview with members of the Green family. It says in part:

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) — Hobby Lobby has been pushed to the front lines of a monumental battle over religious liberty just when the arts and crafts chain is aiming to open a Bible museum near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

“God’s up to something,” Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, often says.

“We’re just along for the ride.”

Hobby Lobby’s founder — Green’s father, David — has publicly stated the company will not obey a federal mandate to provide employee health insurance that covers abortion-causing drugs. The 530-store chain could face government fines amounting to $1.3 million a day if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services forces its will on Hobby Lobby and numerous other privately owned businesses lead by Christians who regard abortion as the taking of innocent life.

Steve Green, meanwhile, is leading Hobby Lobby’s plan to open a museum showcasing many of the 40,000 Bible artifacts in The Green Collection secured by the family’s company over the past three years. The museum and accompanying research center will be housed in 400,000-500,000 square feet renovated from two office buildings two blocks from the Air and Space Museum and a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The yet-unnamed museum could open as early as the fall of 2016.

Green spoke about the court battle and the museum to editors who visited Hobby Lobby’s headquarters, its sprawling manufacturing plant and four distribution centers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City during the Association of State Baptist Publications’ Feb. 11-14 annual meeting.

Asked if the HHS mandate, if ultimately enforced by the courts, could cost Hobby Lobby its solvency and its vision for a Bible museum, Green said, “I don’t have the answer to that. All I know is that we’re in good hands. I anticipate that it’s going to be a long battle.

“And what and where God directs this, I don’t know.”

Hobby Lobby, in its suit against the HHS mandate, remains in federal appeals court among dozens of companies objecting to the abortion insurance requirement.

“We haven’t gotten to the merits of the case,” Green said of the Hobby Lobby suit. “This is just asking for the injunction. …

“Even if we get a no” on the merits of the case — if two appeals courts issue “two different rulings — and there have been on the injunction — then it’s more likely that the Supreme Court would make a ruling on it. That’s probably, at earliest, a couple of years down the road,” Green said.

Asked how Hobby Lobby’s supporters can pray for the company, Green requested prayer “for the wisdom to say the right things and not say what we shouldn’t be saying. I think that we’re pretty clear. We know what our answer is.

“Pray for our government leaders,” Green added, “and the judges who are going to make the decisions, that exactly what God wants, happens.” (Read the rest here.) 

Cardinal Dolan: Three Challenges Facing the Next Pope

Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently gave an interview to Catholic News Service in which he discussed what he feels are the three critical challenges our next pope will have to address.

I think Cardinal Dolan’s assessment is well worth watching.

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Lent in the Legislature

Next week and the week after, I will become less and less accessible, more and more grumpy, and if you push me, downright mean.

These next two weeks are “deadline” weeks in the Oklahoma legislature, or, as we affectionately think of them, living hell.

We have to vote on every bill that every House member managed to author, get out of the various committees and onto the House agenda. That means long days, longer nights, endless debate and mind-numbing exhaustion. I finish deadline weeks feeling like I’ve been drug by a runaway horse. So does everybody else. By the end of this two weeks we’ll hate our jobs and we’ll probably all hate each other, as well.

That’s how legislators do Lent in Oklahoma.

Once, years ago, I tried to give up swearing for Lent. If Lent happened when the legislature wasn’t in session I would have had a fighting chance. But after the third or fourth time I had to go to confession because I’d broken my penance, my pastor got exasperated and told me, “I want you to forget this and pick something you can do.”

I jokingly said, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody. Can I count that as giving up something for Lent?”

He was not amused.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with Lenten practices that fit into my job. You know; things I can do while driving my car to work or when I’m standing in an elevator. That sort of idle time activity. I literally do not have time to pray during deadline week. When I try to pray before I go to bed, I fall asleep. When I try to pray in the mornings, I’m late for work. If I try to pray while I’m driving … well, I’m already tired and distracted, so that’s not the best plan.

 

One prayer I’ve found that I can actually do is called the Jesus Prayer. It goes: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

That’s an excellent prayer for deadline week. If you reflect on it, it’s sort of a mini Gospel in a few words. Anytime you’re in a pinch for time, or at a loss for words, I recommend the Jesus Prayer. It says everything you have to say in one profound sentence.

Another one sentence prayer I pray a lot during deadline week comes from Scripture: May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my God and my Redeemer.

I pray that a lot before debate.

Then, there’s the Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

The Hail Mary is a cry for help and an act of worship, both at once. It, like the other short prayers I use during deadline week, covers all the ground you have to cover to talk to God.

These quick prayers save my soul (literally) during times like deadline week. But there is another prayer that I’ve learned through the years. This one doesn’t have words, and yet it is perhaps the most eloquent. There are many days when my work is my prayer. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned that this can be the most profound prayer and act of worship any of us can do.

What I mean by that is that I am convinced that the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do. If I can do my work in a manner that follows what God wants, then I am giving Him obedience, which is profound worship and prayer with feet.

I learned this during a time when I was getting blasted and battered in an ugly and personal way for passing pro life bills. (This was the time when I tried to convince my pastor that the simple fact that I hadn’t killed anybody should count as giving up something for Lent.) It was tough for me as a person and as a woman. But with God’s grace I was able to persevere, and in the persevering I experienced the Lord’s presence in a way that taught me an enormous amount about what prayer and worship truly are.

The best worship is doing what God tells you to do. The most profound prayer is obedience to God from the heart. 

All the other worship we do — the retreats, meditations, hymn-singing, scripture reading, long reflective silences — are simply exercises to get us to that state where we can do what He tells us to do with willing obedience from the heart.

I am looking forward to a real Lent one day. I think it would be most edifying to have time for prayer, reflection and long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

But this week is deadline week, and my Lenten practice may very well be once again, not killing any of my colleagues. I think that’s a fine goal for a pro life legislator.

Fr Frank Pavonne Discusses the Upcoming Conclave

America’s delegation of 11 Cardinals is the second-largest national group which will be voting in the upcoming Papal Conclave to elect the next pope.

In the video below, Father Frank Pavonne discusses both this and the conclave itself.

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Pope Arrives at Castel Gandolfo

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Pope Benedict Leaves the Vatican

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The Rs and Ds Tie the Republic to a Railroad Track Called Sequester, Then Blame Each Other When the Train Arrives

 

I know when I write a post that calls Republicans out on anything, I’m going to hear from many of my Republican pro life friends who are appalled, amazed and angered by what I’ve said.

I know when I write a post that speaks up for human life, freedom of religion or traditional marriage, I’ll get some of the same from the other guys. 

Today is a case in point.

It turns out that my Republican friends are angry with me because I actually think that their party has something to do with the so-called “sequester” mess that this country is facing. These are the same Republicans who call me a statesman when I go after the President or the Dems for something I don’t like that they do.

Since I have the utmost respect for a couple of the people who are upset with me today, I am going to clarify just a bit.

I think both parties are putting the country at risk to play their little game. I don’t think either party gives a hoot what happens to people like you and me. And I don’t think either party actually believes the stuff they tell us at election time.

President Obama had a big part in what has happened with the sequester. However, he didn’t make this mess all by his little self. There are some gigantic egos hooked up to little brains on the other side of the fence who have contributed their fair share to this situation.

What they are doing — and they are doing it together — is holding the American people hostage. 

They are also lying to us. That’s why the whole thing is so confusing. It’s impossible for anyone, including, I think, them, to keep track of the lies, sort them out and make sense of the situation. Both sides are lying. Both sides are spinning. Both sides are emailing their stalwarts with their talking points. Both sides.

Both.

Not one.

Not the other.

Both. Of. Them.

I know it’s only natural for people who’ve staked so much of their trust in the gospel according to their political party to push back when somebody comes along and tells them they’ve been had. But, the truth is, if you’ve believed the propaganda either of our two political parties puts out, you have in fact, been had.

I write posts like this because I love my country. I believe that we the people have got to stop being such easy marks for political snake oil salesmen who want to use us to obtain power for themselves and do what they please.

These elected officials work for us.

Did you know that?

Does anything they do make you feel that they know that?

If the answer is no, then you have already come to a rudimentary understanding of this situation, whether you will admit what you know to yourself or not. It’s not what I’m telling people that upsets them. It’s the fact that they know it’s true and don’t want to face what that truth means.

What it means, and what they don’t want to face, is that there is no political party on a white horse who is going to save us or our country. This is a Republic, and we the people are going to have to do some of the heavy lifting ourselves. 

You can begin by calling your members of Congress and telling them what you think about the issues that matter to you. I don’t care if you support the sequester or not. I do care that you start thinking for yourselves and acting like free people who have a right to be heard in their own government.

You can find your Congressperson’s email address and phone number here.

Prominent Republican Political Leaders Sign Brief in Favor of Gay Marriage

According to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the gay rights organization that brought the original lawsuit seeking the overturn of California’s Proposition 8, 131 prominent Republicans have signed an amicus curiae brief supporting gay marriage.

This brief seeks to influence the United States Supreme Court in its upcoming rulings on the legal standing of marriage in the United States. The signers are mostly prominent Republicans who have held or currently hold powerful government positions either as elected officials or as part of Republican presidential administrations. A number of these people have had lifelong careers bouncing from one prominent position to another in the service of the Republican Party. Based on that, I would assume that they are total, absolute party hacks. I also believe that when they sign a petition like this, it indicates something real is happening inside the party deep-thinking processes.

To put it bluntly, if you are a so-called “values” voter who has been supporting the Republican party because of their “moral” positions, you have been sold out. This doesn’t surprise me at all. It is nothing more than a public manifestation of what I have seen up close and personal as an elected official. Political parties are about power. All they care about is getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

Gay marriage advocates have stated that they are hopeful that this brief, with its prominent Republican signers, will influence the conservative members of the Supreme Court in their deliberations on the issue of gay marriage.

Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: People of faith can no longer vote for either party and feel that they are voting in line with their beliefs.

Here is the list of the brief’s signers so far:

Republican Party Officials, Fundraisers 

  • Kenneth B. Mehlman, Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Alex Castellanos, Republican Media Advisor
  • Tyler Deaton, Secretary, New Hampshire Young Republicans, 2011-Present
  • Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Advisor, American Unity PAC
  • Ken Spain, Communications Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2009-2010
  • Sally A. Vastola, Executive Director, National Republican Congressional Committee, 2003-2006
  • Jacob P. Wagner, Chairman, New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans, 2012-Present
  • Cyrus Krohn, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2007-2009
  • Mark McKinnon, Republican Media Advisor

Bush (W) Administration Officials

  • Tim Adams, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2005-2007
  • John B. Bellinger III, Legal Adviser to the Department of State, 2005-2009
  • William A. Burck, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Counsel, and Deputy Counsel to the President, 2005-2009
  • Mary Cheney, Director of Vice Presidential Operations, Bush-Cheney 2004, 2003-2004
  • Thomas J. Christensen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2006-2008
  • James B. Comey, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, 2003-2005
  • R. Clarke Cooper, U.S. Alternative Representative, United Nations Security Council, 2007-2009
  • Julie Cram, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, 2007-2009
  • Michele Davis, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning, Department of the Treasury, 2006-2009
  • Alicia Davis Downs, Associate Political Director, White House, 2001-2003
  • Christian J. Edwards, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Press Advance, 2005-2007
  • Lew Eisenberg, Finance Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2002-2004
  • Mark J. Ellis, State Chairman, Maine Republican Party, 2005-2006 and 2007-2009
  • Charles Freeman, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs, 2002-2005
  • David Frum, Author and Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002
  • Reed Galen, Director of Scheduling and Advance, Bush-Cheney 2004, 2003-2004
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, National Counsel, Bush-Cheney 2000 and 2004
  • Josh Ginsberg, National Field Director, Romney for President, 2007-2008
  • Juleanna Glover, Press Secretary to the Vice President, 2001-2002
  • Adrian Gray, Director of Strategy, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Richard Grenell, Spokesman, U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations, 2001-2008
  •  Israel Hernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, 2005-2009
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director, Congressional Budget Office, 2003-2005
  • Margaret Hoover, Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005-2006
  • Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce, 2005-2009
  • Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor, 2005-2009
  • David A. Javdan, General Counsel, U.S. Small Business Administration, 2002-2006
  • Reuben Jeffery, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Greg Jenkins, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Advance, 2003-2004
  • Coddy Johnson, National Field Director, Bush-Cheney 2004, 2003-2004
  • Neel Kashkari, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, 2008-2009
  • Theodore W. Kassinger, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, 2004-2005
  • Jeffrey Kupfer, Chief of Staff and Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Energy, 2006-2009
  • Catherine Martin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Communications Director for Policy and Planning, 2005-2007
  • Kevin Martin, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2005-2009
  • David McCormick, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, 2007-2009
  • Bruce P. Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 2001-2003
  • Michael Napolitano, White House Office of Political Affairs, 2001-2003
  • Susan Neely, Special Assistant to the President, 2001-2002
  • Noam Neusner, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Speechwriting, 2002-2005
  • Meghan O’Sullivan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan, 2005-2007
  • Richard Painter, Associate Counsel to the President, 2005-2007
  • Michael Powell, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, 2001-2005
  • Nancy Pfotenhauer, Regulatory Advisor, Romney for President, 2008, and Economist, Presidential Transition Team, 1988
  • Gregg Pitts, Director, White House Travel Office, 2006-2009
  • J. Stanley Pottinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, 1973-1977
  • Luis Reyes, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Assistant to the President, 2006-2009
  • Tom Ridge, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1995-2001, and Secretary of Homeland Security, 2003-2005
  • Mark A. Robbins, General Counsel, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2001-2006
  • Kelley Robertson, Chief of Staff, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Brian Roehrkasse, Director of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, 2007-2009
  • Harvey S. Rosen, Chairman and Member, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Lee Rudofsky, Deputy General Counsel, Romney for President, 2012
  • Patrick Ruffini, eCampaign Director, Republican National Committee, 2005-2007
  • Corry Schiermeyer, Director for Global Communications, National Security Council, 2005-2007
  • Steve Schmidt, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, 2004-2006, and Senior Advisor, John McCain for President, 2008
  • Faryar Shirzad, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, 2004-2006
  • Robert Steel, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, 2006-2008
  • Mark Wallace, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Representative for UN Management and Reform, 2006-2008
  • Nicolle Wallace, Assistant to the President and White House Communications Director, 2005-2008
  • Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2001-2005, and President of the World Bank Group, 2005-2007

Bush (George) Administration Officials

  • Jim Cicconi, Assistant to the President and Deputy to the Chief of Staff, 1989-1990
  • Kenneth M. Duberstein, White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, 1981-1984 and 1987-1989
  • Jonathan Kislak, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, 1989-1991

Ronald Reagan Administration Officials

  • David Stockman, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1985
  • Elizabeth Noyer Feld, Public Affairs Specialist, White House Office of Management and Budget, 1984-1987
  • Robert Kabel, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, 1982-1985

Romney Presidential Campaign Staff

  • Katie Biber, General Counsel, Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • David Kochel, Senior Iowa Advisor, Mitt Romney for President, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012
  • Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science, Romney for President, 2012
  • Beth Myers, Romney for President Campaign Manager, 2007-2008 and Senior Advisor, 2011-2012

John McCain Presidential Campaign

  • Ana Navarro, National Hispanic Co-Chair, John McCain for President, 2008
  • Jill Hazelbaker, Communications Director, John McCain for President, 2007-2008

Republican Elected Officials

  • Susan Molinari, Member of Congress, 1990-1997
  • Connie Morella, Member of Congress, 1987-2003, and U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003-2007Charles Bass, Member of Congress, 1995-2007 and 2011-2013
  • Mary Bono Mack, Member of Congress, 1998-2013
  • Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts, 1997-2001, and Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005
  • B.J. Nikkel, Colorado State Representative and Majority Whip, 2009-2012, and District Director for Marilyn Musgrave, Member of Congress, 2002-2006
  • Ruth Ann Petroff, Wyoming State Representative, 2011-Present
  • Larry Pressler, U.S. Senator from South Dakota, 1979-1997, and Member of Congress, 1975-1979
  • Deborah Pryce, Member of Congress, 1993-2009
  • John Reagan, New Hampshire State Senator, 2012-Present
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Member of Congress, 1989-Present
  • Adam Schroadter, New Hampshire State Representative, 2010-Present
  • Christopher Shays, Member of Congress, 1987-2009
  • Nancy Stiles, New Hampshire State Senator, 2010-Present
  • Jane Swift, Governor of Massachusetts, 2001-2003
  • Richard Tisei, Massachusetts State Senator 1991-2011, and Senate Minority Leader 2007-2011
  • William F. Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, 1991-1997, and Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Criminal Division, 1986-1988
  • Christine Todd Whitman, Governor of New Jersey, 1994-2001, and Administrator of the EPA, 2001-2003
  • Janet Duprey, New York State Assemblywoman, 2007-Present
  • Dan Zwonitzer, Wyoming State Representative, 2005-present
  • Mark Grisanti, New York State Senator, 2011-Present
  • Patrick Guerriero, Mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts, and Member of Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1993-2001
  • Richard L. Hanna, Member of Congress, 2011-Present
  • Michael Huffington, Member of Congress, 1993-1995
  • Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, 2005-2009, and Ambassador to China, 2009-2011
  • Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico, 1995-2003, and Libertarian Party Nominee for President, 2012
  • Nancy L. Johnson, Member of Congress, 1983-2007
  • James Kolbe, Member of Congress, 1985-2007
  • Thomas A. Little, Vermont State Representative, 1992-2002 and Chairman of the Vermont House Judiciary Committee, 1999-2002

Prominent Republican Business Associates

  • Cliff S. Asness, Businessman, Philanthropist, and Author
  • David D. Aufhauser, General Counsel, Department of the Treasury, 2001-2003
  • David C. Chavern, Business Association Executive
  • Meg Whitman, Republican Nominee for Governor of California, 2010
  • Daniel S. Loeb, Businessman and Philanthropist

Republican Think-Tankers, Cultural Supports, Media Stars

  • S.E. Cupp, Author and Political Commentator
  • Robert Wickers, Republican Political Consultant
  • Clint Eastwood, Producer, Director, Actor, and Mayor of Carmel, California, 1986-1988
  • Mark Gerson, Chairman, Gerson Lehrman Group and Author of The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars and In the Classroom: Dispatches from an Inner-City School that Works
  • N. Greg Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005
  • Michael E. Murphy, Republican Political Consultant

Newt Gingrich (Speaker of the House) Staffers

  • Richard Galen, Communications Director, Speaker’s Political Office, 1996-1997
  • Ed Kutler, Assistant to the Speaker of the House, 1995-1997

Republican Congressional Staff

  • John Goodwin, Chief of Staff to Raul Labrador, Member of Congress, 2011-2013
  • Kathryn Lehman, Chief of Staff, House Republican Conference, 2003-2005

Aaron McLear, Press Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2007-2011

 

The Idiots Did It. We’re Sequestered.

This is the low point in my time in the United States Congress. I can not tell you how ashamed I am.  

Senator Lindsay Graham, talking about the sequester.

The Republican/Democrat game of chicken went to the next round last night when Congressional stonewalling forced President Obama to make good on his threats and sign the sequester order.

We’re sequestered. The Republican idiots and the Democratic idiots drove us over the cliff. 

What does this mean to you and me? 

I’m going to give you two replies. One will be what I’ve heard is going to happen to Oklahoma (and by derivation, to everyone else.) The second will be a more official summary.

1. Oklahoma. What I’ve been told is that the sequester will take about .05% out of Oklahoma’s state budget. I’m expressing it in percent because that will make it easier for you to compute the effect on your state. Since so many of these things are based on population, that will be more accurate for you. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that the percentage will be similar in other states, while the numbers will (due to their higher populations) be higher. What that means in Oklahoma is several hundred million dollars which we will have to make up out of our relatively small state budget.

While that may not sound like a lot of money, (by government standards) one of the things that makes it hard to handle is that we are already well into the budget process. Coming as it does as an unplanned-for hit, it will be harder to make it up. Also, a good bit of this will ultimately be off-loaded on parts of the private sector such as the hospitals, who will have to handle the problems it creates in people’s lives out of their budgets. There will also be a hit on the economy, which will result in lower tax revenues, which could result in another round of this further down the line.

Oklahoma has fared relatively well in the recent economic downturn because we are an oil producing state and oil prices have been high. However, our tax revenues will fall if people buy less because of this sequester.

Our military bases, such as Tinker Air Force Base, are predicting that they will have to furlough people in order to make up their part of the shortfall that they expect from the sequester. I believe other government agencies will be similarly impacted. This, of course, will also affect tax revenues and the overall economy.

I think we will see similar things all across the country, which is why I’m am detailing this here.

2. What the sequester does. 

President Obama was forced to sign the sequestration order as a result of Congress’ failure to act. This means that unless the members of Congress come back from their long weekend off with a new attitude, the sequester will take affect.

The sequester totals around $85 billion which will come out of the budget over the next 10 months. Non defense programs will be cut by 10% and defense programs will be cut by 13%.

Most government programs will be cut. Social security, Children’s health insurance, food stamps and Medicaid will not be cut. Medicare won’t be cut, but payments to providers will shrink by 2%.

Most other government programs will feel the cut, with furloughs predicted for agencies ranging from the FAA to the Bureau of Prisons.

It’s a little difficult to predict exactly what will happen since the President and the Republican leadership differ in what they are telling us and I think both of them are spinning things to bolster their case. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn says that agencies have plenty of space in their budgets to handle the cuts. From what I know of government agencies, I think he’s probably right. However, from what I know of government agencies, I doubt that they will do this.

I expect more gamesmanship, which I expect means that agencies will not “handle” the cuts at all, and you and I will end up paying for all this.

The worst of the sequester will not hit until April, since, by law, the government furloughs can’t start until employees have been given 30 days’ notice. If this goes on long enough for that to happen, we’ll start feeling it in all sorts of ways, including a sudden, powerful drag on the economy. For more information, go here and here.

In the meantime, as I said earlier, the president was forced to sign the sequester orders and Congress has gone off on a long weekend after a hard week of doing nothing good for the country. I’ve been through legislative fights, and I would guess they need a cooling-off period. The best thing they can do for all of us is go soak their swollen heads.

As for you and me, we have to decide for ourselves if this is how we want our government to work. We keep getting choices between bad and worse at election time. As a consequence, we’ve elected a whole Congress of party hacks who do not care enough about this country to do the nation’s business.

I have never and I will never tell anyone to change their party. I have always, and I will always tell you that you need to demand that whichever party you are in clean up its act and stop giving us puppet people for elected officials. 

If you want to chat with your Congressional delegation about this, you can find their phone numbers and email addresses here.

We elected these people. We can un-elect them.


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