Category : Senate

(The State) U.S. House committee advances bill to close ‘Charleston loophole’

The House Judiciary Committee advanced Clyburn’s legislation after a contentious, 10-hour debate on a larger, comprehensive gun background check bill that revealed deep acrimony between members of the two parties and illustrated just how partisan the gun debate has become.

There are Republicans who support closing the Charleston loophole: Along with Clyburn and South Carolina’s other Democratic member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, the bill advanced by the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night was co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has in the past indicated a willingness to back legislation to address the loophole. Earlier this week, he told The State he was interested in looking at the text of the new House bill.

“I’m interested in it,” Scott said. “I need to see what it says.”

While the bill is all but certain to pass the full House in the weeks ahead, it isn’t likely to get taken up in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, Violence

(LA Times) Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin–Keep religious tests out of the Senate

A Boston politician called Brandeis “a slimy fellow” capable of using “his smoothness and intrigue, together with his Jewish instinct,” to attain power. Ex-president and future Chief Justice William Howard Taft called Brandeis “utterly unscrupulous” and “a man of infinite cunning,” warning that he “has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised.”

The next Jewish nominee to the Supreme Court, Benjamin Cardozo, faced resistance as well. Justice James McReynolds — who had refused to sit next to Brandeis in official court photographs — opposed Cardozo’s nomination on blatantly anti-Semitic grounds. At Cordozo’s swearing in, in 1932, McReynolds read a newspaper during the proceedings and could be heard muttering, “Another one.”

There is a long history of judicial nominees being treated with suspicion because of their religion. It needs to stay in the past.

It would be absurd enough to interrogate a political candidate about whether she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on the country through legislation. It is even more absurd for senators to imply that a judge, who cannot propose or enact legislation, would be incapable of setting aside his religious beliefs when interpreting our written laws.

If sitting lawmakers are allowed to make such assumptions of Catholic nominees, religious minorities could very well be next….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(WSJ) Eugene Rivers–Another Religious Test in the Senate?

People often assumed that prejudice against Catholic politicians ended with the election of John F. Kennedy. Yet anti-Catholic bigotry is still with us. On Dec. 5 U.S. senators sent written questions to Brian Buescher, an Omaha, Neb., lawyer recently nominated by President Trump to sit on the U.S. District Court in Nebraska. Amid queries about judicial philosophy, two Democratic senators demanded answers about Mr. Buescher’s membership in the Knights of Columbus, a 140-year-old Catholic service organization.

Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono and California’s Kamala Harris didn’t ask about the group’s charitable work, which includes $1 billion of assistance and hundreds of millions of hours of service in the past decade. Rather, they wanted answers about what they called its “extreme positions.”

The senators cited the group’s support in 2008 for California Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. They also took issue with the group’s opposition to abortion.

Each senator insinuated that Mr. Buescher’s membership should disqualify him. When asked if he would quit the organization if confirmed, Mr. Buescher responded, “I have not drafted any policies or positions for the national organization. If confirmed, I will abide by the Code of Conduct of United States Judges and will not affiliate with any organization in violation of the Code.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–A Complete National Disgrace: The Kavanaugh hearings as American nadir

Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands ofpeople (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.

The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s. I can think of few exceptions.

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court, Theology

John McCain RIP

In 1993, Mr. McCain gave the commencement address at Annapolis: the sorcerer’s apprentice, class of 1954, home to inspire the midshipmen. He spoke of Navy aviators hurled from the decks of pitching aircraft carriers, of Navy gunners blazing into the silhouettes of onrushing kamikazes, of trapped Marines battling overwhelming Chinese hordes in a breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

“I have spent time in the company of heroes,” he said. “I have watched men suffer the anguish of imprisonment, defy appalling cruelty until further resistance is impossible, break for a moment, then recover inhuman strength to defy their enemies once more. All these things and more I have seen. And so will you. I will go to my grave in gratitude to my Creator for allowing me to stand witness to such courage and honor. And so will you.

“My time is slipping by. Yours is fast approaching. You will know where your duty lies. You will know.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Senate

(NYT Op-ed) Akhil Reed Amar–A Liberal’s Case for new Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.

Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s most important ideas and arguments — such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants — have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Senate, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Adam O’Neal–Taking an honest look Inside the Christian group to which Amy Coney Barrett’s belongs

Judge Amy Coney Barrett could be President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court—a prospect that thrills many conservatives. A former Antonin Scalia clerk and Notre Dame professor, Judge Barrett, 46, seems an ideal choice. Yet her religious beliefs could lead to a contentious confirmation process. Would it be a risk to pick her?

Last year President Trump nominated Ms. Barrett for a seat on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Several Democratic senators pondered whether an “orthodox Catholic” would have dual loyalties. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said during Ms. Barrett’s hearing. “That’s of concern.”

Video of Mrs. Feinstein’s religious test quickly spread, provoking outrage from thousands of Americans. Yet a New York Times news story suggested she and her colleagues hadn’t gone far enough: The nominee’s “membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.”

Richard Painter, a law professor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota, loved the article. He recently tweeted the link, adding his own comment on People of Praise: “A religious group in which members take an oath of loyalty to each other and are supervised by a male ‘head’ or female ‘handmaiden.’ That looks like a cult.” As nonbigots do, Mr. Painter then added, “don’t even try playing the ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ card.”

It’s easy to make People of Praise sound terrifying. Isn’t there a TV show and novel about these “handmaid” people? Do Americans really want a cultist on the Supreme Court? Despite such insinuations from “resistance” conspiracy theorists, understanding the group requires more than a couple of tweets….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Supreme Court

Politico Profiles the most prominent African-American Republican in America, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina

The exchange crystallized the central dilemma of Scott’s political existence. Concerned about narrowing his brand, the senator long has tried to downplay his ethnic exceptionalism and avoid the role of race-relations ambassador for the GOP. And yet Scott, now more than ever, cannot seem to escape being perceived as such. He is not just a generic black Republican in a generic period of history; he is the most powerful and prominent black elected official in America, serving at a time of heightened racial tension and widespread accusations of xenophobia against his own party and the president who leads it. This ensures that Scott wears a target on his back regardless of the issue or crisis at hand. When race is involved, the stakes are even higher, forcing upon him decisions of personal and political identity: Scott can choose to stay silent and be accused of selling out his heritage, or speak out and be defined by his blackness.

“God made me black on purpose. For a specific reason. It has helped me to help others who have been locked out of opportunity in many ways,” Scott tells me over lunch at a Subway sandwich shop near his home, after the barber visit and a game of pickup basketball. “I am not pretending that this characteristic, this Earth suit that I’m in”—he pinches the skin of his arm—“isn’t being evaluated. It requires a response, or a reaction, to the situations at my level of government. I am fully aware of that. I just don’t want to play a game with it.”

“People are fixated on my color,” Scott says. “I’m just not.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Politics in General, Senate

(Patheos) [Eminent historian of American Religion] George Marsden-Can “Evangelicalism” Survive Trump?

In fact what we call “evangelicalism” is made up of a vast number of different churches and organizations from around the world that are mostly disconnected with each other, even though they share a number of basic common features (notably, “biblicism,” “conversionism,” “crucicentrism,” and “activism,” as defined by David Bebbington). And if we start our thinking about “evangelicalism” by recognizing this fundamental diversity, that invites a second thought experiment: what if we thought first of “evangelicalism” in the light of its many majority world manifestations, instead of first through an American lens?

A helpful habit of mind for thinking clearly about “evangelicalism” as fundamentally a collection of diverse, but loosely related, phenomena is to think of it as analogous to a biological genus. The genus of mammals, for instance, includes wide varieties of species that share some essential identifying traits, but we are not in the habit of thinking of them as one thing. So we immediately recognize that in most respects it is a fallacy to generalize from the character of house cats to say what giraffes are like. So also it should be easy to see that it is a mistake attribute the characteristics of white Baptist Trump voters to prosperity gospel pentecostals in Kenya, or to confuse either with the attitudes of the evangelical Christian Union in Oxford.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(NYT) After Alabama Vote, Soul-Searching for Some Evangelicals

The editor in chief of Christianity Today did not have to wait for the votes to be counted to publish his essay on Tuesday bemoaning what the Alabama Senate race had wrought.

Whoever wins, “there is already one loser: Christian faith,” wrote Mark Galli, whose publication, the flagship of American evangelicalism, was founded 61 years ago by the Rev. Billy Graham. “No one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”

The sight of white evangelical voters in Alabama giving their overwhelming support to Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, despite accusations of racial and religious bigotry, misogyny and assaults on teenage girls, has deeply troubled many conservative Christians, who fear that association with the likes of Mr. Moore is giving their faith a bad name. The angst has grown so deep, Mr. Galli said, that he knows of “many card-carrying evangelicals” who are ready to disavow the label.

The evangelical brand “is definitely tarnished” by politicization from whatever side, Mr. Galli said on Wednesday. “No question about it.”

He said that his readers seemed to agree with the thrust of his essay. The main criticism he received, he said, was one he agreed with: that he should have made it clearer that he was referring not to all Christians, but to evangelicals in particular….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(AI) A Religious Test? TEC Member of Senate grills a nominee for the Federal Judiciary who is a member of Falls Church (Anglican)

An…[Episcopal Church] member of the US Senate grilled a nominee for the Federal Judiciary over his membership in an ACNA congregation, asking if his beliefs would prejudice his work as a judge.

In written questions submitted to Trevor McFadden, (pictured) Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked the nominee his views on gay marriage, abortion and homosexuality, citing Mr. McFadden’s membership on the vestry of Falls Church parish as an area of concern.

The Senator wrote:

You are an elected member (until 2020) of the Falls Church Anglican, which broke away from the Episcopal Church largely due to the denomination’s consecration of an openly gay bishop. The Falls Church Anglican considers “marriage to be a life-long union of husband and wife” intended for “the procreation and nurture of godly children” and entailing “God-given” “roles of father and mother.” In 2015, the associate pastor of the Falls Church Anglican agreed that “if the U.S. Supreme Court decision includes a redefinition of marriage, this will constitute an intrusion of the state on God’s institution of marriage ‘from the beginning’.” Do you understand the majority of the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges to have held that the right to marry is a fundamental right under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and that same-sex couples may not be deprived of that right?”

Mr. McFadden responded: “yes”.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(WSJ) CC Pecknold on the very troubling recent Senate questioning of a recent Roman Catholic Judicial Nominee

…at the very moment Ms. Feinstein is alienating religious conservatives, two prominent Democrats are pushing a new progressive claim on Christianity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has spoken to journalists about how her faith shapes her political views. And Hillary Clinton, who reportedly once considered becoming an ordained minister, has made religion central to her postelection messaging, as the Atlantic reported last month in a story titled “ Hillary Wants to Preach.”

Sens. Feinstein and Durbin were troubled not by Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism, but by her failure to prove her religion could conform to a more dogmatic progressivism. The “religious test” Democrats want to impose isn’t about religion per se; it’s about ensuring that every religious claim can be bent to more comprehensive political aims. It’s about defining anyone who dissents from the mores of the sexual revolution as disqualified from public office. That’s what makes Ms. Feinstein’s questioning so chilling.

Few liberals have spoken out against these religious tests, providing tacit consent for the Democratic Party to continue the practice. One of America’s major political parties appears prepared to consent to a very different kind of creed from the one the American founders envisioned. Our forefathers understood religious freedom in positive terms, as freedom for the highest good, God. This “first freedom” was held as the basis of all the political freedoms, including the freedom to dissent and to disagree on matters of law and politics.

Ms. Barrett has spent her career honoring the older creed—not only with her Scalia-like deference to the law, but through respect for freedom of religion and conscience. Ms. Feinstein honored the new creed, the one dividing an already polarized nation. A dogmatism now threatens countless Americans’ freedom, and it isn’t Catholicism.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

(NR) Did Senators Durbin and Feinstein try to Impose a Religious Test for Office when questioning nominee Amy Barrett?

A judicial confirmation hearing this week stoked fears among conservatives that it is becoming acceptable on the American left to voice intensely anti-Christian sentiments.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Amy Coney Barrett — a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and President Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — during which two senators, Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), suggested that Barrett’s Catholic faith might disqualify her from serving as a judge.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Durbin, meanwhile, criticized Barrett’s prior use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” saying it unfairly maligns Catholics who do not hold certain positions about abortion or the death penalty. “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” he asked her outright.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Theology

Sen. Tim Scott: Fight hatred, fear and domestic terror with American ideals

There is nothing “right” about racism and hate. It’s a learned disease, and the best antidote is unity. This weekend’s events involving white supremacist groups are as disturbing and disgusting as they are heartbreaking. The attack was a stark reminder of the darkness of hate. We must come together, as we have before, to confront the issues that chip away at the very foundation of who we are and what we stand for as a country.

Unfortunately, the people of South Carolina know this type of domestic terrorism all too well. Our response to the events in Charlottesville, Va., should mirror our response to the murders at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. Condemnation of racism. Swift justice for a terrorist. And unity for the community that grieves. It starts with calling the attack in Charlottesville by its name. This was an act of domestic terror, perpetrated by a hate-filled person attacking his fellow citizens….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Senate

(Wired) America’s infrastructure is such a mess it earns a D+ grade, and we need $4.6 trillion just to bring it to a B

One of President Donald Trump’s first promises after getting elected was to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure—bridges, roads, tunnels, pipes, dams. And whether you’ve had to evacuate a town in the shadow of a crumbling dam, buy filters for tainted municipal water, or even just bounced over potholes on a highway, you’ve experienced the problems the president alluded to.

Well, it really is as bad as you think. The American Society of Civil Engineers has just released its latest infrastructure report card, and grades the United States at D plus. That means the country’s public works are in substandard condition, with a risk of failure. The ASCE releases its reports every four years, and the mark hasn’t changed since the last time. “While our nation’s infrastructure problems are significant, they are solvable,” says ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei. But that’ll take money.

So … $1 trillion, right? Great news! Except the ASCE report says it’ll take $4.59 trillion to bring things up to a B, or adequate grade, by 2025. That’s a shortfall of $2 trillion over current spending plans. Again: $1 trillion is nowhere near enough.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) Erik Stanley–How to Fix the Johnson Amendment

Yet the IRS hasn’t investigated any of the pastors who have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. The agency has made a confusing situation worse by providing no explanation for why it has refused to enforce the law against these pastors. Thus many religious leaders remain in legal limbo while the IRS continues to pronounce its ability to monitor and punish them. This inaction has stymied the possibility of a civil-rights lawsuit, making a legislative fix necessary.

The Free Speech Fairness Act would get the IRS out of the speech-police business while prohibiting political expenditures or contributions by tax-exempt organizations. It would provide a relief valve for speech by allowing all charities to speak on political issues, as long as the speech is done in the course of carrying out the group’s regular activities. Because the bill doesn’t allow for political contributions or expenditures, dark money can’t flow through exempt organizations to campaigns.

America’s pastors deserve better than the Johnson Amendment. The Constitution demands that they have the ability to speak from their pulpits without fearing punishment by the officials from one of the most feared federal agencies. President Trump should urge Congress to swiftly pass this law and do away with this injustice.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Office of the President, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Theology

President Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch for the US Supreme Court

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Theology

Perspective from the Pages of History

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Politics in General, Senate, Women

(WSJ) Orrin Hatch–How Trump Can Help Religious Charities

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation is passed annually to set the military’s budget and settle other policy issues. A significant hangup had been Democratic opposition to a provision known as the “Russell amendment,” which would have clarified conscience protections for religious groups that receive federal contracts. The amendment is named after Rep. Steve Russell (R., Okla.), who offered the amendment at the House Armed Services Committee.

Forty-two Democratic senators signed an Oct. 25 letter opposing the Russell amendment. They claim it would have authorized bigotry by allowing religiously affiliated contractors to “engage in discriminatory hiring practices” or even to fire employees for using birth control or in vitro fertilization. These accusations are grossly inaccurate, but they led to the amendment’s removal from the final bill. The U.S. now risks losing the crucial work religious service providers do for communities with the support of federal contracts.

Every day, stories of grace and mercy are being written as people of faith help those in need. Catholic Charities has helped single moms fill their basic needs. The Mormon Church, through LDS Charities, has donated wheelchairs to hundreds of thousands of people. The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic in Los Angeles provides care for thousands of people in a desperate part of town. The Jewish Social Service Agency supports families of children with autism. Samaritans Purse provides disaster relief across the world.

These groups are being marginalized by the federal government. What happened?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

Charleston SC Cathedral Dean Peet Dickinson–Coming Close: Citizenship in Heaven

As Paul reminded the Christians in Philippi, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” So, what difference does having an ultimate transcendent citizenship make for our lives as earthly citizens of the United States of America?

Having a heavenly citizenship allows us to avoid the polar postures of triumphalism on the one hand, and nihilism on the other. It allows us to unequivocally pray for President-elect Trump in his victory and pray for Secretary Clinton in her defeat. Just as we have prayed for President Obama throughout his time in office, we will, without hesitation, pray for President Trump after his inauguration just as we would have prayed for Secretary Clinton had she won the election. We must pray for and meaningfully aid President-elect Trump in “binding the wounds of division” as he put it in his conciliatory victory speech. As citizens of heaven we can have the eyes of our hearts opened to the very real pain and fear that people are feeling in many parts of our country. I received a message this morning from a friend who is a teacher asking for my prayers as she had genuinely frightened African American and Muslim children weeping in her arms today at school. Our call as citizens of heaven is to have open arms of love and compassion like my friend and to work tirelessly on our knees and in the civic square to make sure that their fears are not realized. As citizens of heaven, we are free to celebrate and magnify that which is good, and to rebuke and stand against that which is evil, regardless of which political party or politician is before us. As citizens of heaven, we know full well that all authority on earth comes under the sovereign authority of Almighty God. As citizens of heaven, we are rooted in a great and glorious truth that Christ Jesus our redeemer lives and his Spirit is within us, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Ministry of the Ordained, Office of the President, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Senate, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for an Election from the American Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States…[and of my community[ in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Spirituality/Prayer, State Government, Theology

(NR) A Little Perspective on 2016, from a Documentary on Christian Persecution

This year’s presidential election may well be the most divisive in U.S. history, pitting liberals and conservatives against one another perhaps more bitterly than ever before, and the two major-party candidates seem in many ways to reflect cultural ills and political corruption that have been brewing for decades. On both the right and the left, countless citizens appear to believe that one candidate or the other will bring about the “end of America.” Conservatives argue that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will, among other things, transform the Supreme Court into a progressive super-legislature to impose its anti-democratic will for a generation. Meanwhile, liberals maintain that Republican nominee Donald Trump will deport millions of minorities and exacerbate existing racial tension to the detriment of less-privileged Americans.

It is easy to allow the evident failures of our political system ”” culminating in the simultaneous nomination of perhaps the two most dishonest, corrupt presidential nominees in U.S. history ”” to consume our focus and destroy our confidence in the future of our country. But as these seemingly endless debates absorb our attention and ongoing rancor pollutes our national dialogue, millions of people around the world face genocide, and they fear for their lives and those of their children.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Larry Sabato's Penultimate Crystal Ball on the upcoming American Eleection

Hillary Clinton has picked an awful time to hit one of the rough patches that has plagued her throughout the campaign. Now with just days to go until Election Day, there’s added uncertainty about the outcome. But while she may not be on the brink of an Electoral College win the size of Barack Obama’s in 2008 or even 2012, her position as the clear frontrunner in this race endures.

We’re holding at 272 “hard” Safe or Likely electoral votes for Clinton, and an additional 21 electoral votes leaning to her (Nevada and North Carolina). Trump is now at 214, better than Romney’s 2012 total of 206, but also without a clear path to add the 56 additional electoral votes he needs to get to 270. Again, even adding Florida, the two Toss-up House districts, and Leans Democratic North Carolina and Nevada would only get him to 266.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Theology

Key Guardian article on the elitism+incestuousness of some of the usa ruling class

They are the comfortable and well-educated mainstay of our modern Democratic party. They are also the grandees of our national media; the architects of our software; the designers of our streets; the high officials of our banking system; the authors of just about every plan to fix social security or fine-tune the Middle East with precision droning. They are, they think, not a class at all but rather the enlightened ones, the people who must be answered to but who need never explain themselves.

Let us turn the magnifying glass on them for a change, by sorting through the hacked personal emails of John Podesta, who has been a Washington power broker for decades. I admit that I feel uncomfortable digging through this hoard; stealing someone’s email is a crime, after all, and it is outrageous that people’s personal information has been exposed, since WikiLeaks doesn’t seem to have redacted the emails in any way. There is also the issue of authenticity to contend with: we don’t know absolutely and for sure that these emails were not tampered with by whoever stole them from John Podesta. The supposed authors of the messages are refusing to confirm or deny their authenticity, and though they seem to be real, there is a small possibility they aren’t.

With all that taken into consideration, I think the WikiLeaks releases furnish us with an opportunity to observe the upper reaches of the American status hierarchy in all its righteousness and majesty.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, Theology

In Senate floor speech, Tim Scott recalls ”˜sadness and humiliation’ of being targeted by police

“I shuddered when I heard Eric Garner saying ”˜I can’t breathe.’ I wept when I watched Walter Scott turn and run away and get shot and killed from the back. And I broke when I heard the 4-year-old of Philando Castile’s girlfriend tell her mother, ”˜It’s OK. I’m right here with you,’ ” said Scott, referencing three of the dozens of black men killed by policemen over the past two years.

Scott found an outlet for his pain in a series of scheduled floor speeches this week aimed at starting an honest, if also difficult, conversation about race relations in the United States. His first speech Monday focused on how the wrongful actions of police officers should not overshadow the heroism of others. On Wednesday, Scott expounded on the theme in deeply personal terms.

“While, thank God, I have not endured bodily harm, I have felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted,” he said. “I have felt the anger, frustration, sadness and humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being yourself.”

In addition to sharing his own experiences being profiled by law enforcement because of his skin color, he mentioned his brother, a sergeant major in the Army, who was accused of stealing his Volvo on a road trip from Texas to Charleston. He also spoke of a former staffer who was stopped so many times he felt compelled to buy a different automobile to avoid further scrutiny.

Read it all and take them time to watch the whole speech.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Senate, Theology, Violence

Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham give emotional reflections on anniversary of Emanuel Church massacre

South Carolina’s two U.S. senators offered two stylistically different but equally emotional reflections to commemorate the anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shooting.

Each speech ”” delivered in succession on the Senate floor Thursday on the eve of the anniversary ”” was in keeping with the lawmakers’ personalities and reputations among their colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Tim Scott spoke in a deep sorrowful baritone from prepared remarks about the night of June 17, 2015, when Dylann Roof admitted to ending a Bible study by opening fire and killing nine black parishioners.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Adult Education, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Senate, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT Op-Ed) Fraidy Reiss–America’s Child-Marriage Problem

In the United States today, thousands of children under 18 have recently taken marital vows ”” mostly girls married to adult men, often with approval from local judges. In at least one case, a 10-year-old boy was legally married.

How is this possible? The minimum marriage age in most states is 18, but every state allows exceptions under which children under age 18 can wed.

The first common exception is for children marrying with “parental consent.” Most states allow children age 16 or 17 to marry if their parents sign the marriage license application.

Of course, one person’s “parental consent” can be another’s “parental coercion,” but state laws typically do not call for anyone to investigate whether a child is marrying willingly. Even in the case of a girl’s sobbing openly while her parents sign the application and force her into marriage, the clerk usually has no authority to intervene. In fact, in most states there are no laws that specifically forbid forced marriage.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Senate, Teens / Youth, Theology

(WSJ) Charles Moore–Western countries must honestly face The Middle-Class Squeeze

Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Western leader could boast of spreading ownership in any important way? In the U.S. and Britain, the percentage of citizens owning stocks or houses is well down from the late 1980s. In Britain, the average age for buying a first home is now 31 (and many more people than before depend on “the bank of Mom and Dad” to help them do so). In the mid-’80s, it was 27. My own children, who started work in London in the last two years, earn a little less, in real terms, than I did when I began in 1979, yet house prices are 15 times higher. We have become a society of “have lesses,” if not yet of “have nots.”

In a few lines of work, earnings have shot forward. In 1982, only seven U.K. financial executives were receiving six-figure salaries. Today, tens of thousands are (an enormous increase, even allowing for inflation). The situation is very different for the middle-ranking civil servant, attorney, doctor, teacher or small-business owner. Many middle-class families now depend absolutely on the income of both parents in a way that was unusual even as late as the 1980s.

In Britain and the U.S., we are learning all over again that it is not the natural condition of the human race for children to be better off than their parents. Such a regression, in societies that assume constant progress, is striking. Imagine the panic if the same thing happened to life expectancy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

The full text of Pope Francis' historic address to U.S. Congress today

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Theology

(Gallup) 75% in U.S. See Widespread Government Corruption

Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Sociology, The U.S. Government, Theology