Monday, March 31, 2008


Fighting the War on Terror in the Caribbean and Central America

Here's an odd news story that puts meat on the bones of the phrase "global war on terror": The United States is fighting that war in the Caribbean and Central America.

My assumption was that "Operation Enduring Freedom -- Caribbean and Central America," a formal military operation I'd never heard of before yesterday, is oriented toward Cuba and Venezuela. But it is not. The U.S. military is indeed engaged in a global war, and the terrorist threat, at least in the eyes of the counter-terror warriors, extends to our backyard.

I don't know whether the actual threat necessitates such an "operation," but its bureaucratic existence says a lot about our overreliance on the military and the belief of many in government that the GWOT is a real war, equivalent to the Cold War, and is one that the United States should and will be fighting for decades.

The Rhode Island media this week was filled with the news that a unit of the state's National Guard, an organization called Special Operations Detachment -- Global (SOD-G), is deploying this week in support of something called Operation Enduring Freedom -- Caribbean and Central America.

Working for U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), SOD-G is moving to an airbase in Homestead, Fla., where it will take up contingency counter-terrorism planning responsibilities for the region, seeking to characterize how al Qaeda and other terrorists might exploit drug trafficking routes and patterns or other gaps in American defense to infiltrate into the United States.

Since 2005, SOCOM has had responsibility for "planning, directing and executing" global operations against terrorist networks, and SOD-G is the only globally oriented planning detachment of its type. In 2004, the detachment deployed to Africa to form the nucleus of the Joint Special Operations Task Force - Horn of Africa, a counter-terror organization active in Somalia and Kenya and now a part of the burgeoning Africa Command.

Now, Operation Enduring Freedom-Caribbean and Central America is seeking to address "potential" terrorist threats in the region and the SOD-G is at the core. The 36-man detachment, according to a senior military officer, who asked for anonymity based upon the sensitive nature of special operations, is deploying to help prepare the plan for Southern Command to fight al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other international organizations that are thought to be present in small numbers.

Is this for real? Or is this just a bureaucratic invention to extend the GWOT to every nook and cranny of the globe?

There is no easy answer. But at least in terms of the hierarchy of priorities, such a threat seems overhyped. Just after 9/11 there was much talk of al Qaeda activity in the "tri-border" area of South America, but since then there has been very little new information and certainly little to indicate a threat in the region. The danger, of course, is that under the guise of the GWOT, this reserve unit is preparing contingency plans for Venezuela and Cuba, in which case one wonders why the "GWOT" label is being used.

By William M. Arkin March 28, 2008; 6:45 AM ET



Bush booed loudly while throwing out first pitch in Nationals home opener. 2008/ 03/ 30/ bush-booed-nationals/

President Bush delivered the first pitch tonight at the new Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. to a resounding chorus of boos. After being announced, Bush was showered by boos as he strode to the mound. Even after Bush delivered the pitch, the jeering did not let up until the President disappeared from the field. Watch it: In 2006, Vice President Cheney was also loudly booed when he threw out the first pitch for the Nationals. In a rare move for a president, Bush missed the team's home openers in both 2006 and 2007. Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta caught Bush's pitch.

23 hours ago



The self-proclaimed "Superpower" (USA) is stuck in the mud; Or is it the sand? Between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers? How can something so trivial as a skirmish in the desert be drawn out to 5 years?

It's like the 'Eveready Rabbit', it keeps going, and going, and going, etc.

Someone must be making a bundle out of this boondoggle? Or is it a killing? First, they toppled Saddam Hussein, then they find him in a cave, then they occupy the country with hundred of thousands of military personnel. Then, there were unlawful enemy combatants, insurgents, then shia militants, then sunni militiamen, then Al Qaeda in Iraq, then we're back to the Mahdi Army, aka the Shia Army of Muftada AlSadr. What will they think of next? Illegal Arab Islamist Fascist Aliens in Iraq? These so-called enemies don't have the weapons, the machinery, the logistical knowledge, or the food to defeat the world's best equipped Armed Forces. Gimme' a break, will ya'! Like the popular saying goes now a days, Get over it! Get it over with. Enough with the foot draggin', and half-steppin'. Even Jose Feliciano can see the fallacy of this war in a country that had no WMD's, or took no part in Sept. 11.
Yet, nothing has been achieved by this aggression, Osama Bin Ladin (the alleged Kingpin) is still on the lam, and the whole region is worse off now than it was prior to the invasion. So, somebody, anybody, please recognize that this whole war business is out of control. It's time to do as Richard Nixon, finally admitted 'Peace with Honor'. Let's give peace a chance. Stop the lolly-gagging, and propagandizing. We all know it's a front!

Who's on first? What's on second? I don't know's on third!

Shhhhhhhhhhh! It's just another game to these boys of Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. Play ball!



USMC Colonel Oliver North, at the Iran-Contra Hearings.

Plausible deniability

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plausible deniability is the term given to the creation of loose and informal chains of command in governments and other large organizations. In the case that assassinations, false flag or black ops or any other illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any connection to or awareness of such act, or the agents used to carry out such act.

In politics and espionage, deniability refers to the ability of a "powerful player" or actor to avoid "blowback" by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party—ostensibly unconnected with the major player.

More generally, "plausible deniability" can also apply to any act that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing or abuse. Examples of this are the use of electricity or pain-compliance holds as a means of torture or punishment, leaving little or no tangible signs that the abuse ever took place.




P.S. The next time you hear some breaking news categorized as a "rumor", or as a conspiracy theory, think of this practice:

Plausible Deniabilty.

They don't admit to all the things they do; That's just one of their deceptions! Arsenio.


Debate and Protest at Spy Program’s Inception

Susan Etheridge for The New York Times
Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director; Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence; and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, at a February hearing.

By ERIC LICHTBLAU Published: March 30, 2008

This article is adapted from the book “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice,” by Eric Lichtblau, which is being released Tuesday by Pantheon Books.

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program sparked heated legal concerns and silent protests inside the Bush administration within hours of its adoption in October 2001, according to current and former government officials.

In making its case to Congress for broadened spy powers, the White House has emphasized the firm legal foundations of the program conducted after the Sept. 11 attacks. It has even taken the unusual step of giving lawmakers access to classified presidential orders from 2001 and early legal opinions to try to show that the program was on sound legal footing from the start.

But many of the tensions that were roiling the administration at the start of the program have never become public.

In one previously undisclosed episode, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson refused to sign off on any of the secret wiretapping requests that grew out of the program because of the secrecy and legal uncertainties surrounding it, the officials said. With the veil of secrecy around the program, Mr. Thompson was not given access to details of the N.S.A. operation, and he was so uncomfortable with the idea of approving this new breed of wiretap applications that he had a top adviser write a memorandum assessing the legal ramifications. The adviser warned him not to sign the warrant applications because it was unclear where the wiretaps were coming from.

Inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, technicians stumbled onto the N.S.A.’s program accidentally within 12 hours of its inception, setting off what officials described as a brief firestorm of anxiety among senior officials. Some who had not been told about the program were concerned that the agency was violating laws that required a court order for the singling out of Americans in wiretaps, and they immediately alerted higher-ups to what they had discovered. “What’s going on here? Is this legal?” one F.B.I. official asked after learning of the N.S.A. operation on American soil.

Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, assured nervous officials that the program had been approved by President Bush, several officials said. But the presidential approval, one former intelligence official disclosed, came without a formal legal opinion endorsing the program by the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.

At the outset of the program in October 2001, John Ashcroft, the attorney general, signed off on the surveillance program at the direction of the White House with little in the way of a formal legal review, the official said. Mr. Ashcroft complained to associates at the time that the White House, in getting his signature for the surveillance program, “just shoved it in front of me and told me to sign it.”

Aides to Mr. Ashcroft were worried, however, that in approving a surveillance program that appeared to test the limits of presidential authority, Mr. Ashcroft was left legally exposed without a formal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, which acts as the legal adviser for the entire executive branch.

At that time, the office had already issued a broad, classified opinion declaring the president’s surveillance powers in the abstract in wartime, but it had not weighed in on the legality or the specifics of the N.S.A. operation, officials said.

The nervousness among Justice Department officials led the administration to secure a formal opinion from John Yoo, a deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel, declaring that the president’s wartime powers allowed him to order the N.S.A. to intercept international communication of terror suspects without a standard court warrant.

The opinion itself remains classified and has not been made public. It was apparently written in late 2001 or early 2002, but it was revised in 2004 by a new cast of senior lawyers at the Justice Department, who found the earlier opinion incomplete and somewhat shoddy, leaving out important case law on presidential powers. Mr. Yoo declined to discuss the issue. Even after the final legal opinions were written, lawyers at the National Security Agency were not allowed to see them, officials said.

Justice Department officials declined to comment for this article, saying that they would not discuss internal deliberations on a classified program. The White House also declined to comment. The White House is now at an impasse with the House of Representatives over Mr. Bush’s efforts to secure broader spy powers for the N.S.A. as well as retroactive immunity for the phone companies that helped in the warrantless wiretapping program. The Senate has agreed to give immunity, but the House has refused. Talks will begin anew this week when Congress returns from a two-week break.

In the past, the White House has said there was widespread agreement among administration officials about the president’s authority to order warrantless surveillance inside the United States. Former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told Congress that there was never any disagreement within the administration over the issue. After it was disclosed that senior Justice Department officials had threatened to resign over aspects of the program in 2004, lawmakers attacked the truthfulness of Mr. Gonzales’s remarks, and the inspector general’s office is now reviewing his remarks as well.

In public comments of his own in 2006, Gen. Michael Hayden, who ran the N.S.A. at the start of the surveillance program and now heads the Central Intelligence Agency, recounted going to three lawyers at the security agency separately at the start of the eavesdropping program to get their legal opinions about it. All agreed that the president was within his powers to authorize the program, Mr. Hayden said. N.S.A. was “good to go,” he said he concluded.

At the insistence of Vice President Dick Cheney, knowledge of the program was restricted to a tight circle of top officials and Congressional briefings were unusually limited. But several current and former officials involved in the program said they believed the intense secrecy was to blame for much of the early nervousness among other senior officials who had integral roles in intelligence operations yet were not allowed to know the full details of what was happening.

At the Justice Department, for instance, the fact that Mr. Thompson, the second-ranking official, was not given access to the program led to problems in getting court-approved wiretap applications signed for those surveillance operations that started as warrantless N.S.A. operations. With Mr. Thompson refusing to sign off on the new applications, the Justice Department had to adopt the cumbersome process of segregating the applications that grew out of the N.S.A. program, routing them around Mr. Thompson for Mr. Ashcroft’s signature.

At the F.B.I., the secrecy and questions surrounding the program bred suspicion among officials. “It was a huge mistake,” said one official. “They were too secretive.”



Inspiration faithfully records the faults of good men, those who were distinguished by the favor of God; indeed, their faults are more fully presented than their virtues. This has been a subject of wonder to many, and has given the infidel occasion to scoff at the Bible. But it is one of the strongest evidences of the truth of Scripture, that facts are not glossed over, nor the sins of its chief characters suppressed. The minds of men are so subject to prejudice that it is not possible for human histories to be absolutely impartial. Had the Bible been written by uninspired persons, it would no doubt have presented the character of its honored men in a more flattering light. But as it is, we have a correct record of their experiences.

Men whom God favored, and to whom He entrusted great responsibilities, were sometimes overcome by temptation and committed sin, even as we at the present day strive, waver, and frequently fall into error. Their lives, with all their faults and follies, are open before us, both for our encouragement and warning. If they had been represented as without fault, we, with our sinful nature, might despair at our own mistakes and failures. But seeing where others struggled through discouragements like our own, where they fell under temptations as we have done, and yet took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As they, though sometimes beaten back, recovered their ground, and were blessed of God, so we too may be overcomers in the strength of Jesus. On the other hand, the record of their lives may serve as a warning to us. It shows that God will by no means clear the guilty. He sees sin in His most favored ones, and He deals with it in them even more strictly than in those who have less light and responsibility.

Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen G. White, p.238.


1 Thessalonians 5

1But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

7For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

8But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

12And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

15See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

16Rejoice evermore.

17Pray without ceasing.

18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19Quench not the Spirit.

20Despise not prophesyings.

21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22Abstain from all appearance of evil.

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

25Brethren, pray for us.

26Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

27I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.



1 Tesalonik 5

1¶ Frè m' yo, mwen pa bezwen ekri nou pou m' fè nou konnen ni ki lè, ni ki jou bagay sa yo gen pou rive.

2Nou menm nou konn sa byen: Jou Seyè a gen pou l' vin sou nou tankou yon vòlò k'ap vin nan mitan lannwit.

3Lè n'ap tande moun ap di: Gen lapè toupatou, tout bagay byen sou kontwòl, se lè sa a, san nou pa atann, n'ap wè kòlè Bondye a tonbe sou yo pou detwi yo. Se tankou lè doulè tranche sezi yon fanm ansent. p'ap gen chape pou yo.

4Men nou menm, frè m' yo, nou pa moun k'ap viv nan fènwa. Jou sa a p'ap vin sou nou tankou yon vòlè, san nou pa atann.

5Paske, nou tout se moun k'ap viv nan limyè, nan gwo lajounen. Nou pa moun k'ap viv nan lannwit, nan fènwa!

6¶ Se sak fè, piga nou dòmi tankou lòt yo. Pa kite dòmi pran nou. Kenbe tèt nou anplas.

7Se lannwit moun dòmi. Se lannwit tou moun sou.

8Men nou menm, nou se moun k'ap viv lajounen, se pou nou toujou kenbe tèt nou anplas. Ann pran konfyans nou gen nan Bondye a ak renmen nou gen nan kè nou tankou yon plak pwotèj pou lestonmak nou. Ann pran espwa nou genyen nan Jezi k'ap vin delivre nou nèt la, ann mete l' tankou yon kas an fè nan tèt nou.

9Paske, Bondye pa t' chwazi nou pou nou te tonbe anba kòlè li, men pou n' te ka delivre, gremesi Jezikri, Seyè nou an.

10Jezi te mouri pou n' te ka viv ansanm ak li. Konsa, kit nou mouri deja, kit nou vivan toujou lè la vini an, nou tout n'ap toujou ansanm ak li.

11¶ Se poutèt sa, annou yonn ankouraje lòt, yonn ede lòt, jan nou deja ap fè l' la.

12Frè m' yo, m'ap mande nou pou nou gen anpil respè pou moun k'ap travay nan mitan nou yo, moun Seyè a chwazi pou dirije nou, pou ankouraje nou.

13Se pou nou gen anpil konsiderasyon pou yo, se pou nou renmen yo poutèt travay y'ap fè a. Se pou nou viv byen ak kè poze yonn ak lòt.

14M'ap mande nou tou, frè m' yo, pou nou rele dèyè moun k'ap fè parese yo. Ankouraje sa ki yon ti jan frèt yo, ede sa ki fèb yo. Se pou nou pran pasyans ak tout moun.

15Pa kite pesonn rann mal pou mal. Okontrè, toujou chache fè sa ki byen yonn pou lòt ak sa ki byen pou tout moun.

16¶ Se pou kè nou toujou kontan.

17Pa janm sispann lapriyè.

18Di Bondye mèsi pou tout bagay. Se sa Bondye mande nou, nou menm ki mete konfyans nou nan Jezikri.

19Pa antrave travay Sentespri a.

20Pa meprize pawòl moun k'ap bay mesaj ki soti nan Bondye.

21Egzaminen tout bagay byen, kenbe sa ki bon.

22Egzante tou sa ki mal.

23¶ Mwen mande Bondye ki bay kè poze a pou l' fè nou favè pou nou viv pou li nèt ale. Konsa, lè Jezikri, Seyè nou an, va vini, li p'ap jwenn nou ak ankenn defo, ni nan kò nou, ni nan lespri nou ni nan nanm nou.

24Bondye ki rele nou an va fè sa pou nou, paske li toujou kenbe pawòl li.

25Frè m' yo, lapriyè pou mwen tou.

26Di tout frè yo bonjou, bo yo pou mwen tankou moun k'ap viv pou Bondye konn fè l' la.

27Tanpri souple, nan non Seyè a, li lèt sa a bay tout frè yo.

28Se pou benediksyon Jezikri, Seyè nou an, toujou la avèk nou.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Lawrence company recalls cantaloupe linked to salmonella

Associated Press / March 30, 2008

LAWRENCE - A Lawrence company is recalling fresh-cut fruit products containing cantaloupe from a Honduran company the Food and Drug Administration has linked to a multistate salmonella outbreak.

more stories like this

JARD Marketing Corp. said Friday that its recall affects food service and retail products containing cantaloupe from Agropecuaria Montelibano and distributed in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

The company said it is not aware of any illnesses associated with its cantaloupe products.

The recall includes retail plastic cups and trays sold under the brands Frosty Fresh, Fresh Hand Cut, Fruit on The Go, Highland Park, Bruegger's Bagels, Sid Wainer and Son, Hannaford Brothers, and Garden High Plant No. P-005, and coded with a sell-by date of March 29, 2008, or earlier.

The recalled food service products include plastic pails and jars under the brands Pebble Beach, Festival Of Fruit, Cornucopia Sweet, Jambo Chef, Fowler Fruit Mix, Instantwhip, Syracuse Banana, and City Line Food Dist. and coded with an expiration date from April 7, 2008, to April 22, 2008, or a Julian code of "08067" to "08082."

The FDA has asked grocers to remove cantaloupe from the Honduran company and blocked its imports after dozens of cases of salmonella were reported in 16 states. No deaths were reported, but 14 people were hospitalized.

Dole Fresh Fruit Co., a California subsidiary of Dole Food Co., on Friday recalled cantaloupes grown, packed, and shipped by Agropecuaria Montelibano. On Thursday, Chiquita Brands International Inc. announced a recall of whole cantaloupes grown, packed, and shipped by the Honduran company. The cantaloupes went out nationwide. Simply Fresh Fruit Inc. announced a recall of certain cut-fruit products.


Bush Aide Quits Over Money Use

Published: March 29, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — An aide to President Bush has resigned because of his alleged misuse of grant money from the United States Agency for International Development when he worked for a Cuban democracy organization.

The aide, Felipe Sixto, was promoted on March 1 as a special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs. He stepped forward on March 20 to reveal his alleged wrongdoing and to resign, a White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said on Friday.

Mr. Stanzel said Mr. Sixto took that step after learning that his former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba, was prepared to initiate legal action against him.

The alleged wrongdoing occurred when Mr. Sixto was chief of staff at the center, where he worked for more than three years before moving to the White House.

The matter has been turned over to the Justice Department for investigation, Mr. Stanzel said.

The Center for a Free Cuba calls itself an independent, nonpartisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law in Cuba. Frank Calzon, its executive director, said the group received “a couple million dollars” a year from the development agency.



Americans with preconceived notions about Pope Benedict may be in for surprise during U.S. visit

Posted by David Gibson Religion News Service and Charles Honey The Grand Rapids Press March 29, 2008 08:00AM

Categories: Editors' Choice

If what you know of Pope Benedict XVI is the hard-line doctrinal decrees of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he may surprise you on his first visit to the United States next month.

So says the Rev. Robert Sirico, who has met Benedict and seen his pastoral side closer than many.

"They're going to see he's far more gentle than he's very often made out to be," said Sirico, president of the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. "He's not a storm trooper. He listens, and he just wants to be heard."

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful March 23 as he celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
But don't expect Benedict to exude the charisma that made his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, a kind of papal pop star, Sirico added: "He's not bigger than life. He's a little awkward in public. He's not a mountain-climbing actor the way John Paul was."

Central to the anticipation surrounding Benedict's April 15-20 visit is a widespread curiosity among U.S. Catholics about a pontiff whom they mostly know only through headlines and video clips.

What is he like in person? And what he will say to his large and often independent-minded followers in the United States?

Such questions might seem odd because, for nearly a quarter-century before his 2005 election as pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was the Vatican lightning rod on the most explosive doctrinal controversies. No one in Rome -- except John Paul II -- garnered more media attention or got so much negative press.

But not only is Ratzinger in a different role now as pope, he has relatively little direct experience with U.S. Catholics -- a flock that, despite its outsized influence, still represents just 7 percent of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

Many U.S. Catholics are not familiar with Benedict or what he stands for, said Robert Marko, chairman of theology at Aquinas College. In a course he taught on Ratzinger's theology last semester, older and younger students had mistaken impressions, Marko said.

"I think there's a built-in prejudice against him among many," Marko said. "He's already been tagged as kind of God's rottweiler.

"He is a brilliant, brilliant theologian. As people come hear what he says, I suspect they will be impressed. I would hope it opens the eyes of those who tend to be overly critical."

Sister Nathalie Meyer, prioress of the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters, was impressed when she met Benedict in a worldwide gathering of religious sisters last spring.

"He was very gracious, very gentle, very pastoral," Meyer said. "He's very different than I expected."

A learning experience

At heart, Benedict is a thoroughly European man, a German-born academic and classical pianist who speaks Latin with greater fluency than he does English. For years before his election, he wanted nothing more than to return to the Bavarian university town of Regensburg to write and lecture.

Yet, now, he finds himself about to visit Washington and New York as pope. It could be a learning experience for him, too.

Vatican officials say that, as cardinal, Ratzinger visited the U.S. five times -- the last nearly a decade ago -- and always on academic missions or church business. In a 1996 book-length interview, "Salt of the Earth," Ratzinger was hesitant to comment on the American religious scene "because I have so little knowledge of America."

Yet that's not to say Benedict does not appreciate the United States. In that interview, he noted that America has a "commitment to morality and a desire for religion" -- even citing Hillary Clinton's plea to families to watch less television as evidence of a "broad current" of counter-culturalism.

Last month, when he accepted the credentials of the new American ambassador to the Holy See, Benedict struck that note again, extolling the United States as "a nation which values the role of religious belief in ensuring a vibrant and ethically sound democratic order."

Associates of the pope also stress he is well-informed on American culture, politics and church life. As a cardinal, Ratzinger always had Americans on the staff at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, as pope, appointed William Levada, the archbishop of San Francisco, to his old job, making Levada the highest-ranking American ever to serve at the Vatican.

The Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Ratzinger's and the publisher of all of Ratzinger's works in English through Ignatius Press, also cited Benedict's intellect as compensating for his lack of direct experience with the U.S.

"I've had the practice over more than two decades of speaking with him, each time ... about the two or three problems here which I thought most important," said Fessio, a Jesuit. "I don't recall ever telling him something he didn't already know."

Reining in liberal forces

On the other hand, Benedict's American contacts are almost all like-minded conservatives, which may give him a somewhat slanted view of American church life. As John Paul's doctrinal czar, Ratzinger was instrumental in the campaign to rein in liberal and moderate forces in the American church. He disciplined theologians and prelates, promoted like-minded bishops to prominent posts and quashed debates over issues such as the role of women or birth control.

The tipping point -- in the Vatican's favor -- may have been a 1989 showdown in Rome between Vatican officials and American church leaders. During that summit, Ratzinger was John Paul's chief spokesman, and he told the bishops in no uncertain terms that they are "guardians of an authoritarian tradition" and must be firm and not overly tolerant: "Pastoral activity consists in placing man at the point of decision, confronting him with the authority of truth."

The effort, while taking a toll, was considered a success.

Observers generally agree the American church is in an inactive -- some would say resigned -- era. In his 1996 interview, Ratzinger acknowledged that tensions with the American hierarchy had eased, and that there were only "30 bishops at most" (out of about 300) who caused headaches for the Vatican.

Gentle reminders

Now that he is visiting as pope, Ratzinger likely will soften his tone. The pastor-in-chief will follow the model of John Paul, exhorting the flock to a greater fidelity to Rome but reminding them -- as gently as possible -- of their failings.

In addition, there may be more focus on Benedict's support for environmental protection, his "liberal" (by American standards) stands on social welfare and immigration and his continued opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Sirico expects the pope will address abortion and other human-life issues, the sanctity of marriage, prosperity and globalization, as well as academic freedom in his talk at The Catholic University of America.

"I think he is going to basically call people to look at the (Catholic) identity of the institutions," Aquinas' Marko said.

Overall, Benedict is far more likely to please conservatives than he is liberals. He surely will do little to advance the reform-minded agenda of Catholics who want the church to consider changes in doctrine, tradition or governance. Instead, the pope will want to remind Catholics that remaining a counter-cultural force is the best way to push America toward a more just society and to unite fractious followers under the banner of a common, and somewhat retro, Catholic identity.

"He's calling us back to the basic message of Christianity," Marko said. "That's his genius."



October 3, 2004

Candidates are Targeting Evangelical Base in W. VA

by Rick Klein
Boston Globe

Bush campaign volunteers are calling their fellow churchgoers. The Christian Coalition's voting guides will ship out shortly. And pastors across West Virginia are making the case sometimes explicitly, sometimes less so that President Bush is a better choice on spiritual grounds than Democrat John F. Kerry.

Yet whether devout Christians will turn out en masse for Bush remains uncertain. The Republicans' network of pastors and religious voters is proving something less than rock-solid in a state and a region hit hard by manufacturing job losses, and with many sons and daughters serving in a war that has grown unpopular. In the campaign's final month, the Kerry campaign is beginning to escalate its fight for religious voters in West Virginia.

"We've been misled by our president," said Pastor David Allen of the Welcome Baptist Church in Beckley, who is urging parishioners to support Kerry. "We have become the aggressor instead of the peacemaker in Iraq. God is not Republican or Democratic he's for what's right."

Stung by exit polls suggesting that as many as 4 million evangelical Christians stayed at home on Election Day in 2000, the Bush campaign has been hard at work for more than a year to turn out voters from that religious background. Now, the Bush campaign considers evangelical Christians to be a potent force that could push the president over the top in such closely contested states as West Virginia, Iowa, and Ohio.

In West Virginia, Republicans have organized through churches just as Democrats have long organized through labor unions, with activist training sessions, coordinated letter-to-the-editor campaigns, and drives to register voters.

The efforts will be capped by a final push in the campaign's last 72 hours, employing a strategy used to defeat a Democratic governor and senator in Georgia two years ago. The strategy was organized by Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition who is serving as a top Bush adviser this year.

"If we can get the word out on where the president stands and where Senator Kerry stands, West Virginians will support the president," said Steve Harrison, a Republican state senator from Charleston who is chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign's social conservative coalition in West Virginia. "The clear differences have social conservatives very aware of the stakes."

Bush, a devout Christian who has often talked openly of his faith, is expected to win the votes of the majority of evangelical Christian voters. His stump speech is marbled with references designed to reach out to such voters; he speaks of the "culture of life," calls marriage and family "the foundations of our society," and draws sustained applause by criticizing judges who "legislate from the bench."

Republicans are trying to shore up Bush's support among evangelical voters by keeping in play hot-button such issues as abortion, gay marriage, and judicial appointments. Last month, the Republican Party sent a mailing to West Virginia voters that urged recipients to "vote Republican to protect our families." It defined the "liberal agenda" by showing a Bible with the word "banned" on it and a man placing a ring on the hand of another man with the with the word "allowed."

But Democrats are not ready to concede West Virginia's churchgoers to the GOP. Bumper stickers are popping up in Charleston, the capital, and elsewhere in the state: "Christian and a Democrat," they read, with the Christian fish symbol next to a Democratic donkey.
Last week, a group called Clergy and Lay People in Support of John Kerry announced its start in West Virginia, saying a president who engages in preemptive war is not living by the doctrine of Christ. The state's senior political figure, US Senator Robert C. Byrd, hammered home that point on Monday at a rally in Beckley, where he blasted Bush as a hypocrite who is trying to exploit religion for political gain.

Kathy Roeder, a Kerry campaign spokeswoman, conceded that voters who have cast ballots strictly on social issues such as abortion are probably lost to Democrats. But with uncertain economy and continuing violence in Iraq, many voters will be turned off by the Bush campaign's attempts to use social issues as a wedge in the campaign, she said.

"We're connecting on faith issues," Roeder said. "You need to look at George Bush's deeds, not just his rhetoric. Look at what he has actually done. His actions and deeds haven't been reflected."

Four years ago, Bush carried West Virginia and won its five electoral votes by nearly 41,000 votes, or 6.3 percentage points. The results were among the biggest surprises of the race, given the 2-to-1 registration advantage Democrats hold over Republicans and the fact that Bill Clinton carried the state by a double-digit margin in 1992 and 1996.

Still, the state has grown more Republican in recent years, with all signs pointing to social issues as the driving force.

West Virginia's population has a strong evangelical element. By some estimates, 40 percent of the state's residents consider themselves to be evangelical Protestants, compared with the national average of about 25 percent.

By comparison, white evangelical or born-again Protestants represent 36 percent of all registered voters in Missouri, 30 percent in Iowa, 31 percent in Virginia, and 49 percent in Arkansas, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center's Election Survey. The national figure was pegged at 26 percent. The survey, published in July, also found that 72 percent of such voters said they approved of the way Bush was handling his presidency, although respondents were about evenly divided on whether the country was on the right track. The survey found such voters far more likely to support Bush than Kerry, but only 30 percent said they were paying close attention to the race at the time.

The Rev. J. Allen Fine, director of the Christian Coalition's West Virginia chapter, said the choice will be clear to West Virginia residents after they pick up voting guides printed by the Christian Coalition. An initial order of 2,000 such guides will be placed in churches across the state, and lay activists are being recruited to contact their fellow church members about the importance of voting, supplementing the Bush campaign's efforts.

Although churches and the Christian Coalition cannot make formal political endorsements because of IRS limitations, the coalition will make clear which candidate is preferred, Fine said.

"Christians have a responsibility to cast their vote on the side of right," said Fine, who works as a religious broadcaster. "We can put enough adjectives and enough statements in there so that they'll get the message. The two candidates running for president, it's pretty clear what they stand for."

But in West Virginia, religion is not the domain of only one political party. Gary Abernathy, executive director of the West Virginia Republican Party, said social issues are rarely crucial in in-state races, since the Democratic and Republican candidates often share the same views. He noted that Democrats from outside the state, such as Al Gore four years ago and Kerry this year, have a tough time relating to West Virginia voters.

Even so, Democrats have served notice that they will not let religious campaigning stand without an answer. To make a case against Bush Monday, Byrd sang "Amazing Grace" and quoted Scriptures. "The Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew, teaches, 'By their fruits ye shall know them,' " Byrd said, according to The Register-Herald of Beckley. "But what fruits do we see around us? We see division and discord. We see the hungry and the homeless. We see a nation divided by the very leaders who promised to unite us.

"We ought to rise up and vote, vote for John Kerry. Hallelujah, thank God."

At the Welcome Baptist Church in Beckley, Pastor Allen has a response for anyone who says Bush would make a better president because of Christian values: "I can't hear what you're saying, because I see what you're doing."

While he is careful not to run afoul of IRS restrictions on not-for-profit organizations, he is not shy about sharing his personal beliefs with his congregation. "I told them, make up your own mind, but the Bible says, 'Follow me as I follow Christ, ' " he said.



The Wall Street Journal
June 21, 2004

Christian Coalition Working for a Revival; Gay-Marriage Issue Seen as a Lightning Rod for Fresh Energy, New Conservative Troops

By Avery Johnson

Looneyville, W.Va. -- THE CHRISTIAN COALITION has fallen far from its glory days as a pro-Republican fighting force in the 1990s. But now Pastor J. Allen Fine has a new political weapon.

"Gay marriage is societal suicide," says Mr. Fine, a religious broadcaster who was recently installed as state director of the coalition's West Virginia chapter. "We were asked on our radio program, 'Is sodomy still a sin?' It brought in so many calls and the dish of the fax machine overflowed."

The same thing is happening in Ohio, another electoral battleground where Christian Coalition stalwarts are seeking political revival. "People see that there's something greater at stake here with gay marriage," says Rev. Dallas Billington at the Akron Baptist Temple in Akron, Ohio. "It's a crucial time in the cultural war, and I'm telling people to 'Vote your Bible.' "

President Bush today will try once again to get a political boost from promoting "traditional marriage" with a visit to Ohio. And the Senate is gearing up to vote next month on the constitutional ban on gay marriage that he favors. So far, there's little evidence that such moves are boosting President Bush and his party in the nation's ambivalent political center.

But the subject is giving a shot of adrenaline to conservative Christian activists who in recent years had grown politically listless. "The whole gay marriage issue has caused a rebirth of the social conservative movement," observes Republican strategist Scott Reed, manager of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential bid. John Green, a scholar of the religious right at the University of Akron, reserves judgment on the ultimate impact but says the Christian Coalition appears "much more alive" than it's been in years.

Mr. Bush's re-election campaign certainly hopes so. The president's top strategist Karl Rove has complained that lack of enthusiasm kept four million conservative Christian voters from turning out in the dead-heat 2000 election. To remedy that, the Republican National Committee has recruited some 60,000 evangelical "team leaders" and sought to identify "friendly congregations" who can help mobilize the pro-Bush base.

A revival of groups like the Christian Coalition would provide a welcome boost. Led by televangelist Pat Robertson and political operative Ralph Reed in the early 1990s, the coalition capitalized on conservative discontent with President Clinton and played a key role in the Republican drive to recapture House and Senate majorities.

More recently the organization has suffered hard times. Republican control of Congress and the White House has sapped some of the coalition's political energy. The Federal Election Commission accused the Christian Coalition of violating its tax-exempt status through excessively pushing Republicans in its trademark voter guides.

By 2001, Messrs. Robertson and Reed had both departed. In 2002, the coalition took in $5.3 million, according to -- down from peak revenues of $25.3 million in 1996. This year, press secretary Michele Ammons estimates the organization will take in $8 million.

"People have forgotten about the Christian Coalition," says longtime foe, Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

At the coalition's headquarters in Washington, national field director Bill Thomson says he wants to broaden the organization's traditional base beyond issues affecting the family to tax cuts and the defense budget.

But conservative ire over gay marriage is lending fresh energy. Some 30 new directors have been appointed to coalition chapters. The group is devoting attention to electoral battlegrounds with large numbers of evangelicals such as Missouri, Florida, Oregon, Iowa and Ohio. In the Buckeye State, director Chris Long plans a briefing for pastors this month and a statewide "citizenship Sunday" on July 4 to register voters.

Mr. Fine says conservative Christians can make headway in West Virginia, whose five electoral votes Mr. Bush carried four years ago. Mr. Green, the religious right scholar, estimates 40% of West Virginians consider themselves evangelical Protestants, compared with 25% of Americans as a whole. In 2000 exit polls, "white religious right" voters made up 14% nationally and 28% in West Virginia. But many of those voters, in the state's struggling mining communities, traditionally have responded more to Democratic messages.

So Mr. Fine, who once worked in the furniture business, plies the mountain towns where white churches dot the green landscape. From his home in Looneyville, he hosts a 30-minute radio show called "New Sounds of Inspiration." The 69-year-old pastor counts just 1,100 West Virginians as Christian Coalition members. The chapter went through multiple leaders before settling on Mr. Fine, who calls his budget "fluid." Yet he hopes the gay marriage issue will help rally new troops. He says he may start petition drives exhorting voters to stand up against "activist judges," whom Mr. Bush has cited as a threat to the institution of marriage through decisions legalizing same-sex weddings.

Mr. Fine aims to register voters on Sundays after church, and mobilize pastors to discuss important issues from the pulpit. Another goal: placing voter guides illustrating differences between Democratic and Republican candidates in 90% of West Virginia churches, up from 50% in years past. Whether he can accomplish that remains a question. And he acknowledges his admiration for Democrat John Kerry, a Vietnam War hero, "as a patriot and as a veteran."

But he says Mr. Kerry's position on gay marriage will undercut the Massachusetts senator's prospects here. Mr. Kerry opposes gay marriage, but also opposes the constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage that Mr. Bush has endorsed.

"Same-sex marriage just does not fly in West Virginia," Mr. Fine says. "Ninety-eight percent of people in the churches will vote for Bush. The other 2% think we are a bunch of loonies because we believe in the word of God."


Political Revival?

After seeing its influence wane in recent years, the Christian Coalition is
hoping the gay-marriage issue will provide new energy and make social
conservatives a greater force in the 2004 election:

Voters identifying themselves as part of the religious right voted more
Republican in 2000 . . .


Dole: 65%
Clinton: 26%
Other: 9%


Bush: 80%
Gore: 18%
Other: 2%

But represented a smaller share of the electorate nationally and in some
battleground states

1996 2000

Nationwide ..... 18% 14%
Florida ........ 23% 19%
Michigan ....... 23% 20%
Ohio ........... 23% 17%
Pennsylvania ... 22% 15%
West Virginia .. 33% 28%

Sources: Exit polls; John Green, Bliss Center for Applied Politics,
University of Akron


Saturday, March 29, 2008


A Voice on the Hill:
The New Congress and the Adventist® Agenda

By James D. Standish

About the author: James D. Standish represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United States Congress, White House, and executive agencies. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University, where he served as president of the church-state forum and a staff editor of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy. James lives with his wife, Dr. Leisa Standish, and their two daughters in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

In the 200-year history of the swings of political power in American democracy, the 2006 election will go down as one of the more dramatic.

In one fell swoop American voters transferred power from Republicans to Democrats in both houses of Congress. Modest Republican majorities in the House of Representatives (230-202) and Senate (55-44) evaporated as election night progressed. Democrats nearly reversed their position in the House (232-202), and achieved a slim majority in the Senate with the aid of two independents (51-49).

For the first time in 12 years, Democrats now chair all the committees in the House and Senate. They set the legislative agenda, and they wield the formidable subpoena power of Congress to probe and investigate. The president’s nominees to the Supreme Court now must pass through a committee chaired by a Democrat. All treaties must be approved by a Senate with a Democratic majority.

It is a whole new world on Capitol Hill.

But is it a better world? What do these political and ideological changes mean for religious liberty and other public issues important to Seventh-day Adventists? Will the future be kinder—or more difficult—for those who believe that American democracy must protect the constitutional guarantees of free speech, a free press, and freedom of religion?

It all depends whom you ask. Seventh-day Adventist membership in the United States is as diverse as the national population, and this diversity extends to political viewpoints as well. Some Adventists are relieved because they believe that the ascendant Democrats will save us from an impending theocracy imposed by the Religious Right. Other Adventists are convinced that political liberals will open the door to moral evils as our society “slouches towards Gomorrah.”1 Still others believe that the business of governing is a dirty, nasty affair at odds with spiritual life—that governance and governments are distractions believers ought to completely avoid.

Should Adventists Be Involved in Public Policy?

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has never engaged in partisan politics, a historical fact that underlines the church’s primary allegiance to a Lord whose “kingdom is not of this world.” Church cofounder and prophet Ellen White strongly condemned those who use their church positions to support political parties or candidates. At the same time, however, the Adventist Church has always been actively engaged with critical issues in the public square, some of which inescapably have a political dimension to them. From our earliest days Adventists fought crucial battles to preserve religious liberty,2 led in the movement for prohibition of alcohol, urged the abolition of slavery (and adamantly refused to obey the Federal Fugitive Slave Law),3 advocated for the rights of the poor, and firmly opposed war.

Explaining the rationale for Adventist public policy activism in 1892, Ellen White wrote: “Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society.”4

Put another way, by our very existence as a faith community within a society, we have an influence. With that influence comes responsibility—at minimum, to witness to saving truth as the world approaches its end; more amply, to prepare the ground for the gospel by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. Doing nothing in the face of social evil is complicity, not neutrality. Passivity in the face of human need is actually sinful indifference. Adventist Christians reject complicity and indifference in favor of carefully considered public action. We are our brother’s keepers just as fully as we are commandment-keepers, which means that we cannot fail to be good neighbors to those in need. We are responsible to our Lord and to our fellow citizens to use our influence to make our society happier, healthier, and morally upright. These commitments are not extras, grafted onto the stock of who we are, but core features of our God-given identity as a people raised up to witness in earth’s last days.

We tell our children the Bible stories of Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, who used their time on earth to exert an influence on the public policy of the societies in which they lived. Should we not be telling one another such stories as adult believers—drawing out the lesson that believers today must also exert a godly influence on their own communities? When we see suffering, we are called to act. When we see oppression, we are called to speak.5

But how do Adventist Christians do this today? How do we “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free”?6 How do we “speak up for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute”?7 How do we “defend the rights of the poor and needy”?8

The agenda points for Adventist public policy in the United States have changed from decade to decade, but each item harkens back to fundamental commitments this movement found in Scripture and expressed in its earliest years. We still fight for religious liberty; we still champion temperance; we still advocate for fundamental human rights; we work to achieve racial equity both in the church and in the wider society; we remain concerned about the moral climate of society.

What will the new shape of things in Washington mean to those efforts?

The Election and the Causes We Care About

For more than 120 years, Adventists have been at the forefront of the ongoing battle to protect the religious liberties of individual Americans, and for this activism the church has earned a sterling reputation among the friends of freedom. Religious liberty isn’t a nebulous concept or a philosophical abstraction: it’s an eminently practical effort to ensure that you can practice your faith without experiencing prejudice, coercion, or full-scale persecution—in a land where there are constitutional guarantees designed to protect your freedoms. It is, at its heart, about protecting the unfettered right to share the love of Christ through word and deed.

Serious challenges confront the Adventist Church on both the domestic and international fronts:

Workplace Religious Freedom Act

The most serious religious liberty problem facing American Adventists today is the increasing intolerance to Sabbathkeepers in the American workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that between 1993 and 2003 complaints regarding religious discrimination surged 82 percent—a massive increase, particularly at a time when complaints relating to other types of discrimination held roughly steady during the same period.

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) was introduced in the 109th Congress to fight that growing intolerance. It seeks to protect the religious liberties of persons who want to practice their faith, and mandates that employers make reasonable accommodations to allow for persons wishing to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, for example.

WRFA has only two problems: powerful allies of the gay rights lobby (usually associated with the political “left”) oppose it, and commercial interests (usually on the political “right”) dislike it as well.

In the 109th Congress WRFA got mired in a Senate committee chaired by Senator Mike Enzi (Republican—Wyoming).9 Senator Enzi, who notes on his Web site that he is a Sunday school teacher and also a successful small business owner, was hardly an enthusiastic supporter of WRFA. As he noted during an informational meeting, he sometimes required his staff to work on Sundays when he was a small business owner—why should Sabbathkeepers expect any different treatment?

With the shift in Senate control that occurred this past November, Enzi no longer keeps his pivotal job as committee chairman.

The incoming chairman, Senator Edward Kennedy (Democrat—Massachusetts), begins with a friendlier stance toward WRFA, but at this writing his ultimate opinion is unclear. His expressed support for the bill emerged before the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) became active against it.

The ACLU claims that by providing basic protections for people of faith, WRFA will permit the harassment of homosexuals in the workplace and limit access to abortion. These claims are far-fetched, but they are claims that have an impact on political progressives. According to one Democratic Senate staffer, “As long as the ACLU opposes the bill, right or wrong, you are going to have problems on our side of the aisle.”

Fortunately, not all Democrats have seen the opposition of the ACLU as a bar to supporting WRFA. Senator John Kerry (Democrat—Massachusetts) has been a leader in the fight to pass WRFA, and Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat—New York) has also been a strong supporter. Eliott Spitzer, now governor of New York, publicly stated his support for WRFA based on the experience of New York State, which has a state version of the bill:

“I have the utmost respect for the ACLU, but on this issue they are simply wrong. New York’s law has not resulted in the infringement of the rights of others, or in the additional litigation that the ACLU predicts will occur if WRFA is enacted. Nor has it been burdensome on business. Rather, it strikes the correct balance between accommodating individual liberty and the needs of businesses and the delivery of services. So does WRFA.”10

Time will tell whether Senator Kennedy finds the logic of his fellow Democrats more compelling than the clamoring of the ACLU. Since the bill was not moving in the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, the change in Senate leadership can only improve its opportunity for passage in the 110th Congress.

Establishment Issues

Most advocates for religious liberty have observed that the U.S. House of Representatives has grown increasingly careless in recent years about the way it approaches the relationship between church and state—a collection of concerns often labeled “establishment issues” because they emerge from the provision of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment that asserts that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Recent legislation, for example, attempted to erode restrictions on churches advocating for political parties or candidates. Other bills attempting to strip the courts of jurisdiction over critical religious freedom questions have received significant support. The new Democratic majorities in both House and Senate are unlikely to be as lax on these matters as their predecessors, with the result that Adventists can expect the “wall of separation” between church and state to remain in fairly good repair in the 110th Congress.

International Religious Freedom

Most political pundits have it as an article of faith that Democrats are more interested in human rights than Republicans, perhaps owing to the frequency with which language regarding human rights appears in election speeches or political party platforms. But listening to speeches or reading promotional materials is invariably a poor way to assess any legislator’s actual commitments.

Concern about international religious persecution is, fortunately, a bipartisan issue, meaning that both Republicans and Democrats care about it. But it is at the top of the agenda for only a few members of Congress, the majority of whom currently are Republicans. Further, while many Democrats speak regularly about human rights, the issues at the top of their human rights agendas don’t necessarily comport with Adventist values. By human rights, these legislators mean advocacy for international trade unionism, funding of abortion services by international agencies that receive financial support from the United States, and support for gay rights in both the U.S. and other nations.

The new alignment of Congress will move the discussion of how Americans ought to relate to governmental oppression of persons of faith in other nations to new speakers and new platforms, but it’s unclear at this writing whether there will be any new groundswell of support for tying American foreign aid to greater respect for religious liberty in recipient nations.

The American Family

Adventists have long believed that God’s plan for human society is founded on the family unit, and that maintaining strong, morally healthy families is a vital component of preserving the fundamental personal and social freedoms the United States was founded to protect. Thus, individual Adventists and the wider church in North America can look only with dismay on facts such as these:

  • Almost 50 percent of American children now spend at least part of their childhood in single parent families.11
  • Rates of every form of child abuse have dramatically increased.12
  • Almost half of all Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease during their lifetime. Sixty-five million Americans are currently living with a viral STD.13
  • Children are regularly exposed to ultraviolent images and the basest pornography.

Each of these problems is a complex social phenomenon resulting from the moral decisions of individuals and the ways in which government and social network action—or inaction—have affected behaviors. Whether we believe it should or not, public policy does have an impact on individual decision-making, and there can be little debate that a series of public policy developments in the last four decades accelerated the deterioration of the American family. These include the creation of relatively easy “no-fault” divorce; the relaxation of local legislation that formerly restricted promiscuity; new legislative and judicial activism to grant homosexuals the legal status of marriage; and easy access by children to violent, pornographic content via television, video and DVD, and the Internet—often in the name of “First Amendment” freedom of expression.

Neither political party has a lock on moral virtue, and cynics have had a field day decrying the hypocrisy of public figures whose personal lives are much at odds with their public image as protectors of virtue. The emergence of more socially conservative Democrats in the 2006 election, particularly in the U.S. Senate, suggests that the passage of family-friendly legislation may be possible. To succeed, however, the new legislators will have to overcome powerful Democratic constituencies.


The Adventist Church in North America is continuing to support a bill to give the Food and Drug Administration jurisdiction over tobacco—classifying tobacco as a drug and thus allowing restrictions on its production and sale. The shift in political power in Congress will give additional impetus to that effort as there are a number of powerful Democrats strongly supportive of the measure.

A Time for Personal Responsibility

I met with a senator four years ago to ask for his support for a critical religious liberty bill. Initially, he insisted that he was extremely busy and didn’t know if he could add this to his agenda. As we talked further, however, he eventually looked me in the eye and said, “I’ll do it because it is the right thing to do.”

A month ago I went by the same senator’s office to wish him well as he reenters private life after losing his bid for reelection. I asked him what he was going to do.

He responded with a line I won’t soon forget.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I am just thankful that when I had the chance to do some good, I did it.”

Yesterday he was part of the most powerful club in America. Today he is unemployed, looking for another job. His time of influence has come and gone.

His story is in many ways like our stories. We each have a short time span here on earth. Our ability to be the influence for good and right that Ellen White wrote movingly about is limited. Are we going to stand up and support religious liberty, temperance, policies that build strong families, and advocate for justice for the poor? Or are we going to let everything else in our crowded lives drown out the witness our nation and our society so much need?

Now would be a good time to find your voice.


1Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah (HarperCollins, 1996).

2When addressing challenges to religious liberty, Ellen White urged: “We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 713, 714).

3Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 201-204.

4Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 387, 388.

5Speaking of Abraham’s dramatic rescue of the hostages, Ellen White wrote: “It was seen that righteousness is not cowardice, and that Abraham’s religion made him courageous in maintaining the right and defending the oppressed. . . . Abraham regarded the claims of justice and humanity. His conduct illustrates the inspired maxim, ‘thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’” (Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 135, 136).

6Isaiah 58:6, NIV.

7Proverbs 31:8, 9.


9Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

10Eliott Spitzer, “Defend the Civil Right to Freedom of Religion for America’s Workers,” The Forward, June 25, 2004.

11Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., History and Current Status of Divorce in the United States.

12For example, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the incidence of child sexual abuse increased 458 percent between 1980 and 1993.

13American Medical Association Journal and American Social Health Association.

Source: Adventist Review®. Used by permission.

Posted 2/2/07