Category Archives: Featured Political News

Obama Sends Presidential Delegation to Celebrate With Kenya

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From The White House:

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President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Republic of Kenya to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Republic of Kenya on December 12, 2013.

The Honorable Robert F. Godec, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya, will lead the delegation.

Member of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

White House Responds To Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Lawsuit

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From The White House:

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Statement by the Press Secretary Regarding Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

The health care law puts women and families in control of their health care by covering vital preventive care, like cancer screenings and birth control, free of charge.  Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider a legal challenge to the health care law’s requirement that for-profit corporations include birth control coverage in insurance available to their employees.  We believe this requirement is lawful and essential to women’s health and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.

We do not comment on specifics of a case pending before the Court.  As a general matter, our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor.  The President believes that no one, including the government or for-profit corporations, should be able to dictate those decisions to women.  The Administration has already acted to ensure no church or similar religious institution will be forced to provide contraception coverage and has made a commonsense accommodation for non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds.  These steps protect both women’s health and religious beliefs, and seek to ensure that women and families–not their bosses or corporate CEOs–can make personal health decisions based on their needs and their budgets.

President Obama calls Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu

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From The White House:

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Readout of the President’s call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu today to discuss the P5+1’s first step agreement with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  The two leaders reaffirmed their shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The President noted that the P5+1 will use the months ahead to pursue a lasting, peaceful, and comprehensive solution that would resolve the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  Consistent with our commitment to consult closely with our Israeli friends, the President told the Prime Minister that he wants the United States and Israel to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution.  The President underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.  The President and Prime Minister agreed to stay in close contact on this issue as the P5+1 and Iran negotiate a long-term solution over the next six months.

Illinois Senate Passes Redefinition of Marriage Bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Nov. 5, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The Thomas More Society, which has been at the forefront in defending traditional marriage in Illinois, issued the following statement on House passage of Senate Bill-10’s redefinition of marriage:

      “While we believe it regrettable that Illinois legislators have now purported to redefine marriage as something different from the union of one man and one woman, we are at least pleased and reassured to hear that legislators insisted during today’s floor debate in the House of Representatives that Illinois’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other constitutional and statutory guaranties of Illinois citizens’ religious liberties remain in full force and effect. We will do our part to insure that those fundamental religious liberties are given robust and unstinting protection. The free speech and free exercise clauses of our First Amendment remain at the core of our constitutional order, and no law nor any public official may lawfully coerce anyone to deny or disavow his or her religious beliefs, or refrain from professing those beliefs in the public square, or to go against those beliefs in practice. This is still a free country, and Thomas More Society stands ready to do its utmost to keep it free,” said Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society.

Senate to Hold Hearings on Controversial UN Treaty

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is on the move again as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has confirmed that it will hold hearings on the treaty starting today. The treaty was defeated on the Senate floor last year after it failed to receive the required two-thirds vote, largely because of strong opposition from parental rights and disability rights advocates.
President Obama signed the treaty in July 2009, but opponents were quick to point out the dangers this treaty presented to disabled persons in the United States.

“We all want to show our love and care for people with disabilities,” said Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). “This treaty, however, is not the way to do it. This treaty will give United Nations and government agents, not parents, the authority to decide all educational and treatment issues for disabled children. All of the rights that parents have under traditional American law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act will be undermined by this treaty.”

Farris pointed out that, while supporters of the treaty say that it will not override American law, a recent decision in Hungary showed exactly how the treaty will look if ratified in the United States. The Hungarian constitution did not allow intellectually disabled persons to vote if they were under legal guardianship, but the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called this law unjust, citing Article 29 of the CRPD as reason to overrule the Hungarian constitution.

“Determining a policy for allowing those with profound intellectual disabilities to exercise the right to vote is a complex and sensitive issue,” Farris said, “but what we know for sure is this: America’s legislators — and not a UN committee — should make this kind of policy decision.

“Parents in the United States are finding that homeschooling benefits their children with disabilities in more ways than a one-size-fits-all approach can ever achieve. The CRPD puts those rights at risk,” he said.

“We know that the eyes of the nation will be on the Virginia and New Jersey elections, but we can’t ignore the imminent threat posed by today’s hearing on Capitol Hill. We are urging people to call their senators and voice their opposition to the treaty,” said William Estrada, the Director of Federal Relations at HSLDA. “This is especially important if your senator is on the Foreign Relations Committee.”

The following senators are on the Foreign Relations Committee: Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Edward Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Edward Shaheen (D-NH), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Bob Corker (R-TN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Risch (R-ID), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL). Senators Paul and Rubio have already shown strong opposition to the treaty.

Obama is determined to pass Immigration Reform this year

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Remarks by the President on Immigration Reform on October 24, 2013
Released by The White House

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From The East Room

10:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please have a seat, everybody.  Good morning, and welcome to the White House.  Today I’m here with leaders from business, from labor, from faith communities who are united around one goal — finishing the job of fixing a broken immigration system.

This is not just an idea whose time has come; this is an idea whose time has been around for years now.  Leaders like all of you have worked together with Republicans and Democrats in this town in good faith for years to try to get this done.  And this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done.

Now, it’s no secret that the American people haven’t seen much out of Washington that they like these days.  The shutdown and the threat of the first default in more than 200 years inflicted real pain on our businesses and on families across the country.  And it was a completely unnecessary, self-inflicted wound with real costs to real people, and it can never happen again.

Even with the shutdown over, and the threat of default eliminated, Democrats and Republicans still have some really big disagreements — there are some just fundamentally different views about how we should move forward on certain issues.  On the other hand, as I said the day after the shutdown ended, that’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to work together on the things that we do agree on.

We should be able to work together on a responsible budget that invests in the things that we need to grow our economy and create jobs even while we maintain fiscal discipline.  We should be able to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans in hard times.

And we should pass immigration reform.  (Applause.)  We should pass immigration reform.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  It’s good for our people.  And we should do it this year.

Everybody knows that our current immigration system is broken.  Across the political spectrum, people understand that.  We’ve known it for years.  It’s not smart to invite some of the brightest minds from around the world to study here and then not let them start businesses here — we send them back to their home countries to start businesses and create jobs and invent new products someplace else.

It’s not fair to businesses and middle-class families who play by the rules when we allow companies that are trying to undercut the rules work in the shadow economy, to hire folks at lower wages or no benefits, no overtime, so that somehow they get a competitive edge from breaking the rules.  That doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to have 11 million people who are in this country illegally without any incentive or any way for them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, meet their responsibilities and permit their families then to move ahead.  It’s not smart.  It’s not fair.  It doesn’t make sense.  We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long.

Now, the good news is, this year the Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill by a wide, bipartisan majority that addressed all of these issues.  It’s a bill that would continue to strengthen our borders.  It would level the playing field by holding unscrupulous employers accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers.

It would modernize our legal immigration system, so that even as we train American workers for the jobs of the future, we’re also attracting highly-skilled entrepreneurs from beyond our borders to join with us to create jobs here in the United States.

It would make sure that everybody plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are here illegally — one that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes, paying a penalty, getting in line behind everyone who is trying to come here the right way.

So it had all the component parts.  It didn’t have everything that I wanted; it didn’t have everything that anybody wanted; but it addressed the core challenges of how we create a immigration system that is fair, that’s just, that is true to our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  And that’s passed the Senate by a bipartisan majority.  (Applause.)

So here’s what we also know — that the bill would grow the economy and shrink our deficits.  Independent economists have shown that if the Senate bill became law, over the next two decades our economy would grow by $1.4 trillion more than it would if we don’t pass the law.  It would reduce our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars.

So this isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.  Securing our borders; modernizing our legal immigration system; providing a pathway to earned, legalized citizenship; growing our economy; strengthening our middle class; reducing our deficits — that’s what common-sense immigration reform will do.

Now, obviously, just because something is smart and fair, and good for the economy and fiscally responsible and supported by business and labor — (laughter) — and the evangelical community and many Democrats and many Republicans, that does not mean that it will actually get done.  (Laughter.)  This is Washington, after all.

So everything tends to be viewed through a political prism and everybody has been looking at the politics of this.  And I know that there are some folks in this town who are primed to think, “Well, if Obama is for it, then I’m against it.”  But I’d remind everybody that my Republican predecessor was also for it when he proposed reforms like this almost a decade ago, and I joined with 23 Senate Republicans back then to support that reform.  I’d remind you that this reform won more than a dozen Republican votes in the Senate in June.

I’m not running for office again.  I just believe this is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  I just believe this is the right thing to do.  And I also believe that good policy is good politics in this instance.  And if folks are really that consumed with the politics of fixing our broken immigration system, they should take a closer look at the polls because the American people support this.  It’s not something they reject — they support it.  Everybody wins here if we work together to get this done.  In fact, if there’s a good reason not to pass this common-sense reform, I haven’t heard it.

So anyone still standing in the way of this bipartisan reform should at least have to explain why.  A clear majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.

Now, how do we move forward?  Democratic leaders have introduced a bill in the House that is similar to the bipartisan Senate bill.  So now it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not.

I do know — and this is good news — that many of them agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system across these areas that we’ve just discussed.  And what I’ve said to them, and I’ll repeat today, is if House Republicans have new and different, additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we want to hear them.  I’ll be listening.  I know that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, those who voted for immigration reform already, are eager to hear those additional ideas.  But what we can’t do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time, leave it for somebody else to solve sometime in the future.

Rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems.  This reform comes as close to anything we’ve got to a law that will benefit everybody now and far into the future.  So let’s see if we can get this done.  And let’s see if we can get it done this year.  (Applause.)

We’ve got the time to do it.  Republicans in the House, including the Speaker, have said we should act.  So let’s not wait.  It doesn’t get easier to just put it off.  Let’s do it now.  Let’s not delay.  Let’s get this done, and let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion.

To those of you who are here today, I want to just say one last thing and that is — thank you.  I want to thank you for your persistence.  I want to thank you for your activism.  I want to thank you for your passion and your heart when it comes to this issue.  And I want to tell you, you’ve got to keep it up.  Keep putting the pressure on all of us to get this done.  There are going to be moments — and there are always moments like this in big efforts at reform — where you meet resistance, and the press will declare something dead, it’s not going to happen, but that can be overcome.

And I have to say, Joe, as I look out at this room, these don’t look like people who are easily deterred.  (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think so.

THE PRESIDENT:  They don’t look like folks who are going to give up.  (Applause.)  You look fired up to make the next push.  And whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, I want you to keep working, and I’m going to be right next to you, to make sure we get immigration reform done.  It is time.  Let’s go get it done.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
10:59 A.M. EDT

Ex-Clinton WH Aide: Hillary’s Lessons From 2008 Put Her In The Driver’s Seat

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Bob Weiner

Bob Weiner

Nakia Gladden

Nakia Gladden

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Hillary Clinton is in the driver’s seat for the 2016 Presidential race and in position to make history as America’s first woman president if she learns the lessons and corrects the mistakes of her 2008 run, including her Iraq War vote explanation and her failure to capitalize in caucuses on primary victories in those states, assert ex-Clinton White House aide Robert Weiner and policy analyst Nakia Gladden in a Michigan Chronicle article just out.  The Michigan Chronicle has been named the top African-American newspaper in America six times in the last twelve years by the National Newspaper Association.

Weiner, a Democratic and national issues strategist who was the spokesman for three congressional committee chairmen before joining the White House staff, along with co-author Gladden, say: “With the cognoscenti of both parties and the media ever more certain Hillary Clinton – who won the 2008 Michigan primary — will run in 2016, and Clinton herself taking steps to allow the choice, she needs to look back and learn some lessons from her failed 2008 campaign before her adrenalin rushes her forward.  Even Bill Clinton said recently, ‘You must learn the lessons of your mistakes … without becoming a general who fights the last war.'”

Weiner and Gladden write: “Most significantly, she was reluctant to acknowledge that her vote to authorize the Iraq War in 2001 was against the national grain that evolved.  She did not backtrack until September 18, 2006, when she said to Meredith Vieiraon the Today Show, ‘If we knew then what we know now… I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way.’  It’s a point her close friendJames Carville had been saying for a year she should make.   On September 23, 2007, Tim Russert again dragged out of her on Meet the Press, ‘If I had known then what I know now…, I would not have voted the way that I did.’ Chris Matthews asserted that Russert ‘finally reeled the big marlin into the boat,’ not realizing she said it a year earlier. Both statements were too little too late. Gen. Wes Clark, one of her staunch supporters, told us that Hillary’s decision not to criticize the initial war action was a ‘general election decision.’  However, she never got to the general. Obama filled the anti-war vacuum.”

Weiner and Gladden continue: “Clinton recently narrowly avoided making a similar mistake on Syria which could have affected a 2016 run. President Obama planned missile attacks in Syria even though popular support was 3-1 against it.  At the last minute, just as the President was preparing an Oval office speech to announce the launch, a diplomatic solution materialized.  New Secretary of State Kerry made an off-the-cuff response to a reporter which became a Putin-Obama lifeline: ‘[Assad] could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.’  It also saved Hillary.  She had just met with Obama and was ready to support his launch.  Even Bill O’Reilly concedes that diplomacy is ‘now working.'”

Weiner and Gladden warn: “She will face repeated questions about Benghazi.  Democrats say it’s a ‘phony scandal,’ typical mid-level multi-agency bureaucrats harmonizing a talking points memo, combined with Congress denying State’s funding request for increased embassy security worldwide.  Indeed, just this September 29, the House finally passed a bill ‘fully funding the Administration’s request for embassy security,’ trumpeted in a press release by Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce(R-CA). Republicans know that funding denial was a legitimate counterpunch by Democrats.  Unanswered is why the Ambassador went to the unprotected outpost, but Hillary’s involvement was unlikely. As Obama’s heir, she will also be blamed for IRS disproportionately targeting conservative groups even though liberal groups were also peppered with questions.”

Weiner and Gladden recognize, “Bill is brilliant as ‘Secretary of Explaining,’ as President Obama called him, but he also speaks off the cuff.  Recently, Bill condemned Democrats for whining about ‘gridlock’ even though polling shows a majority blame it on Republican congressional obstructionism.  President Clinton will definitely be enormously helpful, but Hillary will sometimes have to keep the Big Dog on a leash.”

Weiner and Gladden assert, “The Ready for Hillary PAC is not just any ‘draft’ group.  Big names are signing onto their fundraising letters and working as advisors including Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Bill Clinton strategists James Carville and Harold Ickes, and Obama veterans. According to Communication Director Seth Bringman, the PAC now has impressive numbers: over 1,000,000 Facebook supporters, 10,000 donors, and 100,000 people with Ready for Hillary bumper stickers.  The staff’s enthusiasm is apparent.”

Weiner and Gladden add, “Her speaking tour is consolidating constituencies. She has recently supported gay marriage, a woman for President, and women’s health and birth control choice.  She forcefully opposed voter suppression of minorities and the recent government shutdown.  She just endorsed Terry McAuliffe for Virginia Governor, and she’s been lunching with President Obama and breakfasting with Vice President Biden. Congressional Black Caucus Dean John Conyers (D-Detroit) told us, ‘Opponents would hate to be against her for the nomination.’ Then he surveyed his staff who unanimously agreed, ‘It’s hers to lose.'”

Weiner and Gladden note, “Her resume, starting with Texas voter registration organizer, then US Congress committee staff, First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State, is unsurpassed.  Her 1995 ‘Women’s rights are human rights’ speech in Beijingas First Lady remains a standard for courage. Most recently at State, she helped topple Qaddafi, established elections inBurma including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, emphasized women’s rights throughout the world including standing up with and for rape victims, and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran – let alone being part of the Got-bin Laden Team.”

Weiner and Gladden suggest, “With Rasmussen showing her 63-12-4 over Vice President Biden and New York Governor Cuomo, Quinnipiac at 65-13-7, NBC at 60 to 11 over Biden and 7 for Elizabeth Warren, and a lead over Republicans Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz by at least eight points, it’s no wonder why Republicans are concerned about her as Democrats consolidate.”

The authors predict that “she will re-incorporate McAuliffe (former DNC Chair) and personal confidante Huma Abadin, widely respected inside Washington, back into her brain trust.  She will correct organizational errors of 2008 — including losing the delegates in the major Texas caucus after she won its primary, and trying to change the rules for counting her victoriousMichigan and Florida primaries after she won them when the states had violated the Party’s calendar.”

They point out that “the eternity between now and 2016 can change the field.  Past ‘inevitable’ candidacies disintegrated fromMario Cuomo and Howard Dean to Rick Perry and Ted Kennedy.  Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton came from nowhere a year in front to win.”

Weiner and Gladden conclude, “Right now, Clinton is in the driver’s seat – and if she wins, she will be a superbly competent and historic first woman American President.”

Robert Weiner, is a former Clinton White House spokesman, communications director for the House Government Operations Committee, senior staff for Congressmen John Conyers, Claude Pepper, Ed Koch, Charles Rangel, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, and wrote the epilogue for Michigan Chronicle Senior Editor Bankole Thompson’s groundbreaking book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty.”  Nakia Gladden is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.

Published in the Michigan Chronicle Today

Obama’s Weekly Address: Working Together on Behalf of the American People

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From The White House:

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Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
October 19, 2013
 

Hi everybody. This week, because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the government was reopened, and the threat of default was removed from our economy.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown. But the truth is, there were no winners in this. At a time when our economy needs more growth and more jobs, the manufactured crises of these last few weeks actually harmed jobs and growth. And it’s understandable that your frustration with what goes on in Washington has never been higher.

The way business is done in Washington has to change. Now that these clouds of crisis and uncertainty have lifted, we need to focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do – grow the economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity, and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.

It won’t be easy. But we can make progress. Specifically, there are three places where I believe that Democrats and Republicans can work together right away.

First, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, one that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further. There is no choice between growth and fiscal responsibility – we need both. So we’re making a serious mistake if a budget doesn’t focus on what you’re focused on: creating more good jobs that pay better wages. If we’re going to free up resources for the things that help us grow – education, infrastructure, research – we should cut what we don’t need, and close corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it has been in past years. Remember, our deficits are shrinking – not growing.

Second, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system. There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort, from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement. It would grow our economy. It would secure our borders. The Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support. Now the House should, too. The majority of Americans thinks this is the right thing to do. It can and should get done by the end of this year.

Third, we should pass a farm bill – one that America’s farmers and ranchers can depend on, one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need, and one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the longer-term certainty they deserve.

We won’t suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed. But we shouldn’t hold back on places where we do agree, just because we don’t think it’s good politics, or just because the extremes in our parties don’t like compromise. I’ll look for willing partners from either party to get important work done. There’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. Because that isn’t governing – it’s just hurting the people we were sent here to serve.

Those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job the best we can. We come from different parties, but we’re Americans first. And our obligations to you must compel all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of this country we love.

Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.

Thomas More Society Petitions U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Autocam’s Obamacare Case

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KENTWOOD, Mich., Oct. 15, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Today, the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, joined forces with Catholic Vote Legal Defense Fund and a Michigan law firm, to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent decision, denying the claims of Autocam, an international automotive manufacturer, and its owners, that Obamacare’s so-called “HHS mandate” abridges their federal constitutional and statutory rights to the free exercise of their religious faith as well as other legal rights. John Kennedy, CEO of Michigan-based family-owned company, Autocam, joined the company as well as its other family owners to urge the Justices to rule that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients (e.g., the so-called abortion pill, Plan B, and “Ella”), and sterilization.

Kennedy and his children, Paul, John, Margaret, and Thomas Kennedy, all faithfully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that contraception, abortion, and sterilization are serious wrongs. The HHS mandate, therefore, forces these petitioners to flout their deeply held religious convictions and operate their company in a manner that they sincerely hold to constitute grave wrongdoing.

Prior to the government’s implementation of the HHS mandate, Autocam had specifically designed a health insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan to exclude contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortion-inducing drugs, in full accord and harmony with its owners’ profound religious beliefs.

“Forcing citizens to violate their conscientious religious beliefs makes a mockery of the very notion of religious freedom,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. “This cannot be tolerated in a society that professes to honor fundamental civil liberties.” Even apart from the constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and free speech, the company and its owners are also protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion, absent a compelling interest for doing so and then only by resort to the least burdensome means. But the petitioners for Supreme Court review contend that providing insurance for birth control or other products or services that are widely available and affordable hardly qualifies as a compelling interest, and that even if that interest were deemed compelling, the government could have opted to use other means — such as providing free contraceptives, abortifacients, or sterilizations free of charge, or subsidizing their cheap and easy accessibility for all those desiring them, without burdening or curtailing anybody else’s religious liberties.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit on the ground that conducting business for profit is somehow wholly divorced from the religious beliefs of the business or its owners and operators. But Brejcha criticizes this ruling as reflecting a crabbed and unduly narrow view of religion, confining it to the sacred space inside the four walls of houses of worship. He argues that that morals as well as money-making have a key role to play in the marketplace; that religious faith shapes, informs and sustains one’s morals; and that a robust or meaningful religious faith must be practiced as well as professed in every aspect of life. He concludes, “Indeed, our criminal laws demand that American businesses as well as their owners act in accord with myriad laws designed to serve the public welfare and the common good, rather than maximization of profits. People of faith must not be coerced to check their religious liberties at the door when they enter the commercial marketplace.”

Read the Autocam petition filed with the United States Supreme Court here.

Obama’s Weekly Address: ‘Let’s Get Back to the Work of the American People’

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From The White House:

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WASHINGTON, DC— In this week’s address, President Obama discussed his meetings with members of Congress of both parties and the ongoing effort to reopen the government and remove the danger of default from our economy. The President urged Congress to pass a budget, put people back to work, and end this shutdown. In his message, the President also called for paying our bills, and preventing an economic shutdown.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, October 12, 2013.

 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
October 12, 2013
 

Good morning.

Over the past few days, I’ve met with Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress in an effort to reopen your government and remove the dangers of default from our economy.

It’s a positive development that House Republicans have agreed on the need to avoid the economic consequences of not meeting our country’s commitments. Because once the debt ceiling is raised, and the shutdown is over, there’s a lot we can accomplish together.

We’ve created seven and a half million new jobs in the past three and a half years. Now let’s create more. We’ve cut our deficits in half over the past four years. Now let’s do it in a smarter, balanced way that lets us afford to invest in the things we need to grow.

The truth is, there’s a lot we can agree on. But one thing we have to agree on is that there is no good reason anyone should keep suffering through this shutdown. I met with some really innovative small business owners on Friday who’ve already lost contracts, lost customers, and put hiring on hold – because the pain of this Republican shutdown has trickled down to their bottom lines. It’s hurting the very citizens that our government exists to serve. That’s why a growing number of reasonable Republicans say it should end now.

And it wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Because damage to America’s sterling credit rating wouldn’t just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money. Students paying for college. Newlyweds buying a home. It would amount to a new tax – a Republican default tax – on every family and business in America.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not supposed to be this way. Manufacturing crises to extract massive concessions isn’t how our democracy works, and we have to stop it. Politics is a battle of ideas, but you advance those ideas through elections and legislation – not extortion.

I know you’re frustrated by what you see in your nation’s capital right now. But because it’s easy to get lost in or give up on the political back-and-forth, I want you to remember: this is not normal. Our government is closed for the first time in 17 years. A political party is risking default for the first time since the 1700s. This is not normal. That’s why we have to put a stop to it. Not only because it’s dangerous, but because it saps everyone’s faith in our extraordinary system of self-government. And that hurts us all.

Whether it’s the work of creating jobs, growing the economy, or getting our fiscal house in order for the long haul, we’ve got a lot of work to do – and constant brinksmanship doesn’t let us do it.

It inflicts real pain on real people. It creates spasms of uncertainty for business owners. It threatens our nation’s credit and standing in the world. And the longer it goes on – the more frequently this brinksmanship is inflicted – the more we’ll see markets react, businesses put off plans to spend and hire, and unemployment claims tick up. The hundreds of thousands of hardworking civil servants who go even longer without pay will worry that they won’t be able to cover their bills, and that their own creditworthiness will be ruined for no good reason at all. And I want to thank all the neighbors and local business owners who’ve shown acts of kindness to these Americans who serve their country. I ask that same spirit of citizenship from lenders who do business with these folks. Because they’re being punished enough through no fault of their own.

So let’s pass a budget, put people back to work, and end this Republican shutdown. Let’s pay our bills, and prevent an economic shutdown. Then let’s get back to the work of the American people. Because there is so much else we should be focusing our energies on right now. We’ve got to create more jobs, and kids to educate, and an immigration system to fix. We’ve got more troops to bring home, and a middle class to rebuild, and opportunity to restore. There’s so much America has going for it in this new century. And as always, this country works better when we work together.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Values Voter Summit: The first major 2016 presidential straw poll

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Update: Ted Cruz wins big in 2016 presidential straw poll 

Values Voter Summit Straw Poll
Straw Poll Ballot to Feature Possible Presidential Candidates

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On Saturday one of the first major presidential straw poll events of the 2016 election cycle will be held at FRC Action’s eighth annual Values Voter Summit. The ballot will feature the following possible presidential candidates, several of whom will be speaking at the Summit:

Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Susana Martinez, Governor Mike Pence, Governor Scott Walker, Governor Sam Brownback, Congressman Eric Cantor, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Marco Rubio, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Chris Christie, Governor Mike Huckabee, Governor Bobby Jindal, Congressman Paul Ryan, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Mike Lee, Governor Rick Perry and Senator Rick Santorum. There will also be a spot for a write-in candidate.

A vice presidential straw poll is also included, and includes the same candidates. The straw poll winners will be announced tomorrow, Saturday, October 12, at 3 p.m. Eastern, followed by a press conference to discuss the results.

President Obama Meets with House Republicans

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Readout of the President’s Meeting with House Republicans From The White House

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The President had a good meeting with members of the House Republican Leadership this evening; the meeting lasted approximately an hour and a half. The President, along with the Vice President, Treasury Secretary Lew, Denis McDonough and Rob Nabors listened to the Republicans present their proposal. After a discussion about potential paths forward, no specific determination was made. The President looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle. The President’s goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we’ve incurred, reopen the government and get back to the business of growing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class.

President Obama Meets with the House Democratic Caucus

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From The White House:
Readout of the President’s Meeting with the House Democratic Caucus

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Today, the President met with the House Democratic Caucus at the White House.  The meeting lasted over an hour.  The President thanked the House Democrats for their support of the clean, short-term continuing resolution that would re-open the government and end the unnecessary pain this shutdown is causing families across the country.  The President and Congressional Democrats will continue to urge the Republican Leadership to allow the bill passed by the Senate to have an up or down vote — a bill that, if brought to the floor, would pass with a bipartisan majority and end this damaging government shutdown.  The President and the House Democrats reaffirmed their shared belief that we cannot let one faction of the Republicans in the House demand a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying the bills we have already incurred.  The President discussed his desire, once the threat of default is removed and the government is reopened, to engage with both sides on a discussion of how we achieve a broader budget agreement that puts job creation, economic growth, and a strong middle class front and center.  The President is grateful to the members of the House Democratic caucus for continuing to promote those policies we need to achieve a better bargain for the middle class.  He reminded them that what they are all fighting for has nothing to do with him, or other party leaders – but is about fighting for working families and building the ladders of opportunity so everyone who works hard has a chance to succeed.

Alveda King: Put the Political Strife Out to Pasture

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OPINION, Oct. 10, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The following is submitted by Alveda King of King for America:

I have few regrets in my life. At the top of the list is the demise of two children in my womb, and one miscarriage. Next to that, I regret having said to a group of peers that my Uncle M. L. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) was a Republican. My Grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. was a registered Republican. Uncle M. L. was an independent. I assumed that since Granddaddy was a Republican, Uncle M. L. was too. After all, before the election of President John F. Kennedy, the majority of African American voters were Republicans. Granddaddy convinced a large block of Blacks to vote for President John Kennedy after he helped to get my uncle out of jail during those turbulent days. Uncle M. L. tended to vote Democrat, but remained independent because he found weaknesses in both parties. The truth of the matter is that God isn’t a Republican or a Democrat or a Tea Party voter. God doesn’t vote. The squabbling and division among the parties is tragic.

Wise Christian leaders such as Dr. Billy Graham and others who have visited the White House over the years to advise sitting presidents have focused on the times and not the parties. I’m beginning to understand the wisdom of such. As a result, I am no longer endorsing political candidates, choosing rather to vote responsibly and to follow the Bible instructions that we must pray for all people, including those in authority.

As a Christian leader and civil rights activist, Uncle M. L. followed a pattern of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate. He wrote: “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both — not the servant or master of either.” In a 1958 interview, he expressed his view that neither party was perfect, saying, “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”

As one who has been elected to office as a Georgia State Representative (D), served as a presidential appointee (R) and who has often voted as an Independent, I can truly say that we would all be better off without the political squabbles that tend to divide us.

Is Government Shutdown ‘Unbiblical?’

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Image via The Points Guy

“Ideally, the government shut-down would motivate church thinkers more carefully to consider God’s vocation for the state.” — IRD President Mark Tooley

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Shutdown of the U.S. government has elicited a spectrum of responses from church officials this week. Temperate responses from oldline Protestant agencies and officials contrast with a declaration by Sojourners’ Jim Wallis faulting “a clear hostility to government itself, government per se, from a group of political extremists that I believe is unbiblical.”

Most church pronouncements on the government shut-down have been mild. Unitarian Universalists, Bread for the World, Oldline Protestants (United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church) and the Islamic Society of North America declared they are “opposing efforts to allow the will of the few to threaten the common good.” But otherwise their statement is relatively benign.

Two United Methodist bishops have issued statements. Bishop Marcus Matthews of Washington, D.C. notes: “We are a nation that trusts in God.” And he warns against “finger-pointing,” while still aiming his own jibe against “efforts by a few to threaten the common good.”

Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner pondered “The Government We Deserve.” He notes: “All of the traits in Washington that we decry are actually an outgrowth of the messed-up values in our whole culture.” He faults Americans’ over spending, their “entitlement” attitude, and their “unruly behavior.”

Coyner suggests the answer is to be “honest about the nature of human sin” and “confess that we all are the root of the problems we see in Washington,” and “pray that God will forgive us for choosing the government we deserve.”

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

“Church leaders urging prayers for God’s help are faithful to their churchly vocation. Picking partisan sides, or portraying government as primarily a cornucopia of endless entitlements, is not. Ideally, the government shut-down would motivate church thinkers more carefully to consider God’s vocation for the state, starting with Romans 13.”

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