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Chuck Colson, founder of both the Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview — who last wrote for National Review Online on religious freedom less than a month ago — died on April 21 at the age of 80. Friends and colleagues remember him.
Chuck Colson was a skilled practitioner of hardball politics who rose to the highest levels of American politics as a trusted adviser to Richard Nixon. But nothing he achieved there would compare to what he accomplished as an evangelical leader and founder of the global ministry Prison Fellowship. Chuck’s life was the embodiment of the truism found in Scripture that what the enemy means for evil, God can turn for good. He demonstrated in his own life that, with Christ, there is always hope for a better future for us all, a future free from bitterness or regret. Through his ministry, Chuck brought hope and the Gospel to millions languishing in prisons all over the world. His acceptance speech upon receiving the Templeton Prize in 1993 remains one of the most moving and eloquent defenses of the transformative power of the Gospel I have ever read. Chuck was also an influential figure in the larger culture, a behind-the-scenes player in the rising political aspirations of evangelicals and an important interlocutor in Catholic-evangelical dialogue and cooperation. Chuck’s social and theological views were firm, but he expressed them with civility, dignity, grace, and a respect for others with whom he disagreed, something which is all too often missing in our civic discourse.
The first book I read after I came to Christ (other than the Bible) was Chuck’s Watergate memoir, Born Again. The book and Chuck’s testimony had a major impact on me and millions of others. Along with the passing of D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell in recent years, Chuck’s death marks the passing of a remarkable generation of leaders who ushered evangelicals from political and cultural exile into the mainstream of American life. Beyond that, he was a brilliant and good man who used his talents, energy, and intelligence to touch others with the love of God. It was a life well lived, and he will be greatly missed.
— Ralph E. Reed Jr. is president of Century Strategies and the former head of the Christian Coalition.
History, we are assured, is written by the winners. But when it comes to American presidential politics, the losers have plenty of say.
Rick Santorum’s exit from the Republican presidential contest this past week cleared the way for Mitt Romney to win the party’s nomination. But over the course of a low-budget campaign that relied almost entirely on volunteers and was met with disdain by the GOP establishment, Santorum won more than 3 million votes and 11 state primaries — the most by a conservative insurgent candidate since Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976.
Santorum has been denounced as a sore loser, a religious extremist, a crank. MSNBC host Martin Bashir referred to him as a theocratic version of Stalin. One columnist alleged in the Daily Beast that Santorum would use the power of the presidency to impose “his ideal of a Christian America” on the nation. The New Yorker compared him to Islamic extremists who seek to execute their opponents, adding that we need separation of church and state so that “Santorum and his party can’t impose dominion of one narrow, sectarian, Bible-based idea of the public good.”
But Santorum and his supporters may have the last laugh. From John C. Fremont to William Jennings Bryan in the 19th century to Barry Goldwater, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Ronald Reagan in our time, losing presidential candidates have previewed the ideological trajectory of their parties — and often of the nation.
Romney would be wise to remember this in his general-election campaign. Of course he can’t neglect independents, or women, or Hispanics, or other nontraditional Republican constituencies. But his immediate task is to consolidate conservative support and unify the party. The best way to do that is to appropriate the best parts of Santorum’s message.
Santorum follows the trailblazing evangelical candidates Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee, who personified the rise and the maturation of social conservatives as a critical component of the Republican coalition.
In the Democratic Party, Howard Dean — his candidacy fueled by fiery online enthusiasm for his antiwar views — signaled the decline of the centrist New Democrats, foreshadowing the emergence four years later of a freshman U.S. senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. Today Obama governs as the most left-of-center president in history, while the Democratic Leadership Council is shuttered.
In the primaries, Santorum outperformed Romney among two key demographic groups, one religious and cultural, the other socioeconomic — and Romney needs both to win in November.
The first group was evangelicals and tea party voters; there is remarkable overlap between them. According to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s analysis of network exit polls, more than half of voters who cast a ballot in a Republican presidential primary or caucus through mid-March were self-identified evangelicals. In 2008, they made up 23 percent of all voters in the general election. Romney will need them to turn out in even larger numbers to defeat Obama. (He already has a running start; Romney won almost a third of the evangelical vote during the primaries, and a majority of tea party voters in Florida and other critical states.)
The Republican presidential contest has been incorrectly depicted as a battle between Romney’s economy-focused message and Santorum’s emphasis on social issues and family values. That is a false dichotomy. Social scientists have long noted the social pathologies that underlie chronic poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for instance, more than half of Americans living in extreme poverty are children in households headed by a single parent.
This link between economic and social policy was a unique theme of Santorum’s campaign, an innovation that broadened his appeal. On the stump, he often cited a 2009 Brookings Institution study that found that Americans who failed to complete high school, did not work full time and had children out of wedlock had a 76 percent chance of living in poverty. By contrast, those who earned a high school diploma, had a full-time job and waited until marriage to have kids had only a 2 percent chance of living in poverty.
There is no way to restore America’s economic prosperity, Santorum argued, without strengthening marriage and family. “It’s a huge, huge opportunity for us,” he said when he described the findings in a January presidential debate in South Carolina, drawing big applause from the crowd.
Rather than causing tension within the Republican coalition, the party’s pro-family and pro-growth messages work together. Romney must run a general-election campaign in which the cultural agenda and the fiscal one reinforce each other.
He must also avoid retreating from his defense of unborn life, the institution of marriage and the right of religious organizations and charities to be free from the Obamacare mandate governing their health-care coverage. Otherwise, he will confirm the worst fears of those faith-based voters who wonder if his positions are based on convenience, not conviction. He need not lead with these issues, but when they arise, he should lean into them and forthrightly state his views. (Think John McCain at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum in 2008.)
As he works to close the gender gap with Obama, Romney and his team must keep in mind that the largest chasm in the electorate is actually the “marriage gap,” in which Republican presidential candidates have historically won married voters with children by wide margins. As amply demonstrated by the kerfuffle this past week over a liberal pundit’s comments about women who work at home, the gender gap can be narrowed by appealing to women who value their time with family and children as much as they value their careers outside the home.
The second group with which Santorum performed extremely well was voters who did not graduate from college and who earn less than $100,000 a year. Working-class voters in battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa will be a key vulnerability for Obama in the general election. Romney needs them. Carrying only college-educated voters making more than $100,000 a year is a recipe for electoral death for the Grand Old Party.
On the night of the Iowa caucuses (which he would only later learn he had won), Santorum spoke movingly of his Italian immigrant grandfather, who came to America as a young man and worked in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania until the age of 72. Santorum also called for revitalizing the U.S. manufacturing base by cutting federal taxes on those companies to zero. Whatever one thinks of his policy prescriptions, he auditioned a compelling theme for Romney’s general-election campaign — one that could combine the details of Romney’s father’s humble beginnings with a plan for economic renewal based on lower taxes and fewer regulations, not on Obama-style bailouts.
Predicting vice presidential selections is a little like playing fantasy football on a Ouija board. But whether it is Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee or yes, even Rick Santorum, Romney would be wise to select a well-qualified running mate who can energize evangelicals, faithful Roman Catholics and conservatives, while also appealing to women and independents.
His choice will be subjected to an all-out assault — just ask Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin. But adding a compelling running mate who can help drive a winning message about economic prosperity and stronger families would serve Romney well in his battle against Obama’s well-funded attack machine.
Ralph Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
The furor over President Obama’s birth control mandate has swiftly entered a new plane, with supporters and opponents alike calling the subject a potent weapon for the November elections and mounting what they say will be prolonged campaigns to shape public perceptions of the issue: Is it about religious liberty or women’s health?
Roman Catholic bishops, evangelicals, other conservatives and the Republican presidential candidates have dismissed as meaningless the effort by President Obama last week to soften the rule, which requires that employees of religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals, but not churches, receive free contraception in their health plans.
Sensing an opportunity, Congressional Republicans have leapt into the fray. An amendment to block any health mandate that violates a business owner’s beliefs is before the Senate — and a target of intense lobbying. A House committee is holding a hearing on Thursday to ask, “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”
But the political repercussions could be much wider. “This was an unexpected gift,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Republican strategist. He said religious conservatives saw the mandate as part of a web of Obama assaults on faith and values, and an ominous sign of how the president would carry out his health care plan if re-elected.
Liberal women’s health and rights groups point to evidence, including a New York Times/CBS News poll released Tuesday, indicating that most Americans, including a majority of Catholics, support requiring religiously affiliated institutions to provide contraception coverage. With ad campaigns, phone banks and appeals to members of Congress during their home leave next week, they hope to rebrand the debate as one over women’s access to basic health care. They make comparisons to the outpouring of support for Planned Parenthood that forced the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation for breast cancer research this month to reverse its decision to halt donations.
“The United States is more than 51 percent women, and I can say that we will mobilize our base and we will outnumber the other side,” said Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, which works to elect women who support abortion rights to Congress.
Her organization is one of more than 40 — including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Naral Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.org and the Service Employees International Union — that formed a Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Care and are asking millions of supporters to get involved.
On Friday, Mr. Obama sought to defuse the conflict by saying insurance companies, rather than religious employers themselves, would pay the costs of birth control.
But the Catholic bishops said their basic objection remained. “We will therefore continue — with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency — our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government,” they declared. Other “preventive services” mandated by the health law are aimed at disease, the bishops wrote, “and pregnancy is not a disease,” an implicit rejection of the administration’s characterization of this as a health issue.
The bishops and others are pushing for a reversal in Congress, which some say could happen in the Republican-controlled House. But with the Senate in Democratic hands, a legislative resolution is unlikely, so both sides are pressing their cases more widely, with an eye to November’s battle for control of Congress as well as the presidency.
To that end, bishops around the country are planning media campaigns, including radio and television advertisements, to denounce what they call a violation of conscience and the First Amendment. At the same time, they are asking parish priests to raise the matter with congregations and to circulate petitions.
Conservative evangelical groups, even though most do not oppose contraception on theological grounds, have taken up the cause with equal force. Their leaders argue that a government mandate forcing any religious group to act against its beliefs is a threat to all religions. Major evangelical groups that openly opposed Mr. Obama and his health care plan in the past see this as a new affront and a new opportunity for attack.
The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents thousands of churches in 40 denominations, “will be working vigorously” against the mandate, said Galen Carey, the association’s vice president for government relations — lending substance to the statement last week by Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Baptist minister, that “we are all Catholics now.”
Evangelical leaders say they would be outraged by the mandate in any case, but many also believe that it will bring them political gains. Mr. Reed, the conservative strategist, said that even if a majority of Americans expressed general support for requiring contraceptive coverage — and even if, as he believes, the economy remained the primary issue — getting conservative and religious voters more fired up could make a difference.
“Among key voter groups in key battleground states, this issue in combination with others is not going to be helpful to Obama,” he said.
Women’s health advocates, though, insist that they will win this fight.
“Women are coming out of the woodwork, saying, ‘They’re attacking birth control? You’ve got to be kidding!’ ” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for policy and communications of Planned Parenthood. “The people who vote against birth control and vote against health care — they are going to have boxed themselves into a very small corner.”
Read the article at NYTimes.com.
A group of Republican lawmakers is protesting the removal a reference to God in the patch logo for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO).
The 35 lawmakers, led by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz urging them to restore the logo with a reference to God.
Forbes warned that the action taken by the RCO could set a “dangerous precedent” when it comes to religion and the military.
"The action taken by the RCO suggests that all references to God, regardless of their context, must be removed from the military,” Forbes wrote. “As we are confident that your legal advisors would not suggest that censorship is required for compliance with the First Amendment, we ask that you reverse this perplexing decision.”
The patch logo was changed after a military atheist group, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, protested the reference to God on the patch. The patch has a saying on it in Latin, which is common for military patches, that tranlates to: “Doing God’s Work with Other People’s Money.”
The saying was then changed last month to say: “Doing Miracles with Other People’s Money.”
he RCO is an office created in 2003 that expedites weapons systems and reports to a board of directors that includes the Air Force secretary and chief of staff.
This isn't the first time Forbes has gotten invovled with God and the government.
In November, Forbes introduced a bill to reaffirm "In God We Trust" as the country's motto. The bill supports showing the motto in all American public schools and buildings.
In response, President Obama suggested the legislation was a waste of time.
"I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work," Obama said in November according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
House Republicans also passed a bill last month that allows for religious symbols to be displayed a military memorials and cemeteries in response to a federal appeals court decision that found a cross on a San Diego war memorial was unconstitutional.
The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hudson, February 6, 2012 Wisconsin Faith and Freedom Coalition (WIFFC) today announced they will be holding the Reviving the American Dream event. This event, an outreach to Hispanic voters of faith, will be held March 30th at Fox River Christian Church in Waukesha. Confirmed speakers for this event are Faith and Freedom Coalition Founder Ralph Reed and Former US Attorney General and highest serving Hispanic Government Official Alberto Gonzales.
President of the Wisconsin Faith and Freedom Coalition Tony Nasvik:
“Wisconsin Faith and Freedom Coalition (WIFFC) has an opportunity to forge a long term relationship with the Hispanic community through the WIFFC organization. This is an opportunity that is conceived out of the necessity to maintain strong Judeo-Christian principles in our great country. The strength of faith in Hispanics is what provides real hope and promise of a continued legacy of Judeo-Christian principles in our Republic.”
Reviving the American Dream will provide music and guest speakers, the event will run from 6pm-9pm.
To receive event updates Register online at wisconsinffc.com.
For more information please contact Jesse Garza at email@example.com.
Faith and Freedom Coalition, an issues advocacy organization under Section 501(c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Code.