Archive | Politics

Did President Trump just eliminate the contraceptive mandate on the first day?

Readers of this blog know that I have written extensively about Obamacare’s controversial contraceptive mandate. In fact, the most viral post I have ever written on this site was about this issue. The mandate has been controversial because it forces employers to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients–even if those employers object to buying such coverage on religious grounds. The Christian owners of Hobby Lobby fought this all the way to the Supreme Court and won. But the problematic mandate still stands, and other cases are pending. 

President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare. If I’m reading this correctly, that would allow the new secretary to get rid of the mandate. Here’s section two of the order:

To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

I’m not a lawyer, so we’ll see how this pans out. And you can be sure I’ll be following this one closely.

Mike Pence did not sign a law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay people

If Vice-President Mike Pence thought that his public scolding from the cast of Hamilton would be the last he’d hear on the subject, he knows better now. And so do all of his neighbors. The Washington Post reports that about 200 protestors marched through Pence’s new D.C. neighborhood in order “to protest what they consider his anti-gay views.” The protestors didn’t just carry signs. They marched through Pence’s neighborhood with speakers blaring music and with some of the protestors performing obscenities in the middle of the street (there’s a video in the Post‘s coverage). The Post‘s report describes an ugly spectacle brimming with animus towards Pence and anyone else who holds his views.

Among other things, what caught my eye in this story is how The Washington Post describes Pence’s “anti-gay” offenses:

As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender customers — legislation that sparked a national uproar and threats of boycotts until the legislature reversed course.

Anyone who remembers what happened in Indiana in 2015 should be appalled at how irresponsible and inaccurate this statement is from The Washington Post. Mike Pence did not sign a law that allows business owners to refuse service to gay people. He signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prevents the state from placing an excessive burden on religious freedom. The law doesn’t even mention gay people. The law he signed is nearly identical to the federal law which has been the law of the land since 1993. To say that the law allows business owners to refuse service to gay people is grossly inaccurate. But it sure does serve the propaganda interests of activists who want the government to force business owners to participate in gay weddings in violation of their consciences.

One crucial fact is often missed in these kinds of reports, so it’s important to reiterate. The actual business owners who have declined participation in gay weddings do not refuse service to gay people. In every instance where this has happened across the country, the business owner has had a long history of serving (and sometimes employing) gay people. The florist in Washington State, for example, had already served a gay couple for nearly a decade when she declined to participate in their wedding ceremony. She was happy to serve them. In fact, they were her friends. She just couldn’t violate her conscience and participate in their wedding. That is not discrimination against gay people. It’s simply her religious conviction that she cannot lend her creative expression to help celebrate what her faith forbids.

Contrast that situation with the fashion designers who are refusing to dress Donald Trump’s family for the inauguration this weekend. These designers object to lending their creative services to a man (and his family) who deeply offends them. There is an animus involved with their refusal that is not present in the case of florist. As Jim Campbell observes:

The designers’ objections are tinged with animosity toward the people whom they refuse to serve… They object to merely associating with Donald Trump or the female members of his family. And these fashion moguls seemingly won’t design any clothes for the Trumps, regardless of the event that they’re for.

In contrast, [Christian business owners like the florist] serve all people, regardless of their political views, race, sex or sexual orientation. What they can’t do, however, is speak all messages. So while they’ll gladly express certain messages for all people, there are some messages that they can’t speak for anyone.

I can hardly believe that these religious freedom stories are so inaccurately portrayed in the press. It’s no wonder activists are showing up in Pence’s neighborhood protesting his “anti-gay” views. But I wonder if these protestors really understand what his views are. If they are reading inaccurate reports like the one in The Washington Post, they may not know very much.

“I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.”

Meredith Maran had an interesting essay in The New York Times over the weekend: “I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.” In it, she describes her “marriage” to her lesbian partner in 2008 and the subsequent dissolution of their relationship in 2013. She regrets her gay marriage and divorce, but it is not because she is against gay marriage in principle. Rather she says this: Continue Reading →

Are counter-imperial readings of the Bible about to make a comeback?

Over the weekend, Mike Bird made a canny prediction on Twitter:

If you are not familiar with “empire criticism,” it is an approach to reading the Bible (especially the New Testament) that approaches Scripture as a “coded” critique of imperial regimes. According to this approach, those who are reading the biblical text carefully will notice parallels between gospel terminology and that of the first century Caesar cult. When read in that light, it is clear that the gospel is meant to oppose imperial regimes–especially the mighty American imperial regime that is afflicting the world. Continue Reading →

When “fake news” comes from both right and left

Albert Mohler has a really thoughtful commentary on “fake news” today. He is in large part responding to Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post on the same subject. Bailey is lamenting the fact that too many evangelicals have too much credulity toward “fake news” and too much incredulity toward real news delivered according to real standards of journalism.

Mohler is sympathetic with Pulliam Bailey on this point. He agrees that there really is a qualitative difference between mainstream outlets and other “news” sources that have no editorial accountability. But Mohler also raises the very real problem that mainstream outlets have with detecting their own ideological bias, which sometimes distorts their reporting and which has led many conservative Americans to believe that “fake news” is the stock-in-trade of mainstream outlets.

I think Mohler is making a point here that newsrooms need to come to terms with. Liberal bias in mainstream outlets is real. And when it becomes the vehicle for the bullying false narratives of the far left, it has real life consequences for real people. It also has the effect of driving the bullied away from those outlets. Continue Reading →

Is the new head of the EPA a “climate change denialist”?

I know that climate change policy is highly controversial with ideological interests driving both sides of the debate. It is extremely frustrating, therefore, when news reports depart from “straight” reporting and delve into advocacy for one side or the other. I think we’ve already seen some of that in some of the reporting on Scott Pruitt’s recent nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).*

Earlier today, I heard the personalities on “Morning Joe” discussing Pruitt’s nomination and expressing fears that Pruitt denies the reality of global climate change—the implication being that conservatives are “science deniers,” etc. Their discussion seemed to be based on The New York Times’s coverage, which has this headline: “Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.

My issue here is not so much with the policy substance but with the reporting. The New York Times‘s headline says Pruitt is a climate change “denialist,” which I take to mean that Pruitt denies that there is such a thing as climate change. But is that headline accurate? When you actually read the reporting, the authors base this claim on a National Review article that Pruitt co-authored earlier this year. The New York Times quoted from this portion of Pruitt’s article: Continue Reading →

Trump is not with social conservatives on gay marriage, but we already knew that.

“60 Minutes” aired an interview earlier this evening with President-elect Donald Trump. It was wide-ranging, but I want to focus attention on two items dealing with abortion, gay marriage, and the Supreme Court. Trump’s response to questions on these topics is not encouraging for those of us who believe in the transcendent nature of these particular issues. You can read the exchange about abortion in the following excerpt from a transcript:

Lesley Stahl: One of the things you’re going to obviously get an opportunity to do, is name someone to the Supreme Court. And I assume you’ll do that quickly?

Donald Trump: Yes. Very important.

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint– are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen– I’m going to– I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very—

Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law–

Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be pro-life, they’ll be– in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and–

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?

Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.

Lesley Stahl: By state—no some —

Donald Trump: Yeah.

Donald Trump: Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.

Lesley Stahl: And that’s OK?

Donald Trump: Well, we’ll see what happens. It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand. That has a long, long way to go.

Even though Trump clearly wants to appoint Justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, it appears that Trump can’t bring himself to state what is plainly the view of pro-lifers. We are in fact trying to end abortion-on-demand, and that does mean passing laws that will lead to some women not being able to access abortions. That is certainly a controversial view, but it is not a difficult one to understand. It is the pro-life view, and that Trump cannot find the words to say as much is telling.

Moreover, when asked if he’s okay for women to get abortions in states that make it legal, he punts. He doesn’t say whether he would support that or not. All of this adds up to one conclusion. Trump does not have a consistent and coherent pro-life point of view, and that is a huge problem for those of us who put the sanctity of human life as the most important concern.

Here is the exchange on gay marriage.

Lesley Stahl: One of the groups that’s expressing fear are the LGBTQ group. You–

Donald Trump: And yet I mentioned them at the Republican National Convention. And–

Lesley Stahl: You did.

Donald Trump: Everybody said, “That was so great.” I have been, you know, I’ve been-a supporter.

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?

Donald Trump: It– it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.

Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that–

Donald Trump: It’s done. It– you have– these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.

Notice what Trump does here. He dodges the direct question about whether or not he supports gay marriage. Rather, he says that the Supreme Court has settled the issue and therefore his views on the matter are irrelevant. When Stahl points out that he will appoint judges that can overturn the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Trump says that Obergefell is “settled” law and that he’s “fine” with how the Supreme Court settled it.

Did you catch the difference between the abortion answer and the gay marriage answer? When it comes to abortion, Trump wants to appoint judges that will overturn Roe v. Wade. Even though Roe is “settled” law, Trump favors overturning it. Yet on marriage, Trump is unwilling to oppose this “settled” law. Why? Why would Trump be willing to appoint justices to overturn Roe but not to overturn Obergefell? The reason is really simple. These issues that drive social conservatives are not issues that he cares about.

Joe Scarborough warned social conservatives in July that Trump is not with them on gay marriage. Scarborough says,

It really speaks to Donald Trump’s worldview that he hasn’t really shown during the primary campaign… Social conservatives, if Trump is elected, duck because he’s not on your side on these issues. It’s not like this is the first time we’ve been saying that. He does not care. He has a more open view, and certainly he’s more in line at least with millennial voters and with an awful lot of voters. So that wasn’t a real surprise to any of us that know Donald. It may be a surprise, though, to Jerry Falwell Juniors that go out and say certain things…

Bottom Line: Donald Trump is not a social conservative, and he doesn’t behave like one. And he’s not going to govern like one either.

Michael Moore, Joe Scarborough discuss the election of Donald Trump

Michael Moore predicted five months ago that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election. He knew then what the coastal elites just learned on Tuesday–that the Democratic Party is out of touch with its working-class voter base.

Moore appeared on “Morning Joe” this morning to discuss the election and its aftermath. It’s a fascinating conversation revealing how liberals are processing this election. It also reveals that the divide in our country is not going to abate now that the election is over. If Moore is right, it is only going to intensify. Liberals are not making their peace with Trump.

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