Religion

Texans Fight Back Against Cuts

(Flickr/WeNews)

It's hard to overstate just how dire the situation is around women's health care in Texas. The state has the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country and one in four women are uninsured. After cutting family-planning funding by around two-thirds last legislative session, conservative lawmakers are now standing by their decision to cut off Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program, a move that ended $35 million in federal funding.

Romney's Issue with Evangelicals

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Much has been made about Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative base. He's polling even or ahead in Mississippi and Alabama before tonight's primaries, but given past performances, he'd need an act of God to win a Southern state. Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative vote might be just such a miracle, but it still seems somewhat unfathomable given Public Policy Polling's sample that puts evangelicals as 70 percent of likely Republican voters in Mississippi and 68 percent in Alabama.

That same PPP poll found that voters in these states didn't believe in evolution by large margins—60 percent in Alabama and 66 percent in Mississippi.

Tinderbox in Israel

Discrimination against Palestinians in the country is reaching frightening levels. 

(Flickr/tamar_levine)

This is the second in a two-part series on Israel's policies toward its Palestinian minority. To read the first part, click here.

A few weeks ago an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset was interrupted repeatedly by a female member of a far right party. He finally told her to “shut up,” whereupon she stood up and poured a cup of water over his head.

The video went viral, and the joke was: “The only good Arab is a wet Arab.”

Are Republicans Backing Away from the Contraception Fight?

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)

Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record.

Virginia Passes Sonogram Bill After All

(Flickr/mobeans)

In the end, even Jon Stewart couldn't kill the Virginia ultrasound bill. After more than a week of protests and national attention, the state Senate passed an amended version of the measure Tuesday afternoon which will require women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound 24 hours ahead of the procedure. The Senate did unanimously pass an exemption for victims of rape and incest, but other amendments fell flat, including one to mandate insurance coverage of the sonograms. The House has already passed a version of the bill and it appears now to be headed for law.

Reproductive Rights: I've Got Some Good News and Some Bad News

(Flickr/WeNews)

It's hard to relax these days (though I still haven't tried yoga.) Take the current fight around reproductive rights. Pro-choice advocates of women's health have heard plenty of good news in the past few days. The trouble is, it's almost always been tempered by bad news. See what I mean:

Pre-Abortion Sonogram Debate

Where Are All These Atheist Politicians?

(Flickr/gwilmore)

Throughout the 2012 race Rick Santorum has tried his best to distance his campaign from his image as a vehicle for the religious right. He has scorned the media for asking questions on the culture wars, spends his days touring the Midwest to tout his plan for manufacturing, all while leaving social moralizing at the dog whistling level. But on Sunday, the old fire and brimstone Santorum was back in full force in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos when the discussion turned to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on the separation between church and state. "What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up," Santorum said.

Santorum's Double Standard

To follow-up on Jamelle's analysis of Rick Santorum's repudiation of fundamental First Amendment values, it's worth considering some comments made by Santorum in 2008, when he wasn't running for president and could be even more candid:

Rick Santorum's Cross to Bear

Rick Santorum and this guy go way back. (Flickr/

Apparently, Rick Santorum is displeased that he's being forced to talk about stuff like contraception, and Satan's war on America, when other candidates aren't getting the same kind of questions. One of his aides made the complaint to conservative journalist Byron York:

But specifically religious questioning of Romney is as rare as specific Romney statements about Mormon beliefs. Given the current grilling of Santorum, that is a source of growing frustration to Santorum's advisers. "Why is Mormonism off limits?" asks one. "I'm not saying it's a seminal issue in the campaign, but we're having to spend days answering questions about Rick's faith, which he has been open about. Romney will turn on a dime when you talk about religion. We're getting asked about specific tenets of Rick's faith, and when Romney says, 'I want to focus on the economy,' they say, OK, we'll focus on the economy."

In one way, Santorum's people have a point. Reporters haven't asked Romney lots of questions about Mormonism, for a few reasons. First, Romney does almost no interviews or press conferences, so reporters seldom get the chance to ask him about anything. Second, as the Santorum aide says, Romney will quickly deflect any question about Mormonism to a more general point about the importance of faith, Obama's "war on religion," blah blah blah. And finally, I suspect reporters are a little nervous about seeming intolerant. If you start asking Romney questions about the more colorful aspects of Mormon theology, you might sound like your being intolerant of a minority religion and implying that Romney's faith could be disqualifying. On the other hand, Santorum is quite happy to talk about what he thinks God wants and what he thinks God hates, speaking in much more concrete terms about religion than Romney ever does...

Round Two in the Repro-Rights Fight

Flickr/WeNews

We've had a fun-filled few weeks in the repro-rights battles, haven't we? For one thing, Susan G. Komen revealed itself to be anything but politically neutral by trying to sidle out of funding Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings—and in the process, publicized the fact that PP is the women's health services provider of last resort for hundreds of thousands of women who need contraception, pap smears, STD and HIV tests, prenatal care, and, oh yes, abortions.

What Is Sex For?

(Flickr/multi.phrenic)

What is the purpose of sex? Who should be able to have it, and at what cost? 

Apparently, that was on many minds on Valentine's Day. That's when the Prospect's indefatigable Abby Rapoport told us that the Virginia House just voted to go full-steam ahead on a personhood bill, which will define life as beginning from the very second that a sperm bashes its head into an ovum.

Colbert Explains Contraception And the War On Religion

Stephen Colbert can't say that, can he?!

Stephen Colbert Explains the Catholic Church and Contraceptives

The comedian describes what Obama's birth control plan looks like to conservative Catholics. It involves a banana and a guillotine.

A Church We Can Believe In

At a time when the influence of the Catholicism is in decline, there’s nothing like a “war on religion” to rally your troops.

(AP Photo)

Before Archbishop Timothy Dolan becomes a cardinal next weekend, he will deliver a speech to the Pope and other Vatican luminaries regarding “evangelization and lapsed Catholics.” Back in the United States, Dolan has led the charge against the Obama administration’s decision to require that hospitals, universities, and other institutions that serve the general public but have a religious charter grant their employees access contraception. Dolan’s choice of speech topics in Rome suggests what may really be motivating his decision back home is to stir the contraception controversy. At a time when the scale and influence of the Catholic Church in America is in rapid decline, there’s nothing like a “war on religion” to rally your troops.

Virginia House Passes Personhood Bill

Republican delegate Bob Marshall says critics are overstating things when it comes to the personhood bill he is sponsoring in Virginia. Opponents of his bill have argued that not only does the measure grant legal protections to all fetuses beginning at conception, but it could also be construed to outlaw birth control. 

The bill is ostensibly less stringent than similar measures that came up in Colorado and Mississippi. As Marshall points out, it does not directly outlaw abortion, but would force the courts to include embryos in definitions of person. "I think I struck a middle ground," says Marshall.

Birth Control Chess

(Flickr/brains the head)

Last week, I argued that it was unlikely that many critics of President Obama's contraceptive coverage requirement would be mollified by a compromise that would allow a religious exemption but still mandate that employees be provided with contraceptive coverage at no extra cost. Apparently, we're about to find out if that’s the case. I was very concerned when I first read that Obama was planning to announce a "compromise," and part of me still wishes he had just stood firm given the that the arguments against the new regulation were so bad.

Pages