A collection of the latest news and opinions.

 arrow-down VIRGINIA: Laid-off religious workers denied jobless benefits


Under Virginia law, as in many states, tax exemptions for religious organizations include freedom from paying unemployment taxes, though the IRS requires they pay Social Security and withholding taxes.  For workers who are left jobless, unemployment benefits are a big piece of the social safety net. In Virginia, payments range from $54 to $378 weekly. Benefits are available only to people whose employers paid the unemployment tax. Despite their tax exemption, religious groups in Virginia can voluntarily pay unemployment benefits.   

 

Not every state bars unemployment compensation to employees of religious groups. In New York, for example, employees whose work is not religious in nature, such as a cook or a secretary, are entitled to benefits, and their employer must pay the state unemployment tax.

Read more at Pew Forum.

up1 West Virginia State Senator Sen. Jeffrey V. KesslerLead sponsor of the West Virginia Senate Bill 701, the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.   Introduced on March 23, 2009, this bill would have restore the high standard of protection for religious liberty previously guaranteed in the federal RFRA and earlier Supreme Court decisions. Under the West Virginia RFRA, if an individual's religious belief is in conflict with a state regulation, the state will have to prove, with evidence, that its regulation is essential to fulfill a compelling state interest and is the least restrictive means of doing so. If the state fails to carry the burden, the regulation must give way to the individual's religious freedom. Restoring this protection for religious freedom will simply "even the playing field." 

Unfortunately the bill died in committee, but kudos to Sen. Kessler for introducing the legislation.
 
 
up1 Actor William H. MacyAcademy Award-nominated actor William H. Macy told CNSNews.com that the government should not regulate talk radio so it is "balanced" — with some variant of a Fairness Doctrine or local ownership rules — because "this is America" and "you can say anything you want."  

Read more.

 

arrow-down President Obama's Speech at Notre Dame blurs church-state linesU.S. News columnist Peter Roff addresses some issues he found in President Obama's diplomatic and sincere but somewhat troubling speech. 

In his remarks the president urges the graduating class of Notre Dame to be aware that the challenges before them "require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age." As I read that sentence, it means President Obama wants those in attendance to reorient their faith in ways that allow them, indeed compel them to address global problems-not as the church or as Pope Benedict define them-but as he and his political cohorts see them to be. . . .

As I read it, President Obama is telling the "one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church," of the Nicene Creed that it must catch up with the times, be part of the change, and accept diversity of all kinds and stripes. Which sort of reminds of the scene in Hannah and Her Sisters when Woody Allen, thinking he is dying of a brain tumor, visits a priest in contemplation of conversion, talks about joining "the against school prayer, pro-abortion, anti-nuclear wing," of the church despite the fact that he still doesn't believe in God but has to believe in something.

Writing Monday for National Review Online, noted Catholic scholar and papal biographer George Weigel issued a caution of his own about the Notre Dame speech.

"What was surprising, and ought to be disturbing to anyone who cares about religious freedom in these United States, was the president's decision to insert himself into the ongoing Catholic debate over the boundaries of Catholic identity and the applicability of settled Catholic conviction in the public square," Weigel wrote, adding that "Obama did this by suggesting, not altogether subtly, who the real Catholics in America are."

Read more from Roff's essay.

Read the speech.

 

 

 

 

up1 Oklahoma State Legislature

The Oklahoma legislature has unanimously approved a bill to prohibit all forms of human cloning.

The House of Representatives voted 83-0 for the measure May 15, and the Senate passed the bill with a 44-0 vote the same day, according to The Daily Oklahoman.

arrow-down German Courts take away parental rights

A German couple was convicted for withdrawing their eleven-year-old daughter from sex education classes. They decided to keep their daughter Lilli away from the four days of "sexual education" lessons, and an interactive stage play called Mein Körper gehört mir (My Body Is Mine), choosing to educate her according to their own views on sexuality instead.  Since being convicted the Dojans have lost two appeals to the German courts and they are now taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a religious liberty advocacy group. Home schooling is illegal in Germany under laws introduced by Hitler to ensure children's education was under state control.

Read more.

 up1 Lauren Vance tackles issue of Christians who support torture  


Lauren Vance, the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State writes a stirring essay at LewRockwell.com that tackles the difficult issue of why some Christians in America tend to support torture. 


EXCERPTS: 

 Read the full essay.

The most ardent atheist would be rendered speechless should he hear of Christians for abortion, profanity, adultery, or drunkenness. Of all people in the world, it is certainly Christians – and especially the conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist kind – that atheists, agnostics, and infidels expect to be opposed to these things.

. . .

We associate torture with third-world prisons, the KGB, the Stasi, and other secret police organizations, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Reign of Terror, mass murderers, massacres, and genocides.

We associate torture with the Soviet Union under Stalin, China under Mao, Germany under Hitler, Korea under Kim Il-sung, Cuba under Castro, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and Uganda under Idi Amin.

We associate torture with everything that is evil, vile, and inhuman.

What have we come to in the United States when people who name the name of Christ support torture? How dare Christians criticize Muslims for saying that Islam is a religion of peace and then advocate the torturing of suspected terrorists? By their support for torture, Christians have given "great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme" (2 Samuel 12:14)."

arrow-down Lifting embargo may prolong Cuban repression 

EXCERPT from the Epoch Times:

Alcazar is a proponent of the 47-year-long U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. He explained that the United States stands to gain nothing from lifting the embargo; only the Cuban regime would gain.

"Cuba has nothing to buy from the U.S., except the food it is already getting from American growers," he said. "Until Cuba opens up its political system, its economy, and guarantees civil rights and free elections to its people, nothing will really change.

"Opening up American tourism to Cuba, or extending it credits it will not be able to pay back, will only help the regime to maintain its repressive apparatus. If American investment is allowed into Cuba while the regime is in power, it will only consolidate them for decades to come, as foreigners can only invest through joint ventures with the regime's state corporations and no ordinary Cubans are permitted to participate.

"Lifting the embargo before political changes set in will only ensure that the Communist system will last for many decades to come.

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