Plenty to talk about with this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", including: the battle for tax cuts in Congress and the move to fold Internet gambling into a compromise bill, the Nobel Peace Prize award and its potential to call attention to the great human rights and religious rights struggles there, and the continued pressure in Congress to repeal the military's policy on openly gay members.
3 - Tax cut bill continues to grow; Reid attempts to attach Internet gaming language
Just after the President announced his deal with Republicans to extend tax cuts to all Americans, regardless of income, in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits and other considerations, additions were continuing to be made in order to gain the votes necessary to prevent a filibuster and ensure final passage.
The ever-burgeoning bill has drawn fire from lawmakers on the left and the right. From the left, because it includes tax cuts for even the wealthiest of Americans, who proponents characterize as the job creators in the nation. From the right, because the price tag continues to rise as promises are made to lawmakers so that they will support the bill. In order to satisfy Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, apparently the bill must include language that authorizes gambling on the Internet. Reid, who was supported heavily in his re-election bid by the gambling industry, is now attempting to repay that support by including a rider that would essentially bring a casino into every home in America. Chad Hills is a dependable voice in pointing out the social and spiritual costs of gambling, and here is his analysis at CitizenLink.
So, what is it going to take to get this bill passed? In attempting to prevent Americans from receiving a large tax bill come January, lawmakers are throwing in the kitchen sink to make sure that those opposed to extending the current tax rates do not derail the legislation. And, that apparently could include the expansion of gambling!!
As some caution, to increase the size of the deficit by crafting what amounts to a stimulus/spending bill is not wise. Did Republican leaders have to approve extra spending in order to extend tax cuts for all? The evidence is not clear, but there are some that believe that those that ran on the premise of smaller government are now being forced to go along with an increase in the size of the operation.
2 - Nobel Peace prize awarded against backdrop of new Chinese crackdown on unregistered house churches
In Oslo on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was not present at the ceremony because he is currently jailed by the government in China as part of his long struggle in support of human rights in the country, which is known for its restrictions on a variety of freedoms, including free speech and free association.
Perhaps the awarding of this prize will help to increase awareness for the Chinese government's policies with regard to fundamental human rights. Even though the Chinese constitution apparently calls for freedom of religion, that type of freedom, with respect to Christianity, only applies to the churches that are sanctioned by the government - the registered churches. Unregistered house churches face persecution, house church leaders live under the threat of arrest, and a recent development is bringing perhaps a greater threat level to those who worship in these churches.
According to the advocacy organization China Aid, the Chinese Politburo has authorized sweeping new directives that are targeting leaders and members of house churches. Here is China Aid's press release on the subject.
China Aid head Bob Fu was on hand in Oslo for the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize, and had these comments:
So, it's important to pray for those who attend house churches in China. This new directive labels the house church movement a "cult", which, as China Aid points out, shows a lack of understanding of religious matters and characterizes as a threat the presence of a group of people that want to dialogue with the government and live in peace. An interesting dynamic is that, according to author Dr. David Aikman, a growing number of Christians are strategically placed in government, business, and other areas of Chinese life - representing a powerful force in Chinese society. Perhaps the government is miscalculating the effect of the house churches attendees in Chinese life.
1 - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" falls again in U.S. Senate vote
Another week, another vote to attempt to overturn the military's current ban on open homosexuality, called the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) Policy. A 57-40 vote earlier in the week prevented a Defense Authorization Bill from coming to the floor of the U.S. Senate.
This comes after the release of the study by the Pentagon that shows support for overturning the policy is not necessarily as pronounced as some leadership would have you believe. Edward Lee Pitts of WORLD Magazine, a recent guest on my radio show, highlighted some statistics that show that, for instance, only 9 percent of those surveyed think a ban would have a mostly positive effect on the military and that 60 percent of active combat forces in the Marines and Army believe there would be a negative effect. Here is Lee's article on the topic.
Time is running out on passing this legislation - the new makeup of Congress suggests that support would be less likely after the first of the year. Plus, Senate Republicans have said they would vote on no other legislation until after the tax cut issue is settled. Furthermore, stand-alone legislation on repealing the ban would have to pass both chambers. But, supporters of a repeal are steadfastly and passionately trying to push this bill through, to the point of concentrating on this issue at the expense of pressing economic issues.
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