Sunday, December 04, 2011

The 3 - December 4, 2011

This week on "The 3", my week-in-review feature, some concern about America's most high-profile Christian leader's health, more areas of conflict over what to call a Christmas tree (how about a "Christmas tree"?), and gay marriage and the military was a topic that was address in Congress this week.

3 - Graham hospitalized for pneumonia tests

Just last month, Christians across America rejoiced at the celebration of the 93rd birthday of legendary evangelist Dr. Billy Graham. And, many, no doubt, are praying for Dr. Graham, as he was hospitalized this week with some breathing difficulties. He was tested and treated for pneumonia. This marks the second time this year that Dr. Graham has been in the hospital.

Here are the chronological updates from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The evangelist recently completed work on the book, "Nearing Home", and is said to be in the process of writing another book. Also, it's been announced that Dr. Graham, along with President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs, is under consideration for being honored on a "Living Legends" postage stamp.

The Postal Service waived a rule in September requiring that a stamp honoree be dead at least five years, and postal officials asked customers to use the mail or social media to nominate an “American or American-related subjects,” who “made enduring contributions to the United States of America.” According to the Washington Post, sources say the Postal Service has received at least 1,500 submissions by mail and more than 1,000 through social media.

2 - Christmas Tree or "holiday tree" - government officials make determinations

It's the most wonderful time of the year, but there is an aspect to the Christmas season that has proven to be troublesome, and in some ways a distraction to the celebration of our Savior's birth. However, the preservation of our faith traditions is an important aspect of American life, and even though over 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas (according a Rasmussen poll last year), there are those that still are intent, in the name of tolerance or out of an outright hostility toward religion, to remove the name of "Christmas" from this time-honored holiday.

One of the conversation topics that surfaces this time of year is what to call the government's official tree - now granted, you wouldn't even have a tree to commemorate this time of year outside of the traditional observation of Christmas. Nevertheless, there are those that would say that just because the government erects a tree and calls it a Christmas tree, that it is establishing a religion. But, the acknowledgement of God or a Christian holiday that many non-Christians celebrate does not make the proper naming of a Christmas tree an establishment of religion.

This year, one of the flashpoints is in the state of Rhode Island, where Governor Lincoln Chafee is doggedly holding on to his belief that the state's tree should be called a "holiday" tree. Timothy Stanley has some excellent observations in this piece from the Telegraph.

According to Politico, Representative Doreen Costa, the sponsor of a resolution that passed back in January saying that the state tree would be a "Christmas" tree, has taken the governor to task. She said Wednesday she was “disturbed” when she first heard the Statehouse tree being referred to as a holiday tree. “If it has lights and ornaments and an angel and decorations on top, it’s a Christmas tree,” the freshman legislator said on Fox. She has gone as far as to place a small tree in her office and called it a "Christmas" tree. Meanwhile, the tree farmer who has provided the state's tree for the last few years, has even told the media that he is thinking about reconsidering his donation of a state tree.

I don't like to call this the "war on Christmas", but every year there are a number of high-profile disagreements about the celebration of the holiday that 9 out of 10 people celebrate as Christmas. This year, in addition to Rhode Island, we've seen a community on Long Island - Mt. Sinai - debating whether to have a "holiday tree" or a "Christmas tree" lighting this weekend. In Wisconsin, the backyard of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Governor Scott Walker proclaimed for the first time since the '80's that the state tree was indeed a "Christmas" tree, and had legislators who backed him up.

Fortunately, Rockefeller Center in New York still has its Christmas tree, as does the national Capitol in Washington, DC, and so far, these and scores of other municipal trees on public property across America are still considered to be "Christmas" tree - and it's not against the law to say it, since it is a Federal holiday.

1 - Deliberations regarding gay marriage on Capitol Hill

Pro-family leaders said it was bound to happen - the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexual behavior would lead to pressure on chaplains to act and speak in a manner inconsistent with their deeply-held beliefs. And, now we see it expressed - in the realm of same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, there was an announcement from the military that said that certain "ceremonies", interpreted to mean same-sex marriage ceremonies, were allowed on military facilities, and allowed to be performed by military chaplains. This comes even though the military is presumably under the provisions of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, in both houses of Congress, there are those that want to step in and protect chaplains, as well as to disallow same-sex marriage ceremonies. A House committee held a hearing this week on the matter, and according to CitizenLink, Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri said: “How in the world can you ignore federal law and have the Pentagon essentially just go off making laws on their own?...That’s what we were trying to find out. How do you come up with the justification for doing this?”

The piece goes on to say that:

Responding were lawyers from the Pentagon and the U.S. Navy, whom Akin said offered “some very hair-splitting legal logic.”

“They were saying that DOMA doesn’t really say that you can’t have homosexual marriages — just that marriage is between a man and a woman and doesn’t preclude homosexual marriages, and therefore they’re OK,” he said. “But DOMA says marriage means ‘only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife.’ That’s the only legal definition of ‘marriage.’"

There were concerns that over in the Senate, lawmakers supporting same-sex marriage would attempt to attach language to a Defense Authorization Bill that would redefine marriage, but that was apparently scrapped. According to CitizenLink:

In order to pass the defense spending bill at all, the Senate dropped 71 pending amendments at the last minute. The $117 billion senators approved, on a 93-7 vote, for war spending is $1 billion less than the Pentagon requested.

Meanwhile, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, a group representing more than 2,000 military chaplains, expressed their appreciation for a Senate vote that took place Tuesday, ensuring they will not be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies on military bases in the wake of the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell". The Senate amendment, which allows chaplains to decline performing same-sex ceremonies in states where such unions are deemed legal, differs slightly from a bill that passed the House, which is said to contain much stronger language - not only prohibiting chaplains from taking part in same-sex ceremonies, but also enacting a ban on same-sex ceremonies on any federal property. The two versions are headed to a conference committee.

The news on same-sex marriage in the military this week is encouraging, but, now that Congress has opened up the military further for social experimentation by repealing DADT, gay advocacy groups and their friends in Congress will attempt to further their agenda, bringing more acceptance of that behavior and solidifying in Federal law a so-called "right" to same-sex marriage.

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