Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Catholic Leader Speaks Against Proposed Immigration Law

"Denying aid to a fellow human being violates a law with a higher authority than Congress — the law of God."

--Roger Mahony, cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles, in an editorial in today's The New York Times, explaining his opposition to the bill H.R. 4437. The bill has passed in the House and is being considered by the Senate. If it becomes law, churches and church members could be prosecuted for assisting undocumented immigrants in any way--including providing meals or clothing to these, or babysitting an undocumented child. Convictions could include jail time of up to five years. If the bill passes, Mahony says he will instruct priests to disobey the law.

Be a Good Samaritan, Go Directly to Jail

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Should Churches Get Out the Vote, Or Get Outta Politics?

Is it wrong for pastors to endorse a particular political candidate? How about church members passing out pamphlets on abortion or same-sex marriage when there's an upcoming vote on these issues?

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced a crackdown on political activities by churches. Standing laws prohibit certain political activities by tax-exempt organizations, including supporting one political party or candidate.

The IRS is also taking issue with churches that engage in activities that favor a particular candidate including: inviting only one candidate to address their congregation, publicly commending a candidate, or highlighting a group of political issues that are obviously espoused by a particular candidate.

The tax code allows churches to register voters and express views on political issues.

Meanwhile, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is planning to enlist help from Pennsylvania pastors in getting voters to the November elections.

To ponder:
1) Are churches too political, or not political enough?

2) Should churches be able to endorse or support a particular candidate? Why or why not?

Pastors' Get-Out-the-Vote Training Could Test Tax Rules

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kirk Cameron on ABC's 'Nightline'

"Much of the modern message seems to revolve around get what's yours in Christ today. They say, 'If you say this little prayer then all is well, and you'll know health, wealth, prosperity, everything you could ever want.' That's not the truthful message of Christ."
--Kirk Cameron, former star of the hit TV sitcom "Growing Pains"

An interview with

Kirk airs on ABC's

Nightline tonight at

11:35 p.m.

H will be watching: It's always interesting to see how the mainstream media approaches questions about Christian faith.

Kirk Cameron, From Sitcom Star to Evangelist

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Give Poor Kids a Chance in Higher Ed

Colleges and universities throughout the country are offering white students the opportunity to apply for fellowships, scholarships and other programs previously created for minorities. Here are some thoughts on the subject from H:

When I applied to colleges as a high-school student, I did everything possible to get my application noticed (as most students are wont to do). I admit, I had no problem checking all the boxes I qualified for under "ethnicity," and as a multi-ethnic kid born in a decade when there were few interracial marriages, I probably had more check marks than any other applicant.

Thing was, I probably didn't need all those check marks to get in to the school of my choice. I was an honor student with stellar grades. I'd been involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including tons of community service. For my college essay, I included research I'd done as an intern at a local think tank. But I didn't want to leave any room for admissions to reject me, so I included everything. Ethnicity, check. Female, check. Working-class family, check. First person in family to attend a four-year college, check.

I never thought all those little checks might come back to haunt me.

When I received the acceptance letter to the highly competitive college of my dreams, the accusations began. People asked if I'd gotten in through an affirmative action program. (I didn't.) Some speculated the college wanted to admit more women. (They did, and the women were on par with the men as far as grades and test scores.) One person was particularly direct: "You only got accepted to that college because you're brown."

It's a terrible thing to feel less deserving than others, especially when you've worked diligently to attain your goals. I hated the thought of being accepted because I was an ethnic minority. Still, I could understand a college's desire to have a more diverse student body. My college worked at this on many fronts. They wanted to have students from a variety of U.S. states, from other countries, from different socio-economic statuses, and plain ol' different life experiences. And what better way to get an education than to surround oneself with diverse perspectives?

At my college, the few students of color stuck out on our small campus. It was a standing joke everyone could name the seven African-American students in our 230-student class. We also joked how any girl could have a boyfriend unless she didn't want one. The male-female ratio was about 2 to 1.

I've visited the college several times since then, and I've noticed something I don't notice anymore: the students of color. The campus is, comparatively, so much more diverse now. Close to a third of the students are from ethnicities other than Caucasian. And the number of women is nearly equal to the number of men.

These days, I wonder whether colleges need to give students of color a "leg up" with programs based on ethnicity. A friend recently had a baby, and we joked how her son will be able to go to any university he chooses because he's African, Mexican, and Chinese. But he doesn't need the ethnic card to do so: That little boy has two brilliant parents who are both lawyers. He will no doubt receive the best education and the best home training, and he'll have all the financial backing he needs to boot.

Higher education now needs to focus on helping deserving students from lower socio-economic levels--those who've worked their butts off but can't afford to attend a four-year institution otherwise. If those in higher ed turned their focus to these students, they'd in fact be helping tons of students of color. And they might also help hardworking white students, too. Why shouldn't a white student from a low-income family be given the same opportunity as a low-income Latino, black, or Asian student?

Worst case scenario: A nasty little hater might say, "You only got accepted to that college because you're poor." In which case, that student should hold their head high--just like I did--and walk on. In four years, when they reach out for that diploma, there won't be any questions about whether it was deserved--just deep gratitude that a previously locked door has been opened.

To ponder:
Do you think colleges should offer programs exclusively for minorities?

2) Do such programs help or hurt minorities, or both?

3) What should be the criteria for scholarships (eg. ethnicity, socio-economic status, academic merit, test scores, community service, future goals ... )? Are there certain factors that should be more important than others?

Colleges Open Minority Aid to All Comers

Diversity in Higher Education, Humbug!

Diversity in Higher Education, Humbug!

"We're not looking at achieving a particular racial outcome ... . It's unfortunate that some organizations seem to view the success or failure of the program based simply on what percentage of students of this color or that color can participate."

--Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Colleges and universities throughout the country are offering white students the opportunity to apply for fellowships, scholarships and other programs previously created for minorities. Clegg's group wants schools to eliminate race as a factor in decision making in higher education.

Colleges Open Minority Aid to All Comers

Give Poor Kids a Chance in Higher Ed

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

South Dakota Bans Most Abortions

"Not allowing an exception for rape, incest and the health of the mother is a radical position. Most of the people who have talked to me about this think that this is a very foolish piece of legislation, and most of those people are pro-life."

--South Dakota State Democratic Rep. Pat Haley, who had voted against a state measure signed into law today that makes it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion with a single exception: that the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life. Haley said he opposes abortion but could not vote for the bill. Under the new South Dakota law, doctors who perform illegal abortions could receive prison sentences of up to five years.

Full Story

To ponder:
1) Do you think abortion laws should be left to individual states, or should it be handled by the federal government?

2) Do you feel the South Dakota law is too limited, or too lenient?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Should Christian Colleges Accept Gay Students?

From H:
Nineteen Christian colleges throughout the United States don't accept applications from students who identify themselves as homosexual. To protest the admissions policy at these schools, a group of twentysomethings who identify themselves as gay Christians will begin a cross-country trip next month to speak with students and faculty at these colleges.

I do wonder the reasons Christian colleges have for this non-admission policy. I understand Christian colleges must present a biblical perspective on the gay lifestyle. I wonder why there is an outright rejection of any gay applicant. What happens to the young Christian man or woman who is struggling with homosexuality, who longs to immerse themselves in a supportive Christian community during the most difficult and formative years of their life? Does this send a message to them that the church doesn't want them, that their struggle is worse than someone's with heterosexual lust, or with lying, or anger, or hatred?

Are these colleges creating the perception of degrees of sin, albeit unintentionally? It seems when a person is told, directly or indirectly, that their behavior is worse than others, they begin to believe they're at the point of no return. Which leads to thinking there's no opportunity for forgiveness or change.

If the colleges' intent is to protect their other students from behaviors that might lead them down the wrong path, I think they are doing their students a disservice. Gay students need to feel the love of Christ. And maybe to an even greater degree, heterosexual students need to learn how to give it, and be able to vocalize 1) what the Bible says about homosexuality, and 2) how God still loves a person even when he's angered by that person's behavior.

Of course, there are many Christian colleges that consider applications from students who identify themselves as homosexual. Many Christian schools also admit students who aren't Christians. Policies on a number of topics vary widely from school to school, from where students can hang out (some schools don't allow opposite-sex visitations in dorm rooms) to smoking (some Christian colleges allow it).

So, lest it sound like I'm bashing these 19 schools--and they have every right to establish rules and regulations to further their educational and spiritual goals--rather, I'm wondering aloud about the reasoning for no-gays policies. I do respect them for being specific on the issue: It's better to be candid about a college's environment than for a student to enroll and find out they're not wanted there.

I'd love to hear thoughts about the admissions policy of these 19 institutions, especially from Christian college alumni (I didn't attend a Christian college). This is a microcosm of how homosexuals may feel treated by the church at large, thus certainly worthy of discussion.

To ponder:
1) Should Christian colleges allow gay students to apply? Why or why not?

2) How do you communicate God's love without condoning behavior that's antithetical to biblical teaching?

3) What would you say to the organizers of this cross-country trip? How do you feel about the parallels they are drawing between their program and the civil-rights movement?

A 'Freedom Ride' to Anti-gay Colleges

Friday, March 03, 2006

NY Times Editorial: "The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437"

"This grab bag legislation ... would expand the definition of 'alien smuggling' in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby."

--From an
editorial in today's The New York Times, on the bill H.R. 4437, which has passed in the House and is being considered by the Senate this week. If it becomes law, churches could be prosecuted for assisting an undocumented immigrant in any way.

More about this issue on H-n-T:
Be a Good Samaritan, Go Directly to Jail

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Look Who's Come to California: Portillo's!

From H:
Portillo's has its first location outside of Illinois ... in Buena Park, California!

(Not altogether surprising, there is a "California menu," which basically consists of the same food at higher prices. And I thought that only happened in Hawaii.)

I was just telling some folks how I missed Chicago dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. If we can just get a Buona Beef, a Potbelly, and (please please please!) a Papa Murphy's in SoCal, ah ... life would be a dream.

An OC Weekly review of Portillo's (they named it one of the best new restaurants of 2005):

*You'll need to cut and paste the link--sorry, it's one of those temporary ones.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Be a Good Samaritan, Go Directly to Jail

From H:

Dear Christian Churches of America,
The next time you give food, clothing, or any other type of assistance to an undocumented immigrant here in the Land of the Free, you will be guilty of aiding a felon and may be sentenced to five years in prison. To keep your respective church out of trouble, you'll need to institute document checks on every person you assist. So before you hand a brown-bag lunch to that person on Skid Row, make sure you see a valid license, Social Security card, and either a U.S. birth certificate or current green card.
Uncle Sam

Sounds ludicrous? Unfortunately, that's what we're looking at if the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, being considered by the Senate this week, is passed. It was already approved by the House of Representatives (H.R. 4437). Essentially, undocumented immigrants would be guilty of a felony under the bill, and anyone interacting with them in any way--other than turning them over to law enforcement--would be guilty of aiding a felon.

This puts non-profit agencies that administer aid, including churches, into a difficult position. It asks church workers--both clergy and us lay folk--to either act as police or turn away those who don't have "proper identification." (How many homeless people do you know that carry a Social Security card?) Or we can face prosecution.

To ponder:
1) In light of the constant debates about separation of church and state, do you think this crosses the line of government interference with the activities of religious organizations?

2) Do you think it's wrong to break the law in order to help someone who is hungry or hurt?

3) Consider Christ's directive in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Do you think it's applicable in this situation? If so, how does it apply? If not, why doesn't it apply?

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony Vows to Defy Anti-Immigrant Bill

Catholic Leaders Work to Sway Immigration

H.R. 4437 Could Result in Jail Time for Many Church Workers

Full text of bill available at:

Let Them Eat Cake

From H:

I have to admit a crime of the worst nature. I took journalistic license (read: journalistic lies) with a photo.

The cake pictured in the entry preceding this one was not my actual birthday cake. Rather, it was a cake I swiped off the Internet. I liked it because it was portrait Americana, with poofy buttercream-frosting flowers and presumably set on a foil-wrapped piece of cardboard (more journalistic license). And it looked like it was on fire with all those candles.

I'll rationalize my crime by saying, "Hey, it was my birthday."

My own birthday goodie was a fine work of culinary art: guava chiffon cake from King's Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant, a gift from my friends J & M. Onolisicious! Much to my delight, it was pink inside, and it had real whipped cream as frosting.

It did send me into pangs to hear M spent TWO HOURS in pursuit of my cake, from the drive to King's to the wait for the cake to the drive home. Rather than saying "thank you" to M, I told him it was well worth two hours of his life for my partygoers and me to enjoy that cake. I'll rationalize that bad behavior away by restating: It was very good cake.

Here were the remains of the cake last night:

And here's what was left after breakfast this morning:

Heeheehee. Happy Birthday to me, indeed.