In Tampa, GOP Strikes a Delegate Balance
August 27, 2012 - Monday
Believe it or not, there's a bigger threat to the GOP convention than the weather. During meetings last Friday, the Republican Rules Committee surprised a lot of people by changing the way delegates are selected. Under the new system, the GOP's presidential nominees would have the power to override state parties and pick their own delegates. Essentially, the local party would have to surrender its authority to the candidate in naming representatives--even if the delegates are legally elected.
Without getting further into the weeds of convention politics, much of this has to do with the Republicans' fears over candidates like Rep. Ron Paul, who have such strong grassroots support. If they succeed in rewriting these rules, leaders like Paul would be prevented from having their delegates seated in future conventions. But in trying to head off these potential coups, the GOP is giving future nominees an unprecedented amount of power.
Why does that matter? Well, for starters, if a more liberal nominee can stack the deck full of sympathetic delegates, then he can weaken our ability to influence the platform through conservative delegates. Once this proposed change goes into effect in 2016, a more socially liberal nominee tied to the GOP establishment (which is most of them) could shut out delegates with conservative views. And with fewer pro-family delegates, groups like FRC Action have fewer friends on the inside to impact the language.
Left unchallenged, this could jeopardize the entire GOP platform which would have significant ramifications on core principles like life, marriage, and religious liberty. A lot of people feel like Drew McKissick, a South Carolina representative on the Rules Committee, who called it "groundbreaking"--and not in a good way. "We are telling the state how they have to pick their delegates." Although the Republican establishment is driving the changes, the idea has raised enough eyebrows to warrant a second look. Right now, conservative groups are circulating a "minority report," which, if it collects enough signatures, could stop the rules from taking effect. We'll continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Tampa and keep you updated on the latest.
Air Force Takes Secularism under Its Wing
In the new report by FRC and Liberty Institute, we counted 644 incidents of religious hostility in the last decade. And thanks to a memo from outgoing Air Force General Norton Schwartz, we just found #645. Days before retiring, Gen. Schwartz took a parting shot at religious expression by warning commanders that they proselytize at their own peril. In the second section of his 27-page memo, Gen. Schwartz orders officers and supervisors to "avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion." Failure to adhere, writes Gen. Schwartz, "can form the basis for adverse action [e.g. court martial] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
The Air Force had already accumulated quite a record of Christian intolerance. First, it suspended a 20-year-old class on "Just War Theory" because it included scriptural references. Next came the stripping of "God" from the Rapid Capabilities motto and the purging of Bibles from Air Force Inn checklists. At Christmas, the Academy ordered cadets to stop promoting a Christian charity for needy kids. Leaders even removed an article from a Squadron Office School curriculum for referencing chapel. Now, it seems the goal of religious "neutrality" has become an excuse for faith-based hostility.
As FRC's new Executive Vice President, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army-Ret.), pointed out this morning, it's very unusual to see the severity of a punishment spelled out in memos. Clearly, this was designed to have a chilling effect. And since Gen. Schwartz refused to even define "proselytizing," leaders will have the freedom to interpret the term however they see fit. What's more, it doesn't clarify whether this rule applies equally to all faith groups or specifically targets Christians. Either way, it will almost certainly lead to a wave of self-censorship from commanders who are fearful of crossing the Air Force's blurry lines.
In the meantime, atheist groups are already seizing on Schwartz's memo as validation for their cause. But, as I told Fox News, a secular nation was never what the Founders intended. And our military--which ironically was designed to protect religious liberty--deserves better. For a national snapshot of faith-based intolerance, check out the joint report at ReligiousHostilty.org.
Un-Appealing Embryo Destruction
"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." Those words, originally from the first scientist to destroy human embryos for their stem cells, were echoed by one of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court judges who ruled on the lawsuit (Sherley v. Sebelius) about federal funding of such research. Yet the troubling nature of embryonic stem cell research did not stop the Appeals Court panel from ruling last Friday that the Obama administration could continue using taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research, while creating an incentive for even more embryo destruction. As you may know, embryonic stem cell research relies on the destruction of young human embryos, and that destruction is integral to the research. It is ethically bankrupt and hasn't produced a single treatment for patients. Federal money for embryonic stem cell research is a horrific waste of lives as well as taxpayer funds, delaying real patient treatments for thousands of people using ethical, successful adult stem cells. To see some real examples of stem cell success, visit FRC's Stem Cell Research Facts website.
** For more on the GOP Convention and platform debates, check out Ken Blackwell's latest column in World magazine, "Civil Unions and True Marriage."