While the country awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of public funding of faith-based social services, a secularist group launched a related suit. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State tried, unsuccessfully, to strip funds from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant recipient because of its religious roots.
For years, the Northwest Marriage Institute has provided marriage workshops in an effort to strengthen relationships and eliminate poverty. Impressed by the organization’s strong track record, the Administration for Children & Families awarded the group three grants so that low-income couples could take the secular seminars for free. None of the funds were used for the biblical workshops, yet former ACLU chief Barry Lynn’s organization argued that Northwest’s religious affiliation should exclude it from participating in government programs.
Fortunately, Federal District Judge Franklin Burgess disagreed, ruling, “[It] has never been held that religious institutions are disabled by the First Amendment from participating in publicly sponsored social welfare programs.” We applaud the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the Institute and successfully convinced the court that religious groups—that provide valuable social services cannot be treated like “second-class citizens.”
As you fill out this year’s IRS paperwork, enjoy your family tax breaks. If the new Senate leadership has its way, they may be among your last. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled a resolution that calls for a balanced budget by 2012. While it seems like an insurmountable task, liberals have found an easy solution. They’ll simply reverse every GOP tax cut and raise an extra $900 billion in revenue.
As part of the plan, Democrats would reinstate the tax penalty on married couples, causing the standard deduction for joint filers to shrink from 200 to 167 percent by 2011. Also, liberals recommend slashing the child tax credit in half, reducing it from $1,000 to $500. Although Congress has managed to whittle the death taxes down to nearly nothing under the current code, Democrats would resurrect them in four short years. Unfortunately, the tax rates would rise substantially in every bracket, even among low-income taxpayers who would be forced to pay Uncle Sam at a 15 percent rate. Under the measure, taxes on both dividends and capital gains would increase by January 2009.
Although painful, this would help erase the U.S. budget deficit, right? Wrong. Reid’s legislation actually increases spending for health care, education, and transportation projects. Republicans are understandably frustrated by the proposal, which could lead to the biggest tax increase in history. Families, who were finally experiencing some tax relief under President Bush, would again be forced to shoulder a heavy financial burden—not to ease American debt—but to pay for Democrats’ pet programs. As Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said, “As we [start to debate] the budget… we shouldn’t begin with a plan to grow an even more massive bureaucracy on the backs of the American taxpayer.”
Monday at the National Press Club, pro-family leaders from the U.S. and Canada gathered for a press conference. The topic was the upcoming meeting of the World Congress of Families (WCF), which is being held in Warsaw, Poland on May 11-13. In an exciting development, the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, has agreed to serve as honorary patron and to give the opening address. Speakers at the press conference, including FRC’s Senior Fellow Bill Saunders, noted the importance of the family to the health of societies, as well as the pressures families face from bad governmental policies.
The meeting in Warsaw will feature speakers from around the world who will diagnose family ills and offer practical solutions. FRC will be there, and we urge pro-family activists in the U.S. to come as well. What happens in Europe affects the U.S., as European nations exhibit the characteristics of nations that follow policies of radical secularism and social pessimism. This Warsaw meeting promises to be a true springtime for a united, worldwide effort to promote the family.
The House leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and company, is moving forward with bills that undermine the U.S. Constitution. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ruling that would have given native Hawaiians “sovereignty.” New legislation that would have a similar effect has been quietly introduced under the name “Hawaiian Homeownership Opportunity Act.” The bill could lead to exempting Hawaiians from the Constitution and allowing them to create their own race-based government.
A second proposal, which would give the District of Columbia its own representative in the House, has come under fire from the White House for being “unconstitutional.” The measure has already passed through two House committees and Pelosi vows to secure the bill’s approval on the floor.
Finally, as if there weren’t enough hot air in Congress this week, Al Gore is paying a visit to Capitol Hill to offer his flawed research as grounds for U.S. climate change legislation. He was invited to testify before a joint subcommittee despite the fact that scientists are increasingly critical of his methods and conclusions.
As the Senate weighs a bill forcing taxpayers to pay for research that requires the killing of human embryos, one of the president’s top scientists suddenly jumped ship on the administration’s policy in order to support the legislation. With a vote just weeks away, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), raised eyebrows with the timing of his endorsement, particularly since he has defended the administration’s stance in the past. To the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, Zerhouni said, “It is clear today that American science will be better-served, and the nation will be better-served, if we let our scientists have access to more stem cell lines… I think it is important for us not to fight with one hand tied behind out back, and NIH is key to that.”
However, in his bold pitch for taxpayer money, Zerhouni neglected to justify the need for more embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines. Have there been so many advances with the 22 current lines that scientists can legitimize new ones? If Zerhouni is requesting taxpayer money from the Senate—in addition to the $40 million NIH spent last year on the project—then the least he could do is provide a record of ESC research advances and a detailed list of what cannot be done without new lines.
The reality is, 85% of the world’s embryonic studies use President Bush’s approved lines, and the NIH is waiting to distribute 3,000 shipments of cells derived from them. In the past, Zerhouni has said these lines are sufficient. What’s changed? Dr. Zerhouni also downplayed the promise of adult stem cells, saying that their potential is “overstated.” As the nation’s top scientist, Zerhouni should know that patients are using adult stem cell alternatives to treat over 70 diseases. We have personally met patients who are reaping the benefits of adult stem cells in therapies for sickle cell anemia, heart disease, leukemia and other diseases. That is progress, not speculation.
Even when controlling for maternal characteristics and background characteristics, adolescents living with both biological parents who were continuously married exhibited lower levels of problem behavior than peers from any other family type.
Source: “Family Structure, Father Involvement, and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes”
Carlson, Marcia J. Journal of Marriage and Family Vol. 68, Number 1. February, 2006. Page(s) 137-154.
If your parents cautioned that playing video games would be harmful to your eyesight, their concerns may not have been entirely true. Findings from a recent study by researchers from the University of Rochester in New York show that playing action video games for an hour or so on a daily basis actually heightens ones visual acuity.
According to Daphne Bavelier, lead author in the study and a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, “Action-video-game play changes the way our brains process visual information…These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and possibly everyday life.”