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Updated: 3 hours 27 min ago

The Chill is Gone (Almost): Temperatures Begin Inching Up After Deep Freeze, Storm

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:55

NEW YORK (AP) -- The bitter cold that followed a massive East Coast snowstorm should begin to lessen as temperatures inch up and climb past freezing next week, weather forecasters said.

Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said temperatures Sunday morning could hit record lows from South Carolina to Maine. But he said the wind won’t be as punishing as it was on Friday and Saturday.

“With the wind dying down it will probably feel significantly better although many of these areas will still be below freezing,” Burke said.

Sunday afternoon’s high temperatures should range from the low- to mid-20s in areas from Philadelphia to Boston. They are expected to reach the 30s and 40s on Monday and Tuesday.

Many Northeast residents endured jaw-clenching temperatures and brutal wind chills on Saturday as cleanup continued from the storm that dropped as much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow in some places on Thursday.

As aviation crews at South Carolina’s busiest airport, Charleston International Airport, struggled to clear runways of snow and ice so they could be reopened, in New England water main breaks, frozen hydrants and burst pipes created new problems for officials.

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Hartford, Connecticut, registered 10 degrees with a wind chill of minus 20 while Burlington, Vermont, was minus 1 degree and had a wind chill of minus 30.

The temperature registered minus 37 Saturday at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire, one of the coldest places on the planet. The wind chill was minus 93. It tied for second place with Armstrong, Ontario, as the coldest spot in the world.

Meteorologist Mike Carmon said people at the observatory were “layering up as a much as we can.”


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top 10 Reasons Students Should Attend the March for Life

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:52

A wild, wild west of abortion on demand was unleashed in the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling. When combined with another case Doe v. Bolton, it permitted abortion in the United States through all nine months, for any reason whatsoever and sometimes paid for by taxpayer monies. Yes, you read that right. An extreme U.S. abortion policy has allowed the ending of pre-born life on a scale few imagined in 1973 when the ruling became law. And every year since then, people have peacefully protested the human rights issue of our time with a march. The issue: LIFE and whether it loses its value when in the womb.

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Anyone who has ever attended the March for Life knows that it’s the pro-life generation which makes up the fast and energetic majority of marchers braving the cold to be a voice for the voiceless. So here are the top 10 reasons to head to the nation's capital January 19 and stand with Students for Life of America and the #pro-life generation.

Top 10 Reasons to March for Life:

Meet hundreds of thousands of other young, pro-life activists. Millennials and Generation Z are the #Pro-Life Generation! Attend the national Students for Life of America Conference. It’s the day after the March. It will help build your skills for effective advocacy. We want to work with you! Put your fierce social media skills to work by documenting thousands working together to protect young life. Set the record straight! Share your story. Hear from influential pro-life leaders who know how to make an effective argument for life. Learn from the Pro-Life Majority! Show the world that the United States embraces life and rejects abortion despite our crazy policies. Meet your future, pro-life spouse (Yes, it has happened!) Visit the nation's capital and participate in largest annual civil rights march of our time. This is your time. This is your fight. Get free signs and other bling from Students for Life of America! Be a difference maker by showing parents in need that you support them. Fight for the rights of mothers and their pre-born children. Pregnancy is not a disease. Abortion is not a cure. Support help for mothers! Let office holders know you don't want your tax dollars wasted by supporting abortion vendors. You work hard for your money, and abortion is not healthcare! Stop by your elected officials' offices and remind them you vote for life!

And after you head back home, stay plugged in and active. Students for Life of America has more than 1,200 chapters in all 50 states across the country. Connect with us @Students4LifeHQ, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere. We want to hear from you, and together, let's make a difference for the least of these.


Kristan Hawkins (@KristanHawkins) is president of Students for Life of America.

Longest-Married Couple in Presidential History Celebrate 73 Years of Marriage

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:50

Former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush tied the knot 73 years ago Saturday, making them the presidential couple with the longest marriage.

The 41st president of the United States, now 93 years old, first met his wife when they were teenagers at a dance over winter break. He and Barbara were engaged after dating for a year and a half, just before he headed off to serve as a Navy pilot in the Second World War. During the war, he flew 58 combat missions before a Japanese aircraft shot down his plane over the Pacific.

After returning from war, Bush married his fiancee. The two lovebirds got hitched at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, N.Y., Mrs. Bush's hometown, on Jan. 6, 1945.


One year later, Barbara Bush gave birth to their first son, George W. Bush, who would grow up to become the 43rd president of the United States.

After George H.W. Bush earned an economics degree from Yale University, he moved his family to Texas to pursue opportunities in the oil business. Bush wound up following in the footsteps of his father, turning to public service and American politics.

He served two terms in Congress as the representative from Texas, and then went on to serve in several high-level positions, such as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1980, he made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency but was chosen as former President Ronald Reagan's running mate. With Reagan's victory, Bush became the vice president. He made another run for the White House in 1988 and won. He was sworn in as the 41st President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1989 with his wife Barbara at his side.

The Bushes had four sons, as well as 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

In 1994, Bush wrote a touching love letter to his beloved wife Barbara.

"Will you marry me? Whoops. I forgot you did that 49 years ago today. I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I'm even happier today. You give me joy that few men know. I've climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara's husband," he wrote.

"I love you," he added.

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Military Photo of the Day: Guiding the Boat Toward Ha Chou

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 08:00

“A Vietnamese woman mans the boat as she guides Marines of Golf Company, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines [G/2/9], 3d Marine Division, toward the island hamlet of Ha Chou, six miles south of Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam.”

From the Jonathan F. Abel Collection (COLL/3611) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division

Inside-Out Changes for the New Year

Sun, 01/07/2018 - 00:00

January is a time for new beginnings, fresh starts and, of course, New Year's resolutions: I'm going to exercise more, eat less, quit smoking, start running, spend less, save more. And 80 percent of us will break our New Year's resolutions by the second week of February.

Why is that? According to clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani, these "outside-in solutions" generally fail because "you’ve done nothing to enhance your capacity to either sustain motivation or handle the inevitable stress and discomfort involved in change." In other words, to really change, you have to work from the inside out. "It’s not the gym, Pilates class or diet that will change you," Luciani explains. "It’s your mind."

This is a profound truth, but it's not new. In his letter to the Romans, Paul urged the nascent Church and new believers to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind."


It pays to recall that transformation is a process. The Message translation puts it this way: "Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out." The Amplified Bible uses the phrase "transformed and progressively changed." The Contemporary English Bible says, "Let God change the way you think." The Living Bible captures Paul's words and meaning like this: "Be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think."

Thankfully, Paul also offers pointers on how to be transformed from the inside out -- how to make changes that last past mid-February.

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First, he counsels, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world." If we want to see positive, lasting change in ourselves, we have to stop imitating the world and the culture around us. That may mean finding new friends, listening to different music, changing our web-browsing habits, turning the channel or even (gasp) turning off the TV. As God's people, we are called to be in the world but not of it -- to be "Christ's ambassadors" in a foreign land.

Second, Paul challenges us to be humble. "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. ... Be devoted to one another in love. ... Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." We are not kings; we serve the King of Kings. We are not here to be served but to serve others. We are not the stars of our own reality show. We are supporting parts in His story, His masterpiece, His poiema.

Use Your Gifts, Be Sincere

Next, Paul reminds us that "We have different gifts" and that we should use those gifts. Some are gifted to lead, some to teach, some to serve, some to encourage, some to give. The list is as numerous and boundless as humanity. Using our God-given gifts the way they are supposed to be used changes us and the world around us for the better.

Of course, Paul adds that each of us and all of us, no matter our unique gifts, are called to "share with the Lord's people who are in need," "practice hospitality" and "live at peace with your neighbor." This is a command; this is God's economy at work.

The only way to bring about these inside-out changes is to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ."

Fourth, Paul urges us to "be sincere." We should say what we mean and mean what we say. Of course, what we say shouldn't be mean. Yes, we are called to speak the truth -- but always in, and with, love.

"Hate what is evil," Paul adds. "Cling to what is good." We know the difference because it is written on our hearts.

Be Joyful and Rejoice

Next, Paul encourages us to "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." This goes back to the process of transformation and real change. We must be patient as God renews and rebuilds and repairs us, hopeful and faithful as He daily transforms us into a new creation. It takes time.

Finally, Paul challenges us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice" and "mourn with those who mourn." As Philip Yancey writes in The Jesus I Never Knew, Christians are dual citizens. "We live in an external kingdom of family and cities and nationhood," he observes, "while at the same time belonging to the kingdom of God." Christians are torn between two worlds. We see glimpses of beauty amid so much brokenness and sense that the world God designed and created is not as it was meant to be.

So we should mourn when this broken world wounds or maims or afflicts or destroys what He has created, but we should celebrate when His beauty breaks through the brokenness, when a man and woman are knitted together into one flesh, when a new life is born, when an old friend walks out of the hospital, when a marriage is mended, when a soul is saved. We should remember that Paul's given here is "with": We are called to be with the mourners and with the rejoicers, with the happy and with the hurting.

Best and Worst

How can we do all these things? How can we live in such a way? Paul has an answer: The only way to live like this, the only way to bring about these inside-out changes is to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" -- to accept Him and follow Him.

Paul knew that this sort of change was possible because he experienced it. He was all of those things we are trying to leave behind. In fact, he called himself "the worst of sinners" -- proud and hard-hearted, cold and uncaring, vengeful and angry, closed off and cloistered by his culture. But everything changed when he allowed the Living God to begin transforming him. It started on the inside.


Alan Dowd writes at the crossroads of faith and public policy.

FACT CHECK: Wolff Book Claims Kellyanne Conway ‘Had Never Been Involved in a National Campaign’

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 22:12

Michael Wolff, author of the book Fire and Fury about President Donald Trump's first year, claimed that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway had never been involved in a national campaign before joining the Trump campaign.

"Conway, who had never been involved in a national campaign, and who, before Trump, ran a small-time, down-ballot polling firm, understood full well that, post-campaign, she would now be one of the leading conservative voices on cable news," Wolff wrote in his book released Friday.

Verdict: False

Conway has a long history of involvement with national politics. She served as a pollster for multiple national campaigns in previous election cycles and worked with a number of presidential political action committees (PACs).

Fact Check:

Conway is no stranger to national politics. She founded the market research firm the Polling Company in 1995, where she worked with dozens of Republican campaigns and PACs for 21 years. Multiple Conway profiles note her extensive work in the national political space.

Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson noted on Twitter that Conway was a pollster for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign in 2012 and criticized Wolff for framing Conway's firm as "small-time." Federal Elections Commission records confirm that the Polling Company received payment from the Newt 2012 presidential campaign committee.

Conway was also the pollster for former Vice President Dan Quayle's presidential campaign in 1999 when she still went by her maiden name, Fitzpatrick. Conway's profile on the Polling Company website in 2016 noted that she worked with the Republican National Committee (RNC) as well.

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Before she joined the Trump campaign, Conway was involved with other Republican presidential campaigns in the 2016 cycle. Her company worked with a super PAC that supported neurosurgeon Ben Carson's 2016 presidential campaign in early 2015. She then served as president of a pro-Sen. Ted Cruz super PAC. Conway joined the Trump campaign two months after Cruz dropped out.

The Polling Company called Conway "one of the most quoted and noted pollsters on the national scene," and said that she has provided commentary on over 1,300 television shows. Progressive media research group Media Matters has documented television interviews featuring Conway since 2007.

Conway has worked with many congressional campaigns, most recently including campaigns for Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa and former Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana in the 2016 cycle.

Conway sold the Polling Company to conservative firm CRC Public Relations in September to comply with White House conflict-of-interest rules.


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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Unions Gave More Than $1.1 Billion to Democrats, Liberal Groups

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 21:55

From 2010 to 2016 alone, unions sent more than $1.1 billion in member dues to anti-Republican advocacy groups, a nonprofit union transparency organization says.

"For decades, union officials have betrayed working Americans by spending their dues dollars to advance a left-wing political agenda -- without prior approval," Luka Ladan, communications director for the Center for Union Facts, said in a statement.

"Big Labor is now the ATM of the Democratic Party, whether employees agree or not. The Employee Rights Act would hold union officials accountable to their members, not Democratic elites."

The center said the funds were sent to liberal and anti-Republican groups without members' approval, to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Clinton Foundation, and the Democratic Governors Association.

Planned Parenthood received $805,100 and the Democratic Governors Association received $14,126,000. The Center for American Progress, a policy organization known for its liberal stance, received $6,279,591.

The Center for Union Facts says such use of member dues is inappropriate, since "40 percent of union household members vote Republican in any given election cycle."

Currently, union authorities can spend funds from dues on political advocacy groups without receiving prior approval from members, and the center says Congress needs to pass the Employee Rights Act, which would require union chiefs to procure permission from members before spending dues on  political organizations and causes.

"Roughly 80 percent of Americans -- including those in union households -- support the paycheck-protection provision and other [Employee Rights Act] reforms," the Center for Union Facts says.

More than $8,000 in union dues also went to left-leaning media organizations, including Progressive and The American Prospect.

"The rights of American workers were under attack during the Obama presidency, and it is time to restore those rights and work to foster a pro-growth, pro-employee environment," Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said May 25 in a statement when the Employee Rights Act legislation was introduced, adding:

This legislation will ensure individuals' rights are upheld when considering whether or not they wish to join a union. The Employee Rights Act isn't pro- or anti-union, it's a commonsense measure to ensure a transparent and fair workplace.


Rachel del Guidice is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation's Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel@LRacheldG

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

What the Atheist Claim of the Meaninglessness of Life Would Mean (If it were True)

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 19:30

There is a scene early on in the killer-shark movie Jaws which has marine biologist Matt Hooper explaining to Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn the nature of sharks. “Mr Vaughn,” says Hooper, “what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine -- an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim, and eat and make little sharks. And that’s all.”

Is this explanation true? If so, then why doesn’t it also apply to ocelots? What else besides running, eating and making little ocelots does this carnivorous beastie do?

And if it works for sharks and ocelots, why not also for dandelions, cockroaches and ratbirds (pigeons)? And if for them, why not for all life? Why not for you, dear reader? After all, what else do people do except scurry about, eat and make more people?

A Bag of Bones

If life can be reduced to biology, to nothing but chemical and physical interactions -- as many atheists claim -- then the explanation that all life, including our own, is meaningless futile repetition must be true.

Don’t pass too quickly by “meaningless.” This is the main point. If our lives are solely biology, then our lives have no meaning. This is a stronger conclusion than you might think. For it follows that any meaning anybody ascribes to any event in life is itself meaningless. Any and all moral judgments are mere prejudice, the result of particular arrangements of chemicals operating under unbreakable physical laws.

If all moral judgments are prejudice, then everything anybody ever thinks or says is opinion. And it’s forced opinion, at that. All opinions are the result of chemicals pushing this way and that, forming unwilled patterns in brains, under the control of nobody.

Who Asked For Your Opinion?

You say rape is wrong? That’s just your opinion. Worse, it’s an opinion you have no choice but to believe, since the opinion is formed in a brain operating under fixed laws. You think murder is immoral? Well, there is no such thing as immorality, and cannot be, since for acts to be moral or immoral, acts cannot be meaningless. Meaning defines morality.

So what? you might think. Individual people might be nothing more than their biology, because what really matters is the human race itself.

But this must be false, since it does not matter whether sharks or ocelots or humans exist. Why? Because nothing, in the end, matters. That you believe people, or cockroaches, or even “the earth” deserves its rightful place, is again nothing more than your opinion. And your opinion does not matter. Not on these matters, nor on any matter.

We cannot say, as some do say, that in this all-is-biology scheme that the “universe is indifferent” to us, or to any life. The universe cannot be “indifferent.” The universe can’t care. It too is just a bag of meaningless physical reactions. And in none of those reactions can there be caring or indifference.

Science is Not the Answer

Science cannot rescue us from this bleak conclusion.

Celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of pointing out the meaningless of life. He recently tweeted, “Not that anybody’s asked, but New Years Day on the Gregorian Calendar is a cosmically arbitrary event, carrying no Astronomical significance at all.”

This is not only true, if scientists like himself are correct that we are nothing but biology, but it doesn’t go far enough. For there is no such thing as “astronomical significance.” There is no such thing as significance of any kind! This is because significance implies meaningful, and if all life is biology, then nothing is meaningful.

Yes, we can define significance with reference to some equations that describe, say, certain planetary motions, but why would we want to? That activity is meaningless. Any and all scientific results are meaningless. Science gave us rocket travel and pharmaceuticals? It doesn’t matter.

The Problem of Evil

What we have been discussing is the Problem of Evil. If atheism is true, if life really is nothing more than biology, then there is no such thing as evil. There is no such thing as good, either.

It is often asked why evil exists. Evil, some say, is not compatible with an all-loving God. This, they say, is the real “problem” of evil. But we can now see this judgment is backwards. If God doesn’t exist, then there is no evil. Anything goes! And nothing matters. Even more, that “nothing” encompasses everything.

But if God does exist, the classical answer about evil suddenly makes sense. Evil is the absence of the Good, and the ultimate Good is God.

African-American Unemployment Hit Record Low in December

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:49

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Years of steady hiring and economic growth have delivered a cumulative benefit for at least one group that hasn’t always shared in America’s prosperity.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest level since the government began tracking such data in 1972. The reasons range from a greater number of black Americans with college degrees to a growing need for employers in a tight job market to widen the pool of people they hire from.

“The African American unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent, the lowest rate in 45 years. I am so happy about this News!” President Donald Trump said in a tweet Saturday.

Still, the rate for black workers remains well above those for whites and some other groups, something experts attribute in large part to decades of discrimination and disadvantages.

Robust job creation has lowered unemployment for all Americans. U.S. employers added nearly 2.1 million jobs in 2017 -- the seventh straight year that hiring has topped 2 million. The U.S. economy gained a hefty 5.7 million jobs in 2014 and 2015 alone.

But there are also less-happy reasons for the lower unemployment rates: Fewer Americans are either working or looking for work. (People who aren’t actively seeking a job aren’t counted as unemployed.) An aging population means there are more retirees. Young Americans are also staying in school longer before job-hunting.

And some people, perhaps discouraged about their prospects, have given up looking for work and so aren’t included in the unemployment rate.

Here are some questions and answers about African-Americans’ record-low unemployment rate:



A. Not necessarily. As with nearly all demographic groups, a smaller proportion of blacks have jobs now than before the Great Recession, in part because of retirements, more people staying in school and discouraged would-be workers.

The best job market for African-Americans might actually have been in 2000, when 61.4 percent of black adults were employed, the highest proportion ever. That figure fell below 52 percent in the depths of the recession, and is now 57.9 percent.

The same pattern occurred for other groups. Two-thirds of Latinos were employed in 2000; now, only 62.5 percent are. About 65 percent of whites were working in 2000, far higher than the current 60.4 percent. (The data for Asians goes back only to 2003.)


Q. Why is the African-American unemployment rate higher than the rate for whites?

A. The main reason is discrimination, according to most research. Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy, notes that even when African-Americans have similar levels of education or experience, their chances of being unemployed are higher.

“That’s what begs the question of what else could be the major reason,” Wilson said.

Nancy DiTomaso, a business professor at Rutgers University, says her research has found that whites likely benefit from networks of family and friends that don’t intentionally exclude blacks or other minorities. Yet, nevertheless, their networks have the effect of helping whites get jobs more readily than blacks.


Q. What about other ethnic and racial groups?

A. Everyone is benefiting from the healthy job market. The unemployment rate for Latinos was 4.9 percent in December, just above the record low of 4.8 percent reached in June.

And the jobless rate for Asians was 2.5 percent in December, just above the record low of 2.4 percent set in 2006.

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Q. What factors have helped lower unemployment for African-Americans?

A. One major reason, Wilson says, is that many more black Americans are college graduates than in the past. That doesn’t completely offset the effects of discrimination. But among all groups, college graduates have lower unemployment rates than those with less education.

Another driver is economic: When the national unemployment rate falls to ultra-low levels, employers typically cast wider nets to find the workers they need. As they do so, they typically start pulling in more people from historically disadvantaged groups. These include job-seekers with less education as well as racial minorities.

With the current U.S. unemployment rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, that appears to be what’s happening.

Some economists want the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising the short-term interest rate it controls for exactly this reason: Raising that rate could slow growth just as the benefits of the economy’s expansion are spreading to disadvantaged groups.


Q. Where might the unemployment rate for African-Americans go from here?

A. It depends on the economy. Most economists expect healthy growth this year, fueled in part by the Trump administration’s tax cuts for individuals and companies. That should lower unemployment for all Americans.

The African-American unemployment rate is highly volatile and could rise or fall noticeably in the months ahead. It’s down from 7.9 percent a year ago.

Typically, the African-American unemployment rate is about twice the rate for whites and is more volatile. Wilson calculates that for each percentage-point change in the rate for whites, up or down, the rate for African-Americans will swing by about 1.6 points.


Follow Christopher Rugaber on Twitter at


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Federal Tax Overhaul Could Lead to Changes in Some States

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 17:33

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) -- In New Jersey and California, top Democratic officials want to let people make charitable contributions to the state instead of paying certain taxes. In Connecticut and New York, officials are exploring a switch from income taxes to new ones on payroll. A few governors have even called for tax cuts.

The ideas are bubbling up as state lawmakers begin their 2018 sessions and assess the effects of the Republican tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law last month. Lawmakers and governors in some states are grappling with how to protect their constituents.

The federal policy implements a maze of changes. It cuts tax rates and nearly doubles the standard income deduction. Yet it also caps or eliminates some popular itemized deductions, and sets the personal exemptions to zero.

For many Americans, the result is expected to be lower federal tax obligations, at least initially. Those facing higher bills are expected to be concentrated in some high-tax states.

With legislators starting their sessions and governors writing state budgets, the response is a political priority. The proposals are bold, though not yet fleshed out.

This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his state-of-the-state speech to pledge to sue over the GOP tax plan, which he called “an assault” by the federal government. A lawsuit would add taxes to the growing list of Trump administration policies that Democratic states have challenged in court.

Other states have not committed to sue, but some leaders have indicated they’ll explore the idea.

“I’m certainly not a constitutional lawyer, but the notion that this is not constitutional is something we want to pursue,” said Phil Murphy, New Jersey’s Democratic governor-elect.

Officials in California and Connecticut also said this week they were considering legal options.

In high-tax states, officials have been focused on protecting taxpayers from the impact of a new $10,000 cap on deductions for paying state and local taxes. In California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, more than one-third of tax filers claim the state and local tax deduction on federal taxes; the average deduction in each state is over $15,000.

California state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate, introduced legislation this week that would allow people to make charitable donations to the state instead of paying income taxes. That would allow them to claim a charitable deduction on federal taxes.

“Our hard-earned tax dollars should not be subject to double-taxation, especially not to line the pockets of the Trump family, hedge fund managers and private jet owners,” de Leon said in a statement.

Another Democrat, New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, announced a similar plan on Friday but said local governments also could implement it and apply it to property taxes.

Kim Rueben, a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said it remains to be seen whether the IRS would allow deductions for that kind of contribution if it’s rewarded with tax credits. There is some precedent for it, though: She noted that some states give tax credits in return for private-school scholarships and that the IRS allows deductions of those contributions.

In Connecticut, two Democratic legislative leaders want to replace income taxes on individuals with payroll taxes on employers.

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Under the new federal tax law, employers’ state and local taxes would remain deductible. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and House Majority Leader Matthew Ritter sent a letter Wednesday asking a state commission to evaluate the idea. New York’s Cuomo said he’s looking at a similar change there.

Rueben said that for the approach to work, states would have to figure out what to do with the income of high-earners who receive money from investments rather than jobs -- something Cuomo said he could address through a tax on carried interest.

Nicole Keading, an economist at the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, said that change also could mean that states would replace progressive income tax structures with flat payroll taxes.

“You would be raising taxes on low-income people,” she said.

The measure could be tough to pass this year with Cuomo and all members of the New York Legislature up for election. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a Republican who is running for governor, said the state should focus instead on cutting taxes and spending.

“The issues really hurting New Yorkers are self-inflicted wounds,” he said.

Governors in some other states are worried that their own current tax policies could inflict pain for taxpayers as a result of the federal changes.

More than 40 states have income taxes, and nearly all of them rely to some degree on definitions from the federal tax code.

Economists expect that many states will see their revenue rise because they tie their tax laws to federal provisions such as those on personal exemptions, which lower the bills based on the size of households.

In Maryland and Michigan, the Republican governors have said they will introduce tax cuts to compensate, after the GOP bill eliminated the personal exemption.

“Protecting taxpayers should be a bipartisan issue, so that’s my holiday gift to the people of Maryland,” Maryland’s Larry Hogan, a Republican, said last month.

Hogan, however, has to work with a legislature led by Democrats, and it’s unclear how they will want to respond. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said the GOP tax plan will have “dire effects” for many Maryland residents.

“Our governor needs to be focusing on how he can join with members of the House and Senate to combat the evils of this federal tax bill,” he said.

Last month, Idaho’s state Senate leader, Republican Brent Hill, said he was concerned that new state revenue would come disproportionately from larger families because of the elimination of the exemption. He said the state could consider keeping a personal exemption or offering a state child tax credit.

Meanwhile in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, asked the Legislature last week for $300 million in new spending for the current fiscal year and for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He cited in part new revenue expected under the federal law, which he has criticized.

Hickenlooper wants to use the extra money for roads, schools and the state reserve.


Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Denver; Michael Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey; Jonathan J. Cooper in Sacramento, California; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; David Klepper in Albany, New York; an Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this article.


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Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fr. James Martin is Not Telling the Truth About the Church’s Teaching on Sexuality

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 15:30

Fr. James Martin has gone from obscuring Catholic teaching on human sexuality to distorting it. See, for instance, a recent interview he gave while at Misericordia University.

Pouring lemon juice on the cut, he also implicated the truth of Church teaching in the high suicide rate among “LGBT” youth. Here is what he said on the Catechism’s description of homosexual acts being “disordered.”

[Interviewer] Well, the people who've seen your book or know something about you are complaining that you want to rewrite some of the Catechism to differently ordered, can you speak about that?

[Martin] Yeah, well part of the Catechism says that homosexual people are objectively disordered; their actions are objectively disordered and they themselves are intrinsically disordered. And so basically what I'm saying in the book is you know we need to look at how that language is received by people and heard by people and basically all I'm saying is that there are several bishops who said that that wording needs to be looked at. And now imagine someone telling you -- you are intrinsically disordered, I mean how would that make you feel? ... I mean LGBT youths are five times, five times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids. Five times.”

What the Catechism Actually Says

Nowhere in any of its 2,865 paragraphs does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say that any individual person or group of people is disordered.

What Fr. Martin misstates is this: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”‘ CCC 2357

Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Not the person. Fr. Martin also fails to ever mention why the Church teaches that these acts are disordered, because that reasoning doesn’t help his cause.

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He says his goal is to see the wording of the Catechism changed so as not to sound so insulting, so offensive. But different words are not just different words. They result in a different meaning.

‘Differently Ordered’ is not the Truth

Fr. Martin believes the Catechism should call homosexual acts “differently ordered” instead of intrinsically disordered. Such a rephrasing changes everything. Suddenly, homosexual sex is just another expression of human sexuality, and one that God surely intended from the very beginning.

If same-sex sex is just a “different” type of sexual intercourse, then it ceases to be sinful. It can no longer be seen as immoral, or even as contrary to natural law. We must accept it as equal to the marital act. Which leads us to marriage: It also means same-sex “marriage” can no longer be opposed.

The trouble is, it makes God unreasonable. Sex between two men or two women has no biological purpose and can never bear any fruit. God created every aspect of our physical nature with a purpose, and He designed the human person, male and female, to bear fruit.

It’s absurd to insist that God creates some people with a sexual inclination that renders their reproductive system useless. It makes God either irrational or idiotic.

Male and female were made for each other, and our physical bodies affirm this in every way. At the risk of being indelicate, the only reasonable pairing for the male sex organ is the female sex organ. Anything else requires misusing the human body in ways it was never designed for.

To now insist that God creates some people with a sexual inclination that renders their reproductive systems useless is absurd. It makes God either irrational or idiotic.

Time to Own the Truth

Fr. Martin surely knows this, but he won’t own it. Perhaps because that would shatter his facade of being faithful to Church teaching. What he wants contradicts the revealed truth about marriage and the human person. It’s time he was made to own it and stop using his fuzzy, feel-good propaganda to confuse and mislead people.

Jesus Christ said that the truth of His Word shall set us free. (John 8:32) What Fr. Martin is selling is chains. He seems to think God’s design for marriage and human sexuality is a millstone around people’s necks. Or, that the Church has been duped for all these years, but now he’s finally here to set things right.

Whatever the case, he is not telling the truth about the Church’s real teaching on sexuality.

Obama Wanted To Get Rid Of Him, But Now It Looks Like NSA Head Admiral Rogers Is Leaving On His Own

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 15:19

Admiral Mike Rogers is reportedly expected to step down this spring, retiring after four years as the director of the National Security Agency, Politico revealed Friday.

The embattled NSA director is said to have made the announcement to agency staff, Reuters reported Friday, citing a tweet by a Washington Post reporter. President Donald Trump will likely name a successor sometime before the end of the month.

Former President Barack Obama nominated Rogers in 2014, and he took the helm at a time when the NSA was still reeling in the wake of the devastating Edward Snowden leaks.

He faced staunch criticism from other intelligence and defense leaders, as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter both recommended a little over a year ago that the White House relieve him of his duties, citing inadequacies in his performance.

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Several major security breaches occurred on Rogers' watch, such as the damaging theft of sensitive materials by Booz Allen Hamilton contractor and TAO employee Harold T. Martin III and another serious data breach in the summer of 2015. "[Rogers] has been at the helm of the NSA at the time of some of the most egregious security breaches," a senior administration official told the Washington Post in the fall of 2016.

He also aggravated the Obama administration by secretly meeting with then President-elect Trump in late 2016 without informing his superiors.

This past year, the NSA has been struggling to deal with the online leak of its top secret cyber warfare tools, and the news of Rogers' departure comes amid reports that many highly-skilled agency staff members are fleeing the NSA for better opportunities in the private sector. The NSA has also been forced to handle the fallout after former contractor Reality Winner allegedly leaked the details of an agency intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Despite some of his shortcomings, Rogers has managed to reform Cyber Command and appears to have boosted the overall capabilities of this elite warfighting unit. He also maintains the support of many American lawmakers in Congress.

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Trump Administration Releasing Guidelines on Medicaid Work Requirements

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 15:09

The Trump administration will release guidelines soon for requiring Medicaid recipients to work, The Hill reported. The guidelines will tell the states how to add work requirements to their Medicaid programs. The states will decide whether to pursue work requirements. If they do, they must apply for a waiver from the federal government.

9.8 million non-elderly Medicaid enrollees do not work, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Thirty-six percent said they weren't working due to illness or disability. Thirty percent said they were caring for a family member, while 15 percent said they were going to school.

Medicaid Work Requirements

Seema Verma proposed the change. In a speech late last year, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services criticized Obamacare for "expanding Medicaid to 'able-bodied' adults." That group should be expected to work, she said.

Not expecting them to work “is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration," said Verma. "Those days are over."

Some Democrats balk at the idea of making able-bodied Medicaid recipients work. They say people who can't meet the requirements will lose their coverage. The guidelines may also discourage people from enrolling.

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The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ Hannah Katch said the guidance would fundamentally change how Medicaid covers people. Such guidance “would be a watershed moment."

The States Know Best

But the states know best how to address the unique needs of their people, wrote a CMS spokesperson Thursday in an email. "That is why we support … efforts at the state level to enhance the lives of Medicaid recipients and help them achieve self-sufficiency."

The guidance is expected to be released within weeks.

Nine states have applied to require work requirements. Wisconsin has also asked to require drug testing of Medicaid recipients.

CMS believes that meaningful work is essential to those living with disabilities, said Verma. "Why would we not believe that the same is true for working age, able-bodied Medicaid enrollees?"

Companies Giving 1 Million Employees Up to $3,000 in Tax Cut Bonuses

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 14:28

About 1 millions American employees are set to receive up to  $3,000 in bonuses in light of President Donald Trump's tax cut, according to an analysis done by Americans for Tax Reform.

Various businesses across the country announced special bonuses in light of Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, ATR reported Friday. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act slashed the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, prompting a slew of businesses to announce efforts to invest in American workers.

Companies like AT&T and AccuWeather announced to their employees that they would be receiving special bonuses due to the new tax act. About 200,000 AT&T employees received $1,000 bonus checks, while every employee with AccuWeather got a year-end bonus.

"Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world. Tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees," AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement.

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Other companies have also announced similar actions: American Airlines is set to give their employees $1,000 bonuses while 60 employees at American Bank are about to get $1,000 bonuses as well. Boeing plans to give $100 million in charitable donations and JetBlue plans $1,000 bonuses for their 21,000 employees.

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Scarborough Asked Trump If He Knew How To Read, Then Trump Whipped Out A Bible

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 13:06

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough once asked President Donald Trump if he knew how to read after a GOP primary debate in 2015, and Trump responded by pulling out his Bible.

In a Thursday Washington Post op-ed, Scarborough writes that he and fiancee Mika Brzezinski met with Trump after a "bumbling debate performance" in September 2015, and asked point blank if he was illiterate.

"Mika Brzezinski and I had a tense meeting with Trump following what I considered to be a bumbling debate performance in September 2015. I asked the candidate a blunt question: Can you read," Scarborough writes. He claims there was an "awkward silence" and said, "I'm serious, Donald. Do you read? If someone wrote you a one-page paper on a policy, could you read it?"

Trump then calmly said he could read and held up a Bible gifted to him by his mother and claimed to read it "all the time."

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Scarborough continued to belabor the point in the article, citing Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," where Wolff claims Trump never reads.

"The world wonders how the United States will survive Donald Trump. And I ask, what will finally move Republicans to deliver a non--negotiable ultimatum to this unstable president?" Scarborough writes. "Will they dare place their country's interests above their own political fears? Or will they move to end this American tragedy only when there is nothing left to lose?"

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Pope: Don’t Be Misled by Making Money and Career Your Life

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:52

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis advised against making the pursuit of money, a career or success the basis for one’s whole life, urging people in his Epiphany remarks Saturday to also resist “the inclinations toward arrogance, the thirst for power and for riches.”

Francis said during a homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that people “often make do” with having “health, a little money and a bit of entertainment.”

He urged helping the poor and others in need of assistance, giving freely without expecting anything in return.

Many Christians observe Epiphany to recall the three wise men who followed a star to find baby Jesus. Francis suggested asking “what star we have chosen to follow in our lives.”

“Some stars may be bright, but do not point the way. So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures when these become our lives,” the pope said. That path, he continued, won’t ensure peace and joy.

Later, during an appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis told tens of thousands of faithful gathered below that some Christians prefer to live while indifferent to Jesus.

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“Instead of conducting themselves in coherence with their own Christian faith, they follow the principles of the world, which lead to satisfying the inclinations toward arrogance, the thirst for power and for riches,” Francis said.

He prayed that instead that “the world makes progress down the path of justice and of peace.”

Francis noted that some Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox churches are celebrating Christmas this weekend. In expressing cordial wishes to these believers, Francis added, “May this glorious celebration be a source of new spiritual vigor and of communion among us Christians.”

He also recalled the traditions such as in Poland, where many families join in processions recalling the three wise men. In some countries, Epiphany and not Christmas, is the holiday occasion to exchange gifts among loved ones.


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Eastern U.S. Set for Wickedly Cold Weekend of Sub-Zero Temps

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:51

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Brutally cold conditions are expected to envelop the East Coast most of this weekend, prompting wind chill warnings from Virginia to Vermont.

Temperatures will reach close to zero from Philadelphia to Boston through Saturday night, with wind chills making it feel like minus 10 degrees to minus 20 degrees. Even more temperate locations won’t escape the cold, with the mercury dipping into the single digits in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., over the weekend -- about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.

The blast of cold air, which comes just days after a storm dumped as much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow in some places, could bring the feeling of real jaw-clenching temperatures to people living further north.

The National Weather Service said Friday that temperatures in the Berkshire mountains in western Massachusetts could seem like a frosty minus 35 degrees, parts of New Hampshire and Maine could experience minus 45, and Vermont’s mountain regions could feel like minus 50 degrees.

“It’s definitely cold and the type of bone-chilling cold that happens every few years,” said Dan Hofmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Baltimore. He added that the last time such extreme cold occurred was in February 2015.

The weather service issued wind chill warnings for various days this weekend for parts of Vermont, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Maine and New Hampshire.

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These locations, however, will have nothing on the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The Mount Washington Observatory, on its website , predicted the mountain’s highest summits could see wind chills of minus 100 degrees into Saturday.

Fast forward to early next week, though, and more seasonable weather is expected to return with temperatures in the high 30s and near 40s.


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Trump Seeks $18 Billion Over Ten Years to Extend Border Wall

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:33

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The Trump administration has proposed spending $18 billion over 10 years to significantly extend the border wall with Mexico, providing one of its most detailed blueprints of how the president hopes to carry out a signature campaign pledge.

The proposal by Customs and Border Protection calls for 316 miles (505 kilometers) of additional barrier by September 2027, bringing total coverage to 970 miles (1,552 kilometers), or nearly half the border, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter.

It also calls for 407 miles (651 kilometers) of replacement or secondary fencing, said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

Trump has promised “a big, beautiful wall” with Mexico as a centerpiece of his presidency but offered few details of where it would be built, when and at what cost. His administration asked for $1.6 billion this year to build or replace 74 miles (118 kilometers) of fencing in Texas and California, and officials have said they also will seek $1.6 billion next year.

The 10-year plan, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, resulted from discussions with senators who asked the agency what it would take to secure the border, the official said.

It comes as the administration intensifies negotiations in Congress on a package that may include granting legal status to about 800,000 people who were temporarily shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Trump said last year that he was ending DACA but gave Congress until March to deliver a legislative fix.

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The plan on border security came in response to a request by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, said Jason Samuels, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican.

An administration official confirmed the document was prepared at the request of congressional negotiators and said funding for the wall and other security measures must be part of any legislative package on immigration. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the wall would be “first and foremost” in any package that includes new protections for DACA recipients. She also said the administration wanted to close “loopholes” on issues that include handling asylum claims and local police working with immigration authorities.

Nielsen called the $3.2 billion requests for fencing during the administration’s first two years a down payment.

“This is not going to get us the whole wall we need, but it’s a start,” she said.

Mexico has steadfastly rejected Trump’s demand that it pay for the wall and few doubt that U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill if the wall is built.

The Customs and Border Protection document calls for a total of $33 billion in new border spending, including $18 billion for the wall, $5.7 billion for technology gear, $1 billion for road construction and maintenance and $8.5 billion for 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, 2,500 border inspectors and other personnel, the U.S. official said.

The document doesn’t specify where the extended wall should be built.


Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

‘In Essentials, Unity’ Includes Sexual Morality

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:00

"In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." So goes the wisdom, dating back to the 17th century. But what’s really essential?

A couple weeks ago someone charged me with making my essentials into everyone’s essentials. He was talking about my stance against gay marriage and LGBT moral opinions. If he was right, I was being pretty obnoxious. But what if my stance isn’t just mine? What if it’s essential for the whole Church?

If he was right, then I was being pretty obnoxious.

Most Christians believe we can have true fellowship with others who disagree with us on really important matters. For the most part, believers agree that we can have fellowship even when we disagree over the timing and mode of baptism, what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, what to expect in the end times, whether miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue still today. 

So why can't we disagree over gay sexuality, too?

The Early Church’s Answers

The answer is best found in the early Church. Christians in the first several centuries after Christ had some pretty severe conflicts over basic beliefs. They fought out their disputes in lectures, in sermons, in writings and in conferences called church councils. These councils produced the statement we now call the Nicene Creed and the lesser-known Chalcedonian Definition. Both were crucial in declaring who Jesus is, that he’s both truly God and truly man and therefore our savior.

Yet one church council took place much earlier than these -- centuries earlier, in fact. Its members included the apostles Peter, James, Paul and Barnabas! It's known now as the Council of Jerusalem, and it’s recorded in Acts 15:4-21.

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Like other, later, councils, this one was called to settle a dispute. The question was this: Which Jewish beliefs and practices were essential for gentile Christians to follow?

James proposed an answer, and they all agreed. "It's my judgment," he said, "that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God." In other words, we shouldn't impose anything on them except what's really crucial. He listed three items. All believers, he said, should "abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”

They imposed the first rule to keep Christianity distinct and holy unto the Lord -- clearly not optional! The prohibition against eating "what has been strangled" enforced the rule against eating the blood of animals, a command that was never meant only for Jews. It goes all the way back to Noah, the father of all who have lived since that day, both Jew and non-Jew (see Genesis 9:3-4.) So it, too, was essential for all.

Sexual Morality Was On the Apostles’ Short List of Essentials

And so is sexual morality. From the beginning and throughout all Scripture, God intended sex to be for a man and woman who are married to each other. This earliest church council made that clear, one more time.

This council didn’t mention very basic beliefs like the resurrection, because no one at the time doubted that they were essential to being a Christian. But they knew that some Gentiles would have had questions about supposedly “Jewish” rules regarding sexual morality. So they dealt with it as a live question, and made the answer clear for all.

Yes, there are non-essentials. Sexual morality isn't one of them.

It's fascinating  how short their list of essentials was: the shortest that any church council has ever produced. Yet sexual morality was there, front and center.

"In essentials, unity," goes the saying. Sexual morality is clearly one of the essentials. "In all things, charity," the saying says further. Even though it's an essential, and we cannot help disagreeing with those who reject it,  we must do so with kindness in our hearts.

"In non-essentials, liberty." Yes, there are non-essentials. Sexual morality isn't one of them.

The Church -- those who believe God has spoken through His word, and who know that we're responsible to obey Him -- cannot stand down from its convictions on this truly essential belief.

Judge Rules for Kelvin Cochran

Sat, 01/06/2018 - 11:50

Another big religious freedom case in federal court. And in this case, there's a ray of hope.

For more than three decades, Kelvin Cochran built a record of service and expertise that made him one of the most respected fire chiefs in the country. He was the first African-American fire chief in Shreveport, Louisiana. He was among the responders to Hurricane Katrina. President Obama appointed him as the U.S. Fire Administrator, whose job is to improve both fire prevention and response across the country.

And until a few years ago, he was the chief of the Atlanta Fire Department, a job he would probably still hold if city officials had any respect for Cochran's rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Cochran got into trouble over a book he wrote on his own time for a small group that he led in his church. The book, entitled Who Told You That You Were Naked?, was directed at Christian men seeking to fulfill their biblical roles as "husbands, fathers, community and business leaders."

Six of the book's 162 pages -- yes, that's 3.7 percent -- addressed a biblical perspective on sexuality. As David French summed up, Cochran took "the completely conventional, orthodox Christian position that sex outside of male-female marriage is contrary to God's will," which "is the position of the Catholic Church and every orthodox Protestant denomination in the United States."

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Unfortunately, "orthodoxy" is defined very differently at Atlanta's City Hall. When the contents of Cochran's book came to the attention of Mayor Kasim Reed, Reed ultimately fired Cochran, but not before saying "when you're a city employee, and [your] thoughts, beliefs, and opinions are different from the city's, you have to check them at the door."

That makes it sound like Cochran was fired for his beliefs; but the city denied that. Instead it claimed that he was let go because he didn't obtain permission before publishing the book.

The problem is that, constitutionally-speaking, the city cannot require employees to get permission before expressing their religious views.

Late last month, a federal court agreed. It concluded that the Atlanta pre-clearance policy "does not pass constitutional muster" because it does not "set out objective standards for the supervisor to employ."

As a result, the opinion continues, it "would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing. It's unclear to the Court how such an outside employment would ever affect the City's ability to function, and the City provides no evidence to justify it. ... The potential for stifled speech far outweighs an unsupported assertion of harm."

Unfortunately for Cochran, that glass is only half-full. The court rejected Cochran's claim that his rights to free speech and freedom of religion were violated by his firing.

In a just and sane world Kelvin Cochran would not have had to endure what he has endured. But I'm grateful for his courage.

Still, as Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kevin Theriot emphasizes, the court ruled that Cochran's firing was unconstitutional. According to Theriot, who represented Cochran, the ruling "sets a precedent that says that government employers have to be very careful about how they restrict the speech of their employees when they're talking about non-work related stuff."

This is a real concern. Rules like Atlanta's have had a chilling effect on the free speech of people on platforms such as social media. People have legitimately feared the consequences of speaking up for traditional Christian beliefs even on their own time. This ruling is an important step in the direction of eliminating that chill.

Where does that leave Cochran himself? Despite media reports to the contrary, he's in a position to recover his lost wages and benefits. There's even a remote possibility he could get his job back.

In a just and sane world Kelvin Cochran would not have had to endure what he has endured. But I'm grateful for his courage and I pray that he'll receive some compensation for the wrong done to him.


Originally published on BreakPoint Commentaries. Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.


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