Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Mel Martinez: HUD's man," March 3, 2001

The Buzz

Redlining evangelicals?
President Bush has consistently said that groups with a strong commitment to evangelism will not be discriminated against within his faith-based initiative. In his July 1999 speech in Indianapolis that laid out his understanding of compassionate conservatism, he promised, ÒWe will never ask an organization to compromise its core values and spiritual mission to get the help it needs.Ó He has said the same thing many times since, to groups large and small. Keeping those promises in mind, evangelicals on Feb. 27 were trying to interpret the statements of White House faith-based office head John DiIulio to a group of Jewish leaders. According to The Washington Post, one of the leaders asked about a Texas church-run anti-drug program that sees conversion to Christ as the best way to beat addiction: Would such a program be eligible for federal funding? According to the Post, Mr. DiIulio said, Òthe answer to your question is a strong no.Ó That statement, which the faith-based office said was taken out of a still unclear context, goes against pledges Mr. DiIulio has made to evaluate programs purely by effectiveness. He has told evangelicals that the federal government wonÕt fund proselytizing as such, but will fund effective programs that increase literacy, reduce addiction, and so on. Whether those programs achieve those objectives through evangelism or in other ways is not the governmentÕs business, Mr. DiIulio has said, as long as government funds are not paying for the religious instruction and worship itself. That left many questions hanging, some of which Mr. DiIulio was scheduled to address in a March 7 speech at the National Association of Evangelicals annual convention in Dallas (see also p. 66). Evangelical support for expanding tax deductions and instituting poverty-fighting tax credits appears to be strong, but debate continues on the idea of the federal government making grants to religious groups. Of course, Washington already gives money to lots of religious groups-as long as they donÕt talk about God. SPY SUSPECT KNOWN AS RELIGIOUS MAN
Never on a Sunday?
How could accused spy Robert Hanssen sell secrets to Russia for 15 years without arousing suspicions at the FBI? Turns out his well-known religious piety may have played a role. Friends remember Mr. Hanssen as a devout Catholic who scolded neighborhood children for using bad language and lectured his co-workers about the Ògodless CommunistsÓ whose teachings were antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. If it was all just a cover, he went to great lengths to maintain it. Complaining that his parish priest was too liberal, Mr. Hanssen found a church that still conducted the Mass in Latin (and that counted Sen. Rick Santorum and Justice Clarence Thomas among its number). He sent his six kids to expensive Catholic schools, and joined Opus Dei, a conservative Òfloating dioceseÓ under the direct purview of the pope. Still, there were limits to his devotion. Even while he was selling his countryÕs secrets for a reported $1.4 million, Mr. Hanssen gave only $2,690 to Opus Dei and even less to his church. ÒI can safely say he didnÕt donate,Ó his priest, the Rev. Franklyn McAfee, told The Washington Times. SEATTLE QUAKE
Shaking Starbucks
It could have been a lot worse. The strongest quake to hit the Pacific Northwest in 52 years shook the ground, damaged buildings, and panicked people from Seattle to Portland. At least 29 people were injured and about 30 people were stranded briefly atop a swaying Space Needle in Seattle. Many bizarre moments came during the 45-second quake. Screams erupted at a Seattle hotel where Microsoft founder Bill Gates was giving a speech. Bricks fell from the top of Starbucks headquarters. The dome cracked atop the state Capitol in Olympia. Similar earthquakes hit the region in 1949 and 1965. While California gets lots of publicity for being an earthquake zone, the upper regions of the West Coast are also considered at serious risk. SUPREME COURT: FIRST KEY CHURCH-STATE CASE SINCE FOOTBALL GAME PRAYERS WERE OUTLAWED
School board theologians
Anyone know the difference between Òreligious viewpointsÓ and Òreligious subject mattersÓ? Anyone know why it matters? It matters very much to the Good News Club and the Milford (N.Y.) School District. Now it matters to the Supreme Court, which last week heard the dispute between the two parties. HereÕs how the case began: In 1996, the Rev. Stephen Fournier and his wife, Darleen, requested access to MilfordÕs lone K-12 school, down the road from their church, to make Good News Club meetings more convenient for the children. When the school system turned them down, the Fourniers sued. They question why groups like Girl Scouts or the 4-H Club get to use the school while they do not. They contend they are being singled out unfairly. Simple, said the school district. The law allows for discrimination against Òreligious subject matter.Ó The club meetings, said school system lawyer Frank Miller, cross the line from moral instruction to religious proselytizing: ÒThis is no different than Sunday school.Ó Not so simple, countered the Fourniers. The law forbids discrimination against Òreligious viewpoints,Ó and government has no business making these distinctions. ÒIf youÕre going to allow school officials to do that,Ó said John Whitehead, whose Rutherford Institute is representing the Fourniers, Òthen they should be theologians.Ó A federal judge sided with the school district, as did the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. But the 8th U.S. Circuit in 1994 ruled in favor of another Good News Club on free speech grounds in a similar case from Missouri. Thus, the Supreme CourtÕs involvement. A decision is expected by this summer. SUPREME COURT: NO PROBLEM WITH S.C. ABORTION REGULATIONS
Killing by the rules
The Supreme Court on Feb. 26 refused to hear the appeal of four South Carolina abortionists who claimed that health and safety rules imposed on abortion clinics violated a womanÕs Òright to choose.Ó South CarolinaÕs 27-page rulebook dates back to 1995, when the state legislature stepped in to regulate the largely autonomous abortion industry. The rules cover everything from doorway size to airflow and require procedures such as standardized bookkeeping and testing for venereal disease. State authorities said the regulations merely brought South Carolina in line with other states and helped to ensure a womanÕs safety. But four clinics immediately sued, claiming the real purpose of the rules was to make it harder for women to obtain an abortion. A federal judge agreed, but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying states could regulate the abortion industry just like any other industry. The Supreme CourtÕs refusal to hear an appeal by the abortionists means not only that South Carolina can enforce its rules, but also that other Southeastern states under the jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit may impose rules of their own. ÒI wonder what Constitution they are looking at,Ó griped Candy Kerns, the National Organization for Women coordinator for Greenville, S.C. ÒI donÕt have much hope that the Supreme Court will protect our rights anymore.Ó But Charlie Condon, the stateÕs Republican attorney general, called the ruling Òvery good news.Ó ÒSouth Carolina should be run by South Carolinians,Ó he said, Ònot by federal bureaucrats or federal courts.Ó SUPREME COURT: MONEY IS NO OBJECT
An unfettered EPA?
The grand dame of environmental regulation won the backing of the Supreme Court with a ruling that its stipulations must be followed, regardless of the cost. This means the EPA gets freer reign than ever before. A unanimous decision ruled against industry claims that regulators set standards without clear criteria and without counting the cost of compliance. Justice Scalia argued, however, that the agency can consider costs in its instructions for implementing the rules-just that the law doesnÕt require it. Now the Bush administration must figure out how to implement this new authority. To the chagrin of industry, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman lauded the decision as Òa solid endorsement of EPAÕs efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of pollution.Ó Many interpreted this to mean she would uphold the Clinton-era soot and ozone standards that brought this lawsuit. KUWAIT 10 YEARS AFTER THE GULF WAR
Dancing in the streets
Tension in the Persian Gulf over U.S.-led attacks on Iraq could not keep Kuwait from long-planned celebrations. Thousands of Kuwaitis and foreigners marched along the main Gulf road to mark the 10th anniversary of the stateÕs freedom from Iraqi occupation. Brits and Americans joined Egyptians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Syrians, Algerians, Omanis, Bahrainis, and others in the march. Former President George H. W. Bush, who led the Gulf War against Iraq, was the headliner at most events. Kuwaitis nicknamed him ÒAbu Abdullah,Ó or father of Abdullah, which makes him one of their own. Joining him were Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the military effort that also included a multinational force from 30 countries. Those troops launched a massive ground offensive Feb. 23, 1991, against Iraqi troops. Saddam HusseinÕs soldiers quickly withdrew from Kuwait or surrendered, and the Gulf War ended in six weeks. The Kuwaiti government, together with its petroleum interests, exported the party feeling with public thank-yous in the United States. Print and radio spots from the Kuwait Information Office are appearing nationwide and on Armed Forces Radio Network. ÒKuwait thanks America,Ó they begin, Òfor our families, for our freedom, for our future.Ó Shafeeq N. Ghabra, director of the information office, says the campaign is intended to convey Òa straightforward, unadorned message of gratitudeÓ for his countryÕs liberation. Iraqi forces occupied Kuwait between August 1990 and February 1991. U.S. RAPS CHINAÕS HUMAN RIGHTS, BUT IT WONÕT AFFECT TRADE
Slap and trade
The Bush administration singled out communist China in releasing the State DepartmentÕs annual review of human rights. ÒThe bottom line is that the government strives to suppress any activity that they perceive as a threat to the government,Ó said acting secretary Michael E. Parmly. Underscoring the importance of that finding, Mr. Parmly said the Bush administration had decided to sponsor a resolution on ChinaÕs human-rights practices at the annual United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, which meets later this month. The report cites government destruction of thousands of unregistered religious institutions this year. The rebuke was a sting after last year, when the Clinton administration-speeding toward trade accords that would smooth the way for ChinaÕs entry into the World Trade Organization-decided not to introduce or support a similar resolution at the UNÕs human-rights forum. Reversing that trend, the Bush administration looks ready to de-link trade and human rights. ÒI think what you see is both phenomena happening at the same time. ItÕs not for us to reconcile the two; itÕs for the Chinese government and the Chinese people,Ó said Mr. Parmly. WORLD IN BRIEF

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