What Separates Louisiana’s David Vitter from Vance McAllister? Time and Politics

This column was originally published in The Christian Post.

Only days after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) was caught kissing a staffer in his district office, Republicans in Louisiana were calling on the freshman congressman to immediately resign. One question that many in Louisiana and in Washington are asking is if McAllister is being asked to resign, what about the Bayou State’s own Sen. David Vitter?

In case your knowledge of political sex scandals has faded over the last decade or so, Vitter had his own troubles in 2007 when his name surfaced in the black book of an infamous D.C. Madam. Amazingly, Vitter got through the scandal by only acknowledging his involvement with the prostitution service as a “serious sin.”

“I asked for and received forgiveness form God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter said after the scandal broke.

Since then, Louisiana constituents not only reelected Vitter in 2010, he is now planning on running for the top executive spot in the Bayou State next year.

How did Vitter survive? Here are a handful of reasons.

  • Vitter had 3 ½ years remaining on a six-year senate term. There is no question voters don’t care for their elected officials going astray, but time heals all scars and voters are forgiving and grateful it wasn’t their own sin that made national headlines.
  • Vitter had a forgiving, not to mention a “very political” wife. Forget the CBS television series, The Good Wife. Vitter had a great wife – at least one who enjoyed the benefits of being a senator’s wife. In fact, she even introduced him at his post-sin press conference and took over when things got testy. “As David returns to work in Washington,” she continued, “we’re going to return to our life here. I would ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned.”
  • Vitter refused to discuss the scandal. No matter how hard reporters pressed him on the matter, he walked at a brisk pace and always had a phone to his ear. With no new information, voters tire quickly of the same ole, same ole begin reported each day.
  • Vitter held a seat that if vacated, would have most certainly led to a Democrat being appointed by then Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Regardless of any “sin” Vitter had committed, GOP leaders were not about to give up a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • Vitter was a political animal. He may have had few political friends, but he had political acquaintances all over the state, many of whom owed him favors. Plus, he had a reputation of helping the other side get what they wanted if he got what he wanted.
  • Vitter never admitted what “sin” he had committed. His number may have been in the little black book, but no one knew what he did behind a closed door.

Here are a few reasons why McAllister might not survive his “kiss-gate”:

  • McAllister is a freshman in the U.S. House of Representatives and must run for reelection every two years, meaning he must seek his first full-term later this year. There’s not much time for voters to forget his misdeeds.
  • McAllister is not a political GOP insider. In fact, he’s an outsider. He defeated a Jindal and GOP machine backed candidate in 2013 and is no one’s favorite son.
  • McAllister may or may not have a wife willing to stand by his side, but if she does she’ll have to convince women voters why they can trust her husband.
  • McAllister apparently has a staff problem too. Several reliable sources have indidcated that a member of his own team leaked the kissing video.
  • McAllister will have a hard time finding any of the congressional leadership team or his colleagues willing to stand by him. This will make fundraising a chore given he has less than $100 in his campaign coffers.

Almost seven years later, Vitter is planning his strategy for governor and now has to relive his past “sins” by answering questions about McAllister kissing a staffer. Trust me, that wasn’t in his campaign plan.

Most striking is Louisiana’s top two GOPer’s, Governor Bobby Jindal and Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, have called on McAllister to step down. Jindal even went as far as calling the freshman congressman an “embarrassment.”

Last Friday I emailed Jindal’s press office and asked these three questions:

1) Gov. Jindal, you have called on Rep. Vance McAllister to resign from Congress, saying he was an embarrassment to the state. Given that Sen. Vitter also engaged in what many believe was adultery with one or more prostitutes, why would you not call on Sen. Vitter not to run for governor or even resign his senate seat?

2) Based on the facts known so far, do you consider Rep. McAllister’s actions more serious than those of Sen. Vitter?

3) Do you believe that any candidate is unfit for office if they have acted inappropriately with someone of the opposite sex at any time in their life?

I wish I could report the governor’s response here, but sadly, there was no reply.

However, Jindal did respond to a reporter’s question on the issue last Sunday and said, “I know there are folks, there are Democrats and others trying to link the two issues,” Jindal told WWL.com. “I’m not going to go down that path. I think the issue before us is the congressman’s actions.”

So, is Jindal a huge fan and supporter of Vitter’s.

“Not hardly,” said Robert Mann, an LSU professor and political columnist. “In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jindal camp is excited about the idea of getting questions about Vitter in hopes that his negative numbers increase. They probably won’t answer them, but they do not want to see Vitter as the next governor.”

An interesting political strategy for sure, especially since Jindal has his eyes on the White House or being asked to play second fiddle as Vice President on the next GOP ticket.

Still, it’s the state’s junior senator that has some questions to answer.

Vitter was in Monroe, Louisiana on Tuesday and like Jindal, dodged questions and an interview request about McAllister. However, it’s hard to dodge the same issue all summer and Vitter’s best defense will be to address the subject sooner, rather than later. The only problem he has is there is not good answer.

Regardless of whether McAllister survives his kissing episode, this will be yet another test on how far voters are willing to be pushed on the moral shortcomings of those who represent them.

David Vitter knows this all too well.

Political and Pulpit Sex Scandals: Should Christians and Christian Journalists View Them Differently Than Non-Believers?

This week two sex scandals – one involving a national political figure and one a prominent pastor – are making national headlines. Sadly, it’s not the first time nor will it be the last we will see these types of stories surface. But as a Christian and a journalist, I am asking myself how I should view and report them.

As I write this column, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and pastor Bob Coy of Florida both have stories on the main page of <em><a target=”_blank”>The Christian Post</a></em> and other national media sites highlighting their sins and moral failures. McAllister, a married congressman, for a leaked video of him kissing a staff member at a Christmas party and Coy has resigned because of past “moral failures” that appears to be a sexual affair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I understand exactly how these two men feel.

In 2009, while serving in the Tennessee State Senate, I had an affair with an intern in my office that was revealed after her boyfriend attempted to extort money from me. As a born-again Christian before, during and after my sin, the shame and embarrassment is and can be overwhelming for these men and their families. For someone who is a Christian, the stigma is even worse, especially from non-believers or opponents who are joyous in the fact that a Christian has fallen to the same sins they vowed to uphold.

Were they hypocritical in their actions given their professed Christian beliefs? Yes, and such criticism is fair and justified. But as Christians, we should try and help our fallen brothers find their way back.

Religious beliefs aside, these stories are worthy of news coverage. In fact, it is our duty as journalists to report the facts as we know and uncover them, be they Democrat or Republican, Christian or atheist.

The sad reality is: sex sells. For example, is it more enticing to read about a congressman in an inappropriate and sinful situation or about disagreements with the House budget plan? Is it more exciting to see a front-page story about a pastor having an affair than to read about the controversy surrounding building plans for a new youth center? I think you get my point. Sex sells and it sells big.

Secular media editors and reporters are hoping these stories will have a long shelf life so they can, in turn, get more hits and sell more papers, thus generating more advertising revenue to feed the bottom line. That’s simply the business of journalism.

But as Christian journalists, do we have a biblical responsibility to report these stories in a different manner? I believe we do.

We’ll obviously cover and write the scandalous and salacious headlines that will grab your attention. We will point out that adultery or sex outside of marriage is a sin (the same sin as homosexuality), but we also have the responsibility of addressing forgiveness, reconciliation and how these men can be redeemed in the eyes of God.

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and former city councilman in Clarksville, Tenn., and understands the public scrutiny placed on both. In a phone conversation we had Wednesday, pastor Edmondson and I talked about the public pressure that both of these men will have to endure for the next few years, and even for the rest of their lives.

“What they need is time alone with their families and pastors, hopefully with no outside involvement, to work through the many issues they are faced with,” said Edmondson. “But unlike the average couple in my church, they won’t have that luxury.”

To read the rest of the column in The Christian Post, click here.

How the LGBT Agenda Tops Religious Liberty

This is a column by Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It’s primary title is The Most Influential Essay You’ve Never Heard Of and it’s a great read on religious liberty (or lack thereof) and the LGBT agenda. You can follow Joe on Twitter here.

The Most Influential Essay You’ve Never Heard Of; How the LGBT Agenda Tops Religious Liberty

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

This frequently cited quote is often misattributed to John Maynard Keynes or Winston Churchill. But since no one knows the originator, I’ll claim it as my own. Sometimes when the facts change, I change my mind. Such is the case with this article.

This is not the article I set out to write. The facts – or at least my recollection of the facts – changed and I had to change with them. My original thesis was that several years ago LGBQT activists gave assurances that their agenda did not have to conflict with religious liberty rights and that they rejected any claims that opposing homosexual rights was akin to racial discrimination. I thought they too had once claimed, as law scholar Doug Kmiec said nine years ago, that it was “inconceivable” that “a successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage.”

I had thought the claims that those who opposed homosexual behavior were “bigots” and “essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws” was a recent change in radical rhetoric. But I was wrong.

For several weeks I searched to find a single prominent LGBQT activist who supported religious conscience exemptions for individuals. I could not find a single one. The closest I could find was the view expressed by Chai Feldblum, an LGBT rights activist and current Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2006, Feldblum said:

Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.

While it is nearly impossible to find a LGBTQ activist who put religious liberty ahead of their agenda, it is possible (at least in theory) to find one or two who will denounce the “inconceivable” connection between homosexual activism and civil rights for African Americans. Though I was not able to find them, I assume they must exist. Yet even if they do, that view is definitely not widely shared amongst supporters of homosexual rights.

Instead, there is a concerted effort to vilify religious believers who oppose homosexual behavior. I used to believe such claims were the overheated rhetoric of misguided Christians. And even until recently, I would have disputed that vilification of religious opponents to homosexuality was a widespread phenomena within the community of LGBTQ rights activists and their supporters. But the indisputable fact is that I was wrong: Vilification has been a primary tactic of the homosexual rights movement for at least thirty years.

One of the most influential documents to support this tactic is an article written in 1987 for Guide Magazine. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen wrote ‘The Overhauling of Straight America,’ which they later expanded it into a book, After the Ball – How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 1990s, that was published by one of the America’s largest publishing houses (Doubleday) and became a national bestseller.

If you read Kirk and Madsen’s brief, eye-opening essay (and I highly recommend you do), you’ll immediately assume it’s a parody of the “gay rights agenda.” If a modern-day Jonathan Swift set out to satirize the most outrageous ideas about gay activism believed by religious believers, he couldn’t have produced anything like this. If it were satire, it would be deemed to outrageous, too demonizing, to be believable. Sadly, the essay wasn’t satire but an actual PR blueprint for efforts to gain acceptance of homosexual behavior over the past 30 years.

Read the remainder of this article here.

An Evangelical Response to ‘Former’ Evangelical Rachel Held Evans On Gay Marriage

This is a column from Chelsen Vicari, a young evangelical columnist who is making quite a name for herself.

“It feels like a betrayal from every side,” might be how blogger Rachel Held Evans’ sums up last week’s World Vision fiasco over same-sex marriage, but it doesn’t exactly convey the mixed feelings of most evangelicals.

In her recent entry on CNN Belief Blog, “How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation,” Evans paints conservative evangelical men and women as uncompassionate by lamenting over “misaligned evangelical priorities” and our “leaving thousands of needy children without financial support.” The major flaw in her argument is that conservative evangelicals’ reactions were not due to a “disdain” for the LGBTQ people or an abandonment of the needy. It was the result of heavy-hearted commitments to God’s Word.

The chaos all started when World Vision embraced same-sex marriage within their employment policy, subsequently recognizing their “mistake” and recommitted to uphold biblical sexual morality. It was the organizations reversal that promoted Evans’ blog, in which she launched several inflated accusations against her conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.

On her notorious Twitter page, Evans declared that she is leaving evangelicalism because World Vision’s reversal was “uniquely evangelical.” In her attempt to flee what she assumes to be bigoted discrimination, Evans overlooks the important fact that evangelicalism is more than skinny jeans and potluck lunches.

Built in the wake of the decline of America’s mainline denominations, evangelicalism grew as it committed to uphold the authority of Scripture. In his book The Young Evangelicals, author Richard Quededeaux identifies three key characteristics of evangelicalism: (1) Evangelicals identify the full authority of Scriptures in all matters of faith and practice; (2) Evangelicals pursue a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; and (3) Evangelicals understand the urgency of seeking the conversion of sinful men and women to Christ.

Despite admitting that the series of events motivated her to leaving evangelicalism, Evans asserts that World Vision’s flip-flop “is not an issue of orthodoxy. But when we begin using child sponsorships as bargaining tools in our debates, we’ve lost the way of Jesus.” Actually, World Vision is the perfect illustration of the un-attachable orthodox tradition of evangelicalism.

Read the remainder of this article here.

Note: Rachel Held Evans has said she is “rethinking” such a move and has posted a response on her blog.

Chick-fil-A Once Again Topples KFC as Nations Top Chicken Choice; Is It a God Thing?

Georgia based Chick-fil-A, whose owners have taken criticism for their biblical views and stance on traditional marriage, have once again secured the top stop as the nations leading chicken chain by beating out KFC. And to top it off, Chick-fil-A did it with half the stores (1,775 to 4,491).

Is this simply better business practices? I think we might be looking at a blessing from God.

From a financial perspective, Chick-fil-A registered sales of over $5 billion, compared to KFC’s $4.2 billion. But the question remains, how can a privately held chain whose advertising budget is much smaller out perform a sixty-something year-old chain owned by a food conglomerate?

Harland Sanders, a Kentucky entrepreneur commonly known as “Colonel” Sanders, founded the original Kentucky Fried Chicken. The concept started in the 1950′s after Sanders developed a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices and then traveled the country selling rights to small restaurant owners. Sanders sold KFC in 1964 but remained a key figure in the company’s advertising strategy until his death in 1980.

Restaurant and business analysts have noted several objective reasons why Chick-fil-A has overtaken KFC, but I believe God’s blessings played a role too.

Let’s first examine the differences in the two chains.

Chick-fil-A’s breakfast menu increased sales by 3.6 percent while KFC’s breakfast tally shrunk 2 percent. This comes at a time when consumer demand for breakfast is at an all-time high. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, meet me at KFC for breakfast.”

Analysts also note the difference in product offerings. Chick-fil-A has wraps, salads and waffle fries to go along with their signature fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles. A wider variety of food offerings aside, I still don’t think this is the real reason why Chick-fil-A is kicking KFC’s wings.

From a business perspective, I believe it comes down to the employees on the front line and the humility of management.

Because I have a 14 and 10-year old, I have multiple requests each week to dine on fast-food fare. My kid’s number one choice is Chick-fil-A because the service is consistent and the food taste great.

Years ago my family frequently stopped at a KFC on the way home from church on Sunday to satisfy my weekly craving for fried chicken. Over half the time our order was never properly filled and on more than one occasion employees had not cooked enough chicken or the right pieces to give us what we ordered. Plus, the restaurant was dirty and the employees seemed to care less I was unhappy over having to receive an order of half original recipe and half extra-crispy.

Not the case at Chick-fil-A.

Employees stumble over one another to ask for your order. They always ask for your name and make a point of saying it when your food is presented. They have staff roaming the restaurant cleaning tables and asking if you need a refill on your sweet tea or soft drink. Moms like the large children’s play area and most important, they never run out of chicken!

Yet above this, I believe God blesses those who are most faithful to Him.

Chick-fil-A has come under intense scrutiny over the past few years for financially supporting a foundation they created that supports traditional marriage. Mind you, they never waged a campaign against homosexual marriage but simply supported and encouraged the lifetime marriage of one man and one woman.

Gay activists reacted with severe threats, going so far as to call for a nationwide boycott that not only failed miserably, but caused sales of Chick-fil-A products to soar when Christians flocked to the chain to show support.

How did Chick-fil-A operators respond when a handful of homosexual protesters would show up to picket a store? They would offer them free food and drinks. I believe Jesus would have done the same.

Atheist and those opposed to Christianity argue that the religious beliefs of business owners should play no part in how their choose to run their enterprises. On the other hand, Christians believe that while their businesses may not be religious in nature, they are called upon to treat others as Jesus would if he too were standing behind the counter.

Is it part of God’s universal plan to make Chick-fil-A the nations number one chicken destination? I doubt it. But I know God sometimes blesses those who are faithful to Him and believe His son is the key to His kingdom.

Well done good and faithful chicken server.

This column was originally published in The Christian Post.

An Outstanding (and fair) Biblical Review of the Noah Movie

My friend Marty Duren saw the Noah movie last night and has written one of the best reviews I have read so far. If you’re planning to see it soon this is an excellent read.

The Noah movie compared to the Bible

I’m still undecided if I’m going to see the movie in the theatre or just wait a couple of months and see it on the movie channels. I do have an issue with giving my hard-earned money to a director whose intent was to make the “most unbiblical bible story” in history.

Teaser: Marty told me today if you are considering seeing it then the flood scene alone is worth the ticket.

Have you seen it? What are your thoughts.

 

Introducing Political Columnist and Writer Rachel Alexander

When I encounter talented political columnist I like to share their work with others. I’ve worked with Rachel over the past several months and have become a huge fan of her work. She’s not only knowledgeable about the political process, she can deconstruct complex issues so the average person can understand how their lives may be impacted. Here is her latest column in CP’s Wonk Room and I’ll be featuring more of her work in the future. You can find more of her work at http://intellectualconservative.com

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Hobby Lobby: Should Employers be Forced to Provide Abortifacients?

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in the Hobby Lobby case to decide whether a business that provides health-care insurance to its employees can be forced to include abortifacients in its coverage. Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the Obamacare mandate of providing abortifacients.

Hobby Lobby is a family-owned arts and crafts store, run by Christians based out of Oklahoma. The family has devoted itself to Christian mission work, and Christian music is played over the loudspeakers in its stores. The owners are not Catholic, and aren’t even objecting to providing contraceptives, it is solely the abortifacients that they have a problem providing, believing that a fertilized embryo is a human life that must be protected. Conestoga Wood Specialties, also owned by Christians, is part of the lawsuit.

There is no legitimate concern, and it’s frankly a waste of taxpayers’ money that this has to go to court. In today’s Internet society, any woman can purchase dirt-cheap abortifacients online without a prescription, or from Planned Parenthood and other women’s clinics for free or low cost. They can also take an increased dosage of contraceptives to act as an abortifacient, since that is all abortifacients are. There is zero reason to force an employer to include abortifacients in coverage. Most health insurance through an employer includes co-pay, and since abortifacients have been made so commonplace, women are probably better off finding it discounted somewhere else. Employees of Hobby Lobby also have the option to choose Obamacare instead of their employer’s health insurance.

The reality is this is not about women’s rights or helping women, or even helping women obtain abortifacients. As a practical matter, it makes zero difference to the female employees of Hobby Lobby whether they receive abortifacients through Hobby Lobby’s health insurance. This is solely about threatening and intimidating Christians, not just in public but now in the workplace, in their places of business. It is about power and control from the central government to dictate its morals on everyone else. As government continues to grow bigger and bigger, affecting virtually every part of our lives, there will continue to be more and more ways to stamp Christianity out in the name of women’s rights, not offending anyone, and other straw-man arguments.

Ninety-nine percent of American women have used contraception. They know how to get it and there aren’t problems with access to contraception or abortifacients. Liars like Sandra Fluke have helped expose the dishonesty, with her attempt to force Georgetown University to provide contraception – and for free. It reveals how far the left will go to harass Christian universities and businesses. No one believed for a second Fluke’s testimony that women would have to pay over $3,000 for contraceptives while in law school if the Catholic university didn’t include them in its health insurance plan. The vast majority of women are likely insulted that businesses like Hobby Lobby are being harassed by the government using the pretense of women’s rights, when everyone knows it’s a smokescreen to force anti-Christian viewpoints on Christian companies.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, two of the liberal feminists on the court, asked questions suggesting that if Hobby Lobby prevails, then other businesses could refuse to provide transfusions and vaccinations. This is inaccurate and a red herring. Columnist Cal Thomas spoke to Joshua D. Hawley of the University of Missouri School of Law and counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hawley told him that RFRA, which was passed into law in 1993, protects religious objectors, but only if they can show a substantial burden and the government has a compelling interest with no other viable means of achieving it. Since blood transfusions and vaccinations can mean the difference between life and death, it is unlikely that an employer would be able to refuse to include them in health insurance coverage. On the other hand, there is no compelling state interest when it comes to abortifacients, as well as birth control, since it’s so widely available. The feminist justices’ argument is a bit ironic when one considers this is solely about abortion, not even contraception. Where is the compelling state interest to protect the life of the embryo?

The Obama administration argues that RFRA doesn’t apply to Hobby Lobby, since it was only intended to protect individuals and religious organizations. However, the courts have recognized that corporations have some First Amendment rights.

Hobby Lobby could choose not to offer health insurance to its employees, pay a fine, and let its employees fend for themselves with Obamacare, but the company and its compassionate Christian owners would rather not leave its employees subject to that bureaucratic nightmare.

Opponents of Hobby Lobby assert that the morning after pill is merely contraception, not an abortifacient, but that is not true. The morning after pill, also known as Plan B, can destroy an egg after it has been fertilized and become an embryo.

The decision will likely be decided by the lone swing vote on the Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, who is Catholic. During his questioning, he hinted that he may side with Hobby Lobby, worrying that corporations “could be forced in principle to pay for abortions.”

This is not about Christians discriminating against others, this is the reverse; anti-Christians targeting Christians and imposing their viewpoints on them. There are seeds of tyranny in Obamacare, forcing men and women to go against their consciences. Liberal law professor Alan Dershowitz and conservative attorney Ken Starr understand what is at stake here. Dershowitz and Starr put on a symposium last week about the Hobby Lobby case, and amazingly, they both agreed that the government was intruding too much.

Obama and the left have many enemies, and Christians are just one of them. As Martin Niemöller said after being wrongfully imprisoned, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

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