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Chick-fil-A

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The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A is not very delicious. I admit I have never been to a Chick-fil-A. I admit, too, that I had passed signs for their stores for about four years before I realized that their name was a not very clever homonym for chicken fillet. I recall seeing one of their television ads, showing a deep fried piece of unnaturally flat chicken breast, being placed on top of some pickles, lettuce and tomato, all on a hamburger bun, and thinking – “no thank you.” So, I was not disposed to be a patron to begin with.

Consequently, I was not among the throngs of people who lined up to dine at Chick-fil-A yesterday, responding to a call from Mike Huckabee and other leaders of the religious right to show support for the chain. The president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, has recently been outspoken about both his opposition to same sex marriage and about the fact that his restaurant chain has, since its founding, been employed “biblically-based principles” in managing its stores. So says their website, and they cite the fact that Chick-fil-A closes its stores on Sundays.

Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up to Melinda Henneberger for her article in this morning's Washington Post about Indiana's Senate race. I confess, of all the many congressional races this fall, there is no candidate I hope wins more than I hope Joe Donnelly wins and there is no candidate I hope loses more than I hope Richard Mourdock loses. Donnelly is a pro-life Democrat, a centrist, someone with a bipartisan track record. Mourdock unseated Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary, charging Lugar with being a RINO. Fortunately, the good sense of many people who would have easily backed Lugar is causing them to give Donnelly a second look.

Yet More Bad News for Romney

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A new, non-partisan study of Romney's tax plan, a study that is quite generous in its expectations that Romney's plans will achieve the economic result he claims they will, nonetheless concludes that his ideas would result in the rich getting irch and the rest of us having to shoulder more of the burden of taxation. I am guessing this does not make it more likely we will be seeing those tax returns. It does make it more likely that Romney will have an even tougher time getting his polling numbers up on the question of "whether or not a candidate understands the situation of people like me."

At a time when income disparity continues to grow, the Romney plan would shift $86 billion of tax burden from those making over $200,000 to those making less than $200,000. Talk about a hard sell.

Bad Poll Numbers for Romney

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The Quinnipiac polls are among the best in the biz. And, three new polls from three key swing states show Romney in trouble. People remain skeptical about Obama on the issue that matters the most to them, the economy, but as Aaron Blake notes in this post, they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and they are not giving Romney the benefit of the doubt.

This means Romney faces a choice. He must find a way to connect to voters better or begin running really harsh, negative ads against the president, the kinds of ads John McCain refused to run in 2008. My guess is that we can look for the campaign to get a whole lot uglier in the weeks ahead.

\"Pretend Kidnapping\" by Evangelicals

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One of the problems journalists face in reporting on religion is that they lack the experience of the group being examined. Consequently, certain turns of phrase or practices that are very important to a given religion are opaque to the rest of us and we misunderstand their significance.

So, this article at the New Republic by Amy Sullivan is especially helpful in explaining who the practice among some evangelical youth groups of "pretend kidnapping" the youngsters to see if they will deny Christ leads to the birth of other, persistent myths, like the one surrounding one of the victims of the Columbine shooting, the myth that one of the shooters asked if she was a Christian, she said "yes," and he shot her. That probably did not happen, but it fit an existing narrative amogn evangelical youth that Sullivan knows from her own experience.

Of course, Catholics should not snicker too easily at this "pretend kidnapping." Anyone familiar with the case of Edgardo Mortara knows that the Catholic Church has not always been a paragon of virtue when it comes to kidnapping children.

HHS Mandate (Mostly) Takes Effect

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Today, the HHS mandate that insurance policies cover various preventive services for women without cost to the insured takes effect. Religious institutions that did not previously cover controversial items like sterilization and contraception have one more year before compliance is mandatory, during which time it is expected more negotiations will take place and, in any event, the lawsuits challenging the mandate will be heard. In this sense, the one-year “grace period” actually is helpful.

When Humor Isn't Funny

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It takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, to offend me. I believe with all my heart that comedians should be given wide latitude in skewering their targets. But, last night's episode of "The Daily Show" contained a segment that was so filled with offensive nonsense - against the Pope, against Italians, against the importance of defending the right to life of the unborn - that while I will not go so far as to say it "crossed the line," I will go so far as to say this. I deeply regret that a person I deeply respect, Sr. Simone Campbell, was a party to the charade and I hope she did not know the purposes to which her involvement would be put. It is one thing to disagree on a serious issue like abortion rights. It is another to mock those who care about the unborn.

Douthat \"Half-Right\" Watch

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Ross Douthat has done it again - put forward an important argument with bad evidence to support it. His worry is that there are some who wish to reduce freedom of religion to freedom of worship. Fair enough. As I have said before, one of the reasons the HHS mandate was seen as a Catholic issue is not just because of our position on contraception but because the Catholic Church, which did not deman the importance of works during the Reformation, employees so many people in its many and varied ministries.

But, after noting that the founders used the phrase "freedom of religion" not "freedom of belief" or "freedom of worship," he then concludes: "It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair." Actually, I have not once encountered a shred of evidence that the choice of words was significant to the founders. And, most of the evidence does suggest that the founders wanted religion to be understood as a purely private matter.

Garnett Responds

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Rick Garnett has posted a reply to my piece this morning. I think we are largely in agreement on many issues and, most importantly, on the kinds of moral framework a Catholic can and must bring to the examination of political issues. I do think Garnett is too kind to modern economics, but will leave that discussion to another day. And, I do invite him to address the questions I posed about the pervasiveness of economic ideas in our culture and why they can be as troubling as life issues, even though their content is not as immediately repulsive. This, to me, is a very important problem with U.S. culture, the whole homo economicus worldview, that enables the culture to view children and workers alike as commodities rather than people.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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