National Catholic Reporter

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Politics

New White House staffers have Catholic, Jewish ties

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President Obama on Tuesday named an immigration expert with longstanding ties to the Catholic Church as his top domestic policy official, continuing a campaign-year makeover of White House staff.

The hiring of Cecilia Munoz, along with the appointment on Monday of Jacob Lew, an Orthodox Jew, as White House chief of staff, may improve Obama's sometimes tense relations with two key religious groups: Catholics and Jews.

Lew, who has extensive connections in the American Jewish community, is expected to help Obama build a more friendly rapport with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Similarly, the administration's relations with Catholic bishops have been tense at times, principally over abortion rights and conscience protections. Munoz has for years worked closely with Catholic groups, including U.S. bishops, on immigration and other issues.

Munoz began her career working on immigration policy for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"Catholics and people of faith have a true ally with the appointment of Cecilia Munoz to head the administration's Domestic Policy Council," said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a liberal group.

New California law targets global child labor, slavery

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Religious advocates of responsible investment are praising a new California law for making it tougher for major corporations to profit from child labor or human slavery around the world in the supply chain of their products.

The state’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which took effect Jan. 1, requires all large companies that do any business in California to study the supply chains for their products.

Republican presidential candidates rate poorly on secular scorecard

If kids brought home grades like this, they'd be grounded.

The Secular Coalition for America rated all presidential candidates on nine issues, including church-state separation, civil rights, evolution and taxpayer funding of religion.

At the bottom of the class is Michele Bachmann, who scored straight F's before bowing out of the race after the Iowa caucuses. She was followed closely by former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who both scored a string of F's and a single C.

At the top of the class were President Obama with three A's, three B's and a C -- a modest mixed bag -- and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 4 B's and an A.

The report card is the first issued for presidential candidates by the coalition, said SCA president Herb Silverman, and is intended to help "secular-minded Americans" in the voting booth.

Most secularists, however, won't be voting in a GOP primary: data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life show that religiously "unaffiliated" Americans tend to favor Democrats over Republicans, 55 to 23 percent.

Retail politics not what they once were in NH

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MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The old, red-brick mills of Manchester line the entire eastern bank of the Merrimack River, but no textiles or shoes are made there these days. Now, technology companies, Jillian’s Billiards Club, Milly’s Tavern, and the local campus of the University of New Hampshire fill the rooms that once held looms and shoemaking equipment. And, this year, with the political calendar moved forward so that the New Hampshire primary occurs only two weeks after Christmas, it is not only the mills that have changed.

Catholics silent in Iowa caucus hype

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DES MOINES, IOWA -- Religion has had an extraordinary presence in the buildup to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, but Catholics have been distinguished by their silence.

“It’s part of the Catholic culture,” said Deacon Dan McGuire, parish administrator at Assumption Parish in Granger, Iowa. “We get involved in politics. That’s obvious. But as a former excluded minority ... we keep faith in our private community. We don’t vocalize it in public.”

Partisanship in the pulpit, then and now

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ANALYSIS

In October, at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, sponsored by a host of conservative, mostly Christian groups, including the Family Research Council, Liberty University and the Heritage Foundation, Pastor Robert Jeffress stirred up a hornet’s nest when he called Mormonism a “cult” and said that Christians had an obligation to prefer a coreligionist to a non-Christian, all other issues being equal. Jeffress’ comments raised the immediate issue of anti-Mormon bigotry, but they also raised another issue: What should be the role of clergy in campaigns?

Americans tend to conflate nostalgia with history, which produces a highly conservative understanding of the large variety of ways our forebears confronted complicated questions. The way things were done in our youth is, we assume, the way things have always been done.

Vigil calls for extended jobless benefits

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WASHINGTON -- Ever since Shonda Sneed of Yellow Springs, Ohio, lost her engineering job two years ago, she has depended on unemployment benefits to support herself and her 81-year-old mother. “I loved working,” she told a crowd of hundreds of people gathered recently near the U.S. Capitol at a prayer vigil calling on lawmakers to extend benefits for millions of jobless workers. “Honestly,” she said, “I feel like the American dream is slipping out of my hands.”

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April 11-24, 2014

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