Blog Posts by Chris Moody

  • Liberty University students pray during a commencement ceremony. (Jill Nance/AP)

    On a chilly winter day earlier this month, 120 college presidents--mostly of Protestant schools--from around the country met in Washington for an annual meeting sponsored by the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, a group that represents 136 American schools and more than 400,000 students. One topic kept coming up in the discussions: How to combat President Barack Obama's proposed mandate for religious employers to provide health insurance that offers free contraception, a decision that would affect all of their institutions--and could violate some of their deepest-held beliefs.

    During the conference, 25 of the presidents held a separate policy meeting to discuss the proposed directive, which was first established in the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and was upheld this year by the Department of Health and Human Services. The mandate, later softened by the Obama administration, would have required non-church religious institutions like schools and hospitals to offer health insurance plans that include free access to contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Many of these presidents made trips to the offices of their representatives to urge them to fight against the decision.

    Much of the news coverage of the battle over the contraception mandate focused on the outcry from the Catholic Church, but employers affiliated with Protestant denominations--especially religious colleges who offer insurance plans to students--waged an equally outspoken crusade against the decision. A coalition of more than 60 faith-based groups co-signed a letter to President Obama in December urging him to broaden exemptions to the mandate, and the council's president, Paul Corts, twice sent letters to the administration urging them to reconsider.

    After the Obama administration first announced the mandate, colleges associated with Protestant churches and schools founded as expressly Christian institutions fought for exemptions, warning that the mandate could force them to deny health insurance to students who rely on the school's health care plans.

    These critics say that many of the students who attend the schools are unmarried, so covering even preventive products would violate their religious teachings. Similarly, because some within the faith consider drugs like Plan B and Ella--which reduce the chance of pregnancy when taken after intercourse--to be abortion-inducing, the mandate caused problems even for coverage of married students and employees.

    "You'd be teaching your students one thing and then providing services that you're teaching are wrong," Shapri LoMaglio, the director of government relations and executive programs at the council, told Yahoo News.

    To quell concerns like these, Obama announced on Feb. 10 an "accommodation" for religious employers that would allow those employed by religious institutions to obtain free contraception as part of their employer health insurance, but said that the insurance companies would be required to pay for it, not the religious institutions.

    In a statement after Obama's announcement, Paul Corts, the council's president, expressed skepticism that the accommodation plan would resolve the issue.

    "Without seeing the final rule it is impossible to tell from the President's general statement if our specific religious liberty issues have been addressed," Corts said. "Therefore, we remain unaware of whether the religious exemption will encompass our schools and their student plans and eliminate all of the violations of conscience issues. We are anxious to get the details and will continue to work with the Administration to try to ensure that the religious liberty of our institutions is protected."

    While the Obama administration was still considering how to apply the health care law's mandate to religious groups, several presidents from Protestant colleges sent letters to their representatives and posted them on, a government site that gathers public comments on rules before they are implemented. Of the schools in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, at least 12 submitted comments urging the administration to expand the mandate or eliminate it all together. If churches were exempt, they argued, why aren't institutions that base their bylaws on the same faith-based principles?

    "The Department of Health and Human Services hardly seems like the appropriate place for such a determination to be made," wrote Mark Benedetto, the president of the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, a school founded by Baptists in 1872. "I am concerned that the regulations as written will violate the conscience of our institution as it relates to the health care plan that we offer to our students--the exemption is for employer plans, as written it does not appear to also include the student plans. Not only would this force our institution to violate our religious convictions by offering emergency contraceptives to our students, it would put us in the awkward position of offering a health care plan to our employees that is consistent with their religious convictions while offering another to our students that violates their religious convictions."

    Read More »from Not just a Catholic controversy: Protestant colleges threaten to drop student health care over contraceptive mandate
  • At long last, the mustache lobby is coming to Washington.

    The American Mustache Institute (AMI) is planning a "Million Mustache March" on the nation's capital, part of an ongoing campaign to convince lawmakers to create government incentives to grow facial hair. Rally organizers plan to mobilize their mustache-wearing compatriots on April 1 at the White House and march to Capitol Hill.

    Their rallying cry: Pass the "Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses," or STACHE Act, which would "provide a $250 annual tax deduction for expenditures on mustache grooming supplies." According to AMI research, mustached Americans earn 4.3 percent more money than "clean-shaven Americans" on average per yer. Therefore incentivising mustache growth would boost the economy.

    "Given the clear link between the growing and maintenance of mustaches and incremental income, it appears clear that mustache maintenance costs qualify for and should be considered as a deductible expense related to the production of income under Internal Revenue Code Section 212," wrote Dr. John Yeutter, a tax policy professor at Northeastern State University, in a 2010 white paper supporting the legislation.

    The subsidy, according to a 2010 proposal , would cover all products required for any proper mustache-wearing patriot, including:

    • Mustache and beard trimming instruments
    • Weightless conditioning agents and wax
    • Facial hair coloring products (for men and women over 43 years of age)
    • Bacon
    • Mustache combs and mirrors
    • Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos

    The campaign's backers have recruited celebrities to help support the cause, including guitarist John Oats, Ellie Kemper of "The Office" and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher John Axford. Each will produce videos to inspire mustached activists to support the STACHE Act. In total seriousness: The group has also secured a promise from H&R Block to donate a charity that provides clean drinking water for each person who participates in the march.

    AMI members are planning a press conference Monday on Capitol Hill to outline the details of the initiative.

    Read More »from ‘Million Mustache March’ planned for April to encourage growth of facial hair (and the economy)
  • Santorum announces support from former Romney-backer, Ohio AG Mike DeWine

    Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday from the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus that he is switching his endorsement for the GOP presidential nomination from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum.

    "You have to give people a reason to believe that  under your leadership, America will be better.  Rick Santorum  has done that.  Sadly, Governor Romney has not," DeWine said in a statement.

    Santorum has a seven percentage point lead over Romney in the state, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

    Read More »from Santorum announces support from former Romney-backer, Ohio AG Mike DeWine
  • Paul Ryan: Payroll tax debate harmed Republicans

    The months-long debate over the payroll tax harmed Republicans, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Thursday.

    Ryan, a Republican representative from Wisconsin, said that although negotiators were able to reach a deal to extend a payroll tax cut of 2 percentage points through the rest of 2012, the extended debate over the tax cut "caused damage" to Republicans from a "political perspective."

    "I think the payroll tax deal, from a political perspective certainly caused damage because it muddled the differences," Ryan told reporters at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "It got us down into a skirmish where the differences got muddled, which is what I think the president loves and I think the idea of running against a dysfunctional, do-nothing Congress is what the president--it's part of what his campaign strategy is about."

    Read More »from Paul Ryan: Payroll tax debate harmed Republicans
  • Michele Bachmann will not appear on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

    Michele Bachmann dances with her husband Marcus at the Ames Straw Poll. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will not be appear on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," she said Wednesday.

    The former Republican presidential candidate blasted out a release to dispel any lingering rumors:

    "In full disclosure, I did win a polka dancing competition when I was in the tenth grade at my alma mater, Anoka High School in Anoka, Minn.," Bachmann said in a statement. "But, despite my tenth grade polka success and my lifelong love of ballroom dancing, the recent rumors are false. I will not be joining 'Dancing with the Stars.'"

    Read More »from Michele Bachmann will not appear on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
  • Megadeth singer endorses Rick Santorum, calls Newt Gingrich ‘an angry little man’

    Megadeth singer and guitarist David Mustaine (Balazs Mohai/AP)

    In an interview with Music Radar Tuesday, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine dished on his support for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum:

    Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable. Also, just watching how he hasn't gotten into doing these horrible, horrible attack ads like Mitt Romney's done against Newt Gingrich, and then the volume at which Newt has gone back at Romney… You know, I think Santorum has some presidential qualities, and I'm hoping that if it does come down to it, we'll see a Republican in the White House ... and that it's Rick Santorum.

    A spokesman for Rick Santorum's presidential campaign did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

    Read More »from Megadeth singer endorses Rick Santorum, calls Newt Gingrich ‘an angry little man’
  • Rick Santorum, currently polling as the frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, is out with a new Michigan ad that pokes fun at Romney for spending millions on negative advertising.

    "Mitt Romney's negative attack machine is back, on full throttle. This time, Romney's firing his mud at Rick Santorum," says the voice over. Those lines play over a scene of an actor who looks like Romney wielding a mud-slinging gun and hunting cardboard cut-outs of Santorum in a warehouse. The voice goes on: "Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering 20 million attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney's trying to hide from his big-government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap-and-trade. And in the end, Mitt Romney's ugly attacks are going to backfire."

    Read More »from New Santorum ad features Romney lookalike as gun-wielding ‘Rombo’ firing mud at opponent
  • Meet Newt Gingrich’s ‘Faith Leaders Dream Team’ (featuring Chuck Norris)

    From Newt Gingrich's latest campaign release:

    Speaker Newt Gingrich has unveiled his Faith Leaders Dream Team — rallying several fearless Christians including Don Wildmon, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, George Barna, JC Watts, Chuck Norris, Mat Staver and others as he takes on the the radical secularism of the Obama Administration.

    The Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition is Newt Gingrich's official advisory coalition on issues pertaining to life, marriage, and religious liberty.

    Still, just to make sure we're clear: Chuck Norris doesn't join faith coalitions. Faith coalitions join Chuck Norris.

    Read More »from Meet Newt Gingrich’s ‘Faith Leaders Dream Team’ (featuring Chuck Norris)
  • Justice Stephen Breyer (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

    CNN reports that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed while vacationing in the Caribbean:

    Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed by an intruder armed with a machete last week while vacationing overseas in the Caribbean island of Nevis, where his family owns a vacation home, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

    His wife and two other guests were in the home at the time, but officials say no one was hurt in the incident.

    Read More »from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer robbed by machete-armed intruder while on vacation
  • New Pew survey: Among Republicans, Santorum in statistical dead heat with Romney

    Volunteers supporting Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney vie for attention at the Conservative Political Action Conference (J. Scott Applewhite/AP))

    Rick Santorum's popularity among Republican voters has blown up nationally in recent weeks, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that finds him in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

    Santorum leads Romney 30 percent to 28 percent among Republicans and voters that lean Republican, according to the poll conducted Feb. 8-12. The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points, shows that support for Santorum has more than doubled among the group since the poll was last taken in January.

    With 10 states set to vote on March 6, after primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Feb. 28th and caucuses in Washington on March 3, the focus of the race has transitioned from state-by-state contests to a nationwide contest, which makes national polling more relevant than it was earlier.

    Read More »from New Pew survey: Among Republicans, Santorum in statistical dead heat with Romney


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