Texas lawmakers sent notices to schools on Monday informing them that new legislation allows students and teachers to dress in festive garb and say “Merry Christmas” all they want without fear of punishment.
The so-called “Merry Christmas Law” is backed by social conservatives who feel that seasonal religious festivities have come under attack because of political correctness. It also covers the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which ended earlier this month.
“We hope to see fewer school districts being naughty and more districts being nice,” said conservative activist Jonathan Saenz, president of a group called Texas Values.
The measure, passed nearly unanimously by the Texas legislature this year, allows students and district staff to “offer traditional greetings regarding celebrations, including ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah‘ and ‘Happy Holidays.’”
It also allows teachers and students to sing Christmas songs, erect Christmas trees, holiday decorations and nativity scenes, as long as they do not include a “message that encourages adherence to a particular religion’s belief.”
Supporters said some schools have dropped Christmas celebrations in favor of things such as non-religious winter festivities out of regard for the feeling of students who are not Christian.
Saenz said the law does not specifically cover the festivities of other major religions such as Islam or Buddhism, but students of other faiths who find their traditions being censored can seek support under the law.
“It is Christmas activities that are being attacked over and over again,” Saenz said.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz. Editing by Andre Grenon
I heard it again today: “Only senior pastors can understand the incredible pressure a senior pastor is under.”
I have no reason to doubt the statement or any way to gauge the level of stress a senior pastor deals with. My only experience as the top dog was for 2 1/2 years in a small church in Texas. I’ve lost count of how many pastors I’ve met with, but my perspective is mostly secondhand. From what I’ve observed, however, the lead guy is often in a pressure cooker.
At the same time, I don’t think most senior pastors understand the pressure their staff is under. While they may have been a staff pastor at one time, the “curse of knowledge” says they probably don’t realize they don’t remember what it’s like to not be in control. So, for all the senior pastors, here’s a peek at the pressure they bring to the staff.
Here are eight senior pastor stress-inducing phrases:
1. “We’ll figure it out.” Translation: I come up with ideas, and you figure out how to execute them. I can’t be bogged down with the details.
2. “It’s a possibility.” Translation: There is no way in heck we’re going to do that, but I don’t like to say no. So instead, you keep thinking it’s a possibility, and I’ll keep dreaming up new ideas for you to work on.
3. “That’s a great idea. Talk to the staff leader.” Translation: That’s a terrible idea, but I don’t like to say no. (See “Its a possibility” above.) I will send you to a staff member who will say no for me, so you’ll be mad at him instead of me.
4. “I was talking to my wife, and she agrees we should change it.” Translation: The law of the pastor’s wife is as unchangeable as the law of the Medes and Persians. There’s no debate, no modification, no appeal. Just make it happen.
5. “We’re going to do what New Elevation Lifechurch does.” Translation: I went to another church conference, and now we’re going to change everything so we can be successful like the really big churches.
6. “We’re going to stop doing what New Elevation Life Church does.” Translation: I know we just changed everything, but I don’t want to do that anymore. We’ve been doing it for three months, and we’re not seeing the results I think we should see. So now we’re going to do something else. (See “We’ll figure it out” above.)
7. “We need to reorganize.” Translation: It’s time to play staff musical chairs again. Where you stop, nobody knows. Hopefully it won’t involve moving your family this time.
8. “We need to make a change.” Translation: Someone is going to lose their job. As a staff member, you’re never quite sure when this one is coming or when the ax will swing your way. As comforting as it is to know how gut-wrenching this type of decision is for the senior pastor, it still tends to sting a little. (Extreme sarcasm alert in the previous sentence.)
These examples are an exaggeration and compilation of all the pastors I’ve worked with. The point is there are two kinds of stress when working for a church: the stress of being in control and the stress of not being in control.
I’m not saying the stress the staff feels is as intense as the senior pastor’s, but it’s good to experience what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk occasionally. Maybe your stress isn’t worse than mine, just different.
Texas Insurance Commissioner Juli Rathgeber proposed Tuesday that navigators prove their citizenship or employment eligibility, undergo background checks, and show financial responsibility, reports The Washington Post.
“In Texas, we are being vigilant about safeguarding privacy and keeping personal information out of the wrong hands,” said Rathgeber. “These proposed rules address insufficiencies in federal regulations and make the training and qualifications of navigators in our state more readily apparent to consumers and service providers.”
The proposed rules also would make prospective navigators go through 40 hours of coursework to learn more about state’s Medicaid and privacy standards and to show proof of training. The state also want ensure that navigators are not permitted to charge for services or push any specific insurance plans.
In addition, the Texas proposal would also prohibit navigators from offering advice on benefits or from comparing different plans for consumers.
A public hearing will be held on Dec. 20 and the rules will go into effect after a public commentary period ends on Jan. 6. The Post reports that Texas has about 200 navigators who are primarily charged with helping the uninsured enroll in Obamacare.
The Obama administration and Supporters of the healthcare law claimed the state’s proposals would only increase costs and slow down the application process for insurance coverage. They all but accused Texas officials of simply trying disrupt the federal effort to help the uninsured.
“This is an attempt to add cumbersome requirements to the navigator program and deter groups from working to enroll Americans in coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace,” Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told the Post. “The navigator program is similar to Medicare counselors, which have existed for years and never faced this kind of scrutiny from Texas.”
Under federal law, navigators already go through training on various health plans, privacy and security standards, as well as Obamacare eligibility requirements. But at least 16 states, including Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have enacted additional requirements and regulations governing how Obamacare navigators do their jobs.
Social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education have delayed approval of a high school biology textbook, pending a review by experts, citing concerns about the book’s lessons on evolution.
In the latest episode of a lengthy battle by evangelicals in Texas to insert Christian and biblical teachings into public school textbooks, the board on Thursday blocked the book’s approval.
A volunteer reviewer concluded that the assertions in Pearson’s Biology, which include lessons on natural selection and the Earth’s cooling process, are “errors” that need to be corrected by publisher Pearson Education, one of the nation’s largest producers of school textbooks, board members said.
The opinion of the unidentified reviewer, who is part of a citizens’ panel that looks over the texts, and the fact that Pearson is disputing it, led to the delay.
The board is expected on Friday to turn the matter over to a panel of experts to examine the purported errors and make a final recommendation.
Pearson declined to comment early on Friday.
“Publishers of several other books agreed to make the changes we pointed out,” said David Bradley, a leader of the social conservatives on the board, referring to earlier efforts to change other science texts. “But we have one publisher of one book that says they are not making changes.”
Because Texas is so large—second in population only to California—textbook selection here influences schoolbooks that are also sold in other states.
While the state’s more than 1,000 school districts are not required to use the books approved by the board, most do.
Two years ago, conservatives pushed for changes in history textbooks, including one that would have downplayed Thomas Jefferson’s role in American history for his support of the separation of church and state. That effort was unsuccessful.
During the Thursday night debate, board member Thomas Ratliff accused conservative members of the review panel of “holding this book hostage” for political reasons and said they had “hijacked” the approval process.
“You say that the sky is blue, but I say it’s green, and that’s a factual error, and we would find ourselves here, at 11:00 at night, voting on what to do,” a visibly frustrated Ratliff said.
Delaying the vote for further review is a good idea because the “current education establishment” does not listen to parents who, in addition to scientists, should have a say in what their kids are taught in school, said Cathie Adams, head of the socially conservative Texas Eagle Forum.
“One reason we have so many problems in public education, is because we’re not seeking parental input,” Adams said.
But Dan Quinn, a textbook analyst with the liberal activist group Texas Freedom Network, said debates like that marginalize the board.
“If the state board continues to politicize the books as they have in the past, at some point the school districts might just throw up their hands and say, ‘We’ve had enough,’” Quinn said. “‘We will choose on our own what books we want,’ and the publishers will just end up going around this board.”
The bipartisan Hispanic organization The LIBRE Initiative has slammed Obamacare and the people supporting it in a new series of bilingual ads in Texas.
The ads in the southwest section of the state, titled “The Painful Impact of Obamacare on Texas,”target Democratic Rep. Pete Gallegofor voting for the disastrous Affordable Care Act.
The campaign, which also spreads its Obamacare protest through grassroots events, urges the Hispanic community to sign an online petition to its members of Congress, telling them to stop supporting the health-reform act.
LIBRE says Obamacare has resulted in Hispanic families losing their coverage and paying higher healthcare premiums, as well as pushing employers to cut back on work hours to comply with the law —all of which adds an especially greater hardship to the younger generation of Latinos.
“As compared to the nation, Hispanics already suffer from higher unemployment rates and lower median household incomes; now the ACA burdens Hispanics by mandating the purchase of insurance plans with higher premiums,” say the ads.
“While the White House has again postponed the ability to enroll for health plans on the Spanish-language ACA website, Spanish speakers will still face tax penalties in 2014.
“The new healthcare law relies on the young and healthy to pay higher premiums in order to sustain lower premiums for others. Young healthy Hispanics are being particularly targeted to enroll on the exchanges.”
LIBRE, which says it does not endorse or oppose any candidate, points out in its original Florida ads that elected officials are not listening to its message about getting rid of Obamacare.
The TV, radio, and online ads also urge Hispanics to tell Rep. Joe Garcia, a Florida Democrat, and other ACA supporters “to stop driving up healthcare costs.”
“It’s time to hold them accountable for their continued support of the new healthcare law,” the ad says. “Let Washington politicians know that you are keeping them accountable for making the wrong decisions.
“With so many in the Hispanic community losing their current healthcare plan and their full-time jobs, not to mention having to pay thousands of dollars more for insurance, this law is anything but ‘affordable’ for hard-working Floridians who are already struggling economically.”
“As a physician, I know our health care system needs improvement, but this law is already failing,” said Burgess, who practiced medicine for nearly three decades before he was elected in 2003. “The best thing we can do now is scrap it and start over with a step-by-step approach that focuses on lower costs and patient-centered solutions.”
Burgess, vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the botched rollout of the individual mandate portion of Obama’s signature domestic legislation on Oct. 1 proved “that the reality of the president’s healthcare law does not match what he promised.”
He mentioned the millions of Americans who have seen their policies cancelled, who have lost their doctors, or who face higher deductibles and premiums under the plan.
“It’s a train wreck for doctors, a train wreck for patients, and most importantly, it’s a train wreck for the American people,” Burgess said. “And the trouble is, this is only the beginning.”
Obamacare continues to be plagued with problems. Just this week, top technology officials said that the law’s main website, HealthCare.gov, might not be fully operational by the end of the month, as Obama had promised — and Americans continue to have problems accessing the site or signing up for health plans.
In his address, Burgess quoted letters from several Texas constituents about the problems they were facing because of Obamacare. These included a small-business owner who says his premiums will increase 22 percent under the law.
Obamacare “will take down my company and the 125 people that I employ or it will require me to reduce wages, thus hurting the very people who are just trying to make a living,” the congressman said as he read from the resident’s letter.
A woman diagnosed 14 years ago with multiple sclerosis now fears that she will lose her insurance.
“This is beyond stressful,” Burgess read. “Can I continue to see my neurologist? Will I still have access to my medications? It is heart-breaking and by far the most broken system I’ve ever seen.”
The congressman added, “Isn’t this exactly the kind of confusion and uncertainty that the president promised to fix?
“Many Americans are now questioning the White House’s credibility, and rightfully so,” Burgess added. “They are right to expect the president to admit his mistakes and start giving some clear answers.”
Dana Howard, deputy director of the state exchange, made the surprising revelation while being quizzed by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt about the steps California is taking to ensure that information Obamacare enrollees provide to navigators is secure.
“The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit (court) because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing Obamacare,” said Cruz, a leading force in the government shutdown last month in a confrontation over the Affordable Care Act.
“President Obama and the administration refuse to follow the plain text of the law, and the D.C. Circuit is the court of appeals that has been holding the administration accountable.”
Cruz said the change in the filibuster rule, passed by the Senate on Thursday, was designed purely “to pack that court with judges that they believe will be a rubber stamp” to Democratic policy.
The D.C. court has a quota of 11 seats. Three have been vacant. Of the current judges, four were appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats.
Obama has nominated Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins, but their nominations were being filibustered by Republicans who worried a shifting balance of power.
The court is particularly important because it deals with decisions made by federal agencies and the White House, reports The Washington Post.
Cruz was echoing the sentiments of numerous Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who told Newsmax that the real reason for the “dangerous” ploy was “to create a controversy so they can escape criticism for Obamacare, which is wrecking the country.”
Hatch claimed that Obama will use the D.C. court to pass legislation that he can’t get through Congress.
Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, declared that the fate of Obamacare may rest in the hands of the D.C. court.
“Lawsuits affecting the healthcare law will go through this court, and if the president is able to pack this court, it’s his effort to try to defend a law the American people don’t like and believe they can’t afford,” he said.
Meanwhile, during an appearance on Bloomberg TV Thursday, Cruz suggested that he might use the expected budget crisis in January as a means of having the healthcare law repealed.
“There will be plenty of time to worry about the specific text,” he said of the possibility of linking budget legislation to the removal of the Affordable Care Act.
“What I think is critical is that we keep focus on Obamacare and on fixing things. I think what we need to do is repeal in its entirety. I don’t know (if I can do that in January). I hope so.”
A federal judge on Monday blocked the provision of a sweeping new Texas abortion law that requires doctors performing the procedure to have an agreement with a local hospital to admit patients, handing a partial victory to supporters of the right to abortion.
The Texas law was the most fiercely debated proposal to restrict such procedures in the United States this year. Passed in July, the law sparked an unsuccessful filibuster by Democratic state Sen.Wendy Davis, which propelled her into the national spotlight and encouraged her to announce a run for governor.
The Texas law is the most sweeping of a host of measures passed in recent years, which seek to put tight restrictions on abortion in Republican-led states even though the national right to abortion was granted in a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
“The act’s admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus,” U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his opinion.
The provision that a doctor have an agreement with a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, was one of several set to go into effect on Tuesday. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers filed the lawsuit, saying the new law would make it harder for Texas women to get abortions.
Yeakel gave a more nuanced opinion on a second provision of the new law which tightens rules for administering the so-called abortion pill. He said the requirement that abortion providers follow stricter federal guidelines in administering the abortion drug RU-486 could go ahead, except when a physician determines there is a medical emergency to preserve the life and health of the mother.
A ban on abortions in Texas after 20 weeks gestation will go into effect on Tuesday as it was not challenged by the lawsuit. A requirement that facilities where abortions are performed meet the standards of hospital emergency centers is set to take effect next year.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a champion of the new law who called a special session of the legislature to overcome Davis’ filibuster, criticized the court ruling and said the state would continue to fight to implement the law.
“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently,” Perry, a Republican, said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood praised the decision, saying it would allow more than a dozen clinics in Texas to continue operating. Few clinics had been successful in obtaining agreements with hospitals for their physicians, the group said.
“Today’s ruling marks an important victory for Texas women and sends a clear message to lawmakers: It is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The court ruling on Monday is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has shown in the past that it is willing to reverse lower court decisions on abortion.
In 2012, another federal judge in Austin struck down the state’s law requiring women to get a transvaginal ultrasound before abortions. The appeals court reversed that decision and the ultrasound law has gone into effect.
Nine states, including Texas, passed laws requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, but they are in effect only in Kansas, Tennessee and Utah, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization which supports the right to abortion.
Laws were blocked by courts in four other states and has not yet taken effect in Arizona, Nash said.
Some 18 states, including Texas, have enacted laws restricting drug-induced abortions or holding them to the stricter federal guideline, Nash said. Such laws have gone into effect in 14 states, but have been blocked by legal action in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, and are being challenged in Iowa, she said.
The lawsuit is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Health Services v. Abbott, 13-862, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Greg McCune and Bob Burgdorfer