After excluding God from their platform, Democrats hurriedly rewrote their convention platform Wednesday amid criticism to add a mention of God and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, reports The embarrassing reversal was compounded by chaos and uncertainty on the convention floor. Three times Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chairman, called for a voice vote on the changes and each time the yes and no votes seemed to balance each other out. On the third attempt, Villaraigosa ruled the amendments were approved, triggering boos from many in the audience. The episode exposed tensions on Israel within the party, put Democrats on the defensive, and created a public relations spectacle as Obama arrived in the convention city to claim his party’s nomination for a second term. “There was no discussion. We didn’t even see it coming. We were blindsided by it,” said Noor Ul-Hasan, a Muslim delegate from Salt Lake City, who questioned whether the convention had enough of a quorum to even amend the platform. “The majority spoke last night,” said Angela Urrea, a delegate from Roy, Utah. “We shouldn’t be declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” GOP officials argued that not taking a position on Jerusalem’s status in the party platform raised questions about Obama’s support for the Mideast ally. Romney said omitting God “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people.” “I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize,” Romney said. “Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. Republicans declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel in the platform the party approved last week at its convention in Tampa, Fla. GOP platforms in 2004 and 2008 also called Jerusalem the capital.

Other news:

  • President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both promoted abortion in their speeches before the Democratic National Convention, notes “The fact that both candidates mentioned abortion in a positive context while Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan mentioned protecting the sanctity of human life is why groups like the National Right to Life Committee have lined up in support of Romney and Ryan.” “On pro-life issues, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama provide a stark contrast. As the country’s most pro-abortion president, Barack Obama has pursued a radical pro-abortion agenda,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “It is now time for pro-life Americans to unite behind Mitt Romney. For the sake of unborn children, the disabled, and the elderly, we must win.” also notes that though a Catholic, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, used her speech to the Democratic National Convention to promote abortion.
  • A conservative Christian radio host didn’t hold back her criticism when interviewing Exodus International President Alan Chambers on Wednesday over his views on homosexuality, repentance, and salvation, reports The Christian Post. Throughout the half-hour broadcast on The Janet Mefferd Show, host Mefferd and Chambers engaged in a debate that at times got testy. “I have to completely disagree with you on this idea that we are just called to love people where they are and not go to somebody who claims to be a brother in Christ, who is absolutely wrong on this issue (of homosexuality), who is obviously not in Christ even though he’s using that name, and use the platform of Exodus International to basically excuse sin which unfortunately, that’s what I think to some extent you’re doing,” Mefferd told Chambers. Chambers, whose ministry helps those who struggle with same-sex attraction, asked if he could go on The Janet Mefferd Show after the radio host voiced her opinion that Chambers is not suited to head Exodus International. Mefferd, a former news and religion reporter, has denounced Chambers’ recent statements that active, unrepentant homosexuals can go to Heaven, among many other remarks. “This isn’t about homosexuality per se; it’s about the gospel,” she stated on her program Wednesday.
  • While the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ with their lives and even profess to think on Biblical truths, a recent study found few actually engage in personal reading and study of the Scriptures, reports Baptist Press. The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers “desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” and 59 percent agree with the statement, “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second. When asked how often they personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible, 19 percent responded “every day,” 26 percent said a few times a week, 14 percent said they read the Bible “once a week,” 22 percent said “once a month” or “a few times a month,” and 18 percent said  “rarely/never.”
  • A church-state watchdog group has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy in a case where pharmacists refused to supply contraception over religious objections. Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed the brief on Tuesday in the case against Ralph’s Thriftway, whose pharmacy refuses to comply with state rules regarding contraception. “The Washington State regulatory scheme at issue strikes a careful, appropriate balance between the religious freedom of pharmacists and that of their patients. Individual pharmacists are given the right to decline to fill prescriptions if doing so would be contrary to their personal religious or moral beliefs,” reads the brief. “The regulatory scheme thus prevents an individual pharmacist’s religious beliefs from being foisted onto a patient who may hold quite different beliefs.” In 2006, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy considered implementing rules mandating all pharmacists in the state to supply emergency contraceptives with exemptions for pharmacists who had religious objections. By 2007, however, the rules did not guarantee exemption for businesses and soon afterwards a suit was brought on behalf of the family-owned Ralph’s pharmacy in Olympia as well as two individual pharmacists. In February, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that the state’s mandate was unconstitutional in that it violated the rights of those who hold religious objections. The suit was then sent to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “This win is an important battle in the national war for conscience protection,” said Eric Rassbach, then-deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
  • An attorney says officials at a Pennsylvania Christian school were right to fire a teacher for disagreeing with the school’s policy on homosexuality, though she claims it was because of her alleged mental disability, reports Susan Wright filed suit against Covenant Christian Academy for allegedly terminating her because of the mental health problems brought on after her son announced he was gay. But David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom explains that her emotional stress was not related to her dismissal. “My understanding of it was that it was only until the teacher herself came out and actually questioned the school’s policy on homosexual behavior when this issue began,” he reports. “So, I certainly believe it’s two separate issues here.” He points out that numerous court decisions support the right of religious organizations to carry out their religious faith and mission. “Religious organizations have to have the right to put forth the religious message that they see fit,” Cortman contends. “Certainly she doesn’t have to agree with that message, but nor does she have the right to teach there if she doesn’t.” The ADF attorney thinks the court should grant the motion to dismiss the case, because the school did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, as Wright claims.
  • A doctor is saying Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s (R) controversial “misstatement” about rape and conception was actually not far off base. In a recent interview on national television, Akin attempted to explain medical information on the occurrence of conception through rape, reports “From what I understand from doctors, [conception as a result of rape is] really rare,” he said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.” Speaking this week on a program Today’s Issues, Jane M. Orient, M.D. of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said that although Akin did not express himself adequately, medical data backs up what he was trying to say. “I think Akin was making a statement that in cases of forcible rape, pregnancy is quite uncommon,” Dr. Orient declares. “And there are medical textbooks that support what he says.” In a related article, Dr. Orient writes that a 1988 textbook, the second edition of Human Sex and Sexuality, estimates a 2 percent pregnancy rate in cases of rape. A textbook, the sixth edition Comprehensive Gynecology, gives an estimate of between 2 percent and 5 percent and states, “In the experience of most sexual assault centers, the chance of pregnancy occurring is quite low.” Dr. Orient elaborated on those statistics, explaining how pregnancy is sometimes inhibited in a rape. “Implantation and maintenance of a pregnancy is a very complex process,” she notes. “It depends on a lot of hormones working properly, and we do know that miscarriages occur more frequently in women who are under a lot of stress. I don’t know of anything that could be more stressful than a forcible rape, and so even if the fertilization occurs, it’s possible that the stress reaction is going to cause the pregnancy not to be maintained because the right hormones mix is not going to be present.” However, Dr. Orient points out that the occurrence and cause of the pregnancy is not the real issue. “It may be controversial, and those textbooks may be giving a big overestimate. Other sources give a much lower estimate,” she admits. “But really, the point is that when a forcible rape occurs and a woman does get pregnant, despite this, what do you do about the baby? This gets to the question of what an abortion is [exactly]. Is it just a medical procedure you regrettably do when there is a good reason? Or does it involve taking an innocent human life?” Orient also questions whether killing a baby repairs the harm that was done to a woman who was raped. As for Akin’s comment, Dr. Orient concludes, “He’s a layman and did not say it the way I would have said it. If we threw everyone out of the Senate for misspeaking, then we would not have anyone left.”
  • The national debate over gay marriage will center this fall on the Democratic and Republican platforms and in the presidential race, but another, more localized battle over legal recognition of homosexuality is playing out in city halls and town squares in the American heartland, often with pro-family forces trying to reverse decisions by government officials, reports Baptist Press. In Springfield, Mo., the city council was scheduled to vote in late August on whether to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity or put the proposal to a public vote. Instead, after weeks of passionate debate, the council voted 7–2 to postpone action on the ordinance and appoint a task force. The Springfield News-Leader reported that Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a homosexual activist network, said the delay was better than putting the issue to a public vote, where it would likely be defeated. The city is home to the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God, the Baptist Bible Fellowship International, and three Christian colleges.  The Rev. Mark Kiser, president of Reclaiming Missouri for Christ, noted that the council appeared ready to approve the ordinance mid-summer but delayed action after religious opposition emerged. “It was a huge victory [to have the vote postponed],” Kiser said. “But there is a great chance that this is going to come up again, so we’ll have to be ready to do this again.” Similar debates are going on in Salina and Hutchinson, Kan., as well as in Omaha, Neb., which narrowly passed an ordinance in March extending legal protections to homosexual and transgender residents. A tie vote scuttled a similar attempt in October 2010. In Lincoln, Neb., Family First and the Nebraska Family Council collected more than 10,000 signatures challenging a “fairness amendment” approved by the city council in May. The petition forced the city either to let the ordinance die or submit it for voter approval. Officials declined to put it on the November ballot or specify when it might appear. One factor, said the news item, may have been that in August a former star on the University of Nebraska women’s basketball team pleaded not guilty after police filed charges against her for allegedly faking an anti-gay attack. Police said she carved a cross onto her chest and slurs onto her arms and abdomen because she felt it would influence debate over the amendment. The woman crawled naked and bleeding from her Lincoln home, screaming for help on July 22, but on July 18 she had outlined in a Facebook posting what investigators believe was her motive for faking the attack, Police Chief Jim Peschong said at a news conference.
  • The Democratic National Committee banned dozens of Charlotte churches from distributing gift baskets to delegates because the congregations hold values that are contrary to the party platform, reports Worthy News and Fox News. “They told us our views on women’s rights are contrary to the Democratic party platform,” said David Benham, the lead organizer of the Charlotte714 religious movement. Charlotte714 is a group of more than 100 churches across the region that mobilized to pray for the Democratic National Convention. More than 9,000 people gathered last Sunday for a time of worship and prayer in advance of the convention. A gathering of some 200 Muslims praying in Charlotte was given extensive national coverage. The massive Christian received scant coverage. Benham said it’s no surprise that the Democrats have now removed God from their party platform. “The Democrats have spit in the face of God[;] they spit in the face of unborn children,” Benham said. “They spit in the face of marriage. They are spitting in God’s face. Americans need to rise up and see to it they have their day and are escorted out of power in this country.”
  • Western spy agencies suspect Syria’s government has several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components scattered among as many as 20 sites throughout the country, heightening anxieties about the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, reports Worthy News and The Washington Post. Officials are monitoring the storage sites, but they expressed growing fear that they have not identified every location and that some of the deadly weapons could be stolen or used by Syrian troops against civilians. “We think we know everything, but we felt the same way about Libya,” said a former American intelligence official who was briefed on U.S. preparations for both conflicts. “We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations.” The former official was one of several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.