Surging Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum won a plurality of support from evangelicals in the Iowa GOP caucuses Tuesday, as social conservatives in the state and nationwide try to decide not just who can win in November but who best shares their beliefs, notes Baptist Press. Mitt Romney edged Santorum in the Iowa caucuses by a mere eight votes. Concern over Romney has allowed a series of dark-horse candidates to rise to the top, with Santorum being the latest. The virtual tie (each received 25 percent) was a big boost to Santorum, who trailed by double digits in most Iowa polls just two weeks earlier and who had far less money than Romney. Santorum won 37 percent of the vote of those who consider themselves born-again or evangelical, besting Ron Paul (18 percent) and three candidates (Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich) who each received 14 percent of the evangelical vote, according to entrance polls. Evangelicals made up 57 percent of caucus-goers. “God has given us this great country to allow His people to be free and has given us that dignity because we are a creation of His, and we need to honor that creation,” Santorum told a cheering crowd. “And whether it’s the sanctity of life in the womb or the dignity of every working person in America to fulfill their potential, you will have a friend in Rick Santorum.” A former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum long has been a champion of pro-life and pro-family causes and was a leading supporter of a proposed federal constitutional amendment in 2004 that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. He also helped lead the charge to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion, once getting into a now-famous floor exchange about the beginning of life with pro-choice Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Other news:

  • Republican leaders in the House and Senate are blasting President Obama’s move to recess-appoint a key nominee as an “unprecedented power grab,” reports thehill.com. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the president “arrogantly circumvented the American people” in his effort to recess-appoint a key nominee and argued the move “fundamentally endangers” Congress’s ability to check the “excesses of the executive branch.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the effort an “extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab … [that] would have a devastating effect on the checks and balances that are enshrined in our constitution.” He also hinted that a legal challenge to the move could be in the works, adding he expects “the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate.” White House officials confirmed Wednesday that the president has decided to push through his nomination of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau via a recess appointment. The president is expected to announce the move in Ohio, alongside Cordray, who previously served as the state’s attorney general. Senate Republicans voted en masse to block the pick in December, insisting the bureau needed structural changes before any nominee could be considered. Meanwhile, a pro-family leader says President Obama has used his three years in office to do whatever it takes to make America weaker and the people more dependent on the federal government, reports onenewsnow.com. Robert Knight is a senior fellow at The American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times. In a recent piece titled “Our Trojan Horse President,” he proposed writing a novel about what might happen if a man who hates America and wants to bring it down is somehow elected president. But Knight says his hypothetical novel is actually a litany of the most egregious things done by President Obama, including looking out for the interests of illegal immigrants instead of those of American citizens. Knight hopes people are becoming increasingly aware of the questionable tactics being employed by the administration.
  • The governor of Washington State has come out in favor of gay marriage, according to cbn.com. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire explained that she’d battled with the issue because she’s Catholic, but said she now supports legalizing same-sex marriage in her state. “It is time in Washington state for marriage equality,” Gregoire said. “Religions can decide what they want to do, but it’s not OK for the state to discriminate,” she added. However, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle said “the position of the Catholic Church is clear,” adding that the legislature should still “uphold the current legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.” The state has already passed what’s known as the “Everything-But-Marriage” bill, giving full rights to homosexual couples. Meanwhile,  a court in Hawaii has refused to exempt churches from being forced to allow their property to be used for civil union ceremonies. The Emmanuel Temple and the Lighthouse Outreach Center Assembly of God requested a restraining order to block a law that permits same-sex couples to enter civil unions. It exempts clergy from performing the ceremonies, which are the equivalent of marriage, but there is no provision to protect church property. They argued that they would face civil penalties and fines if they refused to rent their property for same-sex civil unions, but U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright denied the request. Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel Action told OneNewsNow that it creates a clear conflict between government and the free exercise of religion. “There is no exemption for religious institutions, for churches, houses of worship from being subject to fines and to sanctions as provided in the legislation for refusing to allow their houses of worship to be desecrated through the use of a so-called ‘civil union’ ceremony,” he explains. But the two churches were unsuccessful in blocking the law for that reason. “It’s unfortunate that this judge has refused to grant injunctive relief here to protect freedom of religious expression,” Barber laments, “and this will indeed create a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion in the state of Hawaii—and it sets a very bad example for the rest of the country.” At the very least, the attorney says the legislature needs to revisit the issue and make sure churches are protected from being forced to host civil union ceremonies. The law went into effect as scheduled on Sunday.
  • The ACLU says it will mount a legal challenge against the state of Michigan after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Thursday a bill banning domestic-partner benefits for unmarried employees at state agencies, according to The Washington Times. Snyder signed off on House Bill 4770 amid objections from officials at Michigan’s public colleges and universities who said not being able to provide such benefits “would limit their ability to recruit competitively on a national level.” The governor’s approval of the ban was praised by the conservative American Family Association, which called on the state attorney general to review the newly passed measure to determine its constitutionality.
  • For the first time in dozens of court cases challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president, a judge has ruled that Obama must, in order to be a candidate on the Georgia ballot for president in , meet the constitutional demands for candidates for the office, reports Patriot Update. A hearing has been scheduled later this month for evidence on the issue that has plagued Obama and his presidency since long before he took office. At issue is the constitutional requirement that a president be a “natural-born citizen.” Some allege he was not born in the U.S. as he has claimed and, therefore, is not eligible.
  • Saudi hackers who identified themselves as members of the online Anonymous network claimed on Monday to have leaked files containing personal information, including credit card numbers and expiration dates, belonging to more than 400,000 Israelis, reported worthynews.com. They called on surfers to use the details in order to purchase goods online. “It will be so fun to see 400,000 Israelis stand in line outside banks and offices of credit card companies to complain that their cards had been stolen. To see banks shred 400,000 cards and reissue them. To see that Israeli cards are not accepted around the world, like the Nigerian cards,” the hackers wrote.
  • A Greek official has indicated that Athens would back an oil embargo on Iran, setting the stage for a positive decision by EU countries at the end of the month, reports worthynews.com. The unnamed official told the Reuters and Bloomberg news wires on Jan. 3 that Greece has dropped its previous opposition to the new measure. “If the European Union decides to impose the sanctions, Greece will join them. . . . If the sanctions are imposed, we will seek other ways to ensure we continue receiving the needed supplies and that the oil market operates smoothly,” he said. Greece, which buys around 35 percent of its oil from Iran, said No to the measures at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels in December. An EU diplomat at the time told EUobserver that several member states have reservations about the move because it would make oil more expensive for the EU but cheaper for Iran’s Asian customers. France has in recent weeks continued to build support for an EU embargo, however. Its foreign minister, Alain Juppe, told France’s I-Tele TV station on Tuesday there is no doubt that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons and that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to see an oil ban as well as a freeze on Iran’s central bank assets. “The US Congress voted in favour of this and the President of the United States has just approved the law. And we hope that the Europeans will take equivalent action by 30 January in order to clearly demonstrate our determination,” he said, referring to the next regular meeting of foreign ministers.
  • Governments of the world’s leading economies have more than $7.6 trillion of debt maturing this year, with most facing a rise in borrowing costs, says worthynews.com. Led by Japan’s $3 trillion and the U.S.’s $2.8 trillion, the amount coming due for the Group of Seven nations and Brazil, Russia, India, and China is up from $7.4 trillion at this time last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ten-year bond yields will be higher by year-end for at least seven of the countries, forecasts show. Investors may demand higher compensation to lend to countries that struggle to finance increasing debt burdens as the global economy slows, surveys show. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for growth this year to 4 percent from a prior estimate of 4.5 percent as Europe’s debt crisis spreads, the U.S. struggles to reduce a budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion, and China’s property market cools. “The weight of supply may be a concern,” Stuart Thomson, a money manager in Glasgow at Ignis Asset Management Ltd., which oversees $121 billion, said in a Dec. 28 telephone interview. “Rather than the start of the year being the problem, it’s the middle part of the year that becomes the problem. That’s when we see the slowdown in the global economy having its biggest impact.”