An official at the center of the Obama administration's IRS scandal is now reported to have a history of harassment, according to CBN News. Lois Lerner, director of the IRS' Exempt Organizations Division, is the official who first publicly admitted that the IRS unfairly targeted groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications. Now, The Weekly Standard is reporting that Lerner was accused of politically motivated harassment after a huge investigation into the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. Lerner worked for the Federal Election Commission's enforcement division at the time, and the FEC accused the Christian Coalition of working with candidates to spend money on certain issues. In the end, the FEC lacked proof, but the investigation cost the Christian Coalition hundreds of thousands of dollars. Questions were also raised about whether the FEC had the authority to bring such charges.
A federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday struck down Arizona's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, AP reports. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violates a string of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, starting with Roe v. Wade, that guarantee a woman's right to an abortion before a baby is able to survive outside the womb -- generally considered to be about 24 weeks. Several states have enacted similar bans starting at 20 weeks, but the 9th Circuit's ruling is binding only in the nine states under the county's jurisdiction. Idaho is the only other state with a similar ban in the region covered by the 9th Circuit. A trial judge had ruled that the ban could take effect, saying it was constitutional partly because of concerns about women's health and fetal pain, but abortion-rights groups appealed that decision, saying the 20-week ban would not give some women enough time to decide whether to abort. The ban included an exception for medical emergencies.
Americans' views toward a number of moral issues have shifted significantly since 2001. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans' acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years to a record high of 59 percent today. Americans' tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater -- up 15 points since 2001 to the current 60 percent. Americans have also become significantly more accepting of sex between an unmarried man and woman, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, polygamy, and cloning humans. The only issue that Americans have become significantly less accepting of over the past 12 years is medical testing on animals. A majority of Americans continue to say seven of the 19 items measured are morally wrong: married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy, suicide, pornography, sex between teenagers (measured for the first time this year), and cloning animals. Attitudes toward two items -- doctor-assisted suicide and abortion -- are fairly evenly split, with less than half of Americans seeing each as either morally acceptable or morally unacceptable.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case during its next term about whether a town that opened its public meetings with prayer violated the Constitution, WORLD reports. For more than decade, the town of Greece, N.Y., has opened its public meetings with prayer, almost always from Christian clergy. The town said leaders from any faith could offer prayer at the meetings, but until recently leaders from other faiths had not participated. Two non-Christian women sued, saying the prayers violated the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the women, ruling the prayers unconstitutional and saying the town should have sought more religious diversity in those offering the prayers. That decision partially conflicts with a previous Supreme Court ruling, which may be why the court decided to hear the case. In 1983, the Supreme Court said prayer at public meetings was constitutional, in general. Since then, different courts have ruled on specific guidelines for which prayers are constitutional -- for example, some states are allowed to use the word "God" but not the word "Jesus" -- and the high court may try to resolve some of the conflicting guidelines across the country.