Iain Mansfield: To bring greater fairness to families, free childcare should be linked to the transferable tax allowance | Conservative Home

There is a profound unfairness in the way the state supports families with pre-school children. Whilst significant support is rightly offered, in the form of tax-free childcare and 30 hours of free childcare a week, to couples in which both parents work, nothing is offered to families in which one parent chooses to remain at home, caring full time for their children. This is not only deeply unjust, but it utterly undervalues the important work done by those – often, but by no means exclusively, women – who make this choice.

Many people argue that the Government should not impose one form of lifestyle upon families. But the status quo, by embedding such a large disparity in support, does precisely this: it strongly encourages a family in which both parents work and discourages the equally valid choice in which one parent chooses to look after their own children.  All subsidies distort choices, and at over £5,500 a year – about a fifth of the median household income – the level of disparity is of a scale to fundamentally distort the choices and options available to most families.

In reality, every family is different. In some families, it is absolutely right for them that both parents go back to work. In others it may be better, both for the parents and for the well-being of the children, if one parent – whether they are a man or a woman – stays at home to look after those children. It all depends on both the talents and inclination of the parents and the nature and needs of the children concerned. In an ideal society, each family would be able to make that choice depending on what was best for them and their children; however, under our current system, only the former is given support. This means that many parents are forced back to work as the only affordable option, even if when that is neither economically efficient nor what they wish to do. Increasingly, caring for one’s own children is becoming a luxury available only to those that have at least one high-earning parent.


Source: Iain Mansfield: To bring greater fairness to families, free childcare should be linked to the transferable tax allowance | Conservative Home

Betsy DeVos Removes Guidance Documents for Disabled Students

A very sad state of affairs and yes, it could and possibly will be imported from the US to the Uk, as many undesirable actions are.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

More from a growing pile of already abundant evidence that Betsy DeVos should not be in charge of education in America. Actually, I wouldn’t trust her to run a pre-school or kindergarten. In this piece from The Young Turks, Jeff Waldorf reports and comments on the move by DeVos to rescind the 72 official documents, which explain to students and their parents, what the rights of disabled people are when they go to Uni. American universities are granted money by the federal government to support the needs of disabled students. DeVos hasn’t revoked these. She’s just making sure that disabled students, their carers and relatives, don’t know what they are.

One of these documents translates the official jargon of the legislation into ordinary plain English, so that regular peeps don’t need a lawyer to interpret it for them. Now it’s gone, things are going to be made difficult so that…

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Vox Political on Chilcot’s Damning Verdict on Blair, and What His Readers Think

I did support Gulf War 1 to ensure the liberation of Kuwait and could not understand why the allied forces did not pursue further into Iraq to topple Saddam, So I could have supported the evental removal of Saddam. However I have always been untrusting of Blair, but did rejoice in the overthrow of Saddam, so the rights of all Iraqs could be progressed. But as we were only too aware, after the event, that no constructive plans of operation had been thought through. Blair and Bush by their actions created a vaccum in which allowed the formation of Daesh to be created from some of the forces which had originally,appeared, to support the Bush/Blair initiative.

From this lessons should have been learned, but this did not prevent the removal of Gaddafi in Lybria to create a further vacuum.

it is clear, that the prresiding factor was oil, as Blair and Bush have not taken similar actions in other countries where oil in not a factor, Zimbarbre being only one example.

With the evidence of the Chilcot report and the current state of the Middle East it is amazing that Blair still feels he was justified in his actions and would do it again.

He and Bush are totally responsible for the current state of the Middle East so Blair should be prosecuted as a War Criminal, as accountability should have a bearing on decisions made by persons when they hold positions of responsibility.

The families need closure and while the Chilcot report goes some way with this, the prosecution of Blair would be even more closure.

Blair needs to be made responsible and accountable for his actions and not so glibly make comments that in no way answer his ctitics and the evidence.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged a piece from the Guardian by Owen Jones, laying out how damning the Chilcot report is of Tony Blair and his decision to lead the country into war. Owen Jones is a fine journalist, who clearly and accurately explains the issues. I’ve read and quoted from his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, which is very good, and has rightly received great praise. He also has another book out The Establishment: Who They Are and How They Get Away with it. I’ve been thinking about that one, but have avoided buying it so far on the grounds that it might make me too furious.

Mike also asks what his readers think of the Iraq War. He asks

Do any of you believe the war was justified, as Ann Clwyd still does (apparently)? Have any of you come to believe that?…

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What the GOP could learn from Ireland on gay marriage

Original post from The Washington Post

‘…………..By Jonathan Capehart

People celebrate in Dublin on Saturday as the final vote of the referendum on same-sex marriage is announced. (Aidan Crawley/European Pressphoto Agency)
People celebrate in Dublin on Saturday as the final vote of the referendum on same-sex marriage is announced. (Aidan Crawley/European Pressphoto Agency)

Here’s something you will never hear any of the crop of Republican presidential candidates say on same-sex marriage: “With today’s vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.” Those soothing words came from Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny after 62.1 percent of his nation voted in favor of marriage equality on Saturday.

It was a stunning development in one of Europe’s most conservative countries. A nation where the Catholic Church once held great sway. Emphasis on “once.” The resounding victory of same-sex marriage proponents is as clear a sign of independence from the church as you’ll ever see.

Now, the civil rights of a minority should never be put up for popular vote. Tyranny of the majority and all that. Also, sometimes the populace needs a force greater than its collective will to make it do the right thing. But in the case of the Emerald Isle, the people did right all on their own. A marvelous thing.

Pity the GOP field is incapable of seeing same-sex marriage with Irish eyes. Rather than express the humanity advised in the GOP autopsy after the 2012 presidential loss or heeding the voice of young Republicans, the candidatescontort themselves on the question of whether they would even attend a gay wedding. Come on, people!

Maybe they are all hoping the Supreme Court will take them off the hook and rule that there is a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples. “The court has spoken,” “rule of law,” blah, blah, blah. A lame tactic, but I’ll take it. This isn’t Ireland. And this certainly isn’t Britain, where conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was a vocal champion of marriage equality and won reelection with overwhelming support. This is America, where once again, the courts will push the nation to live up to its ideal of equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court did it for African Americans in the 20th century and so it must for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans in the 21st.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.  ………………..’

A young man who survived “ex-gay ministries” taught me what it means to be a Christian

Original post from Salon

‘………The campaign against marriage equality sent me fleeing from the church. Here’s what brought me back

A young man who survived "ex-gay ministries" taught me what it means to be a Christian

Cover detail of “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church”

One muggy summer morning, when we’d roused ourselves in enough time to pull into the church parking lot just a few minutes late, we noticed a half-dozen red, white, and blue lawn signs growing from the strip of grass between the highway and the freshly paved blacktop. They said “VOTE YES ON ONE” across the top and “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman” across the bottom. In the middle was a stick-figure family holding hands.

 I groaned.

It’s no secret that the Tennessee state legislature has kept itself busy over the last decade producing mountains of wholly unnecessary legislation designed to protect what it considers to be Tennessee’s most threatened demographic: white evangelical Christians. One proposed bill would have made practicing Islam a felony, punishable by fifteen years in prison. Another sought to ban middle school teachers from even mentioning gay relationships to their students. House Bill 368 (signed into law in 2012) encourages teachers in public schools to “present the scientific weaknesses” of evolution and climate change. In 2013, panicked rumors among legislators that renovations to the capitol building included the installation of a “Muslim foot bath” were assuaged when it was revealed that the fixture in question was, in fact, a mop sink.

That particular summer, Tennessee lawmakers were busy amending the state constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. Churches and conservative organizations across the state had organized a campaign to remind voters that if they wanted to say no to gay marriage they needed to vote yes on proposition one and the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment. Nearly every church in town boasted several signs on their lawns, and now ours did too.

“We might as well hang a banner over the door that says ‘No Gay People Allowed,’” I muttered.

I didn’t have a lot of gay friends at the time. I hadn’t met Andrew or my friends Justin, Jeffry, Matthew, and Kimberly. I hadn’t yet reconnected with those high school classmates who, before they came out, got as far away from Rhea County as they could. I wasn’t even sure what I thought about same-sex relationships at that point in my life, but I had no intention of voting yes on prop one because I didn’t see why my religious concerns should have any bearing on whether my fellow citizens enjoyed the same rights and privileges as I did under the law. When you grow up just a few miles from 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and when you move to a town situated on the old Trail of Tears where a man was once prosecuted and fined for teaching evolution, you get a little sensitive about constitutional amendments designed to restrict rights rather than protect them. Sure, the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment sounded like a good idea to a lot of folks at the time, but how would it sound in twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred years? I just wasn’t convinced we had this one right.

Of greater concern to me was the way these signs were sprouting up like weeds in every church lawn in the county. If Christians in East Tennessee wanted to send the message that gay and lesbian people would be uncomfortable and unwelcome in our churches, that their identity would be reduced to their sexual orientation and their personhood to a political threat, then we’d sure done a bang-up job of communicating it. We’d surrounded our churches with a bunch of stick-figured families who, with linked arms and vacuous smiles, guarded our houses of worship like centurions. If you wanted to get through, you had to know your place in the chain. You had to assimilate.

During the announcements, a man I didn’t recognize invited us to attend a meeting that night to discuss the “radical homosexual agenda in America and how Christians should respond to it.” He spat out the word homosexual the same way others spat out the wordsliberal, feminist, and evolutionist, and it occurred to me in that moment that maybe I wasn’t the only one who brought an uninvited guest to church on Sunday morning. In a congregation that large, there was a good chance the very people this man considered a threat to our way of life weren’t out there, but rather in here—perhaps visiting with family, perhaps squirming uncomfortably with the youth group in the back, perhaps singing with the worship band up front. How lonely they must feel, how paralyzed. Sitting there with my Bible in my hands, twisting its silk bookmark nervously between my fingers, I realized that just as I sat in church with my doubt, there were those sitting in church with their sexuality, their race, their gender, their depression, their addiction, their questions, their fears, their past, their infertility, their eating disorder, their diagnosis, their missed rent, their mess of a marriage, their sins, their shame—all the things that follow us to church on Sunday morning but we dare not name.

The words from Anne Sexton’s poem “Protestant Easter” floated into my brain:

Jesus was on that Cross.

After that they pounded nails into his hands.
After that, well, after that,

everyone wore hats . . .

And smiles. And masks. And brave fronts.

I didn’t stop going to church after the Vote Yes On One campaign, but I stopped being present. I was too scared to speak up in support of LGBT people, so I ignored my conscience and let it go. I played my role as the good Christian girl and spared everyone the drama of an argument. But that decision—to remain silent—split me in two. It convinced me that I could never really be myself in church, that I had to check my heart and mind at the door. I regret that decision for a lot of reasons, but most of all because sometimes I think I would have gotten a fair hearing. Sometimes I think my church would have loved me through that disagreement if I’d only been bold enough to ask them to. Like a difficult marriage, my relationship with church buckled under the weight of years of silent assumptions. So I checked out—first in spirit, then in body. When our closest friends from Sunday night moved to California, our interest in the social events began to dwindle. After a few months, Dan and I began sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

* * *

Seven years after the “Vote Yes On One” campaign sent me fleeing from the church, I discovered church again in an unlikely place: the Gay Christian Network’s annual “Live It Out” conference in Chicago.

Founded by Justin Lee, a young gay man who grew up Southern Baptist and survived the destructive effects of “ex-gay ministries” to eventually accept and embrace his sexuality, the Gay Christian Network offers community and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians, along with their friends, family, and allies. The group is ecumenical, but attracts a lot of evangelicals, many of whom have been marginalized or kicked out of the churches in which they grew up. Some of the more than seven hundred attendees believed Scripture compelled them to commit their lives to celibacy while others believed Scripture granted them the freedom to pursue same-sex relationships and marriage. There was room at the table for all.

I spoke at the conference as an ally, but within hours of arriving at the Westin on the Chicago River, it became clear I had little to teach these brothers and sisters in Christ and everything to learn from them. I speak at dozens of Christian conferences in a given year, but I’ve never participated in one so energized by the Spirit, so devoid of empty showmanship, so grounded in love and abounding in grace. As one attendee put it, “this is an unapologetically Christian conference.”

Indeed it was. There was communion, confession, worship, and fellowship. There was deep concern for honoring Scripture and loving as Christ would love, even through differences and pain. There was lots of hugging and crying and praying . . . and argyle.

But what startled me the most was the degree to which so many attendees had suffered, sometimes brutally, at the hands of Christians trying to “cure” them of their sexual orientation. One young woman described undergoing an exorcism ceremony designed to cast the demon of lesbianism from her body. Another went to counseling where her Christian therapist insisted she must have been molested or mistreated by her parents when she hadn’t. One man followed the advice of his pastor and married a woman, hoping heterosexual sex would make him straight, a decision that led to heartbreaking consequences. Many at the conference had gone through evangelical ex-gay ministries, the largest of which had recently shut its doors when its president admitted that reparative therapy to change sexual orientation is rarely, if ever, effective. Person after person told stories about getting kicked out of their church or their family upon coming out. (Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.) Far too many described contemplating suicide as teenagers after begging God to “fix” them to no avail.

And yet here they were, when they had every right in the world to run as far away from the church as their legs would carry them, worshipping together, praying together, healing together. Here they were, being the church that had rejected them. I felt simultaneously furious at Christianity’s enormous capacity to wound and awed by its miraculous capacity to heal.

The final night of the conference was set aside for an open mic, in which participants were invited to share their stories in front of the whole group in the main ballroom. One by one, hundreds of brave men and women approached the microphone, took a deep breath, and told the truth.

“I’m Mary and I’m Jacob’s mom,” said a short woman with a midwestern accent who wore jeans, a white T-shirt and, like several of the parents at the conference, a giant button pin that announced “FREE MOM HUGS” in tall red letters.

“Tonight I want to ask Jacob’s forgiveness, and your forgiveness too, because . . .” Her voice began to tremble. “Because until this weekend I was ashamed of my son.”

She stifled a sob with her hands while we waited in a thick silence.

“I didn’t want the people at my church to know he was gay because I was afraid of what they would think, what they might say,” she finally said. “But not anymore. I’m so proud of my beautiful son, and of all of you. I’m so proud that I’m going to shout it from the rooftops!”

A gentle laugh rippled through the room.

“I’m so sorry,” Mary said, first looking to her son on the front row and then to the rest of the audience. “I’m so very sorry. Please forgive me.”

“We forgive you!” shouted a woman behind me.

Jacob ran to front of the room and embraced his mom. They held each other for a few minutes before the next person approached the mic.

“I remember the first time I was called a . . . homophobic word,” said a young woman, no more than twenty, who wore a flower in her hair and kept her eyes on her shoes. It took her a few moments to form the next words.

“It was at church.”
 Around the room, people hummed in sad ascent.
 “This is the first time in a long time I’ve been able to be around Christians without totally freaking out,” she said, without ever looking up. “So thanks for that.”

“From the time I was a teenager, I’ve started every day the exact same way,” said a handsome man who wore a fedora and spoke with confidence.

“First, I look in the mirror and ask myself, ‘Does this outfit look too gay?’”

The crowd chuckled.

“After I’ve changed,” he said with a wry laugh, “I go back to the mirror and say to myself, ‘Mike, watch your hands. Mike, be careful with your voice. Mike, don’t laugh too loud. Mike, don’t walk that way. Mike, whatever you do, don’t act so gay.’”

His voice suddenly cracked.

“I didn’t want to lose my job in ministry,” he said, after collecting himself. “But I’m so tired of that routine. After twenty years, I can’t keep doing that. I’m done. I’m done pretending. I’m done faking it. It’s time to tell the truth: I’m a Christian and I’m gay.”

The crowd applauded.

An African American man in a wheelchair followed and brought the house down when he approached the mic, waited a moment, and declared, “I’m black. I’m disabled. I’m gay. And I live in Mississippi. What was God thinking?”

He was followed by a college student who said he finally worked up the courage to come out to his parents.

“It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped,” he said. And in the painful silence that followed far too many understood.

And then there was the young man who had attended the year before in the midst of a deep depression, but who had returned this year with a new church, a healthier family dynamic, and a boyfriend. “It gets better,” he said.

Near the end of the session, a slight, middle-aged man in a dress shirt approached the microphone.

“I’m here to ask your forgiveness,” he said quietly.

“I’ve been a pastor with a conservative denomination for more than thirty years, and I used to be an antigay apologist. I knew every argument, every Bible verse, every angle, and every position. I could win a debate with just about anyone, and I confess I yelled down more than a few ‘heretics’ in my time. I was absolutely certain that what I was saying was true and I assumed I’d defend that truth to death. But then I met a young lesbian woman who, over a period of many years, slowly changed my mind. She is a person of great faith and grace, and her life was her greatest apologetic.”

The man began to sob into his hands.

“I’m so sorry for what I did to you,” he finally continued. “I might not have hurt any of you directly, but I know my misguided apologetics, and then my silent complicity, probably did more damage than I can ever know. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent of my actions. Please forgive me.”

“We forgive you!” someone shouted from up front.

But the pastor held up his hand and then continued to speak.

“And if things couldn’t get any weirder,” he said with a nervous laugh, “I was dropping my son off at school the other day—he’s a senior in high school—and we started talking about this very issue. When I told him that I’d recently changed my mind about homosexuality, he got really quiet for a minute and then he said, ‘Dad, I’m gay.’”

Nearly everyone in the room gasped.

“Sometimes I wonder if these last few years of studying, praying, and rethinking things were all to prepare me for that very moment,” the pastor said, his voice quivering. “It was one of the most important moments of my life. I’m so glad I was ready. I’m so glad I was ready to love my son for who he is.”

By the end of the open mic session, I understood exactly why they say not to bother with mascara at this thing. It was two of the most healing, powerful, grace-drenched hours of my life. It was, at last, church.

I had a conversation with someone the other day who said he wondered if perhaps LGBT Christians had a special role to play in teaching the church how to more thoughtfully engage issues surrounding gender and sexuality. I told him I didn’t think that went far enough, that ever since the Gay Christian Network conference, I’ve been convinced that LGBT Christians have a special role to play in teaching the church how to be Christian.

Christians who tell each other the truth. 
Christians who confess our sins and forgive our enemies. Christians who embrace our neighbors.
 Christians who sit together in our pain, and in our healing, and wait for resurrection.

* * *

Sometimes people ask me if I believe in faith healings.
 What I think they’re asking is if I believe a pastor can lay hands on a man and cure him of alcoholism, or if a religious shrine possesses the power to coax the paralyzed out of their wheelchairs, or if rallying around a little girl with twenty-four hours of prayer can reverse the progression of her cancer.

I don’t know. I’ve watched too many people of strong faith succumb to illness and tragedy to believe God shows any sort of favoritism in these matters. (And yet, inexplicably, I always pray.)

So when I’m asked about faith healings, I tell people about Thistle Farms. I tell them about the Gay Christian Network. I tell them about the widows I met in India who haven’t been cured of their HIV but who are healing from their poverty and hopelessness by loving one another well. I tell them about the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, and the abuse survivors I’ve met through the blog. I tell them about my own journey away from and back to church. Then I shrug my shoulders and say, “I suppose anything’s possible.”

Excerpted from “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church” by Rachel Held Evans. Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Held Evans. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved



America’s patchy same-sex marriage laws hurt businesses, and corporate America is fighting back

Original post from The Washington Post

‘…………By Drew Harwell

Bigots to say or not to say

Nick Clegg say bigots or not

So far as I am aware Nick Clegg did not say bigots and if his office is to be believed, the speech issue was a draft, which should not have been issued.

While I am not a Clegg supporter, even though I was born and live in Sheffield, I do feel it is not right for someone to be criticised for something they did not say.

I am also a Christian, but do not believe the Church is always right, , in fact many times it is wrong. I believe all persons should be free to conduct their lives as they wish, provided they in doing so respect the Laws and Social culture of the country in which they reside.

The Church needs to move with the times and be more, dare I say it, liberal with its beliefs.

Too many conflicts have been caused over the years in the name of religion.

If we do follow the Christian teachings, why are Christians involved in so many conflicts, when after all Christians do preach the love of their fellow man. Strange how it comes back to the article.

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