All posts from “February 2009”

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February 27, 2009

A Dynamic Duo

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham recently teamed up to deliver food to a small struggling Alaskan community.

The Yukon River community, made up of 330 people, has been struggling financially because of soaring gas prices and scarce food supplies. Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization has stepped in with the goal of eventually delivering 40,000 pounds of donations to Alaska communities affected by hard times.

Churches, nonprofits, bloggers and donors have also partnered in the relief effort in gathering food and supplies.

Palin hopes the relief effort will raise awareness about available job opportunities for young people even if "it requires in some cases leaving the village for a short time."

A letter out of the lower Yukon River village of Emmonak first brought attention to the matter.

Interviews with Palin and Graham on the relief trail can be found here.

(Originally published at Religion News Service's blog.)

February 27, 2009

James Dobson Resigns

James Dobson resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family, The Associated Press reports.

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He will continue to host Focus on the Family's radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues, Eric Gorski writes for the AP. Daly told Gorski that there is no timetable for Dobson to leave the radio program that garners 1.5 million listeners, and the group will "look for the next voice for the next generation" while Dobson remains on the air.

On political matters, Dobson "will continue to speak out as he always has - a private citizen and not a representative of the organization he founded," said Gary Schneeberger, a Focus on the Family spokesman. He said the nonprofit ministry and Focus on the Family Action - an affiliate set up under a different section of the tax code that permits more political activity - will continue to be active on public policy.

February 27, 2009

Obama's Hunt for a Church

The Obama's may be settling on a puppy choice, but last I checked, President Obama has not found a church to call home. He's attended some private services, but a new article in Slate concludes that his church hopping habits may not be a bad thing.

Even if the American mania for shopping extends to our spiritual lives, church shopping still doesn't get much respect. But while it may be frequently derided as an example of rampant spiritual consumerism, shopping around can be one of the good things about the way religion is practiced in America.

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Andrew Santella provides a nice round-up of the church shopping phenomenom, but I'm guessing his conclusion would horrify some church leaders. "In that sense, church shopping transfers a bit of power from the pulpit to the pews. And keeping a check on the power of church leaders is never a bad idea."

About 40 percent of Americans attend a religious service at least once a week while 58 percent of evangelicals do the same, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. On the other hand, 61 percent of Americans say they are a member of a congregation, and 74 percent of evangelicals say the same.

Continue reading Obama's Hunt for a Church...

February 27, 2009

Obama Seeks to Roll Back Pro-Life Conscience Protection

President Barack Obama has taken another step in advancing his pro-choice agenda. The Chicago Tribunereports that today, the new administration "will move to rescind a controversial rule that allows health-care workers to deny abortion counseling or other family-planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs."

Last month, Obama overturned the Mexico City policy, which prevents taxpayer money from going to groups that provide abortions overseas. The conscience protection that Obama seeks to overturn has stood for more than 30 years.

Supporters say the change is necessary to protect women's health.

Continue reading Obama Seeks to Roll Back Pro-Life Conscience Protection...

February 26, 2009

Obama's Budget Proposal Could Impact Charities

President Obama's plans for a healthcare overhaul could impact those who donate to charities, according to The Los Angeles Times.

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Under the president's proposal, joint filers making more than $250,000 a year would only recoup 28% of the value of qualified deductions, rather than higher percentages laid out under current law.

That could mean a couple in the 35% tax bracket who once could have recouped $3,500 of a $10,000 donation to a charity would now recoup only $2,800.

The White House estimates the change would generate about $318 billion over 10 years.

Here's more from The Wall Street Journal.

Households paying income taxes at the 33% and 35% rates can currently claim deductions at those rates. Under the Obama proposal, they could deduct only 28% of the value of those payments.
More

The changes would be phased in gradually over the next few years. For the 2009 tax year, the 33% tax bracket starts with couples with taxable earnings of $208,850, when adjusted for personal exemptions and various deductible expenses. A taxpayer in the top bracket paying $1,000 of mortgage interest, for example, would see a tax break worth $350 reduced to $280.

February 26, 2009

Court Sides with Montana Church over Free Speech

The free speech rights of a Montana church were violated when it was told to register as a political committee after hosting an anti-gay marriage event in 2004, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, Mont., overturned a lower court decision.

The church participated in a "Battle for Marriage" satellite simulcast in 2004 and distributed petitions in support of a successful initiative to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman in Montana's constitution.

Continue reading Court Sides with Montana Church over Free Speech...

February 26, 2009

House Members Call for Anti-abortion Steps in Spending Bill

More than 180 House members sent a letter to House Democratic leaders on Wednesday , calling for upcoming spending bills to maintain longstanding anti-abortion provisions.

"These measures ... reflect the moral concerns of many Americans who do not wish to see their tax dollars used for any organization that provides abortion services," said the letter.

The letter asks House Democratic leaders to maintain provisions such as the Hyde Amendment, in effect since 1976, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions except in limited cases.

Continue reading House Members Call for Anti-abortion Steps in Spending Bill...

February 26, 2009

Frist, Argue May Join Obama Foreign Policy Team

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Today, there are reports that GOP Rep. Frank Wolf is pushing to have Bill Frist (left), an MD and former Senator Majority Leader, to be named as the Obama administration's special envoy on Darfur.

The Sudan Tribune reports:

There is no special diplomat for Sudan since the former envoy stepped down at the end of George Bush's term. Calls for appointment of a high-level envoy with particular deputies began just after Obama's election win in November last year. In an open letter to Obama issued today, Rep. Frank Wolf called the delay "simply unacceptable." "I've witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes," Wolf wrote of Darfur. "Every day that passes, more men are killed, more women are raped, and more children die of malnutrition. This is simply unacceptable. The time to act is now. John Prendergast, a former White House official and current activist, and Roger Winter, a former diplomat to Sudan, are top contenders, the Associated Press speculated. Activists have signaled that a top envoy with high stature in the US political circles could rally international leverage against Sudan's government, which they accuse of genocide. Wolf, the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, today recommended former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for the post.

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Meanwhile, religious freedom advocates have been questioning who is on the short list to become the next ambassador for international religious freedom. I keep hearing word that Don Argue (right), the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals who has been very close to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, is on the short list of potential nominees.

Continue reading Frist, Argue May Join Obama Foreign Policy Team...

February 25, 2009

Can Gov. Bobby Jindal Recover?

I confess. After President Obama's address last night, the place I watched it at closed right before Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's response. So I'm confined to the blogs and Twitter, but even conservatives are saying his delivery needs work.

New York Times columnist David Brooks called it "stale" and "insane" and "a disaster for the Republican Party." (h/t Ben Smith, Politico)

That's unfortunate for Jindal, considering what Brooks told me last week.

Are there other evangelicals you would like to see more of?

I liked Mike Huckabee's campaign. There [are] a bunch of governors who are committed Christians as well as very modern, sophisticated politicians like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. The people will naturally emerge, I think.

Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher makes a religious comparison.

Bobby Jindal was a total disappointment. He was badly over-rehearsed; Matthew, my kid, watched with me and said, "He sounds totally artificial. He sounds like a televangelist." I can't improve on that description. It sounded like that to me too.

Continue reading Can Gov. Bobby Jindal Recover?...

February 25, 2009

North Dakota to Vote on Personhood Bill

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The North Dakota House approved a bill that would define a fertilized human egg as a person, and The Washington Times reports that a Senate vote could come as early as next week.

Valerie Richardson writes that last year, personhood ballot measures in Colorado and Montana were defeated, but five states - Alabama, Maryland, North Dakota, Montana and South Carolina - have introduced personhood legislation. The bill doesn't necessarily have full support from those you might expect, though.

Continue reading North Dakota to Vote on Personhood Bill...

February 25, 2009

Shameless Plug

Christianity Today launches a new blog today called Imago Fidei: a daily view of Christian life. If you're a sucker for pictures like I am, you'll love this blog. Imago Fidei means "image of faith" in Latin.

My colleague Susan Wunderink, who has an amazing eye for stunning images, will manage the blog using photos from artists, ministries, and public sites. She's also soliciting submissions. Bookmark http://blog.christianitytoday.com/images/

February 24, 2009

Supreme Court to Consider Case of Cross Monument in Mohave Desert

The Supreme Court decided Monday (Feb. 23) to consider a case about a controversial eight-foot cross that was erected as a war memorial on federal property in California.

The legal battle surrounding the memorial in the Mohave National Preserve in San Bernardino County, Calif., has pitted veterans groups against advocates for church-state separation.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross and a 2004 congressional statute designed to maintain its placement is unconstitutional.

"It is bad enough to say that the veterans' memorial is unconstitutional, but it is outrageous to say that the government cannot give the monument back to the people who spilled their blood and put it there in the first place," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute and attorney for the VFW and other veterans
groups, which sought the high court's review of the case.

After the National Park Service denied a request to erect a Buddhist shrine in the preserve, a visitor to the preserve sued in 2001 because the property was not "open to groups and individuals to erect other free-standing, permanent displays."

Continue reading Supreme Court to Consider Case of Cross Monument in Mohave Desert...

February 23, 2009

Slicing the evangelicals

Posting on Christianity Today's political blog, Tobin Grant of SIU-Carbondale pooh-poohs the idea that anything significant happened with the evangelical vote for president last November, even as he acknowledges that the exit polls showed a geographical split, with Southern evangelicals more likely to vote for McCain than their Midwestern co-religionists:

The news, however, is that despite the economy, the war, and at least some campaigning by Obama, evangelicals remained unmoved in their support for the Republican candidate.

No, the news from 2008 is the emergence of significant internal divisions within the evangelical vote, not only geographical but also generational. The geographical one (on display in Ted Olsen's cool interactive map) enabled Obama to carry Midwestern states (Ohio, Indiana) that had been beyond the reach of Democratic presidential candidates for a long time. The generational division was portentous, because it showed that among evangelicals, the young went from being the most enthusiastic Bush voters to the least enthusiastic McCain voters, while the old went in the opposite direction.

Continue reading Slicing the evangelicals...

February 20, 2009

"Imagine" Viewpoint Discrimination?

CNN follows NBC in rejecting pro-life ad for prime time.

Brian Burch of CatholicVote.com says CNN has rejected the group's "Imagine" ad for broadcast during the president's State of the Union address next Tuesday. Previously NBC rejected the video, which links the pro-choice Barack Obama with a strong pro-life message, for airing during the Super Bowl. Executives at both networks cited concerns with the content of the ad: NBC that it doesn't run issue ads during the Super Bowl, and CNN because the ad suggests that Obama is pro-life. In an e-mail today to supporters, Burch disputes CNN's conclusion:

This is absurd. Our ad does not suggest that Barack Obama is pro-life. Instead, our ad presents nothing but facts. President Obama, like every human being, began as an unborn child. Because he was born, he was able to become the President of the United States.

CNN and others simply don't like the obvious conclusion of our ad - there was no ‘choice' for abortion back in 1961. Thankfully, we had laws then safeguarding unborn children -- laws that protected the life of a future president who tragically is unwilling to fight for those same protections today.

February 20, 2009

What Would Jesus Spend?

Anti-stimulus ad focuses on the scale of new government spending.

First we had "What would Jesus drive?" Then we had "How would Jesus vote?" Now, apparently, we have "What would Jesus spend?" The answer, according to a conservative anti-stimulus video ad making the rounds, might be, "Not as much as Barack Obama."

The 60-second spot, funded by the American Issues Project, states:

"Suppose you spent $1 million every single day starting from the day Jesus was born - and kept spending through today. A million dollars a day for more than 2,000 years. You would still have spent less money than Congress just did."

February 19, 2009

2008 Election Poll is Worth the Wait

New analysis suggests that evangelicals remained unmoved in their support for Republicans, while a few other religious groups shifted.

Within minutes of the polls closing in November, journalists were reporting results from exit polls including analysis of how evangelicals and other religious groups voted. One of the findings from these polls was that evangelicals (that is, "born again" voters) voted three to one for McCain, with evangelicals in the South more likely to do so than evangelicals in the Midwest.

But exit polls are short, with too few questions on religion. For a clearer picture of religion's role in the election, researchers use surveys that take more time to analyze. One of the best is The National Survey of Religion and Politics conducted by John Green (University of Akron and the Pew Forum).

In the March issue of First Things, Green presents a summary of how religious groups voted in November. The fact that this "summary" runs over 4,000 words speaks to the complexities and nuances of religion in American politics. Green uses a combination of information on religious affiliation, beliefs, behavior, race, and ethnicity to group Americans into no less than 15 different religious groups. He reports how each group voted in 2008 and compares this vote with results from 2004. The result is a clearer picture of how the more things change the more they stay the same in American religion and politics.

Despite punditry on Obama's outreach and McCain's lukewarm (to ice cold) support from some evangelical leaders early in the campaign, evangelicals voted just as they have done in previous contests. Three-quarters of evangelicals voted for McCain, which is the same level of support given to Bush, though Green notes that turnout was lower. Among evangelicals, support for McCain was nearly unanimous among those with more traditional beliefs and practices, with nine out of ten voting Republican. Obama received more support from more "modernist" evangelicals, but even this more moderate group gave its support for McCain. The news, however, is that despite the economy, the war, and at least some campaigning by Obama, evangelicals remained unmoved in their support for the Republican candidate.

There was some movement among other religious groups but most changed support only a bit. Those with no religion voted three to one for Obama. Both Catholics and Mainline Protestants split their support almost 50-50. Again, these patterns are nearly the same as found in the 2004 election.

There were three groups that seem to have made sizeable shifts in their votes.

1. Black Protestants. In 2004, support for Kerry among those attending a Black Protestant church dropped to 83 percent. However, with Obama as candidate, this group returned to its high level of support for the Democrats. As Green notes, 95 percent of Black Protestants voted for Obama, meaning that one in five of Obama's voters were Black Protestants.

2. Traditionalist Catholics. As with Mainline Protestants and Evangelical Protestants, Green differentiates Catholics by their support for traditional beliefs and practices. Traditionalist Catholics are those who hold more orthodox beliefs and are more active in their faith. In 2004, only one fifth of this group voted for Kerry. In 2008, support for the Democrat nearly doubled, with 39 percent supporting Obama. This is one group to watch over the next four years.

3. Ethnic Protestants. Green analyzes "Ethnic Protestants" as a separate religious group. This group is primarily Latino but it includes other non-white, non-Anglo Protestants. This group tends to hold conservative positions on social issues. They gave Bush their vote in 2004, with only 25 percent voting for Kerry. In 2008, Obama received just over half of this group's vote. This is a group that has not solidified its voting. As of now, it is trending Democratic, but its votes are likely up for grabs for next few election cycles.

There is much more that could be said about voting in the 2008 election. Green covers much more than I have summarized here. And with the wealth of information in this latest National Survey of Religion and Politics, there should be more to come on the role of religion in the presidential election.

Tobin Grant is an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale.

Continue reading 2008 Election Poll is Worth the Wait...

February 18, 2009

Hillary Clinton: Obama Will Enlist Muslim Help

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday that the Obama administration will "enlist the help of Muslims around the world against the extremists."

Today, Clinton traveled to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

"I am a Christian," she told students at Tokyo University yesterday. "Through the centuries we have had many people who have done terrible things in the name of Christianity. They have perverted the religion."

February 18, 2009

Pope Gives Pelosi a Stern Reprimand

Pope Benedict XVI lectured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the "dignity of human life" at a private meeting today, a decidedly less cordial reception than is frequently given many
U.S. leaders.

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Pelosi, D-Calif., describes herself as an ardent Catholic but raised eyebrows last year by saying "doctors of the church" disagreed on when life begins and that abortion "continues to be an issue of controversy" in the Catholic Church.

The comments earned her a public scolding from a number of U.S. bishops, who said the church has believed abortion is wrong since the first century.

The wording of a Vatican statement suggests she received another reprimand from the pope over her support for abortion on Wednesday.

"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law," the statement read, "and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."

Conservatives were already nervous that a papal photo-op would enable Pelosi, and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, to say that Catholics can reject church teaching on abortion and remain in good standing.

Instead, the Holy See used the encounter to make its disapproval clear, releasing an official statement on what was discussed – a relatively rare step, especially when the visitor is not a head of state.

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, had earlier said the only photo she wanted to see was one of Pelosi "in the confessional line."

But after the pope's stern rebuke, Brown said she hopes U.S. bishops will be more willing to deny Communion to abortion-rights politicians like Pelosi. "We encourage our bishops and priests to emulate the same courage exhibited in Rome," she said.
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In her own statement Wednesday, Pelosi made no mention of the papal lecture.

"It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI today," she said. "In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel."

The papal reception for Pelosi was notable for its contrasts with the warm welcomes given to former President George W. Bush, who shared the Vatican's "culture of life" ideology even as he rejected church overtures not to invade Iraq.

Yet it would have been hard for Benedict to snub Pelosi altogether without straining diplomatic relations with the United States, since her position puts her second in line to the presidency after Vice President Joe Biden, also a Catholic who supports abortion rights.

Pelosi, whose grandparents were Italian immigrants, is on a week-long tour of Italy with fellow lawmakers. Included in her delegation is Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who has led an effort among Catholic Democrats in the House to create room to disagree with the church on abortion.

DeLauro recently spearheaded a letter to the pope from nearly 50 House members, asking for "clarification" on why the pope lifted the excommunication on a schismatic bishop who not believe 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

February 18, 2009

What You Were Thinking

Here are the some of the good, bad, or ugly comments from recent posts on the politics blog.


Bristol Palin: Abstinence 'not realistic'

That is sad. It basically says because society has changed, the biblical standard for purity has changed as well. Yes, [dying] to sin isn't realistic, but it's possible through the power of the gospel. -- Lew

La. Prison Agrees to Strip Monument of Bible Reference

Maybe we should start taking bets on how long it will be before all references to the Bible are removed from Washington DC. -- David M.

Pro-Lifers, It Turns Out, Were a Big Part of Obama's Winning Coalition

Thank you for pointing out this information. One of the tragic parts of the pro-life fight is the degree to which it has been politicized. Democrats are all pro Choice? Not so. Republicans all pro Life? Not so. Republicans will fix it? They haven't so far. The most tragic part of it is when the movement begins to think it is more important to criminalize than to prevent. We need to do both and embrace efforts to do both. I agree about the teeth: We need to see them on the prevention side. -- Carol Roddy

Take That, Hustler!

Congressman Grassley, certainly upheld a Christ-like reaction. This is awesome news to a young Christian man returning to school. This is God's world. We have to interact with the secular views. Without being offensive, Congressman Grassley has given hope to me. My future meetings with classmates during Cultural Social Studies has taken a turn. Thank you. -- Jason

February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin: Abstinence 'not realistic'

Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said in a recent interview it's "not realistic" to expect abstinence outside of marriage but says teenagers should wait longer to have children.

"Everyone should be abstinent . . . but it's not realistic at all," the 18-year-old told Fox's Greta Van Susteren after Van Susteren asked her whether she had a philosophical or religious objection to contraception.

Palin also said that having sex as a teenager had become "more and more accepted now" among people her age."I think everyone should just wait 10 years," she said. Being a teenage mother "is not glamorous at all . . . your whole priorities change after having a baby."

On a non-Palin note but abstinence note, Christianity Today has offered two recent articles on abstinence.

February 17, 2009

Student Sues over Gay-Marriage Speech

A student in California is suing Los Angeles City College, saying his professor reacted inappropriately to his speech in class against same-sex marriage, Gale Holland writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Student Jonathan Lopez says his professor called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to let him finish his speech against same-sex marriage during a public speaking class last November, weeks after California voters approved the ban on such unions.

When Lopez tried to find out his mark for the speech, the professor, John Matteson, allegedly told him to "ask God what your grade is," the suit says.

Lopez is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, sued unsuccessfully to stop the release of the names and addresses of Proposition 8 donors, who said they had been harassed during the weeks of demonstrations after it passed.

Holland writes that the case tests the balance between free speech and offensive speech, and it's all part of "the emotional aftermath of Proposition 8."

February 14, 2009

La. Prison Agrees to Strip Monument of Bible Reference

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Officials at a Louisiana prison, already under fire for allegedly denying Catholic and Muslim inmates access to religious materials, have agreed to remove a biblical reference from a monument outside the prison gates.

Cathy Fontenot, a spokeswoman at the maximum-security State Penitentiary at Angola, said officials submitted work orders to have what was known as the "Philippians Monument" stripped of the religious references after a complaint was lodged last year by the Louisiana arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The monument featured a verse taken from Philippians 3:13 dealing with "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead." Fontenot said the language will remain, but the verse's citation will be removed.

On the opposite side of the book-like monument, there was a "Prayer of Protection," which the ACLU complained about and is being removed. The prayer reads: "The light of God surrounds you/The love of God enfolds you/The power of God protects you/And the presence of God watches over you;/Wherever you are, God is."

Fontenot said that side of the monument will be filled with artwork or a more secular inspirational message.

Angola Warden Burl Cain said he chose the location by the prison's entrance gates to help with the "moral rehabilitation" of new inmates "arriving at Angola to see that their past stopped when they entered the gates of Angola ... It advises them we are not going to look at the past; to let it go and begin change for the better."

Marjorie Esman, the state ACLU's executive director, told Cain that the ACLU "supports you in your efforts to encourage prisoners to look forward toward changing their lives for the better; we expect those efforts to be conducted in a way that will not endorse one religion over another or religion over non-religion."

The ACLU last week filed suit against Cain and other officials after two inmates -- one Catholic, one Muslim -- said they were denied access to worship services and religious materials.

February 13, 2009

Ministry Sues for Access to Inmates

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections' refusal to allow a Christian ministry access to send Bibles, books about Jesus Christ and other religious materials to inmates has sparked a federal
lawsuit.

Wingspread Christian Ministries, headquartered in Prairie Grove, Ark., and operated by Illinois-based Evangelists for Christ Inc., filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Muskogee.

Prison restrictions on prisoners' correspondence violate the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma's Religious Freedom Act, the 12-page lawsuit petition claims.

"Restricting Wingspread's freedom of speech and religion is not only harmful to our constitutional rights, it is also very harmful to those within prison walls in need of spiritual sustenance," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville,
Va.-based civil liberties organization, which represents the plaintiffs.

Neville Massie, executive assistant to Oklahoma Corrections Director Justin Jones, said the department would not comment on pending litigation.

Wingspread sends similar religious materials to prisoners in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, New York and\ Texas but "has not encountered restrictions upon and impediments to its ministry similar to those encountered in Oklahoma," the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, Oklahoma prison regulations mandate that "all orders for publications will be made directly to the publisher of the material or to a legitimate bookstore."

The regulation does not allow a ministry to send Bibles or other religious materials; only a publisher, bookstore or book dealer may do so, according to the plaintiffs. Wingspread said it also has tried to send money orders worth $15 to $20 to indigent or mentally ill prisoners
during the Christmas season, only to have them returned by prison officials. The ministry said it also was informed that while individuals could write letters to inmates, ministries could not.

"Because Wingspread's ministry involves personal communication with prisoners and building a personal relationship with the prisoner, correspondence through the mail is crucial to the pursuit and success of this ministry," plaintiffs' attorney Joseph Clark wrote in the petition.

February 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Nancy Pelosi is not Haman, Barack Obama is not King Ahashuerus, and John Boehner is certainly not Queen Esther." -- Rep. Barney Frank, on Republican attempts to make voters believe that the Democratic Congress is causing trouble.

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In Salon fashion, Mike Madden takes the biblical analogies even further by calling the three Senators who joined Democrats on the stimulus bill modern-day Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I heard Esther references about Sarah Palin when she was first nominated. When Christian conservatives defended why Palin could run for vice president but couldn't preach in the pulpit, many of them used the example of Deborah.

Photo: Tiffany Dupont as Queen Esther in "One Night with the King."

(Correction: Mike Madden wrote the Salon post)

February 12, 2009

Pro-Lifers, It Turns Out, Were a Big Part of Obama's Winning Coalition

I was recently telling a Democratic friend about Obama's abortion balancing act. One day he repeals the Mexico City "gag rule" delighting pro-choice activists. The next week he seems intent on making it up to pro-life voters, announcing that one priority of a new faith-based council will be reducing the need for abortion.

My friend interrupted and said, "why should we care about appeasing the pro-lifers? We won."

The first reason, I said, is because Obama promised.

But then I thought about the word "we." Obviously my friend was making a realpolitick assumption that his side, the Obama coalition, was almost entirely pro-choice. But is that really true?

No. Pro-lifers made up a meaningful percentage of Obama's winning coalition. Professor John Green of University of Akron, czar of all religion-and-politics polling, reports that based on not-yet-released survey conducted in December, about a quarter of Obama's vote came from pro-lifers, defined as people "wanting serious restrictions on abortion, but not necessarily a full ban on abortions." What's more, Green will report, about one third of young voters who went for Obama are pro-life.

These findings comport with Beliefnet's own less scientific user survey.

Now obviously, pro-choicers made up an even bigger portion of his coalition. But pro-lifers comprised a surprisingly big minority.

As a point of reference, this would mean that pro-lifers made up a bigger percentage of Obama's vote than....union members, white Catholics, Jews, gays, Latinos or 18-21 year olds.

As a good Democrat, you'd never think of being so cavalier with those groups, why would you blow off the pro-lifers?

The strong showing comes in part because Obama improved with Latinos, evangelicals, Catholics, and regular church-goers. Obama doesn't have to act on abortion right away -- most of Obama's religious voters care more about the economy than abortion -- but he also shouldn't think that he can abandon his abortion reduction promises without political consequences.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

February 12, 2009

National Association of Evangelicals Probes Faith-Based Office

The National Association of Evangelicals issued a favorable but questioning response to President Obama's new Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office. Carl Esbeck, a law professor at the University of Missouri, applauds the office while offering a few concerns.

First, Esbeck wonders whether the office is big enough to address its new priorities: reducing poverty, reducing abortion, encouraging fatherhood, and encouraging interfaith efforts.

NAE welcomes these developments, but notes that the office's greatly expanded portfolio will quickly overwhelm a staff the size of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative. To do justice to all four of these charges - from abortion to fatherlessness to reaching out to moderate Muslims - will take a staff five-fold the half dozen employees under President Bush.

Esbeck is also concerned about the hiring question: whether religious groups can choose employees from a specific faith groups.

If hiring rights are denied because of a change of leadership at Obama's Department of Justice, many evangelicals will turn away from participation in federal grant programs. That's hardly the "all hands on deck" approach the President called for as a way to soften the blow of the nation's deepening recession.

Esbeck also asks two questions: First, when a federal grant is awarded directly to an [faith-based organization], where is the line between delivering the permitted program services and engaging in prohibited "worship, sectarian instruction, and proselytization?" Second, when a federal grant is awarded directly to an FBO, how intensely must the government monitor the use of the grant monies?

(h/t Dan Gilgoff)

February 9, 2009

12 States Weigh Ultrasound Abortion Bills

Lawmakers in 12 states are considering bills that would offer or require ultrasounds before a woman gets an abortion, the Associated Press reports.

The states include Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Americans United for Life has state-by-state analysis and recently ranked states based on abortion laws (informed consent, parental involvement, provider requirements), recognition of the unborn (fetal homicide, born alive infant protection), bioethics (cloning, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization), end of life (assisted suicide), right of conscience clauses (healthcare providers and insurers can opt out of abortion).

Best States
1. Pennsylvania
2. Louisiana
3. South Dakota
4. Oklahoma
5. Mississippi
6. Texas
7. North Dakota
8. Nebraska
9. Arkansas
10. Indiana

Worst States
50. California
49. Hawaii
48. Vermont
47. New Jersey
46. Connecticut
45. Nevada
44. Oregon
43. New York
42. Washington
41. Illinois

February 9, 2009

Take That, Hustler!

The Philadelphia Inquirer profiled U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley's regular crusades, including one that involves Christianity Today.

When Hustler publisher Larry Flynt sent free subscriptions of his magazine to members of Congress, Grassley skipped the moralizing speeches his colleagues gave in response and sent a letter:

"Dear Larry: Since you have sent me a slice of your mind, I'd like to send you a slice of mine. You will shortly receive your first installment of an annual subscription to Christianity Today."

February 7, 2009

Senate Rejects Stimulus Aid for Religious Buildings

The U.S. Senate defeated an amendment to the economic stimulus bill Thursday that would have allowed federal funding for renovations at college buildings that are used for religious activity.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., proposed the amendment after voicing criticism of a stimulus provision that says funds for colleges and universities could not be used for modernization or renovation of buildings where "sectarian instruction" or "religious worship" occur.

"This is a direct attack on students of faith, and I'm outraged Democrats are using an economic stimulus bill to promote discrimination," DeMint said after the 54-43 vote defeating the amendment.

Church-state groups, however, welcomed the vote.

"The Senate has voted to reaffirm an important American principle -- that religious groups should pay their own way and not expect funding from the taxpayer," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Conservative Christian groups, meanwhile, agreed with DeMint. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said the provision "has nothing to do with economic stimulus and everything to do with religious discrimination."

Andrea Lafferty, executive directosr of the Traditional Values Coalition, called the vote "a significant defeat to our First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom and free speech."

February 6, 2009

Vision Cast for Faith-Based Office

So far, I have two stories from my time in Washington on the faith-based initiatives.

I spoke with the new director of the Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois. Nearly every story about him pointed out his young age: 26. However, DuBois played a large role in the campaign running Obama's faith outreach, so it will be interesting to see how important the office becomes during Obama's term.

In our interview, DuBois outlined three key ways the office is different from the one President George W. Bush set up:

The previous initiative was largely focused on leveling the playing field and making sure these groups had access to federal agencies and federal resources, and that's really important. President Obama thinks that now it's time to set an overarching mission for the office, so that's one key difference.

The second difference is structurally, we're creating this new policy council. We heard a lot that in the previous office, information went out but there weren't ways to give formal feedback to the federal government, and that's what this council allows us to do.

And the third way it's different is more strength in legal and constitutional footing.

I also wrote a story addressing the issue of whether groups can discriminate based on faith in their hiring practices. I spoke with Doug Koopman, co-author of a book on Bush's office, who was concerned about how the office has set new priorities rather than receiving them from the organizations. Joel Hunter and Jim Wallis, two members of the council, told me about the executive order yesterday. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention explained why he has mixed feelings about the office. Amy Black, co-author with Koopman told me how she thinks this will be different from Bush's faith-based office.

February 5, 2009

Obama Signs Executive Order on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

President Obama signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

As expected, Obama named Joshua DuBois as the head of the office. The order says the office will look to "reduce the need for abortion." The office's top priority will be making community groups an important part of economic recovery and reducing poverty. The office will also encourage responsible fatherhood and work with the National Security Council to allow interfaith dialogue around the world.

Evangelicals on an advisory council include Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, Frank S. Page, President emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention, Joel C. Hunter, Pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed, and Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners.

The full press release is below:

Washington (February 5, 2009) ? President Barack Obama today signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs.

"Over the past few days and weeks, there has been much talk about what our government's role should be during this period of economic emergency. That is as it should be ? because there is much that government can and must do to help people in need," said President Obama. "But no matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone. There is a force for good greater than government. It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centers and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides."

The White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.

President Obama appointed Joshua DuBois, a former associate pastor and advisor to the President in his U.S. Senate office and campaign Director of Religious Affairs, to lead this office. "Joshua understands the issues at stake, knows the people involved, and will be able to bring everyone together ? from both the secular and faith-based communities, from academia and politics ? around our common goals," said President Obama.

The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships:

The Office's top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.
It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.
The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.
Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.

As the priorities of this Office are carried out, it will be done in a way that upholds the Constitution ? by ensuring that both existing programs and new proposals are consistent with American laws and values. The separation of church and state is a principle President Obama supports firmly ? not only because it protects our democracy, but also because it protects the plurality of America's religious and civic life. The Executive Order President Obama will sign today strengthens this by adding a new mechanism for the Executive Director of the Office to work through the White House Counsel to seek the advice of the Attorney General on difficult legal and constitutional issues.

The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will include a new President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. There will be 25 members of the Council, appointed to 1-year terms.


Members of the Council include:

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and noted church/state expert
Washington, DC

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria, VA

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps
Chicago, IL

Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular non-profit intermediary
New York, NY

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia, PA

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs and expert on church/state issues
Winston-Salem, NC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Lakeland, FL

Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican American Cultural Center
San Antonio, TX

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national operating intermediary
New York, NY

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue, WA

February 5, 2009

Report: Obama Will Delay Decision on Faith-based Initiatives

The Obama administration will delay a decision on whether religious groups who hire based on the religious background of job applicant can receive federal funding, the Associated Press reports.

The decision will impact whether evangelical groups like World Vision can receive money from the new White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

President Obama will order a legal review of hiring practices for faith-based groups currently participating in White House faith-based initiatives, the AP reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama will expand the mission to include abortion reduction and outreach to the Muslim world. Hiring issues should be decided on a case-by-case basis, Joshua DuBois, the 26-year-old former campaign advise told Laura Meckler.

"The president found one of the problems with the previous initiative was that tough questions were decided without appropriate consideration and data," DuBois told the WSJ. President Obama, he said, "doesn't have an interest in rushing questions that are so complex."

Instead, the president will sign an executive order making clear that the director of the new office should seek guidance from the Department of Justice on specific legal issues regarding "how to respect the Constitution" and nondiscrimination laws, Mr. DuBois said.

Dan Gilgoff at U.S. News & World Report writes that Obama's decision mirrors a central recommendation from a report released last December by the Brookings Institution, which recommended that the administration commission a study on the issue.

The study would focus on such questions as: When they are permitted by law or policy to do so, how many religious organizations actually do discriminate in employment matters on the basis of religion in federally-funded programs and activities? To what extent do they do so? Does such discrimination affect a small number of positions, or a larger share? Do religious providers view nondiscrimination obligations to be a hindrance or a help to their work? What does state and local law say on these matters, or what has been common practice? How easy is it for religious providers to segregate government funds from private funds for the payment of employees' salaries? Under various kinds of policies, how many federally-funded jobs would be off-limits to potential employees who did not share the organization's faith commitments?

February 5, 2009

Obama Lauds Faith-Based Initiatives, Gives Personal Testimony in Prayer Breakfast Address

WASHINGTON -- President Obama referenced his plan to allow federal funding to faith-based organizations at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning.

In his the first religiously-themed speech of his presidency, Obama addressed a large gathering of Republicans and Democrats and other leaders at the Washington Hilton hotel. He Obama emphasized in his speech that his plan for the faith-based initiatives will not favor any religious group over another or religious groups over secular groups.

It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state. This work is important, because whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them.

Obama also spoke about the common themes found in religions. "No matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate," Obama said. "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

He also spoke about his father's conversion from atheism to Islam, his mother's resistance to organized religion, and his own path to Christianity.

I didn't become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck ? no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God's spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose ? His purpose.

Here's a short portion of his speech.


C-SPAN has a full video and below are his prepared remarks:

Good morning. I want to thank the Co-Chairs of this breakfast, Representatives Heath Shuler and Vernon Ehlers. I'd also like to thank Tony Blair for coming today, as well
as our Vice President, Joe Biden, members of my Cabinet, members of Congress, clergy, friends, and dignitaries from across the world.

Michelle and I are honored to join you in prayer this morning. I know this breakfast has a long history in Washington, and faith has always been a guiding force in our family's life, so we feel very much at home and look forward to keeping this tradition alive during our time here.

It's a tradition that I'm told actually began many years ago in the city of Seattle. It was the height of the Great Depression, and most people found themselves out of work.
Many fell into poverty. Some lost everything.

The leaders of the community did all that they could for those who were suffering in their midst. And then they decided to do something more: they prayed. It didn't
matter what party or religious affiliation to which they belonged. They simply gathered one morning as brothers and sisters to share a meal and talk with God.

These breakfasts soon sprouted up throughout Seattle, and quickly spread to cities and towns across America, eventually making their way to Washington. A short time
after President Eisenhower asked a group of Senators if he could join their prayer breakfast, it became a national event. And today, as I see presidents and dignitaries here from every corner of the globe, it strikes me that this is one of the rare occasions that still brings much of the world together in a moment of peace and goodwill.

I raise this history because far too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another ? as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been
waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness.

There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we're going next ? and some subscribe to no faith at all.

But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule ? the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we
may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living,
breathing, active faith. It requires us not only to believe, but to do ? to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.

In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that
I'm announcing later today.

The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another ? or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those
organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state. This
work is important, because whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them.

We will also reach out to leaders and scholars around the world to foster a more productive and peaceful dialogue on faith. I don't expect divisions to disappear overnight, nor do I believe that long-held views and conflicts will suddenly vanish. But I do believe that if we can talk to one another openly and honestly, then perhaps old rifts will start to mend and new partnerships will begin to emerge. In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of
zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

I believe this good is possible because my faith teaches me that all is possible, but I also believe because of what I have seen and what I have lived.

I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

I didn't become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck ? no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God's spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose ? His purpose.

In different ways and different forms, it is that spirit and sense of purpose that drew friends and neighbors to that first prayer breakfast in Seattle all those years ago, during another trying time for our nation. It is what led friends and neighbors from so many faiths and nations here today. We come to break bread and give thanks and seek guidance, but also to rededicate ourselves to the mission of love and service that lies at the heart of all humanity. As St. Augustine once said, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."

So let us pray together on this February morning, but let us also work together in all the days and months ahead. For it is only through common struggle and common effort, as brothers and sisters, that we fulfill our highest purpose as beloved children of God. I ask you to join me in that effort, and I also ask that you pray for me, for my family, and for the continued perfection of our union. Thank you.

February 5, 2009

Twittering the National Prayer Breakfast

Unless my cell phone is not allowed for some reason, I'll be twittering during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington this morning. A spokesman for the breakfast declined to say who the keynote speaker will be, but Roll Call is reporting that Tony Blair will address the crowd. Barack Obama is expected to attend before he announces details about the faith-based initiatives.








Update: Here were my tweets during the prayer breakfast. My phone's predictive text spelled Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's name wrong, but it's corrected below.

Joe Biden just arrived at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

The chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians offered the Lord's Prayer in Cherokee and English.

Barack and Michelle Obama have arrived and Casting Crowns will sing.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson from Mo. read from Gen. 33:1-12.

Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minn. and Johnny Isakson talk about Senate prayer breakfast. Amy saved the grits from being taken off the menu.

The new senator from NY Kirsten Gillibrand (corrected) read from Matt. 5:14-16 and spoke briefly about God's light and love for the world.

Reps Ike Skelton and Todd Akin offer prayers for nation and world leaders. Tony Blair will speak now.

Blair said religion is under attack from inside and out. He said "Only God can forgive completely in the knowledge of our sin."

Blair spoke about the common good in every religion. Said when courage fails faith can lift one up.

Obama insists that he and Blair prepared separately but also spoke about common value in religion: love your neighbor as yourself.

Obama referenced his plan to unveil plans for the faith-based initiatives. Said it would not favor no particular faith.

Obama spoke about his becoming a Christian after spending time with church members who helped neighbors. "I heard Gods spirit beckon me."

February 3, 2009

Diverse Group Tapped for Faith-Based Office Council

The Obama administration will announce a diverse advisory council and details about the new White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

AP reporter Eric Gorski's source says that representation from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is also anticipated.

Here's on the list so far, according to the source:

-The Rev. Joel Hunter, an Orlando, Fla.-area evangelical megachurch pastor who was consulted by the Obama campaign and prayed privately with Obama over the phone the night he was elected.

-Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the first female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

-The Rev. Frank Page of Taylors, S.C., the most recent past president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

-Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a public policy arm of Judaism's liberal Reform branch.

-Judith Vredenburgh, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.

The new office will be announced the same day Obama is expected to appear at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

February 3, 2009

California's Proposition 8: $83M Price Tag

The opponents of California's Proposition 8, which place a ban on gay marriage, raised more money than the measure's sponsors, according to a new report.

The Associated Press reports that campaign filings released Monday show that more than $83 million was donated to support or oppose the ballot initiative.

Opponents: $43.3 million
Proponents: $39.9 million

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which took the heaviest beating from protesters after it passed, gave nearly $190,000 to promote the measure. Focus on the Family gave more than three times the amount as the LDS Church, reportedly giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.

The new round of reports also list about 530 small and late donors whose contributions in support of the same-sex marriage ban had not been publicly available until Monday. Proposition 8's sponsors had sought permission to keep the identities of those contributors secret, arguing that the identifying information in previous campaign reports had led to donors being harassed.

The measure passed on Election Day with 52 percent of the vote.