Race for the White House ’08
Grassley Won’t be GOP Delegate
Washington Times, 07-21-08
Evangelical Christians in Iowa, dominant in the state’s Republican Party, have denied Sen. Charles E. Grassley his request for a place on the state’s delegation to this summer’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Mr. Grassley may attend the party’s Sept. 1-4 nominating convention in St. Paul, but not as a voting delegate. With a majority of nine out of 17 members on the Iowa Republican central committee, religious conservatives made Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler chairman of Iowa’s 40-member delegation in a vote immediately after their state party convention July 12. “The Republican Party of Iowa is moving significantly to the right on social issues,” the just-ousted Iowa Republican National Committee member Steve Roberts told The Washington Times. “It hurts John McCain’s chances to win this state.” Other party officials said money for the party is drying up because of past mismanagement and current religious dominance, which has turned traditional Republican politics upside down. “It’s pretty well controlled now by the Christian Alliance,” Mr. Roberts said.
Lieberman Praises Pastor Repudiated by McCain
One of John McCain’s most prominent supporters on Tuesday praised an evangelical leader whom the Republican presidential candidate repudiated after a string of controversial remarks were made public. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who frequently campaigns with McCain, said pastor John Hagee’s support for Israel outweighed the remarks that led McCain to reject his endorsement. Lieberman said he had been urged not to speak to Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel. “The bond that I feel with Pastor Hagee and each and every one of you is much stronger than that, and so I am proud to stand with you tonight,” Lieberman told several thousand members of the group, which urges U.S. support for Israel. “I don’t agree with everything that Pastor Hagee’s done and said … but there is so much more important than that that we agree on,” Lieberman said. McCain, in an effort to reach out to evangelicals who are among the most loyal Republican voters, accepted Hagee’s endorsement in March but rejected him in May after learning that the Texas preacher once said that God allowed the Holocaust to happen because it led to the creation of Israel.
Israeli Paper Publishes Obama Western Wall Prayer
Los Angeles Times, 07-25-08
Before he left Israel Sen. Barack Obama made the required religious pilgrimage to the Western Wall, unannounced in the predawn hours. The handwritten prayer of Democratic presidential nominee to be Barack Obama as placed in the Western Wall, retrieved by an Orthodox Jewish student and published in an Israeli newspaper to considerable criticism. As The Ticket reported in Pool Report the other day, he prayed with a rabbi, took a few moments of meditation with his hand on the wall and then, according to custom, slipped a personal prayer note into a crack in the sacred wall. These notes are left by the thousands and are meant to be private. But his visit to the Western Wall was a public event. As the freshman senator headed for the airport, a young Orthodox religious student searched the Wall until he found the note and turned it over to Maariv. The newspaper’s decision to publish the prayer drew a storm of criticism in some Israeli circles, as such prayers are considered personal and revealing them makes one subject to “the indignation of God.”
Democrats of Faith Hope to Attract Believers to the Party
Associated Press, 07-19-08
The request befuddled Leah Daughtry. The experienced political hand in charge of planning next month’s Democratic National Convention — a self-described “black chick from Brooklyn” and ordained Pentecostal minister — didn’t know what to tell the atheists. Daughtry, 44, was preparing for an Aug. 24 interfaith service that will open the Democrats’ gathering here — a first for the party. Before her was an angry letter from secularists who wanted to know whether atheists would be on the podium. “Atheists speaking at an interfaith service … does that work?” Daughtry asked last week. “I don’t quite know. But they’re part of the party, you treat them with respect. I’ll give them an answer.” On a larger scale, it’s what Daughtry and a growing number of Democrats of faith are setting out to do: hold together and build their party by claiming ground on religion and values that Republicans have successfully mined for years. Sen. Barack Obama has incorporated faith outreach into his campaign since the primaries began. A new political action committee, Matthew 25, is running pro-Obama ads on Christian radio.
Washignton Post, 07-22-08
John McCain’s pastors have gone to ground. It’s been a rough year for the Republican presidential candidate’s prominent evangelical supporters. The Rev. John Hagee got in hot water for suggesting that God was behind the Holocaust and that the Roman Catholic Church is a “great whore.” The Rev. Rod Parsley had some uncharitable thoughts on Islam being an “anti-Christ religion.” So it follows that all eyes would be on Hagee’s group (Parsley is a regional director) when it came to town this week for its third annual “summit” of Christian Zionists. The group, Christians United for Israel, booked the convention and publicized its agenda widely in the media. But Hagee seems to have had a conversion on the road to Washington. “I have some bad news for you,” announced the group’s spokeswoman, Avraleigh Keats, when reporters showed up for a panel with Hagee and Gary Bauer, president of the group American Values, yesterday morning. “There’s been a change. There’s no press allowed. . . . No interviews. No filming. Nothing.”
South Carolina Republican state Senator Kevin Bryant has posted a picture of a t-shirt on his blog that reads “the difference between Obama and Osama is just a little b.s.” No text accompanies the picture, which was posted July 18, but the post is by far the most commented on entry on the lawmaker’s blog. Bryant attacks Obama in several other posts and also links to story claiming that the Illinois senator raises funds for Islamic causes. “I’ve got some questions about Senator Obama’s ties to — such as his comment that we should negotiate with Iran. Iran’s a country that would like to destroy Israel, that bothers me. But is this picture appropriate? I don’t know,” Bryant said. “You know, blogs are for satire and whatnot and, um, that’s why it’s up. It’s similar to the New Yorker picture. Maybe that’s why this has gotten so much attention, because of that thing that came out a couple days ago.” Asked what religion Obama practices, Bryant said, “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”
O.C. Residents Sound Off on McCain-Obama Appearance
Orange County Register, 07-21-08
News spread quickly that presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama were planning an appearance Aug. 16 at Saddleback Church. At a Lake Forest barber shop, a place on Muirlands Boulevard where visitors and employees like to air their views, folks sounded off on the anticipated visit. “We’re a Christian nation and we need Christian leaders,” said Joy Blake, a Republican whose father owns the barber shop.”They (candidates) need to know that we are a Christian nation.”Blake said she currently does not favor one candidate over the other. Longtime customer Bob Hudack, a Democrat, hopes the candidates engage in issues such as the war and gas prices. Rev. Mark Whitlock, Senior Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Church in Irvine, said in a phone interview it is important for the candidates to discuss faith and values. “Without question this country was established on Christian values and ethics so the candidates must share their religious values with this Orange County constituency,” Whitlock said. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will moderate the event. “If that’s something he (Rick Warren) feels he needs to do for his constituency, that’s teriffic,” said Lake Forest Mayor Mark Tettemer.
Obama Campaign Hires Muslim Liaison
Obama’s campaign has created a Muslim liaison, according to two sources familiar with the move. The sources said the job was likely to be filled by Haim Nawas, a Jordanian-American who filled a similar role for the campaign of General Wesley Clark in 2004. The job is complicated by the fact that Obama has been forced repeatedly to deny that he is Muslim, a situation that grates on some Muslim-Americans. Nawas wrote in 2005 that the Bush Administration should take a more nuanced approach to public diplomacy directed at Muslim women. “We need to recognise that the social structure in the Muslim world is very different from America’s,” she wrote. “American women need to understand that what is best for them is not necessarily what is best for Muslim women. Advocacy of women’s rights in the Muslim world must show sensitivity to local political realities.” The creation of the position comes as Obama builds out a more traditional, constituency-based campaign structure than he had in the primary. Neither Nawas or the campaign immediately responded to questions about the hire.
Anglicans Face ‘Severe Challenge’
Associated Press, 07-21-08
The head of the Anglican Communion said Sunday that the global fellowship faces “one of the most severe challenges” in its history, and he urged bishops at their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference to do the hard work of finding solutions. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the Anglican family’s most immediate need is for “transformed relationships” that will not break apart over interpretations of the Bible, particularly regarding homosexuality. Williams told the 650 bishops at the assembly that the fellowship has survived other crises in its centuries-long history, and that he has faith that church leaders can overcome the most recent troubles. “Whatever the popular perception, the options before us are not irreparable schism or forced assimilation,” the archbishop said. “It is not an option to hope that we can somehow just carry on as we always have.” Williams made the comments as church leaders in Canterbury emerged from days of prayer and turned to the business of their meeting. In Bible study and small group discussion, they will try to rebuild the ties among Anglican national churches that shattered after the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
‘Focus on the Family’ Radio Program Wins Hall of Fame Spot
Christian Post, 07-22-08
The “Focus on the Family” radio program, founded by prominent conservative Dr. James Dobson, will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame despite efforts by homosexual activists to keep it out. Heard on more than 1,000 stations across the United States by millions of listeners weekly, the 30-minute program is one of the largest and most respected resources for practical, emotional and spiritual support for families in the world. Its election into the Hall of Fame is the result of online balloting that began in May and ran through July 15 following its nomination earlier this year. The program won in the “national active” category, which includes “active broadcasters who have made at least 10 years of significant contributions to the industry on a national level.” At a staff assembly Friday morning, Dobson said he was “especially pleased” by the news of the program’s election to the Hall of Fame “because the wonderful people at Focus on the Family deserve it.” “Our radio program has not been a solo effort,” he said, according to a released statement. “It has been a symphony performed by more than 10,000 people over the past 32 years. I am indebted to them all.”
Groups Ask Federal Appeals Court to Halt Kentucky’s Funding of Baptist Agency
Associated Baptist Press, 07-22-08
Two civil-liberties groups are asking a federal appeals court to stop state funding for a Kentucky Baptist agency, saying the agency uses the money to promote its religious beliefs to the detriment of employees and children. On July 17, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at Pedreira v. Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, Inc. In the suit, which a lower federal court dismissed in March, a group of Kentucky taxpayers asked that state funding for the agency (which has since changed its name to Sunrise Children’s Services) be halted. Like many of the dozens of child-care agencies affiliated with state Baptist conventions, Sunrise has long contracted with Kentucky officials to house and care for children who have been taken into state custody. The agency “uses its public funding to indoctrinate youths — who are wards of the state — in its religious views, coerce them to take part in religious activity, and convert them to its version of Christianity, and does so in part by requiring its employees to reflect its religious beliefs in their behavior,” the plaintiffs’ brief to the 6th Circuit states.
EEOC Issues Guide on Religion in Work Place
Associated Press, 07-22-08
A new guideline for handling religious diversity issues in the work place was issued Tuesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The “consolidated and updated” guideline was issued as a result of the growing number of religious discrimination allegations filed with the EEOC, said David Grinberg, a spokesman for the agency. One reason for the spike in filings is the “significant demographic changes at large and in the workplace specifically,” he said. Last year, there were about 2,900 religious discrimination filings with the EEOC, up 13 percent from 2006 and double the number in 1992. Religious discrimination charges remain a relatively small slice of the total discrimination charges handled by the EEOC, however. Taking time off for religious holidays and adherence to dress codes are common points of confusion, Grinberg said. “There was a clamor for more information,” Grinberg said. “This is a one-stop source for employers that have questions or need help.” For companies with more than 15 people, federal law requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious beliefs. Employers are exempt only if they can show the accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” on business. The EEOC periodically issues such guidelines; Grinberg said similar manuals on racial and national discrimination have been issued in recent years.
Council’s Sectarian Prayer Ban Upheld
Richmond Times-Dispatch, 07-24-08
A federal court upheld Fredericksburg City Council’s ban on sectarian prayer yesterday, setting the stage for another possible appeal in the case of a councilman who wants to end his session-opening prayers “in the name of Jesus Christ.” “I always figured this is a case the Supreme Court will have to hear,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Charlottesville-based civil-liberties group The Rutherford Institute, which represented Councilman Hashmel C. Turner Jr. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond issued its opinion after hearing arguments earlier this year. Turner, a part-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Love, sued the City Council in 2006 over its policy prohibiting references to specific religions in prayers used to formally open council meetings. Kent Willis, executive director of ACLU of Virginia, which prodded the council to ban sectarian prayer, called yesterday’s ruling “a victory for religious freedom. Precedent is pretty clear: Government prayer cannot show a preference for one religion over another.” But Whitehead said the council’s policy and the appeals court’s sanctioning of it, “extinguishes” Turner’s freedom of speech. “The government can’t write prayers for people and they can’t tell people how to pray,” Whitehead said. He said he is concerned it will be only a matter of time before government restrains speech in other ways. “Sooner or later, the things we used to talk about will be taboo.”
Police: Man Shot Churchgoers Over Liberal Views
Associated Press, 07-28-08
An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal social policies, police said Monday. Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said a letter had been been recovered from the SUV of Jim D. Adkisson, 58, by investigators seeking clues about the motive behind the attack. Authorities said he was an apparent stranger to the Tennessee church where gunfire punctuated a children’s performance based on the musical “Annie.” Two people were killed and seven wounded Sunday. “It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that and his stated hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said at a news conference. No children were hurt, but five people remained in serious or critical condition Monday. A burly usher who died is being hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire Sunday at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Witnesses said some of the men present tackled a man who pulled a shotgun from a guitar case before at least three blasts rang out.
Dearborn McDonald’s Sued by 2 Muslim Women
Detroit News, 07-25-08
Two Muslim women say the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant refused to hire them and insulted them during job interviews because they wear traditional Islamic dress. Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit, and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court against McDonald’s, the owner of the local franchise and its unnamed manager. Their representative said they are considering filing civil rights complaints with the federal and state governments. “I applied for the McDonald’s position maybe two weeks ago and he simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there,” Pugh said. “When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims.” Hijab is an Arabic word meaning “cover.” It refers to traditional Islamic dress, intended to encourage modesty, in which women often cover everything but the hands and face. Finley Management Inc., which runs the franchise, said in a statement it has not been notified of the lawsuit. “Finley Management has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination with regard to race, gender, religion or national origin, in hiring, or in any other aspect of employment,” the statement read. “We would caution anyone from jumping to conclusions without having all the facts.”
Saudis Host a Global Interfaith Conference in Madrid: a ‘First Step’
Christian Science Monitor, 07-18-08
More than 500 years after Spain’s golden age of tolerance among Jews, Christians, and Muslims came to a definitive end, leaders of those faiths – as well as of Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism – are meeting at a royal palace on Madrid’s outskirts in a bid to boost interreligious understanding. In his opening remarks Wednesday at the three-day conference, host Saudi King Abdullah reminded his audience – nearly 300 religious, political, and cultural leaders from 50 different countries – of their shared purpose. “If we want this historic encounter to succeed, we must look to the things that unite us: our profound faith in God, the noble principles and elevated ethics that represent the foundation of religions,” he said. He linked societal woes like terrorism, racism, crime, drug abuse, and the breakdown of the family to losing touch with religion: “All this is the consequence of the spiritual void that people suffer once they distance themselves from God.” Because the conference is being hosted by Saudi Arabia, a country where religious pluralism is not tolerated, enthusiasm for the interfaith venture is tempered with a fair dose of caution. With sessions dedicated to broad themes like “Dialogue and Its Importance within Human Society,” few attendees expect concrete gains or proposals to emerge from the gathering. Rather, many stress that the meeting’s importance lies with the mere fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting a conference on interfaith dialogue – and, for the first time, has invited Jews to such a meeting.
Evangelicals Often Clash Over Global Warming
Orlando Sentinel, 07-20-08
When Orlando-based missionary and author Grady McMurtry talks about science and the Bible today at St. Cloud Church of the Nazarene, one question is bound to come up: How should evangelicals respond to the burning issue of global warming? Relying as much on his degrees in agriculture and environmental science as on his theological education, McMurtry uses Scripture to argue his case that there is no global warming, no thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer. In lectures devoted entirely to climate change, he argues that what warming there may be is cyclical and natural, not caused by human activity. Christians, he insists, should not pay attention to what he calls “junk science” that argues the contrary, as opposed to his controversial brand of “biblical science.” “Many foundational scientific laws and processes are accurately described in the Bible,” says McMurtry, author of Creation: Our Worldview. Yet McMurtry, 61, may be swimming against the evangelical tide. There is a growing scientific consensus on global warming among researchers in the United States and Great Britain who are as devout in their evangelical Christianity as McMurtry is but who have reached dramatically different conclusions on the cause, effect and remedy for world climate change.
Why Obama Seized the Faith-Based Mantle
By Amy Sullivan, USA Today, 07-28-08
The effort to open up more federal grants to non-profits and religious institutions is, after all, Bush’s signature domestic issue. For eight years, the president has consistently linked the cause to his personal reputation, even boasting during the 2004 campaign that he alone was responsible for changes involving faith-based programs: “Congress wouldn’t act, so I signed an executive order. That means I did it on my own.” At the last faith-based conference of his presidency in late June, Bush called the faith-based office that he created “one of the most important initiatives of this administration.” The words “faith-based initiative” are now so closely associated with Bush that many Democrats long ago assumed the program was fatally flawed. So observers from both parties were surprised on July 1 when Obama declared that his concern about Bush’s faith-based office was that it “never fulfilled its promise” — and then neatly pivoted to announce that an Obama administration would fix, expand and elevate the faith-based initiative.It’s fair to say Democrats were expecting a presidential nominee who would vow to overturn the faith-based initiative once he reached the White House, not one who doubled down on the program.