Ben Johnson

Is Obama’s Religious Talk a Political Ploy?

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C. December 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Political observers have noticed a change setting in on America’s most secular president. In the last few months, Barack Obama has begun using more religious-sounding rhetoric.

A political science professor is among a growing number who say, whatever the sincerity of Obama’s faith, the new emphasis is designed for one purpose alone: to win votes.

At the annual Christmas tree lighting on December 1, Obama said, “Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us. And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.” That message, he added, “lies at the heart of my Christian faith.”

The uncharacteristically devout speech follows the president’s quoting Scripture twice during 9/11 memorial services and saying during his speech on the jobs bill, “We are one nation under God. We always have been and always will be.”

However, that emphasis is at odds with most of Obama’s tenure in the White House. At his inauguration, he became the first president to mention non-believers. Last year’s Christmas message simply said the holiday’s message was “universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love.” He made virtually identical remarks in 2009

Likewise, Obama did not mention God in this year’s Thanksgiving message, although he did mention God in his written proclamation. Last November, he gave thanks for “the blessings of choices.”

“The only reason he’s bringing Christianity up now and trying to play this role is because of the election next year,” Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of The Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny (BOND) and one of the strongest voices for traditional values in the black community today, told LifeSiteNews.com. “A lot of Christians wouldn’t vote for him if they didn’t think he was a Christian.”

Sharon Hughes, syndicated Christian columnist and the president of the Center for Changing Worldviews, agreed. “I think Obama knows it is politically expedient to refer to his ‘Christian faith’ for his campaign,” she wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. His campaign is “well aware of the criticisms against him” for his secularism and passing over of Christian holidays, so “there is more and more promotion of him going to church with family, etc.”

Interestingly, non-partisan academic analysis supports the contentions of the president’s more conservative Christian critics. Political science professor John Green of the University of Akron recently told USA Today that Obama is “ramping up his ‘God-talk’ for the re-election campaign.” said, “There’s no avoiding that this is a strategic emphasis on his part. He didn’t speak this way when he was at 60 percent public approval.” 

Democrats have become more observant since “values voters” determined the 2004 presidential election. Democratic strategist Flavia Colgan, who majored in religion at Harvard, has told liberals they ignore religious voters at their peril. “One of the most dangerous things for the Democratic Party is to essentially be the anti-religion party, and the God-hating party,” she said, “and the party who portrays people of faith, who are the vast majority of Americans, as somehow not intellectually up to the challenge.”

Evangelicals, too, underscore the importance of overlooking them. Last year, Franklin Graham told CNN, “there are millions of evangelicals that voted for President Obama this last election. But there has not been a movement towards this administration, toward the evangelical community at all.” Hughes believes now that the campaign season is upon us Obama “with the help of his advisor Jim Wallis and others is trying to win the ‘Christian vote’” of core Democratic constituencies and others on the Left.

Many Christians say Obama’s actions speak louder than his well-crafted words. Rev. Peterson said, “I think people need to wake up and not fall for Obama because he’s saying all these good things about God. They need to reflect on his actions the last three years and see if there’s anything he’s done that makes you believe he is a Christian.”

“He went around the world in essence demeaning Christianity, saying America is not a Christian nation…He repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the military,” he said. “He supports gay marriage. He doesn’t support marriage between a man and a woman. He supports abortion at any point - any point - even if a child is born alive.”

Whether real or rhetorical, the president must take care not to appear too religious for his base. The Public Religion Research Institute warned, “Obama must navigate a religiously diverse public as president and a more diverse Democratic Party as a candidate.” A recent Gallup survey confirmed the traditional wisdom that “the least religious are disproportionately likely to affiliate with the Democratic Party.”

This has guided Obama’s attitude towards religion most of his term. He issued no presidential proclamation for Easter this year. When asked about the omission at a press conference, White House spokesman Jay Carney laughed the questions off. Obama’s 2010 Easter message said Easter’s principles lie “at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of Christianity, at the heart of all the world’s great religions.” The previous year’s statement claimed that Easter embodied “the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all - Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.”

Similarly, Obama has edited God out of the national motto, skipped attending church on Christmas, banned religious ornaments from the Christmas tree, and forbidden a military flyover at a “God and Country rally” for the first time in 43 years.

Despite his aversion to Christian holidays, President Obama has released presidential statements commemorating the Islamic holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Adha; the Jewish holiday of Passover; the Persian New Year; and Diwali, a holiday shared by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jainists. 

Rev. Peterson believes Obama will continue a policy of favoring non-Christian religions if he serves a second term. “If he’s re-elected,” Rev. Peterson said, “I think he’ll identify more with Islam than with Christianity, because his concern is not to be elected anymore.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said Obama’s actions had “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity,”  and the president has personally exhibited a “disdain for Christianity.”

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Louisiana judge orders state to recognize gay ‘marriage’

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By Kirsten Anderson

A Louisiana judge on Monday ordered state officials to recognize the out-of-state “marriage” of a lesbian couple and allow one of the women to legally adopt her partner’s child.

Angie Costanza and Christy Brewer were “married” in 2008 in California, but Louisiana’s marriage protection amendment, passed by 78 percent of voters in 2004, prevented the state from recognizing the couple’s union.  The pair sued in 2013 to overturn the law, in part because Costanza wanted to be listed as a parent on Brewer’s son’s birth certificate. 

Initially, Judge Edward Broussard dismissed the case without a hearing, but the couple appealed.  On Monday, Judge Edward Rubin took their side, ruling that Louisiana’s marriage protection law is unconstitutional in three ways:  According to Rubin, the ban on same-sex “marriage” violates the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.

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Rubin’s decision comes just weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman declared Louisiana’s marriage protection law constitutional – the first federal judge to decide in favor of a same-sex “marriage” ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year. “There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage,” Feldman wrote in his decision. 

However, because this case is being tried in the state courts, Rubin’s decision will take precedence over Feldman’s, pending appeal.

The state plans to appeal Rubin’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the federal case is also moving forward.  Ultimately, it is expected that the question of whether statewide bans on same-sex “marriage” are constitutional will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime in 2015. 

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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Rick Perry: Joan Rivers’ death shows Texas is right to require abortionists to have admitting privileges

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By Kirsten Anderson

In the wake of the high-profile death of comedienne Joan Rivers due to complications from throat surgery at an outpatient clinic in New York City, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pointed to the tragedy as an example showing the necessity for his state’s one-year-old law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.

"It was interesting that when Joan Rivers -- and the procedure that she had done, where she died -- that was a clinic,” Perry said at a Texas Tribune event on Sunday. “It's a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.”

Many observers have criticized the governor’s remarks, noting that Rivers’ surgery was performed in a fully licensed ambulatory surgical center by a doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as is the current standard for abortion facilities in Texas, but died anyway.  However, the painstaking investigation into what may have gone wrong at the New York City clinic reveals that while all surgery carries risks, ambulatory surgical centers are required to take every precaution to ensure the safety of their patients, in contrast to more loosely regulated abortion clinics, where injuries and deaths are rampant, and often covered up.

While 32 separate medical associations have signed a joint agreement stating that anyone “performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital,” abortion businesses have fought such regulations tooth and nail, arguing that requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges is too burdensome and will cause clinics to close their doors.  

Abortionists have also opposed tougher safety restrictions forcing them to adhere to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers, arguing that upgrading their substandard facilities to meet hospital-grade requirements is costly and unnecessary.  But proponents of such regulations point out that the tiny parking lots, narrow hallways, and lack of elevators common to most abortion facilities are serious impediments to getting lifesaving help to women in case of emergencies, delaying paramedics who can’t park their ambulances or maneuver gurneys through such buildings.  In addition, licensed ambulatory surgical centers must have and properly maintain state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment, and train employees in their use – something abortion clinics have repeatedly been cited for failing to do.

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