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Tag Archives: religion

Trump Reduces Restrictions on Political Speech by Religious Groups

President Trump at the White House today signed an executive order allowing religious groups more ability to engage in political advocacy.

“We will never, ever stand for religious discrimination,” Trump said. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”

“The president’s order will free religious groups from restrictions on their political speech imposed by the Johnson Amendment, a tax regulation placed on religious nonprofits,” the Washington Examiner reported. “The order will also allow religious organizations to opt out of Obamacare provisions that conflict with their beliefs, such as a mandate that churches provide coverage for contraceptives.”

Here’s some video of Trump signing the order, as well as a proclamation declaring a National Day of Prayer, as religious leaders of various faiths look on.

Obama’s Newfound Biblical Playbook

I’ve been watching over the past few months as President Obama has stepped up his public display of religiosity, using increasingly Biblical language and heading more frequently and more publicly – with walks across Lafayette Park – to church.

I was in particular taken aback Feb. 2 when, during his appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama appeared to be reaching directly into the Bible for justifications and guidance for his policies.

He implied that Jesus would approve of his tax policies and found passages in the Bible that supported his financial reform law and various spending initiatives.

Have a look.

Imagine if Bush said he was rifling through the Bible to find suggestions for public policy?

Well, using Scripture in this way has not always been Kosher with Obama.

Take a look at the first several minutes of this video capturing his appearance in 2006 at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference in Washington, DC. Quite a different attitude.

A few choice quotes:

Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles . . .

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.

Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Spoken like a man who did not yet know much about the people outside Chicago he would need to win a national election.

Just a scant few years ago, Obama wasn’t looking for votes in places where many people can be found in churches clinging to their Bibles.

In 2006, he didn’t understand them. In 2008, he didn’t need them. But in 2012, he does.

Obama Continues Stepping Up his Public Piety

President Obama was in full religious mode at today’s White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, lacing his remarks this year with vivid Christian imagery as he addressed clergy from around the country in the East Room.

The president as of late has presented himself more openly as a Christian, adding greater amounts of religious phrasing to events like this and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree while he and his family have starting attending church – including a public stroll or two across Lafayette Park – more often.

Obama’s public profession of his religious beliefs is sure to play well with most Americans, but especially with his base of African Americans, whom he needs to turn out for him in November.

While the president only mentioned Jesus by name twice in each of his last two Easter Prayer Breakfasts, this year he invoked the name of Jesus six times.

Here’s some of what he said to give you the flavor:

So it is only because Jesus conquered His own anguish, conquered His fear, that we’re able to celebrate the resurrection.  It’s only because He endured unimaginable pain that wracked His body and bore the sins of the world that He burdened — that burdened His soul that we are able to proclaim, “He is Risen!”

We all have experiences that shake our faith.  There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us — (laughter) — but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.  Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, “In this world you will have trouble.”  I heard an amen.  (Laughter.)  Let me repeat.  “In this world, you will have trouble.”

AUDIENCE:  Amen!

THE PRESIDENT:  “But take heart!”  (Laughter.)  “I have overcome the world.”  (Applause.)  We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live.  And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.

Obama recently found himself at odds with the Catholic church with his demand that Catholic institutions cover birth control.

Obama to Give Catholics a Present

The White House today announced that President Obama is planning on buying Catholics a present to make them feel better in the aftermath of a an administration decision to require Catholic institutions to provide employees with free birth control.

“It will be a beautiful gift,” said Obama in an interview with Diane Sawyer, who looked on lovingly at the president as he described searching Amazon for something “meaningful and expensive.” Said the president: “I mean, it will be at least $25 so I can get the free shipping, but probably much, much more.”

Obama refused to reveal any details about the gift itself, even declining to say which Amazon category he will ordering from. “I want it to be a surprise,” he said.

Obama acknowledged he had underestimated how much Catholics care about their religion.

“My political adviser, David Plouffe, told me his polling had shown that people stopped clinging to their bibles in 2010,” Obama said. “I mean, I thought the small people had  advanced in their thinking by now, after three years of listening to me. But I believe everybody has a right to live in the Dark Ages, and just to show I love them anyway, I’m getting them a gift.”

Obama apparently will not select the button on Amazon that would have the gift wrapped. A lucky Associated Press photographer photographed Michelle Obama Thursday shopping at Target for wrapping paper.

Meanwhile, an unusual coalition of Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical, gay and lesbian, transgender, Native American, and women’s groups vehemently condemned Obama’s plan to purchase a present of Catholics.

“Oh, so we don’t get a gift, is that it?” said the group’s spokeswoman, Arlene Quibblesworth. “Nothing for us? Can you imagine how we’re all going to feel when the Catholics are opening their gift and we’re just sitting there without anything? This is clearly establishment of religion, by the way.”

The White House signalled it was also ready to potentially relax some of the requirements of the new rule, or at least to give Catholic organizations a way to pretend they are not supporting birth control.

“We’re going to work out an arrangement with Catholics where they won’t have to compromise all of their principles – just some of them,” Obama told Sawyer.

In a conference call with reporters, a senior White House aide denied the arrangement would have any impact on the president’s determination that nothing should impede free love.

“The president is firm in his conviction that people must be allowed to have all the sex they want at the lowest cost possible,” he said. “This is an important Constitutional principle that was established in the 1960s by The Beatles. It supersedes nebulous concepts like the free exercise of religion, especially after a couple of drinks.”

The official, who declined to be named but who claimed to be supine while on the phone, added that the issue wasn’t just about the rights of women, but the rights of men as well.

“How can we tell all these studs who want to sleep with dozens of women that they should have to risk knocking one of them up?” he said.

A spokesman for the Vatican described White House efforts to placate Catholics as unsatisfactory.

“While we of course are looking forward to our gift, we continue to believe Catholic institutions should not be forced to pay for birth control,” he said.

Obama: Jesus Loves My Policies

President Obama today suggested his political agenda is blessed by the world’s great religions, linking a variety of specific policy proposals to the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

In a remarkable flouting of the traditional barrier between church and state, Obama used the annual National Prayer Breakfast to assert that his proposals are not just based on economic benefit, but on guidance he receives from the Bible.

George W. Bush was repeatedly knocked by liberals and members of the press who believed he thought his presidency was guided by the hand of God.

Obama today affirmed that his tax policy, which he frames as a call to “shared responsibility” that would increase the tax burden on the rich, is prescribed by Jesus Christ.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

Obama said the financial reform law, as well as Obamacare provisions barring insurers from rejecting those with preexisting conditions, stem from the Divine call to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Spending programs that support increased college enrollment, retraining of unemployed workers, and medical research are examples of Obama fulfilling the admonition that “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Even foreign aid is justified by “the biblical call to care for the least of these,” Obama said.

The president’s linkage of his policies to the bible comes as he ramps up his own religious profile, an effort certain to appeal to voters stretching across a variety of demographics.

Obama in recent weeks has added specific Christian references to his remarks and upped his attendance at church.

Obama Invokes Christ at Christmas Tree Lighting

President Obama junked secular humanism Thursday and offered up by far the most overtly religious Christmas Tree Lighting remarks of his presidency, mentioning God and Christ for the first time during the annual ceremony and stressing Christian rather than “universal” themes.

While it’s possible Obama, who almost never attends church, has had some kind of religious awakening, the remarks are consistent with recent attempts by the president to appeal to white working class voters, many of whom are regular churchgoers.

Obama last month hosted a country music event at the White House and also dispatched Michelle to serve as Grand Marshal at a NASCAR race, though the move backfired when she was booed. And in what appeared to be an event staged to get media attention, she was also photographed on September 29 by an AP photographer at a Target, where middle America shops.

Working class white voters comprise crucial voting blocs in swing states Obama desperately wants to win, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Florida and Missouri.

In his remarks Thursday, Obama practically took to the pulpit, citing Christ by name twice and God four times.

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 teaching has come to encircle the globe.  It has endured for generations.  And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans.  No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season.

So long as the gifts and the parties are happening, it’s important for us to keep in mind the central message of this season, and keep Christ’s words not only in our thoughts, but also in our deeds . . .

God bless you all, and may God bless the United States of America.

Last year, Obama’s remarks were devoid of religious imagery.

Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia.  It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians, but it’s a message that’s universal:  A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.

It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.

In 2009, he portrayed Christianity as a “tradition” whose message could be embraced by all.

While this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal.  It speaks to the hope we share as a people.  And it represents a tradition that we celebrate as a country –- a tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens.

Recent reporting suggests that the Obama campaign has largely ceded the working class white vote to the Republicans and will focus instead on minimizing its losses with the group, which went heavily for Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections. Nevertheless, the Christmas Tree Lighting remarks and other events suggest Obama will make a serious play to salvage as much of the demographic as he can.

Obama Should Condemn Anti-Christian Violence in Egypt

Even as he renews his outreach to Muslims, President Obama should seek to stem the growing tide of violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt by condemning last weekend’s attacks that left a dozen people dead and scores injured.

The attacks, about which Obama has been silent, also resulted in the burning of Coptic Orthodox churches and the destruction of Christian homes and businesses.

The president needs to say more to stem religious violence that creates opportunities for Islamic extremists who want to seize power in Egypt, our most important Arab ally.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday “strongly” condemned the violence, saying, “We stand behind the Coptic Christian community and their right to practice their faith in safety and security, free of persecution.”

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Obama is preparing to try to reengage Muslims with a speech, possibly next week, that will make the case that Muslims should “reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and embrace a new era of relations with the U.S.”

Whether Obama views condemning Muslim violence against Christians as inopportune during the lead up to a renewed outreach to Muslims is unclear. But it’s worth noting that after Obama seemed inexplicably slow off the mark supporting the masses of Iranian protestors two years ago, there was widespread belief that he was concerned about compromising his outreach to the Iranian government.

Obama, though a Christian, seems to view his background, which includes a Muslim grandfather and several years living as a child in Muslim Indonesia, as giving him a special conduit into the Muslim world. But I doubt this type of personal outreach by one man changes the way people view the United States. And it shouldn’t interfere with other aspects of U.S. policy.

Obama commendably condemned a New Year’s Eve church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 21. But he has said little – actually nothing that I could find – about the religious killings and tensions since then, which included the deaths of 12 people Jan. 30 during a raid of Christian homes in Upper Egypt.

Obama also should speak about about the growing violence against Christians in Iraq, a country where we have some real sway. Four were killed and 171 injured in attacks over the weekend, prompting a reaction from Pope Benedict XVI.