Obama courts the faithful

believersforbarackWith the mainstream media’s obsession with Gov. Sarah Palin, they haven’t really had as much time to look at the other candidates in the race. But I wanted to look at a few stories coming out of the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama. The first is a report from the Roanoke Times. The report describes a series of small Democratic rallies with religious themes:

In Pulaski, the “Faith, Family & Values” tour drew two dozen Democratic supporters to the Masonic Lodge, where Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., said Obama continues to face the challenge of overcoming false rumors he’s a Muslim.

Casey said his mother, who lives in Kentucky, still gets e-mails that allege Obama is a Muslim who will reveal his true religion only when he wins the White House. “That is still an active story line” in Southwest Virginia, Casey said.

How come nobody ever sends me these emails? I would feel left out if I didn’t feel so lucky. Also, how come I get dozens of e-mails with Palin rumors every day? And how can I make them stop? Anyway, the article mentions that Obama supporters reaching out to Christians in rural Virginia meet resistance over the campaign’s support for abortion rights.

Casey said that the Democratic platform — essentially the party’s mission statement drafted at the August convention in Denver — contains a “commitment to reducing abortions” by bettering the nation’s economy so that expectant mothers of modest means will feel more confident about the financial challenges of delivering their babies.

That solution doesn’t satisfy the likes of Matt Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg and founder of Liberty Counsel, a law firm specializing in church-state issues: “I think what’s of concern to evangelical voters are Obama’s incontrovertible views on life and values that just don’t connect with them.”

Staver cited Obama’s response to a question from the Rev. Rick Warren in a nationally televised interview in August about when life begins — that it’s “above my pay grade.” Staver said, “For the president to say that when life begins for a baby is above his pay grade is incomprehensible.”

Unless it’s in a section I haven’t read, “commitment” to reducing abortions might be a bit of an overstatement. The Democratic Party platform supports “access” to family planning services and comprehensive sex ed and says that such programs “help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.” To be sure, from the perspective of pro-life Democrats, this marked a significant improvement. Of course, pro-choice Democrats also thought the platform was changed in their favor to make the moral case for abortion.

The other point is that Obama was never asked by Warren when life begins. He was asked when human rights begin. Why is this so difficult for people to get right?

Still, it’s nice to see a story that looks at actual religious outreach efforts and how they are playing with various voters.

Michelle Obama herself did some faith and values outreach at the National Baptist Convention in Dayton. The Dayton Daily News was there:

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, urged nearly 4,000 Baptists today, Sept. 10 at the Duke Energy Center that the 2008 General Election “is going to change the world.”

But in order for that to happen, people must get out and vote. Time is running out, she said.

“Barack can’t win without you, and he can’t lead without you,” Michelle Obama said. “We have less than two months between now and election day. So every day every hour counts.”

The report, which describes an electric atmosphere, also includes this intriguing quote:
believersforbarack2

“We are in these days witnessing the making of history,” said William J. Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA. “We do not call the senator and his wife Jesus, but in his candidacy, the hopes of generations are finding expression. And in that same candidacy, the fears of many are finding fresh life. But it is our prayer always, that hope overrides fear.

Mrs. Obama spoke in very personal religious terms about how she and her husband have felt Obama supporters’ prayers. It’s an interesting piece and I was frankly surprised the appearance, which occurred last week, didn’t receive more coverage. Campaigning to religious groups seems like a big deal, no matter who is doing it. I can’t quite figure out why there was so little interest in the event.

There was another interesting and barely covered story about religious outreach from the Obama campaign, this from CNN:

The Obama campaign is preparing rolling out a new line of “faith merchandise” — the latest move in an ambitious effort to win over religious voters. . . .

Both campaigns have been making a major push for the Catholic vote, which has gone to the winning presidential campaign in every race since 1976, except Al Gore’s 2000 White House bid.

There are Believers for Barack and Catholics for Obama buttons and bumper stickers on the site. They’re planning to offer “Clergy for Change” and “Pro-Israel, Pro-Obama” merchandise as well. Christianity Today noticed that a button with an icthys was offered and then removed.

All of these stories are helpful in the larger discussion of Obama’s religious outreach. As we prepare for the next Pew poll release that will compare religious support this year with religious support from four years ago, hopefully we can get a bit more substance in the stories. How is Catholic outreach going? What is affecting Catholic voting decisions? How are evangelicals responding to the two campaigns? Is there any movement toward Obama among white evangelicals? Is this group more enthusiastic toward McCain now that he’s picked his VP? And if we see any movement, could we learn more about why?

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  • Jerry

    The other point is that Obama was never asked by Warren when life begins. He was asked when human rights begin. Why is this so difficult for people to get right?

    In my 39 years of marriage, I’ve learned that words people use to ask a question don’t necessarily reflect the real question they want answered. Is that one of the secrets to us staying married so long? :-) So I assumed Warren was asking the life question not the rights one. But this is exactly why followup questions are so critical and why all the candidate forums/debates tend to be so bad.

    Staver should have commented on Obama’s clarification about what he meant with that statement assuming he was aware of what Obama had said.

    There are also a LOT of polls underway. I took a polling point survey the other day that asked a many values questions along with political party and candidate questions. So I assume your movement/why question might be answered soon except for one thing – news, specifically economic events, is presumably changing the impressions of at least some voters.

  • Gerald Lovel

    Again, an article equating religion with Christianity, so that Barack Obama’s (falsely) rumored Muslim connections would make him irreligious.

    2 percent of Americans are Buddhist. 2 percent are Jews, 1-2 percent are Muslim, and maybe 4 percent believe in Hinduism, Eckankar, Scientology, Sufiism, Sikhs, etc. In other words, 10 percent of Americans are non-Christian believers in organized faiths. 30 percent of Americans are atheist, agnostic, or non-aligned with any organized church. This doesn’t meant that they have no religious beliefs, however. Anarchists do not have to belong to the Anarchist’s Union.

    I am waiting for a political campaign to live up to the constitution and include all Americans, including this atheist Buddhist author, in its faith-based umbrella of social direction. In this context, there is nothing wrong with Barack’s answer regarding the beginnings of human rights. There is something wrong with him being forced into a false religious confrontation with Rick Warren so he can prove his worthiness as a candidate for President. Where is the outrage about this charade?

  • http://www.nrlc.org Douglas Johnson

    This talk by the Obama campaign about “abortion reduction” is the product of liberal political-messaging outfits such as “Third Way,” an operation staffed by pro-abortion activists which specializes in developing methods for camouflaging hard-line pro-abortion politicians. The picture on that package doesn’t match what’s inside the box: Barack Obama’s entire history shows that he is firmly committed to an array of policies that will, if implemented, predictably and substantially increase the number of abortions performed in the U.S.

    The issue of public funding of abortion is a good place to begin a reality check. The Hyde Amendment cutting off almost all federal funding of abortion, and the comparable policies that most states have adopted, have resulted in major reductions in the number of abortions. Both sides agree that this is so. For example, a December “factsheet” issued by NARAL observes, “A study by The Guttmacher Institute shows that Medicaid-eligible women in states that exclude abortion coverage have abortion rates of about half of those women in states that fund abortion care with their own dollars.” By even the most conservative estimates, over one million Americans are alive today who would have been aborted if the federal Hyde Amendment had not been enacted in 1976. So, here we have what both sides agree is a proven “abortion reduction” policy (although one side thinks it is a good thing, and one side thinks it is a bad thing). Obama advocates the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and all other such restrictions on tax funding of abortions. Moreover, in 2007 Obama gave a speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in which he promised abortion would be covered in his national health care plan, which means that everybody would be required to pay for elective abortion through taxes, mandatory premiums, or
    both. I am sure he means it.

    In addition, Obama is a cosponsor of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” a bill that would invalidate virtually all state and federal limitations on abortion. In addition, this bill would make partial-birth abortion legal again, and require tax-funded abortion on demand in both state and federal health programs. The “Freedom of Choice Act” further provides that “A government may not . . . discriminate against” abortion “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.” (That doesn’t sound like a formula for “abortion reduction,” does it?) In 2007, Obama told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.” More on this radical bill here: http://www.nrlc.org/FOCA/index.html

    In the past, Obama has gone to even further extremes in his zeal to defend “abortion rights.” In the Illinois state Senate in 2001-2003, Obama led the opposition to, and ultimately killed, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which was a simple three-sentence bill to provide protection for babies who are born alive during abortions. The bill that Obama killed was virtually identical to a bill that passed Congress without a single dissenting vote in 2002. When the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) on August 11 released recently uncovered documents to prove that this was so, Obama himself said that we were “lying.” After an investigation, Annenberg’s independent FactCheck.org concluded: “Obama’s claim is wrong . . . The documents from NRLC support the group’s claims that Obama is misrepresenting the contents of SB 1082 [the 2003 Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act].” Obama’s history on this legislation, and what it tells us about his thinking on abortion, is explored in a White Paper released by National Right to Life on August 28, 2008, which can be read or downloaded here: http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/WhitePaperAugust282008.html . . .

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    Washington, D.C.
    http://www.nrlc.org
    legfederal // at // aol.com

  • Linda

    Why does every article about Obama turn into attacks on his pro-choice stance? That is his stance and nothing is going to change it. In addition, there is usually at least one poster that spreads the false information about the “born alive” issue.

    Jerry says:

    In my 39 years of marriage, I’ve learned that words people use to ask a question don’t necessarily reflect the real question they want answered.

    I read that Rev Warren had input for the questions from individuals associated with several religious organizations. Obama had previously answered the question, “when does life begin.”

    Q: Do you personally believe that life begins at conception?

    A: This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.

    Source: 2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008

    It is my opinion that Obama understands the answer to the very complicated question, “when does life begin” because as an attorney and from his much misunderstood and maligned work in the Illinois Senate, he knows the legal definition. Obama also taught Constitutional Law for several years. He partially approaches the issue of abortion a constitutional rights perspective, and a separation of church and state approach.

    Douglas Johnson’s says:

    In addition, Obama is a cosponsor of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” a bill that would invalidate virtually all state and federal limitations on abortion. In addition, this bill would make partial-birth abortion legal again, and require tax-funded abortion on demand in both state and federal health programs.

    Douglas’s statements are false or overstated. I previously provided several links that debunk his claims about Obama’s Illinois State senate work, but the posting was deleted. Yet Douglas is allowed to print many paragraphs of false or distorted information.

    “Freedom of Choice Act” is not very long and it is easy to read.

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s110-1173

    SEC. 4. INTERFERENCE WITH REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PROHIBITED.

    (a) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

    (b) Prohibition of Interference- A government may not–
    (1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose–
    (A) to bear a child;
    (B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
    (C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
    (2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.
    (c) Civil Action- An individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action.

    Late term abortions account for less than 1% of the abortions that take place and need to be available to protect a woman’s health, which is one of the reasons for the Freedom of Choice Act.

    What you need to know about the `Born Alive’ controversy and Barack Obama

    http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2008/08/bornalive.html

  • http://www.nrlc.org Douglas Johnson

    Under her subheading “What you need to know about the ‘Born Alive’ controversy and Barack Obama,” Linda links to just one document, an essay by Eric Zorn, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Mr. Zorn has been one of Obama’s hardest working apologists over the years. His essay does provide useful information on some details, mostly not very important, but he glosses over or distorts some of the most important issues in order to present his “client” in the best light possible. By all means read Mr. Zorn’s treatment — but also, please, read the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act itself (it is only three sentences long), and our point-counterpoint White Paper (which contains links to many primary sources for those who really want to get into the nitty gritty). It is here:
    http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/WhitePaperAugust282008.html

    Linda suggests that my statements about the “Freedom of Choice Act” are “false or overstated,” but she offers no specifics. And this is understandable, because everything I said about the “Freedom of Choice Act” is not based not only on our analysis of its plain language, but on the explicit statements of its chief sponsors and supporters. For example, that it would nullify the ban on partial-birth abortion, and require tax funding of elective abortion.
    If Linda would care to challenge any specific statement I would be happy to provide documentation. I forget, did I already mention this? — Barack Obama said on July 17, 2007, “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.”

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    Legfederal // at // aol-dot-com

  • http://www.nrlc.org Douglas Johnson

    Since I advised readers, in my posting above, to actually read the text of the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, I should make it easy. What follows (between the **) is the ENTIRE TEXT of the bill that Obama voted against, and killed, in a committee that he himself chaired, on March 13, 2003.

    ** AN ACT concerning infants who are born alive. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:

    Section 5. The Statute on Statutes is amended by adding Section 1.36 as follows: (5 ILCS 70/1.36 new)

    Sec. 1.36. Born-alive infant.

    (a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative agencies of this State, the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

    (b) As used in this Section, the term “born alive”, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

    ( c) Nothing in this Section [the bill] shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this Section.

    Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law. **

    An earlier version of the bill (which Obama also opposed, of course) contained one additional sentence, which is referred to as the “immediate protection clause.” As recently as August 19, 2008, the Obama campaign issued a document that quoted this specific sentence as a particular justification for Obama’s opposition. This is the sentence: “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.” The August 19, 2008 Obama document called that sentence “Language Clearly Threatening Roe.”

    Thus, under Obama’s vision of Roe v. Wade, even a live birth is not enough to confer “human rights,” in the abortion context at least. Viewed in light of this history, his “above my pay grade” response to Pastor Rick Warren takes on additional significance.

    Again, these matters are discussed in a more organized and thorough fashion in our point-counterpoint White Paper:
    http://www.nrlc.org/ObamaBAIPA/WhitePaperAugust282008.html

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    legfederal//at//aol-dot-com
    http://www.nrlc.org

  • http://www.submarinegreen.blogspot.com/ John Barry

    Ms. Hemmingway – I just read your piece in the WSJ today. Nice writing, good information. So I read your posts here too. Also very worthwhile stuff. Thanks. JB

  • Brian Walden

    Late term abortions account for less than 1% of the abortions that take place and need to be available to protect a woman’s health, which is one of the reasons for the Freedom of Choice Act.

    Just out of curiosity, what are the women’s health reasons for late term abortion? For example, in which cases would abortion be a better choice over a c-section if the mother’s life is at risk?

    I ask this with a personal interest as I was born about 6 weeks early by emergency c-section because my mom went into labor and I was at risk of suffocating on the umbilical cord. Would it have been safer for my mom to abort me rather than have the c-section?

  • http://www.nrlc.org Douglas Johnson

    It is well established that the great majority of second-trimester abortions do not involve any illness of the mother or the baby. In 1987, the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) (which is closely tied to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation’s largest abortion provider) collected questionnaires from 1,900 women who were at abortion clinics procuring abortions. Of the 1,900, ” 420 had been pregnant for 16 or more weeks.”

    These 420 women were asked to choose among a menu of reasons why they had not obtained the abortions earlier in their pregnancies. Only two percent (2%) said “a fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy,” compared to 71% who responded “did not recognize that she was pregnant or misjudged gestation,” 48% who said “found it hard to make arrangements,” and 33% who said “was afraid to tell her partner or parents.” The report did not indicate that any of the 420 late abortions were performed because of maternal health problems. ["Why Do Women Have Abortions?," Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988.]

    Also illuminating is an 1993 internal memo by Barbara Radford, then the executive director of the National Abortion Federation (a “trade association” of abortion providers). She wrote: “There are many reasons why women have late abortions: life endangerment, fetal indications, lack of money or health insurance, social psychological crises, lack of knowledge about human reproduction, etc.”

    With respect to partial-birth abortions in particular (which are usually performed in the fifth and sixth months, and sometimes later), in 1997 the then-head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers (another “trade association” representing hundreds of abortionists) estimated that up to 5,000 partial-birth abortions were being performed annually. Fitzsimmons said that “they’re primarily done on healthy women of healthy fetuses,” The New York Times reported. “As much as he disagreed with the National Right to Life Committee and others who oppose abortion under any circumstances, he said he knew they were accurate when they said the procedure was common. . . . In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along, Mr. Fitzsimmons said.” (The New York Times, Feb. 26, 1997)

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee

  • Grupetti

    “And if we see any movement, could we learn more about why?”

    If past is prologue, it won’t be a longitudinal study, and thus won’t tell us nearly enough about what’s behind the change or lack thereof.

  • Dave

    I bear no personal animus against Douglas Johnson, but the fact that his several, massive posts with no relevance to media coverage of Obama’s positions have not been spiked, testify to the bias on GR explored in other threads.