Category Archives: Election

Newspaper series focuses on clergy’s role on both sides of Amendment One debate

David Scott

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

The Durham Herald-Sun is running a three-part series on how clergy are involved in the Amendment One debate.

Starting on Sunday (April 22) and continuing Monday (April 23) and Tuesday (April 24), the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper is running a series about how clergy are involved on both sides of the debate about Amendment One, North Carolina’s proposed change to the constitution for marriage between one man and one woman.

I recommend these articles to our readers.

WilmingtonFAVS: 910-520-3958

North Carolina ACLU and Equality NC launch video project against Amendment One

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and Equality NC Foundation launched the KNOW + LOVE Project today (April 18), online video stories about families with lesbian or gay members.

The groups plan to release new videos in the weeks leading up to the May 8 vote on Amendment One, the state’s proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

One of the site’s first videos includes Christian and Jewish faith leaders talking about Amendment One and its impact on gay and lesbians in the state.

“North Carolina is part of what is supposed to be the New South,” said  Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist Church- West, Charlotte. “I think it’s important that we continue to hold the line in terms of what we believe is important, and one of the things we think is important is that no segment of our state should be discriminated against.”

Pastors from across the state told stories about gay or lesbian couples in their congregations who were not allowed input on end of life decisions or child care issues because they were not legally married.

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

COMMENTARY: Mass hysteria – taking our political pulse

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

I can only hope it’s temporary, this acute case of social influenza that has gripped our country.

Writer Rob Schofield with North Carolina Policy Watch puts it this way: “Combine a measure of legitimate grievance, a kernel of truth, big helpings of distorted history lessons, and rigid, half-baked ideology along with healthy dashes of paranoia, racism, and religious fundamentalism and then cook it for a few years over the heat and fear generated by globalization and a vexing recession and what do you get?”

The answer is a national mental illness, said Schofield in a Feb. 15 N.C. Policy Watch post.

This “social malaise” shows its bizarre and alarming symptoms every day and has become all too evident in the modern American mindset. Look closely at how we perceive the world, what we’re teaching our kids, what we learn at school and church, our politics, and at how our institutions have bought into this new paradigm of malignant thinking.

In Schofield’s column, he called it “fear of change and the future.”

One of our two major political parties has fallen in love with “the America of yesteryear”–the days when men were men and women were barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. It’s a politics based on a distorted and rose-colored image of the past when minorities stayed quiet and everybody owned a ’55 Chevy. Back to the future.

“Contempt for science and intellectualism.”

Even the educated in this group have chosen arbitrarily to pick the facts that fit their convenience and to disregard the remainder as a hoax or sinister plot against their status or way of life. People ignore global warming so they can continue to drive their Hummers guilt-free. Some fundamentalists have decided evolution is synonymous with godlessness. Citizens thumb their noses at public education so they can teach their kids whatever “facts” they have chosen to accept. People consider intelligence with suspicion and the scholarly as snobs.

This cancerous worldview has now spread to our political, judicial, and religious leadership who are busy working hard to advance policy positions that dismantle effective public programs and structures – programs and structures that enhance everyone’s freedom and quality of life.

If this scenario weren’t so tragic, it would make for great theater. This production won’t win any Oscars and will hopefully have a short run at the box office.

If you’re observing something different, I’d like to hear about it.

How do you read the political pulse of America this election season?

Mitt Romney on the cusp of making major Mormon history

By THOMAS BURR and PEGGY FLETCHER STACK
c. 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) With Rick Santorum’s exit from the White House race, Mitt Romney stands on the cusp of history as the first Mormon to appear at the top of a major party ticket in a general presidential election. Romney, a Brigham Young University-educated, Mormon-family scion and beloved Utah figure, is now the inevitable Republican nominee and will take on President Obama this fall.

The news is sure to bring a surge of excitement unseen in Utah since Romney led the triumphant 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and helped usher the state — and the Mormon Church — onto the world stage.

“Romney has family here, he’s lived here, he’s worked here, he went to school here,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has campaigned this year with the former Massachusetts governor. “It feels like he’s one of us.”

He is the seventh Latter-day Saint to attempt a presidential bid — six others, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman this year, and church founder Joseph Smith in 1844, fell short.

Many Latter-day Saints feel connected to Romney, says Darius Gray, former head of the Genesis Group, a support organization for black Mormons, and others will believe that “Mormonism has arrived.”

For so long, Latter-day Saints have had a “sense of being the underdog, due to our history and persecution we’ve experienced in our 182-year history,” Gray said. “For some, (Romney’s nomination) will be a kind of vindication. But with it will come great scrutiny about who we are as a people.”

Gray’s advice to Mormons: Don’t overreact to questions about the faith’s past and its present.

“We should not be thin-skinned,” he said. “It will behoove all of us at all levels to be prepared to answer well and fully questions that are bound to arise.”

Regardless of the fallout, Gray looks forward to “an interesting confrontation between visions of the future — that of Brother Romney and that of President Obama.”

Romney’s quest for the Oval Office already has seen rumblings of anti-Mormon sentiment carry over to the ballot box. He lost much of the evangelical-dominated South. Some prominent pastors have dismissed Mormonism as a cult. Others have questioned the faith’s exclusion of full membership for African-Americans until 1978.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely to see more scrutiny than it did during the Olympics — now through a political lens. Ben Park, a Mormon doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in England, said Mormons will face a host of new perspectives.

“Prior to this,” Park wrote in an email, “it’s only been evangelicals and the religious right. … This will be the first time they confront thoughtful secular criticisms — the kind that can’t be shrugged off as anti-Mormon bigotry and will actually cause reflection.”

That may prompt a bit of a pause with some of the Mormon faithful, who find themselves hopeful for a candidate but also wary of the spotlight.

“There is a curious mixture of excitement and apprehension among Mormons, whatever their political persuasion,” said Mormon writer and blogger Jana Riess in Cincinnati. “We are hyperaware of our minority status in America and concerned that increased public scrutiny of our faith will prove painful.”

However faith surfaces in the fall campaign — Obama’s team has said Romney’s Mormonism will be off-limits despite GOP allegations that it won’t be — the candidate’s newfound stature pushes the LDS faith into a new political stratosphere.

Romney’s nomination is “the outcome of the many changes to Mormonism since World War II,” says Jan Shipps, a respected historian of American religions. “It is a key episode in the life of the Utah-based faith.”

That’s true even for non-Romney supporters.

State Sen. Ben McAdams, a Salt Lake City Democrat and devout Mormon, conceded that having a Mormon presidential nominee is an exciting prospect that will create national exposure for the church.

“I’ve long maintained that as America gets to know my faith, they’ll find a lot of virtue and value in who we are, and we have a lot in common with the American people, and we have a lot to bring to the table,” McAdams said. “As Americans will learn during the course of this campaign, Mormons are mainstream America.”

McAdams says he wants a Mormon as president — though he doesn’t want Romney to be that Mormon.

Nationally, nine in 10 Mormons (86 percent) in the GOP-dominated faith give Romney positive marks, according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life earlier this year. Even 62 percent of Mormon Democrats have a favorable view of their fellow believer.

Shipps, who is writing about post-World War II Mormonism, is now waiting to see how the presidential showdown ends.

“I can’t finish my book,” she said, “until this plays out.”

(Thomas Burr and Peggy Fletcher Stack write for The Salt Lake Tribune. Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.)

Q conference seeks to present different face of evangelical activism

Q founder Gabe Lyons, who will present the sixth annual Q conference in Washington. RNS photo courtesy of Waterbrook Multnoham Publishing Group

By YONAT SHIMRON
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Gabe Lyons thinks Christian culture warriors are on the wrong path.

His sixth annual Q Conference, which opens Tuesday (April 10) in Washington, D.C., is an attempt to do things differently. With 700 participants gathered in a stately downtown auditorium, Lyons will play host to a distinct kind of Christian conference, one that seeks a respectful, constructive conversation on a host of issues confronting the nation.

Q, which stands for “question,” will allow 30 different culture leaders — from New York Times columnist David Brooks to Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter — to present their ideas for the common good during a two-and-a-half day confab.

“We feel we have a role to play in renewing the culture and holding back the effects of sin,” said Lyons, founder of Q, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. “We’re not to do it in an antagonistic way. We hope to do it in a hopeful way that gives witness to the rest of the world in how things ought to be.”

Part Clinton Global Initiative, part TED Talk, the conference is designed to highlight the best ideas rather than condemning the nation’s ills. Presenters are allocated three, nine, or 18 minutes to talk. Participants sit at round tables instead of rows, and time is built in for participants to reflect and talk about what they’ve heard.

That kind of format allows Q to include both Richard Land from the religious right and Jim Wallis from the religious left; both will share the stage Tuesday to discuss areas of potential agreement.

Lyons, a Liberty University graduate, said he realized nine years ago how little most Americans respected Christianity. That realization prompted him to acknowledge that the nation’s religious pluralism was here to stay, and that if Christians wanted their views to be given a thoughtful hearing, they had better quit resisting and start creating a culture that allows God’s love to break though.

His 2010 book, “The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America,” was a kind of manifesto calling Christians to quit cursing the darkness and start lighting a candle.

Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention‘s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he appreciates Lyons’ point, but thought it was overly simplistic. “Jesus called us to do both; He called us to be salt and light,” Land said. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Land said his own denomination, which is often cast as a judgmental culture agitator, is also among the nation’s largest providers of emergency disaster relief. In addition, its members give a higher proportion of their incomes to charity.

But Q participants are not about to compromise their evangelical convictions. On Thursday, participants will fan out across Washington to press Congress, the White House and the State Department on issues they deem important.

The difference, Lyons said, is the tone.

“It’s more civil, less fear-based,” he said. “There’s more appreciation for the intellect and a commitment to let the best ideas win out.”

(The Q Conference will provide a free video stream of its opening day sessions from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at http://www.qideas.org/live/)

Rick Santorum’s secret army: home-schoolers

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum bows in prayer during a campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz. RNS photo courtesy Gage Skidmore.

By DANIEL BURKE
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Strapped for cash and paid staff, Rick Santorum has enlisted a ragtag but politically potent army to keep his campaign afloat: home-schoolers.

Heading into Super Tuesday, today, (March 6), Santorum is urging home-schoolers to organize rallies, to post favorable features on social media and to ring doorbells on his behalf.

“Santorum has been very aggressive in reaching out to the home-schooling community, especially in the last month,” said Rebecca Keliher, the CEO and publisher of Home Educating Family Publishing.

Drawing on his experience as a home-schooling father of seven, the former Pennsylvania senator has also sought to rally enthusiasm by pledging to continue that course in the White House.

“It’s a great sacrifice that my wife, Karen, and I have made to try to give what we think is the best possible opportunity for our children to be successful,” Santorum said during a March 1 campaign stop in Georgia. “Not just economically, but in a whole lot of other areas that we think are important — virtue and character and spirituality.”

Rallying home-schoolers could provide a huge boost to Santorum’s bare-bones campaign. The tightly knit and predominantly Christian communities are famous for furnishing favored candidates with hundreds of steadfast foot soldiers. Studies show that home-schoolers are disproportionately likely to vote, donate and volunteer for campaigns.

“When they find someone who gives credence to the fact that they home-school, they tend to be very loyal and active and engaged,” said Keliher, a home-schooling mother of five in Nashville, Tenn. Many are motivated by the unwelcome prospect of seeing home-schooling critics elected to office.

An estimated 2 million children are home-educated in the U.S., according to Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute. Nearly three-quarters have conservative Christian parents who seek to instill the moral and religious values that they believe are lacking in public schools, according to Ray and other experts.

Despite their growing diversity, home-schoolers also tend to be politically conservative.

“They have an army of volunteers when they want to get behind a candidate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader, a conservative group in Iowa. “They’re great at door knocking, stuffing mailers and phone calling. They are really the feet on the ground.”

Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Santorum staffers believe home educators have already provided a “huge” lift to his insurgent campaign. The Santorum campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Farris, a leader in the home-schooling movement, said he will not endorse a candidate during the GOP primary, but he has praised Santorum profusely “for his stalwart defense of life, marriage, and the rights of parents.”

Home-schooling families often use campaigns as real-world civics lessons, with mothers taking their children along on afternoons as they make calls and volunteer at campaign headquarters, Keliher said.

“And you have triple or quadruple the effort when they bring the children,” she added.

Santorum is getting several times that effort with the Duggars, one of the country’s most famous — and largest — home-schooling families. The reality TV stars and their brood of 19 children have been stumping for Santorum across the country in a campaign-style bus.

Like the Duggars, many home-schoolers say Santorum’s staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage is as important as his experience in home education.

“It’s his willingness to speak up for what’s true and not back down,” said William Estrada, the HSLDA’s federal lobbyist.

Estrada has endorsed Santorum in his private capacity and is helping his campaign network with home-schoolers in Super Tuesday states.

Estrada also runs the HSLDA’s Generation Joshua program for teenagers. A recent post on the group’s blog portrayed “Sir Santorum” as a gallant knight preparing to battle the “Knight of Washington.”

But not all home-schoolers support Santorum. Many have a strong independent streak and favor Texas congressman Ron Paul. “One of the reasons people home-school is they don’t want anyone, especially the government, telling them what to do,” Keliher said.

Some home-schoolers also take issue with Santorum’s Senate vote for the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased federal oversight of local schools.

Others accuse Santorum of enrolling his children in a public cyberschool and sticking Pennsylvania taxpayers with the bill while he lived in Virginia from 2001-2004.

“In spite of all of his rhetoric about the evils of public schooling, Santorum had his children enrolled in a public school but called it ‘home-school,'” Catherine Dreher, a home-schooling mother in St. Charles, Mo., wrote on her blog, “The Tiny Libertarian.”

Still, many home-schoolers see Santorum as the more viable candidate, and have begun rallying to his side in large numbers, said Bruce Eagleson of the National Alliance of Christian Home Education Leadership.

“The key for a candidate is to excite the imagination of home-schoolers,” Eagleson said. “And Santorum has taken charge on that.”

Photos from end of Race to the Ballot against N.C. marriage amendment in Wilmington

About 100 people attended the final rally tonight to celebrate Protect All N.C. Families’ Race to the Ballot awareness run across the state at Wilmington’s Riverfront Park. The Raleigh-based group’s leader Jen Jones has been running across the state to persuade the public to vote against the North Carolina marriage amendment to the state’s constitution. It will be on the May 8 Republican primary ballot.

Check back for a full story, but here are some photos from the event in the meantime.

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– Amanda Greene

10 Commandments judge seeks his old job back

English: The Ten Commandments monument install...

The 10 Commandments Monument installed in Alabama by Judge Roy Moore. Image via Wikipedia

By BRENDAN KIRBY
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

MOBILE, Ala. (RNS) You might think a candidate’s ouster from the post he is seeking to regain would play a central role in a statewide election.

Yet Republican Roy Moore‘s forced exit, almost a decade ago, as Alabama’s chief justice over a Ten Commandments monument seems only a murmur on the campaign trail.

Voters don’t often ask about it, and the other two candidates in the March GOP primary hardly ever talk about it.

Roy Moore (right) and his wife Kayla after hearing the Nov. 13 verdict that stripped Moore of his position as Alabama Chief Justice. Photo by Charles Nesbitt.

Moore plunged Alabama into a showdown in 2003 when he erected a 5,280-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama judicial building in Montgomery. A federal judge declared the monument to be a violation of the separation of church and state and ordered Moore to remove it.

When Moore refused, a special panel of retired state judges voted unanimously to remove him from office for violating a higher-court order.

But now, the episode hardly comes up. University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart said Moore’s two opponents, incumbent Chuck Malone and Presiding Mobile County Circuit Judge Charles Graddick, must play a careful balancing game.

“They don’t want to alienate people who like Moore and his stand,” Stewart said. “I think they hope people would factor that into their deliberations.”

Moore said many people misunderstood his position at the time. It was not about the monument, he said, but his right to acknowledge God. He said he refused to comply with the federal order because doing so would have required him to violate his oath to the Constitution.

The federal judge could have ordered the building manager to remove the monument, Moore said, and he would not have stood in his way.

“They would still have been wrong constitutionally, but they would have had their order carried out in the proper manner,” he said.

Moore’s two opponents have said they would comply with orders from a higher court, but they shied away from overt criticism of Moore.

“The public’s going to determine that,” Graddick said when asked. Said Malone: “I think that’s up to each voter.”

Moore went on to run for governor in 2006 and 2010 and lost. His name was also floated as a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 for the Constitution Party but he never ran.

Even now, Moore said he has no second thoughts about the stand he took.

“You always regret getting removed from office. But I don’t regret the fact that I stood up for the Constitution of the United States and the First Amendment,” he said.

If returned to his old job, Moore said he has no plans to reinstall the monument.

“I have said repeatedly that I would not,” he said, “not because it’s illegal to do so, but because it would confuse the issue. And most people don’t understand what the issue was.”

Stewart, the political scientist, said it is fair to wonder if Moore would defy the court on a different issue. But Moore said that is unlikely.

“I can’t envision a set of circumstances or an order that would cause me to be in conflict with a higher court,” he said. “This is the only conflict I’ve had with a higher court, and I can’t envision another conflict.”

Ultimately, Moore’s position may boil down to simple politics, Stewart said, noting the state’s high number of evangelical voters who believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

“The candidates just don’t want to appear on the liberal side of anything,” he said, “in politics or religion.”

(Brendan Kirby writes for The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.)

Franklin Graham apologizes for questioning Obama’s faith

Evangelist Franklin Graham preaches during a recent crusade in Mobile, Ala. Religion News Service photo by John David Mercer/The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.

By ADELLE M. BANKS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) Evangelist Franklin Graham apologized Tuesday (Feb. 28) to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has “nothing to do” with Graham’s decision not to support Obama’s re-election.

Graham’s apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim.

Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama’s declarations that he is a Christian.

“I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama,” he said in a statement.

“I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.”

Graham said he objects to Obama’s policy stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, which Graham considers to be in “direct conflict” with Scripture.

More than a dozen members of a religious subgroup of the NAACP had accused Graham of “bearing false witness” and fomenting racial discord.

“We can disagree about what it means to be a Christian engaged in politics, but Christians should not bear false witness,” the NAACP statement said. “We are also concerned that Rev. Graham’s comments can be used to encourage racism.”

When asked in a recent MSNBC interview if Obama was a Christian, Graham responded, “I cannot answer that question for anybody.” He went on to say that because Obama’s father was a Muslim, “under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim.”

By contrast, Graham said there is “no question” that GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is a “man of faith” because “his values are so clear on moral issues.” Santorum has also faced criticism for saying the president has a “phony theology” that is unbiblical.

“By his statements, Rev. Graham seems to be aligning himself with those who use faith as a weapon of political division,” the NAACP said. “These kinds of comments could have enormous negative effects for America and are especially harmful to the Christian witness.”

Signatories of the open letter included presidents of the National Baptist Convention, USA; the National Baptist Convention of America; the

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

The seal of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Image via Wikipedia

Progressive National Baptist Convention; as well as bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Experts challenge Santorum’s remarks linking college to faith loss

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Rick Santorum speaking at CPAC last year. Image via Wikipedia

By CATHY LYNN GROSSMAN
c. 2012 USA Today
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum‘s claim that U.S. colleges drive young Christians out of church is facing scrutiny from Protestant and Catholic experts.

Santorum told talk show host Glenn Beck on Thursday (Feb. 23) that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.” He also has called President Obama a “snob” for wanting more Americans to attend college.

“There is no statistical difference in the dropout rate among those who attended college and those that did not attend college,” said Thom Rainer, president of the Southern BaptistsLifeWay Christian Resources research firm. “Going to college doesn’t make you a religious dropout.”

A 2007 LifeWay survey did find seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23.

The real causes: lack of “a robust faith,” strongly committed parents and an essential church connection, Rainer said.

“Higher education is not the villain,” said Catholic University sociologist William D’Antonio. Since 1986, D’Antonio’s surveys of American Catholics have asked about Mass attendance, the importance of religion in people’s lives and whether they have considered leaving Catholicism.

The percentage of Catholics who scored low on all three points hovers between 18 percent in 1993 and 14 percent in 2011. But the percentage of people who are highly committed fell from 27 percent to 19 percent.

“Blame mortality,” D’Antonio said, “The most highly committed Catholics are seniors, and they’re dying out.”

Dennis Prager, a conservative writer on religious and political issues, decried secularism in Western universities in the National Review in April. He concluded, “With all the persecution that Judaism and Christianity have survived over the centuries, an argument that cites America’s Top 310 Colleges as a first order adversary is hard to credit.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for USA Today.)