Tuesday, March 31, 2009
However I feel that this issue can be looked at more broadly than one solely dealing with Obama and Notre Dame. The large outcry that has arisen from this situation could be largely attributed to the work of the religious right – as shown in Will Martin’s With God on our Side, these kinds of protests have been a hallmark of their success. While these large numbers of protests may seem, then, like a successful showing for the religious right, Seelye mentions something in passing that could be very troubling for its future: “70 percent of alumni opposed the invitation, why 97 percent of the senior class supported it.” This could be seen simply as the seniors wanting a famous figure and dynamic speaker at their commencement, but I believe it is also a sign that the religious right – and more broadly, the Republican Party – is losing its younger constituents. This phenomenon plus the original issue bring up a couple interesting questions: Is Jenkins, as president of a Catholic university, wrong to invite President Obama? And does the overwhelming support of the senior class to have Obama as commencement speaker mean trouble for the future of the religious right?
Ross Douthat, senior editor of The Atlantic and Republican strategist, rejects “the iron law” that Republican political losses are blamed on the Party’s pro-life position. He suggests that during the 2008 presidential campaign, abortion was hardly brought up by the Republican Party, and yet, the loss will be blamed on abortion. Douthat acknowledges that the pro-life movement is being pressed to focus its energies on a “compromise” rather than “absolutist” position but he believes that in developing a grassroots movement, pro-lifers have compromised. He states that the movement is focused on establishing crisis pregnancy centers, outlawing only what they “see as the grisliest form of abortion,” etc. Part of the “compromise,” is that the movement is emphasizing other life issues, as well. Douthat wants to end the stereotype that everyone in the pro-life movement is apathetic to science. He suggests that the pro-life movement is becoming increasingly aware of science; for example, they suggested that in place of embryonic stem cell research, scientists carry out the same research with different cells. To further underscore the changing tide of the pro-life movement, Douthat suggests that Sarah Palin was a reflection of a “post-feminist” reality in the US. In conclusion, Douthat states that it is the pro-choice movement that has become absolutist and uncompromising after Roe v. Wade. The historical context for this argument is that abortion has been a compelling social and political issue in every election at least since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which struck down most laws restricting abortion.
I am not convinced that the Republican loss in 2008 will be blamed on abortion. So far, it has been blamed more on public discontent with the Bush administration’s handling of domestic and international terrorism. Some of Douthat’s other suggestions were also stretches to me. For example, the fact that the pro-life movement suggested that the scientific community carry out research with cells other than embryonic stem cells does not signal to me that the movement is becoming better versed in science – it simply signals acknowledgment of basic science. I do, however, think that it is an important point that not everyone in the pro-life community believes in creationism and has an antipathy for science – that there are a variety of views within the movement is very important to take into consideration.
Will the Republican loss in 2008 be blamed on the issue of abortion? Has the pro-life movement compromised?
Meckler also addresses complications that are already arising as Obama tries to balance religion and secularism in his policies, pointing out several of his policies which favor religious organizations and others that are “troubling to religious conservatives” in their support of science. The primary focus of her article lies in the question of whether this attempt to appeal to all sides will help or hurt Obama’s career as president.
While it is an undeniable fact that the United States is a primarily Christian country, many recent studies have indicated a growing decline in religion, and a slow increase, albeit small, in atheism. Personally, I feel that President Obama’s acknowledgement of non-religious Americans represents an important step in the development of American society. Such a step may prove especially powerful internationally, representing the growing tolerance and maturity of a country often faulted for its religious zeal. Still, I agree with Meckler that Obama’s attempts to appeal to all sides could easily backfire, since he risks losing his already tenuous evangelical support. Since Obama is also an open Christian, I also wonder how secular or multi-faceted he will allow his policies to become before he finds himself over-stepping his own religious beliefs.
When we discuss liberal and conservative social values, it doesn’t necessarily mean one is right or wrong. Bringing up solely a moral issue will not pull out winners on either side because there are legitimate arguments for both. The death penalty for example: Opposing the death penalty is considered liberal, is a call for change in the current system, pro-human rights and is generally the position religious leaders take in the debate. Supporting the death penalty is a position generally taken by political conservatives who tend to be religious and believe the receiving criminal should never be back in society and perhaps deserves an eye for an eye for their misdeeds. When one side can argue the government should have no right to take a life, the other side can argue the criminal has much less of that right. Basically that argument will go in circles like many strong liberal vs. conservative debates. Another example that crosses religious and political lines is military strategy. Being pro-war is often considered conservative but many religious groups such as that represented by Cardinal Bernardin are anti-war. How could the church promote war? It can’t honestly do so.
Religion does not ascribe to every belief within right-wing philosophy, neither does it only ascribe to conservative social and moral values. Some republicans, George W. Bush being a good example, use scripture in their speeches, further giving the impression the right is the party for religion. So where is the line, how do we explain where these religious and liberal positions come from? Susan Jacoby in her book Freethinkers argues that liberal positions come from the “rational” side and conservative positions come from the “religious” side. This argument works in large part but at the same time is shaped by the religious right’s insistence on delegitimizing American secularism. Social values can also be attached to issues such as poverty and social welfare as well as foreign policy and the decision to go to war. These social issues are not considered religious even though they easily could be. Religious peoples in the political sphere have characterized the debate perhaps because what we consider to be the moral values today are still the most hotly debated. The other social issues such as foreign policy and welfare deal with morals as much as they do the economy, bringing more stakes into the argument. Other “moral” issues such as abortion and gay rights aren’t considered to be economic issues- even though poverty and benefits are an important part of both of those debates.
The piling of certain issues into religious political debate is one that doesn’t have to do with religiosity in particular but rather the way people have chosen to take them.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sunday mornings before noon has existed since colonial times. ABC stores do not even operate on Sundays. The only way to hunt on Sunday is with a bow. All other forms of hunting are illegal on Sundays. For those individuals who work 6 days a week it eliminates their ability to go hunting. Although the laws are in place to enforce a novel idea, keep individuals from attending Church intoxicated or skipping all together, it is restricting people of another religion or less conservative Christians from doing something which is perfectly legal any other day. In effect, the state of North Carolina is discriminating based on religion.
The fact of the matter is that these laws are outdated and exclude unreligious people from participating in everyday activities. While I do not promote excessive drinking or the needless killing of wild animals, these laws serve little to no purpose other than frustrating a lot of people. It time North Carolina steps outside its traditional boundaries and eliminates its archaic laws which show its blatant partiality to Christianity.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I also think that often the courts are too scared of supporting a religion that they take excessive measures. This has led in several cases to churches being denied money to help the needy. One result of this is that some religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church have had to shift to supporting government initiatives to help the poor which are often inefficient with money being wasted on bureaucracy. And also as Marin makes abundantly clear in With God on Our Side, religious groups still have a substantial influence on government which cannot be completely ceased. The Republican Party often catered to the needs of the evangelicals. This practice leads to the groups which are lucky enough to attach to a major party having significantly more power than those which don’t.
Should courts continue to have the power to strike down any and all religiously charged laws? Has there been an over secularization of the US government to a point not called for in the Constitution? Is it beneficial to have a complete separation of Church and State?
As Thomas Franck argues in What’s he Matter with Kansas, that conservatives republicans in effect used moral and faith issues to lure the religious lower middle classes into voting republican, and while making little headway in those very issues that lower class conservatives find important, they succeeded only in promoting policies such as tax cuts for the wealthy that benefit not the lower but the upper classes. We have argued on this subject in class and some have pointed out that the rationale for lower taxation was that people could instead give more to charity. And indeed it seems that conservatives do in fact give on average three times more to charity. But is it possible that the GOP has, as Ahmanson argues, been focusing too much on the issue of taxation? Indeed the attitude of the California Republicans that argued there should be no tax increases “for any reason, no matter what” does seem not only “silly” but also stubborn, especially in the current economic climate.
More generally though, this shift of a major republican benefactor, though surprising in itself, does point to a broader trend that we have observed in our class and through some of the entries of this blog, wherein some evangelicals have started switching to the democrat side as the party appeals more and more to faith and slowly works “to take God back from the GOP” as Parker puts it.
The fight to legalize same-sex marriages has many comparisons with African-Americans’ fight for civil rights in the 1960s. Zezima quotes Rep. Edward A. Butler, who invokes language reminiscent of the infamous court case Plessy v. Ferguson while discussing same-sex marriage. He says that “separate but equal is not equal”, the conclusion drawn by the Supreme Court when it overturned segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. Due to the similarities between discrimination against African-Americans and discrimination against homosexuals, it may be of use to examine how African-Americans finally gained their civil rights. While they did exercise a long and difficult campaign against Southern whites, I think their ability to realize equality under the law was partly due to a change in thinking. It became impossible to justify discriminating against African-Americans as scientific studies continually proved the genetic and intellectual equality of African-Americans.
This comparison provides a grim picture for me for the future of same-sex marriage. Is genetic proof of lesbian and gay’s equality required in order for them to be granted the same privileges as non-gays? Even then, would ideas of what constitutes religious morality sit too strongly with the American people for us to grant this group their rights? I think what we can draw from the Civil Rights movement is that people’s personal opinions, in this case severe racism, should not come into play while shaping law. We can apply this same mode of thinking to same-sex marriages, in that people’s personal beliefs should be considered separately from what is just according to the Constitution.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I wrote a post several weeks ago about the controversy Pope Benedict sparked in pardoning ex-communicated, Holocaust-denying Bishops. He sparked angry sentiments from the world’s Islamic community by making accusatory remarks about the violent nature of the Islamic faith back in 2006. And this week he’s back in the headlines with a move no less consternating or any easier to extricate himself--and the Vatican--from.
The controversial comment came in a statement just before his departure on a weeklong tour through Africa. In addressing the continent’s long and difficult struggle with HIV/AIDS, Pope Benedict argued that the problem "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.” (Emphasis mine.)
Now the Church’s position on condoms is no secret—avoid them. Exercise sexual abstinence and fidelity in marriage instead. There is truth to this message and nothing wrong with taking this position (although it’s all but proven that preaching abstinence does not work as well as handing out free condoms from a practical or public health standpoint).
But I do take issue with the second half of his statement. Nowhere, ever, has there been evidence that condom use has increased or even contributed to the spread of HIV. His comment is clearly rooted in personal belief and not scientific evidence (or reality). The tragedy is in its potential to undermine millions of dollars and years of effort put in by community organizations, NGOs, and even other faith based organizations that have been working hard to help alleviate the strain HIV has put on African societies.
France, the Netherlands, Germany, and the UN’s agency dedicated to AIDS work, have all come down on the Pope’s remarks. The BBC was even prompted to ask the question, “Is Catholicism good for Africa?” I find all of these responses reasonable given the potential ramifications in this situation. Governments and aid groups alike are already facing incredible difficulties in educating the general population on the facts of HIV/AIDS. Still, setting aside the argument over the most effective form of containing the epidemic, it is plainly irresponsible for a figure as revered as the Pope—someone drawing crowds of tens of thousands in places like Angola—to propagate such untrue information.
My concern in this is less for Benedict himself and his legacy as the 265th Pope, than it is for the Catholic Church as a whole. Its main PR man doesn’t quite have the political finesse of his predecessor and seems to be more like a bull in a China shop lately. I don’t doubt the benevolence or good intentions in his commitment to his faith, but he doesn’t do himself many favors by his lack of tact. (One source commented on the fact that he was chosen for the papacy in part for his longtime status as a Vatican insider and respected theologian. Unfortunately, the intellectuals behind organizations don’t always have the charisma and social capacity to pull off the public relations as well.)
I haven’t heard much on the issue since the comment broke the news. I admit, I’m crossing my fingers that there isn’t any more to report. I’m just thinking about the African women who have been trying to convince their husbands of the wisdom in using condoms, who now have to place their word against the Pope’s….
Other articles referenced:
“Pope tells Africa ‘condoms wrong’” - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7947460.stm
“Pope warns Angola of witchcraft” - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7956460.stm
“Pope: Condoms “Increase” AIDS Endemic in Africa” - http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509488,00.html
The term was originally coined by Jerry Falwell in referring to his group, the Moral Majority. The term started taking on more negative connotations where people associated it with “hard-edge politics and intolerance”. The term also began to be used next to other labels such as “American Taliban” and “Christian fascists”. The media has the ability to characterize a debate and define players before they even get a chance to define themselves in the public’s eye. The language of a debate can sometimes pull out the winners and losers before the actual debate has run its course. Religious fundamentals are very upset with what they call the “misuse” of the phrase “religious right”. It has a developed a life of its own with negative connotations. Author Joel Carpenter notes, “These terms have a life of their own. There’s very little you can do to change them”. Part of the reason is that there are these extreme conservatives out there who are sometimes more outspoken than the more reasonable religious conservatives giving a bad name to the whole lot.
Another issue with the debate is that there is no real phrase we can replace “religious right” with. Focus on the Family’s Gary Schneeberger says the media should start using “socially conservative evangelicals”, but is this really going to change anything. It’s the same people who are saying they don’t want to be associated with the term “religious right” that now want to be called “socially conservative evangelicals”. The media will have to be tiptoeing everywhere in the land of political correctness for this new label not to become corrupted like all the other labels. It won’t be long before “socially conservative evangelical” will become the new “American Taliban” and they’ll have to come up with something else even more ridiculous like “time-honored religious sympathetics”.
Perhaps there is a deeper problem with the way the media portray this sector in general or a problem with the way religious conservatives are framing their arguments. There’s a reason why the “religious right” is conservative. They are traditionalists. As times change, conservative values have more and more rival opinions. It can be easier to adapt to a new situation than to keep an old tradition in the face of new challenges to the belief.
For a millennium, the question of celibacy in the Catholic Church has been answered with a resounding yes, and that there is a wish to stick with tradition. However, in the New York Times article “On Eve of Retirement, Cardinal Breathes Life into Debate on Priestly Celibacy,” Cardinal Edward M. Egan comes under fire for his comments during a recent radio interview where he mentions the possibility for renewed discussion on the topic. In the interview on March 10th, Cardinal Egan stated in regards to overturning the celibacy tradition, “I think that it’s going to be discussed; it’s a perfectly legitimate discussion. Further, he said that “I think it has to be looked at. And I am not so sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to decide on the basis of geography and culture not to make an across-the-board determination.”
This interview has sparked a spirited debate within the Catholic Church as to the true meaning behind the Cardinal’s words, mainly due to recent history when 163 priests in Milwaukee petitioned to reopen a discussion on celibacy, but were denied. With this all said, one question comes to mind; Is celibacy essential to the Catholic Church and would overturning this principle ultimately hurt the Church?
The idea must be discussed, and the longer the Catholic Church wishes to deny such a discussion, the more harm it will do to those wishing to become priests. Without showing some conformity to the modern day, the Church ultimately looks more like an out of date institution and less like an institution that is able to accurately connect with modern times and modern thought. If the Church wishes to strengthen its membership and increase its Priesthood, both which have been hurt in recent years, then reopening the debate on celibacy is a positive first step towards reversing these trends.
Abortion, teen pregnancy, and birth control are always hot topics and recent news concerning the FDA and Plan B, or the morning-after pill, will surely incite some people’s opinions about the whole issue. A federal judge has ordered the FDA to reconsider a 2006 decision that currently denies girls under the age of 18 from obtaining the emergency contraceptive pill without a prescription. Judge Edward Korman, of New York, not only wants Plan B to be available for 17-year-olds within 30 days, but to people of all ages without a prescription. That’s a pretty bold demand, but then again, he’s a U.S. district judge from the state of NEW YORK. Needless to say, this decision is upsetting many conservative groups within the nation. Wendy Wright, a spokesperson for the Concerned Women for America, stated that the ruling put “politics above women’s health” and intruded into “parents’ ability to protect their minor daughters.” She also asserts that easy access to Plan B hasn’t reduced the number of pregnancies and abortions, so lowering the age restriction or making it more accessible won’t improve present conditions. Other conservative congress members and advocacy groups point out that wider availability of the drug will “encourage sexual activity, make it easier for men to have sex with underage girls, and be the equivalent of an abortion.” Activists against this decision believe that there should be more tests to see if the drug is truly safe for underage girls, especially since many young women are taking Plan B multiple times as birth control and there aren’t enough studies about Plan B’s effects over time. Those on the opposite end of the debate also believe that the issue should be decided by science, not politics. The debate is definitely heated, but it seems as though both sides agree on one thing, and that’s the scientific aspect. I think science is the only way these groups will be able to come to an agreement. If science proves that Plan B has adverse effects for young women, obviously the conservatives would win this battle and if multiple uses prove to be harmless, then I’m sure the individuals at the Center for Reproductive Rights will immediately jump on the opportunity to make some changes. Obama has recently announced his plans to select a new FDA commissioner and to “insulate scientific decisions from political influence” so it will be interesting to see how this debate will turn out in the future.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Cardinal George also points to the immigrant voters may lose loyalty to those who support the violent raids and subsequent division of families. It is extremely important for the people to have faith in and maintain a positive image of the government. The support and implementation of policies such as militaristic raids on homes with fathers, mothers, and small children is a quick way to lose support for the program and develop antagonistic attitudes. Therefore it is important for US Customs officials and others responsible for the enforcement of disciplining those in violation of immigration policies to be cognizant of the dissidence coming from the Catholic community.
Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House, recently created an organization calling for a renewal of conservative evangelical and Catholic influence in American political life and aims to heal the rifts between social and fiscal conservatives. An article in the U.S. News and World Report discusses an exclusive interview with Gingrich and his plans for the organization.
Gingrich is working with David Barton, an evangelical activist, on meeting with conservative clergy and has partnered with the American Family Association to encourage participation in no-more-tax rallies. The organization, Renewing American Leadership, is also preparing a powerpoint presentation to show to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, and other conservative economic groups in the hope that they will see religious conservatives as the saving grace of the conservative agenda and not continue to blame them for the recent failure in the fall election.
While Renewing American Leadership is focused on convincing the Republican Party that it’s socially conservative members are also its most consistent fiscally conservative ones, there is also an ambitious anti-secular agenda running throughout the organization’s rhetoric. Gingrich is quoted in the interview saying, “In the last few years I've decided that we're in a crisis in which the secular state, if allowed, will fundamentally and radically change America against the wishes of most Americans, you've had such rising hostility to religious belief that I wanted to reach broadly into the country and dramatically raise public awareness of threats to religious liberty.”
Not to mention David Barton’s sketchy history with anti-Semitic and racist groups, Gingrich and the organization have spoken out strongly against President Obama’s stimulus package as containing legislation that restricts religious liberty, dismisses Obama’s promise to reduce the need for abortions through his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and have written a 23-page report condemning the new Capitol Visitor Center as misrepresenting America’s religious past.
The Bishop of Fort Wayne, Indiana has decided not to join the commencement ceremony based on the differing ideological views of the Church and Obama. He states that, "I wish no disrespect to our president, I pray for him and wish him well," the statement continued. "I have always revered the Office of the Presidency. But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith 'in season and out of season,' and he teaches not only by his words -- but by his actions." The Bishop is completely within his rights to not attend the commencement ceremony. But I believe that he is denying the Catholic Church an open forum for opposing viewpoints. With the Pope's views becoming official Church doctrine, I find no fault in the University for wanting an open dialogue between accepted Catholic views and those of another individual.
Six sitting Presidents have attended the commencement ceremony at Notre Dame. Yet, the public has heard no outcry amongst Catholic officials when the President holds their own views. Is our society not one of open dialogue and new ideas? Yes. We absolutely are. No one has the right to silence dissenting viewpoints and I believe it entirely antithetical to religious institutions to try and do so. I'm not saying by any means that the Church is trying to quell Obama's speech violently. But even the attempt at quelling speech, even if one disagrees with it in principal is entirely un-American. Where are these same leaders outcry at George W. Bush's Iraq policy? Does the right to life not include wars? I believe these Catholic Bishops and laymen are making some hypocritical statements. It is my knowledge that the Church opposes the war in Iraq. Yet no fuss was made over W's address. So is it ok then, if you're Catholic, to call for the dismissal of an invitation to a President you disagree with politically and keep the one you do agree with?
The President of Notre Dame has said that the invitation and speech given by Obama will be a "basis for further positive engagement" in the national dialogue about abortion and stem cell research. I can't help but agree.
He goes on to argue that he believes so much in the separation of church and state because “[he] loves them both too much to see them demeaned,” and at the risk of sounding exactly like Madison, that church would get in the way of good politics and on the other hand, politics would make religion “lose its soul.”
My question is: is it always the case that corrupt leaders lead to abandonment of religion, organized or otherwise? It would seem that I history, the exact opposite has happened. The most undemocratic and politically corrupt countries seem to be the ones that are in many cases, the most devoutly religious. Even when religious leaders “lose their way” the people in these countries seems to cling tighter to religion. We even see these leaders use religion as a way to get the people to do what they want; countless times we have seen terrorist commit atrocities in the name of their gods.
So why is the United States different?
No one is arguing that the U.S. has a completely innocent government or that the church has a completely innocent clergy, however the trend seems to be completely opposite than it is in other countries. Although many different factors play a role (values, economics, culture, etc.), lets pretend for a minute that all other factors are the same in all societies. Would the popularity of religion change strictly based on the actions of political and religious leaders? Would people cling to religion more? And should people continue to cling to and trust institutions that have become synonymous with corruption?
Nothing out of the ordinary there—seems like a matter for the county commissioners. And if this were a Christian school, something like, say, Our Lady of Perpetual Something-or-Other, the issue would probably stop there. But this case isn’t so simple. The religious school in question is Fairfax City’s Islamic Saudi Academy.
The Washington Post reports:
At a public hearing last week, mundane neighborhood concerns were overshadowed by a longstanding dispute over the school's teachings and the perception that it promotes intolerance of other cultures…In 2007, a congressionally appointed panel found that some of the school's textbooks included language intolerant of other religions as well as passages that could be construed as advocating violence.
What was once a local issue has gone nationwide, as everyone from Congress on down is getting involved. One congressman went so far as to write to Secretary of State Clinton, complaining that the school’s textbooks “still contain questionable material.” The neighbors, naturally, are a little irked. They wanted to talk about school parking; instead, they’ve got to deal with people like this:
"The Islamic Saudi Academy's purpose is to train young and innocent Muslim children to hate and wage war into the future against our children," James Lafferty, a spokesman for the Traditional Values Coalition, a church lobbying group, said during the hearing.
Now that’s what I call hyperbole!
Religious schools will always be a contentious issue, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, or what have you. Critics, whether of specific religions like Islam or simply of religion in general, like to throw around words like “indoctrination” and “brainwashing.” Kids are impressionable, they say, and shouldn’t be subjected to a diet of religious orthodoxy.
Things get especially tricky where Islam is concerned. Over the past couple years, Americans have heard a lot about madrasahs, traditional Islamic schools. The media portrays them as terrorist factories churning out one jihadnik after another. No surprise, then, that some people are leery about the Saudi Academy.
In my opinion, though, these sort of fears are grossly overinflated. The Saudi Academy isn’t a terrorist training camp. It’s not a threat to national security. It’s not going to release a wave of suicide bombers into suburban Virginia. And if some of the textbooks are inflammatory? Well, that’s the concern of the school administration, not of Congress.
We’ve heard these arguments before. Less than a century ago, people suspected that Catholic schools were nothing more than fronts for the Vatican. Little Catholic kids were being raised to pledge allegiance to the Pope, rather than the flag. A lot of people tried to shut these schools down by claiming they were a threat to the country. These people weren’t necessarily anti-Catholic bigots, but their actions were bigoted nonetheless.
Not much has changed since then, it seems. I recommend that everyone involved take a deep breath. Congress, take a few steps back. Let the locals sort this one out.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I could not agree more. The principal speaker at a university’s commencement should not only embody the fundamental essence of the university’s values and goals in what he says in his speech, but his reputation and personal values and achievements should be a living example of who and what the students are aspiring to become. The founders of Notre Dame, the oldest and most esteemed Catholic University in the United States, certainly would not want their graduates influenced by a man who upholds values that contradict the foundation of Catholic beliefs.
Perhaps Obama would be a better fit for a slightly more liberal school, such as UNC. The UNC law school was split over the decision to have former attorney general in the Bush administration, Michael Mukasey, speak at the official commencement speaker this spring. Students and faculty argued that the felt they were endorsing him and his beliefs by having him as a speaker, and a multitude of individuals strongly opposed his standing on issues. If having an individual speak at a commencement ceremony qualifies as an endorsement, however, then the Notre Dame opposition to Obama speaking at the commencement is certainly justified when they say the decision is “shocking and disappointing.” A Catholic university should not be endorsing an individual who defends abortion. Blasphemy anyone?
Joshua DuBois is in charge of all the presidential faith-based initiatives and is the lead director on the search for the Obama’s new church. Many different churches, including Asbury United Methodist Church, Mount Cavalry Baptist Church, Foundary United Methodist Church, and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church and Shiloh Baptist Church have contacted DuBois about being able to accommodate the presidential family. There is a concern from both the churches and the Obama family about the chosen congregation being able to adjust to the increased security, popularity, etc.
This is a very interesting dilemma for the Obama family especially considering the symbolism surrounding this next administration and ‘change’. With religion’s role in politics still on the forefront of social issues (see the aforementioned Rev Wright issue), the selection by President Obama for where to worship will be closely observed by the American public. When all is said and done, there is little the American public can really say about the Obama’s decision. Whether it is a conservative Baptist church or a more liberal Church of Christ, the decision comes from a religious family in search of a Christian congregation, not a political figure promoting the views of one denominational faith. It is important for us to separate the political side of our president from his religious side and realize that a man of faith lies underneath his job. President Obama’s decision about where he attends church should reflect little on his ole as our national leader.