Obama Cites Sermon on the Mount for his Support of Civil Unions

From Christianity Today “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.”
Sarah Pulliam

Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama invoked the Sermon on the Mount as a reason for why he supports civil unions during an appearance in Nelsonville, Ohio, on Sunday.

The response came after Pastor Leon Forte, who heads up Grace Christian Center in Athens, Ohio, asked about Obama’s faith. The video is available here and the full transcript is available here.

“Your campaign sets a quandary for most evangelical Christians,” Forte said. “They believe in the social agenda that you have. They have a problem with what the conservatives have laid out as the moral litmus test about who is worthy and who is not.”

Obama responded by saying he is a devout Christian, he prays to Jesus every night and tries to go to church as much as he can.

“I think what you may be referring to, though, when you say controversies, probably has more to do with two issues, which is abortion and gay marriage, which has become, I think, how people measure faith in the evangelical community.”

Obama said that while he does not believe in gay marriage, he does think the state should allow civil unions that allow a same-sex couples to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other.

“If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans,” Obama said.

He called abortion a tragic and painful issue.

“But I think that … in the end I think women, in consultation with their pastors, and their doctors, and their family, are in a better position to make these decisions than some bureaucrat in Washington.”

Obama ended: “That’s my view. Again, I respect people who may disagree, but I certainly don’t think it makes me less Christian. Okay.”

Obama also cited the Sermon on the Mount in his June 28, 2006, ‘Call to Renewal’ address.

“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.”

Obama also spoke with CT about abortion in a January interview.

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Obama speech to denomination spurs IRS investigation of UCC

A speech that Barack Obama made last year to his fellow Congregationalists has spurred an Internal Revenue Service investigation that threatens the tax-exempt status of an entire denomination.Leaders of the Illinois senator’s United Church of Christ are fighting back, saying the IRS charges are baseless and “disturbing.”

In a letter dated Feb. 20 and received by church officials Feb. 25, IRS official Marsha Ramirez said “a reasonable belief exists” that the denomination violated federal law. Churches and other non-profit groups organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code are barred from endorsing or opposing candidates and political parties.

The UCC is generally considered the nation’s most liberal large Protestant body. Obama has been an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for more than two decades. Trinity is the UCC’s largest congregation.

In the IRS letter, Ramirez said the agency’s concerns “are based on articles posted on several websites” that described Obama’s June 23 appearance at the UCC’s biennial General Synod meeting in Hartford, Conn. The senator — by then an announced Democratic candidate for president — spoke to about 10,000 church members, according to the denomination and news accounts.

But UCC officials said they took pains to ensure that the speech was not perceived as a campaign event or an endorsement of the candidate.

Obama was invited “as one of 60 diverse speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise,” a UCC news release said. It also said church officials invited Obama as a church member rather than in his capacity as a candidate and said they asked him to speak a year before he declared his intention to run for higher office.

“The United Church of Christ took great care to ensure that Sen. Obama’s appearance before the … General Synod met appropriate legal and moral standards,” UCC General Minister John Thomas said in the news release. “We are confident that the IRS investigation will confirm that no laws were violated.”

Prior to the speech, a church official told the crowd that the appearance was not intended to be a campaign event and that campaign-related material and other forms of electioneering would not be allowed inside the event venue.

The IRS letter claimed that “40 Obama volunteers staffed campaign tables outside” the Hartford Civic Center, where the event was held. But church officials said they barred any campaigning inside the venue.

Thomas said that, while he believes the investigation will ultimately acquit the denomination, he nonetheless is concerned about its effect.

“The very fact of” the investigation’s existence “is disturbing,” Thomas said. “When the invitation to an elected public official to speak to the national meeting of his own church family is called into question, it has a chilling effect on every religious community that seeks to encourage politicians and church members to thoughtfully relate their personal faith to their public responsibilities.”

IRS officials do not discuss such investigations with the press because tax information is private. But several ministries and local congregations have been warned and investigated in recent years for electioneering.

The agency is currently investigating Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake for using church letterhead and a church-sponsored radio show to endorse Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Last year, the IRS ended an investigation without any sanctions against All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif. It had been under investigation for a guest sermon its former rector had given just before the 2004 presidential election. In it, he strongly criticized the war in Iraq but said he believed that both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, were good Christians.

IRS officials contended that the sermon amounted to an endorsement of Kerry over Bush. The church contested the charge. In a September letter to the congregation announcing that it was ending its investigation without penalty, IRS officials said they continued to believe the church had illegally intervened in the election.

All Saints’ legal defense ended up costing more than $200,000, according to church leaders. Anticipating a similar financial burden for the UCC, Thomas sent an appeal Feb. 27 to church members asking them to donate to a special legal-defense fund.

“In order to adequately defend ourselves, as well as protect the broader principle of the freedom of religious communities to entertain questions of faith and public life, we will need to secure expert legal counsel, and the cost of this defense, we are told, could approach or exceed six figures,” Thomas wrote. “This is troubling news.”

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Huckabee Ends Presidential Campaign, Conceding to John McCain

March 4 (Bloomberg) — Mike Huckabee, the Republican presidential candidate who struggled to find a second act after his surprise win in Iowa, ended his campaign tonight, conceding the nomination to John McCain.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, exited the race after he failed to win any of the four states voting today, and television networks announced that McCain had amassed enough delegates to capture the Republican nomination.

“One of the things we’ll be able to say is we fought the good fight and we finished the race,” Huckabee told supporters in Irving, Texas.

Huckabee said he had called McCain and said he and his campaign staff would help the Arizona senator. His departure ends the Republican presidential race, allowing the party to coalesce behind a single candidate while the Democratic nomination remains in doubt.

“We’ll be working on doing everything we can to help Senator McCain and to help our party,” Huckabee said. “There are many battles that we need not just to fight, we need to win for our country’s sake and our future’s sake.”

Huckabee, 52, had won eight states, including the first-in- the-nation Iowa caucuses, largely through the strength of his appeal to evangelical Christians.

His announcement caps a campaign in which he went from afterthought to front-runner and back again. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher with a penchant for using humor, was largely ignored until shortly before Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses. There, religious and socially conservative voters helped him defeat former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Huckabee’s Struggle

Huckabee, unable to raise the tens of millions of dollars needed to run a national campaign, struggled to replicate that success elsewhere. He finished third in New Hampshire, behind McCain and Romney, and then bypassed the subsequent contests to focus on South Carolina. He lost to McCain there by three points, and said he might have won had former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson not also been in the race.

After placing fourth in Florida, Huckabee looked to rejuvenate his campaign by doing well in the southern, midwestern and rural states voting on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5. He won five of those states. Romney, who tried to nudge Huckabee out of the race, ended up dropping out himself. Huckabee, meanwhile, declared it a two-man race.

McCain continued racking up victories that gave him an all- but-insurmountable lead among delegates. Huckabee rejected calls from within his own party to concede, saying he wanted to ensure that conservatives continued to have a voice in the contest.

`Foot Soldiers’

“The foot soldiers of the Republican Party, the conservatives in the Republican Party, need to make sure their voices aren’t shut out,” Huckabee said in a Feb. 20 interview with Bloomberg Television.

Money was always an obstacle for his campaign. He raised $13 million through Jan. 31. Democrat Barack Obama raised more than that in a single month.

Still, Huckabee defied predictions that such as cash- strapped campaign could not become a factor in the race, Republican pollster Whit Ayres said.

“He did more with less than any other presidential candidate in recent memory,” Ayres said. “He demonstrates, along with Barack Obama, the extraordinary importance of being a superb speaker to being a successful politician.”

Huckabee attracts old and new supporters at Collin College

“If we trust the process, he still has a chance…

“It’s important for students to see that their votes do count,”

“I’m rooting for him more and more now,”

“After this, I’m hoping he can at least stay until the convention,”

These are just some of the comments from the quite enthusiastic crowd. The article is in the Plano Courier Star which also displays an abundance of positive reader comments.

GO MIKE!!!!

Dallas Morning News: Huckabee good investment in GOP’s future

The Dallas Morning News published an editorial Sunday supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, despite saying he has no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Though Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the presumptive nominee and “it is mathematically impossible” for Huckabee to pull ahead in delegates, Huckabee “remains our choice for the GOP nomination,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote, just two days before the state’s primary.

This is not the first time the paper has endorsed Huckabee. Last month, it called him a “a progressive conservative with a pastor’s heart.”

And in December, it called him “decent, principled and empathetic to the views and concerns of others — an antidote to the power-mad partisanship that has led U.S. politics to a dispiriting standstill.”

The Dallas Morning News also endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the piece published Sunday, the newspaper’s editorial board wrote, “True, a Huckabee vote today won’t do much to determine the 2008 GOP presidential candidate.”

It added, “But it’s a good investment in the Republican Party’s future.”

McCain has 1,033 delegates to Huckabee’s 247, according to CNN calculations. A candidate needs 1,191 to seal the Republican nomination.

McCain appears to hold a comfortable lead in Texas. Recent polls indicate he is the choice of 58 percent of the state’s likely Republican voters, while Huckabee trails with 30 percent.

The Republican Texas “poll of polls” consists of three surveys: American Research Group (February 29-March 1), Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle/Zogby (February 28-March 1), and Belo/Public Strategies (February 26-28).

McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has “long experience and personal courage” and “a solid record of fiscal responsibility,” the newspaper said.

It added that he “has been on the right side of campaign finance reform and environmental issues” and credited him as “correct and principled to lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform last summer.”

But the board added that McCain’s age, 71, “and his choleric temperament gave us pause, particularly when contrasted to Mr. Huckabee’s sunny-side-up brand of conservatism.”

The paper lauded Huckabee’s views on the environment and described him as “a compassionate conservative” on economic matters.

“Though his social and religious conservatism puts him on the wrong side of abortion, gay rights and other key issues, that same deep-faith commitment inspires his dedication to helping the poor and to racial healing,” the board said.

Huckabee’s youth, pragmatism and “good-natured approach to politics” mean he could play a role in GOP politics for many years, the paper said.

“That’s why we encourage Texas Republicans to mark their ballots for Mr. Huckabee in the GOP primary: to demonstrate to the party’s elite that Mr. Huckabee and his vision have a solid constituency.”

Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont all hold contests March 4.

Huckabee Meets With Christian Leader James Dobson

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee met with conservative Christian leader James Dobson Friday as he vied to pick up the Colorado delegates pledged to Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race.

Huckabee’s visit comes two weeks after Dobson endorsed him for president.

“Personally it was a great encouragement,” Huckabee said of the endorsement. “I think it also was an extraordinary boost for our campaign because Dr. Dobson is seen as such a true national leader when it comes to issues of life, marriage and family.”

Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister and a former governor of Arkansas. His campaign has been kept alive in part by support from conservative Christians who don’t want to back Arizona Senator John McCain.

Appearing without Dobson at a podium on a lawn outside the campus of Focus on the Family, Huckabee declined to describe what he and his friend of 14 years discussed.

Huckabee, who was in Colorado Springs to speak Friday night to the conservative group, Leadership Program of the Rockies, said the meeting was “personal” in nature and “not a meeting that I was having with him in his capacity as the leader of Focus on the Family.”

Although Huckabee said Dobson’s backing has helped him, he doubts the Focus on the Family founder will be campaigning for him.

“I think it would be very difficult for him to go on the campaign trail,” Huckabee said. “I did not ask for that, and I would not expect that.”

Through a spokesman, Dobson also declined to describe the conversation and cautioned against reading into why he didn’t appear with Huckabee.

“This was a long-planned private conversation between two friends and Dr. Dobson wanted to keep it that way,” said Gary Schneeberger, a Dobson spokesman. “It’s certainly not meant to temper his support of the governor.”

He said Dobson would not comment on a private meeting. Schneeberger also said Dobson was sensitive to IRS rules that restrict tax-exempt groups like Focus on the Family from getting involved in politics. When Dobson endorses political candidates, he emphasizes he is speaking as an individual and not for the group.

Many political observers believe Huckabee, with 254 delegates, doesn’t have a chance of catching McCain, who has 958 delegates of the 1,191 needed to win the nomination. Romney, who dropped out of the race earlier this month after picking up 280 delegates, has endorsed McCain.

That hasn’t discouraged Huckabee.

“There’s 46 delegates at stake in Colorado that could be mine,” Huckabee told dozens of cheering supporters.

Dick Wadhams, Colorado chair of the Republican Party, said that that the Feb. 5 caucus — where Huckabee came in third after Romney and McCain — was a “preference poll” and that delegates are still up for grabs.

Huckabee also commented about a New York Times article Thursday alleging that McCain’s staffers were concerned about a relationship with a female lobbyist during his first presidential run eight years ago. McCain and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, have denied they had a romantic relationship.

“My only experience with (McCain) as a fellow candidate the past 14 months is a positive one,” Huckabee said. “I see him as a man of integrity. He’s denied the allegations in the New York Times article. I have no reason to doubt him.”

Mimi Hailes, 50, of Colorado Springs has been working on Huckabee’s campaign in Colorado and it was thrill to meet him and see him person.

“I told him that I’ve been praying for him and that I pray for him every day,” Hailes said. “I’m very hopeful that he’s still going to be our candidate.”

Enthusiastic crowd cheers Huckabee in Houston

About 250 enthusiastic supporters chanted “We like Mike” Thursday morning as Republican long-shot presidential candidate Mike Huckabee brought his campaign to Houston.

“Your vote on March 4 is not going to be wasted if it’s a vote for me,” Huckabee told the cheering crowd. “If we win Texas, everything changes.”

The former Arkansas governor spoke at a campaign rally at the Renaissance Hotel in Greenway Plaza.

Political pundits nationwide are saying John McCain has the GOP nomination wrapped up, but Huckabee is telling Texans they might be able to turn the tide in favor of his conservative candidacy, in which he has stumped for building a Mexican border wall to keep out illegal immigrants and replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.

“Here’s a man who’s not willing to compromise,” said Houstonian Rachel Williams, a coordinator for a major chain pharmacy store. “He’s got guts in today’s political society, where he stands up and says ‘Nope, this is the way it should be, regardless of what the regular politicians say.’ That’s what I love about him.”

Timothy Ruggiero traveled from Decatur to see Huckabee.

“He’s honest, and I think he can be the best representative of people of faith and good Christian family values,” said Ruggiero, 43, a loss prevention manager for a major bookstore chain.

Huckabee’s willingness to carry on his campaign when many say it already is lost is a big draw, Ruggiero said.

“This is a good testimony to him that he sticks with it when times are tough,” Ruggiero said.

The rally crowd ran the age gamut.

Eric Newman, 21, of Pasadena said Huckabee’s conservative views drew him to the event.

“Such as his position on abortion, gay marriage,” Newman said of the former Baptist minister, who is opposed to both.

Huckabee said he may carry on his campaign even if he loses Texas.

Texans’ “willingness to vote for me, to vote for the strong, conservative principles that I think are bedrock to Texas Republicans, will send a very clear message that this is a party that will not move away from the reasons that many people became Republicans,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee trails McCain in delegate count by 957 to 256, with McCain needing 1,191 needed to win the nomination at the national convention this summer.

“He doesn’t have them yet,” Huckabee told the cheering crowd.

Although he is battling McCain for the nomination, he said he considers the Arizona senator an honorable man and believes McCain’s denial of suggestions that he may have engaged in a romantic relationship with a female telecommunications lobbyist.

Huckabee said he plans to spend today raising funds and meeting with supporters in Houston, then move on to other parts of the state in the next couple of weeks.

kevin.moran@chron.com

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