President Trump is reportedly considering naming former Baylor University President Ken Starr to head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
The ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and develops programs to promote religious freedom, according to the State Department website.
On Nov. 26, Art Sisneros, a Texas presidential elector and Republican, announced in a blog post his resignation from the Electoral College and the reason behind his decision. “I do not see how Donald Trump is biblically qualified to serve in the office of the Presidency,” Sisneros wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union collected more than $11 million and 150,000 new members. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Twitter account gained 9,000 followers. And the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and other bigotries, saw donations increase fiftyfold.
In the days since Donald Trump won the presidency, these spikes, in support for groups that defend religious and other minorities, speak to a fear that the president-elect will trample on their rights — or at least empower those who would.
For the second time in less than a year, the Gallup poll reports that a majority of Americans would vote for an atheist for president.
The latest survey, from June, found that 54 percent of those asked said they would vote a “well- qualified” atheist into the Oval Office — the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, when only 18 percent said they would back a nonbeliever.
On the other hand, the survey showed that those who do not believe in God still come in behind every other group polled for, including gays and lesbians (68 percent) and Muslims (58 percent).
Still, an imaginary atheist candidate passed the 50 percent threshold for the first time when Gallup asked the question in August 2011, so the trend is upward.
“We have seen an enormous change over time in the willingness to vote for an atheist,” said Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, which reports the numbers in its current newsletter.
“But I think the numbers also remind us that this is a deeply religious country. That doesn’t mean we are all going to church on Sunday, but that having religion in your life is valuable to most Americans and I think that explains the resistance.”
Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio.
We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled.
Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on God’s Politics.
~ Cathleen Falsani