President Obama

Obama: U.S. Will Not 'Close Our Hearts' to Syrian Refugees

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"The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

"When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable."

The No KXL Miracle

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They said it was a fool’s errand.

They said there was too much money on the other side.

They said the politics were too difficult.

And yet here we are.

As my friend Bill McKibben wrote in 2011, our indigenous brothers and sisters in Canada had been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline for years. But before August 2011, virtually no one in the U.S. had even heard of it.

Then I read the pastoral letter from Alberta’s Bishop Luc Bouchard, The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands, and I felt the Spirit calling me to action.

We put out a call to religious leaders to join the Tar Sands Blockade in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2011. It was hot. It was humid. It was summer in D.C. But hundreds and hundreds of Protestant pastors, rabbis, Buddhist priests, Franciscans, Unitarians, and Christians of all stripes said they would come.

Obama Names 18 New Faith-Based Council Advisers

The Rev. Carroll Baltimore. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

President Obama on Sept. 24 announced the names of 18 people who will serve on his third advisory council on faith-based issues.

They include leaders of religious groups and nonprofits — from a former president of a historic black denomination to the head of an anti-hunger group to an executive of a Sikh organization.

History Facing History: When Pope and President Meet

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When President Obama meets with Pope Francis tomorrow, the world will catch a glimpse of what history looks like. The first pope from the global South in 1200 years will be welcomed in the White House by the first African-American president of the United States. This picture will be worth far, far more than a thousand words.

Pundits will analyze each public word spoken, and search for hints about the private words exchanged between these two. The politics of Pope Francis’ interaction with the President, and later with Congress, will fuel incessant speculation from Washington’s insiders. But around the world, and particularly in the global South, it’s the symbol of this meeting which will matter.

Pope Francis represents the changing face of world Christianity. Today, one billion Christians are found in Latin America and Africa. In 1980, more Christians were found in the global South than in the North for the first time in a thousand years. Every day, that movement accelerates. Francis’ words about the world’s injustices, and his actions of humble human solidarity, project the voice and longings of world Christianity’s new majority and resonant far beyond the boundaries of this faith.

President Obama symbolizes the changing demographics of America. Hope and demographics elected him in 2008, and by 2012 the changing face of the electorate in the U.S. proved determinative of America’s political future. Today, a majority of babies born in the U.S. are non-white, and some major urban areas already reflect the coming reality of a society without a racial majority.

Support the Iran Deal. It's Time to Be Peacemakers.

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Here are the politics of the Iran nuclear deal: Congress returns next week from its summer recess, and among the first orders of business will be taking up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, recently negotiated with Iran in Vienna by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

Opponents of the agreement had hoped to use the August break to sway undecided members of Congress. It didn’t happen. Instead, yesterday, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the 34th senator to publicly support the accord— meaning there are enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of any bill intended to kill it.

Now, here is a faith perspective: For Christians, this is a victory for peace and diplomacy over another bloody and destructive war. It is a time when common sense wins over bombast — when reality wins over rhetoric.

Weekly Wrap 8.14.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. This Is What It’s Like Being a Gay Christian Rock Star 
 A year after Christian singer Vicky Beeching announced she is gay, BuzzFeed followed up with the songstress on reactions from the Christian community and her life since. “At times it felt like there wasn’t much respect for me as a person. It was either ‘We’re going to grab her as a mascot’ or ‘We’re going to shoot her as an example of this evil.’ For many conservative Christians, I became a sign that people were slipping down a slippery slope into unimaginable sin. People forget there’s a person hiding under a duvet wondering if they’re going to have a life left.” 

Iran Nuclear Deal: Strategic, Scientific — and Christian

Iran Deal Reached

Flags aligned for photo at the U.N. in Vienna on July 14. Photo by European External Action Service /

Later this week, President Obama will deliver a major speech promoting the Iran nuclear agreement at American University. I’m looking forward to the speech, both as an AU alum and someone closely following the upcoming Senate vote on the nuclear agreement. We know President Obama will make the strategic and scientific cases for the deal; I hope he makes the moral case as well.

President Obama has twice chosen the university in northwest D.C. to deliver major speeches, but it was also the site of President Kennedy’s landmark speech on peace and nuclear disarmament in 1963, where he declared, “While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests” and “the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.”

President Obama Should Visit Solitary Confinement Cell to See True Suffering

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The critique President Obama articulated of solitary confinement in this week’s speech to the NAACP on criminal justice is truly remarkable. Never before has this president, or any president, spoken about the mistreatment of people in U.S. prisons with such clarity and compassion.

When he spoke, the president echoed what people of faith across the country have advocated for years: Solitary confinement is an affront to our deeply held moral convictions.

Directing the attorney general to review solitary confinement is exactly what is needed to begin the process of ending this immoral practice. Faith leaders hope that with Obama’s scheduled visit to the Federal Correctional Institution El Reno in Oklahoma on July 16, he will ask to see the solitary confinement section. If the president misses a chance to see such a unit, he, and thus the nation, will develop an inaccurate picture of the true suffering and neglect that lie deep inside our U.S. prison system.

When the president named solitary confinement as one of those prison conditions "that have no place in any civilized country," he made a statement of values loud and clear — that the inherent human dignity of people does not end at the prison gates.

Confederate Flags Greet Obama in Oklahoma

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A crowd greeted the president in Oklahoma City, Okla., Wednesday night by waving Confederate flags, POLITICO reports

Confederate flags are a rare sight in Oklahoma, which was not a member of the confederacy. 

According to POLITICO: 

Across the street from [President Obama's] hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, as many as 10 people waved the flags as his motorcade arrived. The group stood among a larger group of demonstrators, many of them there to support the president, who is in town ahead of a visit to a federal prison on Thursday as part of his weeklong push on criminal justice issues.

According to local news organizations, a man named Andrew Duncomb, who calls himself the “black rebel,” organized the Confederate flag demonstration. He also put together a similar protest on Saturday at the Oklahoma State Capitol — just a day after South Carolina removed its contested flag from the State Capitol grounds. His Facebook page features photos from that rally.

The president is scheduled to visit a federal prison today, the first acting president to do so. Read the full story here.