President Obama

President Obama's AIPAC Speech and Reaction

http://youtu.be/A0rFbP6KvxY

In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."

Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House.  Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

Senate Rejects Conscience Clause Change to Contraception Rule

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., at a news conference Thursday in the Capitol. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led bid to insert a broad religious exemption into a federal mandate that requires most employers and health insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage.

The largely party-line vote was 51-48 in favor of tabling an amendment that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had offered to a federal transportation bill.

Blunt and other Republicans had argued that the measure would protect the religious liberty of institutions such as Catholic charities and hospitals that object to contraception on moral grounds.

"It's not just the Catholic Church," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said during the floor debate on Thursday. "It's a moral and religious issue that should not be interfered with by the federal government."

Franklin Graham Apologizes for Questioning Obama's Christian Faith

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized 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 Tuesday 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.

Farrakhan Waxes Anti-Semitic (Again) at NOI's "Saviors' Day" Celebration

Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Farrakhan speaking in Chicago, 2008. Photo via Getty Images.

Jewish leaders on Monday denounced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after he delivered a four-hour speech on Sunday that was laced with anti-Semitic statements about Jewish control of the media. 

Speaking to thousands of supporters during the 82nd annual Saviors' Day celebration in Chicago, Farrakhan accused "Zionists" of trying to push America into war with Iran and dubbed Al-Jazeera, the Dubai-based news channel, as "Al Jew-zeera."

"I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm just telling the truth," Farrakhan asserted, alleging that Jews were responsible for a controversial 2008 cover of The New Yorker that depicted President Obama in Muslim garb.

Experts Challenge Santorum’s Remarks Linking College to Faith Loss

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 late last week 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 Baptists' LifeWay 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.

Conversation on Prayer with President Obama

Prayer image via Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?

Prayer image via Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=46427416)

In fact, President Obama, himself, had a puzzled look as he said, “Hello Eugene.” So, I had to introduce myself to him and explained to him that I was a pastor here in Seattle and involved with some other work. We chit-chatted briefly about stuff but there is something I very specifically remember and I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this portion of our conversation.

I shared with President Obama that I occasionally but regularly prayed for him and this is how he responded:

“Thank you, Eugene. I really appreciate that. Can you also please pray for my wife and children? Pray for their protection.”

His demeanor changed. Perhaps, this is just me. Perhaps, I’m reading and analyzing too much into all the non-verbal cues but then again, I’m a pastor and after 21 years of doing ministry, you develop a “pastoral sense” and I genuinely sensed his gratitude for prayer and his request for prayer for his family.

Nonprofits Oppose Obama's Charitable Deduction Changes

Photo via Getty Images.

Photo via Getty Images.

For the fourth year in a row, President Obama is proposing lower tax deductions for the wealthy on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations. And for the fourth year in a row, nonprofit groups say the change would lead to a dramatic drop in charitable giving.

The reduction, included in Obama's 2013 budget proposal, rankled the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

"We were hoping this would not come up again this year. We asked that they not renew it, but unfortunately the request was not taken," said Nathan Diament, the group's Washington director. "It's a real concern."

Catholic Bishop on Contraception Mandate: Not Kosher.

Ham sandwich. Image by Marshall Astor via Wylio, http://bit.ly/zjSmtb.

Ham sandwich. Image by Marshall Astor via Wylio, http://bit.ly/zjSmtb.

WASHINGTON — Exhibit A in the fight over President Obama's mandate for religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception: a ham sandwich.

At a hearing Thursday convened by House Republicans to cast opposition to the mandate as a matter of religious liberty, Roman Catholic Bishop William E. Lori invoked the image of a kosher deli forced to sell ham sandwiches.

"The mandate generates the question whether people who believe — even if they believe in error — that pork is not good for you, should be forced by government to serve pork within their very own institutions.

"In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no," said Lori, the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the point man on religious liberty for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

News Analysis: Bishops’ Contraception Objections Fail the Church's Own Moral Reasoning

BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images

A woman shows condoms with a picture of Pope Benedict XVI, "I said No!" By BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images

The president's plan meant that religious employers — mainly Catholic universities, hospitals and social service agencies — would not be involved in paying for or administering something they deem sinful: contraception. At the same time, all employees would still have access to the same contraception benefit, no matter whom they work for.

Critics of the president's plan, however, didn't see it that way.

"Dangerous and insulting," a group of leading Catholic bishops wrote to their fellow churchmen. "A cheap accounting trick," Robert P. George, Mary Ann Glendon and several other leading culture warriors complained in an open letter that has generated more than 100 signers.

The "compromise," said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, "asks the parties involved to compromise their reasoning faculties and play a game of 'let's pretend' instead."

Yet that "game," as Douthat put it, is actually a venerable tradition in Catholic moral theology that for centuries has provided a way for Christians to think about acting virtuously in a fallen world.

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