Say this for President Obama: His troll game is strong. During his opening remarks welcoming Pope Francis, he abandoned his “freedom to worship” language and instead said: “People are only free when they can practice their faith freely.” And that, “We in the United States cherish our religious liberty.” The Little Sisters of the Poor surely appreciated this.
For his part, Pope Francis opened with an oblique argument for religious liberty, too:
Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.
The other half of Francis’s remarks were spent on climate change, which were not oblique at all—but rather close to endorsement of a specific policy initiative. There’s some handwringing today from conservative Catholics upset about the pope being politicized, out of context, by people who can't understand the deep spiritual workings of the pontiff. This is the pope choosing to use his opening remarks to make common cause with a specific political policy initiative:
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home,” we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed . . .
And so on.
* * *
By the by, on further reflection, the pope’s dismissal of questions yesterday about his refusal to meet with Cuban dissidents is even worse that it sounded at first. Ben Domenech observes that Francis didn’t sound like a pope; he sounded like a politician trying to get out of an uncomfortable question:
If you have not read it, I would encourage you all to read this full transcript of the Pope’s interview on the plane from Cuba to America. It does not read like an interview with a faith leader, but with a politician. He is leaving a meeting with an explicitly anti-Christian Communist dictator, and he is being asked why he would glad-hand with a dying tyrant while ignoring the many dissidents who wanted to meet with him. He even suggests that those who accuse him of political idiocy are extremists who assess him on the basis of his shoes instead of his ideas. The interview reads like one of a cornered politician, defensive and old, not crafty enough to work around the not very clever questions from journalists. The part where he offers “Hey, maybe one of the wheelchair guys was a dissident?” reads like a line from Veep. They are the answers of somebody embarrassed by the real answer.
But what’s really damning is when Domenech contrasts Francis in Cuba with John Paul II in Poland:
This is not always the way it was. Contrast with John Paul II, on 2 June 1979, in Warsaw. He was 59 to Francis’s 78, a young Pope, a Polish Pope, speaking less than a year after his selection. He was speaking in the heart of Soviet military power in Eastern Europe, an occupied capital, under the guns. Over a million people turn out to see him. It is perhaps the largest Mass in the history of the Catholic Church… until the following week in Krakow, when two million will turn out. He is standing in a city run by a government dedicated to atheistic Communism, to subservience to Soviet power, to the rejection of faith and the domination of every thought to the service of the collective.
Because presidential politics are as much about in-group signaling as actual policy, Ben Carson is locked in a media-generated controversy about whether or not he’d be down with having a Muslim president. Carson was asked about this deeply-important question on Meet the Press. He said no.
Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson says that the Islamic State wants to be viewed as Islamic, but they aren't.
During an interview at the Aspen Security Forum, the interviewer asks if Johnson and DHS are missing the religious dimension of the terrorism we face by denying that it's inspired by Islam. "I couldn't disagree more," Johnson says.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, while dictating one of the most sweeping social changes in history in his opinion in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage across America, waxes magnanimous towards foes of the expansion of the millennia-old definition of marriage.
Ever since the environmental movement began it has had a religious fervor: Like God, Earth is always capitalized, and there is an annual celebration, Earth Day, rather like holidays celebrated by other religions. Of course, the dogmas of green religionists have changed over time: Prophecies of a new Ice Age gave way to forecasts of global warming, and those to a more all-purpose fear of climate change. Fair enough.
Speaking Tuesday at the 45th Annual Washington Conference of the Council of the Americas, Secretary of State John Kerry said that "countries are far more likely to advance economically and socially when citizens have faith in their governments and are able to rely on them for justice and equal treatment under the law." Kerry said that a "new kind of relationship" with Latin American countries, emphasizing democracy and human rights, will contribute to "our common ag
Secretary of State John Kerry has often spoken to the Muslim world during his tenure, particularly during the past year as negotiations with Iran have intensified and conflict with the Islamic State has escalated. But what Kerry has not said during the past twelve months is also significant. A review of the secretary's official remarks and statements noting special dates on Islamic, Perisan, and Arab calendars shows a sharp contrast to his relative silence on Christian and Jewish occasions.
During President Obama's tenure, religious Americans have been increasingly marginalized by an administration that can be intolerant or at least unaccomodating of beliefs that conflict with its policies, regulations, or legislative goals. Perhaps most notably, President Obama campaigned by expressing support for traditional marriage, more than once citing his Christianity as the basis for his position, a position he later "evolved" away from. This has not stopped the president, however, from invoking scripture in support of other items on his agenda.
In an effort to sign up as many consumers as possible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to partner with churches and other faith-based groups, even publishing sample church bulletin inserts, flyers, and scripts for announcements, as well as "talking points." These materials are part of the "
Ben Carson is warming to the idea of running for president. Since the famous brain surgeon retired last year from Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s been speaking around the country to enthusiastic audiences. And they’ve affected his thinking about seeking national office.
On March 24, World Vision, one of the nation’s best-known Christian relief and development nonprofits and one of the world’s largest charities, announced that it would no -longer exclude from employment, on its stateside staff of 1,100, Christians who are in legal same-sex marriages. Two days later, having heard from church partners and supporters who disagreed with the decision, the board rescinded it. Thus, as before, no one in a same-sex marriage may work for World Vision.