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By Deacon Keith Fournier

6/17/2008 (7 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Clearly, the Democratic frontrunner has every intention of contending for the "faith and values" voter.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/17/2008 (7 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday June 10, 2008 the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, Senator Barack Obama, had an interesting meeting with a cross section of Christian leaders.

Borrowing a conference room from an acquaintance in a Chicago law firm, he sat down for prayer, openly bore witness to his Christian faith and then had what most accounts say was a vibrant discussion over sometimes difficult questions which were addressed to him by Christian leaders from Evangelical, mainline Protestant and Catholic circles.

Clearly, the Democratic frontrunner has every intention of contending for the "faith and values" voter, even if his position on one of the most important values that most of them hold dear, the right to life from conception to natural death, does not square with many of those present at the meeting.

In addition many question whether his support of Marriage as between one man and one woman is as strong as it needs to be given the recent occurrences in California and New York.

There were 30 leaders present at this meeting. According to several sources, the discussion covered the entire gambit of policy issues including marriage and family, homosexual rights, religious freedom, genocide, poverty in the United States and America's standing in the global community.

Those who gathered with the candidate on Tuesday represented a broad cross section of Christian leaders. Included were best selling author and evangelist, Bishop T.D. Jakes, who is immensely popular in the African American Christian community as well as the broader evangelical community, Hispanic Pastor Sam Rodriquez, the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

The best known of those who represented the Evangelical Protestant community were Franklin Graham and Richard Cizik, the Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Among those representing the Catholic community was the increasingly controversial Pro-Life Constitutional scholar Doug Kmiec, former dean of Catholic Univeristy Law School and Caruso Chair of Pepperdine University. Kmiec's endorsement of Senator Obama for President has caused quite a stir in the Pro-life Catholic community.

Reports indicate that no topic was off limits and that they were all, in one way or another, at least mentioned. Bishop Jakes, who has not endorsed a candidate and makes it a policy to not do so, told the Associated Press that the private meeting "went absolutely everywhere" and those who were present were of "just about every Christian stripe".

Cizik, a proponent of a growing social justice movement within the evangelical Protestant community which recognizes the implications of many other policy and political issues, including the stewardship of the environment and concern for the poor and the marginalized, indicated to the Associated Press that the candidate invited discussion on "anything that's on your mind that is of concern to you".

He continued "I think it's important to point out this isn't a group of people who are endorsing Obama...People were asked for their insider wisdom and understanding of the religious community." Finally, he noted that he had told Senator Obama in the meeting "Religious Americans want to know why is it you love this country and what it stands for and how we can make it better."

Mark DeMoss is the spokesman for Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and President of Samaritan's Purse, an international outreach to the poor and needy. He told the AP that Graham found Obama to be "impressive" and "warm". Further that "[Graham] feels that dialogue with someone who may be president is useful whether or not you agree with them on everything or anything".

Joshua Dubois is the Director of Religious Affairs for the Obama campaign. He indicates that the meeting was the beginning of many to come. He said that the candidate and Christian leaders "discussed policy issues and came together in conversation and prayer". It is reported that the meeting began and ended in prayer.

Another Obama aid claimed that "The purpose was not to line up endorsements." Still another said of the two hour long meeting "It never got heated..."but these issues are tough. Abortion is going to come up." Come up it did, "Three or four times, in fact." However, the aide added that the group also spoke of poverty, health care and Darfur.

One of the thirty participants indicated that "when he (Obama) talked about trying to bring people together on poverty or abortion reduction...there were a lot of nods in the room, even from some traditional Evangelicals who are frustrated with the lack of progress."

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