Does Barack Obama have a problem with religion?
Well, okay, there’s the obvious one, but Sean Hannity and Mike Huckabee recently sat down to discuss whether or not a recent White House meeting with a group of atheist leaders suggests anything more:
HANNITY: The Obama administration earlier today rolled out the red carpet for a coalition of atheist groups. Now, among the individuals in attendance was Michael Newdow. That’s the California man who sued unsuccessfully to have the words “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, religious groups, however, have not received this kind of treatment from the Obama White House. Now, last year, the President distanced himself from the National Day of Prayer, canceling the formal service traditionally held in honor of the day and refusing to attend a Catholic prayer breakfast. So what’s going on? Has the administration demonstrated a pattern of hostility towards religion, or is this merely a coincidence?
HUCKABEE: There certainly has been a coolness toward the very people that he spent an enormous amount of time courting during the campaign. You may remember the really wonderful forum that was held at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren. Also, there were many attempts, Obama brought a number of evangelical leaders together and met with them during the campaign. There were some surprising endorsements from many Christian leaders, particularly evangelicals and pro-life people because they said that, ‘he’s really open to us, he’s listening to us,’ but I’ve talked personally to some of those very people who are very disappointed and feel like it was a campaign type of approach, not serious from the White House.
It would have been interesting to learn more about what transpired at the meeting (which Obama did not personally attend), but the conversation almost immediately veered off into Huckabee’s interview with Michelle Obama, Jeremiah Wright, the recent healthcare summit, and whether or not Huckabee plans a 2010 run (be still, my beating heart!). Silly me for expecting to learn something about a cable news segment’s stated topic by watching it.
- “child medical neglect” — Many religious child care centers are exempted from the health and safety regulations under which secular health centers are run.
- “military proselytizing” — The coalition asserts that the increasing number of evangelical Christians in the military is causing religious discrimination and that these Christians believe they must promote Christianity as part of their military duty.
- “faith-based initiatives” — The coalition says the Bush administration created programs like the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to unconstitutionally funnel money to religious institutions.
The Secular Coalition for America might have legitimate complaint about the first point, though I’m wary of taking their word for it that their horror story is indicative of a broader trend. The same goes for potential discrimination against atheist soldiers (but not the constitutionality of military chaplains, a tradition that dates back to Washington), especially considering that there are apparently also chaplains who have a problem with people who are too religious. And while funding today’s faith-based initiatives might not square with a conservative view of the federal government’s role, the Founding generation certainly wouldn’t have seen it as violating the First Amendment, if their record is any indication.
Predictably, atheists are mad at Hannity’s report, and not entirely without reason—it turns out that, contrary to Sean’s claims, God-hating activist Michael Newdow didn’t actually attend the meeting, and Media Matters managed to scare up examples of Obama meeting with numerous religious leaders, invalidating the hypocrisy insinuation. Note to Fox: fact-check! Of course, these things are bound to happen when you spend less than two minutes on the segment’s stated topic…
Regardless of who Obama meets with, religious conservatives who ever believed Obama was interested in their concerns have been deluding themselves from the start—his pro-abortion zealotry always stood in stark contrast to his empty “reducing abortions” talk, no matter how his religious backers tried to spin it, and many of us still need to come to grips with the fact that there’s nothing conservative about the leftist agenda many religious figures try to pass off as God’s work.
So, to recap: does Barack Obama have a problem with religion? Among those committed to the right to life and traditional marriage, yes. But he also knows that he has other devout Americans right where he wants them.