Entries in Religion (29)


Tulsi Gabbard, Mazie Hirono Break Congressional Barriers for Non-Christians

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard - Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Tuesday's election brought some religious firsts for Congress, with a victory for Tulsi Gabbard, who will be the first Hindu congresswoman, and Mazie Hirono, the first Buddhist senator. Both are Democrats from Hawaii.

For a country whose founding principles include religious freedom, the American government has a history of being almost homogenous with respect to religion.

Half a century ago it was almost unthinkable for some that a Catholic could win the presidency.

But just as leaders have broken racial and gender barriers over the years, so too are non-Christian candidates moving forward.

Former Deputy Historian for the House of Representatives Fred Beuttler pointed to the 110th Congress, elected in 2006, as a win for religious plurality. That's the year a Muslim, Keith Ellison, D-Mich., and two Buddhists, Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Hirono from Hawaii, were elected to the House.

Hirono is now leaving her House seat to become a senator. Tulsi Gabbard will succeed her.

"Tulsi never ran as a Hindu or thought of the campaign in that way," Gabbard campaign spokesman Jim McCoy said in an email. "However, after her victory there was a huge outpouring of joy and elation from Hindus throughout America and even in India. So although Tulsi has never seen it as a 'victory for Hindus,' it's clear that Hindus in America now feel less marginalized than they had prior to her election."

Beuttler attributed the changing makeup of the government to religious changes in the American population.

"The House is a very representative institution by its design," Beuttler said. As Americans become more diverse, "you expect to see more religious diversity in the House."

During the campaign, Congresswoman-elect Gabbard took some heat for her religion. In an interview on CNN, her opponent said her beliefs don't align with the U.S. constitution. But McCoy said Gabbard refused to get caught up in that issue.

Now that the race is over, Gabbard is still directing the public away from her personal beliefs.

"While I understand all of the interest about my being the first Hindu elected to Congress, I feel that of greater importance is the fact that Tammy Duckworth and I will be the first women combat veterans ever to serve in Congress in our country's history," Gabbard wrote to ABC News in an email. "Thousands and thousands of women in our armed forces have given their lives and made tremendous sacrifices, so to have the voice of women combat veterans in Congress is a very important milestone."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Number of Americans Without Religious Affiliation on the Rise

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 20 percent of Americans do not identify with any particular religion, according to a new poll. The number is much higher among younger Americans, according to the survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

For the first time less than half of Americans – 48 percent – consider themselves to be Protestant. One third of Americans under 30 do not identify with a religion. Pew calls them “nones.”

In 1972, only 7 percent of Americans did not identify with a religion, according to Pew.

The number of Christians has fallen by 5 percent, according to the survey. Those affiliated with “other religions” has risen by more than 2 percent. And the number not identifying with a particular religion has gone up more than 4 percent since 2007.

Those without a specific religion are not necessarily nonbelievers. In fact most of them do believe in a higher power of some kind. About 30 percent of the “nones” are “absolutely certain” there is a God or universal spirit. Seven percent of the U.S. population and 27 percent of those not affiliated with a religion believe there is no God or universal spirit.

The number of Americans who attend church “seldom or never” has climbed from 25 percent in a 2003 Pew survey to 29 percent today.

All this paints an interesting picture of American religious life, and according to the survey, could have political consequences. “Nones” seem to favor Democrats.

Here is a passage from Pew’s report:
With their rising numbers, the religiously unaffiliated are an increasingly important segment of the electorate. In the 2008 presidential election, they voted as heavily for Barack Obama as white evangelical Protestants did for John McCain. More than six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated registered voters are Democrats (39%) or lean toward the Democratic Party (24%). They are about twice as likely to describe themselves as political liberals than as conservatives, and solid majorities support legal abortion (72%) and same-sex marriage (73%). In the last five years, the unaffiliated have risen from 17% to 24% of all registered voters who are Democrats or lean Democratic.

Democrats may do better among those not identifying with religion, but it is still quite difficult to be an elected official in the United States as an atheist. A Pew study in 2011 found that 61 percent of Americans would be less likely to support a candidate that didn’t believe in God. Only 46 percent would be less likely to support a candidate that had an extramarital affair.

There is only one member of Congress who considers himself an atheist – Rep. Pete Stark of California.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Talks God on the Campaign Trail

Geoff Burke/Getty Images(MANSFIELD, Ohio) -- With the party conventions in the rearview mirror and Election Day less than two months away, Mitt Romney has found God once again.

At a campaign rally in Mansfield, Ohio, on Monday, Romney pledged that, if elected, “I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.”

His promise in Ohio on Monday echoed his remarks in Virginia on Saturday when Romney led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“That pledge says ‘under God,’ and I will not take God out of our platform,” Romney told a Virginia Beach crowd. “I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart.”

This relatively new line in Romney’s stump speech is partly a reaction to the Democratic Party’s platform debacle at their convention in Charlotte, N.C. last week. Democrats initially removed the phrase “God-given” from the platform, but at President Obama’s urging, the language was later added back -- and approved.

On Monday, Romney omitted his assurance not to “take God off our coins” from his speech in Ohio. But over the weekend, that line sparked a feisty response from Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith who said that Romney’s implication that Democrats ever suggested removing religious references from the currency was "extreme and untrue.”

It was not the first time Romney used the line, but it appears to be the first time in a while.

In a Feb. 2007 interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Romney about his views on the separation of church and state.

“Well, we have a separation of church and state in this country, and we should and it’s served us well,” Romney told Stephanopoulos at the time. “I don’t believe, for instance, we should take ‘Under God’ out of the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t think we should take ‘In God We Trust’ off of our coins. There’s a point at which we take something which is a good principle to an extreme.”

More recently, in a questionnaire Romney filled out for Cathedral Age, a magazine produced by the Washington National Cathedral, he pledged to “acknowledge the Creator, as did the Founders -- in ceremony and word.”

“In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning,” Romney wrote. “They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God.”

But Romney’s new emphasis on God in his stump speech likely goes beyond the controversy over the Democratic Party platform.

Republican strategist and former communications director to Rick Santorum, Hogan Gidley, said Romney was smart to include the religious reference for two reasons: “So that voters realize he’s focused on the economy -- and not going to waste his time trying to take God out of our lives and so that the vast majority of people who believe in that God know that he’s talking to them.”

Another GOP strategist noted that the new lines “allow Romney to make the sale with evangelicals -- who, despite what they say, are still unsure about electing a Mormon to office.”

According to a July Pew Research Center poll, among the 66 percent of white evangelicals who know that Romney is Mormon, 23 percent said his faith makes them “uncomfortable.” However, as the survey points out: “Overwhelming majorities of Republican and Republican-leaning voters who know Romney is Mormon support him, whether they are comfortable with his religion or not.”

One more reason for Romney to highlight “God” in his stump speech, this GOP strategist said: “It allows him to drive Catholic votes out of working-class states like Ohio. Between the contraception issue, the convention debacle, there is a mounting argument to be made to voters of traditional faiths that the president and his party are anti-God. It’s an effective cudgel if you’re trying to drive turnout and convince uncertain evangelicals.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan Hits ‘God’ Absence from DNC Platform

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(ADEL, Iowa) -- Paul Ryan weighed in Wednesday on the Democrats’ 2012 platform, which makes no reference to “God,” calling the omission “rather peculiar.”

“It’s not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision, but I guess you would have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform,” Ryan said on Fox News.

The word God is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The word “Nature’s God” appears once in the Declaration of Independence, alongside mention of the word “Creator.”

The new platform refers to faith, saying it “has always been a central part of the American story.”  It also says the U.S. was founded on the principle of religious freedom and the ability of people to worship as they please. It praises the work of faith-based organizations.

Republicans have sought to highlight the absence of the word God from Democrats’ platform. “God” was mentioned once in Democrats’ 2008 platform. The 2012 GOP platform mentions God 12 times. Democrats also left out two sentences from the platform draft that identified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a pledge to “isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism.”

As for leaving out the mention of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Ryan called it “tragic” because “this is one of the few issues where the Republican Party and the Democratic Party agreed.”

Jerusalem is declared the capital of Israel in the RNC platform.

“To see this kind of language, this acknowledgement removed from their party platform is really kind of disappointing,” Ryan said.

At a rally in Iowa, Paul Ryan mentioned the DNC again, previewing Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention this evening saying he thinks the former president will look back at the time he was in the White House rather than the “last four years.”

“We are going to hear from President Clinton tonight in Charlotte,” Ryan said. “My guess is we will get a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s, but we’re not going to hear much about how things have been the last four years.”

Ryan even mentioned some of Clinton’s successes including welfare reform and accused President Obama of “rolling back welfare reform.”  He noted that Clinton worked across the aisle with Congress, while Obama is a “gusher of new spending and only demagoguery from those of us who have offered solutions.”

“Under President Clinton, we got welfare reform,” Ryan told a crowd of several hundred people. “Chuck Grassley, everybody else in Congress — we got welfare reform, which moved people from welfare to work to get people out of poverty. President Obama is rolling back welfare reform. President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to have a budget agreement, to cut spending.”

Ryan’s welfare attack has been widely debunked. Instead of “rolling back” the work requirement, the Obama administration is responding to requests from both Democratic and Republican governors to allow states to apply for a waiver to administer the work requirements in their states. The Romney campaign has used this as a line of attack, accusing the president of wanting to gut the work requirement.

The Obama campaign immediately responded, calling the attack a “lie.”

“While the Congressman has proven his willingness to ignore the truth, even he should know that President Clinton has joined with every independent fact checker, news organization, and a Republican architect of welfare reform in calling the welfare attack blatantly false,” Obama spokesperson Danny Kanner said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dems Shift Language on Israel, Remove ‘God-Given’ from Platform

Alex Wong/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — For Democrats, there is no God in 2012 — at least as far as the party’s platform is concerned. Nor is there a Jerusalem. Democrats removed those two words, and the passages surrounding them, from the 2012 party platform as it was released this week.

In Charlotte on Monday, the Democratic National Committee released its 2012 party platform after the DNC Platform Committee approved it under the leadership of Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker. The Platform Drafting Committee, led by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, gathered feedback for an initial draft in Minneapolis over the summer.

Gone are three sentences identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There is no mention of Jerusalem in the 2012 document, after the 2008 version included this mention:

  • Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.

Also gone is this reference to Hamas:

  • The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.

President Obama has publicly endorsed a two-state solution for Israel. Disagreements between his administration and Israel have at times become public, as the president has opposed new settlement construction, and the Jewish state’s more hawkish supporters have relentlessly criticized him for his handling of U.S./Israeli relations.

“The Obama Administration has followed the same policy towards Jerusalem that previous U.S. Administrations of both parties have done since 1967,” a DNC spokeswoman said of the change in platform language. “As the White House said several months ago, the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – which we also said in the 2008 platform. We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.”

Also gone is a previous reference to “God.”

The Democratic Party’s 2008 platform mentioned “God” once, in this passage (emphasis added):

  • We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.

Explaining the removal, a Democratic official explained: “The 2008 platform reference is ‘God-given’ and is about growing the middle class and making America fair, not actually about faith. The platform includes an entire plank on the importance of faith based organizations and the tremendous work that they do. Further, the language we use to talk about faith and religion is exactly the same vocabulary as 2008. I would also note that the platform mentions: ‘faith’ 11 times; ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ 9 times; ‘church’ 2 times (one is a quote); and, ‘clergy’ 1 time.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio, a Catholic, Remembers Little of His Time in the Mormon Church

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Florida governor Marco Rubio, whose name is being floated as a potential top pick running mate for Republican Mitt Romney, said recently that he doesn’t remember much about his family’s time in the Mormon church.

“Well, I was very young,” Rubio said in a recent interview. “I don’t remember a lot other than the fact that my parents, especially my mom, really wanted to put us in a very wholesome environment.”

Rubio is expected to discuss his connection to the Mormon Church in his upcoming autobiography An American Son, to be released June 19.

Rubio now identifies himself as Catholic, despite reportedly attending evangelical churches at times.

“On the question of my religion, I’m a Roman Catholic,” he said. “I’ve been a Roman Catholic, baptized and confirmed, and we go to church on Sundays. And I enjoy my Catholic faith.”

Rubio said he respects those who have adopted the Mormon faith and believes they are Christians.

“Yeah, look, I don’t get into that whole debate, I’m not a theologian,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the Mormon Church; I have a lot of respect for members of the Mormon faith. They believe in Jesus Christ, and they consider themselves Christians and I consider them Christians.”

Rubio’s ties to Mormonism first surfaced in February when a report by Buzzfeed indicated he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a child. According to family members, the conversion occurred while his family lived in the same Nevada neighborhood as his aunt’s family, who had converted to Mormonism years before. Michelle Denis, a cousin of Rubio, recounted the young Rubio encouraging his family to be active participants in their new church.

“He was totally into it,” Denis told Buzzfeed. “He’s always been into religion. Football and religion. Those were his things.”

Family members told Buzzfeed that the Rubios left the church when they relocated to Miami. Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, said the family left the church before they moved from Nevada.

But Denis said he was the instrumental force in moving the family back to Catholicism, receiving his first communion at age 13.

“He really convinced the whole family to switch religions,” she told Buzzfeed. “He’s very vocal so he convinced them all to become Catholic.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Says Easter Story Puts His Challenges In Perspective

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Reflecting on his Christian faith, President Obama said Wednesday that the story of Easter puts the challenges he faces into perspective and inspires him to overcome troubled times.

“We all have experiences that shake our faith.  There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph,” the president explained at an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.

Obama went on to read from the book of John, quoting Jesus saying “In this world, you will have trouble.” The line received an “Amen” from the audience of Christian leaders, inciting laughter from the president.

“I heard an amen,” he said chuckling. “Let me repeat.  ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’”

“Amen” the audience repeated.

“‘But take heart!’”  the president said through laughter as he continued to quote the scripture.  “’I have overcome the world.’ We are here today to celebrate that glorious overcoming, the sacrifice of a risen savior who died so that we might live.  And I hope that our time together this morning will strengthen us individually, as believers, and as a nation.”  

The president suggested that Christ overcame fears that make today’s challenges seem small by comparison. “The struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us.  It helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face.  It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with.  And it gives us courage and it gives us hope,” he said.

The president opened the annual breakfast joking that the event marked “the calm before the storm” of next Monday’s Easter Egg Roll. “In less than a week, this house will be overrun by thousands of kids,” he quipped. “So I wanted to get together with you for a little prayer and reflection.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich: It Should ‘Bother’ Obama That People Think He’s Muslim

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(FOURCHON, La.) -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is amping up his language on President Obama’s faith and his relationship with Muslims.  Gingrich told ABC News Friday that he takes the president at his word that he’s a Christian, but finds it “very bizarre” that Obama is “desperately concerned to apologize to Muslim religious fanatics.”

Gingrich said the president’s apology to the Afghan president for the burning Korans by U.S. soldiers happened last month “while they are killing young Americans,” referring to the two Americans killed during protests over the burned books. Gingrich said at the same time, the administration is “going to war against the Catholic Church and against every right-to- life Protestant organization in the country.”

Asked by a member of the press if it concerns him that a large portion of the electorate believes Obama is a Muslim, Gingrich replied, “It should bother the president.”

“Why does the president behave the way that people would think that? You have to ask why would they believe that? It’s not because they’re stupid. It’s because they watch the kind of things I just described to you,” Gingrich said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Santorum: JFK’s 1960 Speech Made Me Want to Throw Up

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said on Sunday that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.”

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up.  What kind of country do we live [in] that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum said.

Santorum also said he does not believe in an America where the separation of church and state is “absolute.”

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country,” Santorum said. “This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, ‘faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marco Rubio, Mormon-Turned-Catholic

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Marco Rubio has something in common with Mitt Romney: religion.

The young Tea Party senator, who some have speculated could be on Mitt Romney’s short list of potential running mates, was baptized into the Mormon church when he was 8 and “remained active in the faith for a number of years,” attending LDS youth groups and walking to church most Sundays because his mother didn’t drive, BuzzFeed reports.

Rubio left Mormonism to become a Catholic “a few years later,” and had his first Communion when he was 13, in 1984, the Florida senator’s spokesman told the website.

Romney’s faith has occasionally been a topic of discussion in the Republican primary. Many Americans are unfamiliar with Mormonism, a Christian religion that has been called a cult by a pastor who endorsed Rick Perry and even by Romney’s chief rival, Rick Santorum.

The revelation muddies the prospects of Rubio’s getting the vice presidential nod from Romney. Though many conservatives love Rubio — he overwhelmingly won a straw poll for vice presidential nominee at an annual gathering of conservatives in Washington this month — the bottom of the ticket is often used for balancing a variety of attributes.

BuzzFeed says that its questions to Rubio’s aides about his religion “appear to have sent them into frantic damage-control mode.” The Miami Herald published a blog mentioning Rubio’s Mormon roots just before Rubio’s spokesman called the website to confirm the story. The spokesman said Rubio plans to write about his Mormon faith in a book.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio