In a major liberal initiative to curtail discussion of President Obama’s religious identity, over 70 Christian leaders and denominational heads have signed a letter saying that questions about the religious philosophy of the President of the United States should be ignored and suppressed by the major media.
The letter demands that the media “offer no further support or airtime to those who misrepresent and call into question the President’s Christian faith.”
The apparent initiator of the letter is Obama associate Jim Wallis of the Sojourners group, a group funded by atheist George Soros.
The Eleison Group, which represents the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Wallis’s Sojourners group, arranged the release of the letter and has handled publicity for it. The Eleison Group’s purpose is to mobilize “more traditional progressive ‘base’ faith voters who are often overlooked in Democratic and progressive outreach.”
The president of the Eleison Group, Burns Strider, has served as an adviser to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and regional Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi, a liberal Catholic, invoked St. Joseph, revered for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Virgin Mary, in the successful push for passage of Obama’s socialized medicine plan.
The “airtime” alluded to in the letter has mostly been devoted to the controversy over opinion polls finding that significant numbers of people are confused about Obama’s religious identity and that some believe he is a Muslim.
The questions that have been offered by Accuracy in Media concern Obama’s claims about being baptized in the Christian faith. AIM believes that politicians should be held accountable for the claims they make about themselves, even on personal matters of religious faith.
Obama’s aides have claimed the President is a committed and practicing Christian and that he was baptized in Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. But he has gone to church only a few times since he became President.
“We understand that these are contentious times,” say the Christian leaders, “but the personal faith of our leaders should not be up for public debate.”
However, the First Amendment expressly permits not only freedom of religion but freedom of the press.
The Christian leaders say, “We believe that questioning, and especially misrepresenting, the faith of a confessing believer goes too far.” They do not identify who has misrepresented Obama’s faith.
But other releases from the Eleison Group attack Fox News, talk radio, and “right-wing misinformation” about Obama’s religious affiliation and views.
Strider and his associate, Eric Sapp, write, “The 4th Estate and reporters and editors who care about the truth need to wake up to what is happening. Bloggers and independent journalists need to rise up and demand accountability (even of those on our side). And all Americans need to hold our news organizations accountable.”
AIM also wants accountability. What AIM has done is quote directly from Obama’s books about his spiritual and political journey. We have pointed out that Obama’s claim about his own baptism, as reported in his second memoir, The Audacity of Hope, is subject to interpretation because of the lack of detail about how and when he was baptized and by whom. It appears, based on information provided by Obama’s own church, that Obama was describing how he became a member of that church.
Obama’s claim of being baptized is presented in the context of discussing the fact that he was not born and baptized a Christian. He describes his Muslim father and grandfather and attendance in a Muslim school as he was growing up. Obama acknowledges that, before he joined Wright’s church, some people regarded him as a Muslim. Wright himself dabbled in Islam before establishing his church, Obama concedes.
The proof of the baptism claim is precisely what is lacking in his book. There is no need or demand for a baptismal certificate, but there is no detail about the ceremony, other than talking about a walk down an aisle and a profession of faith, and no information about who performed the baptism and who attended. Traditionally, water is used in such a ceremony. There is no reference to water in Obama’s book.
To add further to the mystery, AIM cited evidence that Christian baptisms were not required to join Wright’s church, which emphasized liberation theology, and that Muslims were permitted to join and not disavow their faith.
“This is not a political issue,” say the Christian leaders. “The signers of this letter come from different political and ideological backgrounds, but we are unified in our belief in Jesus Christ. As Christian pastors and leaders, we believe that fellow Christians need to be an encouragement to those who call Christ their savior, not question the veracity of their faith.”
However, what is being questioned is not his faith but the veracity of his claim in his book, published as he was preparing his presidential run, that he underwent a baptism. Was this claim inserted into the book to make Obama more politically palatable to the American electorate who would be naturally suspicious about what the media called his “unorthodox” religious background?
Some Christians claim that baptism is not required to become a Christian. Obama could have claimed that he became a Christian in Wright’s church through a simple profession of faith and that a formal baptism was not required. Instead, however, he claimed to have undergone the procedure.
The questions are legitimate because Obama does not have a pristine track record of being open and honest about his background and associates.
For example, in his previous book, Dreams from My Father, he misrepresented the identity of his childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, named in his book only as “Frank.” This individual, who had a major impact on Obama before he went off to college, turned out to be Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party member with a 600-page FBI file.
Claims about a baptism cannot be taken at face value, especially because his statements and actions as President have led so many to believe he has a pro-Muslim bent. These have led to the perceptions, captured in the public opinion polls, that Obama may not be a Christian.
The controversy will not go away just because a few religious leaders demand that the media stop covering it.