July 1st, 2008
06:14 PM ET

Obama campaign talks faith and values

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/01/art.obamareligion.jpg]
Jessica Yellin
Capitol Hill correspondent

Barack Obama’s people are spreading the good word – they’re not shy about being religious Democrats.

As part of an effort to reach religious voters, the Obama campaign is organizing small gatherings of religious voters, to talk about religion and values and how they should play out in politics and , of course, to convert new Obama supporters.

I attended one of these American Values house parties in Cincinnati last night. The attendees were Catholic; all except one were Democrats, and most were signed on as Obama supporters. Most people were acquaintances of the hostess, but strangers to one another.

You might think in this setting folks would be reluctant to share their religious views. Not at all. They had strong opinions and were ready to share them...

One woman said for years she’s been reluctant to tell friends she’s a religious Catholic because liberals often associate religion with intolerance.

Another said she’s been frustrated because “you feel your faith is being hijacked by some other outside source,” referring to conservatives who don’t share her politics.

Leading the discussion, Joshua Dubois, Obama’s Director of Religious Outreach, says “On the left too many folks have decided that if you talk about faith at all that you are getting preachy. They're afraid to use any sort of religious terminology and language about values in their public discourse. And then on the right, some of our friends on that side have used faith as a wedge to divide folks instead of to build common ground. So we're trying to find a healthy middle in there somewhere, that's what this forum's about.”

Editor's Note: See Jessica's full report tonight on AC360 at 10PM ET.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Religion
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. chuck batson

    votes, votes, votes

    July 1, 2008 at 11:56 pm |
  2. Susan

    I thing the values of the Democratic Party are the authentic values of Christians. I was raised in a mainstream protestant church, studied religion, and participate in a number of different mainstream protestant churches. The values in common, are social justice, being kind, love not war, Jesus would not advocate for war - the Republicans wouldn't elect him would they?!
    Christianity as I know it teaches not to judge others – tolerance. The religious right and Republicans apparently missed that message. Jesus was open and accepting of everyone, thieves, prostitutes, and did not judge them. He opposed piety. Serving God, performing good works and living this message of love is Jesus way –not judging, controlling, and making everyone fit into your beliefs or you don't count.

    July 1, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  3. carol kesling

    i just pray to god to get bush and cheny out of the white house as soon as possible!!!!!!!! leave obama and his family just beleive in their own faith......... why do they have to explain every little thing they do???? god knows bush certainly DOESNT!!!!!!!!

    July 1, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  4. Pat M

    I think the report tonight about the Lady in King's Memorial Hospital who died on the floor of the Psychiatric Emergency Wing while no one in that hospital lifted one finger to help her is a true picture of what Separation of Religion and State truly is!

    The separation is so wide that God's word has been forgotten. We no longer do unto others as we would have them do unto us – We do nothing. God's word is so far removed from our societies and Nation I doubt the majority of our children even know His Name.

    Soldier on Obama. I wholeheartedly believe not only our Nation but our World truly need discussions about our religion and values and more importantly if either play a role in our lives today.

    July 1, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  5. Tyler in Appleton, WI

    Obama claims to be a christian but after watching the tapes of sermons at his church I have to say, what he has been listening to is not christian doctrine at all,it is just hate.

    July 1, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  6. Lisa, Cincinnati

    I am the woman who hosted the American Values Party that you saw in Cincinnati. The event was inspiring and the dialog was meaningful to us as Catholics and people of faith. We all felt that the faith and values that Senator Obama expresses is an authentic one and a refreshing change after 8 years of a divisive and disingenuous use of religion by the Karl Rove School of Theology. Senator Obama’s message of hope is a unifying faith message. Amen!

    July 1, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  7. Jermaine

    OK, I am an African American, 35 year old, CHRISTian who will more than likely vote for Obama. I totally disagree with his pro-life and same-sex marriage stance. Tony Perkins is totally right. There is a pecking order, a hierarchy on Christian value issues. It goes Pro-Life, Marriage is only one man one woman, social justice, poverty and so on. We care about the environment in the since that we should be good stewards of what God gave us but we know this world is going to hell in a hand basket (so to speak). So, we are really not that pumped about saving the earth as much as we are pumped about saving the people in it. We have lost faith in the Republic version of living out their Christian faith in politics because even though President Bush talks a good Christian game he is a “baby” in Christ and is controlled by people like Cheney and Rove and their fruits appear to be from the devil (Cheney & Rove). The reason that Abortion and same-sex marriage are so wrong is based on the issue of LIFE. God says be fruitful and multiply. God is a promoter of LIFE. These things promote death. That is why they are at the top of the list for almost ALL Christians.

    July 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  8. Pat M

    There is no way to please people. Regardless of what anyone does
    to show they are Universal in their religious beliefs as well as their Secular and Moral beliefs many will still condemn, criticize, blame, assess, believe alterior motives are suspect, discount, disagree and dismiss.

    If Mother Teresa or Ghandi was a Candidate in this Presidential Election I'm sure the majority of voters would find fault with them and reject them.

    July 1, 2008 at 11:02 pm |
  9. Pat Sharkey

    Why does he need to bring religion into it at all?

    July 1, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  10. frieda

    Obama has been using religion and Christ far more than Bush ever had...how come I dont' see anyone ridiculing Obama.

    Do you remember the flap Bush go during his election time, using Christ name as someone he respects the most??

    July 1, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  11. Michele, Oregon

    Edgar: Well said!...........Pace e Bene!

    July 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  12. Michele, Oregon

    Further to this article, what Obama has been supporting is a continuation of one of the very few good things that Bush tried to do. Supporting faith-based groups that provide service to their communities.

    Even if you are not a believer, it is good to recognize that alot of the networking is in place to work with AIDS victims, children in child care, pregnant teens needing support to bring their babies into this world, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, assisting the immigrant, helping in natural disasters, etc. This actually SAVES the federal government money and takes care of vital humanitarian concerns.

    I believe that Obama is tapping into the activism for goodness in society. Are we a community because we can make money off of each other? ...... No, it is not just about votes. It comes from the faith Obama knows to be vital in his own life and rightly understands the same for others. I appreciate his campaign bringing up this discourse.

    July 1, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  13. Ms N

    If there are no morals, or faith, or values the result is what we have got. A country in deep in debt, folks losing homes, children killing themselves and each other, an unnecissary war, food and gas prices skyhigh. A dumb president that cares naught. to top it off we will be back to the wild west and kill each other very soon.

    All is vanity and greed, add taking and steeling form others. the USA has been taking from countries throught the centuries. If we do not stop we are going to tear each other apart. At this moment tops the list is devide and conquer.

    Eventualy we will asked the question all for "WHAT?"

    While we as a nation get smarter, greed will be our downfall.

    While we as a nation get smarter, greed will be our downfall because we are driven by greed. The country was founded on Gods word. We all need to go back and read the constitution, letters and writing of our forefathers. Today no one care to even think about how these United States came to be, and what made the USA a great nation once upon a time.

    We are all too busy putting each other down.

    July 1, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  14. bailey

    Jesus said, that one should pray in his room or closet. In my opinion, religion is a personal matter and a very privet one. Unfortunately there are man Americans who feel we should wear our faith on our selves and make a big show over how righteous we are. What is unfortunate is that this group of pious citizens fail to realize that the political center of America is growing and is moving further away from protestant beliefs. More Hispanics, more Arab and Indian Asians means less "American" traditional religious values. Politicians have to walk a tightrope of faiths. Just last month the candidates were pandering Jewish sentiments. America is changing, like it or not, and it does not matter which candidate's "so called faith" we believe in that individual will have to serve the faith of the people.

    July 1, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  15. Jolene

    There are many people who select a candidate based on their stance on the issues and how those relate to their personal faith and values. It’s hard to separate. I don’t believe these forums are to bring a specific religion into or out of the mix; it is more discussion around all faiths and values. I applaud Obama for trying this and if it helps him get the vote, so be it. That is the name of the game. Can’t become President without the vote! I’m intrigued by the strategic aspect of the Obama campaign’s focus on faith and values and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds or even if it works. Not to mention how McCain's campaign reacts to it! Gotta love politics!

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    July 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  16. Susan


    I am all for faith based programs, but keep the government out of them. I do not want to see tax payer money going to pay for any of these programs. As I have commented before we are a country that has a seperation of church and state. Religion and politics are like oil and water. Not a good mix.


    July 1, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  17. Barbara Lehto

    Everyone has a belief system (a religion, a world-view), whether that be atheism, agnosticism, Judeo/Christian, Eastern Mysticism, naturalism, Darwinism, Muslim, etc., etc.

    In a free and democratic society, one must have the freedom to express what he believes is true and right, without infringing on the other's view.

    I believe it is possible to have faith in a supreme Being/Creator and still work for the better of all of society in the realm of politics, without forcing one's views on others.

    Look at Wilberforce in the British parliament and the stand he took against slavery. Look at Martin Luther King. Look at Mandela. And there is a new brand of person of faith emerging in North America in these days who sees that what one believes in has everything to do with politics!

    July 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  18. Kathy, Chicago

    Cindy, I agree with you. God is being mentioned, not to preach God's word, but to further Obama's career. After 20 years with that "other church", I have strong doubts about Obama's faith. I am not Evangelical, but I do believe. I do see grey areas in religion, which have always made me lean Dem. I think that maybe Obama should rethink this path.

    July 1, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  19. Dolly

    I see that CNN is now the offical Obama campaign website. So much for fair and balanced news. 1939 allover again, except here in the US with cult polticis.

    July 1, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  20. Freya S. Williams

    Yeah to the Democrats for speaking up about God. I'm excited to see Senator Obama reaching out to the Evangelical voters. God can use any candidate who professes Jesus Christ. Christianity is not limtied to the Republican party only. There is such a thing as a Democratic Christian. Pray Before You Vote!

    Freya S. Williams

    July 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves at this one. Religion belongs in church; not in politics. I don't trust a politician who tells me how religious he is – he/she is usually trying to divert attention from something else.

    I'm very uncomfortable with this concept – to me it is getting too close to the line of separation between church and state. We live in a democracy not a theocracy; lets not mess it up. I don't want to wake up one morning and find myself bound by laws based on religious beliefs that I do not share.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 1, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  22. t. w.

    I sincerely hope that Obama sticks to the principles mentioned in his early speech on faith that all should respect other Americans right to their own beliefs and present their values in universal terms instead of religious terms...He actually moved me to believe he would respect agnostics, atheists and others who do not consider themselves represented or belonging to the usual Protestant or Catholic churches..

    I am against taxpayer funding faith-based programs. His own experience in Chicago working in community organizing with multiple church groups may have been positive but not all organizations are as tolerant , inclusive, and do not proselytize and judge others on religion ...and will do so with tax dollars so he needs to not promise what he may later be forced to back off....and if he moves to copy Bush..with this sort of thing, he may lose support from those of us who believe in separation of church and state.

    July 1, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  23. Stelios Fellas

    What Obama would not do for a vote.
    He will also be also a deeply commited Evangellical, Baptist, Lutheran, methodist, Catholick,protestant, you name it.
    I am amazed are the american Evangellicals so naive, that will give their votes to any one that enters a Church?

    July 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  24. Vivian Teye

    I go to church almost every week, I pray religiously; in the middle of the day when I just feel like thanking the Lord for another blessed afternoon, I pray for a minute. Despite the above, I'm a full-fledged Democratic. I'm not sure why some people think religion and the Democratic Party are mutually exclusive. Actually, it’s contrary. I feel my religious believes such as, being each others’ keeper has more firm root in the Democratic Party than the other party. Yes, we need to talk about GOD in the Democratic Party. It’s about time!

    July 1, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  25. gigi

    Obama lacks moral compass. Everything he does is for political expediency. He is a hypocrite and a user. He is using the evangelists.

    July 1, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  26. gigi

    I don’t post often, but I had to say this.

    I just want to say how shocked I am that after Obama’s association with Reverend Wright came out, he himself did not withdraw and neither did the DNC force him to.

    This is how I boil it down:
    Obama is either really clueless or he’s the most devious politician ever. Either way, this should have disqualified him from becoming President. Can you imagine sitting in that church for 20 years, listening to hate speech after hate speech, anti-American rhetoric, and not having the courage or good judgment to say something to Rev. Wright? Watching his sermons the past few months has shown me why so many African-American people seem angry with whites, and in some way begins to explain the existence of black-on-white criminal activity – and the rage against white people that we see so often. To me, Obama – along with Rev. Wright – is partly responsible for handicapping the minds of the black youth. He should be taking responsibility for this, but clearly he isn’t.

    Audacity of Hope? Audacity of Arrogance, maybe.

    July 1, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  27. Edgar

    Progressive Faith's Place with-in U. S. Law.
    I appreciate the fact that Obama, as one who used to teach Constitutional Law, believes in the separation of church and state. Faith based programs need to extend help without trying to convert those who receive aid or discriminate against are paid from government grants.
    But just as the American government is prohibited from establishing religion the free exercise of religion is also guaranteed. Faith-based groups should be able to partner with the government with the above precautions.
    This is how many who believe “The Earth and the fullness belong to God” care for the planet. This can help the faithful answer the call to bring “Good news for the poor and release for the captives …” In Christian terms, it is how believers serve our Lord through the, “Least of these: “The hungry, thirsty and those in prison.” As for me, and many in houses of faith this is our agenda, not the oppressive policies of the right.

    July 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  28. john copeland

    Melissa. Agreed! I am totally against tax payer funded faith based anything! Let the religions use their donations for whatever they feel is good but leave me as a taxpayer out. Further, I do not believe that religions should be tax exempt but for the main church; not the basketball courts, wide screen tv's, video games, church schools, etc.

    July 1, 2008 at 7:51 pm |
  29. Paine

    Politicians shouldn't talk about faith or religion at all. The idea that this is country founded on Christianity is one that was cooked up in the 50s. All of the founding fathers were either Deist or Secular humanists. The treaty of Tripoly, signed by John Adams (one of the authors of the constitution) states in Article 11:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    The Senate's ratification was only the third recorded unanimous vote of 339 taken. The treaty was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and two New York papers, with no evidence of any public dissent. All of this talk of faith and religion and God as it relates to presidential campaigns is much ado about nothing. Or at least it should be.

    July 1, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  30. JC- Los Angeles

    After eight nauseating years of the current regime, I'm hopeful we can have a leader who knows how to separate church and state, period.

    July 1, 2008 at 7:39 pm |
  31. blair

    "So we’re trying to find a healthy middle in there somewhere, that’s what this forum’s about.”
    Get real!! the forum is all about getting VOTES and putting the Muslim issue aside. That is all in a nut shell. Obama has used faith as a wedge to divide folks and then sends someone in to claim how he has been picked on and how he is going to make it right.

    July 1, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  32. Sal, SD

    No political party owns GOD. GOD owns you. The Republicans have hijack evangelise religion in the name of GOD to push their fail policies. Obama wants to start an outreach for all religions. Too bad, Bush didn't have enough brains to start this idea, what a waste of space in the white house.

    Obama 08!!!!!!

    July 1, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  33. Jenn/Monrovia, CA

    Amen! I totally agree with the comment of "you feel your faith is being hijacked by some other outside source." I've been driven from my own church because I feel that my politics are being held against me when really politics should have nothing to do with being able to call someone a brother or sister in my faith. And I've resented it. I'm not shy about what I believe, but the pulpit all too often is a place to further a religious ideal, (for either side), rather than a place to worship. I'm a moderate with some liberal tendencies...that doesn't mean I'm going to hell for it.

    I might be going to hell for many other things, but not that. LOL

    July 1, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  34. Pat M

    Halleluiah! This is the best news I've heard in at least the last decade!I commend Barack Obama. Yes I know, many believe he's trying to lure in people for votes but on the flip side, at least he's bringing folks together in Christian dialogue to do so. In my view, that can't be all wrong. Our World could certainly use a dose of Christian dialogue and I believe it's way past time that Christ was included in today's Christian.

    Alll one has to do is listen to the daily news to know that Our World is in serious Jeopardy and I believe it's because we have been trying our best to take Christ out of today's Christians.

    July 1, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  35. Deb

    Maybe everyone's religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be banned from all political conversation, debates and speeches.

    Along with that, all political discussions should be banned from religious meetings and all comments of religious leaders.

    These are the world's two most divisive topics, and I've yet to see anything good come from combining them in any forum.

    July 1, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  36. Richard Prager MD FCCP

    Obama is the Pied-Piper of America today. Becareful since
    he often lures and talks about american values, but often avoids
    discussing the truth and facts. He will lead Americans by their
    hearts and not by their heads. At this time in America, we need
    leaders that use our heads and hearts!!!!

    July 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  37. Melissa

    As an agnostic it bothers me that religion is in the picture at all when it comes to politics. Just because a candidate is a Christian, Catholic, etc. does not mean he's qualified to do the job.

    July 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  38. Cindy

    So why is Obama even bringing up religion at all when he says that church and state should be kept separate? The only reason is to get votes. He cares nothing about anyone's religious beliefs. If he did he wouldn't be for abortion or any other thing that most religions are against. Seems to me that he is showing once again that he will do, say or bring up anything for a vote. Same as any other politician...where's the change!?


    July 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm |