Leaders of some of the nation’s largest religious denominations say they are distressed and saddened by President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for gay marriage, reports newsmax.com. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Obama’s remarks “undermine the institution of marriage, the very cornerstone of our society. The people of this country, especially our children, deserve better. The Rev. Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, called Obama’s statements “a calculated, politically expedient decision that completely ignores the biblical foundation of marriage.” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, “who has signed a pledge to support a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution, may have been handed the key to social conservative support by President Obama.” Bob Vander Plaats, the head of The Family Leader, a conservative faith group focused on politics in Iowa, said that the move will stoke a part of the religious base even more against Obama. “They were already fired up to get rid of Obama. This will only make them more on fire to get rid of Obama. And if I’m Romney today, I’m smiling,” he said. The Rev. Richard D. Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in an interview with The New York Times that he was both “saddened and mystified” by the president’s declaration. “When the president comes out in favor of something it has an impact, and that saddens me because I think embracing same-sex marriage would be a terrible mistake for the country,” he said. The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group that represents 45,000 churches in 40 denominations, also expressed disappointment to The New York Times. “The evangelical community is broadly committed to define marriage as between one man and one woman and will not accept an unbiblical definition,” he said. “Considering that 10 of the 16 battleground states have marriage amendments that could be overturned by the president’s new policy position on marriage, today’s announcement almost ensures that marriage will again be a major issue in the presidential election,” said Tony Perkins. Richard Land said he had received phone calls from two black Southern Baptist ministers who said they could no longer vote for the president, and he added, “I know the president is a really smart man, and his campaign staff are really smart, but they have to know it was black votes that carried the opposition to same-sex marriage to victory in California.” Evangelist Franklin Graham accused the president of having “shaken his fist” at God by changing his position on same-sex marriage, reports newsobserver.com. “It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more,” Graham said in a prepared statement. “This is a sad day for America. May God help us.”
- President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is energizing Christian conservative support for Mitt Romney in a way that the likely GOP nominee has so far not been able to do on his own, according to religious leaders and activists, reports The Washington Post. Pastors in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and other swing states were said to be preaching Sunday sermons inveighing against same-sex unions, while activist groups have begun laying plans for social media campaigns, leaflet drives, and other get-out-the-vote efforts centered on the same-sex marriage issue. Romney could benefit from a strong turnout among evangelicals and other social conservatives, many of whom remain skeptical of his commitment to their causes. “So many people were rather lukewarm toward governor Romney and were really looking for some more tangible reasons to support him,” said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, who led the ballot drive that banned gay marriage in Ohio in 2004. “Then lo and behold, it just fell out of the sky when Obama came out and endorsed same-sex marriage. . . . We are going to make this our key issue: the attack on marriage.” The National Organization for Marriage, a leading anti-gay-marriage group, lashed out at Obama after his announcement and promised to campaign against him “ceaselessly” in swing states.
- Delivering a commencement address at the country’s largest Christian school, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Saturday defended traditional marriage and said there is common ground between his Mormon faith and that of the largely evangelical crowd, reports firstread.msnbc.com. Speaking to more than 30,000 packed into Liberty University’s football stadium, Romney drew his loudest applause from his proclamation, “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.” Liberty’s decision to invite Romney, a Mormon, to deliver the commencement at the Christian school founded by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell drew criticism from some on campus who feel Romney’s beliefs contradict the school’s teachings. The university offers a theology course that describes Mormonism as a cult. Romney only alluded to his faith, telling the crowd, “People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.” The candidate’s religion was never directly addressed, but the school’s chancellor and son of its founder, Jerry Falwell Jr., seemed to scratch the surface of some of this community’s concerns in his introduction of Romney. “My father often preached that Christians should vote for the candidate whose positions on the political issues are most closely aligned with their own,” said Falwell. “Not the candidate who shares his or her faith or theology. We are, after all, electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor or religious leader.”
- Seoul USA, a Korean-American NGO that launches Bibles and gospel flyers into North Korea 70 to 80 times a year, now has proof that the balloons are reaching their target, reports charismanews.com. Using GPS tracking devices overlaid onto Google Maps, Seoul USA is confirming the precise location of several of its launches this year and posting the photographic images on its website. “We’ve known for years that our balloon launches were reaching the targeted areas because of the angry response of the North Korean government,” said Seoul USA President the Rev. Eric Foley. “But the GPS devices provide us with precise verification that will enable us to further increase the accuracy of future launches.” North Korea is universally regarded as the most hostile environment for Christians, Foley notes, so balloon launches provide one of the only ways to do mass distribution of Scripture and gospel messages inside the Hermit Kingdom.
- A Christian pollster asserts that the only way to change politics and the country is for believers to live out their Christianity and share it with others, reports onenewsnow.com. Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports is one of the nation’s leading pollsters and a conservative commentator. As keynote speaker at the Pacific Justice Institute’s recent Celebration of Justice banquet, he urged Christians to represent Christ in the nation’s social and political state, saying now is not the time to compromise on moral issues. “Elections are important. Political stuff is important,” he recognized. “But it is your personal example as being a witness and a representative of Jesus Christ that matters the most.” And as Christians live out their faith, Rasmussen urges them not to place their hope in political victories. “How are you going to influence the culture if you’re not talking to people outside the church,” he asked. “How are you going to proclaim the gospel if you’re not going out to those borderlands?” The speaker concluded that Christians are ultimately the ones who can really bring hope and change to the nation.
- Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has written an open letter to “all those who are concerned” with his plight, thanking them and asking for prayer, reports charismanews.com. The letter is the first time in nearly a year that Nadarkhani has been able to speak out publicly about his illegal imprisonment in Iran. He encourages the members of his congregation and supporters all over the world that he is in “perfect health” and urges them to continue having faith in God. He specifically thanks everyone who has “asked for my release, or campaigns and human rights activities which are going on against the charges which are applied to me,” and he urges everyone to “pray for me.”
- Joining pastors throughout the country in denouncing President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, Pastor Jonathan Falwell told thousands from the pulpit that they must protect the Biblical definition of marriage, even if the culture and the president try to redefine it, reports The Christian Post. “We’ve got to protect marriage; we’ve got to protect our families; we’ve got to protect the Church,” Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., preached Sunday. “I don’t care what the world says; I don’t care what the culture says; I don’t even care what the president says. With all due respect . . . the Bible says that God made them male and female and the two shall become one flesh.” Meanwhile, two big cases addressing marriage rights for gays and lesbians are on track to reach the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this year, reports conservativebyte.com, keeping the focus on an issue President Barack Obama reignited with his endorsement this past week. The cases, originating on opposite coasts, go to the heart of a question that has churned for two decades: whether states and the federal government may refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. How the high court would rule is said to be “impossible to know.” In the court’s most recent gay-rights case, the justices in 2003 struck down state anti-sodomy laws as an improper intrusion on private activity.
- The upcoming recall election in Wisconsin in June is actually a huge pro-life vs. pro-abortion battle, reports lifenews.com. Democratic voters chose pro-abortion Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, as their candidate to go up against pro-life incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R). In the recall primary, Walker earned 280,000 more votes than Mitt Romney, the winner of the April 3Wisconsin presidential primary. “Governor Walker’s deep belief in the sanctity of all human life is evident in the courageous actions he has taken to build a culture of life in Wisconsin. His concern for the most vulnerable members of the human family is reflected in the common sense and compassionate laws he has signed into law. Those initiatives will greatly benefit unborn children, women who are considering abortion and taxpayers of our state,” said Wisconsin Right to Life PAC Director Susan Armacost. By contrast, while serving as a member of Congress, Tom Barrett opposed common sense legislation on abortion like the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars federal funding for abortion. Since Gov. Walker took office in January 2011, the pro-life movement in Wisconsin has made monumental gains. Walker signed into law a state budget that included a provision to prohibit the UW Hospital Authority from being involved in performing abortions and from using taxpayer dollars to pay medical students to learn how to perform abortions. Walker steered Wisconsin Well Woman funds to local counties instead of Planned Parenthood. Gov. Walker also signed bills that allow Wisconsin to opt out of abortion funding under Obamacare, to protect pregnant women from coerced abortions and to prohibit RU486 chemical web cam abortions. Walker’s pro-life achievements have earned him the praise of Wisconsin’s top pro-life groups and, contrary to the claims from abortion advocates, the support of many women.
- The careers of most politicians would crumble under the heavy scrutiny that the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America now faces. But despite a mountain of legal troubles, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio remains popular with voters and has more than $3.4 million in the bank for his November re-election campaign, reports csmoniter.com. The Justice Department sued the five-term sheriff on Thursday on allegations that his officers racially profile Latinos—a move that has his critics saying that voters will finally be turned off and his supporters saying the development will only make him more beloved among voters who want a tough sheriff who doesn’t back down from anyone. “He’s the new Wyatt Earp,” said Tom Morrissey, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party in a reference to the Arizona lawman made famous by the gun fight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. “The guy’s legendary.” “What he stands for resonates across the country,” said Morrissey, also a retired chief U.S. Marshal. “Hundreds sometimes thousands of people cheer this man, give him standing ovations everywhere he speaks. That speaks volumes.” He said Arpaio’s hardline stance on illegal immigration and his tough talk have driven his popularity. “He tells it like it is. He’s not polished, and a lot of times you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth,” Morrissey said. “The truth has a certain ring and Joe Arpaio speaks in that realm.” Even as the Justice Department brought the lawsuit down against Arpaio, saying that he abused his power and violated the Constitution, the sheriff himself held a news conference and showed no signs of backing down. “I will fight this to the bitter end,” a visibly angry Arpaio said, adding that the case will give him a chance to finally see what evidence authorities have to back up claims. “I’m very happy that we are being sued because now we can make them put up.” He said nothing is going to affect his chances of winning in November. Thursday’s lawsuit comes as part of efforts to enforce a federal law that bans police from systematically violating constitutional rights. Justice Department officials first leveled the allegations against Arpaio in December, saying a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights prevailed at his office. Arpaio denies wrongdoing and dismisses the case as a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration.
- In what is described as “a revealing new book,” The Amateur, author Edward Klein interviews President Barack Obama’s physician, Dr. David Scheiner, MD, who blasts the president’s health care plan and says that President Obama has an “academic detachment” that he could never break through, reports cowboybyte.com. The doctor fears that if the health care plan is “the failure” he believes it will be, because of runaway costs and other problems, then any health reform will be set back for years to come. These are said to be only a few of many revelations in Klein’s book, “which makes the case that President Obama is not the political machine that people fear, but an amateur with a messianic complex who is completely out of his depth.”
- Yosef Garfinkel, a professor from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced the discovery of ancient objects that reveal how religion was organized in Judah before the reign of King Solomon, reports worthynews.com. In excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa—a fortified city in Judah—Garfinkel and his colleagues uncovered pottery, art, and religious objects in three large rooms that served as shrines; these shrines predate the construction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and provide the first physical evidence of religion as practiced during the time of King David. “This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David,” said Garfinkel. “Even in Jerusalem, we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong. Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs, . . . not even one human or animal figurine was found; this suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans: on pork and on graven images.” Biblical tradition depicted the Israelites as monotheists who forbade human and animal images; the absence of these images in the three shrines shows the inhabitants practiced a religion radically different from the surrounding Canaanites and Philistines. In addition to the three shrines, two portable box-shaped shrines, or shrine models, were found: one made of clay and the other of stone. The clay shrine included two pillars and folded textile as described in Solomon’s Temple: the two pillars of Yachin and Boaz and the Parochet textile. The stone shrine is made of soft limestone and painted red. Its facade is decorated by seven groups of roof-beams with three planks in each called a “triglyph,” which are also found in the Parthenon, but its appearance at Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example carved in stone. The stone model can help clarify obscure, technical terms in the description of Solomon’s palace in 1 Kings 7:1–6. The Biblical text uses “slaot,” which were mistakenly understood as pillars, but can now be understood as triglyphs—and “sequfim” once thought to be nine windows, but can now be understood as “triple recessed doorway.” Similar triglyphs and recessed doors can be found in the description of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6:5 and 31–33 and the description of a temple in Ezekiel 41:6. These texts contain obscure technical terms that have long ago lost their original meaning, but with the discovery of the stone model at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the texts can now be clarified.