Q&A: Barack Obama
Barack Obama wants to set the record straight. He is not a Muslim, as recent e-mails falsely claim.
The Democratic presidential candidate is fighting the e-mails that have been widely circulated. Obama has been continually speaking about the role of faith in politics since his Call to Renewal address in June 2006.
In the days before the South Carolina primary, he is driving efforts to speaking with media to emphasize his Christian beliefs. His campaign also sent out a recent mailer portraying the candidate with his head bowed in prayer and says that he will be guided by prayer when he is in office.
The senator from Illinois spoke with Sarah Pulliam and Ted Olsen today about his faith, abortion, and the evangelical vote.
What do you think your biggest obstacle will be in reaching evangelicals?
You know, I think that there's been a set of habits of thinking about the interaction between evangelicals and Democrats that we have to change. Democrats haven't shown up. Evangelicals have come to believe often times that Democrats are anti-faith. Part of my job in this campaign, something that I started doing well before this campaign, was to make sure I was showing up and reaching out and sharing my faith experience with people who share that faith. Hopefully we can build some bridges that can allow us to move the country forward.
What would you do in office differently than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards that would appeal to evangelicals?
I have not focused on all of their policies so I don't want to speak about what their positions will be. I know that as president, I want to celebrate the richness and diversity of our faith experience in this country. I think it is important for us to encourage churches and congregations all across the country to involve themselves in rebuilding communities. One of the things I have consistently argued is that we can structure faith-based programs that prove to be successful like substance abuse or prison ministries without violating church and state. We should make sure they are rebuilding the lives of people even if they're not members of a particular congregation. That's the kind of involvement that I think many churches are pursuing, including my own. It can make a real difference in the lives of people all across the country.
So would you keep the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives open or restructure it?
You know, what I'd like to do is I'd like to see how it's been operating. One of the things that I think churches have to be mindful of is that if the federal government starts paying the piper, then they get to call the tune. It can, over the long term, be an encroachment on religious freedom. So, I want to see how moneys have been allocated through that office before I make a firm commitment in terms of sustaining practices that may not have worked as well as they should have.
One of the critiques of the Bush office on faith-based initiatives beyond the church and state question is that while it opened up competition to religious organizations or church-based organizations to compete for some of these federal funds, there was no additional allocation; there was no change in the funding. Instead, there were more organizations competing for the same the slice of pie.
I think that's right. There's always a danger in those situations that money is being allocating based on politics, as opposed to merit and substance. That doesn't just compromise government. More importantly, it compromises potentially our religious institutions.