Kerry only gets religion around blacks, says Washington Post

Folks monitoring religion and the 2004 presidential campaign will certainly be buzzing about today's front-page story in The Washington Post, "Kerry Keeps His Faith in Reserve." The deck hits one controversial point: "Candidate usually talks about religion before black audiences only."

Jim VandeHei writes, "Outside of black churches or meetings with African Americans such as those at the NAACP convention yesterday, Kerry has been largely silent about the personal Catholicism that once inspired a flirtation with the priesthood and the Christian beliefs friends and family say guide his life and political thinking."

That "should be a bombshell," writes Jeff Sharlet over at New York University's religion blog, The Revealer.

The Post tags this devotion as strategy, but ignores its inherent racism. Imagine, for instance, if it was reported that Kerry loves to dance, but only when he's around black people. The Post would probably try to interview Baryshnikov. When it comes to Kerry, religion, and black churches, they don't seem to be able to find any theologians, black Protestants, or ordinary believers of any variety to talk to. Instead, the article is simply a meeting in print of usual suspects, Washington "bigs" who know as much about religion as they do soccer -- or, at least, soccer moms.

Okay, Sharlet says, they do hit one important name, Amy Sullivan, who has been on a long crusade to get the Kerry campaign and other Democrats to talk more about—and, more importantly, to understand—religion.

But "Sullivan takes pains on her own blog to explain why and how the Post got her wrong," Sharlet writes. Well, not quite, but she does go into much more detail about her comments. "Democrats who only talk about religion in black churches look just as guilty of pandering as Republicans who wield faith to ply votes," she says.

No one is saying -- and I certainly have not said -- that John Kerry should start talking like an evangelical, that he needs to give testimonials about how much his experience as an altar boy has shaped his life, or that he should start spouting religious language that he doesn't believe just to make voters happy. Drawing on religious principles to explain to some voters why they should support him and his policies, however, is an entirely different matter and one that he and his campaign are starting to pursue in an extremely effective manner.

That's what the Post concludes, too. "Kerry may be slowly coming to the view that religion must play a larger role in his campaign outside of black churches, some advisers said," writes VandeHei. "Some advisers … have suggested he dedicate a speech to the role of faith in dictating his values, perhaps at an evangelical school or seminary. But Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's communications director, said there are no plans for the candidate to deliver such a speech."

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Falwell criticized

If Kerry does speak at an evangelical school, it probably won't be Liberty University. "I believe it is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush," Jerry Falwell wrote in the July 1 issue of his "Falwell Confidential'' newsletter and on He also urged his supporters to donate to Gary Bauer's Campaign for Working Families.

Since Falwell's article went out on the letterhead of Falwell's 501(c)3 organization Jerry Falwell Ministries, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS, saying the pastor violated tax law.

"In an interview yesterday, Mr. Falwell said that an affiliated tax-exempt lobbying organization, not his religious organization, Jerry Falwell Ministries, had paid for the e-mail message and the website," writes The New York Times' David D. Kirkpatrick.

Mr. Falwell also argued that his comments constituted only his personal view, and not an endorsement by his lobbying organization, Liberty Alliance.
"We report news, write editorials, etc., all of which is protected by the First Amendment," he said. Despite the urgency of his calls to "get serious about re-electing President Bush,'' Mr. Falwell said the lobbying organization "doesn't support candidates or endorse them.'' He said, "It speaks to moral and social issues and it does encourage contributions to organizations like Gary Bauer's."
Mr. Falwell defended the right of a pastor to endorse political candidates in his personal capacity, even from the pulpit. Mr. Falwell said he often did this at his church, the Thomas Road Baptist Church.

We'll see what comes of this. Should make for an interesting debate, and may help to clarify rules on politics and pulpits.

Theology Western Anglicans care about

Same-sex union ceremonies are fine in the Anglican church, say some church leaders. Theology, Canon Law, and tradition don't matter.

But Church of England rector Nigel di Castiglione found an issue where Canon Law matters a whole lot: moving baptismal fonts. He's been on trial this week for relocating the font at St Mary and All Saints' Church in Trentham, Staffordshire, as well as laying a carpet and removing pews without the permission of senior clerics.

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"I recognize that the way we've moved things is not the best or right way to proceed," he told the court, explaining that he had been busy with leading the church at the time. Besides, witnesses at the trial said, the font had been placed in a dangerous location where people kept tripping over it, and is now in "closer focus with the other foci—the Holy Table and pulpit."

Aw, that's bad strategy, says Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal. "If you'd just told people that you moved the font to better accommodate gay and lesbian parishioners like you were supposed to, the Diocese wouldn't have had to go to all this trouble."

More articles


  • Playing both sides on abortion | If we trust that these candidates believe that life starts at conception or they personally oppose abortion, then the topic is no longer an article of religious faith, but an issue of life and death (David Harsanyi, The Denver Post)
  • Abbott vow fires late-abortion row | Tony Abbott has opened a fresh front in the abortion wars, applauding feminist calls for a national debate and appealing to social conservatives with a pledge to back any push to ban late-term abortions (The Australian)

Life ethics:

  • National consultation on designer babies | Exercise to test public's views on ethics of genetic science (The Guardian, London)
  • Killer's future in hands of jury | Panel deliberates over life term, death (The Beacon Journal, Akron, Oh.)

China to end forced abortions?

  • Official: China aims to balance gender | China hopes to achieve a normal balance of newborn boys and girls within six years by banning the use of abortions to select an infant's sex and by making welfare payments to couples without sons, a family planning official said Thursday (Associated Press)
  • China offers parents cash incentives to produce more girls | Beijing forced to tackle effects of one-child policy (The Guardian, London)


  • Bragging in Bangkok | While the grab for glory and dollars continues in the fight against AIDS, everybody seems to be losing sight of the real targets: vaccines, cures, better and safer drugs (Laurie Garrett, The New York Times)
  • U.N. ranking highlights Africa AIDS | The annual U.N. ranking of the global rich and poor Thursday showed that AIDS was pushing African nations further into misery while the most the world crept toward higher development (Associated Press)
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  • Devastated by AIDS, Africa sees life expectancy plunge | Africa is getting poorer and hungrier as life expectancy continues its steep decline in the countries hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic (The New York Times)
  • Also: Aids reduces African life expectancy to 33 | The devastating impact of the crisis can be seen most clearly in seven African countries, including Malawi and Mozambique, where babies born in 2002 are not expected to live past 40 years because of the prevalence of HIV (The Independent, London)
  • UK policy on Aids leaves US isolated | Minister rejects Bush reliance on abstinence, and backs generics use (The Guardian, London)
  • The end of the beginning? | Serious amounts of money are now being made available to deal with AIDS in poor countries. That is good news, but is bringing its own problems (The Economist)

Religious freedom:

  • Anxiety grows over Korean Christians' rally in Middle East | The South Korean government, worried about possible terrorist attacks on its citizens in the Middle East, on Friday urged several Christian organizations to cancel their rallies in Jerusalem and Bethlehem early next month (The Korea Times)
  • Iraqi liquor store owners fear fundamentalists' rise | Iraqi militiamen loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr have found a new calling: vigilantism (The New York Times)
  • Blasphemy law equally important for Christians, Jews: Hafiz | MMA, deputy secretary general, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad has said that blasphemy law is not only meant for prevention of blasphemy of last prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), but also is equally important for the Christians and Jews (Pakistan Tribune)

Global justice:

  • Bush speaks against human trafficking | In another appeal to his conservative base of support, President Bush is declaring that human trafficking is a global crime problem that must be met in the United States with swift justice for those who profit from it (Associated Press)
  • Bush ignores AIDS, 'genocide' in Sudan, Kerry tells NAACP | John F. Kerry yesterday told a national gathering of black leaders and voters that President Bush was ignoring ''genocide" in Sudan and the AIDS pandemic, which Kerry called ''the greatest moral crisis of our time" (The Boston Globe)
  • Politicians eye religious powerhouse | The church is fast becoming an emerging religious powerhouse in Australia, with thousands of recruits and some influential figures taking more than a passing interest (The 7.30 Report, ABC, Australia)
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Religion & politics:

  • Pro-life speakers sought for convention | More than half the Republicans in the House have signed a formal complaint to President Bush about the failure to give prominent conservative, pro-life party members even one prime-time speaking role at the Republican National Convention (The Washington Times)
  • Ad watch: Kerry hit on abortion, contraception | Bush campaign commercial continues the president's "values" assault against Kerry and tries to frame the abortion issue in a way that makes him appear insensitive to parents (The Washington Post)
  • Clerics sue over Kadhis' courts | The stage is set for a legal battle between some Christians and Muslims over the entrenchment of Kadhis' courts in the Constitution (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)
  • Bush, Kerry aim for balance on Israel | Fealty to Israel's security is so deeply embedded in both parties that symbolic touches may be the most that sets them apart (Associated Press)

Ten Commandments:

  • Lakeville church's gift keeps monument in Duluth | Celebration Church in Lakeville submitted a winning bid of $15,105 to the city of Duluth this week to buy the Ten Commandments monument that stood outside Duluth's City Hall until earlier this year (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • 6th Circuit: Ohio judge can't post Ten Commandments in courtroom | Judges rule 2-1 that James DeWeese failed to establish legally permissible secular reason for displaying religious codes (Associated Press)

Sexual ethics:

  • Study lauds abstinence programs | Abstinence and contraceptive use have been equally successful in reducing teen pregnancy between 1991 and 2001, according to a study released yesterday (The Washington Times)
  • Gays left out of abstinence messages | Some choose to wait for 'committed relationship' (Washington Blade, gay newspaper)

Marriage Amendments:

  • Failure is not an option, it's mandatory | The Federal Marriage Amendment may have failed as law, but as pseudopopulist theater it was a masterpiece (Thomas Frank, The New York Times)
  • Renewed state efforts made against same-sex marriage | Amendments to state constitutions are likely to be on the ballot in a dozen states this year, proponents of the measures say (The New York Times)
  • Some pastors oppose amendment | World should be 'more inclusive,' clergymen say (Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo.)

Same-sex marriage:

  • Gay marriage makes thorny political issue | It's a political straddle in the making, designed to maximize election-year support among conservatives without offending moderate voters wary of any taint of intolerance (Associated Press)
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  • Gay 'marriage' likely to shape races | The federal marriage amendment failed in the Senate, but conservative forces vow that the same-sex "marriage" issue is far from dead this election year and will resurface in races across the country, on several state ballot initiatives, and in a House vote next week (The Washington Times)
  • Marriage case moves closer to high court | An appeals court agrees not to hear a challenge to Oregon's marriage law, clearing the way for justices to take up the issue (The Oregonian)

Missions & ministry:

  • Promise Keepers pay return visit to Detroit | Evangelists hope to spread word at Joe Louis Arena (The Detroit News)
  • Promise Keepers: A movement with a mighty message | The evangelical men's group is smaller now, but still teaching lessons worth learning (David Crumm, Detroit Free Press)
  • Bringing the Bible to Alzheimer's patients | In a Schaumburg retirement community, a minister pioneers a new approach to telling stories from the Bible (Chicago Tribune)
  • Guides along the path to maturity | The Man-to-Man Mentoring Program helps youngsters develop confidence and succeed in life (The Baltimore Sun)
  • Harvest attendees: Add hip-hop to the mix | While the annual Harvest Crusade Summerfest, which was held Saturday at Angel Stadium, makes an effort to be hip to teens and young adults, a few minorities noticed something peculiar about the acts on stage. They were too white (North County Times, San Diego)
  • Crusade outreach stretches with Web | John Carley says Internet has been vastly underused by houses of God (North County Times, San Diego)

African churches:

  • The voice of reason | This must be a difficult time to be a priest. The debates raging through the church challenge even the theological precepts that the institution was built on for hundreds of years (Mmegi, Botswana)
  • Dead flies in the ointment | The church presently is like the woman in the parable of the missing coin (Chris Ngwodo, Vanguard, Nigeria)

Methodist bishops:

  • Methodist bishop set to retire after stormy term | Provocative Methodist cleric Bishop C. Joseph Sprague will retire next month as bishop of northern Illinois, ending a tumultuous tenure in which he came under frequent attack for his support of gay rights and interpretation of Scripture (Chicago Tribune)
  • Earlier: Tangling with Wolves | Why we still need heresy trials (Christianity Today, July 28, 2003)
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  • Dean of Duke Chapel elected church bishop | Will Willimon was named one of the "Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking World" in a Baylor University survey (The Herald Sun, Durham, N.C.)
  • Duke's Willimon might shake up Methodism | Many expect him to shake things up, or at the very least inject some humor into a denominational structure sometimes perceived as stiff, rigid and highly bureaucratic (The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.)

Church life:

  • Self-rule for some Orthodox Christians is just days away | This weekend marks an historic milestone for Orthodox Christians in America as the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, meeting in Pittsburgh, officially becomes self-governing (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • A hope and a prayer | Two churches are building new homes in projected centers of activity, business (The Buffalo News, NY)
  • Heaven on wheels | Pastors trade pulpit for driver's seat in inaugural Faster Pastor race at Hardeeville Motor Speedway (Carolina Morning News, Bluffton, S.C.)


  • Russian minister, senior Vatican officials meet | Both sides comment on better relations (Associated Press)
  • Religion in the News: A convent goes public | The nuns at St. Marienthal Convent have abandoned most of the agricultural endeavors that had sustained them in East Germany and reinvented their home as a center that combines guesthouses, a nonprofit, international meeting facility and a host of eco-friendly projects (Associated Press)

Diocese bankruptcy:

  • Church lists $100 million in accounts | A financial officer for the Portland Archdiocese says millions are kept in long- and short-term investments (The Oregonian)
  • Church might find wealth in poverty | Many authentic religious beliefs are paradoxical. They appear to be contradictory but are spiritually sound. That could make the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., a good thing (Steve Gushee, The Palm Beach Post)


  • Court hears church-abuse suits in Calif. | Attorneys for hundreds of people who claim they were molested by priests arrived in court Thursday to begin arguing a lawsuit that seeks millions of dollars from the Roman Catholic Church in Northern California (Associated Press)
  • Priest removed | A longtime Merced priest was removed from duties at St. Patrick's parish on Thursday amid allegations he posted messages on a homosexual dating Web site (The Modesto Bee, Ca.)
  • Statement by Bishop John T. Steinbock of the Diocese of Fresno | "Please pray for Fr. Lastiri as he seeks help to overcome this addiction" (The Modesto Bee, Ca.)
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  • 'Restricted' priest starts new ministry | Man accused of sexual abuse opens branch of upstart church (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Newspaper series on abuse in Amish and Mennonite communities:

  • Hidden in Plain sight | Domestic abuse among Amish and Mennonites often ignored, even tolerated among church leaders (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Churches take steps to address abuses | Church by church, minister by minister, a new willingness by Amish and Mennonites to recognize domestic abuse is growing (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Where the law fits in | Few abuse cases ever reach the attention of the law (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Silenced by shame | Some leaders willing to lift the shame and consider (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Teaming up with 'outside help' is key to reform | Sexual offenders require more than forgiveness. They require extensive treatment by someone who understands the mind, the emotion, the sickness of the abuser, professional counselors said (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • The ties that bind can form the noose | Leaving an abusive marriage is difficult for any victim, but counselors and victims say the stakes for Amish and Mennonite women are often even higher (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Children's stories of abuse often are ignored | Girls and boys were repeatedly touched, rubbed, hit and penetrated in their most intimate places by their Mennonite and Amish fathers, hired men, cousins, teachers, brothers, family friends or sometimes even their mothers (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Ways to begin the healing | Victims and counselors offered church leaders advice on how they wish churches would handle abuse (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Fixing broken lives can be frightening, arduous | Church leaders who believe it's their job to save an abusive marriage are taking on a job that gives even professional marriage counselors a headache (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Beliefs, culture can perpetuate abuse in families, churches | Often called the Gentle People, Mennonites and Amish are well known for their close-knit, religious communities. Yet those very attributes provide fertile soil for domestic abuse that is anything but gentle (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Abused wives feel abandoned by church | Craving safety they can't find at home with their husbands, some abused Mennonite and Amish women turn to their churches and its leaders for help, only to feel victimized again (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
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  • Mental illness compounds issue of Plain abuse | Mental illness is a double-edged sword in abusive relationships (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Church requires contrition, not necessarily change | Both church leaders and victims believe in forgiveness. They disagree, though, on what forgiveness is (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Predators wear no scarlet letters | Everyone thinks an abuser is easy to spot, but chances are you could sit beside one in church and not know it, say professionals who work with them (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • Who's who in Amish and Mennonite communities | Mennonites and Amish come in as many different "flavors" as ice cream. (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)
  • The duty of marriage | In the most extreme cases, spouses are expected to stay together even if one's life is in danger (Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster, Pa.)


  • Monsignor to resign as pastor amid charges of misuse of funds | The Archdiocese of New York ordered a monsignor to resign after it discovered evidence that he misappropriated parish funds (The New York Times)
  • Receiver reports on alleged Ponzi scam| An alleged real estate scam squandered nearly half of the $17.5 million raised from hundreds of investors and churches who were promised quick and easy profits, according to a report filed with a federal judge in San Francisco (Associated Press)

Film & television:

  • They don't love this movie | The movie Bahib Al-Sima (I Love Cinema) has provoked outrage amongst Egypt's Copts (Al-Ahram, Egypt)
  • Also: Movie about Egypt's Christian Coptic minority raises eyebrows | A movie focusing exclusively on Egypt's Christian Coptic minority and featuring Laila Elwi in a leading role, is sparking controversy, and may land the director in court (Voice of America)
  • Films play a role for church groups | Religious leaders are using movie themes to give a pop-culture resonance to sermons and discussion group talking points (Religion News Service)
  • Amish go Hollywood | "Amish in the City" premieres with a two-hour episode at 8 p.m. July 28 (The Indianapolis Star)


  • Rutland missionary, 25, killed in accident | Sarah Hunt Claros taught, lived Christian word (The Landmark, Rutland, Ma.)
  • College president, author Rev. Bjarne Teigan dies | The Rev. Bjarne Teigan steered Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato on a steady course during some tough times in the 1950s and '60s (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
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  • Slain missionary widow returns | The widow of an Australian missionary brutally murdered in India along with their two sons is due back in Queensland tomorrow (The Australian)

More articles:

  • He had a seat and it wasn't on a fence | God works in mysterious ways—as does commercial television (David Penberthy, The Daily Telegraph, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia)
  • Costello's faith call hits home | A "newly patient" Treasurer tells Jason Koutsoukis he has been overwhelmed by the public response to his appeal for a return to Christian values in a time of moral decay (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • The other campaign | A series of posters argues that "anti-Semitism is anti-me." What could this mean? (Julia Gorin, The Wall Street Journal)
  • All hail Benny! | Praise the Lord! A controversial faith healer has proved to be the answer to motor-ists' prayers - by getting Midland motor-way repairs postponed (Evening Mail, Birmingham, England)
  • African leaders play the fiddle while Sudan burns | The African Union took note of the crisis only last week, and refrained from describing the massacres that took place as "genocide" or as "racist", according to press reports (Patrick Van Rensberg, Mmegi, Botswana)
  • Christian book outlet pioneers price cuts | Revelation Christian Outlet (RCO) takes the traditional Christian retail concept of selling virtually everything at the manufacturer's suggested retail price and converts it to a "low-prices, big-volume" model similar to warehouse clubs and discounters (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
  • Religion news in brief | Trustees at Southern Baptist-affiliated college elect new chairman, Eight new AME bishops include three Africans, one from LA, Brazil's Catholic bishops condemn order allowing abortion in some cases, and other stories (Associated Press)

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