Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about the past week.
If it looks like a terrorist …
Political activist groups continued to debate the Islamic center proposed to be built near the site of the World Trade Center. Some activists say that while all Muslims may not be terrorists, they remind people of terrorists, calling for a change of location for the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque."
During CitizenLink's weekly webcast, Tom Minnery said, "Nobody is suggesting that the brand of Islam practiced by the owners of this mosque [is] going to lead to more terrorist attacks. But for Heaven's sake, in the name of all that is decent and in the name of common sense, build it elsewhere."
He said the group had the right to build, but he questioned the prudence of doing so. "Is it dishonoring to the 3,000 people who gave their lives to have this mosque which, in some minds, represents a similar religious belief that caused the terrorists to do what they did?" said Minnery.
Stuart Shepard, host of the webcast, noted that this position is a departure from Minnery's previous positions on religious liberty.
"You have spent a lot of time talking about religious freedom. And you work for Alliance Defense Fund quite a bit helping them fight for the rights of people, for religious freedom. It is quite a turn for you to say that this is not the right location for religious freedom to be expressed," said Shepard.
"Well, it is indeed," said Minnery.
Minnery said it was "hypocritical" for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to talk about religious freedom. He said the city had been fighting churches wanting to use public school buildings for Sunday worship. Minnery made a similar argument in a New York Daily News editorial in which he said all that "small beleaguered Christian congregations" want is "the same tolerance and respect that the mayor asks for Muslims."
"For whatever reason, liberals don't regard Islam, yet, as much of a threat. I'm not so sure they're accurate in that, but they don't think of it as the enemy. I think a lot of times they think of conservative Christianity as something we have got to clamp down on because rights come from the Creator according to these people—also according to the Declaration of Independence—and liberals like to have rights come from government, from them," said Minnery.
American Family Association's Bryan Fischer is one who does see Islam as the enemy.
"Our enemy is authentic Islam and our enemies are devout Muslims," said Fischer. "All this blather about religious liberty is just that—blather. The First Amendment, for devout Muslims in the U.S., is nothing more than a borrowed cloak of righteousness to conceal a heart of darkness."
Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice said the problem is not a mosque per se. He said this building would be built by "radical Islam."
"I reject the argument that those against this mosque are anti-Islam or against religious freedom. We fight against this mosque because of what it represents. This is a $100 million dollar monument to radical Islam at the heart of Ground Zero," said Sekulow.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, "While the overwhelming majority of Muslims—American and otherwise—repudiate the radical Islamic Jihadism of those who perpetrated the attack on the World Trade Center, it is still the case that it was done in the name of a perverted understanding of Islam." Land said that it was time for Muslims to be sensitive and to move the mosque a few blocks north.
BreakPoint columnist Stan Guthrie called the building "an insensitive religious response to a religiously motivated atrocity."
"In the name of tolerance, [Muslims] are demanding the right to build a monument to their faith on the site of the carnage," said Guthrie. He said just as Christians are judged by the Crusades, Muslims should be judged by 9-11 and other atrocities committed in the name of Islam.
In a radio interview this week, Guthrie reiterated this position. He said, "The Muslims who are pushing for this need to rethink. I'm not saying they don't have the right to build a mosque. We cherish freedom of religion in this country, but just on its face, it is bad form. It is insulting. And it's hurting—it's really hurting—inter-religious dialogue in this country."
Sojourners president Jim Wallis disagreed with arguments that Muslims need to be sensitive to others who judge them as being the same as the terrorists.
"Many political leaders, both Democrat and Republican, have said that while Muslims have the right to build a community center wherever they want, it is 'insensitive' for them to build one within two blocks of ground zero," Wallis wrote in an op-ed for Politico. "But this argument rests on an assumption that I refuse to make—and all Americans should resist. The assumption is that all Muslims—because they're Muslims—are guilty of the crimes committed by terrorists who claim the mantle of Islam."
Church leaders: Obama is a Christian
More than 70 church leaders signed a letter supporting President Obama's Christian faith. As reported last week, nearly one-third of evangelicals believe Obama is a Muslim.
A portion of the letter stated:
As Christian leaders—whose primary responsibility is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with our congregations, our communities, and our world—we are deeply troubled by the recent questioning of President Obama's faith. We understand that these are contentious times, but the personal faith of our leaders should not be up for public debate. President Obama has been unwavering in confessing Christ as Lord and has spoken often about the importance of his Christian faith. Many of the signees on this letter have prayed and worshipped with this President. We believe that questioning, and especially misrepresenting, the faith of a confessing believer goes too far.
Signatories included political activists such as Ron Sider (Evangelicals for Social Action), Samuel Rodriguez (National Hispanic Leadership Conference), Jim Wallis (Sojourners), and David Gushee (New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Other signatories included World Vision president Rich Stearns, pastor Joel Hunter, author Donald Miller, pastor Brian McLaren, Calvin College research fellow Stephen Monsma, and Yale theologian Miroslav Volf.
In a separate statement, Wallis wrote for Politico, "I've known the president for 10 years, and I've had many conversations with him about faith. The president's Christian faith is both personal and intelligent, and it includes respect for other faiths and those with no faith at all. Obama's testimony to the resurrection of Christ at his White House Easter breakfast was the strongest theological affirmation I have ever heard from a president."
BreakPoint's Gina Dalfonzo offered another response to the poll results and the resulting media coverage.
"I noticed some tut-tutting among newscasters that people just don't listen to the president when he states that he's a Christian," said Dalfonzo, who edits The Point blog. "Did any of them consider that maybe some of these people are listening but don't necessarily trust him to tell the truth? Oddly, there didn't seem to be nearly as much tut-tutting about Democrats increasingly coming to believe that Obama is not a Christian. If they're not listening to the president, isn't that just as bad as the people who believe he's a Muslim not listening?"
Faith in Public Life's Dan Nejfelt said the perception that Obama is a Muslim is consequential. He noted that those who believe Obama is a Muslim are more likely to disapprove of the President.
". … [C]ultivating this misperception is a political strategy meant to discredit the president by appealing to religious bigotry and Islamophobia. Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and other purveyors of fear and prejudice are maligning a religious minority to further the short-term goal of scoring political points," he wrote. "They should be called out, not ignored."
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