Religious Leaders Condemn Obama Smear Campaign

This is an open letter posted today at the National Council of Churches website condemning the recent attempt to smear Barack Obama -- suggesting he was educated at a Wahabist Madrassa in Indonesia, and that therefore he is possibly an Islamist in disguise. CNN has already shown that this is all a fabrication, but it's important that we in the religious community state clearly that such attempts to smear candidates is out of bounds! The issue is not whether Obama is or has been a Muslim (he isn't, nor has he been), but how religion is being used as political dirty trick! So, I add my amen to this letter.

January 23, 2007
An Open Letter to the Religious Community:

Many of you have seen hateful emails, blog postings and reports circulating on the Internet and in the media about Senator Barack Obama and his religious upbringing. These outrageous charges began as reports of his potential candidacy for President emerged and, as has become a shameful custom of modern politics, it has swirled through cyberspace with a vengeance and now has been picked up as fact by Fox News and some partisan commentators.

We are writing to deplore this despicable tactic and set the record straight. We have had enough of the slash and burn politics calculated to divide us as children of God.

We must come together as one nation, and see our stake in each other as Americans. The bitter, destructive politics that have so riven our country in recent years cannot stand. As American leaders of different faiths - Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jew - who have worked cooperatively and greatly respect all of the 2008 candidates in both parties, we do not offer this statement as an endorsement of any individual candidate. However, certain moral standards should infuse our national dialogue, and the recent attacks on Sen. Obama violate values at the heart of this dialogue. The false and malicious attacks levied at him are anathema to all of our faith traditions, and we condemn them outright.

The facts below are no mystery. Senator Obama wrote openly about his life in his autobiography, Dreams from my Father. We take Senator Obama's long-cited and uncontested description of his educational and faith journey at face value.

*Senator Obama never attended a radical Madrasa nor was he ever educated in a wahabi school. In the years he lived in Indonesia as a child, from ages 6 to 10, he attended a neighboring Catholic school for two years and then a public school.

*Senator Obama was not raised in a religious household.

*Senator Obama became a Christian long before he entered politics.While working as a young community organizer in the mid-1980s, working with a consortium of churches in a depressed neighborhood of Chicago, he became a Christian and became active in Trinity United Church of Christ.He, his wife and family are still active members of Trinity today.

It is important that we take a stand today against this willful, malicious attempt to mislead and inflame - and against any further attempts to use political attacks to divide the religious community. We ask that you share this letter widely, and help us beat back these hideous tactics, whatever their source. As people of faith, we cannot allow divisive attacks like these to stand.


Rev. Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

Imam Mahdi Bray
Executive Director
Muslim American Society
Freedom Foundation

Rev. Stephen J. Thurston
National Baptist Convention of America

The Rt. Rev. Preston W. Williams
President, Global Council of Bishops
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
Executive Director

Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
Interfaith Alliance

Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Director of Education
Jewish Funds for Justice


Anonymous said…
From National Council of Churches Blog:

The National Council of Churches is going bananas because the Fox News morning show discussed an article in Insight Magazine about an investigation Hillary Clinton's campaign was conducting to determine if Barack Obama attended a radical Muslim school as a child. Instead of raising the obvious concern about a politically motivated religious witch-hunt by presidential candidates, NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar chose to exclusively focus his contempt on Fox News:

"I've been saying for awhile now that we must not let fear, fundamentalism and Fox News set our nation's agenda," said NCC's Edgar separately. "Now it appears Fox News is using a political candidate to further foment a fear of fundamentalism in hopes of dividing Americans and pitting people of faith against one another. Faithful Americans must stand up and say no to such sinful behavior," Edgar said.

As usual, Edgar would rather play political games than address the actual issue. The article in doubt focused exclusively on the activities of political candidates:

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

"He was a Muslim, but he concealed it," the source said. "His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign."

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Heaven forbid Edgar would actually challenge his own political party to not pursue these types of campaigns.
I must say, I'm not sure where this comes from except from a far right groupie, maybe of similar mindset as those who have created this story about Obama. Some unnamed source quoted by a right wing magazine and then made part of stories by Fox News, which has never shown much interest in being either fair or balanced in its telling of the news.
kwenk said…
One thing I notice is the absence of any group that might represent a "Christian Right" perspective. I'd feel a lot better if I knew this was circulating there too. Do you know if it is?
The charges about Obama's "Muslim" background have appeared only among right wing outlets like Insight Magazine, which is affiliated with the Unification Church's Washington Times, and then re-broadcast on Fox News, which never bothered to check the facts. As for Christian Right groups, that's hard to tell.
Anonymous said…
You are right Pastor Bob... Political candidates for office would never try to slime opponents from their own party. Silly me.
It's not that political candidates of the same party wouldn't slime one of their own, but I think you need to consider the sources of the information, all of which is from pretty rightwing sources, who stand to benefit from causing grief for both prospective candidates.

Mud throwing is an equal opportunity employer, but it just doesn't "smell" right this time.
Anonymous said…
Pastor Bob... don't get sucked into the partisanship that is fueling this and use some common sense. Even John Kerry didn't get "swiftboated" until he was the nominee.

Think of it this way if you were a Republican - the Republicans are not worried about Obama, they are worried about Hillary. There is no logical reason at this point for the right-wing hatchet men to go after Obama. Common sense says this was done by Hillary's campaign who is the only one (at this point) to benefit from smearing Obama .... Seriously, what good does it do for right wing?
If Hillary is the one being worried about, what better way to target her as front runner, than to tar her with mudslinging at such an early point. Why not knock out the two leading candidates early on. But the question is source. It's still Washington Times related Insight Mag and Fox News. These aren't usual Hillary allies. It's possible it's Hillary, but at this time with such a big lead in the early polls, the only person on the left who stands to benefit is John Edwards. So should the finger pointed there? Still seems fishy to me. In the end, it's likely we'll never know. Hopefully it will blow over, people will realize that Obama isn't a covert Muslim terrorist and the conversation will move on.
Anonymous said…
Fair enough.

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