Here’s the question I have for you: Can conservative, moderate and liberal people of faith join together and convince the Obama administration to support their agenda aimed at ending the culture war in America? Moreover, can it be implemented in some form or fashion?
The group “Third Way” is trying to do just that and this morning they have released their blueprint for legislatively tackling the hot button issues of abortion, marriage, torture and immigration. They are also meeting with Obama officials about their agenda today. The group Faith in Public Life has really been behind this effort for quite some time now.
The blueprint is called, “Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Agenda”. There are four main components highlighted below. My analysis follows.
Reducing abortions through common ground policies.
We agree on a goal of reducing abortions in America through policies that address the circumstances that lead to abortion: preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.
Protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living.
Based on a common commitment to fairness and the Golden Rule, we support a policy that makes it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote employees based on their sexual orientation. We also believe that there must be a clear exemption for faith-based employers. It cedes the ‘right” ground which advances the gay cause
We agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.
Creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform.
We agree that we need secure, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform. We support policies that create an earned path to citizenship and protect families, while securing our borders and treating American taxpayers fairly.
You should read the details of the agenda here. It will give you a better sense of exactly what they are proposing.
Also, read Third Way’s letter to President-Elect Obama here
To see the conservative, moderate and liberal people of faith behind the effort click here.
Where shall I begin? Let’s start with a reality check. This agenda is no small task and the folks who put this together know it.
Let’s be real here. The Obama administration has no desire to waste away political capital on social issues. They don’t want to get bogged down on fights over gay rights and abortion. It would end up being a distraction because they are laser focused on the economy. So for this agenda to move forward, Obama is going to have to get a few serious legislative lopsided victories under his belt. If in the next couple years he can get an energy bill and a healthcare bill through Congress, then he would be in a stronger position to take on issues that require serious heavy lifting. Healthcare is a tough nut to crack but it pales in comparison to the emotional issues of abortion and gay rights.
Third Way is smart to plant the seeds now. They’ve actually be planting them for a couple years now but the good news for them is they have an administration who is not only willing to listen but who takes faith related matters very seriously. This should not be underestimated.
In order for this type of agenda to move forward, Obama himself is going to have to flex his muscle. (And he has a lot of muscles since he works out so much) He showed throughout his presidential campaign an ability to share his faith and get Evangelicals to at least take note and listen. Putting Rick Warren in the spot as Invocation speaker at his Inaugural is the type of real and tangible move that promotes good will between Obama and skeptical fence sitting Evangelicals. He’s going to need more of that for this agenda to have a chance.
The Warren pick was important because it showed Obama was willing to put some skin in the game. The proof is in the pudding if you will. Obama is going to need to continue to reach out to conservative Evangelicals with real and tangible moves aimed at showing that he wants to be a President for all Americans. If he continues to do that, he’ll have more credibility and respect with conservative Evangelicals which could indeed translate in to moving toward some culture war solutions. This is a bully pulpit job. Third Way will do the dirty work in the trenches and that’s crucial in making the land fertile. But Obama will need to be the one to deliver.
As for the agenda itself, on gay rights, clearly the hiring protection exemption for religious groups will be well received by conservative Evangelicals but the sticking point will be the issue of classifying sexual orientation as a “right”. Anybody got a good idea on middle ground for that one?
On abortion, the adoption language will be well received. The question for moderates and progressives is whether they can cede ground and be OK with parental notification laws and a fetal pain bill? Both are considered ways to reduce the number of abortions in the country so will those be considered?
Torture and immigration are hot buttons too but the real heavy lifting will be abortion and gay rights.