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ELECTION 08: Obama uses cross in flyer; NARAL endorsement elicits backlash

WASHINGTON (BP)–Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was criticized by some for an advertisement with a supposed “floating cross,” but Democratic candidate Barack Obama is going one step further in Kentucky, where a flyer paid for by his campaign shows him at a pulpit, with a cross hanging on a wall in the background.

Kentucky’s Democratic primary is Tuesday.

The cover of the flyer reads, “Faith. Hope. Change. Barack Obama for President. ‘My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I go out and do the Lord’s work.’ — Barack Obama” On the inside, the flyer refers to Obama as a “committed Christian” and tells how Obama “accepted Jesus Christ into his life.”

Mike Murphy, who worked on John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, said Sunday, May 19, that it remains to be seen whether Obama can win the votes of Christian conservatives since he is liberal on social issues. For instance, he supports abortion rights –- including partial-birth abortion — and has said he “respects the decision” by the California Supreme Court in legalizing “gay marriage.” He also has pledged to use the bully pulpit to promote “gay rights.”

“I think embracing culturally conservative voters is a good strategy for him,” Murphy said during a roundtable discussion on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Whether or not, in the ultimate analysis, he’ll line up on the policy issues they care about is a very open question, and I think it’s still a point of great vulnerability for him in an election.”

Huckabee, appearing on the same roundtable, said there’s a double standard between Democrats and Republicans on how the media covers faith issues.

“[I]t’s interesting that nobody’s jumping on Obama for this very blatant cross in his ad,” Huckabee said. “And I took grief for months — I’m still taking it — over something that wasn’t even a cross. It was a bookshelf, for heaven’s sakes. It really was a bookshelf. It shows, though, that there are two sets of rules that sometimes we play by. And if Republicans even get near a church, we’re accused of embracing it.”

Huckabee added he has no problems with the Obama ad and is “delighted to see Obama talk about his faith.”

Meanwhile, Huckabee –- after being asked about it three times by host Tim Russert –- said he would accept the vice presidential nomination if approached by Republican John McCain. Huckabee has implied as much in the past, previously saying it was the job that no one refuses.

“There’s no one I would rather be on a ticket with than John McCain,” Huckabee said. ” … [L]et me point out that all during the campaign, when I was his rival, not a running mate, there was no one who was more complimentary of him publicly and privately. He was my No. 2 choice…. I still wanted to win, but if I couldn’t, John McCain … was the guy I would’ve supported and have now supported. But whether or not I do the best for him [as a vice presidential candidate] that’s something that only he can decide. I’m going to support him because I think he’s the right person for America.”

NARAL ENDORSEMENT ELICITS BACKLASH — NARAL Pro-choice America’s endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama for president has drawn a backlash from other abortion rights advocates, including some of its own state affiliates.

NARAL, one of the country’s leading abortion rights organizations, announced May 14 its decision to support the United States senator from Illinois, even though his Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, also is a strong pro-choice advocate.

The endorsement by NARAL so near the end of the primary campaign quickly drew fire from other abortion rights backers.

“I think it is tremendously disrespectful” to Clinton “to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process,” said Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY’S List, on the same day NARAL’s decision was announced. “It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.”

EMILY’S List, which recruits and funds pro-choice Democratic women in election campaigns, endorsed Clinton in January 2007.

Several NARAL state chapters took issue with the national office’s decision. Affiliates in Missouri, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington opposed the endorsement of Obama, according to The New York Times.

The decision “is premature,” NARAL Pro-choice Pennsylvania said in a written statement. The endorsement was made by the Washington-based national office without consulting state chapters, the Pennsylvania group said. The state affiliate said it would support the Democratic nominee when that decision is final.

Obama appears to have an insurmountable lead over Clinton. He has 1,900 delegates and 298 super delegates, while Clinton has 1,718 and 275, respectively, according to www.RealClearPolitics.com.

In announcing the endorsement, NARAL President Nancy Keenan described Obama as “a strong advocate for a woman’s right to choose throughout his career in public office. Sen. Obama supports legislation to provide our teens with comprehensive sex education, prevent pharmacies from denying women access to their legal birth-control prescriptions, and increase access to family-planning services.”

She said America has been “fortunate to have two fully pro-choice candidates” in the Democratic race but “only one can go forward to the general election.”

On some issues, pro-lifers say, Obama has been even more extreme on abortion rights than Clinton. For instance, as an Illinois legislator, he opposed a bill that would have required medical treatment be given a newborn baby that survived an abortion attempt. In 1997, Obama failed to support an Illinois bill banning partial-birth abortion even though it included an exception to save the life of the mother. Although Clinton also opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion, in the Senate she voted for a bill that would require treatment be given newborns who survive abortions.

Meanwhile, John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has the endorsement of one of the country’s leading pro-life organizations, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

In April, NRLC’s board of directors passed a resolution endorsing McCain, saying the Arizona senator “has consistently taken a strong pro-life position against abortion, has a strong pro-life voting record against abortion and opposes Roe v. Wade.”

NARAL Pro-choice America was once known as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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