Shortly after announcing his support for same-sex marriage last week, President Barack Obama reached out to African-American ministers and other key players in the religious community in an effort to contain any possible political damage.
According to The New York Times
, the president spoke in the hours after making his decision public with at least eight ministers on a conference call in which he sought to explain his position in theological and personal terms.
Some, the Times reported Sunday, told him his position on gay marriage would make it difficult to back his re-election. But by the end of the call, most said they would work on his behalf, according to one minister on the call quoted by the Times.
“They were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position,” the Rev. Delman Coates, the pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., told the Times.
“Gay marriage is contrary to their understanding of Scripture,” Coates added. “There are people who are really wrestling with this.”
In addition to the conference call, Obama and his White House team also reached out to other spiritual leaders he relies on for religious advice or who have been supportive of his positions in the past.
“The damage control effort underscored the anxiety among Mr. Obama’s advisers about the consequences of the president’s revised position just months before what is expected to be a tight re-election vote,” the Times article said.
Obama’s announcement, coming on the heels of the administration requirement that organizations affiliated with religious institutions offer health coverage for contraceptives, set off a firestorm of protests among some religious leaders and political critics of the president.
The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, who spoke with the president by phone after his decision, told the Times, “Some of the faith communities are going to be afraid that this is an attack against religious liberty.”
Hunter, the pastor of large conservative church in Florida, said the president responded, “Absolutely not. That’s not where we’re going, and that’s not what I want.”
Still, conservatives said the president’s decision to openly support gay marriage had changed the dynamics of this presidential race, the Times reported.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer said, “I think the president this past week took six or seven states he carried in 2008 and put them in play with this one ill-conceived position that he’s taken.”
Appearing on the same program, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Obama’s decision had also stirred up religious leaders who had not planned to get involved in the election this year.
“I’ve gotten calls from pastors across the nation, white and black pastors, who have said, ‘You know what? I’m not sitting on the sidelines anymore,’ ” Perkins said.
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