Compassion Forum Clings to Religion

April 14, 2008, 4:09 pm | Posted by

*Faith in Public Life planned and co-sponsored the Compassion Forum, a presidential forum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania in April 2008. Religious leaders posed questions on issues like poverty, climate change and Darfur to then-Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Well, at least this time CNN didn’t ask the presidential candidates to disclose the biggest sin they’ve committed.

But while Soledad O’Brien’s infamous question from the June 2007 Sojourners Presidential Forum didn’t make an appearance, much of tonight’s “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College had the same vibe as that event: questions about policy and decision-making were overshadowed by the journalists’ odd stabs at what they thought religious folks really wanted to know. As at the Sojourners event, for example, the moderator asked about literal seven-day creationism.

Faith in Public Life, the group that organized and sponsored the forum, had billed it as “probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights.”

Discussions of policies weren’t probed very far, however. Instead, on the Global Day for Darfur, co-moderator Jon Meacham asked Sen. Hillary Clinton, “Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?”

“You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate,” Clinton responded. “And I don’t know. I can’t wait to ask him. … [But] there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. … For whatever reason it exists, its very existence is a call to action.”

Call to action: AIDS

While sparks flew between the two candidates over Obama’s recent remarks about “bitter” Americans “clinging to guns and religion,” both candidates somewhat surprisingly praised President Bush, particularly for his anti-AIDS program in Africa.

“I commend President Bush for his PEPFAR initiative. It was a very bold and important commitment, but it didn’t go far enough in opening up the door to generic [drugs] and getting the costs down,” said Clinton, who also lauded Bush’s efforts after the south Asian tsunami.

“This is an area where — this doesn’t happen very often, so everybody should take note — where I compliment George Bush,” Obama said. “I actually think that the PEPFAR program is one of the success stories of this administration.”

Obama also supported abstinence education in fighting AIDS in Africa. “I also think that contraception is important,” he added. “I also think that treatment is important; I also think that we have to do more to make antiviral drugs available to people who are in extreme poverty. So I don’t want to pluck out one facet of it. Now, that doesn’t mean that non-for-profit groups can’t focus on one thing while the government focuses on other things. I think we want to have a comprehensive approach.”

Reducing abortion

Both candidates also reiterated their support for abortion rights, but said they wanted to reduce the number of abortions in the country.

“I believe that the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said, when asked if life begins at conception. “I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out. But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved. … And I have spent many years now, as a private citizen, as first lady, and now as senator, trying to make it rare, trying to create the conditions where women had other choices.”

Asked the same question, Obama responded, “This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? … What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”

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CNN Transcript, Post-Compassion Forum commentary (Michael Gerson, former Pres. Bush speechwriter)

April 13, 2008, 5:31 pm | Posted by

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN HOST: I’m Campbell Brown in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues now on CNN with my colleague John King.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Campbell. And I am John King on the campus here of Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Outside of the forum. You just heard the Democratic candidates for president discuss faith and values in the so-called compassion forum. A lot to discuss in the next several minutes.

And to do so let’s bring in our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She is here with me on the campus. CNN contributor Roland Martin as well as Michael Gerson. He is the author and former speechwriter for President Bush who has written repeatedly about faith and values and their role in politics.

A lot of sound to discuss tonight. A lot of issues to discuss tonight. You are still watching Senator Obama there inside the hall signing autographs and speaking to some of people attending this forum. We covered this campaign back and forth. It’s about taxes, it’s about the war in Iraq, it’s about the economy.

But it was an interesting conversation tonight. We’ll play more of the sound and discuss it in the moments ahead. But I want to ask each of you first just your overall assessment. Candy, you track these candidates every day. And again, it’s about the war. It’s about the economy. It’s about John McCain. Tonight it was about when does life begin. Does god have a role in issues like AIDS? What do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I actually, my first thought was, how far the Democrats have come on this issue of faith and politics. I’m even, trying to imagine Al Gore at a forum like this and talking, really so easily, as the two of them did. They seemed pretty comfortable. They didn’t have a problem talking about their own faith to a point.

So I just really thought, here’s the Democratic Party. They’ve gotten the message. You cannot ignore faith because it is such a part of the fabric of America. And, therefore, they are here and they are talking in real terms on very specific religious issues.

KING: Well, Michael Gerson, you helped elect George W. Bush on the very point candy is making. He spoke publicly about his faith. Jesus Christ was his favorite philosopher. I know when you works for the president in the campaign you had the belief that Democrats simply don’t get it. They don’t talk to people of faith especially in small town America. What did you make of tonight?

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: I agree. I thought it was a big change for the Democrats. I think Obama in many ways was more fluent talking about the role of religion in informing his own policy views. I don’t think that Senator Clinton did that quite as well. But I do — I think the other point, though, is not just how much the Democrats have changed but how much the evangelicals in the audience when you listen to the questions had changed. Because there was abortion but there were also questions on torture and the environment, which was a consistent theme and HIV/AIDS in Africa and Darfur was mentioned. And I think you’ve seen a broadening of this social justice agenda among religious conservative. That’s also an important point.

KING: And Roland, if the agenda has broadened among social conservatives, we’re in the state of Pennsylvania tonight. They’re important here. President Bush tried, just failed twice in this state. They are important in many other states. What did you make of the conversation tonight in terms of how we look forward in this campaign. One of these candidates will represent the Democratic Party. As Candy noted, John Kerry and Al Gore simply failed.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, it was a phenomenal conversation. Candy is absolutely right. I would have loved for Al Gore, somebody who actually went to seminary to have had a faith conversation with George W. Bush. I think the real issue here, John, that this was candidate driven and not party driven. These candidates, Clinton and Obama, both recognize the Democratic Party must begin to speak to people of faith. People like myself who are independents but who are strong believers of faith. People out there who say, look, we must go beyond issues of abortion and homosexuality.

But I think what you saw tonight, you certainly saw Obama who is a lot more comfortable as Michael said in speaking about his faith but even Senator Hillary Clinton. In her answer when she said it’s a lot more private. She she spoke more from a political standpoint. He was able to weave it in a lot more so. I think that also speaks to the individual. People have to recognize that individuals see their faith in a much different way. Some see it as a very public issue, as the essence of who they are. Others prefer to be very private. A phenomenal conversation and it should not be the last time that Democrats begin to deal with this because it certainly gave me a much better understanding of both candidates and their views on issues facing America.

KING: Roland, Michael and Candy. I want you all of you to stand by. As you can see, the forum is breaking up in Messiah College. The Democratic candidates talking about the role of faith in their life but also talking about their current dust-up on the campaign trail. Whether Barack Obama is somehow insensitive to blue collar workings facing economic anxiety. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

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CNN to Air Live Broadcast of Presidential Candidates Forum on Faith Issues

April 7, 2008, 5:35 pm | Posted by

CNN’s Campbell Brown to Co-Moderate with Newsweek’s Jon Meacham April 13 ‘Compassion Forum’ in Pennsylvania

Credentialing Information Available:

http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html

CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of a presidential candidate forum on faith, values and other current issues at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Penn., on Sunday, April 13, at 8 p.m. (ET) CNN Election Center anchor Campbell Brown and Newsweek editor and Newsweek.com election anchor Jon Meacham will moderate what is being billed as The Compassion Forum, which will take place nine days before the Pennsylvania primary.

Organized and sponsored by Faith in Public Life, the 90-minute forum will consist of wide-ranging and probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights. It will feature Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the same stage to talk about these topics as each candidate sits down individually with the moderators. The program will also stream live at www.CNN.com .

Leading up to The Compassion Forum, chief national correspondent John King will anchor live special coverage beginning at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 12, and then again on Sunday, April 13, immediately following the forum. Special coverage on Sunday will feature analysis from commentators across the faith and ideological spectrum. King will be stationed at CNN’s Pennsylvania “mini-bureau,” the CNN Election Express bus, which has allowed the network to maintain a full-time presence in these weeks leading up to the April 22 primary. “Ballot Bowl” will also originate live from Pennsylvania and air throughout the weekend, bringing the candidates’ significant events directly to viewers in long-form, not soundbites.

Media interested in covering the event should contact Faith in Public Life directly or fill out the form located at http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html .

CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.

DETAILS ABOUT COVERING THE APRIL 13 COMPASSION FORUM:

CREDENTIALING – Working members of the media wishing to cover The Compassion Forum must be credentialed. Credentialing is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html The deadline for credentials applications is 6 P.M. EDT Wednesday, April 2, 2008.

HOTELS – The Courtyard Marriot – Harrisburg West/Mechanicsburg (717-766-9006) and Holiday Inn Harrisburg West (717-697-0321) have rooms held under The Compassion Forum block. Please contact these hotels directly to make your reservations. A comprehensive listing of other area hotels is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/visitors/lodging.html

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Senator Obama Accepts Invitation to Bipartisan Presidential Compassion Forum

April 4, 2008, 5:02 pm | Posted by

Will Join Senator Clinton at Messiah College in Harrisburg on April 13th

Organizers Hold Out Hope for McCain

Credentialing Information Available:

http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html

Religious leaders from across the ideological spectrum are pleased to announce today that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have both confirmed that they will participate in an unprecedented bipartisan presidential candidate forum at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the evening of Sunday, April 13 – just nine days before the Pennsylvania primary. Senator McCain has thus far declined the invitation, which is still open.

Credentialing information for media wishing to cover The Compassion Forum can be found at the bottom of this release and online at: http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html.

Now more than ever, Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, abortion, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture. The Compassion Forum will provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on these important issues.

The Compassion Forum is not a debate. Each candidate will participate in a separate substantive conversation. “This is an occasion to talk about the substance and not the sensationalism of religion and politics,” said moderator Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, author of American Gospel, and respected scholar on faith and American politics.

The Compassion Forum will offer candidates an unprecedented opportunity to reach religious voters. The Forum will be broadcast on the Church Communication Network (CCN) to more than 100,000 people of faith in at least 1,000 churches across the country on April 20, the Sunday evening before the Pennsylvania primary. It will also air live on a national cable news network.

The Compassion Forum is a testament to the power of faith to bring people together. The event has attracted the support of diverse religious leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike, including Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Faith in Public Life is the organizer and a co-sponsor of The Compassion Forum, along with the faith community, represented by The Compassion Forum Board, which includes nationally prominent religious leaders from across the faith and ideological spectrum including Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. William J. Shaw, President of the National Baptist Convention; Paul Corts, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland A Church Distributed; Rev. Richard Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals; Dr. Oran P. Smith, Palmetto Family Council; Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA; Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission; Dr. Syeed Sayeed, Islamic Society of North America; David Neff, Christianity Today; Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners; Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Rev. David Beckmann, Bread for the World; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Sammy Mah, World Relief.

Organizational co-sponsors of the Forum are The ONE Campaign, an effort to rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty, and Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

Messiah College is a nationally-ranked Christian college of the liberal and applied arts and sciences with approximately 3,000 undergraduate students in 55 courses of study. Founded in 1909, Messiah College is located in Grantham, Pennsylvania, twelve miles from Harrisburg.

DETAILS ABOUT COVERING THE APRIL 13 COMPASSION FORUM:

CREDENTIALING – Working members of the media wishing to cover The Compassion Forum must be credentialed. Credentialing is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html The deadline for credentials applications is 6 P.M. EDT Friday, April 11, 2008.

HOTELS – The Courtyard Marriot – Harrisburg West/Mechanicsburg (717-766-9006) and Holiday Inn Harrisburg West (717-697-0321) have rooms held under The Compassion Forum block. Please contact these hotels directly to make your reservations. A comprehensive listing of other area hotels is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/visitors/lodging.html

# #

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Senator Clinton Accepts Invitation to Bipartisan Presidential Compassion Forum

March 25, 2008, 5:04 pm | Posted by

Messiah College Releases Credentialling Information on Website:

http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html

Religious leaders from across the ideological spectrum are pleased to announce today that Senator Clinton has confirmed that she will participate in an unprecedented bipartisan presidential candidate forum at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on the evening of Sunday, April 13 – just nine days before the Pennsylvania primary. Senator McCain and Senator Obama are actively considering invitations.

Credentialling information for media wishing to cover The Compassion Forum can be found at the bottom of this release and online at: http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html.

Now more than ever, Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, abortion, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture. The Compassion Forum will provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on these important issues.

The Compassion Forum is not a debate. Each candidate will participate in a separate substantive conversation. The Forum will be moderated by Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, author of American Gospel, and respected scholar on faith and American politics.

The Compassion Forum will offer candidates an unprecedented opportunity to reach religious voters. The Forum will be broadcast on the Church Communication Network (CCN) to more than 100,000 people of faith in at least 1,000 churches across the country on April 20, the Sunday evening before the Pennsylvania primary.

The Compassion Forum is a testament to the power of faith to bring people together. The event has attracted the support of diverse religious leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike, including Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Nationally prominent members of The Compassion Forum Board include Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. William J. Shaw, President of the National Baptist Conventionb. Corts, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland A Church Distributed; Rev. Richard Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals; Dr. Oran P. Smith, Palmetto Family Council; Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA; Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission; Dr. Syeed Sayeed, Islamic Society of North America; David Neff, Christianity Today; Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners; Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Rev. David Beckmann, Bread for the World; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rev. Dr. Vashti McKenzie, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Sammy Mah, World Relief.

Messiah College is a nationally-ranked Christian college of the liberal and applied arts and sciences with approximately 3,000 undergraduate students in 55 courses of study. Founded in 1909, Messiah College is located in Grantham, Pennsylvania, twelve miles from Harrisburg.

DETAILS ABOUT COVERING THE APRIL 13 COMPASSION FORUM:

CREDENTIALING – Working members of the media wishing to cover The Compassion Forum must be credentialed. Credentialing is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/compassion_forum/media/credentials/form.html The deadline for credentials applications is 6 P.M. EDT Wednesday, April 2, 2008.

HOTELS – The Courtyard Marriot – Harrisburg West/Mechanicsburg (717-766-9006) and Holiday Inn Harrisburg West (717-697-0321) have rooms held under The Compassion Forum block. Please contact these hotels directly to make your reservations. A comprehensive listing of other area hotels is available online: http://www.messiah.edu/visitors/lodging.html

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