September, 2009 The story of Hispanics in America is the story of America itself. The Hispanic community’s values — love of family, a deep and abiding faith, and a strong work ethic — are America’s values. Hispanics bring together the rich traditions of communities with centuries-old roots in America and the energy and drive of recent immigrants. Many have taken great risks to begin a new life in the hopes of achieving a better future for themselves and their families. Hispanics have played a vital role in the moments and movements that have shaped our country. They have enriched our culture and brought creativity and innovation to everything from sports to the sciences and from the arts to our economy. Hispanics have served with honor and distinction in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, and they have made invaluable contributions through their service to our country. They lead corporations and not-for-profits, and social movements and places of learning. They serve in government at every level from school boards to state houses and from city councils to Congress. And for the first time in our Nation’s history, a Latina is seated among the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. As Hispanics continue to enrich our Nation’s character and shape our common future, they strengthen America’s promise and affirm the narrative of American unity and progress. To honor the achievements of Hispanics in America, the Congress, by Public Law 100-402, as amended, has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating September 15 through October 15 as “National Hispanic Heritage Month.” NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 15 through October 15, 2009, as National Hispanic Heritage Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth. Barack Obama
By Ethan Cole, Christian Post Reporter April 10, 2009 A diverse group of Christian leaders and organizations voiced support for plans by the Obama administration to address immigration reform this year, a move that has riled opponents who argue that he should first focus on fixing the economy. “Christians throughout the United States are energized and encouraged by the courageous steps taken by the Obama administration to prioritize reform of our broken immigration laws,” said Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) in a statement released on Thursday. “Today’s statements from the administration indicate that Obama will make good on his campaign promise by committing to reform within the first year of his term,” said the coalition, which consists of diverse Christian organizations, churches, and leaders united in support of comprehensive U.S. immigration reform. Christian leaders who are part of CCIR include Jim Wallis, founder and president of Sojourners; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America’s largest Hispanic evangelical organization; and the Rev. Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and World Relief board member, among others. Senior White House staffs this week informed select reporters that the administration plans to address immigration reform as early as May. According to CNN, President Obama plans to listen to the advice of a bipartisan and diverse group of experts to form new legislations. But a White House official said that immigration reform will not be given higher priority than other key issues like health care and energy, and there is no promise for a vote this year on new immigration laws. The Obama administration wants to find a way for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States to be legal, while increasing border security, removing incentives to enter the United States illegally, and working with Mexico to reduce illegal immigration, CNN reported. Critics of Obama’s plan argue that the current economic crisis has put millions of Americans out of jobs and there is no room right now for efforts that help illegal immigrant workers. “It just doesn’t seem rational that any political leader would say, let’s give millions of foreign workers permanent access to U.S. jobs when we have millions of Americans looking for jobs,” said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that supports reduced immigration, to the New York Times. “It’s going to be, ‘You’re letting them keep that job, when I could have that job,'” he said. But Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform supports President Obama and said it is committed to “fostering civil dialogue” about immigration in members’ congregations and communities. “We will continue to build momentum and support across the faith community for effective political solutions on immigration that restore the rule of law while also upholding moral and theological principles that call us to show compassion and mercy toward our undocumented brothers and sisters,” the coalition vowed. CCIR has helped organize more than 100 prayer vigils across the country in support of immigration reform in February, and is preparing to meet with members of Congress during April to push for a new U.S. immigration system.
By Dan Gilgoff January 15, 2009 A coalition of prominent evangelical leaders who’ve partnered with Third Way, a Washington think tank influential in shaping Democratic Party policy and messaging, is presenting policy recommendations to Barack Obama’s transition team today that purport to offer a consensus approach to hot-button issues that have long divided evangelicals and liberals. The recommendations include a framework for reducing demand for abortion without further restricting abortion rights, through initiatives like grants for sex education that emphasizes abstinence but includes contra ception, an expanded adoption tax credit, and a call for a federal prohibition on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, with an exemption for religious organizations. “This is the first time that evangelicals have taken a gay equality position,” says Rachel Laser, director of the culture Ppogram at Third Way. The memo’s drafters, including the Rev. Joel Hunter, a prominent Florida megachurch pastor, and the Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, released the document—”Come Let Us Reason Together: A Governing Agenda to End the Culture Wars”—this morning, ahead of a meeting with religious outreach and policy aides on the Obama transition team. “This is historic,” says Rodriguez, who leads the largest evangelical Latino group in the United States and was a prominent supporter of Proposition 8, California’s recently adopted gay-marriage ban. “Some of these people I’m in complete opposition to on the vast majority of public-policy ideas.” Besides its recommendations on abortion and gay rights, the memo presses Obama to officially ban U.S.-sponsored torture and to enact comprehensive immigration reform, with a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The drafters=2 0acknowledge that economic concerns are likely to trump social issues in the near term but argue that that strengthens the case for trying to neutralize sensitive social issues. “To the extent that these issues are always the elephant in the room,” says Third Way’s Laser, “finding common ground is one of the most helpful things we can do to allow for further progress on the economy.” “Why bring up abortion when the economy trumps everything?” says Rodriguez. “It’s precisely why we need to address these wedge issues—so they don’t keep coming up. They will come up again in 2010 if we don’t provide common ground.” The Obama team did not respond to requests for comment on the document or today’s meeting. The drafters—who also include progressive evangelicals Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, and David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights—consulted with centrist evangelicals and liberal advocacy groups throughout the yearlong memo-drafting process, attempting to build support in both camps. The document has endorsements from social conservatives like Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw and from a handful of liberal groups. Another endorsement came from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which called it “a welcome addition” to the debate about reproductive rights. An embargo on the memo until this morning made it impossible to get reaction from Christian right groups. “There will be pushback from the extreme right, who will see this as evangelical acquiescence,” says Rodriguez. “There are very conservative quarters of the evangelical world that see contraception as unbiblical, for instance. But it’s a no-brainer to push for a viable abortion-reduction strategy that goes beyond the wedge-issue sound bites.” Regarding abortion and gay rights, the memo’s drafters said consensus was difficult to find. “We struggled most with the gay employment rights discussion, not just on the religious side but on the progressive side,” says Gushee. “It’s becoming the single most divisive issue in public life, but we found common ground.” Though the drafters were in contact with the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest gay rights group, in crafting the language on workforce discrimination, HRC withheld its endorsement because transgender people are not included on the call for a prohibition against workplace discrimination. “We really honor and take very seriously the work that went into the document,” says Harry Knox, director of the group’s faith and religion program. “We just regret that there was not enough time to do the education we thought would get them to a place where they could include transgender people in the document.”
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service Religion News Service asked several religious leaders what they would have prayed for if they had been asked to pray at Barack Obama’s inauguration. Posted below include responses from evangelicals, such as Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham; the Rev. Wilfred De Jesus, Chicago pastor and an adviser to Obama’s campaign; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. Some of the responses have been edited for length and clarity: Author and speaker Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham. “We bow before you as the one, true, living God. In a world of confusion, you are the way. In a world of political correctness, you are the truth. In a world of death, you are eternal life. Thank you for our freedom which has not come easily, and is even nowbeing defended by the courageous sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives. May we never abuse it or take it for granted. Protect us from enemies outside our borders and from the sinful influences that have torn down the barriers of safety around our hearts and minds. Restore our families, schools, churches, and communities: that parents would step up as leaders; pastors would shepherd their flocks; teachers would impart wisdom with their instruction; and individuals would take responsibility for their own lives. We ask that you would bless President Obama with wisdom to make decisions that are right; courage to stand against that which is wrong; innovative ideas to solve problems; heartfelt compassion to meet human needs; patience to respectfully work out differences; counselors who speak the truth; family members and friends who love, encourage and support him. Give our new president a powerful, fresh encounter with yourself, so that on your behalf, he would exercise kindness, justice, and righteousness in this nation, and in the world. Most of all, we pray that we would be reminded that the change we long for, and the change we can truly believe in, is in the human heart as we turn in repentance and trust to you. Give our country the strength, the power, and the means to live out your will to your glory. In the name of your son, our savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.” The Rev. Wilfred De Jesus, pastor of New Life Covenant Ministries in Chicago, and an adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “Lord God Almighty, you are the author and initiator of change. Today, we stand on the precipice of change, faced with war, as well as economic, environmental, and immigration crises. Yet as in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair… even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow,” may we hold on to our dreams. Our country was founded on the dream of brave Americans, and throughout our history, you have raised up prophetic men and women to help us stay the course. Humbly, we ask for the strength to put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day — one of freedom and peace. We pray for our new leader, President Barack Obama. Our hope as a nation does not rest on him, but on you alone, Lord. And yet, we pray he would be a man of his word and remain faithful to the promises he has made. May he walk with integrity. Bless him with a double portion of your anointing, with courage and wisdom to lead this great country towards peace. We also pray for our nation, that we would not be divided by our past but be united by your purpose and plan for our future. May we realize our potential as one nation under God, according to our ideals of liberty and democracy. May we pursue our dreams in this land of opportunity. In this time of great turbulence and change, we give all the glory and honor to the one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We surrender all these things in Jesus name, Amen.” The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference “Righteous God, heavenly father, we give you praise and declare that your mercy endures forever. In the midst of moral relativism, a global war on terror, economic uncertainty, social injustice and strife, we declare that what America needs most is a fresh move of God’s Holy Spirit. Let the spirit of truth move from New York to Los Angeles, from Dallas to St. Paul. Let the spirit of freedom sound the alarm of righteousness and justice, from Wall Street to Main Street, from our classrooms to the courtrooms. As we give you the glory for the election of Barack Obama, Almighty God, we pray that all Americans come together: black, white, Hispanic, Asian. Let us unite under the canopy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We stand against the voices that attempt to draw us apart and commit ourselves to focusing on what holds us together: our love of God, family and country. Let this generation arise as the firewall against the spirit of violence, poverty, death and injustice. Lord, we present unto thee Barack Obama. Cover, protect and anoint him as he leads the charge in defense of faith, family and freedom. At the end of the day, Lord, may we declare thy kingdom come, thy will be done. For the kingdom of God is not red state or blue state, man or woman, native or immigrant, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. We hereby consecrate Barack Obama as president of the United States. In the name above all names we pray, Amen.” The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal “Oh God, we find ourselves in a moment of both excitement and worry, the paradox of hope and pain. Many tired souls have been lifted up by the promise and possibility that lies before our nation and the hopes of a new generation are giving strength and encouragement to many. But it is also a time of great fear and growing pain as our economic crisis threatens the future, leaving many of us vulnerable. We are faced with the challenge to celebrate hope in the midst of insecurity and uncertainty. We turn to you, oh Lord, in a time of shifting sand to put our trust on a rock that will not be moved. Teach us the lessons of putting false hopes in the material world, and forgive us for succumbing to the allures of consumption and greed. May this structural crisis reveal our spiritual crisis and cause us to repent of all that led us to this place. Change us, renew us, and remind us of what is truly important. May we learn that the common good is our own good. Quicken our hearts for the most vulnerable in our country and world, and help us to remember that each of us is a precious child of God.”