(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told a crowd at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Sunday that he believes the Sermon on the Mount justifies his support for legal recognition of same-sex unions. He also told the crowd that his position in favor of legalized abortion does not make him "less Christian."
"I don't think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state," said Obama. "If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans." ((Hear audio from WTAP-TV)) St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans condemns homosexual acts as unnatural and sinful.
Obama's mention of the Sermon on the Mount in justifying legal recognition of same-sex unions may have been a reference to the Golden Rule: "Do to others what you would have them do to you." Or it may have been a reference to another famous line: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
The Sermon, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, includes the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, an endorsement of scriptural moral commandments ("anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven"), and condemnations of murder, divorce and adultery. It also includes a warning: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
The passage from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, which Obama dismissed as "obscure," discusses people who knew God but turned against him.
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised," wrote St. Paul. "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
On the topic of abortion, Obama said his support for keeping it legal does not trespass on his Christian faith.
"I think that the bottom line is that in the end, I think women, in consultation with their pastors, and their doctors, and their family, are in a better position to make these decisions than some bureaucrat in Washington. That's my view," Obama said about abortion. "Again, I respect people who may disagree, but I certainly don't think it makes me less Christian. Okay." (Hear audio from WTAP-TV)
Obama opened his town-hall-type meeting at the college with a short speech and then provided lengthy answers to a handful of questions. One questioner, Leon Forte, a Protestant clergyman, asked Obama about evangelical Christians who were concerned about his position on issues that conservatives consider "litmus tests."
"Your campaign sets a quandary for most evangelical Christians because I believe that they believe in the social agenda that you have, but they have a problem in what the conservatives have laid out as the moral litmus tests as to who is worthy and who is not," said Forte. "So, I will ask you to speak to those two questions."(See transcript)
Obama volunteered that he believed Forte was talking about abortion and homosexual marriage, and then he gave answers on both issues that were not as explicit as positions he has staked out on these issues in other venues. Last Thursday, for example, as reported by Cybercast News Service, Obama published on his Web site an "open letter concerning LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) equality in America."
In that letter, Obama said he favored same-sex unions that were equal to marriage--including adoption rights--and that he was open to states codifying same-sex marriages.
"As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws," Obama said in the letter. "I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples--whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage."
In Ohio on Sunday, before mentioning the Sermon on the Mount, Obama insisted he was against "gay marriage" and did not mention his support for allowing same-sex couples to adopt children and have the same "family" status as heterosexual couples.
"I will tell you that I don't believe in gay marriage, but I do think that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and that the state should not discriminate against them," said Obama on Sunday. "So, I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don't think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That's my view."
Obama also has been more aggressive in framing his pro-abortion position previously than he was on Sunday. When he was in the Illinois Senate, for example, he repeatedly opposed a bill that would have defined as a "person" a baby who had survived an induced-labor abortion and was born alive.
In a 2001 Illinois Senate floor speech about that bill, he argued that to call a baby who survived an abortion a "person" would give it equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment and would give credibility to the argument that the same child inside its mother's womb was also a "person" and thus could not be aborted.
When the Illinois Senate bill was amended to make it identical to a federal law that included language to protect Roe v. Wade--and that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to pass--Obama still opposed the bill, voting it down in the Illinois Senate committee he chaired.
Yet, in Ohio on Sunday, Obama depicted abortion as a tragedy to be avoided, while being kept legal.
"On the issue of abortion, that is always a tragic and painful issue," he said. "I think it is always tragic, and we should prevent it as much as possible .... But I think that the bottom line is that in the end, I think women, in consultation with their pastors, and their doctors, and their family, are in a better position to make these decisions than some bureaucrat in Washington. That's my view. Again, I respect people who may disagree, but I certainly don't think it makes me less Christian. Okay."
Before discussing his views on same-sex unions and abortion, Obama told the crowd he was a "devout Christian."
"In terms of my faith, there has been so much confusion that has been deliberately perpetrated through emails and so forth, so here are the simple facts," he said. "I am a Christian. I am a devout Christian. I have been a member of the same church for 20 years, pray to Jesus every night, and try to go to church as much as I can when they are not working me. Used to go quite often.
"These days, we haven't been at the home church--I haven't been home on Sunday--for several months now. So, my faith is important to me. It is not something that I try to push on other people. But it is something that helps to guide my life and my values."
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