There's big news on the faith front coming out of Washington, D.C. As the Democrats eye their 2012 prospects, President Barack Obama's political team is seeking to continue its courting of religious adherents.
The left's new and increasingly-active efforts to connect with evangelicals, Catholics and other religious groups will be headed by the Rev. Derrick Harkins, a well-known commentator in both the faith and political realms.
According to Politico, Democrats believe they can resonate with people of faith on immigration, the federal budget and many other issues. Earlier this month, Obama became the first Democratic president to meet with the National Association of Evangelicals -- a curious development considering that Harkins sits on the group's board.
The NAE has a fair amount of influence in America's Christian communities, as the group represents 40 denominations (45,000 local churches). While the NAE certainly champions more conservative issues than it does liberal, this new-found connection with the Obama administration is interesting, as it shows that the group may be moving more into the progressive fold on issues like immigration (although it's possible that the meeting was more of a formality).
The current causes that the NAE is fighting for are traditional marriage, non-governmental support for abortion and lowering the nation's debt -- hardly issues that would formulate a leftist platform. But it's not a stretch to wonder whether Harkins' pull as a board member will bring Obama and the group closer together on immigration, among other issues.
Obama has a history of interacting with leftists like Rev. Jim Wallis, so he's no stranger to working with more liberal clergy to spread his message out to the masses. Politico reports:
In 2008, Obama won Catholics and mainline Protestants, and overperformed with young evangelicals, in part through an operation put together by Josh DuBois, now the White House faith director.
Harkins has been commissioned to continue these successes and to essentially build deeper into America's religious framework. He's described as a "progressive, African-American pastor" who also serves as a senior preacher at his church, 19th Street Baptist.
Harkins, though, isn't simply a random selection for the position, as he has a relationship with at least one leftist group that is more than friendly to Obama's agenda. He has ties to Faith in Public Life -- in fact, he's on the organization's board.
The Blaze has reported on FPL in the past. In 2009, the group, which describes itself as, "a strategy center advancing faith in the public square as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion and the common good," has ties to billionaire George Soros.
In fact, as we reported this summer, the group received a two-year $450,000 grant in 2009 from his group (partially tied to FPL's work toward achieving immigration reform). FPL sometimes takes to its blog to defend Soros against Glenn Beck.
Politico describes FPL as an organization that was "launched in 2006 to take the partisan edge off faith in the public square, dominated by the GOP in 2004." However, the group is essentially a cohort of religious leftists (right now, the web site touts support for Occupy Wall Street on its main page).
The FPL connection is an intriguing one, indeed. Harkins has also been involved in calls for immigration reform (though he claims he doesn't support amnesty). Below, watch his statements on the matter in a 2007 interview with Lou Dobbs:
Earlier this year, he spoke at an immigration reform rally. His presence was advertised on Wallis' Sojourners web site. And here is is discussing Democratic health care reform back in 2009:
Harkins was also a signatory to a letter that was produced by Sojourners and FPL, urging politicians not to engage in budget-cutting and advocating for "government support" for Americans in great need. When speaking about the document's importance, he said the following:
“This is not about some nameless faceless ‘other.’ The choices politicians make about the budget will harm or help our neighbors. We want to serve those who don’t have lobbyists on K Street. Our budget is a moral document, and it is either going to reflect the best of whom we are or the worst.”
Read the letter below:
It should be noted that Harkins considers himself pro-life, although he apparently said that he was opposed to Republican-led attacks on Planned Parenthood.
In the end, it seems Harkins is a mixed-bag when it comes to liberal versus conservative ideals. That being said, he most definitely fits the "progressive" bill in his immigration and federal debt standpoints. Also, his alignment with FPL showcases his willingness to side with -- and even advocate for -- far-left causes.
Harkins will likely be a beneficial tool for the Obama administration as it seeks to continue to embed itself in America's faith community.