Obama more religious than Bush?


Many noticed the religiosity of the George W. Bush administration, but Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report says religion has played an even bigger role in the first six months of the Obama administration:

The conventional wisdom was that George W. Bush was the most faith-based president in recent history, by a long shot. Citing Jesus as his favorite philosopher and Billy Graham as a mentor, Bush won evangelical voters in numbers not previously seen. In office, he launched a controversial office of faith-based initiatives and consulted religious leaders in developing science policy. Bush routinely opened cabinet meetings with prayer and acknowledged conferring with "a higher father" before going to war in Iraq.

How remarkable, then, that religion might be playing an even bigger role in Barack Obama’s administration. While Bush invited megapastor Rick Warren to low-key White House functions, Obama had him deliver the invocation at his internationally televised inauguration. Bush encouraged White House prayer groups, but Obama begins public rallies with the recitation of a White House-commissioned prayer. Obama has quickly expanded Bush’s faith-based initiatives to include an advisory council of religious leaders weighing in on matters as diverse as abortion and Middle East peace. "This administration has used faith more overtly than any other in its first hundred days," says Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "That includes Bush." But rather than appeal mostly to evangelicals as Bush did, Obama is reaching out to a broad spectrum of believers and nonbelievers.

….He is carving out a bold new role for faith in the White House, which aides say aims to dial down the decades-old culture wars. The project may wind up drawing more religious voters into the Democratic fold. But it also threatens to alienate the Democratic base, which polls show is much less religious than the GOP’s. Given the important role that religion and church-based organizing have played in Obama’s own biography, though, the president is unlikely to abandon his quest for a middle way for faith in government and politics. "My sense is that these efforts give a fairly accurate portrait of what the president really believes," says John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. "Some conservative Christians
worry he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I think that’s overblown."


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