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Atheists welcome in Obama's big church


America's perennial culture wars are being fought on a new front as President Barack Obama reaches out to adherents of all religious faiths -- and to atheists too.

Unlike any president of modern times, the Democrat has singled out non-believers as an important part of the nation's demographic mix. Secularists are impressed, the Christian right The term "Christian Right" is used by scholars and journalists, to refer to a spectrum of right-wing Christian political and social movements and organizations characterized by their strong support of conservative social and political values.  less so.

"We are pleased that he recognizes that we exist," said Ron Millar Ron Millar is the lead designer of Black & White 2, the computer game. He previously worked at Blizzard Entertainment on titles such as StarCraft and . , acting director of the Secular Coalition for America The Secular Coalition for America is a lobbying group representing atheists, secular humanists, and freethinkers in American politics. It is currently represented in Washington, D.C. .

"So we do see this as an important first step," he said.

"But there's a lot of work to do to reclaim our secular character, after the amount of influence the religious right has had over the last eight years."

Obama on Thursday announced a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, overhauling the former Bush administration's deeply contentious initiatives to bring religious groups into social policy.

Obama, a Christian who has long called for progressive liberals to shed their mistrust of religion, appealed to all worshippers to band together and assist society's most vulnerable at a time of acute economic crisis.

But he also highlighted those who subscribe to Verb 1. subscribe to - receive or obtain regularly; "We take the Times every day"
subscribe, take

buy, purchase - obtain by purchase; acquire by means of a financial transaction; "The family purchased a new car"; "The conglomerate acquired a new company";
 no faith at all, as he did in his inaugural address two weeks ago, ironically delivering that message at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

"The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups," the president said in a speech.

"It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."

Millar said the new White House faith office was inherently unconstitutional, arguing it would channel federal funds Federal Funds

Funds deposited to regional Federal Reserve Banks by commercial banks, including funds in excess of reserve requirements.

These non-interest bearing deposits are lent out at the Fed funds rate to other banks unable to meet overnight reserve
 to religious groups that discriminate against non-believers in hiring new workers.

But he said he was pleased to have a seat at the table, after his group joined a coalition of civil rights organizations in meeting Obama transition officials three times leading up to the president's January 20 inauguration.

In response to news of those meetings, the Anglican group In God We Trust said Thursday it was launching a one-million-dollar campaign to oppose Obama's attempts to "whitewash whitewash, white fluid commonly used as an inexpensive, impermanent coating for walls, fences, stables, and other exterior structures. It varies in composition, being generally a mixture of lime (quicklime), water, flour, salt, glue, and whiting, with other  America's religious heritage."

"I doubt that any newly elected president has ever sat down with lobbyists for the American atheist movement to plot legislative strategy," the group's chairman Bishop Council Nedd said in a statement.

"Clearly the administration is planning to push the radical left's vision of a completely secular United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  down the throats of ordinary Americans."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the meetings with Millar's group.

Chat forums on right-wing evangelical websites were meanwhile afire Thursday after Obama's nod towards non-believers and his recitation rec·i·ta·tion  
a. The act of reciting memorized materials in a public performance.

b. The material so presented.

a. Oral delivery of prepared lessons by a pupil.

 of an Islamic tenet at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Polling suggests that one in 10 Americans have no religious faith or are agnostic, against over 70 percent in a survey a year ago by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life who said their belief in God was absolutely certain.

However, another Pew survey in August pointed to a decline in the numbers of adherents who want religion and politics to mix in the public square.

Four years ago, just 30 percent of conservatives believed that churches should stay out of politics. In the August survey, 50 percent of conservatives expressed that view.

Professor Ira Lupu of the George Washington University Law School The George Washington University Law School, commonly referred to as GW Law, was founded in 1865 and is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a charter member of the Association of American Law , an expert in the church versus state debate, said Obama was tapping into changing social mores and recognizing Democratic supporters who are less likely to wear their religion on their sleeves, or have any faith at all.

"The whole idea of presidential acknowledgment that secular people as well as religious people have moral concerns about social issues, be it bioethics bioethics, in philosophy, a branch of ethics concerned with issues surrounding health care and the biological sciences. These issues include the morality of abortion, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants (see transplantation, medical).  or teen pregnancy, is a novel thing," he said.

"There's been a lot more people who are willing to identify themselves as secularist in the last three decades than ever in the history of America History of America may refer to either:
  • The History of the Americas
  • The History of the United States
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Feb 6, 2009
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