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Religion and Obama’s First 100 Days

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: President Obama marked his first 100 days in office saying he’s proud of what his administration has accomplished so far, but is very aware of all the work that lies ahead. Religious groups were among those making their own assessments of the president’s first one hundred days. Kim Lawton reports:

KIM LAWTON: More than 1,000 Christian activists, many of them moderates and liberals, gathered in Washington this week to mobilize against poverty. In a video address, President Obama said he wants to work with them.

President BARACK OBAMA (in video): If we stand together and work together, then in the words of Isaiah, we can become the repairers of the breach, the restorers of the path. Thank you for all you are doing to live out your faith.

LAWTON: That invitation was repeated by Joshua DuBois, director of the president’s newly established Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

JOSHUA DUBOIS (Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships): We’re really throwing the doors open of the White House to faith-based and community groups.

LAWTON: Sojourners president Jim Wallis says his movement is praying for — and lobbying for — new government policies to address poverty.

Reverend JIM WALLIS (President and CEO, Sojourners): Protecting the poor, defending the creation are core commitments of this administration. So that’s a good thing for us, good news for us. So I think there’s a real chance for partnership here.

LAWTON: Many of these activists felt like outsiders during the Bush administration, and they’re very pleased with their new White House access. Wallis is on Obama’s faith advisory council.

Rev. WALLIS: There has been an incredible amount of outreach to the faith community from this administration. I’ve never seen so much before.

LAWTON: But some in the faith community still feel the president and his administration haven’t reached out broadly enough.

Bishop HARRY JACKSON (High Impact Leadership Coalition): He has not yet reached out with that group to really touch the people who are on the conservative evangelical page. They’re rallying a little left of center, and I hope that they’ll be truly more inclusive.

LAWTON: Bishop Harry Jackson and other religious conservatives are worried about what may happen on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. Jackson says they have been especially disappointed by Obama’s early track record on what they call “the life issues.”

Bishop JACKSON: I’m hoping that he will begin to reflect on the will of the people once again and say, “I’m going to move toward a life stance, I’m going to move more toward protecting life in all forms, and traditional marriage.”

LAWTON: Meanwhile, the new insiders admit they’re still figuring out how to partner with the president without compromising their ability to speak out.

Rev. WALLIS: It’s a new kind of relationship that, one, I think that bears a lot of reflection theologically and politically, because he’s said to us in the White House when we had this council meeting, he said you should feel free to disagree with me when you do, even publicly, because one thing that we can’t lose is your prophetic integrity.

LAWTON: No matter how many days the Administration is in office, religious groups across the spectrum say they’ll keep trying to make their voices heard, whether they’re on the inside or not.

I’m Kim Lawton in Washington.