Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

obama23.jpgGod-o-Meter is catching more flack for its post yesterday on Obama and the false Islam rumors and whether he’s made himself more susceptible to them. Here’s The Dallas Morning News’ Jeffrey Weiss:

[W]hile I like a lot of Daniel’s [aka God-o-Meter’s] stuff, I think this one fails to deliver. For evidence he links to two very MSM stories — one from the LATimes and one from the NYTimes. And both, sez I, mostly knock down the very premise he’s trying to raise…
Looking at the record, Obama says he was never a Muslim and has been a Christian for many years.
So what are the “connections” that Daniel chooses to highlight? The LA Times story quotes a childhood friend of Obama who says that some 40 years ago, he and his buddy would head for the mosque on Fridays. And the NYTimes story says that Obama’s dad had more than one wife back in Kenya.
But the LATimes story also quotes Obama’s sister who says her father’s connection to the mosque was mostly social and that the family did not regularly attend Friday prayer services. Even the friend quoted says that they did not pray seriously.
And the NYTimes piece points out that Obama barely knew his father.
So where’s the beef? Frankly, I was hoping that Daniel had turned up something substantive. I’ve posted here more than once that I’d not seen any evidence to counter Obama’s explanation for his faith. And yet I keep getting those e-mails that accuse him of being a “secret Muslim” without a shred of evidence. I’m not hoping Obama is lying (or not, for that matter) but as a journalist, I’m much happier when the public discourse has facts to work with rather than unsubstantiated rumors.
But this to me is just more swirling of old smoke. Is it really much of a “connection” that Obama had Muslim instruction when he was 9 years old, if there’s no evidence that it ever “took?”
…Why should the campaign or the candidate feel obligated to significantly address these parts of his childhood biography? They are hardly secrets, after all, if the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have written about them. And there are plenty of substantive issues to chew on, after all. (NAFTA and Canada, anybody?)

God-o-Meter is the first to admit that there are more substantive issues in the election than Obama’s faith and false rumors about it. But the Obama camp obviously views these issues as pretty substantive. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have a faith outreach director tackling the rumors (John Kerry didn’t have a faith outreach director at this point in the 2004 campaign). It wouldn’t have devoted a page on its web site to combating the rumors point by point. And it wouldn’t have printed up flyers in South Carolina screaming that Obama has been “Called to Christ” and “Committed Christian” in huge letters. This is a serious if regrettable issue for the campaign. God-o-Meter is merely questioning whether Obama has made it more of an issue by playing down his childhood connections to Islam and creating the appearance that he’s got something to hide.
Weiss, too, plays down Obama’s childhood connections to Islam. But God-o-Meter guesses that most Americans would think being born to a father who was raised a Muslim, spending four years in Indonesia with a nominally Muslim stepfather–sometimes attending prayers at the mosque with him–and spending a couple years studying the Qur’an at a school where he was registered as a Muslim constitutes a once-strong connection to Islam. God-o-Meter is the first to say there’s nothing wrong with that. Rather, it believes Obama may create trouble for himself by not being forthright about those facts, creating an impression that there is something wrong with them.
Finally, Weiss writes that Obama’s childhood connections to Islam are “hardly secrets… if the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have written about them.” Actually, the LA Times and New York Times stories were one-off pieces that generated surprisingly little follow up. Just try to find other mainstream news outlets in the U.S. that carried stories about Obama being registered as a Muslim in an Indonesian school and studying the Qur’an, or that mention that his father was a polygamist. There was infinitely more coverage of the fact that Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather was a polygamist.
God-o-Meter is not calling for more stories about Obama’s past. But it does see some evidence that the American news media is so eager to avoid fanning the false rumors about Obama that it has largely ignored his experiences with Islam as a child. And God-o-Meter thinks that creates still more danger for Obama. If Obama wins the nomination, but the average voter finds out about Obama’s childhood or his father through Republican-led whisper campaigns in the months before Election Day, aren’t they more likely to think ‘Hey–wonder what else Obama’s hiding’ and believe the false rumors about him?


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