The very month that he held an unusual meeting with prominent black and white Christians–the Rev. Franklin Graham and the Rev. T.D. Jakes, among them–Senator Obama has come under resounding verbal attack from Dr. James Dobson, head of the highly influential multi-media ministry Focus on the Family. On his radio program Wednesday, Dobson sharply criticized Obama for remarks the senator made in a speech dealing with religious pluralism and public policy that Obama delivered almost exactly two years ago.

In it, Obama rhetorically asked whose “interpretation of the Bible” should apply as the basis for public policy and, in the process, contrasts Dobson and the New York City African-American activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton, as likely to have very different interpretations on a number of questions. Dobson took particular issue with the comparison with Sharpton, whom his ministry characterizes as “far left.” But more to the point, Dobson strongly rejected Obama’s argument that within a pluralistic democracy, religious objections to moral questions (he cites abortion) must be grounded in moral arguments that will hold appeal beyond sectarian bounds. Dobson said he found Obama’s idea to be a violation of individuals’ Constitutional rights to freedom of religion.

Dobson’s critique is heated, detailed and lengthy, as he plays clips from the Obama speech and responds with negative commentary. His remarks run a full 18 minutes, following a shorter, generous tribute he makes to the memory of the late NBC journalist Tim Russert, who died last week.

Dobson’s broadcast concludes with the strong suggestion there may be more coming, as he and another Focus official seek listener response. Indeed, in a fine, short report on Dobson’s criticisms broadcast by National Public Radio reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Michael Cromartie, vice president at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, said Dobson’s remarks are “the beginning of what we might call the religion wars in the 2008 campaign.” Whew!

In his remarks to NPR, Cromartie added that Obama had best beware that, politically, the influential Dobson “has been awakened from his slumber.”





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