``My understanding is that President Bush will actually consider aliaison to the Muslim community, specifically for Muslims,'' SalamAl-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council says on the PBS show "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly." ``We hope that our messages to the president will be heard and it will be an open channel.''
Muslim political advocacy groups, in a show of the community's newpolitical strength, endorsed Bush during the election and the hoped-forliaison is their expected payback.
Post-balloting polls conducted by Muslim groups showed the estimated six-million strong community overwhelmingly favored Bush over his Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore.
Muslim activists said before the vote that they endorsed Bush in an effort to show they could deliver bloc votes as a sign of their community's growing political sophistication within the American system.
As the long battle over the presidency came to an end, otherreligious groups and leaders also were positioning themselves forpressing their issues and points of view with the new administration. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who will be installed early nextmonth as the new leader of Roman Catholics in the nation's capital, toldReligion and Ethics Newsweekly he expected to see ``progress'' on such``Catholic'' issues as opposition to abortion and euthanasia.
``I think that with the Bush administration one would hope that wewould make some progress on the issues of life,'' McCarrick said.
``I'd like to see them not only looking at the poor, which is soimportant, but to look at the poorest of all: the unborn child that's inits mother's womb, and the older person who is just spending the lastfew months of life,'' McCarrick said.
Among those issuing statements of congratulations were evangelistBilly Graham, who all but endorsed Bush during the campaign, andindependent Bishop T.D. Jakes (who is also a Beliefnet columnist).
``I am encouraged that democracy has prevailed as our nation hasnegotiated a difficult impasse,'' Graham said in a statement. ``The timehas come to put aside the strong rhetoric that can only divide us andunite for the common good as `one nation under God.'''
Jakes, head of the mega-church The Potter's House in Dallas, said hewas confident Bush ``will prayerfully lead a diverse people in apositive direction for the 21st century.''
And Rich Cizik, head of the Washington office of the NationalAssociation of Evangelicals, told ``Religion and Ethics Newsweekly''that ``most evangelicals expect to have good access into the newadministration.''
At the same time, Bush's honeymoon with religious communities -- including his own United Methodist Church -- could be short-lived.
While Bush and his Republican Party agree with the denomination'sethical position on such issues as opposition to human cloning, thereare also major differences, including on such issues as gun control,education, abortion and Social Security.
The two largest fault lines between Bush and many religious leadersare likely to be on the death penalty and the use of government money tofund religiously based education and social service programs.
Indeed, among the actions Bush will have to take during his firstfew months in office will be deciding whether to go ahead with the firstfederal execution since 1963.
Bush has also been strongly supportive of so-called ``charitablechoice'' programs that seek to funnel federal funds to faith-basedgroups providing social services -- an issue strongly opposed by most ofthe Jewish community and church-state separationists.
``The overwhelming consensus in the Jewish community is thatgovernment money should never be used to discriminate and governmentmoney should not fund the core activities of pervasively sectarianinstitutions like synagogues and churches,'' Rabbi David Saperstein ofthe Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism told ``Religion and EthicsNewsweekly.'' ``We are, therefore, strongly opposed to charitablechoice.''
After the bitter dispute over voting in Florida, Bush is also likelyto be pressed by large numbers in the religious community on the issueof electoral and campaign finance reform.
``The democratic promise of universal suffrage, won through decadesof struggle, has shown severe shortcomings,'' said Jim Wallis, convenorof Call to Renewal, an ecumenical anti-poverty effort. ``The religiouscommunity should now play a leading role in leading the call forelection reform as a moral issue.''