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June 21st, 2010
07:17 PM ET

President Obama expresses his faith in fatherhood

Editor's Note: CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and White House Producer Erika Dimmler bring us this report from Washington, DC.

One day after Father’s Day, President Obama used his bully pulpit to stress the importance of fatherhood for the nation’s youth. “Fathers are our first teachers and coaches…they’re our mentors, our role models” the President told a gathering of local students, families and womens advocates.

But it was the President's message, in his official Father's Day Proclamation that has generated controversy. In it the President openly acknowledges gay parents, noting that some children have two dads. It states "nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step-father, a grandfather, or caring guardian."


Tony Perkins, from the conservative Family Research Council, called the President out. In a pointed statement he said “…proving that nothing is sacred- not even fatherhood- the President couldn’t resist a shout-out to his homosexual base, marring what should have been a powerful acknowledgment of the family’s importance in American life.”

While not directly responding to Perkin’s comments, White House Deputy Spokesman Bill Burton said the President was “just trying to be inclusive of all sorts of families, just like he was on the Mother’s Day proclamation.”

For Maryland State Senator Rich Madaleno, the President's message is a welcomed change. Madeleno, an openly gay white father who married his partner in 2001, adopted two African-American boys at birth.

"I think it shows his [President Obama] commitment to celebrating all of America's families...Families come in all, shapes and sizes, instead of your standard mom and dad." Madaleno was invited to President Obama's afternoon Father's Day Mentoring barbeque at the White House, thrown for about 150 high school kids and a group of prominent mentors.

Madaleno said the change in attitude has really made a difference. "This feels great...This is a President who doesn't just tolerate us but welcomes us. This is an amazing transformation over a very short time."

John Sowers, who attended the President’s Friday morning speech, applauded the President for his leadership on the importance of fatherhood. Sowers, who runs The Mentoring Project, a Christian mentoring group out of Portland, Oregon that trains Christian youth mentors, said he didn't object to the inclusive proclamation. "We pretty much work with Christian churches. We pretty much have a conservative base. We engage in faith based Christian training, based on love. We don't discriminate. We focus on the kids. We stay clear of all that. It's controversy we don't need."

Sowers' focus on training mentors for kids comes from his own personal experience as a child. His parents split when he was two years old, and his father moved away. Sowers, who wrote a book "Fatherless Generation", says he relates to President Obama, who was abandoned by his father. "I had a father-shaped hole in my heart. The Bible says God is father to the fatherless. Psalm 68:5. One of the main ways God fathered me is through mentors. That's why I applaud Obama. I'm thrilled he would take time in this wild landscape of DC to focus on this. Oil spill, economy, wars. He takes time to say this matters. I'm pumped, I'm celebrating. I'll advocate for him all day long, advocating for the fatherless."

Mr. Obama, a father of two girls himself, told the audience that if there was one key message everyone needed to take away with them, it is that 'our children don't need us to be superheroes. They don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Politics

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Anthony Peterson

    Familiarity breeds contempt.....continue jamming 'gayism' down the throats of Americans, a backlash will ensue. Not one against gays individually, just the entire gay concept, which in itself will likely change. Hence, another twist on the same issue. Its (the jamming of the issue) just a crafty manipulation by any means w/ no end. Its just a slippery slope.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  2. Smallwood

    The President's Father Initiative is really going to bring attention to the huge problem of fatherlessness in my culture. 70%!!! That's compared to the 27% of white Americans. When children don't have their fathers it brings chaos and decline in families, communities, civilization.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  3. CatholicMom

    If we do not judge actions how are we to choose right from wrong?

    ‘St. Mark 7:21-23 For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile a man.’

    We know that no unclean thing will enter Heaven so we need to choose the right Way. Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    You say Christians are stomping all over Jesus’ policies and that we shouldn’t judge. How is it that you judged Christians without judging? I am sorry that you must have skipped over the verse above while reading your Bible.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Cheryl

      Did you even read my post CM? I didn't say don't decide for yourself what is right or wrong, I'm pretty sure I said walk the walk if you're going to say you're a Good Christian so you can make God proud and don't judge others and say they are unworthy or unclean for God because you have NO PLACE speaking for Him. I will bet you an eternity that many gay people will and have ended up in heaven because God isn't anywhere near as petty as us mortals. At least my God isn't, I'm sorry yours is. In my own opinion, and by all means I would NOT impress it upon you, I feel God will probably be okay with people who are unfamiliar with the nuances of the Good Book if they are living out its principals on a daily basis. It's what I choose to bank my eternal life and/or damnation on- TOLERANCE and appreciation for people who bring goodness to this world but I understand that won't work for everyone.

      June 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  4. whybs

    Are we living in China? CNN censors! 😦

    All religions are one big pile of dung!

    June 23, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  5. Cheryl

    I think it's great that we have such an amazing president, one who can actually see past religious dogma and can stand up to an entire country and say "Gay men are parents too and they should be recognized as such!" I get so tired of people proclaiming that they are such good Christian Folk and then stomping all over Jesus's policies of tolerance, love, forgiveness, and kindness. At least Barack can say "good job" to those who deserve it, many Good Christians can't even do that! Judge not lest YOU be judged!

    June 23, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  6. Mark

    The Prez won't support the National day of Prayer but he doesn't miss a chance to support the gays. I think he likes the Sodomites.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
  7. James Martin

    Suzanne Malveaux, Nice tan but back off before your skin turns into a handbag.

    June 22, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  8. Andrew Messenger

    Slimy. Just like the gulf. Very slimy.

    June 22, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  9. Dennis L. Siluk

    I don't know of a worse president than BHO, in my lifetime, and i'm 62,years old. He doesn't know anything about anything, and perhaps is the less godly president I've yet to encounter, he was rude to the Pope, and arragant to us older folks. President Bush, sent me three letters, this president couldn't find time to lick a stamp. He has done nothing for anybody, and is always a day too late, and is carrying on Bush's old policies, in lack of making any of his own. I have tried, really tried to like this guy, but evertime I do, he lets me down. He is what one poet has coined "You can fool all the people some of the time...but not all of the the people all of the time."

    June 22, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • Eric G

      Separation of church and state.......... The less "godly" the better. Maybe you just don't like him because his neck is a different color than yours?

      June 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • nonesuch

      "Poet"? It was Abraham Lincoln who said that. Perhaps you'll remember he signed the Emancipation Proclamation? The one that made it possible for a black person to become president eventually?

      June 23, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  10. Reality

    BO is the leader of the "immoral majority" i.e. those voting "mothers and fathers" of 35 million aborted babies. Did he mention said "fathers" in his speech? No, but he should have since they voted for him.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  11. CatholicMom

    I wished President Obama would have mentioned 'our Father who art on Heaven' in his 'Father' speech...

    June 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • nonesuch

      Why? So you could pretend this is a theocracy? Newsflash for you: it isn't.

      June 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • whybs

      Pontification aside, all religions are one big pile of dung!

      June 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.