By Dan Merica, CNN
Louisville (CNN) - It would be difficult for Hillary Clinton to find a more welcoming crowd than the women at Saturday's United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville.
Greeted with raucous applause from the 6,500 women (and a few men) in attendance, the former secretary of state touted her knowledge of the faith, spoke about her family's Methodist roots and addressed how the teachings of Jesus and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, have guided her career.
And in synthesizing her view of Methodism's social gospel, Clinton's remarks seemed to come close to describing her presidential thought process, where the former first lady has acknowledged she is thinking about running for president in 2016.
"Even when we are tired and all we want to do is go away by ourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile," Clinton said, "even then, especially then, let’s make it happen."
Clinton focused largely on the social gospel teachings of Methodism. "Like the disciples of Jesus, we cannot look away, we cannot let those in need fend for themselves and live with ourselves," she said to applause. "We are all in this together."
Although faith has long been a part of Clinton's life, she rarely addresses it in public speeches. Saturday's remarks were a departure from that.
Clinton cited the Scripture Mark 6:30-44 - where Jesus instructs his disciples to organize their followers into groups and to feed them with five loaves of bread and two fish - as the central biblical passage of her speech. She jokingly called the story "the first great pot luck supper," and said she has always been fond of the passage.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington - Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth at the conservative conference, the group's spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.
Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”
Washington (CNN) - American Atheists, an outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, will have a booth at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.
The atheist institution, which is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns, informed CNN of its inclusion on Monday night, and a representative from CPAC confirmed that the group will have a booth at the annual national gathering of conservative leaders and activists in March. American Atheists hopes to use the forum to tap into the conservative movement and bring conservative atheists “out of the closet.”
“Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
Silverman said coming to CPAC will be “the first step of many” in reaching out to Republicans.
By Dan Merica and Eric Marrapodi, CNN
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Washington (CNN) - When the State Department announced it was moving its Vatican embassy to a compound shared with the U.S. Embassy in Italy, some former ambassadors and conservative American Catholics were outraged.
Former ambassadors to the Holy See said moving that embassy would diminish the stature of the mission and conservative Catholic activists seized on the issue.
Addressing the growing controversy in Rome, the State Department arranged a briefing for reporters on Monday with an unnamed senior official who said the purpose for the move was to save money and increase security.
A spokesman for the Vatican said the move was well within the Holy See's requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained.
Washington (CNN) – Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky devoted his speech to the socially conservative Values Voter Summit to “a war on Christianity” that is being waged by “fanatics of Islam.”
Much of Paul’s speech was a list of violence against Christians across the Muslim world, highlighting what he said was “not a little problem” and something that is “not going away quickly.”
“Across the globe, Christians are under attack almost as if we lived in the Middle Ages or we lived under early pagan Roman rule,” Paul said. “This administration does nothing to stop it and it can be argued that it is giving aid and comfort to those who tolerate these crimes.”
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - American Catholics overwhelmingly support newly installed Pope Francis, according to a poll released Friday, and agree with his statements that the church should focus less on contentious social issues.
Nearly seven in 10 American Catholics say the church has become too focused on same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraceptives, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Friday.
What's more, 60% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage, a number that continues to be larger than support from all American adults. Thirty-one percent of American Catholics said they do not support same-sex marriage.
This number is consistent with other polls, like a Public Religion Research Institute poll in 2012 that found 59% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage.
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN)–With the goal of urging the House to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Catholic Church is organizing a targeted effort to push immigration reform in the pews and target Catholic lawmakers – particularly Republicans – who may be on the fence over the politically tenuous bill.
The movement, which was first reported in The New York Times, will include coordinated immigration reform sermons on September 8, as well as targeted messaging of Catholic lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate.
By Hada Messia, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The Roman Catholic Church will declare the late Pope John Paul II a saint, the Vatican announced Friday.
Pope Francis signed the decree Friday morning, the Vatican said. John Paul was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005, and was in a way the first rock star pontiff, drawing vast crowds as he criss-crossed the globe.
At his funeral, thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square and chanted "Santo Subito" - Sainthood Now! The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification and became "the blessed" John Paul II barely six years after his death, the fastest beatification in centuries.
Pope John XXIII, who convened the Vatican II council in the 1960s, will also be declared a saint, the Vatican said.
No date has been announced for the canonization ceremony.
By Dan Merica and Kevin Bohn, CNN
(CNN) - The Obama administration finalized rules on Friday that allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of a federal mandate requiring that they provide employees with insurance coverage for birth control.
The mandates give women at nonprofit, religious-based organizations, like certain hospitals and universities, the ability to receive contraception through separate health policies at no charge.
The rules, which were first proposed in February and then open for comment through April, have undergone only minor changes.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director for policy and regulations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the rules were "very similar" to the administration's original proposal.
Boston (CNN)-– It’s Sunday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a rapt congregation listens to a chaplain preach about the importance of building a community.
A few dozen people sit quietly for the hourlong service. Music is played, announcements are made and scholars wax poetic about the importance of compassion and community.
Outsiders could be forgiven for believing this service, with its homilies, its passing of the plate, its uplifting songs, belongs in a church.
If so, it’s a church without one big player: God.
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.