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March 26th, 2014
04:17 PM ET

Vatican landmark Obama will miss

CNN's Ben Wedeman gloats over what President Barack Obama likely won't get a chance to see on his visit to the Vatican on Thursday. Take a look inside the Sistine Chapel - and gaze up at its famous ceiling.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Church and state • Italy • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

Popes and U.S. presidents
March 25th, 2014
11:53 PM ET

5 things you didn't know about popes and presidents

Programing Note: Don't miss Wolf Blitzer Reports: Popes and Presidents on Easter Sunday, April 20 at 2 p.m. ET. The 30-minute special explores the long and sometimes troubled history between the White House and the Vatican.

By Wolf Blitzer and Sean Kennedy, CNN

(CNN) - President Barack Obama will meet with Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican, opening a new chapter in the centuries-long relationships between the United States and the Holy See.

While Obama has praised Francis’ focus on the poor, popes and American presidents haven’t always seen eye to eye.

With that in mind, here are five surprising encounters between the Commander in Chief and the Successor to St. Peter.

1. George Washington banned the burning of papal effigies

On the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ Day, when a Catholic plot to assassinate the Protestant King of England was disrupted, American soldiers would often mark the day by torching a straw pope.

But just five months after George Washington took command of the Continental Congress’ army in 1775, he issued an order prohibiting the violent expression of anti-Catholic bigotry.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Church and state • Foreign policy • Leaders • Politics • Pope Francis • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

Will American Jews back Hillary?
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown University February 25, 2014 in Washington.
March 18th, 2014
10:03 AM ET

Will American Jews back Hillary?

Washington (CNN) - Flanked by Jewish politicians in front of the United Nations on a July day, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton made a forceful appeal for the United States to back Israel as the Jewish nation's forces squared off against Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War.

"We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones," said Clinton, who was an outspoken defender of Israel and representative for American Jews for eight years in the Senate.

But it wasn't always that way. She had to work hard for Jewish support in 2000 as the New York Jewish community was skeptical of her support for Israel and publicly wondered whether the former first lady was too sympathetic with the Palestinians.

But by the time she ran for president in 2008, a number of Jewish Democrats said her record with the community was unprecedented. Touting her foreign policy credentials and defense of Israel, Jewish leaders flocked to Clinton as she ran against Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries.

FULL STORY
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Foreign policy • Hillary Clinton • Iran • Israel • Israel • Leaders • Middle East • Politics

CPAC reverses decision, will not allow atheist group at conservative conference
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, will not have a booth at CPAC.
February 25th, 2014
02:53 PM ET

CPAC reverses decision, will not allow atheist group at conservative conference

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.”

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Faith Now • Politics

Atheists plan conservative outreach with booth at CPAC
The Reason Rally, sponsored by American Atheists and other secular organizations, draws a crowd to the National Mall in March 2012.
February 25th, 2014
06:00 AM ET

Atheists plan conservative outreach with booth at CPAC

By Dan Merica, CNN

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.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

January 22nd, 2014
02:13 PM ET

Three things President Obama and the Pope will (probably) talk about

(CNN) President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27, the White House announced on Tuesday.

The POTUS/Pope summit is already generating lots of buzz, and Belief Blog co-editor Daniel Burke spoke to CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Tuesday the meeting's likely agenda.

MORE ON CNN: Obama to visit Pope Francis in March

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Pope Francis

March for Life
January 21st, 2014
02:24 PM ET

Six surprising changes to the anti-abortion March for Life

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - For decades, the March for Life has followed a familiar formula: Bus in thousands of abortion opponents. Protest in front of the Supreme Court. Go home.

But this year, in addition to braving snow and bone-chilling wind, the March will move in a different direction, says Jeanne Monahan, president of the anti-abortion group.

Long-winded political speeches? See ya.

An exclusive focus on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that lifted restrictions on abortion? Gone.

A hipster Catholic musician, evangelical leaders and March for Life app? Welcome to the protest.

And those changes just skim the surface.

The March for Life, billed as the world’s largest anti-abortion event, is remaking itself in deeper ways as well, says Monahan.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Bioethics • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Culture wars • Ethics • evangelicals • Politics • Women's issues

Police: Son of Obama's spiritual adviser committed suicide
Isaac Hunter, the son of a spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama, died Tuesday in Florida, police say.
December 10th, 2013
11:03 PM ET

Police: Son of Obama's spiritual adviser committed suicide

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) The son of a Florida megachurch pastor who is close to President Barack Obama has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to local police.

Isaac Hunter, 36, died Tuesday, according to Northland and Summit churches, two Orlando-area congregations with deep ties to his family.

Altamonte Springs Police Department spokesman Robert C. Pelton said officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of Hunter at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday. They found him dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Pelton said. The investigation is ongoing, and no foul play is suspected, he added.

Hunter is the son of Joel Hunter, an evangelical who has been a spiritual adviser to Obama since his 2008 presidential campaign. The president and the pastor speak nearly once a week, and Joel Hunter was an adviser to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Isaac Hunter and his wife, Rhonda, were going through a divorce, according to Florida court records. Hunter resigned as senior pastor of Summit Church in 2012 after acknowledging a three-year affair with a member of the church staff.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Church • Death • evangelicals

Vatican downplays controversy over U.S. embassy move
November 27th, 2013
02:49 PM ET

Vatican downplays controversy over U.S. embassy move

By Dan Merica and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

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.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Pope Francis • United States • Vatican

JFK: America's first Catholic president
November 23rd, 2013
07:13 AM ET

How Catholic was John F. Kennedy?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) When John F. Kennedy was a boy, his mother counseled her children on Good Fridays to pray for a peaceful death.

Young Jack joked that he’d rather pray for two pet dogs.

If you’re looking for the CliffsNotes version of Kennedy’s Catholicism, that anecdote touches on the key themes: the pious Irish mother, the light-hearted irreverence, the ever-present prospect of death.

But there’s much more to the story.

In the words of one biographer, Kennedy was Mr. Saturday Night but also Mr. Sunday Morning, rarely missing a Mass.

He was famously unfaithful to his wife but fiercely loyal to his church, even when it threatened his quest for the presidency.

One scholar suggests that Kennedy was becoming more religious as the Cold War wore on. Another says that Kennedy’s public displays of piety were little more than political lip service.

As the country marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and it was far from peaceful, as we all know almost every aspect of his life is again under the media microscope. But for all the ballyhoo about Kennedy being the first and only Catholic president, the topic of his faith remains largely untouched.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Leaders • Mass • Politics • Prejudice

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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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