By Poppy Harlow and Ronni Berke, CNN
Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - From church pews to cheeseburger joints, Iowa's faithful are a major prize in the political ground war raging between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Of the roughly 3 million Iowans, about 30% call themselves evangelical or Catholic. Fifty-seven percent of Iowans who voted in the caucuses this year were evangelical Christians.
Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Rick Santorum over Romney in the Iowa caucuses, helping Santorum squeeze out a slight victory in the final count.
In Des Moines, evangelical Christians flock to Grace Church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, to talk faith, family and the presidential election. The evangelical voters we met strongly supported Romney, but they also expressed a general unease about his moderate history on social issues such as abortion.
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story ran last year, as part of a series about the faith lives of the leading Republican presidential candidates. With the exception of an August interview done by CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger for her documentary “Romney Revealed: Family, Faith and the Road to Power,” which airs Sunday, October 28, and Saturday, November 3, at 8 p.m. ET on CNN, all other interviews were conducted in the fall of 2011. CNN has also profiled President Obama’s faith life during his time in the White House.
(CNN) – A cop arrived at the roadside wreckage of a June 1968 head-on collision in southern France, took one quick look at the Citroën’s unresponsive driver and scrawled into the young man’s American passport, “Il est mort” - “He is dead.”
The man at the Citroën’s wheel was Mitt Romney, who may have appeared dead but was very much alive – as is his hope to become the next president of the United States.
Romney was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, when tragedy struck. It was a time of turmoil both in France and in the United States. Protests against the Vietnam War raged on, as did French disdain for Americans. Robert Kennedy had recently been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King Jr. a couple months earlier. France was still reeling from a May marked by riots, student demonstrations and crippling worker strikes. FULL POST
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – As important as the Catholic vote is in the 2012 election, a new survey finds that the group is far from monolithic and is not largely focused on the issues that get a lot of attention from church leaders – abortion and gay marriage.
Among the Catholics surveyed by the Public Religious Research Institute, 60% believe the Church should focus more on social justice issues and their obligation to the poor, even if it means focusing less on social issues like abortion and right to life.
Thirty-one percent say the opposite – they favor social issues over social justice issues.
Even among Catholics who attend church weekly or more, 51% say the Church should stress social justice issues over strictly social issues. Thirty-six percent said the opposite.
Washington (CNN) – When he campaigns in southern Florida on Monday, Mitt Romney will have an unwelcome traveling partner: a mobile billboard attacking his religion.
The billboard on wheels, sponsored by American Atheists, attacks the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its treatment of African-Americans and gays, though the church says the attacks are inaccurate.
The billboard, which American Atheists says will follow the Romney campaign for seven days, features two messages on Mormonism: “No Blacks Allowed (until 1978)” and “No Gays Allowed (Current).”
The first line is a reference to the church’s practice of denying lay priesthood to black male members until 1978.
Editor's Note: Joanna Brooks is a senior correspondent for ReligionDispatches.org and author of "The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith."
By Joanna Brooks, Special to CNN
(CNN)–There are two moments and two moments only that made my soul sit upright during Tuesday night’s presidential debate:
President Obama, speaking about the loss of manufacturing jobs to low-wage economies like China: “There are some jobs that are not coming back.”
Obama, speaking about four lives lost in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya: “I am the one who has to meet those coffins when they come home.”
Morbid? Not at all. I’m just a believer in the gospel of hard truths.
Washington (CNN) – When judged on their ability to relate to the desires of secular Americans, the presidential candidates aren’t making the grade, according to a large coalition of secular organizations.
Looking at their positions on everything from faith’s place in the presidency to where it fits in education, health care and other American priorities, GOP candidate Mitt Romney got an F, President Barack Obama barely got by, earning a C, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson came out at the top of the class, receiving a B.
At a time when the Pew Forum determined the religiously unaffiliated are the fastest growing “religious” group in America, with one in five Americans not affiliated with any religion, a candidate scorecard from secularists should matter, says Lauren Anderson Youngblood, spokeswoman for the Secular Coalition for America.
The coalition, which is made up of a collection of atheist, humanist and agnostic organizations, set out to grade the candidates by first identifying the criteria it deemed most important. The coalition then crafted questions to determine where the politicians stack up when it comes to, say, their stances on faith-based initiatives, public prayer and support of the word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The group pulled media reports and speech transcripts to find answers and further analyze these politicians’ performances on issues that matter to secular voters.
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney met with evangelical icon Billy Graham for the first time on Thursday at the evangelist’s remote mountaintop home in North Carolina.
Romney traveled to Graham’s residence in Montreat, just outside Asheville, to meet with Graham and his son Franklin Graham, a high-profile pastor in his own right.
Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka told reporters that Romney met with the Grahams for approximately 30 minutes and that they discussed religious freedom, religious persecution and growth of the Grahams’ ministry in China, Sudan and North Korea.
Towards the end of the meeting, according to Gorka, Billy Graham led a prayer for the Romneys, saying "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
In a sermon that likely broke the law, Indiana pastor Ron Johnson told his 400 congregants Sunday that for those who believe in the Bible, the decision to vote against President Barack Obama “is a no-brainer.”
“For Christian people who believe the Bible is the inspired world of God, it is not rocket science,” Johnson told CNN after his sermon.
Johnson’s anti-Obama sermonizing likely violated the so-called Johnson Amendment, an Internal Revenue Service rule that forbids churches that receive tax-exempt status from the federal government to intervene in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
But Johnson appears comfortable with defying the IRS. His sermon was part of a national campaign by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization that has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, encouraging pastors to flout the Johnson Amendment with political endorsements from the pulpit.
When Ron Johnson takes take his pulpit on Sunday, he will willfully break the law. After presenting his views on President Barack Obama’s handling of religious issues –- like abortion, gay marriage, and religious freedom - Johnson will ask his congregation a question.
“In light of what I have presented,” Johnson says he will say, “How can you go into that election booth and vote for Barack Obama as president of the United States?”
What Johnson plans to do is in violation of the IRS’ so-called Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that has made it illegal for churches that receive tax exempt status from the federal government to intervene in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Why is Johnson so brazenly violating that law this Sunday? Strength in numbers: He will be joined by at least 1,400 others pastors across the United States.
Follow Wednesday's presidential debate coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Web users can become video editors with a new clip-and-share feature that allows them to share favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter.
(CNN) – Will religion factor into the first 2012 presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday night? Maybe, though it's likely to happen in subtle ways.
Both President Barack Obama, a Protestant Christian whose political base is largely secular and whose last presidential campaign was almost brought low by his association with a minister, and Mitt Romney, whose Mormon religion is misunderstood or viewed skeptically by many Americans, have generally avoided talking religion on the campaign trail.
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.