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April 11th, 2011
04:13 PM ET

U.S. ambassador faulted for faith writing and speaking

Douglas Kmiec, center, at a 2006 U.S. Senate hearing.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The U.S. ambassador to Malta has upset the State Department by devoting so much time to writing and speaking about faith-related issues, according to a report from the department’s inspector general released last week.

The ambassador, Douglas Kmiec, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 after Kmiec helped spearhead Obama’s outreach to Catholic voters in the 2008 presidential campaign.

“Based on a belief that he was given a special mandate to promote President Obama’s interfaith initiatives, he has devoted considerable time to writing articles for publication in the United States as well as in Malta,” the State Department’s Inspector General’s Office said of Kmiec in an inspection report on the Maltese embassy released Thursday.

“His approach has required Department principals, as well as some embassy staff, to spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing his writings, speeches and other initiatives,” the report continued.

“His official schedule has been uncharacteristically light for an ambassador at a post of this size,” it said, “and on average he spends several hours of each workday in the residence, much of which appears to be devoted to his nonofficial writings.”

The State Department report did not cite specific instances of Kmiec’s faith-related writings and appearances, but said that "his unconventional approach to his role as ambassador has created friction with principal officials in Washington, especially over his reluctance to accept their guidance and instructions."

The ambassador, a former dean of Catholic University of America's law school, wrote in June about his father’s death for America, a weekly Catholic magazine. In an op-ed last year for The Times of Malta, Kmiec said Malta could provide a model for Obama as he pushed for health care reform.

“During Lent, as we prayerfully await the visit of the Holy Father to this largely Catholic place, it is fascinating for this visitor to contemplate how much Malta adds to the world's better understanding of itself,” Kmiec wrote in the op-ed, which ran as Pope Benedict XVI prepared to visit the island nation.

Kmiec has given many interviews to Malta-based media in which he has emphasized his belief that faith can be a key part of international diplomacy and has stated his disagreement with Obama’s support for abortion rights.

“President Obama is not pro-life,” Kmiec told the Malta Independent in 2009, “and we disagreed from the first time we met.”

Kmiec served as a top lawyer in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush but endorsed Obama in 2008, largely because he said Obama was willing to explore opportunities for common ground with conservatives on divisive issues like abortion.

Kmiec did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Times of Malta reported Sunday that Kmiec has added another faith-based event to his calendar. He’ll be lecturing Thursday on “the necessity of religious freedom for the common good’s good” at the University of Malta.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (340 Responses)
  1. not on my dime

    What ambassador Kmiec chooses to do in his own time is his business, but since I'm (and don't forget all you other taxpayers are as well) paying his and his staff's salary, I expect 40 hours/week work for the US people, not the pope. If he has so much free time, he needs to reduce his staff. If he needs to cook the meals and clean the bathrooms of the ambassadors office to reach that 40 hours, so be it. And since Libya is only a short boat ride away from Malta, how does he not have enough to do?

    April 12, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  2. FREE MAURO

    Mr. Ambassador is asking himself what to do in a such small island, probably and this was the biggest mistake: look at Malta position right in the middle of Med,

    between Sicily and N Africa. Look at Malta history for standing between arab world and christianity; look at the second war. But in the same time nobody, out of 20 people, I have ask where Malta is, knew. Including my doughier with a MD in international business. Don't you think it was good for Mr. Ambassador to promote US interests in Malta and in the same time
    maltase opportunity to our bussineses? Isn't this part of an ambassador job description? He was there when our relations with Malta have been down graded to CORDIAL.
    We lost the opportunity again, because someone incompentency.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  3. cwb3

    Much to do about nothing. This is the Ambassador of Malta we are talking about. Not exactly a pressure cooker post. My guess is he has plenty of free time. What a great job, to an Ambassador of a low-maintence country with nice weather. I'd take up a hobby on the side too! I think some of you would be happier if he took up a drug habit instead of writing about religious subjects.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  4. lloyd roberts

    I have a tremendous belief in God, but a major disdain for organized religion. I am no religious scholar and I didn't graduate from an Ivy League school, but I have lived on this earth for 56 years. In that time this brain has processed a lot of data and these eyes have seen so much both good and horrible. And I can make this one claim with confidence; there has been no man made creation that has caused more intolerance, hatred, division among humanity, brutality, inhumanity, and mistreatment and mistrust of fellow man than organized religion. And for all the good deeds that have been done throughout the ages in the name of religion, those good deeds would have been done by those same gracious people because it is just within them. True conservatives don't wear their religion on their sleeves, I am afraid this country is going to become the United States of Religion

    April 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  5. ELH

    I'm paying this guy to do State Department tasks and represent my country in the best possible light, not to lounge around home satisfying his need to be literary. Fire the moob.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  6. Rich in NJ

    I suppose I should care. But first I'd have to figure out where Malta is. 🙂

    April 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  7. ARob

    This kind of improper representation should really be prevented before it becomes an issue. You would think that with the least bit of common sense, a former Catholic school official would not be selected in a role where relating to religious viewpoints is okay, but preaching definitely is not.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  8. Joe

    The Ambassador's behavior is clearly inappropriate and a conflict of interest. He should be replaced.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Brian

    Oh but Catholics have the True Religion. Just ask them and they will tell you. This reminds me of the simple little Catholics I knew in grade school. They told me I would go to hell if I didn't convert and become a Catholic.

    April 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  10. David

    “His official schedule has been uncharacteristically light for an ambassador at a post of this size,” Malta? Really? A post of this size? What on earth would keep an ambassador that busy on an island barely visible in the Mediterranean Sea?

    April 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  11. Failed Government

    This headline should say "US Ambassador Fired".

    April 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  12. Darwin SpaghettiMonster

    Should a grown man in a position of public power be rewarded for promoting ancient fairy tales over the agenda of his post?

    No. The sky man, single dad didn't create humanity just to worship him and obey some silly artificial rules + dietary restrictions. If he did, then he is a simple, egotistical, insecure deity.

    p.s. God cannot create himself, therefore, a guy named "god" is no explanation for our universe.... this naive excuse simply passes the buck one level up, and allows the weak+naive to feel protected...but it comes at the expense of introducing guilt, remorse, fear of eternal reprisal (as if), and the false sense of superiority (i.e. judging others)

    April 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • paganguy

      Very logical explanation, thank you.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Randall Bart

    He's a Catholic who helped rally Catholics to Obama. For this he gets an ambassadorship to a small Catholic country which doesn't often make news. Arguably the political favor should be illegal, but it's actually commonplace, and it's less dangerous than giving submarine rides.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  14. aklucia

    Enough is enough. This man is not doing the job that I as a U.S. citizen expects him to do. Time for him to go back to his former job.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  15. Caliban

    This is exactly what I have always been afraid of, politicians (etc) in high or low places pushing their own religious agenda. I don't care if you want to pray to a rock (same as a god anyway) just do it on your own time. Separation of Church and State, my ass.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  16. FREE MAURO

    Nobody is accusing him because of his religion or belief: he is not acting in the best interest of the country

    as the highest representative of US in Malta. More then probably, his incapacity, stop millions of dollars US investment in Malta.

    Luqa airport billboard made us to rethink doing business and invest in Malta.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  17. Name*L. Marie

    "One Nation Under GOD!" Do we still believe that or not? Are we becoming so"liberal" and/or "politically correct" that we have given up on GOD? Or is the problem that America has got "so many gods" that the main concern here is that he stepped on the toes of one. Our fear (reverence) for GOD is what made us great. Forget that, and it seems we have, and history will repeat itself (i.e.the Israelites causing their own captivity when they did the same thing!). F Y I I am NOT catholic,

    April 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • wrusshell

      Remember that the phrase "One nation under God" was added in the 1950's and was not part of the original pledge...The original was written in the 19th century by a minister who thought there no reason to make it a religious statement. When we recite the pledge we are affirming out patriotism, not our religious beliefs.

      April 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • paganguy

      "Under God" was added in 1958 by the bible people. The bible is just another travel book adopted and modified hundreds of times to stupify and enslave the masses. You are one of them.

      April 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • maybeagnosticmaybenot

      If you want state run religion get your @$$ back on the mayflower and go back to England.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Alix

      I'd be censured at MY job too, if I spent half of my time writing about religion. (I'm a nurse). This has NOTHING to do with religion and EVERYTHING to do with someone NOT DOING HIS JOB.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Maya

      America is not a theocracy. Perhaps you'd be happier in Iran?

      If it was reverence for God that made a nation great, then the countries with the most religiosity would be the most advanced. In fact, the most advanced countries are those with less self-reported religiosity. In America, our rate of technological and scientific advancement as increased as our church attendance has steadily declined. I'd like to hear you explain that one.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • carol

      Belief in God does not require becoming Catholic – or anything much, for that matter. Muslims, Jews, Protestants and various other folk (including some of our Diest founding fathers) all qualify. And none of that requires proselytizing while on "company" time. You do the job you are paid to do, not the one you feel like doing. Or you resign and stop accepting your salary and benefits under false pretenses.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • BL

      We're not one nation
      We're not under god
      We're not indivisible
      and there's not liberty and justice for all
      Other than that, it's spot on

      April 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  18. tony

    Gravity is only a Law for how we understand local Physics. We are still learning and theorizing as to why Galaxies hold together at the edges (requires dark matter) and exactly how the Universe Expansion is accelerating (requires dark energy). OTOH, People of Faith accept local Nuclear Power Stations work, and haven't complained about any lack of Daylight to see their way to Church on Sundays. But the theory of nuclear power means that the Sunlight we have is several million years old, by the time it leaves the surface of the Sun.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • john

      Tony,
      I do not know what you mean when you say Sunlight is a few million years old by the time it reaches us. It takes 8 minutes for sunlight to reach earth. Please enlighten.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • tony

      The nuclear processes that fuel the Sun only covert Hydrogen to Helium deep in the core of the Sun, and produce the light as a byproduct. This light then has "fight" it's way up from the core, against incredibly powerful gravity and high density of the compressed Hydrogen. So it travels by bouncing back continually against the closely packed atoms, and only gradually works it's way up and out, before it can escape from the surface as sunlight. Given the size and mas of the Sun, it takes that long.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Mike Breen

      He means that the light we see is generated in the center of the sun (more or less) and bounces around for a few million years before it reaches the surface of the sun, THEN in takes eight minutes or so to reach earth.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  19. JonathanL

    fiath based reason always runs the risk of being illogical, contradictory, and full of assertions that are unsupported by and unfounded in any logic or scientific evidence. That is probably why his writings take so much scrutiny. Separate chruch from state. We have enough problems tyring to be logical!

    April 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Scott

      "unfounded in any logic or scientific evidence."

      Sort of like your message? I suppose that you think evolution is factually based?

      April 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Jesus

      How do these "faith based" folks get any visibility? In political offices, we need people who can reason and enage in knowledge based decision making, not Voodoo types who inject into the discussion a magical & invisible friend in the sky. Where did Obama find this numbskull and why appoint him to anything?

      April 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Regis990

      @Scott, yes...evolution is factually based.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, yes, theories of evolution are logic and science based.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • MandoZink

      Scott – You obviously do not have any access to scientific research or read any science literature. The evidence is overwhelming. Research, based on previous successful discoveries, is very advanced now. The focus now is on determining the details. There has been no published research that even disputes this, but there have been tens of thousands of studies that have successfully expounded on how it works.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • AndrewAFB

      Yes @Scott, unfortunately for you and the rest of the flock, evolution IS factually based. I suppose you also believe the earth is only six thousand years old and dinosaurs never existed. Why don't you go look under your pillow maybe the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny left something for you. It's sad when grown folk still believe the religious nonsense they've been force fed from the day they're born. It's a scary world when the majority of the population is completely delusional and still spends copious amounts of time and money worshiping an imaginary God. Do yourself a favor and get a pet rock.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  20. WOBH

    It appears to me that Kmiec has been reprimanded for not doing his job. The issue of his faith and his writings about faith is a red herring. The same result would arise if he were writing a novel. He isn't focused on his diplomatic task. If he wanted to focus on missionary work he should have declined the State Dept position. One can't be a US Ambassador and spend an inordinate amount of time at other unrelated tasks.

    April 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Tom

      Exactly! And since CNN hates any notion of God so much it attempts to make faith the problem instead of the guy not doing his job.
      Also, why the heck do we even HAVE an ambassador to Malta, what a waste of taxpayer dollars.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:38 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.