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. Ned Flanders

    Does no one want to do their job these days!?! Seriously, corporate CEOs get endless pay for sinking their shareholders' companies and not ambassadors want to be writers. Get out there and improve foreign relations!! Maybe if you did it might encourage a little more tolerance at this end of the ocean: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2011/04/08/why-children-should-not-be-charged-with-hate-crimes/

    April 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  2. lex

    Come on. God (or allah, or zeus or whatever) has no place in the Obama administration, other than political expediency. Equal rights for athiests means no religion allowed.

    April 13, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  3. Newnews

    Kmiec was a front man for the President during the campaign. Obama needed him then to convince Catholics that he was not the radical liberal that his record showed him to be. To paraphrase Thomas More...what did it profit Kmiec to lose his soul for a post on Malta?
    Obviously the anti Catholic know nothings who comment here won't support him and Catholics who know him have no time for him given Obama's abysmal record.

    April 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  4. Christian Adeline

    Separation of Church and State has been applied wrong all along. You can't separate State from Conscience or Morality.

    April 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • MerelyAmused

      You don't need a church or religion to be moral or good. People were moral way before Jesus came along.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  5. Reality Created Out of Nothing

    Reality, really? How easy would it be to find websites to refute what you just posted. I do chuckle that you used 'wikifaith.' Nice touch for a 'free thinking, non-myopic' atheist such as yourself.

    This wouldn't get very far in any academic classroom as acceptable scholarship, let alone reliable.

    I'm still waiting for you to respond to my request to tell me how the universe created itself out of nothing, that is, how did matter create itself? Of course, I'm looking for empirical, scientific evidence only. And please, don't send me websites from liberal thinkers. I want the straight up science that clearly demonstrates the universe 1) always existed or 2) created itself.
    Of course, you can't not choose to provide the evidence, per the usual, and continue to spout what you spout, citing clearly biased websites and thoughts. At least you atheist aren't brainwashed by other people! Whew! That'd be scary!

    cnncommentator at hotmail com

    April 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  6. Brian

    Half the people I know are former Catholics. Wonder why that is. If you look at the Billion Catholics in the world 90% of them are illiterate peasants in Latin America, Ireland and Poland.

    April 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Newnews

      Illiterate peasants ??? Do you realize that this is the year 2011 and that both Ireland and Poland have literacy rates of 99%.

      April 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • MerelyAmused

      Maybe, but look at Central America and south of that. Also check out the Pacific Islanders who also have picked up on the Catholic religion in exchange for...what? Having babies non-stop, women being treated as fifth-class property, and all that.

      Most of the Catholics that still play are either Latino or from the Philippines. The European ones are abandoning ship because there is is all a money grab these days. It didn't help that some d0uche came out this week and said that priests never molested little kids-the little kids were all GAY and begged for the encounters!

      April 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Newnews

      They have "picked up" the Catholic religion because it offers them joy and hope and peace. Europe has been in decline (eg the Nazis) ever since they turned their back on their Christian heritage. It is a continent in decline.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  7. bu

    Faith = Motivation to delude the public and yourself

    April 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  8. bu

    Religion is a disease of the Mind! Be part of the cure, not the problem!

    Help cure the religion disease!

    April 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  9. uddi smith

    well, finally someone sees that 50 % of the wars are based on religious disagreements and the other 50 % use faith based "discrimination' sentiments as secondary motivation to get supports for their wars. And if it is true that President Obama beliefs more can be accomplished if there was more interfaith, then it would prove he is actually a very, very intelligent man. Let's look at Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel and that whole surrounding area, Northern Ireland; pretty much most of the world has openly or just under the surface a hole lot of emotions AND FEARS their neighbour's religion. Look at France, their whole new law is about fear for an other religion. Talking about creating trouble, it is brewing right there by their own paranoia. Let's hope it doesn't backfire too badly on them. But it is inevitable that if a group hurts other people's religious perspectives, it will backfire. To practice interfaith in politics is a whole new approach which can actually bring more peace and harmony on earth. Let's try it for a while, like a couple of generations. We have tried for the last few thousand years to dictate each other into wars based on religion and that didn't work, so let's try something new.

    April 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  10. RichardSRussell

    No good ever comes of mixing religion and government.

    April 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  11. sir_ken_g

    In any paying job there are job requirements. If your personal interests ad activities interfere then you need to leave. An ambassador speaks for his government – every public moment unless clearly stated otherwise – and even then he may confuse others. This guy needs to be fired.
    I interviewed a "famous name" for a job one time. He was more interested in his professional association duties than he was in doing the work I needed him to do. He didn't get the job. probably his previous boss didn't liek it either.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  12. Chedar

    It is never good to mix politics with religion. Never!

    April 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • James

      Oh yeah? What if you live in a theocracy?

      April 12, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • 2manyhorses

      Amen...BTW, I'm tired of listening to the god squad spout. I don't make them listen to or pay for my beliefs!

      April 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • MerelyAmused

      A theocracy is even worse because it makes religious beliefs the law. Unfortunately, there are too many idiots in our own government who would LOVE for our nation to be forced into a "Christian-only" mode. But which flavor?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  13. TonyInNYC

    If the guy uses phrases such as "the common good’s good," I wonder if rather than upset the State Department, he has exhausted its staff.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  14. senoy

    I'm not sure what the problem is. It sounds to me like he's doing his job fairly well. He's providing good face time for the US and arguably by supporting Catholic policies, he's endearing us to the Maltese people which are overwhelmingly Catholic (90+%). When was the last time you heard about the ambassador of anything doing anything at all in the US? This guy on the other hand is giving lecture tours and publishing in major newspapers and media outlets. I say lay off him and keep up the good work. He knows his audience and most likely appeals to the populace of the country to which he's appointed.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Annunaki

      The problem with that is that my US tax dollars should not be used to advance any religious agenda...in any country. Separation of church and state anyone? Buller? Buller? Buller?

      April 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Agnostic Warrior

      Catholic policies have no place in my government, and espousing any religious policy, especially on government time, is contrary to the "separation of church and state."

      If I did this, I'd be court-martialed!

      Get this guy out of there! What a disgrace!

      April 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • MerelyAmused

      The job was to reach out to ALL religions and not to concentrate on his own. In addition, the lectures and interviews were NOT as an ambassador to promote interfaith harmony, but rather to support his OWN religion over others.

      Add to that, his waste of resources by sitting at home most days writing pieces that promote his own religion over others, then handing off the material for proofreading to staff members who are NOT paid to do that kind of work and there is so many ways you can ding this man for misuse of government funds.

      Believe what you want, preach what you want, pray where you want–but on your own time and with your own resources. When on the clock, you do what the boss says and this guy didn't. Imagine giving an official interview where you announce your boss is "anti-life" or anti-anything and that you disagree with him! If I did that, I would be so on the street without so much as a chance to grab my purse.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  15. markiejoe

    There is no God, so Kmiec is off track from the very beginning.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • ian

      Well that's rather matter of fact. As a devout student of life and before you all freak out no I am not part of any religion because to me it does no more than keep your brain from working properly. I digrese, all I'm saying is you can disprove his exsistence no more that it can be proven. So with that being said use your brain before you open your mouth you make our entire species look stupid.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  16. bobbo62

    Religious involvment in politics will only do more damage. Keep them apart. Most modern religion is inherently corrupt, as are these soapbox preachers we see on tv. As long as religious leaders prefer to go hand in hand with the ever paranoid gun lobby and other conservative movements we will not be at peace. Although Mr. Kmiec is employed by a moderate, his religious beliefs are conservative and inflexible. Inflexibility is not good for mankind and religion should not control our lives.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Organized religion is a sham! It should be taxed if the congragation is over 500 members. I believe everyone has a unique path to enlightenment and the best way to find that path is by following it yourself not with 200others kneeling, standing, singing, praying on queue.

      April 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Terbear

      Agree with you bobbo62, except that corruption in Religion is not a modern phenomena, it is a historical fact. As long as there has been religion there has been corruption...same for politics...always has been corrupt and always will be.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Todd

      And politics, modern or otherwise, are not corrupt? I'd say an order of magnitude more corrupt. At least in relgions there is recognition as to what is good and moral as well as attempts, to varying degrees, to be so yourself.

      April 13, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  17. Gene

    Okay, don't p*ss off the Malteds, or they'll embargo those milk balls!

    April 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • geck07

      No, don't let them embargo my malteds !!!!!!!

      April 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  18. Mike from LV

    I don't think the issue here is this guy's beliefs, but the issue is how much time he spends out of official duties on taxpayer money. Also, using embassy staff to review your personal book is not OK. They are paid employees of the United States as well. The reason this person is being reviewed is because all federal agencies are now under the microscope and have to find ways to reduce costs and save taxpayer money. This is just one of many diplomats who are being reviewed and scrutinized. CNN made it a story so they could fill their religion section with the matter. Its still not much of a religious story though.

    April 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      To me this sounds like an all to often repeated theme of a well intentioned president or leader giving a religious leaning person a good public job and then the guy/gal going overboard with his/her new pulpit. America is secular we should reach out to all religions equally and understand all religions equally (notice I did not use the word tolerate) but having this guy spend my tax money to push his relgious agenda is a firing offense in my book. Also his boss /benifactory President Obama carry's no such strong message as this guy seems to. He, like myself and many other workers, should be concerned with making his boss happy.

      April 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • 2manyhorses

      Spot on...don't spend my tax money on this garbage!

      April 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  19. Mike in SA

    People...it's MALTA! For crying out loud, it's not like it's Great Britan or Germany...it'sfriggin' MALTA!

    April 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  20. Daniel

    One cannot be a freethinker. The language they use is not their own. The letters and numbers used in language and math they did not create. The world around them they did not create. And the conversations they have with others are in response to what others have previously said. Nothing can be further from the truth than the idea of one being a "freethinker".

    April 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Auntie Warhol

      This has been a recording. Beep.

      April 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Free Thinker Seeking Reason

      @ Daniel
      How extremely close-minded of you. ;-|

      C'mon, look up the definition of a freethinker. Do some research. Your comments read like sheeple control central. Sheeeshhh.....

      April 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • MP

      Babel. If I choose my own exclusive rhetoric (a language that only I knew, and a math base that only I knew) while communicating with other intelligent primate species, than I would never be able to communicate efficiently. I'm pretty sure you have absolutely no idea what the definition of "freethinker" is. You're doing exactly what "Occam's razor" tells you NOT to do: multiply unnecessarily.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • ThaGerm

      Talking points:
      If language is not our own, why are we all not speaking the same language?
      Why do we express things in the same language differently?
      Body language accounts for MORE THAN 70% of human communication... I don't remember going to school for body language lessons.

      Of course you could be talking about those who are with "Faith". They haven't had a thought that wasn't written down and force fed to them in a stones age.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Dave


      April 12, 2011 at 9:41 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.