Churches, Groups Look to Obama for Promised Change

Religious and rights groups are calling on President Barack Obama to make good on his popular catchphrase "Change is coming!" by flooding him with letters requesting support and attention to special causes.

Several groups have already asked the new president to put into action his promise to unite people that traditionally have been in conflict.

Just ahead of the inauguration, several prominent evangelical and progressive leaders came together to issue a "common values" agenda covering divisive cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights, immigration reform, and torture.

In the letter sent to President Obama and congressional leaders, the formerly at odds partners offered "a shared vision and a plan for ending the cultural wars."

Together the two sides called for the reduction of abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women and new families, and increasing support for adoption.

Moderate evangelical and secular progressive leaders also called on the protection of the rights of gay and lesbian people to earn a living with an exemption for faith-based employers to refuse to hire on the basis of sexual orientation.

Other issues they agreed on include the unequivocal renouncement of torture by the government and support for an immigration reform that paves the way to an earned path of citizenship for most undocumented residents.

"The culture wars have been characterized by vilifying those who differ from us on provocative issues and treating them as traitors and threats," said the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Florida.

"I believe we can end those wars by thinking of our differences as ways we can learn from each other and advance without compromising core values," he said.

Pastor Joel Hunter has prayed with President Obama on several occasions, including during a private pre-inauguration service held at St. John's Church across from the White House on Tuesday; over the phone on Election Day Nov. 4, before Obama was declared the winner, and at the closing of the Democratic National Convention.

The "Common Values" agenda was spearheaded by Third Way and also included the support of Dr. David Gushee of Mercer University, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, Dr. Robert P. Jones of Public Religion Research, and Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life.

Meanwhile, International Justice Mission - a ministry that works to free those victimized by violent crimes such as sexual violence, trafficking, and slavery - is asking the Obama administration and Congress to make the public justice system more capable of protecting the poor and vulnerable.

Other groups are seeking Obama's support to end the Darfur genocide, maintain current policies that ban foreign aid to organizations promoting abortions, and prevent federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.