First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the religio-political impact of President Obama's big announcement yesterday on immigration policy. As a rule, when the Obama White House makes a bold move on culture-war policies -- contraception access, LGBT rights -- some of the president's fiercest critics are found in faith communities.
Yesterday, however, just the opposite was true: high-profile religious groups and leaders believe Obama's right and Republicans are wrong about this.
President Barack Obama is receiving political cover for his decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants from two big groups with whom his relations have been rocky: evangelical Christians and Catholics.
"We do give credit where credit is due," said Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Public Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Friday, when Obama made his announcement.
"We welcome the announcement, it will provide important relief to a vulnerable group that we believe should remain in the country," Appleby said. "They didn't come here on their own volition; they came here with their parents. They are virtually Americans."
Of particular interest was the reaction from evangelical organizations, the leaders of which met with White House officials for a briefing before yesterday's announcement. This included Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, a far-right Obama critic, who not only conceded yesterday that the president had done the right thing, but also urged his Republican allies to follow Obama's lead.
If the president hoped to get some political cover from religious groups on this, he's getting his wish.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Rush Limbaugh argued this week that those participating in the Nuns On The Bus tour have gone "Feminazi." Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, was not amused. (Well, maybe she was a little amused.)
* Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) of Texas is under the very strange impression that if ENDA became law, "Christian schools will be forced" to employ people "of the persuasion of being homosexual." In case there are any doubts about this, that's ridiculously untrue.
* In a surprising election-year comment, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) argued this week, "Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome when it comes to American exceptionalism. Mormons do have an added dose of a belief in American exceptionalism." As best as I can tell, no one has asked Mitt Romney, the nation's first Mormon major-party nominee, whether he agrees with the sentiment.