First up from the God Machine this week is a behind-the-scenes push by Mitt Romney's presidential campaign to "engage" the religious right in ways the American mainstream probably won't hear anything about.
On the surface, most voters hear quite a bit about the Republican candidate's focus on a far-right economic agenda, but the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody had a report this week on a very different focus away from the spotlight on social issues.
The Brody File has learned that Mitt Romney's campaign has begun a serious push to engage evangelical leaders behind the scenes, including weekly meetings, personal phone calls from Romney, discussions about appearing at more faith-based events, and serious dialogue about convening a gathering this fall with national evangelical leaders.
In just the last few weeks, Mitt Romney has spoken on the phone a couple times with popular evangelical pastor Rick Warren, and there have been efforts to try and schedule a face-to-face meeting between Romney and Dr. James Dobson, one of the most respected evangelical leaders in the country.
Peter Flaherty, a senior advisor for the Romney campaign, has been the main liaison when it comes to outreach within the conservative Christian community.
The CBN report added that the Romney campaign's frequent-outreach list reads like a who's who of religious right heavyweights, including Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, Richard Land, and Gary Bauer.
One can only speculate about what's being said, but it stands to reason the Romney campaign, which probably fears a lack of enthusiasm from Christian evangelicals, is making a series of promises related to abortion rights and LGBT rights -- promises the religious right would expect Romney to keep if elected.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Some religious right activists are pushing a boycott of Google because of the company's support for marriage equality. Lawrence O'Donnell had a segment on this the other day that I found especially entertaining.
* A Gallup report this week found Americans' confidence in religious institutions has hit an all-time low. Researchers believe the shift is partly the result of the Roman Catholic Church's international scandal involving the sexual abuse of children and the subsequent cover-up.
* Republicans in Florida's state legislature are trying to bring more religion into official public-school events, writing legislation that would allow students to read and recite "inspirational message[s]" at all non-compulsory school events, including graduations, assemblies and sports events. Proselytizing would, by all accounts, be permitted.
* A lengthy story in Bloomberg Businessweek hit newsstands yesterday on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' vast financial holdings. Mormon officials are reportedly offended by, among other things, the magazine's cover image.
* And regional German court's recent ban on circumcision has, oddly enough, brought together Jewish and Muslim organizations that are outraged by the ruling (thanks to R.P. for the heads-up).