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White House Staffers Gather For Bible Study

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 722 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... WHITE HOUSE STAFFERS GATHER FOR BIBLE STUDY VOLUNTARY
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2002
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      By Judy Keen
      USA Today
      Monday, October 14, 2002


      WASHINGTON -- President Bush talks openly and proudly about his active
      spiritual faith. In another, less well known sign of the religious devotion
      that permeates the administration, some White House staffers have been
      meeting weekly at hour-long prayer and Bible study sessions.

      Bush aides organized the sessions before his inauguration. One group meets
      during the lunch hour on Tuesdays, another on Thursdays. Attendance is
      voluntary and, although the lessons are Christian in nature, non-Christians
      are welcome.

      Typically, 25 to 50 of the 1,700 people who work in the White House complex
      -- department heads, secretaries and mail clerks --attend each session. They
      meet in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, an ornate building next to
      the White House that houses the offices of Vice President Cheney and other
      administration officials.

      Federal workplace guidelines issued in 1997 permit religious activities but
      warn supervisors to ensure that employees do not feel coerced to participate
      in them.

      Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church
      and State, says courts have not ruled that religious study in public
      buildings is inherently unconstitutional.

      ''If there's equal treatment among people who don't attend and there's no
      pressure, then, frankly, it doesn't violate the First Amendment,'' he says.
      ''We have not gotten a single complaint from anyone at the White House.''

      Controversy erupted last year when The Washington Post reported that
      Attorney General John Ashcroft holds daily Bible studies at the Justice
      Department. Some staffers said they felt uncomfortable about those sessions
      because their boss led them and they felt pressure to attend.

      The president doesn't attend the Bible study meetings. Nor does White House
      chief of staff Andy Card, whose wife, Kathleene, is a minister at a United
      Methodist church near Washington.

      There have been similar Bible study classes in previous administrations,
      White House spokeswoman Anne Womack says. During his presidency, Jimmy
      Carter, a Baptist, sometimes taught adult Sunday school at Washington's
      First Baptist Church. Richard Nixon, a Quaker, invited evangelists to the
      White House to speak to staffers.

      Last Thursday, author Bruce Wilkinson was the guest speaker at a White House
      Bible study. Wilkinson wrote The Prayer of Jabez, a best-selling book based
      on a character in the Bible.

      Wilkinson spoke admiringly of Bush's faith at a breakfast at the Heritage
      Foundation, a conservative think tank, before his White House visit.

      As the president copes with the war on terrorism, Wilkinson said, ''The Lord
      is in front of him.''

      Bush starts every day on his knees in prayer. He reads the Bible each
      morning and studies a Bible lesson daily.

      Religion has been central to his life since 1985, when a conversation with
      the Rev. Billy Graham prompted him to renew his faith. Bush has said that
      his religious beliefs helped him quit drinking when he turned 40.

      He was raised an Episcopalian but became a Methodist when he got married and
      joined the church of his wife, Laura.

      Religion infuses Bush's policies and speeches. The president has proposed
      allowing religious groups to compete for federal money to operate programs
      for the needy. That legislation has stalled in Congress.

      Bush often thanks his audiences for praying for him and argues that there is
      a role for religious faith in government.

      ''Our governments must not fear faith,'' he said this month at Republican
      Party fundraiser in Baltimore. ''We must welcome faith in our society.''


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