The State of the Union

An article from the Religion News Service considers implications of some of the invitations issued to attend President Obama’s final State of the Union address tonight.

It’s evidence of the role that religion and moral values are playing in the nation’s politics as we head into the heart of the presidential campaign

writes David Gibson.

The guests he highlights run across the religious and political spectrum:

Two members of the Little Sisters of the Poor will be hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican who wants to highlight religious opposition to the contraception mandate in Obamacare. The order runs a chain of nursing homes and say allowing such coverage for their employees forces them to compromise their religious beliefs.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed briefly last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, will be in attendance with her lawyer; the last time Davis was in Washington it was for a secret meeting with Pope Francis that blew up into a controversy when the Vatican discovered the pontiff had been set up.

Jim Obergefell, an Ohio real estate agent who was the lead plaintiff on the Supreme Court case last June that gave gay couples across the country the right to marry, will be a guest of the president.

Obama has also invited Refaai Hamo, a Syrian refugee and scientist who fled that country’s civil war, and settled with four of his children in Michigan last month; his presence is a visual rejoinder to the growing calls to bar refugees from Syria or to set up religious restrictions for entry. Hamo’s family background is Kurdish, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Mexican-born Oscar Vazquez will be another guest of the president and will highlight the immigration reform issue that has galvanized and divided religious groups: Vazquez was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, returned to his home country and re-entered the country legally, and then joined the Army and served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

An empty chair in the president’s box will represent the victims of gun violence.

Read the article here. Whom would you invite?

Photo: Kim Davis

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