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Partisan politics affecting role of faith groups in U.S., says prominent journalist

September 30, 2011

New York

The role of the diverse U.S. faith community in debates about the future of the United States is essentially unsettled right now due to partisan politics, says a prominent broadcast journalist and former White House communications director.

Speaking Sept. 28 to members of the National Council of Churches Communication Commission, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News said that the Christian religious right is only one strand of the larger Tea Party movement, a conservative movement that has opposed many of the policies of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Though some on the U.S. religious left are now trying to counter the conservative movement by “fighting fire with fire,” Stephanopoulos sensed that many Americans, now more than ever, are weary of the merging of theology with politics, of whatever stripe.

“Is this about faith or about politics?” Stephanopoulos said what might be a common reaction among many toward any overt merging of the two. “It’s easier for people to move away from the debate.”

Stephanopoulos added that he thought the prominent sexual abuse scandals within the U.S. Catholic Church in recent years had soured both the public’s and media’s attitude toward religious institutions, and had made covering them more difficult for journalists.

Stephanopoulos, who is ABC News’ chief political correspondent and host of  “Good Morning America,” served under President Bill Clinton as advisor and communications director.

He told communications representatives of NCC-member communions and other faith-based groups meeting in New York that political partisanship shows no signs of declining in an era when many Americans are worried that “America is slipping and in decline.”

"People are losing a sense that we have a society that works,” he said.

“If we are going to be as successful as we once were,” Stephanopoulos said about the United States, “we’re going to have to make some decisions that are probably not going to be very popular.”

Stephanopoulos is no stranger to religious issues. His mother, Nickolitsa (“Nikki”) Stephanopoulos, was the long-time director of news for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. His father, Robert George Stephanopoulos, was formerly dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City.

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