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 CNS Story:

KNIGHTS-OBAMA Sep-30-2008 (440 words) xxxn

Some Knights disagree with Anderson, start Web site supporting Obama

By Dennis Sadowski

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Upset with a letter critical of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. for his views on abortion, some Knights of Columbus are preparing to introduce their own Web site backing Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Led by Rick Gebhard, a member of Knights of Columbus Council 853 at Guardian Angels Parish in the Lake Michigan town of Manistee, Mich., the group planned to unveil its Web site, www.knightsforobama.com, by Oct. 3.

A middle-school teacher in Manistee Area Public Schools, Gebhard said he decided to publicly demonstrate his support for the Democratic ticket after reading a letter from Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson that invited Biden to meet with him and challenged the Catholic senator from Delaware to bring his personal views opposing abortion to the public policy arena by overturning legalized abortion.

The letter appeared in full-page advertisements in several East Coast newspapers Sept. 19, 12 days after Biden discussed his views on abortion during an interview on the NBC news program "Meet the Press." Between 1983 and 1987, Anderson held various positions in President Ronald Reagan's White House, including special assistant to the president and acting director of the Office of Public Liaison in which he participated in the development of pro-life and pro-family initiatives.

"Basically, I read it, and as that letter ended, it said Mr. Anderson was speaking for all Knights," Gebhard told Catholic News Service Sept. 30. "He wasn't speaking for me."

Gebhard, a member of Boston-based Catholic Democrats, said he contacted the organization to discuss how he could respond to Anderson's letter and learned that several other Knights shared his disagreement with Anderson. Within days of the letter's publication, Gebhard decided to pursue the Web site option.

"I guess I am trying to level things out a bit to show that the Knights are not a partisan group and to show there's a mix of beliefs," he said.

A third-degree Knight who has belonged to the organization for two years, Gebhard said he supports Obama because "his policies are closer to mine on Catholic social teaching." In explaining his support, Gebhard cited the Illinois senator's stances on meeting the needs of poor people, increasing access to health care and the need to shelve the concept of pre-emptive war.

At the time CNS spoke with Gebhard, Anderson and other Knights of Columbus leaders were attending meetings in Rome. Patrick Korten, vice president for communications for the Knights, told CNS from Rome Sept. 30 that until they learn more about Knights for Obama the fraternal organization would not respond.


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