news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 22, 2004

Religion set to play central role in US elections

-22/3/04

Faith and religious conviction look set to play a central role in the election of the next US President.

Reports suggest that President Bush's re-election campaign intends to target evangelicals and young conservative Christians. Mr. Bush has taken such steps as endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, publicly bowing his head in prayer before meals, and repeatedly avowing his belief in Jesus Christ. Mr. Bush's chief strategist, Karl Rove, has been out-front in saying that appealing to the religious right is a paramount goal of the campaign, reports the Toledo Blade, from Ohio.

But Sen. John F. Kerry will also be the first Catholic to get the Democratic nomination since John F. Kennedy, another Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

The effect of religious adherence on voting habits has been well documented. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican by 63 percent to 37 percent; people who seldom or never attend vote Democratic by 62 percent to 38 percent.

"Religion permeates every aspect of how people see the election," says John Zogby, an independent pollster. He says his polling data show that Democrats are less apt to be weekly churchgoers than Republicans, and that there is a strong relationship between those who go to church frequently and those who go to the polls to vote.

Mr. Zogby contends that religion has become a major divisive force in American politics.

Red states - those that voted for Bush in 2000- and blue states - those that voted for Al Gore -have diverse outlooks on religion, he says. "We now have a red nation that believes in moral absolutism, and a blue nation that represents morality writ small - live and let live," he said.

He found that 52 percent of red-state voters attend a place of worship at least once a week compared with 34 percent of blue-state voters. Just over four out of 10 red-state voters call themselves conservatives compared with three out of 10 blue-state voters who say they are conservatives.

Sixty-three percent of people who say they go to church every week say the Bush presidency is legitimate [was not "stolen" in 2000], but among those who say they do not go to church every week, 51 percent said the Bush presidency is legitimate.

Jim Wallis from the Sojourners community in Washington DC, writing in the New York Times last year said; "President Bush and the Republicans clearly have an advantage with people of faith as an election year approaches. Republicans are more comfortable talking about religious values and issues, and they are quick to promise that their faith will affect their policies (even if, like their Democratic counterparts, they don't always follow through on their campaign promises)."

At a recent forum in Washington on the relationship between religion and politics sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and its foundation, said there is concern this year that to appeal to voters, candidates may misuse religious conviction.

He said, "Many people across this country will view the entirety of the electoral process through the lens of their particular religious traditions, their beliefs, their values. Scores of these well-intentioned people will vote for the politician who seems to hold the greatest promise for advancing their particular religion, through legislative proposals, foreign policy initiatives, budgeting priorities, rhetoric, and social service programs.

"Candidates know that, so candidates searching for votes appeal to voters' interests in religion and, at times, use the language of faith in a manner intended to lend spiritual authority to their political pursuits and positions. While some candidates play the religious card as naturally as breathing, for others the whole ploy seems stilted and fake. You know the difference between the two right off."

When Howard Dean was the Democratic front-runner a few weeks ago, there was enormous national interest in his apparently peripatetic church-going habits. When pundits began questioning whether it was possible for someone who didn't wear religion on his sleeve to appeal to millions of voters, suddenly, he began to talk about what his religion meant to him.

Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and a historian of religion, said at the forum that since Mr. Bush became President, Americans "have seen the rise of religious language in the White House and the presidency to an extent that is unprecedented in recent history."

Some in Washington are wondering whether homosexuality could be a significant social issue this election, possibly even as important as the war in Iraq and the debate over jobs in deciding the next president. Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry both oppose gay marriage, but Mr. Kerry is against putting a ban on it in the Constitution.

So far no polls are showing that Mr. Kerry's Catholic religion will come close to being a particle of the thunderbolt that Mr. Kennedy's was four decades ago. There has been some concern inside the Kerry camp about the fact that he is divorced and remarried and whether this could be a problem for some devout Catholics who do not believe in remarriage.

But in Massachusetts, which has a large Catholic population and which has another Catholic divorced and remarried Democratic senator - Ted Kennedy - Mr. Kerry was re-elected to a fourth Senate term with 81 percent of the vote.

Jim Towhey, the White House director of faith-based initiatives, said, "I'd be very surprised to see [Mr. Kerry's Catholicism] as a factor in this race." He said he sees religious tolerance in America growing, not declining.

Religion set to play central role in US elections

-22/3/04

Faith and religious conviction look set to play a central role in the election of the next US President.

Reports suggest that President Bush's re-election campaign intends to target evangelicals and young conservative Christians. Mr. Bush has taken such steps as endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, publicly bowing his head in prayer before meals, and repeatedly avowing his belief in Jesus Christ. Mr. Bush's chief strategist, Karl Rove, has been out-front in saying that appealing to the religious right is a paramount goal of the campaign, reports the Toledo Blade, from Ohio.

But Sen. John F. Kerry will also be the first Catholic to get the Democratic nomination since John F. Kennedy, another Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

The effect of religious adherence on voting habits has been well documented. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, people who attend church more than once a week vote Republican by 63 percent to 37 percent; people who seldom or never attend vote Democratic by 62 percent to 38 percent.

"Religion permeates every aspect of how people see the election," says John Zogby, an independent pollster. He says his polling data show that Democrats are less apt to be weekly churchgoers than Republicans, and that there is a strong relationship between those who go to church frequently and those who go to the polls to vote.

Mr. Zogby contends that religion has become a major divisive force in American politics.

Red states - those that voted for Bush in 2000- and blue states - those that voted for Al Gore -have diverse outlooks on religion, he says. "We now have a red nation that believes in moral absolutism, and a blue nation that represents morality writ small - live and let live," he said.

He found that 52 percent of red-state voters attend a place of worship at least once a week compared with 34 percent of blue-state voters. Just over four out of 10 red-state voters call themselves conservatives compared with three out of 10 blue-state voters who say they are conservatives.

Sixty-three percent of people who say they go to church every week say the Bush presidency is legitimate [was not "stolen" in 2000], but among those who say they do not go to church every week, 51 percent said the Bush presidency is legitimate.

Jim Wallis from the Sojourners community in Washington DC, writing in the New York Times last year said; "President Bush and the Republicans clearly have an advantage with people of faith as an election year approaches. Republicans are more comfortable talking about religious values and issues, and they are quick to promise that their faith will affect their policies (even if, like their Democratic counterparts, they don't always follow through on their campaign promises)."

At a recent forum in Washington on the relationship between religion and politics sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and its foundation, said there is concern this year that to appeal to voters, candidates may misuse religious conviction.

He said, "Many people across this country will view the entirety of the electoral process through the lens of their particular religious traditions, their beliefs, their values. Scores of these well-intentioned people will vote for the politician who seems to hold the greatest promise for advancing their particular religion, through legislative proposals, foreign policy initiatives, budgeting priorities, rhetoric, and social service programs.

"Candidates know that, so candidates searching for votes appeal to voters' interests in religion and, at times, use the language of faith in a manner intended to lend spiritual authority to their political pursuits and positions. While some candidates play the religious card as naturally as breathing, for others the whole ploy seems stilted and fake. You know the difference between the two right off."

When Howard Dean was the Democratic front-runner a few weeks ago, there was enormous national interest in his apparently peripatetic church-going habits. When pundits began questioning whether it was possible for someone who didn't wear religion on his sleeve to appeal to millions of voters, suddenly, he began to talk about what his religion meant to him.

Diana Eck, director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University and a historian of religion, said at the forum that since Mr. Bush became President, Americans "have seen the rise of religious language in the White House and the presidency to an extent that is unprecedented in recent history."

Some in Washington are wondering whether homosexuality could be a significant social issue this election, possibly even as important as the war in Iraq and the debate over jobs in deciding the next president. Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry both oppose gay marriage, but Mr. Kerry is against putting a ban on it in the Constitution.

So far no polls are showing that Mr. Kerry's Catholic religion will come close to being a particle of the thunderbolt that Mr. Kennedy's was four decades ago. There has been some concern inside the Kerry camp about the fact that he is divorced and remarried and whether this could be a problem for some devout Catholics who do not believe in remarriage.

But in Massachusetts, which has a large Catholic population and which has another Catholic divorced and remarried Democratic senator - Ted Kennedy - Mr. Kerry was re-elected to a fourth Senate term with 81 percent of the vote.

Jim Towhey, the White House director of faith-based initiatives, said, "I'd be very surprised to see [Mr. Kerry's Catholicism] as a factor in this race." He said he sees religious tolerance in America growing, not declining.

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