As part of a continuing effort to use religion as a way of excluding many Americans, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives recently proposed a resolution that “reaffirms the importance of religion in the lives of United States citizens.”
Introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), the resolution includes a number of statements that are offensive to anyone who supports church-state separation or isn’t Christian.
The resolution says that Judeo-Christian heritage “has played a strong role in the development of the United States and in the lives of many of the Nation’s citizens” and that the House “rejects efforts to remove evidence of Judeo-Christian heritage and references to God from public structures and resources.”
A long list of “evidence” is also offered to support the claim that religion is important to people in the U.S.
One claim is that the “first act of Congress in 1774 was a prayer.” That is pretty meaningless because that wasn’t the U.S. Congress. Not only did that First Continental Congress meet for just a few weeks, it didn’t include representatives of all 13 colonies. America hadn’t even declared independence yet from Britain, so to say the Congress in 1774 set the precedent for the United States is just not accurate.
Another meaningless claim intended to support the resolution is that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. So what? The Bible has been available for centuries and is sold worldwide. That doesn’t prove anything about the importance of religion to people in the United States.
A third claim made in the resolution references a 2007 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public life that found 92 percent of U.S. citizens believe in God and 78.4 percent identified as Christian. Here, the House is basically saying, “If you don’t believe in God, get out” and “If you aren’t Christian, you should probably leave, too.”
Those who would support this resolution seemingly have no issue with excluding eight percent of the population (though really it’s 21.6 percent), so let’s put that 8 percent number in context. It may not seem like a lot of people, but that’s a little over 25 million Americans. Should the U.S. government be passing resolutions that alienate such a large number of people?
… In many cases, the opposition has centered on neighbors’ concerns about traffic, noise, parking and property values - the same objections that often greet churches and other houses of worship as well as commercial construction projects. In some communities, however, opponents of mosques also have cited fears about Islam, sharia law and terrorism.
Churches are in politics too much
A new survey finds signs of public uneasiness with the mixing of religion and politics. The number of people who say there has been too much religious talk by political leaders stands at an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago. And most Americans continue to say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics.
Nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) now say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders, while 30% say there has been too little. In 2010, more said there was too little than too much religious expression from politicians (37% vs. 29%). The percentage saying there is too much expression of religious faith by politicians has increased across party lines, but this view remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans.
Slightly more than half of the public (54%) says that churches should keep out of politics, compared with 40% who say religious institutions should express their views on social and political matters. This is the third consecutive poll conducted over the past four years in which more people have said churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics than said they should express their views on social and political topics. By contrast, between 1996 and 2006 the balance of opinion on this question consistently tilted in the opposite direction.
Everyone that is except for Santorum supporters…
There are several more highly informative charts at the link .
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is a proud traditional Catholic. But so far that is not helping him with Catholic voters.
Santorum has not had a significant victory among Catholic voters in any of the 10 states in which exit polls have been taken, nor has Newt Gingrich, who is also Catholic. While Santorum outpolled Mitt Romney among born-again or evangelical voters, Romney does better among Catholics, evidence that Catholics are not rallying around Santorum’s faith-based opposition to abortion and birth control.
Catholics, analysts say, are making their choices much like the Republican electorate at large - focusing on economic issues and electability. In several cases, Santorum’s support among Catholics was significantly lower than it is among the general population.
Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life who analyzed the exit polls, said that Romney clearly won the Catholic vote in five states, and that the Catholic vote was divided in another four. In Arizona, it is unclear if there were enough Catholic voters for Romney’s margin of victory among them to be statistically significant.
“It’s not so much that Santorum is consistently doing worse among Catholics than he is among the electorate as a whole,” Smith said. “It’s more that he has not won the Catholic vote in any state so far, whereas Romney has done that in half the states.”
Political observers say Catholics, unlike the Mormon voters who have supported Romney or the evangelical voters who have supported Santorum, tend not to vote as one bloc. While Santorum’s strong views on prohibiting abortion and gay marriage and his personal opposition to contraception are in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, many Catholics are less traditional and do not vote based on those issues.
“Rick Santorum is a very traditional Catholic,” said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, who specializes in religion in politics. “Although Catholics who vote in Republican primaries tend to be conservative, not all of them are as traditional or as conservative as Santorum.”
Former ambassador to the Vatican and Boston mayor Raymond Flynn, who has endorsed Romney, said in an e-mail: “Catholic voters are not monolithic. Most Catholics love God, are compassionate, faithful citizens, patriotic, and, like me, are committed to human rights and equal justice for all people. Catholics, like most Americans, will vote for the person who they believe will create jobs and strengthen our economy.”
Some Catholics may have been turned off by Santorum’s comments that he “almost threw up” after reading Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state.
“Attacking a Catholic icon” is not a good way for Santorum “to endear himself with those Catholic voters for whom identity actually does matter,” said Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University.
As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the partisan affiliations of the electorate have shifted significantly since 2008. In surveys conducted in 2011 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 34% of registered voters described themselves as Democrats, down four points compared with 2008 (38%). Over the same period, the percentage of voters describing themselves as Republicans has held steady at 28%, while the total saying they are politically independent or have no partisan preference has risen four points (from 34% in 2008 to 38% in 2011).
The Democrats’ decline is especially apparent when the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account. Though there has been no change in the share of the electorate identifying with the GOP, there has been a significant increase in the number of Republican-leaning independents (from 11% in 2008 to 16% in 2011). Taken together, the share of voters who say they are Republican or that they lean toward the GOP has grown from 39% in 2008 to 43% in 2011, while the number saying they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has declined from 51% to 48%. A 12-point Democratic advantage in 2008 has shrunk to just five points heading into the 2012 presidential election year. This marks a continuation of a trend first observed in 2010, when 43% of the electorate supported or leaned toward the GOP while 47% favored the Democratic Party. (For a detailed analysis of longer-term trends in party identification and of changes in the partisan preferences of a variety of demographic groups, see “GOP Makes Big Gains among White Voters, Especially among the Young and Poor,” July 22, 2011.)
In the Orwellian doublespeak of Catholic Bishops, the ability to exclude, discriminate, and prohibit is a religious liberty that somehow trumps our constitution.
The new effort will become an adjunct of the bishops’ powerful and finely tuned lobbying machine in D.C. Last year, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life surveyed the leading faith-based lobbyists in the nation’s capital. The USCCB was near the top at $26.6 million.
In addition, the bishops have the well-heeled Knights of Columbus covering their backs. Based in New Haven, Conn., the Knights’ budget was an astounding $1.7 billion in 2009, and they’ve signed on to be “advisors” to the project.
The effort is calculated to resonate with the public. There’s a reason Dolan and other bishops throw around the term “religious liberty” so much: It sounds positive to most Americans.
But to the bishops, “religious liberty” has a very specific meaning. The church hierarchy tends to use the term when seeking to have church dogma written into law for all Americans to follow or when they’re demanding exemptions from general laws that apply to all groups.
For years, church lobbyists in Washington and in state capitals have argued that Catholics have a “religious liberty” right to educate their children in Catholic schools at taxpayer expense. This led to demands for vouchers and other types of public aid for the church’s parochial school system.
Now that concept is being expanded to cover a host of other issues. Church leaders argue, for example, that the “religious liberty” of Catholics is violated when governments recognize same-sex marriage - even though no churches are required to sanction or perform such ceremonies.
Similarly, Catholic pharmacists and other health care providers are increasingly asserting that their “religious liberty” is violated if they are expected to provide certain medications (such as Plan B) or take part in certain medical procedures (emergency abortions and sterilizing operations, for example).
Announcing the formation of the new lobbying arm, Dolan listed six areas of concern: a requirement in the new health care bill that private insurers cover birth control; a requirement that groups providing services to refugees provide reproductive services to victims of trafficking and minors; demands that HIV-prevention programs include condom distribution; the administration’s support for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act; the U.S. Justice Department’s stance in favor of abolishing the “ministerial exception” that gives religious groups broad leeway to discriminate in hiring and passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York.