Democrats and the ‘God Problem’

By Christine Brozyna

Sep 5, 2006 1:12pm

Correspondent Liz Marlantes (at left) blogs about the Democratic Party’s attempt to reach out to Christian and evangelical voters. Can Democrats solve their “God problem”? By most indications, it’s an uphill climb — but party leaders are trying to narrow the gap. The latest attempt: a new website called “faithfuldemocrats.com.”  The group has some big names in the Democratic Party on board (it’s co-founded by former Clinton campaign manager and former DNC chair David Wilhelm). Unlike previous efforts to link progressive and religious values, the site is explicitly Christian and Democratic. It aims to reach out to moderate Christian and evangelical voters who don’t necessarily agree with the GOP on policy issues.  In the short term, the site’s founders hope to impact the upcoming midterm elections: The site will spotlight one Democratic candidate of faith in a competitive race each week — this week, PA Senate candidate Bob Casey is their pick — with the aim of directing money and volunteers toward their campaigns.  In the long run, the founders hope to change the overall image of the Democratic Party as being anti-Christian.  “I am tired of politicians, partisans, and preachers spelling God ‘G-O-P,’” writes Tennessee State Sen. Roy Herron, one of the group’s co-founders, on the site. “The truth is, God cannot be held hostage by any political party.” Other titles displayed: “Jesus was an illegal immigrant,” and “The Sin of Religious Hypocrisy.” There are signs the moment may be ripe for this kind of Democratic push: According to a Pew survey released last week, Republicans have seen a recent decline in their religious base — 47 percent now see the GOP as "friendly" to religion, down from 55 percent, and the party dropped a striking 14 points among evangelicals.  Still, only 26 percent of those surveyed see the Democratic Party as "friendly" to religion.  And while the group may have a relatively easy time linking Democratic policies on issues like poverty and the minimum wage with Jesus’ teachings, it’s not clear how it intends to get around the positions the party’s national leadership takes on cultural issues from abortion to gay marriage — positions that are anathema to many Christians. This week’s spotlighted candidate, Bob Casey, is in the minority among national Democrats for his anti-abortion views — and his candidacy has been a point of controversy for that reason among many liberal and women’s groups that are aligned with the Democratic Party. One early posting applauds the site for its “sincerity,” but concludes: “I cannot understand how you can expect me to join with a party that stands for so many things that oppose what I believe the Bible teaches.”      

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