Sunday, November 30, 2008
Chappell, David. A Stone of Hope. 1. Chapell Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press , 2004.
During the 1960s, American Jews searching for spiritual renewal turned to Indian Buddhism. So many Jews adopted Buddhist practices, such as meditation, that a new word was created: “Jew-Bu.” More recently, the term “Hinjew” was coined. Many traditionally Jewish public schools in suburban areas of New York and New Jersey, for example, are now attracting more and more Indian immigrants. In Israel, yoga classes and Hindu food are both very popular. In addition, “about 30,000 Israelis visit India each year,” which has contributed to the spread of Indian culture in Israel. A group in Atlanta called the “Indo-Jewish Coalition” is one organization that fosters this budding relationship. Ani Anighotri, co-chairman of the group, notes that Indian-Americans often find Jewish-Americans to be good role models because of “their activism, their social values, their family values, the educational values.” A lot of Jews are also professionals and entrepreneurs, which is similar to the Indian community. Clearly, even though victimization by Muslim terrorists has helped bring the two groups together, the ties extend much further.
So what does this link mean, both domestically and internationally? Will we see an alliance between India and Israel? Israel already sells about $1 billion in arms to Indian per year, beginning after the Cold War. In the face of Islamic terrorist attacks on both countries, a tighter alliance would not be too surprising. In America, what does the future hold for Jews and Indians? The current relationship seems to be one that is positive and healthy, but will competition for education and jobs break some of these bonds and create divisions?
Jerry Falwell founded and spearheaded the Moral Majority, uniting millions of Christians and inspiring them to get involved in politics. It helped create the infamous “values voters” who were so influential in recent elections. However, despite Falwell’s enormous success bringing together the Christian community, he also managed to divide America. He split the country into moralists and pagan voters. He drew a big, red line down the middle of the country, separating value voters from the people they rallied against. Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, criticized Falwell, saying that he was the “founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”
Falwell is just another example of how religion can be used to create a majority or marginalize a minority. Falwell unified the country by preaching that politics should be executed with a moral compass as its guide, but divided it with his outlandish remarks about “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians … the ACLU (and) People for the American Way" being responsible for 9/11. Similarly, the incendiary actions and statements by Identity Christians ostracize them from the mainstream political system.
Christian Identity is an extremist group of the Religious Right that believes that the Aryan race is the true people of Israel, that Jews are the seed of Satan, and that blacks are a biologically and spiritually inferior species. All of their tenets are based on religion and this religion influences their politics. However, their religious beliefs fail to ingratiate them into the American political spectrum, as did those of evangelicals. On the contrary, they hurl them off the face of the political map.
Religion has the unique ability of being able to join together groups of differing individuals and also tear apart relationships. This concept is true whether it is applied to culture or politics. Therefore, perhaps it wasn’t Identity Christians, or Jerry Falwell that united and divided our country, but religion in general. Religion is a Frenemy all on its own, politics is merely its current counterpart.
"Falwell was a uniter and a divider"
Friday, November 28, 2008
As Catholics, we classify abortion as a grave sin, and a Catholic cannot, in good conscience, vote for a candidate that supports abortion rights. But I cannot help but ask why not? With so many other issues at stake in this election, should abortion really be that one issue that prevents us from voting? In a recent Cowl article, PC’s campus newspaper, a Providence College student wrote about his experience protesting in the form of prayer at an abortion clinic in Providence. I applaud his enthusiasm and commitment to an issue. I hope that his experience inspires others to become passionate about an issue. But can we not lose focus on the millions without healthcare, the millions in poverty, the millions of children in under-performing schools, the millions of families who cannot afford to send their children to college due to rising costs, or the millions of Americans unemployed? Some may argue that attention can be focused on all of these issues, including abortion. Absolutely! The problem is, however, that abortion becomes the dividing line, creating an “us vs. them” debate using this one issue. No one is willing to concede anything regarding abortion. The conversation stops.
I do not condone abortion, nor would I remove it as an option. But its importance to me in the discussion is no more than that of poverty, healthcare, education, or unemployment. I say shelf the abortion debate for now, and fix the other problems. Let’s help the living so that we may one day help the unborn.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
On the first of June, 12 year old Motl Brody was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington after undergoing brain surgery for his progressive brain tumor. He never regained consciousness. For the past few months, he has been living on a ventilator, his brain activity slowly decreasing and on November 4, was declared legally brain dead by the hospital. His family though, members of a Hasidic sect of the Jewish community, refused to allow the hospital to take Motl off of life support, believing that he was not dead until his heart and lungs stopped functioning. They filed for an injunction to stop the hospital from acting against their wishes and discontinuing treatment. The hospital stated that Motl had ceased all functions- even more so than Terri Schiavo or Karen Ann Quinlan, the two precedents used- and wanted to exercise their right not to treat the boy any longer. The case was scheduled to be heard last Wednesday, but was postponed because of Motl’s deteriorating health which he finally succumbed to on Saturday the 15th.
The hospital, in its original arguments, declared that it had taken several steps to accommodate the family including seeking out a place that could sustain a child on life support until the family was ready and even encouraged the family to take the boy home where he could pass in peace. The parents, however, refused, stating that the movement could be detrimental and was against their religious beliefs it could ultimately bring about their son’s death. The hospital also pressed for more tests to be done on the brain to truly establish that all functions had ceased, but the family would not agree to this either because of their belief in death based on heart and lung function and not brain. It is undisputed that Motl Brody’s heart and lungs were only functioning because of the drugs being pumped through him to maintain blood pressure and the machine breathing into his body.
So, who has the right to decide- the parents or the hospital? Are resources more important than religion?
Parental rights take all to me, and since those are based in religion, religion must be protected. The parents held a belief that they could not morally stop treatment under the eyes of God and told the hospital no. That is essentially all I need to know. It was their child and thus their right to decide when to “pull the plug”. There is a reason for the current process of telling the family there is no hope and leaving it with them to sign or not and if the court is going to override their decision, what is the point in asking at all? From a religious standing alone, this country is based on the respect of beliefs (theoretically), not only when it is convenient or unanimous, but in times such as this where two different communities believe two very different things. It is not within the power of the medical institution to override religious belief. (But I think the larger issue is parental rights)
In regards to the idea of wasting resources (one of the hospital’s motivations for wanting to take the child off life support), someone is going to pay for those services and it is not part of the Hippocratic oath to base your decisions about harm off of monetary standings. If the parents believe their child is alive, you are killing them by removing the tube and that violates what we currently accept as the no harm standard.
Had this case been played out fully, I would hope that the court would rule in favor of the family because this is an overstep of the hospital and a clear instance where the religious freedoms of the nuclear family need to be protected.
In this article, Cooper highlights how the Bush administrations’ effort to “propound an intellectual and moral doctrine that eschew[s] talking to foes” has backfired and has led to 11th hour negotiations and concessions made by the United States earlier this year. Despite this “openness” to talk with nations considered part of Bush’s ‘axis of evil’, there is still a sense of reluctance and unwillingness to negotiate.
The question at stake is why did the Bush administration adopt a “no talk” policy for foe nations in the first place? What “moral doctrine” prohibited such talks with enemy nations? Although the answers to these questions are complex, we can begin to understand this strategy by exploring the philosophy behind the approach.
Bush’s rhetoric in public addresses (and conferences) gives insight as to what that philosophy might be. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush used the term “axis of evil” to describe foreign nations that were “arming to threaten the peace of the world” and that were active sponsors of “hatred”. By demonizing enemy nations, Bush effectively portrayed these nations as sponsors of evil and terror. In doing so, he drew a distinct contrast between us and them. We were the deliverers of freedom, and they were the purveyors of evil. This sense of mission was evidenced by one of the delegates in the Israeli-Palestinian summit in 2003 who claimed that Bush declared he was on a “mission from God” when he decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yesterday, our class discussed the possibility of using religion as a means to justify our political actions abroad, for example, the establishment of allies like Israel. If religion can be used to promote pro-Israel sentiments, can a “religious” philosophy like that constructed by Bush be used to “create” enemies? Although there is legitimacy behind why nations like North Korea and Iran are considered U.S foes, does this “religious philosophy”, and in turn, its rhetoric affect how the U.S sees other nations? And by the same token, does this philosophy and rhetoric affect how other nations perceive us? If so, do you think this has affected our foreign policy, particularly at the negotiating table?
In the NYT article, Abbas Milani, an Iran expert at Stanford University, questioned the approach that the Bush administration was using. “I don’t understand what they are
doing”? He was particularly struck by the Condoleezza Rice’s “provocative acts and words” when she described the situation with Iran earlier this year: “if Iran did not respond in the next two weeks to an offer of incentives, the United States and other major powers would go back to the United Nations Security Council for additional sanctions against Tehran”.
According to Milani, her actions and words could offset any chance that Iran’s leaders would suspend their uranium enrichment programs. Experts and insiders have also noticed the incongruity of the administration's approach. They've described this approach of open talks and strong rhetoric as “erratic” and “schizophrenic”.
This "erratic" approach and reluctance was best articulated by Ms. Perino, the White House Press Secretary, when she was asked if North Korea and Iran were still part of Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ if the United States was in negotiations with them. She responded:
''I think that until they give up their nuclear weapons programs completely and verifiably, I think that we would keep them in the same category,'' Ms. Perino said.
Can the Bush administration’s sense of reluctance and unwillingness to negotiate be explained by the moral and religious paradigm constructed by Bush after the attacks on 9/11? And has this paradigm affected U.S foreign policy approach to recalcitrant nations?
According to an article in The Times of Munster, Ind., a man sued the state for selling license plates with “In God We Trust” inscribed on it, without having the $15 extra charge for a specialty plate. The man claimed that this preference religion by doing this. The state argued that it was not and that it was just harnessing a federal motto. State courts have sided with the motto argument.
At first glance, I was outraged. Why in the world would a state offer religious license plates in the first place? This clearly goes against the Establishment Clause and gives preference to religion. However, after looking at this issue a little more, I can recognize that this isn’t even a religion issue. “In God We Trust” is the national motto, and thus, it does not qualify as a necessary religious issue.
This case, however, brings up another issue that has been toying in my mind all semester. What is the constitutionality of “In God We Trust?” It is everywhere – congress, courts, our currency and now license plates for no additional fees. Doesn’t recognizing that there is one god and that the federal government acts under this assumption unconstitutional? Personally, I believe it does. We can talk history all we want, but throughout the Supreme Courts history and set precedent, we have seen a steady progression towards the secularization of the country. Of course the founding fathers may have used Judeo-Christian principles to aid decisions, but they did not intend religion to control government or dictate federal actions. Does this promote no religion? No, it just says that this country so understands that it will not allude to any faiths and leave that discretion up to the American people. But how far do we go? By taking action to erase God from the American government, some see it as an attack on faith. This is tough for me. We have seen a banning of prayer in public schools, scholarships for theological studies and other court decisions. Clearly, there is a clear line drawn, but why hasn’t the court gone a step further to ban prayer in congress or disallowing “In God We Trust” to be displayed on state or federal policy? I don’t understand this. When cases involved students, the court is up in arms – It’s all about the children! However, when it involves rational adults, all bets are off and the Constitution is thrown out the window on the basis of “they know better than to be influenced by a few measly words.” There is a huge problem with this, and I would hope the court would do something about it.
So my question to respondents – what do you think about this article? And, do you think “In God We Trust” is unconstitutional?
The proposed law is being strenuously protested by various groups, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the “National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, 28 senators, more than 110 representatives and the attorneys general of 13 states”. The EEOC asserts that this “would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion”; other opponents have described it as “unnecessary for the protection of employees and potentially confusing to employers”.
Employment discrimination based on religion is already prohibited, and the concept of “religion” in this case can also be interpreted to include moral or ethical values. This ruling basically adds one’s stance on “choice” (as it relates to abortion and birth control) to the list of protected classifications, like gender or race.
The biggest threat from this “healthcare provider conscience” legislation comes from its sweeping implications. Pharmacists could opt not to fill prescriptions for birth control or dispense emergency contraception, which could lead to many patients getting turned away, or being unable to find a pharmacist or a doctor’s office in their vicinity which can meet their needs. This would most directly impact rural and low-income women who have fewer options, for geographical or financial reasons, for getting their prescriptions filled. Also frightening: “the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims”.
Essentially, this law goes so far as to put family planning clinics in a position where they cannot refuse to hire someone who objects on moral grounds to a fundamental aspect of their job, such as dispensing birth control. A person who opposed abortion could apply for a job at a clinic which provided abortion services, and then argue discrimination if not hired.
This proposal appears to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act, which requires that an employer make reasonable accommodations based on an employee’s religious beliefs unless it presents an overwhelming burden on the employer’s ability to operate. Additionally, I believe that this proposal gives undue preference to religion in that it provides an unnecessary benefit and protection. A person who is opposed to birth control does not have a fundamental right to get a job at a clinic where they would be called upon to dispense (such as a Planned Parenthood clinic). While many people with such views would not apply for such a job, others would, and could then file unnecessary discrimination lawsuits when/if denied a job.
I would argue against provider conscience rules in general, in that patients seeking legal prescriptions or medical procedures (from birth control to emergency contraception to abortion services) have a legal right to obtain them. Refusal to fill a prescription for something that is legal (regardless of your moral view of it) places an undue burden on the individual seeking treatment. The needs and requests of the patient need to be served, and sending a patient travelling from town to town seeking a pharmacy that will fill her prescription can represent a significant burden. If one staff member at a pharmacy refuses to fill a certain type of prescription, then there should be someone on hand at all times who will. This places a burden on the pharmacy, in order to meet the needs of its customers, which I believe is fair. (Applying this situation to abortion is a much more complex and sensitive issue that I will not delve into here.) This piece of legislation from the Bush administration is unnecessary, dangerous, and ultimately places women’s health in jeopardy.
David Ignatius’ op-ed, “Unsettling Times for Jihadists,” is about a jihadist’s view of Barack Obama’s election and it places Obama in a unique context, especially in light of reading Lawrence Davidson’s article “Christian Zionism as a Representation of American Manifest Destiny.” Davidson’s article describes decades of a bipolar worldview of the moral West and immoral East, out of which grows foreign relations dominated by Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism is the belief that the return of Jews to the
Using the assumption that Christian Zionism marks all previous foreign policy (which is certainly debatable!), then David Ignatius’ article refers to a future presidency that will reflect a diminishing role of Judeo-Christian beliefs in foreign policies. Ignatius says that jihadists are “nervous because [Obama] undermines the belief that Islam and the West are locked in an inescapable clash of civilizations.” Ignatius poses Obama as less about confrontation and more about negotiation, which he says threatens al-Quaeda’s stature in the Muslim world. Even though Ignatius does not examine the underlying motivation behind Obama’s less aggressive stance, one might argue it is because his Christian faith is less confrontational compared to previous presidents. In other words, Obama does not share the same bipolar worldview that so many before him have had.
Still, religion and politics will always be intertwined and Ignatius ends the article by discussing how the jihadist might be citing the economic disaster as divine punishment. He says that the jihadist is probably not as unhappy as we think because “the financial news brings daily evidence that Allah is smiting the infidels.” Ironically, the examples include comments that resemble the same rhetoric used by Christian and Jewish Zionists. Primarily, all three groups share the belief that God blesses their efforts (such as the
This article poses contrasting issues when trying to answer the question about how religion in politics has changed in the last two centuries. First, it seems that Obama will lead us into a new era where religion is not a leading decision maker of foreign policy. Still, as the article ends with quotes from religious leaders, we are reminded that many Christian, Muslims, and Jews still believe that God is involved in political, social, and economic affairs. Moreover, people will continue to act on their religious convictions through political means. So, how will religion in American politics change during the next four years? Will religion or active religious groups, like the Christian Zionists, be less of an influence on foreign policies? In what ways could President-elect Obama reshape religion’s influence on foreign policy?
Monday, November 17, 2008
Like the atheists in last week’s post, positive atheists, led by Margaret Downey also created a controversy with their ad, which read, “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.” In response, a local church also put up an ad emphasizing belief in God. However, it is difficult to question the true intentions of Downey’s ad, because after the church placed their ad, Downey found a way to make the situation a positive experience for everyone involved. She arranged for members of both groups to volunteer together at a food pantry.
The positive atheists are certainly fighting an uphill battle. Not only do many Americans have negative views of atheists, but many prominent atheists also do a disservice to their cause by attacking religious belief. Downey and others like her are using a strategy that has been effective in the past. When John F. Kennedy was trying to convince Americans that his Catholic faith would not influence his decisions as President he highlighted all of the American values and interests he shared with Protestant Americans. With this strategy he was able to become the first Catholic President of the United States. Although we may be a long way from an atheist President, it seems likely that in the long run, a positive message will serve atheists better than a negative one. If religious Americans don’t feel that atheism is an attack on traditional American values they will be more likely to accept it. The media will have to play a role in changing American’s perception of atheism. Maybe stories about Bill Maher’s movie, Religulous, are more interesting, but they do not necessarily represent all atheists, just like Jerry Falwell does not represent all Evangelical Christians. Will the positive atheist movement gain greater notoriety? Will atheism become acceptable in the political world? All of that remains to be seen, but the movement seems to be off to a “positive” start.
In his article For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics, Adam Nossiter discusses the end of the “centrality of the South to national politics” (Nossiter, Par. 2). Nossiter claims that by going so wholly for the loser the South has eradicated itself from the necessary ingredients to a presidential victory. With an obvious bias against the South’s conservative leanings Nossiter proceeds to explain why the South has lost its political potency. “An influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years” has resulted in states such as Virginia and North Carolina supporting Obama (Nossiter, Par. 4). Also, “Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally” (Nossiter, Par. 7). This extreme divergence from the norm around the country, Nossiter argues, has begun to spell and end to Nixon’s Southern Strategy. He asserts the South’s political power has been maximized by the GOP, and can only weaken. These claims are certainly very plausible. I think most would agree with him on some of these points.
Unfortunately, Nossiter ventures on to make his article’s focus on the claim that “Mr. Obama’s race appears to have been the critical deciding factor in pushing ever greater numbers of white Southerners away from the Democrats” (Nossiter, Par. 14). He cites the fact that Obama got nearly half of the support that John Kerry received from southern whites as evidence of this. He would have us believe Obama’s election was so opposed by conservatives in the South that some of them spontaneously combusted on the night of November 4. Whether or not Obama’s race had anything to do with an almost solidly red South, Nossiter’s focus in the article is in the wrong place. The tone of his article is equally backward as he may label some of the Appalachian citizens who cast their votes for Senator McCain due to his skin color.
Obama was not elected despite of the stagnant racial views in the South, as much as, because of the social progress that America has made as a nation. This is why the South appears to have been stripped of what was once supreme political potency; the rest of the nation has advanced enough to make the views of the region a minority. There is no room for the tone of Nossiter’s article, one of desperation due to a dying way of life, in the constructive discussion of the South’s political future. No one is being burned out of their home by President-Elect Obama. His administration will not plunder and ravage conservative citizens of the South. And both sides must get rid of a rhetoric that would suggest this if this nation wishes to continue down the path of social progress.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The kind of social and political changes following the sort of drastic religious realignments with respect to doctrine and nature of worship are significant and cannot be ignored. All we have to do is look at how the climate changed after the Great Schism and Reformation, as Culbertson mentions. If this “Great Emergence” does occur, the ramifications will be widespread and could revolutionize our political system. If you think we have an issue separating religion from politics now, imagine what it could be like under the condition of the “Great Emergence.”
The real question at hand is whether a more accessible form of Christianity (although one could make the argument that similar “Great Emergences” are occurring within other religions) would give rise to Religious Right-esque groups. One of the strongest arguments in support of an intersection of religion and politics is that religious groups function as interest groups and have as much of a right to actively pursue roles in politics as any other group (whether they are racial groups, economic groups, environmental groups, etc.). So if the “Great Emergence” does occur and in the form in which scholars are expecting--that Christianity will become a less formal religion and a freer, more spiritual religion (in regards to style of worship)--then undoubtedly existing religious “interest groups” will fracture into smaller, more focused groups even as new groups emerge and establish themselves. While our pluralistic interest group system will prevent any of these groups from gaining an inordinate amount of power, the competition among them will blur the line between religion and politics even more than it already has.
Obviously if these groups were to emerge, it would threaten the American political system as we know it. Liberals who traditionally shy away from the idea of religion in government might be forced to embrace the new system and conservatives who have been reliably supported by the Religious Right might find their support fragmented and a little more difficult to retain. Both of these possibilities strike fear into the hearts of both parties and many Americans, whether they are for or against religion in politics. Should the “Great Emergence” occur, it is likely to completely change the face of our political system and will, without question, help direct America’s course (for better or worse) as we struggle to identify and establish a new kind of role in world politics.
This is not to say that we should stop the “Great Emergence” at all costs. Quite the contrary; we ought to let it run its course because we have no right to dictate what or why people believe what they do. Yes, it will likely lead to more controversy surrounding the role of religion in politics, but what is politics without a little (or a lot of) controversy?
Gross states that in Oregon, where a proposition similar to the one just passed in Washington has been in effect for eleven years, 341 people have taken advantage of the "escape." Also, "1 in 50 dying patients discussed the possibility with their doctors and 1 in 6 with their families." In this sense, Quill is right; the majority of those who have considered the possibility of dying by prescribed medication from their physicians have not gone through with it. Still, that such an "escape" is seen as a legal and viable option and that several hundred have already chosen it are serious problems.
The first and most obvious problem with the "Death with Dignity Act," especially for a person of faith, is that God is the Author of life. As Job cries out in the midst of his misery and woe, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Furthermore, the recently passed Washington proposition takes our nation down a slippery slope of moral and ethical dilemmas. Although I would imagine that a great deal of dialogue and debate went into planning the specifics of the law, the "safeguards" seem a bit arbitrary to me. Why 6 months or less? Why 15 days? Why 2 doctors verifying the life expectancy of a patient? Also, is someone who is in excruciating pain really "mentally competent" enough to consider the issues at hand? I am not saying that someone in an intense amount of pain is incapable of moral judgment. Indeed, suffering in many cases results in the person drawing closer to God. I am just suggesting that perhaps due to prolonged, agonizing pain a person's sense of reality may sometimes become cloudy, and choices may seem tempting that they would never consider or endorse under other circumstances. Furthermore, in regards to the "slippery slope concern," what is to keep the Washington state legislature from putting in place even more lax standards years down the road?
Again, the heart of the matter is that intentionally overdosing on meds with the help of a doctor is seen by the government and by the majority of Washington voters as "okay." This has very dangerous implications. As euthanasia is condemned by many religions and is specifically referred to by the Catholic Church as an "intrinsic evil," such a proposition is a grave moral concern especially for people of faith. Let us be vigilant to the passage of such laws that disregard God as the Author of life, laws that pose a severe threat to the dignity of human life as it nears its final stages.
Bill Rankin of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on a Georgia law recently passed prohibiting registered sex offenders from volunteering in a place of worship. Rankin points out an argument made by one lawyer that such a law “criminalizes religious conduct” in a way preventing sex offenders from participating in a number of experiences as part of the exercise of their religion. If found in violation of this law, an offender may face up to 10, but no more than 30 years in prison. Rankin points out that the law does not define volunteer positions, and thus, offenders are living in fear of religious participation as it may qualify as ‘volunteer’ work. District Judge, Clarence Cooper, has deferred ruling on this particular provision as he is deciding whether to certify the case as a class action including other offenders dealing with provisions limiting their location of housing.
Georgia is the only state with such a law in place and I am interested to see how such a challenge will be framed. An argument made by the state Attorney General’s Office to uphold the law is based on the presumption that people volunteering at churches are “presumed to be OK, but they might not be OK.” While I might be able to jump on board with the idea that sex offenders might not be ‘OK’, I feel as though this is a flawed argument from a legal perspective. An argument would need to be made to show that there is a compelling state interest in upholding this law in order to override, what I would call, the excessive infringement being placed on the offenders’ free exercise right. I feel as though if an offender has served their time and registered accordingly there should be no reason to place such a restriction on their religious involvement. The state could possibly argue that because the law does not actually restrict offenders from attending church or religious services, that it is not in violation of the free exercise clause, but it could be refuted that it is restricting full participation in the religious experience. The article claims that “practicing religion goes beyond attending services” as it sights examples of people whose religious participation has been affected by this law. While not directly addressed in the article, I think the issue raises a serious free exercise question as to how freely some should be allowed to exercise their religion. Is there enough of a compelling state interest to uphold such restrictions? Why only sex-offenders, why not all felons? I think if the state is going to pass judgment on the basis of who is OK and who is not, it may run into a very dangerous slippery slope in violation of the free exercise clause.
Bill Rankin. Sex offender law faces ‘religious freedom’ challenge. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 13, 2008.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
As interesting as this topic is from a historical perspective (at least to me) it may seem like old news in this day and age. However, many of the issues that the antifeminism of the 1970s and 1980s illuminates are still relevant today—especially the potentially paradoxical role of an evangelical female in political leadership. In her October, 2008 LA Times article, “To Some Evangelicals, Palin’s Career Violates Biblical Teaching,” Teresa Watanabe highlights a tension that, for some evangelicals, exists between Palin’s evangelical faith and her willingness to leave her home—filled with children and a husband—in favor of being a political leader. Such a tension is the result of Biblical teachings that seem to not only limit a woman’s leadership in the church and in the home, but, according to Watanabe, also encourage younger women to stay in the homes and submit to their husbands.
But there isn’t necessarily a solid evangelical consensus about Palin’s politics. One evangelical leader in Texas called Palin’s candidacy “‘the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least…[a] fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities’”(par.11). Yet other the evangelicals who supported Palin on the McCain ticket reconcile her political career with her devotion to her family, the okay she received from her husband, and the notion that politics constitutes a realm in which women are free to pursue leadership roles. This debate over how Biblically obedient it is a for a woman to pursue a political career—and thus “abandon” her role in the home—existed forty years ago, as well. In fact, I hope to highlight the questions that arise when considering thousands of women diving into the political process—all in defense of relegating the female to the home. Still, as I plan to explain through my research, much of the tension involved in being a politically active, antifeminist female was resolved by the pro-family, religious ideology of the movement. Women in the 1970s such as Phyllis Schlafly felt free—even obligated—to pursue political goals if they would protect the sanctity of the Biblically ordained home and gender order. Thus, when Schlafly ran for congress, her own husband remarked that women belonged “in the House…the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Yet if rumors about Palin’s political ambitions hold true, then in four years, she won’t just be seeking a spot in Congress. If Palin seeks out the presidential nomination in 2012, her political career could carry the evangelical debate over how much authority and leadership women should hold in the church to new, more secular spheres. Without a specific antifeminist goal or an explicitly religious platform, Palin may not be justified in her political career as Phyllis Schlafly seemed to have been. Would Palin as a presidential candidate severely divide evangelicals? Could the conservative Christians of this nation place one of their own women in the White House? In four years, we just might get the answer to that question.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This Article is about a summit being held today and tomorrow (Nov 12 & 13) at the United Nations where President Bush, Gordon Brown, leaders of several Muslim nations, and the presidents of Middle Eastern counties including Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine are meeting to discuss interfaith issues and relations throughout the world.
I found this article interesting because we have not discussed faith based foreign policy influence much in class or on this blog, especially in terms of policy outside the US. Bush has been known to host a variety of different religious leaders in America to celebrate holidays such as Ramadan and Passover at the White House. However, I cannot find any indication that he has participated in something this large scale, across international boundary lines. I really commend this summit, I think its great Bush is participating because I do not think that America as a society can fully accept Muslims into our community until international relations get better and the American public sees less exemplimentary extremism and hate.
According to this article, these summits were largely the idea of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz whose country is known for restricting other religions. The special envoy of Saudi Arabia said, "The idea is to send a unified clear message that the world community is in consensus in promoting interfaith dialogue and speaking against extremism, intolerance, and terrorism."
This summit comes a week after the first Catholic and Muslim forum at the Vatican. At that forum, a 15-point agreement was reached between the two clashing religious groups including: “the right of individuals to choose in matters of conscience and to practice their religion in private and public; that religious minorities are to be respected and are entitled to their own places of worship; that human dignity and respect should be extended on an equal basis to both men and women.”
Both of these interfaith meetings seem to be seeking a Jeffersonian approach to religion: “because while I claim a right to believe in one God, I yield freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find make honest men, and that is the only point society has any right to look to.”(Jefferson) However, I think this is just going to be too idealistic of a solution. Religion greatly influences many large scale policy decisions in the Middle East. Just look at Israel, a newly declared Jewish State that lies onto of a small strip of land that all three religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, have very strong ties to. Each believes it is their right to be able to worship on these lands. Nonetheless, due to its overwhelming Western support, this country has evolved into a situation closer to Christianity & Judaism v. Islam. This is just one example though. In many Muslim countries where Christians are the minority, they are restricting from worshiping as freely as they should.
While I think its wonderful that so much discussion is happening between the most influential and important policy deciders in the world, I just cannot help but be cynical in that the nature of religion, with its strong convictions and call to a higher being over life on earth, is too much of a force. Conversations about peaceful relationships between religions should and must happen, but I guess in our generation we will witness how much good they do.
“Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” This is the new slogan for an advertisement by The American Humanist Association. The group recently announced that the organization will be running forty-thousand dollars worth of this ad in the D.C. area. The ad will also contain a link to a website where people from that area can connect or get in touch with each other.
A representative for the organization, Fred Edwords commented on the purpose of the ad when he said, “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion.” He then went on to say that “The purpose isn’t to argue that God doesn’t exist or change minds about a diety, although “we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.”
This slogan and comments from the representative could be considered controversial for several reasons. First, the ad will appear on public buses during Christmas. Christmas is considered by many people to be a religious holiday. Some people may see this ad as directly mocking their religious beliefs. Others may want to know why the group chose lyrics from “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”
Another controversy for The American Humanist Association is that a British group recently ran a similar advertisement. This ad stated, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Regardless of the group’s slogans, the D.C. transit authority stated that there was “no debate over whether to take the ad.”
I think this is a really interesting situation for a number of reasons. I find it highly incongruous that the representative of the group said that the purpose of the ad was “not to argue God’s existence, but to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.” That statement alone to me says that people who believe in God aren’t rational and that they aren’t critical thinkers. I simply don’t agree with that statement whatsoever and find it highly ironic that another similar British group had a slogan that stated “There’s probably no God...” Come on...really? Doesn’t this tell you what the group thinks about the existence of God?
I personally think these ads are done in bad taste for several reasons. First, these ads are deliberately shown during the Christmas holiday, which is considered to be a religious time for many people. These ads are mocking many people who are religious and are insulting to their beliefs. The amount of money spent on these ads is also in my opinion ridiculous. It’s true that many people during the Christmas month spend considerable amounts of money on gifts for their loved ones. However, spending forty thousand dollars specifically on ads that irritate, mock and insult religious people is just absurd. Not to mention all the people around the world who celebrate this holiday.
I do agree with the transit authority’s decision to allow the ads. Our country cherishes and prides itself on the right to free speech. It is one of the things that makes this country so great. Even though I don’t agree with the message on the advertisement, I believe the organization has the right to say it. Nonetheless, I feel that the timing of the organization’s message, and the slogan itself was done in bad taste.
Another article, which is from the LA Times, looks at the differences in demographics between the people who voted for John Kerry in 2004 and the people who voted for Barack Obama. Cathleen Decker highlights the fact that “Obama did better than Kerry among pretty much every religious group.” Obama did surprisingly well with Catholics even made a little bit of progress with white evangelicals.
Miller asserts, “For at least four decades, white evangelicals have been the religion-and-politics story in this country.” Ever since Billy Graham became a national figure, decrying communism and spreading the gospel, the evangelical right has been one of the essential voting blocs needed to win an election. This idea was solidified with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and his efforts to get Ronald Reagan elected. However, this election demonstrated that simply winning the white evangelical vote is not enough. Candidates must appeal to a variety of religious voters.
This shift in the voting patterns of religious voters can be explained in two connected ways. Miller argues, “The religious vote for Obama did not reflect a massive shift in ideology and priorities among Evangelicals but rather muscle-flexing by a coalition of others of faith.” With higher voter turn out among Latinos and African Americans, who mostly supported Obama, voter demographics were quite different. Furthermore, social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, where not the most important issues for a number of voters. More pressing problems, especially the economy, influenced many voters to chose one candidate or the other.
The question that I am left is will these shifts be permanent? Are religious voters becoming more liberal, or at least more willing to support more liberal candidates? Or were certain issues simply prioritized during this election? I think that the current state of our nation definitely influenced voters’ decisions, but I also do not think that the “religious” vote is guaranteed to the republicans. Candidates need to learn to not take any votes for granted.
In Texas, where the bill has already passed, the Denton, Texas Independent School District has started to make rules within the district that prohibit students from speaking out to large groups in an instance. This was done because the bill also allows students to spread their religion to anyone at anytime on school grounds. Again there is no repercussion for doing this. After many complaints about this, the school district started making regulations on this bill. Is this then prohibiting the student’s free speech? There is no saying how far this bill will get before it is taken to court.
I personally believe that House Bill 2211 is crazy and should not be passed by the Oklahoma Senate even though the article says that it most likely will. This bill is establishing religion, it may not be one religion but it is still showing preference to religion. I also have a problem with the fact that teachers are losing authority due to this bill. Why should a child be able to have the freedom to speak about their religion without having to worry about someone telling them that they are wrong or out of place when an adult cannot do the same thing? Adults have accepted norms that they abide by yet this is teaching children that they do not exist. I also feel that religion does not have a place in school especially if it is a public school. Public schools are funding through the government and a state passing this bill is causing entanglement. For no reason should the government be able to allow all expressions of religion to be seen in public schools.
Not surprisingly, in the past Christian leaders have been skeptical of medical procedures for their moral and religious implications. Jerry Falwell in “Listen, America!” spoke out against abortion. Both Bishop Henry and Falwell would agree that these medical procedures could negate religious teachings. However, unlike Bishop Henry’s perspective on the HPV vaccine, Falwell did not seem to think that legislation supporting abortion would result in more premarital sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. So, does Bishop Henry present a valid concern or just an additional hindrance to precautions against the spread of a contagious virus?
The state has a responsibility to maintain public health and this implies providing medical attention to at risk youth. Liepert points out that the program would make the vaccine more affordable and accessible. Additionally, public schools are now teaching sex education in an effort to increase awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy. Just as the flu vaccine does not encourage children to not wash their hands, the HPV vaccine probably will not encourage young girls to have premarital sex. But, it will abate the spread of a virus and is therefore very much needed to protect the public. Mario Cuomo, in “One Electorate Under God?” explains that public officials’ must act in the best interest of the community when reconciling legislation with their own religious beliefs. Cuomo writes, “The question for the religious public official, then, is not, Do I have the right to try to make public law match my religious belief? But, Should I try? (14)”
Yet, this issue continues to be the topic of heated debate. Should this program include lessons on the moral issues concerning premarital sex? Should religious beliefs be prioritized over concerns for public health?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
In the religious tradition of Sikhism, baptized men are expected to keep their hair uncut for their entire lives, and to then cover their hair with a very long wrap [a turban]. According to sikhnet.com, the turban is not merely a piece of cloth, but a “self-crowning of the individual”. It is a way of retaining their original leader’s energy to live life faithfully. It is wrapped in such a way that it supposedly keeps your head “lined up” and pushes on different parts of the head that keep away negativity and instead create clarity. The turban is a reminder every day that the head and the mind should be dedicated to God the Creator.
In California, 56-year old Gurparkash Khalsa was denied his right to wear a turban while on trial for murder. He was also denied his right to wear it inside the county holding cell for those awaiting trial. County Judge Charlotte Orcutt said she recognized Khalsa’s religious freedom rights, but stated that for security purposes she had to rule that he is not allowed to wear it during trial. There is fear that he could easily hide a weapon in the turban, and that taking the 10-15 minutes beforehand to check is simply too much time to waste for the bailiffs. In the holding cell, it is feared that someone might confuse him for a Muslim and use the turban as a weapon against him.
The Sikh Coalition has very publicly spoken about this issue, for good reason in my opinion, and calls it a basic violation of one’s religious freedoms. This case brings up a couple very interesting discussion points. One, is the compelling state interest of safety enough of a reason to prohibit Khalsa from wearing his turban in court and/or his holding cell? Two, as a defendant in a murder trial is he giving up his rights to religious freedom? Along those same lines, do you believe the ruling would be different if Khalsa were merely a spectator to the case, or even a witness? Finally, the biggest question, is it a violation of Khalsa’s First Amendment rights that he not be allowed to practice a very important part of his religion?
I’ll make an attempt at answering these questions from my own opinion and knowledge, and then let the rest of you chime in. To the first question, I’ll say the state’s compelling interest is enough in the case of the holding cell, but I don’t think it’s enough to justify not letting him wear the turban in the courtroom. The extra 10-15 minutes spent making sure the man’s turban doesn’t contain a weapon is well worth the cost of religious freedom. I originally thought as a defendant in a murder trial, he was giving up his rights to freedom, but after reading a couple blog posts on this topic from other websites, I’ve changed my mind. In our court system you are innocent until proven guilty, so at this point in time he has not rescinded any of his First Amendment rights. Third, I do believe the ruling would be different if were merely a spectator in the courtroom. Because of the suspicion of the murder charge however, the state’s compelling interest is raised a bit. Whether or not this is justified has yet to be decided in my own mind. Finally, I do believe this is a violation of Khalsa’s religious freedoms. He should be allowed to wear the turban in the courtroom, and possibly even given a solitary cell if he absolutely requested that he be able to wear it in jail as well.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Archbishop Gregory thinks that the Catholic Church is likely to follow suit in selecting the next Pope. During the last Conclave after the death of Pope John Paul II, many Cardinals thought that it was a definite possibility that the next Pope would be a Third-World Cardinal, someone from Latin American or Africa. The selection of then Cardinal Ratzinger was seen as selecting someone from the same mold as Pope John Paul II in order to maintain continuity and continue the work of John Paul II in the West to make the Catholic Church strong again. But now that the Catholic Church has been setting an example of racial acceptance for so many years and now the United States has elected an African-American leader it wouldn’t be too far to go to believe that the Catholic Church might be next to elect a Pope from a more diverse background.
What other far reaching affects has the election of an African-American president has on the world? It will be interesting to see in the next few years what impact this historical election has had on different parts of the world.
The article can be found here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5097668.ece
This is one example outside of the presidential election where religion has had a direct effect on politics. Hagan ended up beating Dole 53 to 44 the day after this article was published and many argued that the distasteful Dole ad probably added a good deal to her loss. But the question on my mind, is so what if she were an atheist? Perhaps Hagan and others were so deeply offended by the fact that the ad lied about her being an atheist when she is really a Christian. But I think being labeled an atheist (perhaps just like Obama being labeled a Muslim) has come to be an insult in this country. I think what we need to do now is heed that idea that Billy Graham put forth to Richard Nixon in 1960: he said he was “‘detaching [himself] from some of the cheap religious bigotry and diabolical whisperings that are going on’” (Martin, p. 53). The sad fact of the matter is that in this country you cannot win the presidency or most high-level political offices if you are anything but a Christian. I mean would Hagan, who is Presbyterian, have been as insulted had Dole insinuated that she was a Methodist or a Catholic? I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no. Hagan might have corrected her but no real fall out would have manifested itself. That is because in this day in age, an age where we can elect a black man as president and have women in serious contention for the presidency, we still cannot even fathom having an atheist in the Senate, much less the White House. And in this day in age when our president has been called a Muslim, he must purge the background of all of his speeches of people wearing headdresses.
Is there a time in the foreseeable future when the “cheap religious bigotry” can be left behind and we can recognize that it is the morals that people gather from their religion that matter and the not the religion itself? Will we ever elect a non-Christian president?
Kerry in 2004. Obama’s margin of victory came mostly from big gains among a few key demographics: Hispanic and Black voters voted for Obama in greater numbers than they voted for Kerry, but perhaps the most important Democratic gains were among voters under 30. According to exit polls, 54 percent of these voters voted for Kerry in 2004. Four years later, they voted for Obama by a 2-1 ratio.
Both the up swelling of youth votes and questioned experience of Obama are reminiscent of John Kenny’s election. But where Kennedy won over Protestants with the assurance of secular policy, Obama appealed to the youth, in particular, the evangelical youth. In Laurie Goodstein’s article, she illustrates how Obama won “small but significant chunks of white evangelical voters.” Obama began his outreach early in his campaign when he “mobilized a team” led by Rev. Joshua DuBois to sway moderates. Obama’s campaign “visited 10 Christian colleges in swing states” to lobby awareness, and possibly adding another college nightmare to conservative parents: drinking, tattoos, promiscuity, and voting democratic. By targeting moderates instead of die hard republicans, Obama reached a larger group-- those more geared towards more social issues. The more comprehensive approach speaks to the young evangelicals audience, who are “attracted to a broader agenda” that encompasses far more than abortion and homosexuality.
The religious youth’s yearning for a wider voting platform alone does not explain why is there such a generational gap within Evangelicals. Why are young voters so liberal? Partially, they are exposed to a more racially and ethnically diverse populous than previous generations. As a group they are highly educated but economic troubles loom in their future. The political cleft within generations can be seen on many issues, but unfortunately for republicans, it appears deepest on the hot-topic social controversies that Republicans depend on for the galvanization of voters.
The political independence of the nation’s youth may turn to the downfall of the conservative right. The majority of youth voters have first hand political experience with a successful democratic President, and arguably one of the worst republicans. Can the Right break out of its corner to approach the youth, and the majority? If Barrak Obama lives up to his promise of change, can the Republicans break back into the socially conscious, and politically active, youth voting bloc?
Fifty years ago, Utah officials took Vera Black's seven children and threatened to place them in adoptive homes because Black refused to renounce polygamy. Officials said the children were living in an “immoral environment” and essentially forced Black to say that while she did believe in polygamy she would discourage her children from entering into polygamous relationships as long as it was illegal under Utah law.
Five of her daughters are now in polygamous relationships and Black is on her deathbed. The children want the state to apologize to their mother.
Here’s the conundrum: polygamy is illegal. Fine. But the official reasoning for removing the children in a raid was to protect them from an “immoral environment”. Is anyone else concerned with the state deciding what constitutes a “moral environment” for raising children?
The fact that polygamy is a criminal matter is not important. This post is not necessarily advocating for Utah’s laws to be changed, but officials should know better than to use morality as a reason for the law. Mormons see nothing improper with their religious practice of polygamy. Utah law needs to be enforced when there are secular concerns – like tax purposes or administrative reasons to have a single spouse. I do not see the difference between a child raised in a polygamist environment and a child raised by a single mother with multiple boyfriends.
Laws – criminal laws especially – should be written only with a secular intent. The state should not be in the business of dictating what is acceptably immoral and what is illegal. Different religious groups will disagree on what is moral or not so the persuasions of one religion – even if it is the majority – should never dictate what is to become law. Currently, only one of the Christian/Jewish 10 Commandments are part of U.S. law (murder/killing) and even that is waived in certain cases - self defense, war, assisted suicide (if you believe it is killing), ending life support (if you believe it is killing), abortion (if you believe it is killing). The reason “murder” gets on the books is because the secular purpose is to prevent anarchy and independent retaliation.
The debate that still remains is the role the government should play in preventing the downfall of civilization. Some people fully believe that if the government does not instill morals in its populace the foundations of society – and with it government – will come crumbling down. On the other hand, some firmly believe that faith is responsible for upholding the morals in a society. Instilling “morals” is the role of the church and the family, not the government. The government needs to stay out of the way of religion just as religion needs to cease meddling in matters of the state.
If a religion believes polygamy is immoral, it should preach of the evils of polygamy. If the state has a secular reason to make polygamy illegal, fine, put it on the books with the explicit understanding that criminal cases involving polygamy are because there is a secular purpose for having a single spouse. In this case, the children need not be taken out of the home because of the crime of the parents.
Children are taken from meth lab homes because of a health risk – not because of the “immorality” of drug use. Children are taken from single-parent homes when neglect or abuse is suspected, not because the parent is “immorally” entertaining multiple sexual partners. In this polygamy situation, the state should have never taken the children away. The parents were caring and loving and raising the children in a tight-knit religious home just as many children in traditional families are raised. Sure, in traditional families a child may be exposed to the alcoholism of a parent or the addiction to gambling but as long as the health of the child is not at stake, “immoral environments” are not a good enough reason to seize children.
The state owes Black an apology.
This article deals with a lawsuit by a Nebraska State Senator ordering an injunction against God for the "death, destruction and terrorization” he has and will continue to cause. Reading the brief quotes by the plaintiff and given his status as a State Senator, it seems fair to assume that he is not a schizophrenic who believes God is out to get him, but instead more likely believes that “God” (presumably of the “Judeo-Christian” variety) has no place in public life. The Court ultimately ruled that they could not serve an injunction against someone who does not have an address to have papers filed against them. While I agree with the ruling, its justification is very strange, and the laughable nature of this case and verdict makes it easy to overlook a very serious movement taking place in America.
While this article can easily be chalked up in the humor column (and from any perspective it is a bit humorous/ridiculous), there are some more serious issues here which should not be overlooked. The first is the plaintiffs claim that the court had acknowledged the existence of God, and the ruling, silly as it may seem on its face, amazingly seems to confirm this, since it rules that the individual in the suit does not have a place of residence. This ruling actually seems quite poorly thought out, and ignores previous precedent and the free exercise clause. My opposition to this suit would be primarily on these two fronts, rather than the ruling that God does not have an address, a verdict which equals the suit in the magnitude of its ridiculousness, and quite frankly, stupidity. The first, as we have noted in such cases as Watson v. Jones, is that it is not the role of the Court to decide theology, and it would certainly be a theological decision for the Court to decide what “God” has or has not caused (though it would to an extent be historical, the text of the Bible or political acts attributed to God have been an issue of constant debate, and as theologians like James Cone have noted, God has more or less always been contextualized, and perhaps even made to serve the needs of the times). Further, and more seriously, if some type of injunction were placed on “God”, this would seem to be a flagrant violation of free exercise, since “God” (whether or not they exist) is not a human, let alone an American citizen in any traditional sense, and one cannot realistically place an injunction on a figure whose actions (should this figure exist) cannot be determined. Since this restriction would be left open to particular legal and political figures interpretation and could easily outlaw masses, Bibles, communion, and various other forms of observances associated with Christianity/Judaism/Islam, I cannot see how one could realistically argue it does not violate free exercise.
Overall, it seems that yes, the case was laughable, but was more a cleverly thought out red herring than serious suit against “God”. Chambers probably knows full well that such actions are by definition impossible, since an actual legal injunction against God would not and could not do a thing. At the risk of being Bill O’Reilly-esque, this case does point to the fact that there are individuals out there who are serious about removing God from public and even private life, and will take very clever action to do so (important to note the distinction between government decisions and public life). And while the verdict in this case (though its reasoning was poorly thought out) was predictable, it is important to note that it may take only one court to issue some sort of non-sensical injunction to send free exercise out the window.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The country is experiencing growth in almost all the Democratic demographics, trending urban and towards minorities. Obama will likely pick up an electoral vote in Nebraska because of his popularity in Omaha. Decades ago most young people voted for Reagan, and as those voters grew up they continued to vote for the GOP, giving the party its many years of political dominance. If the young people voting Democratic today continue to vote the way they do, then the Democratic party may be able to turn the tables on the Republicans for the foreseeable future.
As Laurie Goodstein examines in her New York Times article, "Obama Made Gains Among Younger Evangelical Voters" Democrats not only used changing demographics to turn so many red states blue, but they also enjoyed unprecedented success in traditionally Republican religious segments of the population. Obama doubled Kerry’s showing among 18 to 29 year-old evangelicals, and over-performed Kerry by almost the same margin with evangelicals age 30 to 44. The Republican party has become dependent on the Religious Right, but if younger evangelicals fail to fall in line with their parents and go on to form the mythical “Religious Left,” the Republican party’s future is up in the air. If Republicans can stop the bleeding, the most they can hope for in 2010 or 2012 is to hold onto their respectable minorities, and if current trends continue, the Republican party of today will soon be obsolete. Republicans are smart enough to know that they need to change their tactics to appeal to new voters, and that all the Sarah Palins in the world working to “fire up the base” won’t help if the base is outnumbered and shrinking.
In 1980, Catholics were characterized as “the quintessential swing voters (Winters 155)” for the successful election of the Republican Ronald Reagan. This characterization sharply contrasted with Catholic voting trends prior to the 1980 election, where Catholics typically had been loyal Democrats since the days of the New Deal. This loyalty was more than intensified during the 1960 election with the Catholic candidate John F. Kennedy. This alteration in voting patterns among Catholics in 1980 was due in large part to abortion, and the efforts by church leaders to denounce any candidate with a pro-choice platform, which consistently fell to the Democrats.
The alteration in Catholic voting patterns in the 2008 elections is also due to abortion, but from the opposite angle. Due in large part to lower Mass attendance among Catholics, pro-choice Catholics have increased by 25 percent and “we can observe a general process of Catholics moving out of the middle to the pro-choice extreme.” Since the average Catholic today is not as staunch in his accordance to church teaching regarding abortion, other issues, such as the Iraq war, the economy, and healthcare, have collectively superseded the abortion issue alone for the majority of Catholics. These issues are by no mean trivial either and are acknowledged by Catholic Church teaching as vital components of the protection of life. At one time a pro-life stance was all a conservative needed for the Catholic vote, but things have changed. Today, liberal stances, and the stance of Barack Obama, align more accurately with these issues (with the exception of abortion) than conservative stances. With the greater emphasis Catholics have put on issues such as healthcare and the economy collectively as opposed to abortion alone, their voting trends will continue to transform into the trends present among Catholics during the period of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency up until the election of 1980. With Catholics making up a quarter of the electorate, will this transformation lead to a Democrat dominance of the presidency for all elections to follow? Will conservative platforms have to adjust in order to garner the Catholic vote, and what such adjustments would be made? In a quarter century, will the Republican Party be altered to the extent that it is unrecognizable to conservatives today?