Squeezing every drop of religion from the FleetCenter
Yesterday, Weblog mentioned Beliefnet's convention blog as a fine place to monitor religion news coming out of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. And it is. But if you like that, you'll love Amy Sullivan's blogging over at Washington Monthly. Sullivan is the Democratic pundit who has spent much of the last few years urging her party to understand that religion is a big deal to many Americans—including those swing voters. One of her best features this week is explicating the religious phrases from the podium: For example, in yesterday's widely praised speech by Barack Obama, she notes the use of the phrases "We worship an awesome God," "I am my brother's keeper," and "Belief in things not seen." Then she notes a phrase that's not really religious, but should be:

Obama went off text near the end to riff on the Democrats' momentum, referring to "a wind at our backs" and then upping that to "a righteous wind at our backs." It's not biblical [though it is probably a reference to a religious Gaelic benediction—Weblog], but it sounds cool, so I'll give him points for sounding spiritual and whipping people up without Bible-thumping. And that, really, is my point in highlighting all of these references from various speakers. Professions of personal piety often ring false with voters and are inappropriate unless the candidate intends to tell us how that relates to their ability to serve as public officials. Using powerful religious rhetoric to establish connections between secular political concerns and faith-based beliefs and priorities, however, is simply an effective strategy that helps Democrats more than it hurts them.

Still, notes Sullivan, looking for religion at the convention is a bit difficult:

Faith and values have become buzzwords of the Kerry-Edwards campaign as of late, but until about 10 p.m. on Monday night, you didn't hear a peep about them. Not from Gore -- whose lone foray into religion-speak in 2000 was to comment somewhat stiffly that he often asks himself, "What Would Jesus Do?" Not from the myriad of small-potato speakers. And, surprisingly, not from Jimmy Carter, who has committed much of his post-presidency attention to faith-based initiatives like Habitat for Humanity.

It wasn't until the speech of the Rev. David Alston, Baptist minister and former crewmate of John Kerry, that religion made its first positive appearance. And what an appearance. "I stand here before you only because almighty God saw our boat safely through those rivers of death and destruction, by giving us a brave, wise, and decisive leader named John Kerry," said Alston, who also quoted Psalm 27. "With every religious reference," Sullivan reported, "the crowd roared a little more."

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And then Clinton took over, drawing parallels between Kerry and Isaiah. Dallas Theological Seminary's Darrell Bock e-mailed Beliefnet editor Steven Waldman, explaining that it's not that big of a stretch. "Isaiah volunteered even though it was a 'difficult, even unpopular, circumstance,' making it a pretty good analogy to Vietnam," Waldman summarizes.

Waldman also notes that yesterday's religion-and-politics panel conflicted with a Democrats for Life rally. Not a brilliant scheduling move for either group. Both were apparently worth attending.

At the panel, former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta warned Democrats, "We're losing our moral voice." Waldman reports that Podesta

suggested that Kerry take one page from John Kennedy, who made his big don't-worry-about-me-being-Catholic speech to a group of Protestant pastors. Kerry should go to a Catholic or evangelical institution to lay out how his faith informs his policies. "The setting is important. The photos are important. But most important is showing whether his policies come from intellectual analysis only or whether they come from a set of moral concerns."

Podesta, former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry, and Clinton political consultant Paul Begala "have all weighed in urging Kerry to be more proactive" in speaking about faith. We'll see.

The Washington Times reports that the Democrats for Life rally was attended by more than 100 people. Slate's Timothy Noah called it "a very small rally—in fact, the smallest rally I've witnessed in Boston so far this week." That's a bit surprising, given a recent Zogby poll that says 43 percent of Democrats believe that abortion "destroys a human life and is manslaughter." But not terribly surprising, since that 43 percent aren't likely to be activist enough to warrant a delegate seat. It's worth noting that this year's platform is far less tolerant of prolife Democrats than it was four years ago.

One of the only nonpoliticians invited to speak was Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt, who said the war for "women's rights" should be fought just as hard as the war on terrorism. But apparently the only pro-life speaker at the platform is Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. And he was chosen to speak in favor of embryonic stem-cell research and introduce Ron Reagan.

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Reagan's speech was misleading, says John Kilner, president of The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. "History is littered with misguided attempts to relieve suffering by cutting ethical corners," he said. "All that Ron Reagan advocated can be achieved through adult stem-cell research. But he amazingly never mentioned adult stem cells. Instead, his misleading language covered up the fact that producing the cells he seeks requires cloning human beings and then destroying them. Cloning and killing are too high an ethical price to pay, particularly when there is another safe way to develop the same cures."

Also missing from Reagan's speech: an admission he made on MSNBC's Hardball earlier this month. "Alzheimer's is a disease, ironically, that probably won't be amenable to treatment through stem-cell therapies," he said.

What he did say was that religious and moral beliefs have no place in the stem-cell debate. While opponents of embryonic stem-cell research are "well-meaning and sincere," he said, "it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many. … We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology."

Reagan made no biblical allusions for Sullivan to note.

More articles

Ron Reagan and stem cells:

  • Before Democrats, Reagan urges stem cell research | "Come November 2nd, I urge you, please cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research," Reagan said (Reuters)
  • Swerves on stem cells | Whatever one's opinion of Mr. Bush's record on stem cells, he has incontestably shown leadership on the issue (Editorial, The Washington Times)

Religion & politics:

  • Both sides say court future up to voters | Judiciary watchers on both the left and the right agree that the power to appoint Supreme Court justices is likely to be the most far-reaching prize in this presidential campaign (The Boston Globe)
  • Kansas GOP — a party divided | Fueled by the same-sex marriage issue, concealed weapons, taxes and worries about school funding, moderates and conservatives are fighting more fiercely than ever, some political observers say (The Kansas City Star, Mo.)
  • Prominent minister endorses Allen over Barry | The Rev. Willie F. Wilson, the influential pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church, yesterday endorsed D.C. Council member Sandy Allen over his longtime friend, former mayor Marion Barry (The Washington Post)
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Democrats & religion:

  • Kerry has fundamental problems | Party's support for gay rights a turnoff for black religionists (Zef Chafets, New York Daily News)
  • Democrats hope to repair image | Delegates want party to fight for fair share of high moral ground (The Indianapolis Star)
  • Democrats divided over taxes, domestic issues | The evident religiosity of so many Democrats is likely to cause significant partisan defections among those whose faiths and theologies will countervail their party's policy follies (David Hill, The Hill)
  • Quiet voices among the DNC protesters | The message delivered by pacifists is somewhat subtler than that of the anarchists and anti-abortion groups whose marches and protests garnered much of the media coverage on the first two days of the convention (Associated Press)

Democrats & abortion:

  • Life of the party | There are Democrats who oppose abortion (Melanie Kirkpatrick, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Abortion: issue for Kerry that is hot to handle | Conner Peterson is an important name in this year's election (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Kerry's illogical stand on abortion | I can't respect the position that abortion is killing human beings and that it is at the same time a political right that must be defended by the state. That position reflects a complete failure either of logic or of ethics; it is a sign of deep stupidity or deep cowardice. (Crispin Sartwell, Los Angeles Times)

Life ethics:

  • Boy, 5, receives transplant from brother | A five-year-old boy has become the first patient in Britain to receive a transplant from his "designer baby" brother, created to help cure him of his life-threatening blood disease (The Telegraph, London)
  • Designer baby transplant success | A British boy with a rare blood disorder has been successfully given stem cells from his perfect match "designer baby" brother (BBC)
  • Pregnant woman wants re-entry to U.S. | Lawyers say fetus is citizen (Associated Press)

Kidnapped Colombian bishop freed:

  • Colombian bishop is freed | Marxist rebels released a Roman Catholic bishop two days after his kidnapping prompted condemnation from Pope John Paul II (The New York Times)
  • Rebels free Colombian bishop without message (Reuters)
  • Roman Catholic bishop freed in Colombia | Marxist guerrillas freed a Roman Catholic bishop unharmed three days after his abduction sparked a global outcry and sent more than 1,000 soldiers into jungle-covered mountains to rescue him (Associated Press)
  • Rebels release Colombian bishop | Speaking from a town near where he was abducted, Misael Vacca Ramirez said: "I am here in Morcote, I am fine" (BBC)
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Sri Lankan anti-conversion bill challenged:

  • Twenty-one petitions challenging prohibition of forcible conversions bill, filed | A total of 21 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion an Anti-Conversion Bill filed before the Supreme Court yesterday which was the last day for challenging the Bill (Daily News, Sri Lanka)
  • Twenty-one petitions against JHU's Anti-Conversion Bill | Twenty-one petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill where filed before the Supreme Court yesterday (ColomboPage, Sri Lanka)

Harvard to return $2.5 million:

  • Harvard to return $2.5m given by Arab president | Harvard Divinity School will give back a $2.5 million cash gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates, ending more than a year of controversy spurred by the country's support of an Arab League think tank that promoted anti-Semitic ideas (The Boston Globe)
  • Harvard Divinity School returning UAE gift | Harvard Divinity School said it will return a gift of $2.5 million from the president of the United Arab Emirates after the donor, criticized for possible links to anti-Semitism, asked for his money back (Associated Press)

Temple Mount controversy:

  • Jewish zealots blocked from entering site | Police turned back about 30 Jewish zealots of The Temple Mount Faithful, saying the act could incite Palestinian violence (Associated Press)
  • The intangible vision of the Temple Mount | Those who seek to bring about the building of the Temple by force would be wise to relinquish a world view that only corrupts the vision, and they should harness themselves to the repair of society and the building of the foundations of justice and virtue, because "Zion in justice will be redeemed, and its captives through charity" (Yuval Sherlo, Haaretz, Tel Aviv)


  • Sudan to face 'genocide' inquiry | The US and British governments are gathering evidence to determine whether genocide is being committed in the Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 30,000 people have been killed and more than a million have fled their homes (The Guardian, London)
  • Sudan warns against intervention | Sudanese soldiers will fight back if foreign troops are sent to end the conflict in the Darfur region, the country's foreign minister has warned (BBC, video)
  • Villagers burned alive in Sudan atrocity | The Arab raiders, mounted on horses and camels, "killed civilians, in some cases by chaining them and burning them alive," say monitors from the African Union (The Telegraph, London)
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  • How many more deaths? | The humanitarian crisis is so appalling that peace talks cannot be allowed to delay action (Editorial, The Washington Post)
  • We cannot save Darfur at the point of a gun | So what do we do about Sudan? I mean really do, not just pose. Do we scold it? Or do we condemn it, sanction it, threaten it, bomb and invade it? Do we impose "democracy and prosperity" on Sudan, given that it badly needs both? (Simon Jenkins, The Times, London)
  • Sudan's leader says his critics oppose Islam | "The international concern about the Darfur issue is targeting the status of Islam in Sudan," says President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir (AFP)
  • One hellhole under God | Why the Republican Party suddenly cares about Sudan—or at least pretends to (Christopher Lord, New York Press)


  • Slots workers can't be found | Subpoena servers unable to locate 45 D.C. petition circulators (The Washington Post)
  • Labor will limit gambling cash withdrawals | Banks will be forced to limit cash available at gambling venues and Centrelink will be enlisted to help the families of gambling addicts, under a Federal Opposition proposal to tackle problem gambling (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Economics & business:

  • Belief in hell boosts growth: Fed report | Economists searching for reasons why some nations are richer than others have found that those with a wide belief in hell are less corrupt and more prosperous, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (Reuters)
  • Spiritual jewelry answers the call to meaningful fashion | New York designer Mary Jo Pane says her Miracle Icons are spiritual shields (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Oh.)


  • Chile shocked by priest's murder | Chile's President Ricardo Lagos has expressed concern about anti-religious sects after a priest died in a knife attack in the nation's main cathedral (BBC)
  • Former church youth counselor pleads guilty to child porn charges | David Maginn was a youth counselor at the Saint Paul Lutheran Evangelical Church (Associated Press)


  • Church to fight new law's time limit | Retroactive clause unfair, officials say (Chicago Tribune)
  • Files on ex-priest ordered unsealed | SJC rules on records in altar boy's 1972 death (The Boston Globe)
  • Church told to defrock former bishop | An Anglican tribunal has recommended a former Queensland bishop be defrocked for sexual misconduct (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
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  • Church to defrock disgraced bishop | The Anglican bishop at the centre of the child sex abuse controversy that forced the resignation of Peter Hollingworth as governor-general is to be formally stripped of his holy orders (The Australian)

Church life:

  • O.C. mission's restored stone church to reopen | Workers have put the finishing touches on the $9.6-million restoration of Mission San Juan Capistrano, and the Great Stone Church will open today for the first time in 15 years. Steel supports now make the 198-year-old church earthquake-safe (Los Angeles Times)
  • Queens church van tragedy | A minivan filled with 11 devout Christians who had just dropped off their spiritual leader at Kennedy Airport was sideswiped by a car on the Van Wyck Expressway, then careened into the median and flipped over, killing one of the churchgoers, police said yesterday (New York Post)
  • Worship 'lite' questioned | Many churches have moved toward contemporary worship styles — with hip music and less formality — but critics, who say the "seeker friendly" mentality is shortchanging the basic Gospel message, are leading a growing backlash against the trend (The Washington Times)

Homosexuality & religion:

  • Randy is just dandy -- or is he? | Nearly 200 readers complained to The Times about a full-page ad last week in which a guy named Randy said he'd been cured of homosexuality, thanks to a group called Exodus (Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)
  • Gay ministers still up for debate | Gay ministers will be back on the agenda for the Uniting Church of Australia at its 2006 assembly, general secretary Terence Corkin said yesterday (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

Same-sex marriage:

  • "Simpsons": A gay old time | Springfield will legalize gay marriage, and Homer will become a minister (E!)
  • Marriage ban unfair, gays argue | Legal challenge to state law begins in Seattle courtroom (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • Superior Court hears argument for gay couples' right to wed | Nearly five months after suing King County for denying them the right to marry, a group of gay and lesbian couples yesterday made their case before a Superior Court judge in a warm, overcrowded courtroom downtown (Seattle Times)
  • Gay marriage debate lands in county courtroom | Clutching a stuffed animal, a young disabled man waited patiently Tuesday as his two dads listened to their lawyer argue that same-sex couples have a right to marry (King County Journal, Wa.)
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  • Va. law spurs gays to activism | Contract prohibition energizes community (The Washington Post)
  • Gay-marriage opponents wary | Legal challenges to petition drive could keep issue from getting on ballot (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Amish in the City:

  • 'Amish in the City' wrongs a rite | The best that can be said for Amish in the City is that it's not quite as bad as it could have been (USA Today)
  • Blackout in 'Amish' country | The UPN affiliate in Harris burg, Pa., which covers three of the top nine Amish markets in the U.S., won't be showing UPN's reality show "Amish in the City" (New York Post)
  • "Amish," with all due respect | Speaking as a onetime Mennonite who bows to no one in his respect for the Amish way of life, I think the show is terrific (Aaron Barnhart, TVBarn)
  • Critics blew it on 'Amish' | Gee, maybe people ought to wait until they see a show before they criticize it (Deseret Morning News)
  • TV review: Amish in the City | While this new series might not be as purposefully sensitive to its Amish subjects as the HBO documentary, it most certainly does not hold them up to ridicule or humiliation. At the same time, calling this show "a journey of discovery," as UPN Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff did, is like calling Scooby-Doo a world-class detective (Reuters)
  • Horsin' around | You almost feel sorry for the Amish because they're being threatened with corruption by a bunch of total blockheads (New York Post)
  • Trading buggies and bonnets for stardom | An Amish community in Ohio reacts to UPN's "Amish in the City," a show in which Amish teenagers share a house with non-Amish roommates in Hollywood (The New York Times)
  • Clash of cultures: Guess who's sensible | The unworldly Amish teenagers may marvel over a blender and weep at the sight of the ocean, but they have much to teach their hip housemates in UPN's show (The New York Times)
  • Conflicting images of Amish life | Community in Md. doubts validity of new TV show (The Washington Post)
  • Antiques, eagles, and chickadees | Inside the real Rumspringa. Amish expert Donald Kraybill explains why UPN's new show, Amish in the City, got it wrong (Beliefnet)
  • Amish youth turn tables on reality TV | The show may pleasantly surprise a lot of people (Detroit Free Press)


  • NFL player shares his faith at event | Football means a lot to Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jay Riemersma of Zeeland, but it isn't the most important thing in his life (The Holland Sentinel, Mi.)
  • A gangsta for God | Car crash changed rapper's life (Philadelphia Daily News)
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  • Finding friendship, God in the world of pro golf | What unites Don Pooley and Morris Hatalsky (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Smokey Robinson steps into gospel world | Robinson is taking his first step into the gospel world with "Food for the Spirit," released in April on his own Robso Records. Prior to recording the nine-song album, he'd been writing inspirational songs with the intention of shopping them to other artists (Associated Press)

Church & state:

  • Church and state debated, but certainly not reconciled | Politics and religion and the boundary that separates them came to light late Monday night at Lake Tahoe Community College, where more than 50 people answered the call of the controversial topic of church and state (Tahoe Daily Tribune, South Lake Tahoe, Ca)
  • Sunday really was a day of rest | I'd forgotten the way Sundays used to be until earlier this month, when the Virginia Legislature blundered in trying to rid the state of some archaic "blue laws" (Sharon McCormick, Union Democrat, Sonora, Ca.)

More articles:

  • Navy chaplain boards keep secrecy | An appeals court in Washington Tuesday ruled Navy chaplain promotion boards must keep their proceedings secret (UPI)
  • Spiritual students mostly lean right | College students who identify themselves as politically conservative are far more likely to show high levels of religious commitment than students who label themselves liberal, a study says (USA Today)
  • Religion, spirituality may curb hospital time | Religious activities help women and blacks avoid nursing homes (WebMD)
  • Coping with the past | Spain's leading archbishop compared the situation Catholics found themselves in today with the early Middle Ages, when the Moors swept across the Straits of Gibraltar (Editorial, The Guardian, London)
  • This hungry planet | As part of the interconnected global community, we are all morally obligated to take action against hunger (Lauren Bush, The Washington Times)
  • Got a bid for the 10 Commandments? | The tablets, one of four pairs that are believed to have been made for the Cecil B. DeMille classic, will be auctioned live on eBay on Friday as part of a massive Hollywood garage sale. Bids start at $40,000 (Newsday)

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