Justice for the archbishop?
On Friday, Alvaro Rafael Saravia, a former Salvadoran air force captain, was found liable for the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel.

"To be liable for the killing of a human being, you don't have to pull the trigger," U.S. Judge Oliver Wanger said Friday. "The cold-blooded assassination of Romero could not be a better example of extrajudicial killing." Saravia, he said, provided the gun used in the attack, transportation, and a bounty. Wagner ordered Saravia to pay Romero's relatives $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

But justice has not yet been served, and perhaps never will be. While Saravia was last seen living in Modesto, California, he's now missing but reportedly hiding in El Salvador. He wasn't present for any part of the trial, nor has he made any comments about it while on the lam.

Still, Maria Julia Hernandez, a legal officer for the archbishop of El Salvador, told Reuters, the judgment "is a sign that justice will come in El Salvador, it's a ray of hope."

Luis Melendez, president of the Fresno Salvadoran Community, told The Modesto Bee, "It's a huge step to eliminate inhumane acts so that those who are in power can't continue to do this. … It brings hope. It's like I'm able to breathe again."

Murder turns to firefight in Colombian church
Elsewhere in Latin America, however, a word of justice finally came for another church murder. "We were singing hymns to God when I heard the shooting, a burst of gunfire," Francisco Sevillano, pastor of an evangelical Protestant church in Puerto Asis, Colombia, told Reuters.

Gunmen walked through the Saturday evening service apparently looking for one man. But, the Associated Press says, they shot the wrong man. Their target was sitting in another row—and he had a gun, too.

"It turned into a firefight," police commander Maj. Eduardo Beltran told the Associated Press. By the time it was all over, at least two men and a woman were dead and 14 others—including a child—were injured. (Another report says a child was also killed.)

Swinging the base
Evangelicals are assumed to be Bush's base, say Michael Hout and Andrew Greeley in a Saturday New York Times op-ed. But, they say, this religious group is politically divided. "The fashionable image of masses of white evangelical voters, stirred up by the tricks of Karl Rove and led by Bible-thumping clergymen, marching in lock step to deny rights to women and to gays, is hardly born out by the data," they write. What matters is income level, not religious beliefs. "Most poorer Americans of every faith — including evangelical Christians — vote for Democrats," the sociologists say. "Clearly, claims that evangelicals have hijacked the nation's politics are greatly exaggerated."

Exaggerated, certainly, but the popular image of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell pulling the strings of the GOP isn't what the media have been reporting this year anyway. The "God gap" issue, as has been repeated ad nauseum (with good cause) this political season, is one where church attendancenot theology—makes the difference.

So which is a better predictor of your vote—income (or more accurately, poverty) or church attendance? In 2000, the voting gap was wider for church attendance than it was for income levels. But this year, the gap for the lowest income bracket is larger than it is for any of the church attendance categories. Here's the data from that November 2003 Pew poll:

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2000 VNS Exit Poll

Sept-Oct 2003 Reg. Voters

Bush

Gore

Gap

Bush

Dem

Gap

Income

<$15K/<$20K

39

61

22

34

66

32

$15-30/$20-30K

43

57

14

38

62

24

$30-$50K

49

51

2

54

46

8

$50-$75K

53

47

6

59

41

18

$75-$100K

54

46

8

57

43

14

$100K+

56

44

12

54

46

8

Church Attend

More than 1/wk

64

36

28

63

37

26

1/week

59

41

18

56

44

12

1-2/month

47

53

6

52

48

4

1-2/year

44

56

12

46

54

8

Seldom/Never

34

66

32

38

62

24

If you're interested in Hout and Greeley's analysis, be sure also to check out last week's Wall Street Journalop-ed suggesting that income doesn't matter as much any more, and that—Pew results to the contrary—"the very wealthiest political players are now in the Democratic column." It's often unhelpful to play op-ed against op-ed, but this could make for an interesting juxtaposition. If religious belief doesn't matter and income level matters far less than it used to—what matters?


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