Fall 2012, Vol. 14, No. 2

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Spiritual Politics
Mark Silk's blog
on religion and politics 


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Table of Contents   

From the Editor:
Democrats Find Their Inner None

The Saints Come Marching In

I am a Mormon?

How Mormons and Evangelicals Became Republicans

Rowan Williams Lays Down His Burden

Honey, I’m Shrinking the Church

The Struggle to Keep Hospitals Catholic

“Religious liberty” in Court

The Democrats Dump God

Ayn No Way: Paul Ryan’s Problem

Netanyahu’s Anti-Obama Campaign

Varieties of Dylan’s Religious Experience




The Democrats Dump God
by Samuel Dunbar Livingston

At 1:30 p.m. on September 4, the first day of the Democratic National Convention, freelance blogger Jeff Dunetz broke the news that the Democrats had removed from their platform a plank calling for the isolation of Hamas, the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, and recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Each of these items are crucial to Israel and each have been key areas of contention for those who believe this president has not been friendly to the Jewish state,” Dunetz posted on his personal blog, The Lid, and simultaneously on the conservative website BreitBart.

Thirty minutes later, CBN’s David Brody (coincidentally?) reported on The Brody File that the Democratic platform had also done away with God.

“Some critics will suggest that when you have planks in your platform that support abortion rights and gay marriage then it’s no wonder that God’s name would be dropped as well,” Brody wrote.

In 2008, the Democratic platform declared that “we need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”

In 2012, “God-given” was out. The Democrats merely embraced “the simple principle that hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”

By contrast, the Republicans had increased their platform references to God from two in 2008 to 12 in 2012. America’s talents, right of self-defense, natural beauty, and resources were all designated as “God-given.”

And it was God, not Israel, that caught the attention of Fox News and its friends.

On his 6 p.m. show, Special Report, Bret Baier went head-to-head with Sen. Dick Durbin in a heated exchange. Durbin claimed Fox was wrongly framing Democrats as godless and “carping on a trifle,” but Baier continued to dig. “I’m not drawing conclusions,” he said. “I’m just asking why these changes were made.”

“Democrats remove ‘God’ from DNC platform, insert Obama’s name over 100 times,” screamed the headline at the news website

Both members of the GOP presidential ticket got into the act as well.

“I think their having removed purposefully ‘God’ from their platform suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of American people,” GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney told Fox’s Carl Cameron while campaigning in New Hampshire September 5. “I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize.” 

“It’s not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision, but I guess you would have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform,” added Paul Ryan on Fox & Friends the same day.

Meanwhile, in a press release posted almost immediately on its website, the Romney campaign declared, “It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Four years of President Obama’s repeated attempts to create distance between the United States and our cherished ally have led the Democratic Party to remove from their platform an unequivocal acknowledgment of a simple reality.”

At 1:08 p.m. September 5, the liberal watchdog site Media Matters reported that Fox had attacked the Democrats no less than 22 times for giving God the heave-ho. “Republicans are trying to make it into a wedge issue, and that’s very disappointing,” Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki told the Washington Post September 5.

The response from the Democratic camp was to try to undo the damage as quickly as possible. What they got, however, was a fiasco.

At 5:02, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Convention Chairman, called on former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who moved to suspend the rules in order to amend the platform to restore the former God and Israel language. This required a two-thirds voice vote, but while Villaraigosa’s teleprompter read that the motion passed, the vote in the hall sounded like no such thing.

So the mayor called for a re-vote. Again, no two-thirds. And another re-vote, which sounded the same. Finally Villaraigosa simply declared that the motion passed.

Shortly thereafter, AIPAC, the über-influential Israel lobby, issued a statement of approval: “We welcome reinstatement to the Democratic platform of the language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Together, these party platforms reflect strong bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship.”

This was AIPAC’s first public comment on the platform language. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the restoration of the Israel paragraph had been worked out in private.

Early the next day, top presidential advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod went on CBS’ This Morning to announce that the restoration had been ordained by Obama himself.

“He just thought it was important to put back in what has been in the platform, Jerusalem being the capital, and so he put it back in,” Jarrett said.

“He was counting on others, he has some other duties and responsibilities,” Axelrod said. “And so when he learned that what had been in the platform had been taken out, he said put it back in.”

Meanwhile, those responsible for the platform ran with a “mea culpa” narrative, insisting in an appearance on CNN’s Starting Point that the whole thing had just been a mistake.

“It was a technical omission and nothing more than that,” said DNC Chairwomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Through the drafting process and the platform committee process, there was never any discussion or debate over adding or subtracting it.”

Added Newark mayor Cory Booker, co-chairman of the platform committee: “It was an unfortunate omission, and it in no way detracts from the point that we have a president of the United States who believes both in God, we all know that, but also believes in that plank [supporting Jerusalem].”

But it wasn’t so easy to make the controversy disappear.

“Tie goes to the ’prompter,” said the ‘Daily Show’s’ liberal host Jon Stewart September 6. “On the positive side, we finally have found the evidence of Democratic voter fraud that the Republicans are always complaining about.” Stewart added that he had “faith in a God who’s not too insecure, who doesn’t freak out if you don’t mention his name enough.”

Stewart’s sometime sidekick Stephen Colbert wasn’t so sure. “Folks,” he warned his Colbert Report audience. “He’s very sensitive. Read your Bible, He’s got a hair-trigger. And of course the Democrats cannot hide what they’ve done from God because he Googles himself constantly.”

Was this nothing more than a Fox-driven tempest in a teapot?

On September 7, Slate’s David Weigel accused Dunetz and others in the conservative media of “trolling” the convention to make trouble. As evidence he quoted Michael Goldfarb of the Center for American Freedom saying, “We think it paid off in our coverage of the platform fiasco that more established papers like the Post all but ignored. There was a real demand for hard-hitting, fact-based coverage of this Godless, anti-Israel convention, and we’re doing our best to give people what they want.”

“It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern,” Mayor Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times September 8. And a continuing culture war opportunity.

“That Pledge says ‘under God.’ I will not take ‘God’ out of the name of our platform,” Romney told a crowd in Virginia Beach September 8. “I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart. We’re a nation bestowed by God….We the American people were given our rights not by government but by God himself.”

“America’s Left wants a godless society here in the United States, just as Europe’s Left has created such a society there-—and the Democratic party is run by the Left,” thundered Dennis Prager on National Review Online September 11. “At least half the Democratic delegates wanted the word ‘God-given’ and the reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to stay out of the party platform.”

If the omissions were nothing more than oversights, as the Democrats claimed, disinterested observers were not so sure.

Speaking with Religion News Service reporter Lauren Markoe September 6, the University of Akron’s John Green noted that Democrats have long had a problem with “God talk.”

“Their coalition, which includes a substantial number of nonreligious people but also a diversity of religious people with varying approaches to God, doesn’t have a clear and simple conception of the divine,” Markoe wrote.

“So rather than risk offense, the platform writers may have decided to leave God out,” Green said.”


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