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November 13, 2004
Column #1,211

                  Catholics and Evangelicals Claim Bush Victory

     "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan," said John F. Kennedy after his debacle at the Bay of Pigs.

     Although President Bush beat Senator Kerry by 3.5 million votes, he would have lost the election, had he lost Ohio, which he won by only 136,000 votes out of 5.4 million in that state. (Ohio awarded 20 votes in the Electoral College to Bush giving him 274 votes vs. 252 for Kerry.)

     With that thin margin, almost any group can claim credit for Bush's victory. 

     Pollster George Barna awards the honors to born again Christians who backed the President by 62 to 38 percent. By contrast, non-born again voters chose Kerry by an almost identical 59-39 percent. What mattered was turnout. Barna notes that while the born again population is only 38 percent of the national population, it represented 53 percent of the votes cast in the election.

     Barna defines born again as people who have made a "personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today," and who believe they will go to heaven since the confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior.

     Evangelicals are a subset of born again Christians who are just 7 percent of voting age population, but were 11 percent of the voters and chose Bush by an 85-15 percent margin.

     In addition to being born again, Evangelicals say their faith is very important in their life, feel a responsibility to share their faith with non-Christians, state that Satan exists, that Jesus lived a sinless life, that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches and who describe God as the all-knowing all-powerful perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

     The online magazine Beliefnet, however, says the Catholic vote "was just as important and in crucial states, probably more so" than the Evangelical vote. In Ohio Bush received 55 percent of the Catholic vote compared to 50 percent in 2000. That translates into 172,000 more Catholic votes in the Bush column than in 2000, far more than Bush's 136,000 margin of victory.

     "Among weekly Mass-goers in Ohio Bush took 65 percent of the vote, 30 points more than Kerry," writes the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington.

     What's even more stunning is that Kerry, a practicing Catholic, won only 47 percent of Catholics and 43 percent of practicing Catholics. By contrast, the only other Catholic nominees for President garnered almost twice a much: Al Smith won 80 percent Catholics in 1928 and John Kennedy, 78 percent.

     Of course, what troubled many Catholics - and scores of Catholic bishops - was how Kerry practiced his faith. He said repeatedly, "I respect the bishops, but I respectfully disagree...on issues like a woman's right to choose or stem cell research."

     Pope John Paul II, in a 1995 Encyclical wrote, "To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom..."

     Based on that analysis, some bishops said they'd deny Kerry Communion if he presented himself. Kerry stoutly replied that he believed in "separation of church and state," which won him admirers among Catholics who rarely attend Mass.

     Interestingly, some bishops disagree with the majority on the centrality of abortion.

      Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton noted that Bush said he stands "for a culture of life in which every person counts and every being matters." While these words "resonate deeply with Catholics," he noted the Catholic bishops wrote that "any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care."

     Gumbleton concluded, "Applying this agenda as the guide, it is clear that the president's words have not translated into action."

     By contrast, Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley, Kerry's home prelate, and three other Massachusetts bishops argued on October 29, that the "Right to the most basic human right upon which all our rights are contingent...We must assert the most basic moral conviction that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. We must, therefore, oppose on both moral and legal grounds, abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia."

     As noted above, Ohio's weekly Mass attenders agreed and voted 2-1 for Bush, giving him the election.

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