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August 13, 2008
Column #1,407
Obama Appeals to Religious Voters
by Mike McManus

In a radical change from 2004 when most Catholics and active Protestants voted for a Republican President - today most religious Americans are leaning toward the Democrat, Sen. Barack Obama, who is cleverly seeking their support, despite his very liberal stand on many issues.

Pollster George Barna reported this week that Obama is "maintaining a substantial 43%   to 34% lead among those likely to vote in November, with 5 percent selecting minor party candidates."  That is a slight decline from his 50% - 35% split in early June.

In 2006 white evangelical and born-again Protestants did an excellent job registering new voters, so that they formed 24% of the electorate, and they voted 70% Republican.   The 15% of those who never attend church voted 67% for Democrats.

However, in 2008, McCain has lost much of the Republicans traditional religious base. Barna reports that McCain has support from only one of 19 faith communities in America, deeply committed Evangelicals by 61% to 17%. However they are only 8% of the nation. Catholics voted for Bush in 2004, but lean to Obama by a 34% to 24%, with many undecided. Even born-again Protestants support Obama by 43% to 31%, virtually the same margin among all Protestants (43% to 34%).

The only good news for McCain is that Obama's support among religious voters has been dropping in recent months, by 11- 13 points among both Protestants and Catholics.

Obama has cleverly made himself attractive to the religiously active.  His comments on Father's Day that black fathers needed to do a better job parenting their kids won praise.  This Saturday he will participate in a Presidential Forum with Rev. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," and the subject of a TIME cover story this week.

Pastor Warren says the Forum will give American voters a more thorough understanding of the "faith, values, character, competence, leadership convictions and worldview" of both nominees. The two-hour Forum will also be addressing what Warren calls "pressing issues that are bridging divides in our nation, such as poverty, HIV/AIDs, climate and human rights.

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, is so disturbed by the patina of respectability that Warren is according to Obama that he has organized "A Call to Prayer" on the National Mall on August 16, the same day as the Warren broadcast. Among the speakers will be former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Bishop Harry Jackson, Chairman of a coalition of large African American churches. Perkins hopes hundreds of thousands will attend the all day event.

"As both sides gear up for the conventions this month, one thing is clear.   This is not your grandparents' Democratic Party.  Same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, Comprehensive sex education," Perkins asserts.. They all add up to the most radical platform ever to make an appearance as the Democratic convention. For the first time in history, the Democratic planks will call for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Although the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, was the one who signed the DOMA into law, Sen. Obama is adamant about repealing it, an act that would leave every state in America at risk of being forced to recognize homosexual marriage."

However, some prominent conservative Evangelicals and Catholics had praise this week for a modification of the Democratic Party's platform on abortion. While it "unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion," for the first time it agreed on the the need to "reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortion."Another new position is this: "The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post health care, parenting skills, income support and caring adoption programs."

Prof.. Douglas Mniec of Pepperdine University Law School and former Reagan Justice Dept. official and a Catholic, helped add that language to the Democratic Platform. "No expectant mother should feel compelled or coerced to take the tragic choice of taking the life of their own children. It incorporates an alternative way to help those women. This is an historic moment and platform and does much for women, though it fall short of the Catholic position that abortion is an intrinsic evil.
Pastor Joel Hunter, author of "A New Kind of Conservative" and former President of the Christian Coalition, and a Republican said, "Barack Obama has taken an historic and courageous step to empower women, recognizing not only  women's right to choose an abortion, but also to choose life. More lives will be saved.

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