November 4, 2000
CHRISTIANS VOTE IN THE ELECTION?
In an election
which is as close as the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, there
have been two major attempts to influence religiously active voters. The
largest and most publicized is the distribution of 70 million "voter
guides" by the Christian Coalition.
guides are not objective or fair, said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive
director of Americans United For Separation of Church and State.
"Instead they are partisan campaign propaganda. The Coalition's guides
don't belong in church sanctuaries, they belong at the local recycling
center." Americans United mailed letters to 285,000 churches warning
them that they jeopardize their tax exempt status by distributing the
guides prepared by the Coalition whose president, Pat Robertson,
once ran for the Republican Presidential nomination.
Each voter guide
is designed to be stuffed inside a church bulletin, and states that it
"is provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as
an endorsement of any candidate or political party." However, look at
the Coalition's wording of the issues.
Bush is seen as
supporting "Emphasizing Free Enterprise Solutions to Social Problems"
and "Educational Choice for Parents (Vouchers)," which Gore opposes.
Bush opposes "Control of Public Education by Powerful Unions" and
"Unrestricted Abortion on Demand" which Gore allegedly favors.
Do those sound
like neutrally worded issues to you?
There are 165
different versions of Senatorial, Congressional and State voter guides.
In Florida, for example, church-goers learn that Rep. Bill McCollum, who
is running for the U.S. Senate, opposes having U.S. troops "serve under
UN command." His opponent did not respond.
The voter guides
are not sent to Catholic churches which refuse to distribute them. What
has been distributed is "Faithful Citizenship," a thoughtful paper by
the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. They note that the year
2000 marks the "2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ," as
well as the election.
They said that
for U.S. Catholics, these two events offer opportunity to "bring
together the guidance of the Gospel and...our democracy to shape a
society more respectful of human life and dignity, and more committed to
justice and peace."
They note that
1.4 million children are "destroyed before birth every year," one of the
few issues on which they agree with the Christian Coalition. But they
add that despite the nation's prosperity, the gap between the rich and
the poor is widening and millions don't have health care.
remind Catholics that Jesus called us to love our neighbors by feeding
the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and afflicted: "Our
Lord's example and words demand a life of charity from each of us." (In
fact, Catholics are the largest non-governmental provider of education,
health care and human services in America.)
bishops asked the Presidential candidates if they would help the poor by
reauthorizing welfare reform in a way to provide support for those
beyond the 5 year limit imposed by the 1996 law. Neither Bush nor Gore
responded, nor did they agree to provide more federal aid to make
housing more affordable. The bishops asked about an increase in the
minimum wage and day care, which both supported.
When asked about
tax relief to low income working families, Bush said he would double the
$500 per child tax credit to $1,000 while Gore would expand the Earned
Income Tax Credit.
they would allow physicians to prescribe drugs to allow terminally ill
patients to commit suicide, Gore made no comment while Bush said "all
life has immeasurable dignity and should be protected from the moment of
conception until natural death."
differed on whether the legal status of marriage should be extended to
same sex couples. Bush opposed it while Gore said he supports "legal
protections for domestic partnerships and opposes any federal mandate to
states on how to define marriage."
become a major issue. Of the 800 "civil unions" approved in Vermont
since its breakthrough law took effect, 600 are non-Vermonters from 43
states. The Alliance for Marriage predicts that "we will see lawsuits in
virtually every state seeking to export these civil unions.")
How will the
religiously active vote?
Barna poll found that born again Christians back Bush by 71 percent to
28 for Gore, but more numerous non-born again Christians supported Gore,
53 to 45 percent. Catholics were evenly split, 49-49 percent. In October
a CBS poll found 44 percent of Catholics for Bush and 42 percent for
Gore, while Protestants back Bush by a 47-39 percent margin.
believers seem to be leaning toward Bush.
Copyright 2000 Michael J.