All posts from “October 2008”

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October 31, 2008

Change They Could Believe In

The Maldives elects a new president despite a bizarro-Obama scandal over his religion.

Elections in the Maldives took an oddly familiar turn this fall: the leading candidate has been accused of being a secret believer in a religion many see as threatening the country's traditional values. Except, in a tiny Muslim nation, the religious confession that's so scandalous is Christianity.

"The re-election campaign of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [the incumbent] has released a letter purporting to show that opposition presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) is in league with Salisbury Cathedral in the UK," Minivan News ("Independent News for the Maldives") reported. The Maumoon 2008 campaign website says "The gist of the letter which follows under what appears to be Salisbury Cathedral's letterhead alleges an agreement between Nasheed and the church to establish a cathedral on the site of the Islamic Center after Nasheed incites the "Jamat ul-Moslemin" to blow the mosque up.'"

The Associated Press reports that Nasheed "is a Sunni Muslim like the president and denies any secret Christian agenda." In fact, Shaheed has pointed to a 2004 government investigation into Nasheed's foreign contacts, which revealed "no ties with any Christian missionary groups."

Gayoom has been president since 1978, and this is the first time he has allowed an opposition candidate to run. The BBC says Nasheed has said Gayoom "Is a dictator and a has-been sultan, and that the Maldives needs change."

The Maldives chose change. Since neither Gayoom nor Nasheed won a majority in the first round of voting, Maldivians voted again on Tuesday. Nasheed - a former political prisoner - seems to have won the final vote.

The Associated Press says some expect conflict:

Some voters expressed fears of clashes between opposing camps after the results are released.

"Even though there weren't any problems they will say there are," said Mariyam Ameena, 31, a government worker. Gayoom's accusations that Nasheed "is against Islam has done a lot of damage. He is using it as a weapon."

October 31, 2008

Politician Fights Back After 'Godless' Ad

A mini politics and religion war continues in North Carolina after Sen. Elizabeth Dole's "Godless" ad about her challenger.

Democratic opponent Kay Hagan sued Dole and released her own television ad after Dole's campaign aired an earlier ad.

Hagan says in the ad that the campaign is about fixing the economy, "not bearing false witness against fellow Christians."

"Elizabeth Dole's attacks on my Christian faith are offensive," she says in the ad. "She even faked my voice in her TV ad to make you think I don't believe in God. Well, I believe in God. I taught Sunday School. My faith guides my life, and Sen. Dole knows it."

Dole's earlier ad said Hagan took "Godless money."

"A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser for Kay Hagan," the the first 30-second ad says. "Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took godless money. What did Kay Hagan promise in return?"

The ad ends with an unknown woman's voice calling out, "There is no God."

Update: Here's the latest ad from Dole.

October 31, 2008

McCain to Appear on SNL

John McCain could be risking embarrassment or he's betting on a boost from the polls when he appears on Saturday Night Live, The New York Times reports.

Sarah Palin also performed a few weeks ago.

Update: Here are the clips.

And

October 30, 2008

Poll: How Pastors Will Vote

A little over half (53 percent) of Protestant pastors plan to vote for John McCain compared with 20 percent who plan to vote for Barack Obama, a new poll suggests. A full 22 percent were undecided in the LifeWay Research poll conducted October 10-28.

Sixty-six percent of self-identified evangelical pastors plan to vote for McCain while 13 percent are for Obama and 19 percent are undecided. A recent Pew Center survey suggested that 67 percent of evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 24 are for Obama.

Among mainline pastors, 36 percent plan to vote for McCain, 37 percent support Obama, and 24 percent are undecided.

Fifty-three percent of Protestant pastors said that they have personally endorsed candidates for public office this year, but outside of their church roles. Less than 3 percent said that they have endorsed candidates during a church service this year.

This is what surprised Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, a polling organization associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

1. Self identified "mainline" pastors not more pro-Obama (they were split).
2. A sizeable minority of pastors are still undecided.
3. A majority [of] pastors endorsed candidates outside of their church role.

October 30, 2008

Video: Debate Déjà Vu

If you watched the three presidential debates, you might have felt a little déjà vu. Don't worry. You weren't losing your mind. This video shows how closely the presidential candidate stick to their scripts.

October 30, 2008

Jim Wallis Demands Apology from James Dobson

Jim Wallis called for an apology from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for the fictitious letter posted on Citizenlink.com.

Focus on the Family Action, the political arm of Focus on the Family, posted a letter that pretended to look back on an Obama administration. The writer suggested that certain events had happened, including terrorist attacks on four cities.

Jim Wallis responds:

"In a time of utter political incivility, it shows the kind of negative Christian leadership that has become so embarrassing to so many of your fellow Christians in America," he writes. "Such outrageous predictions not only damage your credibility, they slander Barack Obama who, you should remember, is a brother in Christ, and they insult any Christian who might choose to vote for him."

And Wallis isn't the only one upset. There's also a satire piece. The Matthew 25 Network calls it "blatant fearmongering," and more than 2,000 people have joined a Facebook group called "A Christian Bipartisan Rejection of Focus on the Family’s Letter from 2012."

"As you can see, Focus on the Family Action has abandoned reasonable appeals and resorted to shameless tactics of fear mongering. They have abandoned the belief that voters can make informed decisions and have instead appealed to fear as their fundamental motivator.

"As Christians, we stand appalled and ashamed at such tasteless demagoguery. We believe that civil, educated, and compassionate dialogue should and can occur with the active engagement of our faith, but believe that Focus on the Family Action has, in this letter, stepped far outside of reasonable boundaries into pure sensationalism. We believe that such thoughtless expressions coming from an organization that purports to represent Evangelicals continues to mar our legitimacy and voice in the public arena, and damages our basic Christian witness."

The list of things proposed in the letter includes:
-Terrorist attacks on four cities
-Israel is hit by a nuclear bomb
-Euthanasia becomes commonplace
-The Supreme Court becomes liberal
-Churches lose their tax exempt status for not allowing gay marriages
-Pornography openly displayed
-Gun ownership restricted and inner-city crime rises,
-Home schooling becomes restricted and families move to Australia and New Zealand
-Conservative talk shows shut down
-Christian publishers forced out of business
-Power blackouts because of environmental restrictions
-Boy Scouts shut down
-Russia occupies four countries
-Bush officials jailed or bankrupt

Focus on the Family Action defended its letter yesterday after a CNN reporter described the organization as "religious extremists."

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations at Focus Action, has worked in the media for 25 years. He said Feyerick's report "definitely signals a new level of marginalization by the mainstream media of groups like us that stand for biblical truth."

"We can’t control what the media want to call us," he said. "All we can do is continue to stand for the truth. The Bible makes it clear that when you stand for Jesus and His righteousness, those kinds of things will come."

October 29, 2008

Evangelicals by Swing States

A new poll shows that fewer Hoosier evangelicals plan to vote for John McCain than in other swing states.

Indiana: 57 (McCain) 33 (Obama) percent
Florida: 72-21
Ohio: 61-33
Pennsylvania: 62-31

Update: Mark Silk has a helpful explanation of why Hoosier evangelicals are significant (besides the fact that Indiana is my home state).

In this usually dependable red state, it is not good news for McCain that evangelicals are supporting him by less than 2-1 (57-33). In 2004, they backed Bush 77-22. Bush won Indiana by 21 points, 60-39. Evangelicals constitute 35 percent of the Hoosier vote, so their 31-point shift toward Obama represents about half the total shift in the partisan breakdown from 2004 to now. In other words, evangelicals in Indiana seem to be shifting disproportionately toward Obama. For a core (as opposed to a swing) constituency, that's big news indeed.

October 29, 2008

The GOP's God Gap, Take 3

Notice how so much political reporting these days about the future of the Republican Party is about the God Gap between religious conservatives and the rest of the party? Much of it hinges on the fact that Sarah Palin has become the movement's new political face. The New York Times reports today that conservatives are already discussing her future political prospects should the McCain-Palin ticket be defeated next Tuesday (The Times says it's "conservatives" who are excited about Palin, but the paper is basically writing about social conservatives):

Whether the Republican presidential ticket wins or loses on Tuesday, a group of prominent conservatives are planning to meet the next day to discuss the way forward, and whatever the outcome, Gov. Sarah Palin will be high on the agenda.

Ms. Palin, of Alaska, has had a rocky time since being named as Senator John McCain's running mate, but to many conservatives her future remains bright. If Mr. McCain wins, she will give the social conservative movement a seat inside the White House. If he loses, she could emerge as a standard bearer for the movement and a potential presidential candidate in 2012, albeit one who will need to address her considerable political damage.

Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders, including the group that will meet next Wednesday in rural Virginia to weigh social, foreign policy and economic issues, as well as the political landscape and the next presidential election.

Ms. Palin's aides insist that winning this time around is her sole objective. But there are signs that she, too, is making sure that she is well positioned for the future if she and Mr. McCain lose.

The 2012 Republican primary could be waged on winning religious conservatives than the '08 GOP primary was, with Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee vying to become the movement's political standard bearer.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

October 29, 2008

Effigies of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama Found

Another effigy of Barack Obama was found this morning at the University of Kentucky, just a few weeks after one was found at George Fox University.

Earlier this week, an effigy of Sarah Palin with a noose around its neck that was hung at a home in West Hollywood, California as part of a Halloween display.

Update: Another effigy of Obama was reported in Southern Indiana Wednesday night.

October 29, 2008

Brit Hume Leaving Fox

Fox News anchor Brit Hume is leaving the cable news network after 12 years, saying "Christ is a big piece of it."

"Family is a big piece of it," he told Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times. "And Christ is a big piece of it. And golf is a big piece of it."

As he prepares to anchor his last presidential campaign, Hume said he's eager to immerse himself in a more spiritual life after dwelling for so long in the secular. The anchor described himself as a "nominal Christian" until 10 years ago, when his son Sandy committed suicide at age 28.

"I feel like I was really kind of saved when my son died by faith and by the grace of God, and that's very much on my consciousness," said Hume, who plans to get more involved in his wife's Bible study group.

October 29, 2008

Opponent Demands Elizabeth Dole Remove 'Godless' Ad

North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole released a television ad suggesting that her Democratic challenger Kay Hagan took "godless money."

"A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser for Kay Hagan," the the 30-second ad says. "Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took godless money. What did Kay Hagan promise in return?"

CNN reports that the Dole campaign says it's basing the ad on Hagan's attendance at a fundraiser that was in the home of an adviser to the Godless Americans' political action committee, a group that promotes rights for atheists.

The Associated Press
reports that Hagan's attorneys sent a cease-and-desist order to Dole's campaign, saying the "libelous" ad should come down within 24 hours. Dole's campaign said it has no plans to take it down.

Hagan defended herself, saying that she is a Sunday school teacher, an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, and has been involved in youth missions.

"It is so unbecoming of a woman like Elizabeth Dole," Hagan said in a conference call. "This is a fabricated, pathetic ad."

The ad ends with an unknown woman's voice calling out, "There is no God."

October 29, 2008

The Courts, Under Which Administration?

The New York Times published an article today that shows how President Bush's 61 court appointment have affected decisions that include abortion and the First Amendment.

Charlie Savage writes about how doctors in South Dakota challenged a law that required them to inform women that abortions "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 7 to 4 to allow the statute to take effect, the majority arguing that it is objectively true that human life begins at conception, and that the state can force doctors to say so.

Savage also includes a case about how a city in Utah had placed a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public park, but rejected a request to place the "Seven Aphorisms of Summum" in the same park. Judge Michael W. McConnell argued that it should be fine for the city to accept only the monument whose message it favored.

According to the article, a Barack Obama victory could create a Democratic majority by 2013; If John McCain wins, Republicans could have majorities on all 13 circuits.

October 29, 2008

What Sarah Palin Does for Comments

Christianity Today's editorial on evangelicalism that uses Sarah Palin as a hook generated quite a reaction on the main site.

Anything on Sarah Palin seems to guarantee strong reactions. See The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson post on comments.

"In my own brief blogging career, Sarah Palin has been the gift that keeps on giving -- she has generated an astonishing number of comments, from both ends of the political, and theological, spectrum, many of them saturated with incredible hostility directed by the non-religious at the religious and vice versa."

By the way, you can listen to the editorial, previous editorials, and news and books commentaries on Christianity Today's new podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed, iTunes feed, or searching for "Christianity Today" on the iTunes store.

October 29, 2008

The Religious Left and Political Films

Barack Obama may seem like the perfect candidate for the Religious Left.

He's outspoken about his faith, he has a staff devoted to religious outreach, and he talks about finding common ground on divisive issues like abortion. Still, recent polls show he hasn't pulled many votes away from John McCain.

David R. Swartz, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame, writes about the Religious Left's influence among evangelicals in CT's sister publication Books & Culture.

"Evangelicals' engagement of diverse politics - including New Left, progressive New Deal, and right-wing politics, all since the early 1970s - suggests the volatility of evangelical politics and its susceptibility to co-optation, sudden shifts, and identity politics. The politicization of evangelicalism has exposed the limits of evangelical politics."

Swartz says Amy Sullivan and Jim Wallis may have the best case for a "sea change" now than at any other time since 1973.

"But given the persisting limits of evangelical politics on the Left in the past three decades, Wallis and Sullivan's hopes for a large, robust progressive movement may well be dashed again."

Also, if you're thinking about plopping down the bucks to see W., Brett McCracken wrote a commentary over at Christianity Today Movies on whether political movies matter in the election season. Read the whole thing, but here's his conclusion:

"Perhaps film isn't the best method of political propaganda; there just isn't enough evidence to back it up. But don't expect Hollywood to stop producing election-themed fare any time soon. As we've seen from Saturday Night Live this season, enjoying 50 percent higher ratings than this time last year, politics is good for entertainment. But is entertainment good for politics? Does it make a difference? The verdict is still out."

October 28, 2008

Evangelicals' Support for McCain Slowly Slipping

John McCain is behind Barack Obama 36 percent to 52 percent in the Pew Center's latest survey, and his support from evangelicals has been slowly draining.

In the last three weeks, support for McCain has slipped from 74 percent, 67 percent, to 65 percent. However, support for Barack Obama has stayed relatively the same at 18 percent, 22 percent, and 22 percent.

October 28, 2008

McCain says Stevens should resign

John McCain called for Sen. Ted Stevens to step down today after the Alaska politician was convicted yesterday on seven felony counts.

Stevens was convicted on charges that he lied about gifts from an oil contractor, but he refused to drop out of his re-election race.

"It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down," McCain said in a statement this morning. "I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."

Update: McCain's running mate Sarah Palin also called for Stevens' resignation.

October 27, 2008

Plans to assassinate Obama disrupted

The Associated Press just posted this alert:

The ATF says it has broken up a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 102 black people in a Tennessee murder spree. In court records unsealed Monday, agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target an unnamed but predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads.

October 27, 2008

The candidates' web pages for people of faith

The McCain-Palin campaign added an "Americans of Faith" page to its website, about 16 months behind Obama-Biden's People of Faith blog.

Beliefnet's Dan Gilgoff notes that the page is added months after rolling out pages for "American Indians for McCain and "Arab Americans for McCain."

This is the introduction:

"Once I was thrown into another cell after a long and difficult interrogation. I discovered scratched into one of the cell's walls the creed 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty.' There standing witness to God's presence in a remote, concealed place, recalled to my faith by a stronger, better man, I felt God's love and care more vividly than I would have felt it had I been safe among a pious congregation in the most magnificent cathedral." - John McCain

The page offers short explanations of McCain's stances in four areas: "Judicial Philosophy," "Protecting Marriage," "Human Dignity and Life," "Service, Community and Values."

Obama's People of Faith home page does not link Obama's faith to specific policies, but it has a lengthy blog, several links to Obama's speeches on his faith, and a list of endorsements from religious leaders.

October 24, 2008

An Obama administration, in the eyes of Focus on the Family Action

Focus on the Family Action posted a pretend letter in which a writer signed "A Christian from 2012" looks back on a Barack Obama administration in 2012, including terrorists attacks on four U.S. cities.

The letter proposes these scenarios:
-The Supreme Court would lean liberal
-Churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages would lose their tax-exempt status
-"under God" in the Pledge would be declared unconstitutional
-Doctors and nurses who won't perform abortions will no longer be able to deliver babies
-Pornography would be openly displayed on newsstands
-Inner-city crime increases when gun ownership is restricted
-Homeschooling would become restricted, so thousands of homeschooling parents emigrate to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
- "Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing
hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe."
-Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.
-New carbon emission standards drive many coal-powered electric plants out of business. "The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation."

"After many of these decisions, especially those that restricted religious speech in public places, President Obama publicly expressed strong personal disapproval of the decision and said that the Supreme Court had gone far beyond what he ever expected," the letter reads.

It suggests that younger evangelicals were the tipping point for Obama's pretend victory.

"Many Christians voted for Obama ? younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain ? but they didn't think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong," the letter says.

The author also proposes that every conservative talk show would have to be followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal "watchdog" group and eventually shut down by 2010. Another hypothetical scenario is that because no Christian is willing to write books critical of homosexuality, many Christian publishers go out of business.

The author suggests that Bush administration officials who had involvement with the Iraq war would be put in jail.

The author writes, "Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn't resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations."

This is part of the introduction:

Some will respond to this letter by saying, "Well, I hope hardship and even persecution come to the church. It will strengthen the church!" But hoping for suffering is wrong. It is similar to saying, "I hope I get some serious illness because it will strengthen my faith." Jesus taught us to pray the opposite: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13). Paul urged us to pray not for persecution but "for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Tim. 2:2). So Christians should hope and pray that such difficult times do not come. But if they do come, then it will be right to trust God to bring good out of them and also bring them to an end.

Here's a video defending the letter:

(h/t Bob Smietana)

October 24, 2008

Poll: More evangelicals hearing from McCain's campaign

Despite Barack Obama's heavy outreach to religious voters, more evangelicals report hearing from John McCain's campaign, a new poll suggests.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll report shows that 26 percent of evangelicals have been contacted by McCain's campaign, compared with 15 percent who have heard from the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign seems to take a more public approach with their faith tours, while perhaps the McCain campaign is taking a quieter approach.

The 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign urged people to obtain church directories, but last year, McCain's campaign denied the same approach. Obama's head of religious outreach Joshua DuBois told Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe that the campaign would not "steal" church directories to call people. Eric Gorski of the Associated Press wrote last month that a McCain campaign spokesman declined to say whether parish directories were in the campaign's plans.

October 23, 2008

Palin to speak on special education

Sarah Palin will give her first major policy speech tomorrow, calling for full funding of special education.

She spoke to the Chicago Tribune about families that have children with special needs, including her sister.

Jill Zuckman writes that the The McCain campaign plans to add an extra $3 billion a year over five years to special education. She writes:

Palin's eyes well up as she talks about her sister's son, Karcher, who has autism.

"My sister and I have talked a lot about this. It makes me cry thinking about it," Palin said. "She asked with tears in her eyes, she says, 'What happens when Kurt and I, though, are elderly, then what happens to Karcher?' "

October 23, 2008

The $150,000 elephant in the campaign

Who knew that the reported $150,000 purchase of clothing for Sarah Palin would become such a big deal?

"She needed clothes at the time," John McCain said today. "It works that the clothes will be donated to charity. Nothing surprises me." He also said that he pays for all of his own clothing.

Palin told the Chicago Tribune that the clothes are not worth $150,000 and were bought for the Republican National Convention.

"That whole thing is just, bad!" she said. "Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are. It's kind of painful to be criticized for something when all the facts are not out there and are not reported." Palin said the clothes will be given back, auctioned off or sent to charity.

October 23, 2008

Evangelicals in the polls

Barna just released a poll that shows only 45 percent of "born again" voters plan for vote for John McCain while 43 percent plan to cast a vote for Barack Obama. Sixty-three percent of evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 23 percent plan to vote for Obama.

Earlier this week, a Pew Center survey found that 67 percent of evangelicals for McCain while 24 plan to vote for Obama. Why the difference? The centers poll differently (the Pew Center looks at white evangelicals while the Barna poll includes African Americans), but the numbers are interesting.

Mark Silk points to recent regional Quinnipiac polls for McCain's lead among evangelicals: Florida (71-23), Ohio (59-32), and Pennsylvania (63-32).

October 23, 2008

Getting political with pumpkins

My roommate and I are carving pumpkins tonight, so it's convenient that I stumbled upon the Associated Press' political pumpkin kit. There's also yeswecarve.com for Barack Obama and a page here set aside for John McCain.

Update: Yes, there was a nonpartisan pumpkin carving. Here are the photos:

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October 22, 2008

Evangelical, Jew, Muslim among six politicians' homes defaced with Psalm 2 graffiti

Six Minnesota politicians found their homes spray-painted with graffiti that called for them to resign and included a reference to Psalm 2, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The targeted politicians seem very diverse: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), Rep. Keith Ellison (D), Sen. Norm Coleman (R), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), Rep. Jim Ramstad (R), and Rep. John Kline (R). Coleman is a Jew, Bachmann is an evangelical, and Ellison is the country's only Muslim congressman.

Patricia Lopez writes that Bachmann's home, garage and driveway were defaced with the words "Resign Now, Scum, Psalm 2." The graffiti also said "Vote No on the bailout." Bachmann was one of 171 representatives to vote against the $700 billion financial bailout package.

Lopez writes:

The invocation of Psalm 2 also does little to shed light on possible motives. Sometimes called the coronation psalm, it refers to rulers who have displeased God and risk his wrath, said William Barnes, a professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament at North Central University in Minneapolis. "I took it to a meeting [of biblical scholars] today and we just don't know what to make of it," he said. "It's not something we've commonly seen used in a political context."

Parts of Psalm 2 include, "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters. ... You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. (NIV)"

October 22, 2008

James Dobson interviews Sarah Palin

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson interviewed Sarah Palin on his radio show earlier this week, and the clip was posted this morning.

Mark Barna at the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote Monday that although Dobson didn't attend a rally, he spoke with her on the phone for 18 minutes.

Update: The interview is about 20 minutes long and starts at about 2:52 minutes into the show.

Most of the interview is chit chat, with very little discussion of what policies McCain-Palin would implement, except Palin says that she and McCain support the planks in the Republican Party's platform. However, the platform does say it supports stem cell research without the "unethical destruction of embryonic human life." McCain has said he would support embryonic stem-cell research. The platform also supports a constitutional amendment as between a man and a woman, something McCain does not support on a national level. Finally, the platform supports a constitutional amendment banning all abortion, which McCain has said should be decided on the state level.

After the jump, here's an interview play-by-play, in case you don't have time to listen.

Continue reading James Dobson interviews Sarah Palin...

October 21, 2008

Obama's non-Muslim faith

Twelve percent of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, a number that has not decreased since June, according to a survey released by the Pew Research Center today.

The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson just posted a video from the American News Project that shows John McCain supporters, some of whom are Muslim, confronting a fellow McCain supporter who claimed that Obama is "a socialist with an Islamic background.'' NPR has a story on how Obama's distance from Muslims is hurting his appeal in Michigan.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Obama on Sunday and addressed those the rumors that Obama is a Muslim.

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

October 21, 2008

Was Sarah Palin's SNL appearance funny?

Sarah Palin appeared on Saturday Night Live, and there was, yet again, a slight religion reference.

After actor Alec Baldwin pretends to mistake Palin for actress Tina Fey, he says, "I see. Forgive me. I feel I must say this: You are way hotter in person."

Palin replied, "Thank you, and I must say, your brother Stephen is my favorite Baldwin brother." Stephen Baldwin starred in the Usual Suspects and is an outspoken born-again Christian.

Time magazine included a response from Alec Baldwin about his brother's conversion.

How do you feel about your brother Stephen's conversion to Evangelical Christianity?

"If it wasn't political, I probably wouldn't have anything to say. But the Evangelicals who say AIDS is payback for homosexuals - you don't see liberals saying Hurricane Ike is payback for the Bush family living in Texas. I think that my brother really is very devout and very dedicated, and none of that bothers me until it becomes political."


The family I watched it with was not very impressed with her short performance. She was a good sport to bob her head through the rap routine, but she had so few lines to make watching the whole SNL skit worth it.

October 20, 2008

Palin supports federal marriage amendment, says her faith has been mocked

Sarah Palin expressed support for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, the opposite of the stance her running mate takes.

Palin told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that she would like an amendment similar to one she voted for in Alaska. "I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage," she said. Back in 2004, John McCain called the amendment unnecessary and un-Republican.

Brody posted a series of interviews with Palin, and gay marriage is the main policy stance she discusses. The most interesting answers are about her faith, but she doesn't go very specifically into how it affects her policies.

Brody asks Palin about the shots taken at her because of her faith and she responded by saying:

Yeah, and I think the saddest part of that is that faith, not just my faith, faith and God in general has been mocked through this campaign, and that breaks my heart, and that is unfair for others who share a faith in God and choose to worship our Lord in whatever private manner that they deem fit, and my faith has always been pretty personal.

She continues about how her how her faith is very personal.

I haven't really worn it on my sleeve. I haven't been out there preaching it. I've always been of the mind that you can walk the walk. You just don't have to be talking the talk about your beliefs, so just wanting maybe my life to be able to reflect my faith. So it's always been pretty personal, and that was kind of a surprise in the last couple of months that people would misconstrue and spin anything that has to do with my faith or anybody else's and turn it into something to be mocked.

Dan Gilgoff at Beliefnet points out that 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said the line about wearing faith on his sleeve during his '04 convention speech. Hillary Clinton also used a similar line at the 2007 Sojourner's Forum: "And, you know, I take my faith very seriously and very personally. And I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves."

Back to Palin, here's more on her faith and how she relies on God for strength.

I'm going to keep plugging away at this and I'm going to keep seeking God's guidance and His wisdom and His favor and His grace, for me, for my family, for this campaign, for our nation. Again, no matter what anybody else says about it, it's between me and God, and I am so thankful that that he has strengthened me with this understanding and this belief that I can count on Him. I can reach out to Him asking for that strength, asking for the blessings that He so freely gives and I don't know how anybody would want to do this if they didn't have real strong faith in God that He's got it all under control.

Brody also asks Palin about her baptism. "Well, it was a neat thing to be able to do," she says. Her description is fairly generic, with no mention of Jesus. She focuses on her role in bettering the world.

And I knew that I wouldn't be able to handle all that was laid out in front of me in life if I did not have strong faith in my Creator, a mission towards trying to fulfill my own destiny and trying to make the world a bit better for others, so that the manifestation of that belief that I had, I was very aware of what I could do about it at the time, and at the time it was to take that that public step to be baptized and the principle behind that too is as you're raised up out of the water it's like, 'hey world, this is my confession of faith that I'm going to try to lead and live my life according to my belief that God as my Creator has good plans for all of us, and we are to seek those plans and seek the destiny that he has for all of us.'

October 17, 2008

Palin: 'Thank the Lord' and 'God has so richly blessed this land'

Sarah Palin is ramping up God talk on the campaign trail.

The Associated Press reports that yesterday, she said, "God has so richly blessed this land, not just with the oil and the gas, but with wind and the hydro, the geothermal and the biomass.

And today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin said the campaign had seen some good news in recent polls. " 'We even saw today, thank the Lord, we saw some movement,' she said, looking upwards and making a fist when she said "thank the Lord."

October 17, 2008

Hispanic Protestants Move Towards Obama

President Bush won the majority of Hispanic Protestants in 2004, but a new survey shows that Hispanic Protestants are moving away from the Republican Party.

October 17, 2008

Who's Funnier?

John McCain and Barack Obama poked fun at themselves and each other at the Alfred E. Smith dinner, an annual charity event of the Catholic archdiocese of New York.

The speeches are really fun to watch as the candidates turned off their jabbing tones.

At one point, McCain said, "? maverick I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade."

On a more serious note, McCain praised Smith for his pro-life stance. "Your comfort for the sick and needy, your belief in the dignity of life, especially your gallant defense of the rights of the unborn. I'm proud to count myself as your friend and ally."

Obama followed McCain's messiah mention with, "Contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-el to save the planet earth."

Update: The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson notes that John Kerry was not invited to the same event in 2004 because he supports abortion rights.

October 17, 2008

Joe the Plumber's Born Again Perspective

Even after years of reporting on religion in politics, God-o-Meter is always taken by how often a random voter turns out to be deeply influenced by his faith, and how often those voters hail from the born again tradition.

Take the newly famous Joe the Plumber's comments yesterday about he views what the U.S. has done for Iraqis:

"Everything that Americans take for granted, I mean these guys haven't had it - now they've got it. That's an incredible thing. I don't know if you guys are Christians or not, but that's like someone coming to Jesus and being saved. These guys have freedom."

Much as the establishment media overlooks the role of religion in the American electorate, interviews with average Joe voters often remind reporters that religion is an major force shaping how they see the world, and in how they vote.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

October 16, 2008

Sarah Palin to Appear on Saturday Night Live

Sarah Palin will appear on Saturday Night Live this weekend, John McCain told David Letterman on his show tonight.

Several people have told me that they watched Tina Fey's depiction of Palin before watching Palin's actual interviews, and it's been interesting to watch the tiny religion references in the skits.

During the first skit, Amy Poehler portrays Hillary Clinton saying, "I believe global warming is caused by man," which Fey responds with, "And I believe it's just God hugging us closer."

And then Fey's response in the debate replay: "Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.'"

October 16, 2008

The Smartest Evangelical Politician You Never Heard Of

Update: Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008, 9 a.m.
stephen%20harper.jpg
STEPHEN HARPER

Look to the near North if you want to take a glimpse at smarter-than-thou politics as executed in the recent nation-wide elections in Canada.

This week, Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, the current prime minister, achieved a very significant re-election besting his Liberal opponent Stephane Dion, whose signature issue was to call for a carbon tax. (Great move, Dion, in perfectly playing the role of tax-and-spend liberal.)

Granted conservatives are still a minority in parliament, but they have public opinion and trust on their side in terms of managing Canada's economy and its important role in fighting global terrorism.

Here's what The Wall Street Journal editorial page had to say about Harper in the Oct. 16 edition:

Since first taking the Conservatives to a national victory in 2006, [Harper] has reversed a pattern of parliamentary neglect of Canada's armed forces and made proper funding for the troops a priority. Rather than flee Afghanistan as Mr. Dion wanted to do, Mr. Harper's Canada is playing a crucial role in the international effort to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Mr. Harper's first government also cut the national sales tax, personal taxes and corporate taxes. His domestic platform in this race promised to cut corporate taxes further to attract capital and grow the economy. Mr. Dion promised to levy a new carbon tax on business. Mr. Harper was able to explain to voters that a carbon tax is a tax on them. John McCain, take note.


Harper's evangelical credentials are well-known (he's associated with a Christian Missionary Alliance church in Ottawa). But what's Harper's secret sauce for persuading Canada's electorate that he's not George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Pat Roberston, or Gary Bauer?

Let me suggest Harper is succeeding where other evangelical politicians (south of the Canadian border) are failing for the following reasons:


Continue reading The Smartest Evangelical Politician You Never Heard Of...

October 15, 2008

Liveblogging: Obama, McCain Face Off

Barack Obama and John McCain began tonight's debate by reiterating their plans to stimulate the economy. CNN is updating the transcript during the debate.

McCain doesn't believe the government should "spread the wealth around" as the candidates debate over what Joe The Plumber wants.

The moderator Bob Schieffer asked McCain and Obama to address the negativity in their campaigns. McCain brings up comments made by Rep. John Lewis, who compared the campaign to the segregationist tone fostered in the 1960s. Now they are comparing the actions of the people who attend their rallies.

McCain brings up Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers and ACORN. The candidates defend their running mates.

The candidates are discussing plans for energy independence and health care. Joe The Plumber comes up for the 13th time. Ted points out that Wiki already has an entry.

The moderator asks the candidates whether they would appoint a Supreme Court justice who would disagree with their stance on Roe V. Wade. McCain says he would never impose a litmus test on justices. He says he wants to leave Roe V. Wade to the states. He says he would consider anyone for the Supreme Court based on their qualifications.

Obama says he wouldn't impose the litmus test and reiterates his support for Roe V. Wade. He says that women should be able to decide and the constitution allows for right to privacy.

McCain says he wants to change the culture of America and says those of us who are "proudly pro-life understand that." McCain brought up Obama's present vote on partial-birth abortion. Obama says he's willing to support a ban on late-term abortions as long as there are exceptions for when the life of the mother is in danger.

Obama says he wants to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and that no one is pro-abortion. McCain says "health of the woman" has been stretched by the pro-abortion movement and talks about adoption.

The candidates end on education.

Schieffer says "Go vote. ... It'll make you feel big and strong."

October 15, 2008

Obama calls his 'cling to guns or religion' comments 'boneheaded'

Sen. Barack Obama called his description of small town Americans - "they cling to guns or religion" - his "biggest boneheaded move."

Obama's original comments were made in April at a fundraiser in San Francisco and have followed him ever since The Huffington Post published them. He was describing his difficulty with winning over working-class voters in Pennsylvania.

"And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," Obama said.

Obama described the comments as boneheaded during an interview with The New York Times set to be published Sunday.

"I mean, part of what I was trying to say to that group in San Francisco was, ?You guys need to stop thinking that issues like religion or guns are somehow wrong,' " Obama told the Times. "Because, in fact, if you've grown up and your dad went out and took you hunting, and that is part of your self-identity and provides you a sense of continuity and stability that is unavailable in your economic life, then that's going to be pretty important, and rightfully so. And if you're watching your community lose population and collapse but your church is still strong and the life of the community is centered around that, well then, you know, we'd better be paying attention to that."


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October 15, 2008

The Surge of the Whitebread Protestants to Obama

With all the attention showered on evangelical Christians and Catholics, we've neglected the religious group partly driving Barack Obama's recent surge in the polls: mainline Protestants.

This bucket includes the historic American churches that once dominated the spiritual landscape but have been losing members in recent years: United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in the USA, American Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ. Their members represent 18% of the population.

This used to be a solidly Republican group. In 2004, they went for President George W. Bush 54%-46%. This summer, John McCain was leading Sen. Obama among these voters 43% to 40%, according to a study by John Green of the University of Akron.

But an ABCNews/Washington Post poll released Monday showed Sen. Obama now leading among Mainliners 53%-44%, indicating that the undecided voters are breaking heavily for the Democratic candidate.

Why? The superficial answer is, as with so many other questions, the economy. In Beliefnet's Twelve Tribes study, 68% of centrist Mainliners (what we called "White Bread Protestants") said the economy was the No. 1 issue compared with just 4% who said social issues.

Growing More Conservative

But that only gets at part of the riddle.


For one thing, Mainliners are traditionally conservative on economics - and surveys indicate that if anything they've become more skeptical of big government since 2004. Slightly more than four in 10 "white bread Protestants" call themselves conservative compared with 16% who say they're liberal. In some ways, Sen. McCain is actually an ideal candidate to appeal to this group - a mainline Christian himself (raised Episcopalian), he talks about fiscal discipline and earmarks.

The Mainline shift to Sen. Obama may be partly an unintended consequence of Sen. McCain's efforts to energize evangelical Christians, including through the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Though fiscally conservative, mainline Protestants are socially liberal - so they would be unimpressed by the Republican Party adopting the most antiabortion platform ever. Mainliners may be irritated or scared by Gov. Palin's religious language and beliefs - including her attendance at a Pentecostal church espousing "End Times" theology (that we're approaching the end of the world and Christ's return).

In general, Mainliners have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the role the "religious right" has played in the Republican Party. According to a new survey by a progressive group called Faith in Public Life, Mainliners - by a margin of two to one -- believe public officials are too close to religious leaders. Evangelicals, by a two to one margin, think politicians should pay more attention to religion.

If you view the campaign as a chess game, Sen. McCain made a bold and successful gambit to shore up evangelicals by picking Gov. Palin - but thereby left several other pieces on the board vulnerable.

Targeting Mainliners, Moderate Evangelicals

Sen. Obama has skillfully capitalized on this. The campaign's religious outreach arm has initiated 950 "American values" house parties, about 65% of which have been among mainline Protestants. His campaign recently sent out a massive faith mailing targeted at mainline Protestants and moderate evangelicals.

The electoral map makers have insured that these groups get special attention. A list of states with higher-than-average concentrations of Mainliners is also a list of the key electoral battlegrounds: Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

There's the simple fact that Sen. Obama himself is a Midwestern mainline Protestant. Though thought of as a "black liberation" enclave, Sen. Obama's church in Chicago was part of the United Church of Christ, a mostly white mainline denomination - and Sen. Obama's faith rhetoric is more traditional Protestant than Black liberationist.

Sen. Obama's frequent discussion of his personal faith seemed targeted at evangelicals but may have given comfort instead to traditional Mainliners. "Obama planting seeds in the evangelical garden has borne fruit in the mainline garden," says Mara Vanderslice, founder of a progressive religious group Matthew25 and religious outreach director for John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

All in all, the economy is still the driving force in the mainline shift. But these other noneconomic factors help explain why the campaign has seen -- as of now -- more improvement with mainline Protestants than with other groups.

Reprinted from Steven Waldman's Political Perceptions column at WSJ.com (Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

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October 14, 2008

Obama widens lead over McCain

John McCain's support from evangelicals fell 12 percent from last week, a new
The CBS News/New York Times
poll shows.

McCain still leads Obama 63 to 27 percent among evangelicals, but Obama gained seven percentage points from last week. A September 25 CBS poll showed McCain leading 69 to 20 percent.

Overall, the poll shows Obama with a 14-point lead over McCain: 53 percent to 39 percent.

ABC News polling director Gary Langer wrote yesterday that no presidential candidate has come back from an October 10-point deficit in pre-election polls since 1936.

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October 14, 2008

Bye Bye Reagan Dems, etc.

Quinnipiac's latest on CO, MI, MN, and WI disclose a few salient points on religious voting blocs.
1. In Michigan, where all Catholics barely split for Kerry 50-49, white Catholics are now backing Obama 55-37. Meanwhile, white evangelicals have gone from supporting Bush 2004 76-24, to preferring McCain 58-32. No wonder McCain kissed the state goodbye.
2. White evangelicals in Dobsonland are hard core. In Colorado they went 74-26 for Bush in 2004. Now they back McCain 78-18.
3. White evangelicals in MN and WI go for McCain 65-29 and 57-38 respectively. All told, Midwestern evangelicals do seem to be softening up for the GOP.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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October 14, 2008

Who has a better plan to fix the economic mess?

As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a plan to inject $250 billion into national banks, the candidates are getting more specific with their own plans to stimulate the economy.

John McCain will release proposals that add up to $52.5 billion, following Barack Obama's proposals unveiled yesterday estimated at $60 billion, The New York Times reports.

McCain will propose the following:

-Give a lower tax rate for people 59 years and older who withdraw money from retirement plans in 2009 and 2010

-Reduce the capital gains tax on stock profits for two years by 50 percent

-Create an acceleration in the tax write-off for stock losses, allowing Americans to deduct $15,000 in losses a year for 2008 and 2009

-Place a suspension on the tax on unemployment insurance benefits in 2008 and 2009

-Buy troubled mortgages at face value and give qualified homeowners instead fixed-rate mortgages (Already proposed)

Yesterday, Obama proposed the following:

-Give a $3,000 tax credit to employers who create new jobs

-Eliminate a tax penalty for everyone to borrow from their retirement savings, eliminate income taxes on unemployment benefits, and double the government’s loan guarantees for automakers

-Create a government facility to lend money to cities and states

-Place a 90-day moratorium on most home foreclosures
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October 14, 2008

Rasmussen Shifts

I've been looking at the crosstabs (premium access, I'm afraid) for yesterday's Rasmussen polls of five battleground states won by Bush in 2004 (VA, FL, OH, MO, and NC), and the news about religious blocs is this. Catholics in the South have shifted significantly toward Obama, most importantly in Florida, where Obama has turned what was a three-point deficit for Kerry into a 15-point advantage. And white evangelicals in Ohio, who backed Bush in 2004 by 75-25, now prefer McCain by only 65-33. If they had voted that way four years ago, Kerry would have carried Ohio by over 100,000 votes and been president for the past four years. Likewise with the Catholics in Florida, by a few hundred thousand votes.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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October 13, 2008

Iowans, the Presidential, and Abortion

Iowans definitely seem to be in Barack Obama's camp--by 54-41, according to the latest SUSA poll. On abortion, Iowans split 53 percent pro-choice versus 45 percent pro-life. But whereas one-third of the pro-lifers prefer Obama, less than one-quarter of pro-choicers prefer McCain.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 10, 2008

Connecticut court okays same-sex marriage

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples have the right to marry, reversing a lower court ruling that civil unions had offered the same rights and benefits as marriage, the Associated Press reports.

The court ruled 4-3 that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry under the state constitution.

Connecticut joins California and Massachusetts as the only states that allow same-sex marriage. High courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington have ruled that there is no right to same-sex marriage under their constitutions.

In his majority opinion, Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote that the court found that the "segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm," in light of "the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody."

In his dissent, Justice Peter Zarella said any decision on gay marriage should be left to the legislature

"The ancient definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has its basis in biology, not bigotry," Zarella wrote. "If the state no longer has an interest in the regulation of procreation, then that is a decision for the legislature or the people of the state and not this court."

The Hartford Courant
writes that eight same-sex couples had brought the case after they were denied marriage licenses in 2004. A Superior Court ruled in July 2006 that civil unions already provide all the rights and protections of marriage. The couples then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Connecticut joins California and Massachusetts as the only states that allow same-sex marriage. High courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington have ruled that there is no right to same-sex marriage under their constitutions.

October 9, 2008

Younger Evangelicals More Progressive on Issues. On Candidates, Not So Much.

One of the big takeaways from [yesterday]'s new poll on religious voters is that white evangelicals under 35 are a lot more progressive than their parents, by a number of different measures. It's worth noting that abortion is not one of them:

More than six-in-ten (62%) say abortion is very important to their vote, compared to 55% of older evangelicals. Young white evangelicals are also strongly opposed to abortion rights, with approximately one-third saying abortion should be legal all or most of the time--almost identical to the percentage of older evangelicals.

But gay rights and diplomacy and other issues are are a much different story:

On the issue of same-sex marriage, by contrast, the influence of their generational peers is clear. Nearly four-in-ten young evangelicals say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian--a rate approximately the same as all young adults and more than double the rate of older evangelicals. Among older evangelicals, nearly half (49%) say same-sex marriage is an important voting issue, and a strong majority (61%) say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship. Among younger white evangelicals, however, less than a majority see same-sex marriage as a very important voting issue, and a majority (52%) favor either same-sex marriage or civil unions. The generation gap is largest on the issue of marriage, where younger white evangelicals are more than 2.5 times as likely to support same-sex marriage than older white evangelicals.

Despite their conservative views on abortion and stereotypes as single-issue voters, like older white evangelicals, young white evangelicals have a voting agenda that is much broader than abortion and same-sex marriage. Fully two-thirds of younger evangelicals say they would still vote for a candidate even if the candidate disagreed with them on the issue of abortion. Younger evangelicals rank a number of other issues, such as economic issues, terrorism, and Iraq higher than abortion, and roughly equal numbers say that health care is a very important voting issue as say abortion.

....A majority (56%) of younger evangelicals believe that diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace, compared to only 44% of older white evangelicals. Finally, younger white evangelicals are more likely than older white evangelicals to favor a bigger government offering more services by a margin of 20 points (44% and 24% respectively).

And yet that leftward lurch on issues doesn't translate into as dramatic a shift on the candidates:

Like older evangelicals, younger evangelicals strongly identify with the Republican Party and support John McCain, but levels of support among younger evangelicals were modestly lower for McCain (65% vs. 69%) and higher for Barack Obama (29% vs. 25%). Like their generational peers, younger evangelicals are also significantly less likely to identify as conservative than older evangelicals.

So what gives? A few analysts on this morning's Faith in Public Life call pinned Obama's failure to peel off more young evangelical voters from John McCain on a lackluster effort to reach those voters by the Obama team.

That doesn't wash with God-o-Meter. Obama's religious outreach director is himself a 26-year-old Pentecostal. The Obama camp's current faith tour is built largely around sending evangelical author Donald Miller to evangelical campuses like Calvin College and to campuses in evangelical strongholds, such as Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

An Obama aide says the campaign's religious outreach team had no illusions about being able to make major inroads into the evangelical world: "Our outreach is concentrated in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. We're talking to moderate faith voters broadly, often more to Mainline Protestants than evangelicals. Bush won Mainliners in 2004 so that's been a focus. We're winning Catholics and Mainliners and Latino evangelicals, and we've increased over 2004 among evangelicals while McCain has dropped a few points."

But it's undeniable that evangelical outreach has been a major focus of Obama's effort. So what's the real reason his evangelical outreach has paid such patry dividends?

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

October 9, 2008

Become a fan

You can become a Facebook fan of this politics blog and you can join me on Twitter.

Also, Christianity Today created a special page for the 2008 election that includes profiles of Barack Obama and John McCain, details on the state ballot initiatives, plus previous editorials and news stories.

October 8, 2008

Young evangelicals plan to go against the flow

Most young evangelicals will not vote for Barack Obama with their peers and will not support John McCain as strongly as their parents next month, a survey released this morning suggests.

Most young adults overwhelmingly support Obama (59 percent) while 35 percent plan to vote for McCain. On the other hand, 29 percent of young evangelicals plan to vote for Obama and 65 percent support McCain. Nearly 70 percent of older evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 25 percent plan to vote for Obama.

Faith in Public Life released a new survey today called "The Young and the Faithful" conducted by Public Religion Research from August 28 to September 19.

The generation gap in this survey is closer than the results found in the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly survey, which found that older evangelicals support McCain nine more percentage points than younger evangelicals.

The survey also found an interesting comparison between what issues evangelicals find important in the 2008 election and what evangelicals are hearing about in church.

October 8, 2008

Palin's Religion

I think we all can stipulate this. Sarah Palin's religious identity has been a major, if not the major, source of both the enthusiasm and the antipathy that she's generated. The evangelical base of the Republican Party recognizes her as one of its own. The secularist base of the Democratic Party recognizes her as the religious right made vice presidential flesh. And so, in an era when candidates for national office are expected to sit down and chat about how their religious backgrounds shape their worldviews and public service, why have none of the handful of journalistic interlocutors who've gotten a whack at her ventured into this territory?

At the moment, there's some Jewish unhappiness, including in the higher reaches of Jewish Republicanism, about Palin's lack of responsiveness in addressing the "Jews for Jesus" question that arose when it emerged that she had been in the congregation when that organization's head showed up and declared that Palestinian violence against Israelis was God's judgment on the Israelis for not having embraced Jesus.

While a spokesman for Palin has said that the Republican running mate rejects this view, the McCain-Palin campaign has declined to say whether she shares her pastor's general support for Jews for Jesus -- a group that Jewish organizations accuse of using deceptive tactics because it tells people they can embrace Jesus and still remain true to Judaism.

Asked this week whether the Alaska governor would condemn the missionary group, McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb told JTA that "vice-presidential candidates cannot be in the business of condemning religious groups who do not commit violence" in a country that guarantees "freedom of religion."

Goldfarb added that it is "extremely inappropriate for any elected official" to comment "on any religious group" and its mission. "That's a fundamental breach of the separation of church and state," he said.

Right. Like Sen. Lieberman should not celebrate the mission of Christians United for Israel and praise its leader as a Man of God.

There are, of course, any number of faith-based questions to be tossed in Palin's direction. But the general expectation is that she is not going to be engaging in any more tetes-a-tete with MSM types until Nov. 5 or thereabouts. And so, like the prisoners in Plato's cave, we seem to be condemned to knowing little more of Palin's faith than the shadows cast on the wall in front of us by the flickering light of YouTube.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 8, 2008

Whatever Happened to Gay Marriage as the Ultimate Wedge Issue?

A few years ago it looked like opposition to gay marriage was going to equal or surpass abortion as the ultimate wedge issue - a device capable of defeating Democrats in all but the most-liberal districts.

And yet consider this:

-The topic didn't come up in Tuesday's debate
-There's not been a single McCain-Palin ad on gay marriage.
-John McCain did not mention it in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.
-Sarah Palin did not mention it in her convention acceptance speech, either.
-Of the 57 speeches listed on McCain's Web site, I couldn't find a single mention of the gay marriage issue.

What happened?


For starters, the topic has less currency because there are fewer referendums on state ballots. While 11 states considered ballot initiatives in 2004, only three are this year. That means fewer campaign dollars and volunteer hours focused on the issue.

More important, public opinion has shifted. Social issues in general have become less important to voters as the economy has worsened. The new Twelve Tribes study by Beliefnet and the University of Akron, showed that percentage of people listing moral issues as most important is now half what it was in 2004.

But that's just part of the explanation. After all, abortion is getting significant attention. The Catholic bishops, for instance, have been far more vocal opposing abortion than gay marriage. It's not like social issues have completely disappeared.

Rather, while the public hasn't much changed its views on abortion, it has on gay rights. For instance, in 2004 48% of "Convertible Catholics" supported civil unions or gay marriage. In 2008, 61% do. Among Moderate Evangelicals, the percentage was 33% in 2004, 42% in 2008.

Just as important, young people have starkly different views on gay issues than their parents. Most surveys show this but it's particularly striking among evangelical Christians, who are just as anti-abortion as their parents but significantly more supportive of gay rights. The Barna Group asked "born again Christians" if they believed that "homosexual lifestyles" are a "major problem" The results show a stunning shift by age:

Age
18-41 -- 35%
42-60: -- 52%
61+: -- 71%

With support for gay marriage or civil unions rising, conservative politicians have to be careful where and how they push this issue.

Though McCain approved a Republican platform that called for a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, he routinely contradicts that view by saying he wants it left up to the states. When McCain and Palin do discuss their opposition to gay marriage it's now usually accompanied by a statement of tolerance towards homosexuals.

Political strategists realize there are still large numbers of people who view gay marriage as a major threat. But now, candidates must appeal to them without alienating moderates or younger voters.

Since abortion seems to work just as well as ever among culturally conservative voters like moderate evangelicals, they figure: stick with that.

Adapted from Steven Waldman's "Political Perceptions" column at the Wall Street Journal Online.

October 7, 2008

Liveblogging: McCain, Obama battle on the economy

Barack Obama and John McCain are making jabs at each other as they walk around at the town hall debate tonight.

Most of the debate has focused on the economy, including the bailout, healthcare, and tax cuts so far. A transcript is available here.

The debate shifted to foreign policy with a question about the candidates' support for Israel: "If, despite your best diplomatic efforts, Iran attacks Israel, would you be willing to commit U.S. troops in support and defense of Israel? Or would you wait on approval from the U.N. Security Council?"

McCain said, "Let me say that we obviously would not wait for the United Nations Security Council. ... we can never allow a second Holocaust to take place."

Obama: "If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in? ... So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us."

There were seven references to God in the vice presidential debate. Tonight, zero. McCain said "my friends" or "my friend" 22 times, but there was little faith talk from either candidate tonight.

Maybe the closest was Obama's line when referring to McCain's approach to health care: "So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away." Sounds a tiny bit like Job's "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away."

October 7, 2008

Huck, Culture Warrior

Remember back to the Republican primaries, when Mike Huckabee campaigned as a new kind of evangelical candidate, adding issues like the environment, education, and poverty to the hot-button agenda of God, guns, and gays?

That big-tent Huck seems to be in much shorter supply now. An email the Arkansas governor just sent out soliciting donations for his political action committee--whose beneficiaries include John McCain and Sarah Palin--asks fors $5 for each of these five red meat issues:

1. Protection of Human Life 2. Traditional Marriage 3. Tax policy that doesn't punish people for working, but rewards them 4. 2nd amendment rights 5. Supreme Court and Federal Court judge selection

Is this more evidence that the "new kind of evangelical voter" story has been overplayed? Or just that Huck is changing his tune a bit?

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

October 6, 2008

Climate change natural or 'End of Days'?

In case you haven't seen it yet, Tina Fey included a small religion reference in her most recent Saturday Night Live skit.

"Gwen, we don't know if this climate change hoozie-what's-it is man-made or if it's just a natural part of the 'End of Days.'"

October 6, 2008

Ohiobama

As Michigan goes, so goes Ohio? The big (2,262 likely voters) Columbus Dispatch Ohio poll, showing Obama up 49-42, has Buckeye Catholics flipping from 55-44 for Bush in 2004 to 49-44 for Obama. Protestants are just about where they were four years ago; unfortunately, the poll does not break out evangelicals. Jews prefer Obama 66-31--within hailing distance of the 70 percent mark I'm predicting. And note this. Among the 10 percent of Ohio voters who profess no religion, Bush dropped nine percentage points from 2000 to 2004, to 29 percent. McCain now stands 15 points below that. Other than African Americans (also 10 percent of the voting population), no voting bloc is more pro-Obama.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 3, 2008

House passes bailout plan

The House of Representatives voted 263-171 today to pass the Senate’s version of the $700 billion bailout bill, a plan some evangelicals told me they cautiously support.

The House voted against the plan on Monday, creating a steep decline in the markets. The Senate sweetened the deal, adding $150 billion in tax breaks and increased Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation coverage from $100,000 to $250,000. The bill would also bill would curb executive pay, provide relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax for another year, and set up oversight committees.

Update: President Bush signed the bailout bill.

October 3, 2008

NH religious

A new Saint Anselm College New Hampshire poll, showing Obama up by 12 points, has him leading among Protestants by seven and among Catholics by four. No white Catholic problem for him there. The poll turned up 70 born-again/evangelical Christians, who broke 54-29 for McCain--providing some more confirmation for my hypothesis that evangelicals in the North are significantly more likely to prefer Obama than their co-religionists in Dixie.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 2, 2008

Liveblog: Vice-presidential candidates debate away

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are debating over tax breaks and healthcare during tonight's debate. Palin seemed very nervous at the beginning but smoothed out eventually. Here's a partial transcript from CNN.

When asked about climate change, Palin said she didn't want to argue over the causes while Biden said it is man made.

Biden says that same sex couples should have the same constitutional and legal rights as heterosexual couples. Palin say she's doesn't want to re-define the traditional definition of marriage, which Biden said he agrees.

Biden: "Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it."

The debate moves to foreign policy. Biden says religious leaders control Iran's foreign policy. Palin says there must be a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

Both candidates call for the end of the genocide in Darfur.

I'm waiting for the transcript to get the context for these, but Palin seems to be speaking Christianese: "Her reward is in heaven," "worldview," "city on a hill."

Update: Palin to Biden "I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right?"

Update: "That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here."

An abortion reference slipped in when Biden talked about why he changed his views on appointing Bork to the Supreme Court.

"Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties."

TV commentators are saying people who were hoping for a train wreck are probably disappointed.

The Susan B. Anthony List president implies a comeback for Palin but doesn't offer to say where she went.

"The Sarah we saw tonight was the same Sarah from the GOP convention - the real Sarah. She is back," Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In a CNN poll, 51 percent thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job. However, respondents said Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent.

The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson writes, "Joe Biden wasn't asked about whether he should take Communion. Sarah Palin wasn't asked whether she speaks in tongues. In fact, tonight's vice-presidential debate featured only minimal talk of faith at all..." Reuters' Tom Heneghan asks, "Has the faith factor fizzled in the U.S. campaign?"

October 2, 2008

Christian legal firm representing legislators suing to halt Troopergate

Liberty Legal Institute is representing five state legislators suing to stop the Alaska legislature's investigation into Troopergate, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Troopergate is an investigation of whether Sarah Palin dismissed a public safety commissioner because he wouldn't fire a state trooper who went through an divorce with her sister.

Sean Cockerham writes that Liberty Legal Institute lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values, but it's unclear in the article how the latter is involved in the case.

October 2, 2008

Poll: 4 in 10 evangelicals say Palin not experienced

About four in 10 white evangelical Protestants say Sarah Palin does not have the necessary experience to be an effective president, according to a recent poll conducted by Washington Post-ABC News.

Last weekend, two in 10 evangelicals planned to vote Barack Obama, according to survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

October 2, 2008

The Death of Joe Biden's Wife -- An Honest Crisis of Faith

I really admire this passage from Joe Biden's memoir, Promises to Keep. It's about the sudden death of his wife, Neilia (above), and their baby daughter Naomi in a car accident shortly after his election to the Senate in 1992. It is defiantly not an explication of the power of faith, but rather an honest -- and politically risky -- description of what it really felt like. His faith returned later, but I think anyone who has been through horrific tragedy will appreciate the honesty here:

They flew us to Wilmington, but I didn't know anything for sure until I got to the hospital. All the way up, I kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay, that I was letting my imagination run away with me, but the minute I got to the hospital and saw Jimmy's face, I knew the worst had happened. Beau, Hunt and Naomi had been in the car with Neilia when the accident happened. Neilia had been killed and so had our baby daughter. The boys were both alive, but Beau had a lot of broken bones and hunt had injuries. The doctors couldn't rule out permanent damage. I could not speak, only felt this hollow core grow in my chest, like I was gong to be sucked inside a black hole.

The first few days I felt trapped in a constant twilight of vertigo, like in the dream where you're suddenly falling...only I was constantly falling. In moments of fitful sleep I was aware of the dim possibility that I would wake up, truly wake up, and this would not have happened. But then I'd open my eyes to the sight of my sons in their hospital beds -Beau in a full body cast--and it was back. And as consciousness gathered again, I could always feel at least one other physical present in the room--and there would be Val, or my mom, or Jimmy. They never left my side. I have no memory of ever being physically alone.

Most of all I was numb, but there were moments when the pain cut through like a shard of broken class. I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option. But I'd look at Beau and Hunter asleep and wonder what new terrors their own dreams held, and wonder who would explain to my sons my being gone, too. And I knew I had no choice but to fight to stay alive.

Except for the memorial service, I stayed in the hospital room with my sons. My life collapsed into their needs. If I could focus on what they needed minute by minute, I thought I might stay out of the black hole. My future was telescoped into the effort of putting one foot in front of the other. The horizon faded fro my view. Washington, politics, the Senate had no hold on me. I was supposed to be sworn into the Senate in two weeks, but I could not bear to image the scene without Neilia....


There was good news: The doctors assured us that Beau and Hunter would make full recoveries. Beau's bones would mend. Hunter had no brain impairment. But Christmas passed with the boys in the hospital, and I began to feel my anger. When the boys were asleep or when Val or Mom was taking a turn at their bedside, I'd bust out of the hospital and go walking the nearby streets. Jimmy would go with me, and I'd steer him wordlessly down into the darkest and seediest neighborhoods I could find. I liked to go at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight. I was always looking for a fight. I had not known I was capable of such rage. I knew I had been cheated out of a future, but I felt I'd been cheated of a past, too.

The underpinnings of my life had been kicked out from under me...and it wasn't just the loss of Neilia and Naomi. All my life, I'd been taught about our benevolent God. This is a forgiving God who is tolerant. This is a God who gave us free will to be able to doubt. This was a loving God, a God of comfort. Well, I didn't want to hear anything about a merciful God. No words, no prayer, no sermon gave me ease. I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry. I found no comfort in the Church. So I kept walking the dark streets to try to exhaust the rage."

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

October 2, 2008

Quote of the day

"Did you know that Joe Biden’s priest can forgive parishioners’ sins but can’t keep them out of jail if they commit a crime? No, really, it’s crazy! It’s almost like we’re talking about two completely different things!"

-- Mollie Hemingway of GetReligion.org, on news reports that "prominent Southern Baptists see nothing wrong with Sarah Palin serving as vice president" even as they believe women shouldn't be pastors.

October 2, 2008

Four students suspended at George Fox over Obama stunt

NEWBERG, Ore. - Four students at George Fox University confessed to hanging an effigy of Sen. Barack Obama from a tree on campus and were suspended for up to a year, school officials announced Tuesday.

The students names were not released.

Other sanctions include community service and multicultural education, which must be completed before the students can return to campus, said Brad Lau, vice president of student life.

The students were singled out during a campus investigation late last week as those responsible for hanging a life-size cardboard cutout from a tree on campus with a sign saying "Act Six reject."

Act Six is a scholarship and leadership program for Portland students, many of whom are minorities.

"These students were very sorry and deeply grieved by the impact of this event," Lau said. "Regardless of their intentions, the image of a black man hanging from a tree is one of the most hurtful racist symbols of our history."

Lau declined to give any details about the investigation or the possible motivation of the four students.

The 3,355-student Christian university, which was founded by Quaker pioneers in 1891, stopped short of dismissing the students permanently. The campus is "a redemptive community, and we allow for the possibility of change," Lau said.

The FBI is continuing its investigation into possible civil rights violations, including whether the display intimidated minority students in exercising their federal rights, FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said.

Vanessa Wilkins, a 19-year-old sophomore in the Act Six program, said she is satisfied with the level of punishment of the four students. "I don't think they knew how far it would go," she said. "They didn't understand the repercussions of their actions. I don't believe the students thought this all the way through."

Related Elsewhere: Christian college president denounces Obama effigy

October 2, 2008

Poll: Young evangelicals less enthusiastic about McCain

WASHINGTON - Parents may know best, but when it comes to this year's election, fewer young evangelical voters are taking Mom's and Dad's advice into the voting booth, according to a new survey.

While Sen. John McCain maintains a winning margin among white evangelical Christians of all ages, young white evangelical voters are less supportive of McCain than evangelical voters over the age of 30, according to the poll conducted for the PBS program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc.

McCain has the support of 71 percent of white evangelicals, but only 62 percent of white evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29.

"Evangelical voters have been so solidly Republican in the last 20 years, so if this signals a shift, it could have wide-ranging political implications," said Kim Lawton, the managing editor of "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."

Some differences on social issues also were highlighted in the survey. A majority of younger white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition for civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples. Older evangelicals are strongly opposed.

Both age groups remain solidly opposed to abortion.

"There's been so much discussion about evangelical voters but there's been very little research," said Lawton. "This is the first to confirm there are some generational differences."
Jeff Fralick, a student at Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist university, may be even more confirmation of a shift.

"I believe that Barack Obama is the best choice for president," Fralick said. "For my parents, however, it is a different story."

Fralick has been actively involved in campaigning for the Democratic nominee on the Christian campus in Waco, Texas.

"In the past I feel that they (older evangelicals) have been swayed by the thought that a responsible and religious person voted one way, conservative," Fralick said of his parents. "They may not agree with it, but they can accept that I am following a good path, though it is different than theirs."

The nationwide survey included 1,400 adults, including 400 young evangelical Christians, and was conducted Sept. 4-21. The margin of error ranged from plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the overall survey to plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for younger evangelicals.

October 1, 2008

Senate passes bailout bill

John McCain, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden voted with 71 senators to pass the $700 billion bailout bill that would allow the government to buy troubled securities, The New York Times reports.

The bill included $150 billion in tax breaks for individuals and businesses and increased the amount covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from $100,000 to $250,000. The bill was also attached to legislation requiring insurers to treat mental health conditions similar to general health problems, The Times reports. The House is expected to vote Friday.

October 1, 2008

Palin and Biden offer Roe v. Wade views

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden discussed their opposing views on Roe v. Wade with Katie Couric in a CBS interview posted today.

Their answers are below, but many news outlets focus on Palin's difficulty naming another Supreme Court case she disagreed with besides Roe V. Wade.

Joe Biden

Katie Couric: Why do you think Roe v. Wade was a good decision?

Joe Biden: Because it's as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours. What does it say? It says in the first three months that decision should be left to the woman. And the second three months, where Roe v. Wade says, well then the state, the government has a role, along with the women's health, they have a right to have some impact on that. And the third three months they say the weight of the government's input is on the fetus being carried.

And so that's sort of reflected as close as anybody is ever going to get in this heterogeneous, this multicultural society of religious people as to some sort of, not consensus, but as close it gets.

I think the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment … offers a right to privacy. Now that's one of the big debates that I have with my conservative scholar friends, that they say, you know, unless a right is enumerated - unless it's actually, unless [it] uses the word "privacy" in the Constitution - then no such "constitutional right" exists. Well, I think people have an inherent right.

Sarah Palin

Couric Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

October 1, 2008

Quinnipiac Swings

Today's Quinnipiac polls of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania show big margins for Obama: 51-43 in Florida, 50-42 in Ohio, and 54-39 in Pennsylvania. He trails by five points among white voters in both Florida and Ohio, but is up by four in Pennsylvania. White Catholics split for McCain 51-44 in Florida, 48-47 and 47-45 in Ohio and Pennsylvania respectively. Nothing much of note there.

But the difference between the South and the North when it comes to white evangelicals is striking. McCain leads among them in Florida by the normal (for Republican candidates nationwide) 3-1 margin of 71-24. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, however, it's 2-1: 62-30 and 62-35 respectively.

This provides some more evidence that, in contrast to the last few election cycles, the white evangelical vote is going to bifurcate--to the benefit of Obama in the swing states north of the Mason-Dixon line.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)