A recent Pew Research Center Poll on religion and politics in American life shows that Liberals and Democrats have poor press on their "friendliness" toward religion.
69% of those polled thought Liberals had gone too far in tyring to keep religion out of government and schools. Only 26% thought the Democratic Party was "friendly" toward religion.
Not only do Liberals and Democrats have bad press on this issue, the press sometimes actively helps ramp up sentiment against religion. A recent Oregonian editorial God and the ballot box is a case in point. Speaking of the Senatorial campaign of Florida Republican Katherine Harris the editorial opines as to why she "is having a tough time running for the U.S. Senate":
She has shown why in increasingly erratic behavior, including some impolitic comments that came out in a religious journal last week. She told it that separation of church and state is "a lie" and that "if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin" -- a position not likely to play well with Florida's many Jewish voters.
The Oregonian apparently doesn't know there is some debate about whether forbidding the making of any law "respecting an establishment of religion" (First Amendment) and separation of church and state (an old line Anabaptist and Baptist theological position before it was a political position) are coterminus.
What's more interesting is that the Oregonian is shocked--SHOCKED!--that someone might say that electing religiously affiliated people could have an effect on moral values in legislation.
Let's run the sentiment again but substitute some other groups.
How about a Muslim candidate saying to his constituency, "if you're not electing Muslims, then in essence you are going to legislate sin". Sound completely off the wall?
Or how about an "off the wall" group in which 50% believe the Bible should be more important than the People's will in influencing U.S. Laws. That was Blacks in the latest Pew poll.
Crazy Muslims. Crazy Blacks. Crazy Katherine Harris.
Not that I think Harris' statement is problem free. Lots of Christians in the past were elected and allowed slavery to persist--as did Liberal icons like Thomas Jefferson. There is still slavery among Muslims in Africa (e.g., currently in Sudan). Lots of Christians have been elected and abortion is still going strong in the U.S. I didn't see a major policy difference when Jimmy Carter (a self-described "born again" Christian) was elected president.
But, all things being equal, I think a person's religious commitment does say something about moral commitment. And on basic moral issues like concern for the unborn, the widow and orphan, and those dying of malnutrition and disease in nooks and crannies all around the world, it's amazing how much work is done by religious people and organizations in comparision to their secular counterparts. Catholic charities probably have the longest and broadest continuing history. But other major religious groups have made a real contribution. Religious commitment does count for something.
The fact that the Oregonian thought Katherine Harris' statements were so far out that they needed to write an editorial on a race that has no national implications (unlike the Lieberman/Lamont race), plays right into the Pew poll findings that Liberals and Democrats (and Liberals and Democrats in the Mainstream Press) have a tough time relating to religious commitment as it effects public life.
The people polled get the problem. Unfortunately, Oregonian editors don't--not yet.