Results of off-year state elections this November suggest that reports of the religious right’s demise are greatly exaggerated, but some observers found the movement’s influence on election outcomes rather mixed.
Long-held assumptions about religious activists on the left and right have been confirmed in a new 40-page report issued in mid-September: the only thing both sides seem to have in common is that faith is a big part of their lives—bigger than among the general public.
Beyond that, the two poles differ dramatically on political priorities and biblical interpretation.
Health-care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit in September, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
"Now Watergate does not bother me,” sang Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant in the unofficial Alabama state anthem, “Does your conscience bother you?” When the Watergate break-in turned into a presidency-threatening scandal in 1973, it clearly bothered Billy Graham’s conscience.
Facing incendiary charges that health-care reform would result in government financing of abortion and euthanasia, President Obama has made an unusual appeal to religious groups to help sell the plan and debunk critics’ “false witness.”
When President Obama named his choices for his administration’s two top medical posts, he chose people of public acclaim whose faith positions may put them out of step with conservative believers—but in tune with White House pragmatism.
President Obama signed long-sought legislation June 22 authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products, and among those cheering were the 25 faith groups in the Faith United Against Tobacco coalition. “Better late than never,” said Wesley “Pat” Padillo, a key advocacy official for the National Council of Churches.