Civility Project disbands after low interest in Congress

January 11, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) The Civility Project, a two-year bipartisan attempt
to get politicians and others to respect one another, is closing down
after just three members of Congress agreed to the project's pledge.


"You three were alone in pledging to be civil," Christian publicist
Mark DeMoss wrote in a Jan. 3 letter announcing an end to the two-year
project. "I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three
members of Congress, and no governors, would agree to what I believe is
a rather low bar."


The three who had agreed were Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Rep.
Sue Myrick, R-N.C., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.


The announcement comes at a time when politicians, clergy and
commentators have stressed the need for civility following Saturday's
(Jan. 8) deadly shootings in Tucson, Ariz., which left six people dead
and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the
head.


DeMoss, a Republican who represents prominent evangelical leaders
through his Atlanta-based public relations firm, teamed with Democratic
consultant Lanny Davis when he launched the project prior to President
Obama's inauguration.


They asked people to agree to three pledges on the project's website
-- to be civil in public discourse, respect those with whom you
disagree, and stand against incivility. DeMoss said thousands of people
signed the online pledge but others posted vulgar comments on the site.


"I'm worried about where we're headed as a country on the civility
scale," he wrote to the lawmakers, before Saturday's massacre in Tucson.


Davis could not be reached immediately for comment.


As the project ends, leaders of a faith-based network called People
Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) have asked people to
sign a "pledge for our better selves," in the wake of the Arizona
killings. It reads, in part:


"I commit to honor the legacy of the victims in Arizona by
continuing to engage in public life, fostering a civil dialogue on
issues that impact our communities and creating safe spaces for people
to participate in democracy."