Faith forum highlights influence of U.S. religious vote

August 14, 2008

DALLAS - It’s the evangelicals, stupid.

Commentators who have written off U.S. evangelical voters as a relic of the Bush era should take notice of this Saturday’s “Civil Forum on the Presidency” moderated by famed evangelical mega pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

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Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican rival John McCain will each spend about an hour taking questions from Warren and will only share the stage briefly.

But it is the only event — and one that will be nationally televised — that  they will both participate in ahead of their party conventions in a few weeks’ time, underscoring the importance of the faith vote in America and the evangelical vote in particular.

Evangelicals account for one in four U.S. adults making them the country’s largest religious group and a key battleground faith.

And Warren is one of the leading figures in the movement’s shift to a broader agenda that moves beyond (but does not exclude) issues like climate change, AIDS, immigration and poverty reduction — issues where both McCain and Obama see opportunities to woo moderate voters with their positions.

It is sure to be interesting and is regarded by some as the unofficial start of the final leg of what has seemed like an endless campaign.   

You can see some of our preview coverage here and here. 

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook, files, USA

11 comments

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To a true Christian, the most important issue of all reversal of Roe v/z Wade. Illegalize abortion and value life of the defenseless. All other issues are secondary.

I hope even the pastors will not deter from this one main issue of life when voting for their Presidential candidate.

Posted by Stephanie | Report as abusive

That comment above is why people don’t take evangelicals seriously. While I personally believe the repeal of Roe v. Wade should happen. I also feel there are other issues that are just as important.

Posted by Jeremy | Report as abusive

The economy is in serious trouble, we have a steadily failing education system – with generally falling standards and far-to differing standards across states; a health system that fails to deliver to anyone, regardless of economic status; a problem with a lack of concensus regarding what to do with illegal immigrants; expanding drug abuse and the increasing negative effects from that……
And you think the most important thing is the reversal of a decision that, according to some sources, more than half the population agrees with? *That* is why evangelicals cannot be taken serious.

Posted by Lucy | Report as abusive

The constitution forbids a religious litmus test. One could easily make an argument that this coming forum is such.

Ward

Posted by Ward | Report as abusive

The vast majority of evangelicals care about far more than the abortion issue. Dr. Warren has a broad evangelical following because he represents some of the best of evangelical thought and action. He’s not a perfect man or pastor, but I am thankful for his leadership in our nation.

Ward, I do not believe that the government should be able to demand a religious litmus test, but the electorate certainly may seek a man or woman of a certain philosophical slant or worldview. In fact, we have no choice but to do so. We all understand that a man or woman’s values come from his/her foundational life philosophy. And Life Philosophy = Religion. Government can not demand religious litmus test, but every candidate has a religion and every voter has the right and responsibility to consider how a candidate’s worldview will guide his leadership.

We need to understand the deeper ideas and philosophies that will guide our candidates and I expect Warren to do an admirable job of leading this discussion in a civil and helpful manner.

Posted by Brett | Report as abusive

I am against abortion but I don’t think that a law on the books in America will stop abortions, It will just move them from the doctors hands to the hands of criminals in back rooms with coat hangers or for the wealthy it will just be a trip out of country for the abortion…. As far as I am concerned we already have a law in the real book that matters….. “The Bible”

Posted by pops | Report as abusive

I am a Catholic. I am a Republican. I am a fan of Rick Warren’s writings. And I am incredibly disappointed the candidates would (once again) reject opportunities to address critical science issues in a public manner (eg the Science Debate) and instead go for the low-lying fruit by pandering to, what in essence, comes down to their views on abortion. They’ve stated their opinions on abortion. Clearly.
Let’s move on and find out where they stand on scientific integrity in government, the right to life when it comes to a healthy, global environment, clean water, medical research and an ample supply of food and natural resources. How about space exploration? What we’ve learned in three decades has taught us so much about our origins and, frankly (as a Christian), what we need to know to help sustain this wonderful home we call Earth.
Evangelicals should be screaming out for the candidates to talk about these “science” issues…not serving as pawns to the stale political blackmail tactics of the old guard. So 90s!
Demand real answers. Don’t cave to fear. A candidate’s moral identity and values will shine through in an authentic science debate. If it’s about sifting out the most honest candidate, then let’s give them an opportunity to provide honest insight and find a way to hold them accountable for their answers.

Sounds like a televised debate from a church except they don’t have to face each other. Sure is scary to me to see that religion is such an influence in our elections. We should be electing officials to serve the people not to lead them. We should be electing officials based on the belief we have in them to uphold and defend the Constitution that governs our Republic and the belief we have in them to be able to respect fully, the separation of powers. The final paragraph of article 6 says it well….
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

How credible can Obama’s current religious statements be, when they follow a 20 year track record as a disciple of radical leaders like Wright, Farakan, Moss, and Phleiiger? Since Obama has done virtually nothing as a senator, is being a community organizer enough of a qualification to be President of the United States? Instead of listening to Obama’s words, we should look at his deeds, which are pretty empty. When you compare Obama’ resume to McCain’s, with decades in the military, and decades in the senate, it’s obvious that Obama is merely an empty suit, who will say, or do anything to get elected.

Posted by Gina | Report as abusive

This article has been overtaken by events, Mr. & Mrs. Reader.

However, the referenced unconstitutional political-religious forum is certainly worth commenting on…and strongly…from my point view.

Why an American presidential candidate feels that it is somehow necessary to cater (i.e., pander) to a particular religion…and in this case a particular protestant congregation (i.e., the Warren group)…is beyond me. Frankly, I’m astonished! I’m also astonished that the so called free press in America has not issued a public challenge to all politicians when it comes to their mixing of religion and politics/government. The First Amendment covers the press as well as religion…not to mention the freedom of speech that I am personally engaging in here through a Reuters web log.

First and foremost, the First Amendment (Bill of Rights) to the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits the U.S. congress from making any law with respect to the establishment of ANY religion…and grants the personal irrevocable freedom to each American to exercise his/her personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in private, i.e., outside the public political policy arena.

The U.S. Constitution’s banning of congress from passing a bill with respect to religion means that no such bill can reach the president’s desk for signature. Therefore, the First Amendment also tells all Americans that the president cannot publicly dabble in any particular religious public policy either. That is, the president can do what he likes in private…but when it comes to exercising the office of the presidency, religion has no place in public policy.

This is not my idea, but I certainly agree with it…and to prove it, I (and not just Mr. McCain by the way) wore the active duty uniform of our great nation in wartime in a war zone to ensure the separation of church and state. For a quarter of a century, I was prepared to give my life to keep this separation of church and state, and would gladly do so again.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As far as I’m concerned, anything religious is a personal and private thing…and should remain so. This includes the personal and private beliefs of a presidential candidate.

A candidate simply cannot cater to one religion, without insulting all other religions. As a matter fact, catering to only one particular protestant voting block insults the Catholic voting block (and other protestant voter groups as well)…even though all are Christians. In other words, where does a candidate draw the line? The framers of the U.S. Constitution figured this out more than 2 centuries ago!

Personally, I think that catering to protestant evangelicals is simply catering to white voters. It is nothing more than a masquerade for racial favoritism. Mr. McCain, for instance, has not tried to hide his racial courting of voters. Neither did Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama is now resorting to the same thing. Unfortunately for him, his white half doesn’t show…so it is much more difficult for him to court white voters who vote according to their race.

Since the dawn of man, more people have been killed in the name of religion (to include Christianity) and racial purity than for any other reasons. This is precisely why the founding fathers, i.e., the framers of the U.S. Constitution, specifically banned any relationship between government and religion. Of course, they did this through the Bill of Rights, i.e., the first of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights required ratification of 3/4 of the states.

Mr. Warren knows as well as anybody, that he and his congregation are making an obvious end run around the U.S. Constitution by preaching politics from the pulpit. Perhaps if his nontaxable status was questioned, he (and his religious group) would keep their personal beliefs private (i.e., out of the public policy arena)…instead of literally throwing them in the face of others by trying to make Americans believe that a presidential candidate’s faith (or lack thereof) is a constitutional litmus test for election to the presidency. As a matter of fact, Warren and his protestant evangelical group are making Christianity itself a litmus test for election to the presidency! How blatantly unconstitutional can these people possibly get!

I’ve been watching this type of unconstitutional nonsense for a long time, and it scares me just as much if not more than the Russians or the Iranians do. It is what I call the sabotage of “this Constitution for the United States of America”…sabotage from within. As a matter of fact, all of our First Amendment rights, privileges and responsibilities are under fire…and have been for a long time. This applies especially to the past 8 years of an administration whose members have been masquerading as being Christ-like in order to garner the votes of such as Mr. Warren and his group.

Frankly, it has been both embarrassing and disgusting to have to watch all of this…just as watching the Clinton administration was (only for different reasons).

After 16 long years, I’m looking forward to getting some fresh air in Washington…both on Capitol Hill and at the White House. I’ve got my fingers crossed…real tight.

OK Jack

I do not think abortion should be an issue for President. I do not like abortions, but I would not disagree with it if it meant a child would more likely be neglected, abused, killed after birth. You don’t want it, good for you. Get your nose out of other people’s business. To make that THE election point shows how narrow-minded some are. It is scary how people vote. Religion is not even a factor to me in picking a president. I am very much involved in my church, but the president would not have to believe strictly as I do for me to believe he would be a good leader. Only if one said by religion he intended to commit genocide would I seriously consider it to be a factor to vote against that person. I hope more people will look at the overall picture rather than a single issue.

Posted by GHS | Report as abusive