FaithWorld

Useful Pew backgrounder on faith and U.S. healthcare debate

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released a useful backgrounder on the role of faith groups in the increasingly bitter and partisan U.S. healthcare debate. You can read it here.

The report focuses on the two large faith-based coalitions that have emerged on opposite sides of the political struggle to overhaul America’s system of healthcare, which is President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

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Faith for Health, is a broad coalition of self-described progressive groups that strongly supports Obama’s reform drive. It  includes mainline and evangelical Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews.

The Freedom Federation is a group of mostly conservative Christian organizations — a key Republican Party base — which strongly opposes what many of its activists decry as “Obamacare.” Both groups have taken to the airwaves and undertaken grassroots campaigns.

Healthcare reform is the biggest political show right now in Washington, where faith and politics often mix in ways they don’t elsewhere in the developed world. What do you think? Do you think faith-based groups will make a difference one way or the other on this issue? And which side will have its prayers answered?

U.S. religious/secular abortion divide is stark

Among the areas covered in the just released Pew survey of American public opinion about abortion, one that grabbed my attention asked about factors that influence people’s opinion about the issue.

For those who support abortion rights, only 11 percent cited religious beliefs as the primary influence on their views on the topic; among those who say abortion should be illegal, 53 percent cited faith as their guiding reason. Overall 32 percent of those surveyed cited religious beliefs as the main factor behind their views on abortion.

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None of this, mind you, is surprising. Opposition to abortion rights in the United States has been driven primarily by religious conservatives — evangelical and Catholic mostly — and so the figure fits the usual narrative. Few people cite faith as a reason to support abortion rights and so the 11 percent figure in that regard is also what you would expect.

Support for abortion rights declines in America

Public support for abortion rights is ebbing in America while the issue’s importance has fallen on the public agenda, especially for liberal Democrats, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

In 2007 and 2008, Pew found that supporters of abortion rights outnumbered those saying it should be illegal in most or all cases by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin.

By contrast, in two major surveys conducted in 2009 among a total sample of more than 5,500 adults, views of abortion are about evenly divided, with 47 percent expressing support for legal abortion and 44 percent expressing opposition,” Pew said.

U.S. conservative Christians sound “cap and trade” alarms

America’s social and religious conservatives are turning up the heat as they galvanize heartland opposition against the latest example of President Barack Obama-inspired “socialism” — a climate change bill that aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which most scientists have linked to climate change.  

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The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday. It would require large companies, including utilities and manufacturers, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. It must still go through the U.S. Senate, where its ultimate fate remains uncertain despite the Democratic majority there.

Conservative Christians, a key base – if not THE base — for the out-of-power Republican Party, are among the biggest skeptics of human-induced global warming. In the eyes of many environmentalists, they were part of an “unholy alliance” with the energy industry that enjoyed its zenith under former president George W. Bush, who pulled America out of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting emissions in the developed world. The Bush administration was widely seen as hostile to any attempt to cap emissions as well as the science behind it.