5 ways faith will matter at the Democratic National Convention
You can’t have a political convention in the Bible Belt, in Billy Graham’s home state, and not expect religion to play a role.
Here are our predictions for how faith (and faithlessness) will intersect with this week’s Democratic National Convention.
What are we missing? Let us know in comments and on Twitter and we’ll amend our list.
1. One big frame for the convention – the purported “war on women” – grows out of a fight between the White House and the Catholic Church. From first lady Michelle Obama to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student whom Rush Limbaugh branded a “slut” for advocating free contraception coverage, lots of convention speakers are women who will likely talk up Democratic support for women’s health and abortion rights. They want to strengthen President Barack Obama’s advantage among female voters. America’s Catholic bishops may have handed the Democrats a gift by blasting the White House mandate on contraception coverage, which provoked the “war on women” drumbeat.
2. Atheists want Democrats to show them a little love. Ever since George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, the Democrats have worked to remake the party’s secular image, elevating progressive religious voices and talking about issues as “values.” At the same time, America’s atheists – who skew mostly Democratic – have grown more outspoken about wanting the government to represent their values. An atheist group removed billboards in Charlotte that attacked the presidential candidates’ religion, but look for proudly secular Dems to push back against the party’s piety this week.
3. Will Democrats talk about religious liberty? The right has hit back on the Democrats “war on women” attacks by charging that the Dems are waging a war on religion. It’s a talking point for Mitt Romney, who recently released an ad on the subject. The major grievance: Obama’s so-called contraception mandate, requiring health insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage to nearly all employees, even if they work for a Catholic hospital or college. The Democrats’ platform language on same-sex marriage suggests they want to be sensitive to religious liberty concerns, pledging support for the “freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”
4. Democrats are working overtime for Catholic votes. Exhibit A: The convention will close with a prayer from Archbishop Timothy Dolan, America’s highest profile Catholic cleric, who also closed out the Republican National Convention a few days ago. Exhibit B: Sister Simone Campbell, a high visibility progressive nun – who led a “nuns on the bus” tour this summer blasting vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget – speaks Wednesday, telling us she’ll deliver a “sermon.” The Democrats are giving the conservative and progressive wings of the church a platform in Charlotte, hoping to send a message to Catholic voters in swing states like Ohio and Colorado.
5. Could this Democratic convention be a lot less faithy than the last one? Happening in the shadow of the “values voter” election of 2004, the 2008 Democratic convention was something of a faith fest, especially when it came to evangelicals. Convention roles went to the Rev. Joel Hunter, a megapastor from Florida, and best-selling Christian author Don Miller. This year, some religious activists are quietly wondering if the convention will come off as more secular. Hunter, who remains close to Obama, is skipping Charlotte. “There’s no reason for me to be there,” he told us. “My relationship with the president is pastoral and not political.”