God is back in the party platform, but religion remains a divisive issue for Democrats
The accusations Wednesday morning (Sept. 5) that God had been “purged” from the Democrats’ national platform seemed too much for the party to bear. That afternoon, its national convention restored the divine to the document, as well as a statement affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It was a crisis the party didn’t seem to see coming, and provided one of the few unscripted scenes this convention season, a chaotic day that highlighted the debate among the Democrats about religion and politics.
President Obama himself on Wednesday pushed for the “God” and “Jerusalem” references, according to an anonymous Democratic official. One platform amendment added a sentence about Americans’ “God-given” potential and the other affirmed Jerusalem’s “capital” status.
It was a charged moment on the convention floor in Charlotte, N.C., as the amendments were offered together to the delegates. Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, co-chairman of the platform committee, introduced them, and let the convention know that he is an ordained United Methodist minister.
On the first vote the “ayes” and “nos” seemed equally loud. Same for the second try. After the third try, the flustered convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, announced that the “ayes” had it by the necessary two-thirds vote, and was met by a wave of booing, with delegates shaking their heads that the threshold for approval had not been met.
The party had to add “God” back, said John Green, a University of Akron professor who specializes in religion and politics. “I was a little surprised that the reference to God had been removed, but I was not at all surprised by the party’s reaction when this became an issue.”
Democrats, he said, have struggled in the past with the perception that they are hostile to religion and worked hard in recent years to reach out to religious groups.
So why did God – referenced once in the Democrats’ 2008 platform and several times in the 2004 one – disappear in the 2012 platform?
Green says Democrats have a problem with “God talk.” Their coalition, which includes a substantial number of nonreligious people but also a diversity of religious people with varying approaches to God, doesn’t have a clear and simple conception of the divine.
So rather than risk offense, the platform writers may have decided to leave God out, Green said. [More]