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Dems getting on board



Published: Fri, January 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The party needs to embrace values-based issues.

WASHINGTON POST

Those Dems are getting religion.

On Wednesday, the very liberal Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., went to the National Press Club and proclaimed the need for Democrats to talk more about values and said it was useful that a Democratic candidate "talked about God."

The previous week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cited a pair of biblical passages on the House floor, saying the Scriptures "tell us that to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship."

Not an accident

This is no accident. After exit polls showed that "values voters" contributed to President Bush's re-election victory, Democrats have been looking for ways to keep the faith. So when Senate Democrats met at the Kennedy Center on Jan. 5 as Congress convened, they invited as their main speaker the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal minister who has been urging Democrats to speak more openly about religion. "They gave more time to this than any other issue," Wallis said in an interview.

The Rev. Mr. Wallis' main pitch is that Democrats needlessly have ceded to Republicans the religion-faith issue, allowing voters to believe Democratic candidates are indifferent or hostile to organized religion. In fact, he says, the Bible -- and Jesus' teachings in particular -- are filled with messages that align more closely to Democratic policies than GOP policies: Help the poor, share the wealth, work for peace.

Morals talk welcomed

"Democrats should welcome a moral values conversation," Mr. Wallis said. "As an evangelical Christian, I find 3,000 verses in the Bible about the poor," far outnumbering mentions of same-sex unions or low taxes. Mr. Wallis, author of the book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," said federal budgets "are moral documents," and Democrats should portray them as such.

Republicans are not impressed. Religious conservative Gary Bauer, a 2000 GOP presidential candidate, wrote an e-mail to supporters mocking Kennedy and Pelosi. "They just don't get it!" he wrote. "The American people are tired of the radical left's assault upon all things religious. ... For a party so dominated by Michael Moore's Hollywood, liberal academia and the ACLU, it's going to take a lot more than politicians quoting Scripture to win votes."

But Pelosi will not yield to the floor to the likes of Bauer when it comes to talk of God. "Pelosi often speaks of her faith and values, and long has," said spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. "She's a devout Catholic who attends church every Sunday."




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