Paul Jacob

Voters animated by moral and religious values made a difference in the last election, returning Republican George W. Bush to the White House. Some say they made the decisive difference. So, it's not surprising to find Democrats looking to make inroads with these voters.

But it is amusing.

It began during the last campaign. The Washington Post reported last October that Democratic nominee John Kerry was "evolving" from someone "reluctant to discuss faith in the public square into a Democratic preacher of sorts."

Yet it is President Bush who finds himself regularly accused of mixing religion and politics. There are several reasons for this, his faith-based initiatives and his personal statement of faith ranking the highest. However, one rarely if ever witnessed him speaking from a church pulpit during the campaign (though he attends church regularly). Nor did he make a habit of explaining his political positions in terms of his religious views. On the other hand, Kerry was constantly before church congregations speaking of his faith and its intersection with his politics.

In the waning days of the campaign, Kerry proclaimed, "My faith, and the faith I have seen in the lives of so many Americans, also teaches me that, 'Whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me.' That means we have a moral obligation to one another, to the forgotten, and to those who live in the shadows."

When it comes to abortion, Kerry sings a different tune about "the least of these." He told an interviewer, "I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."

And yet speaking more generally, in his book A Call to Service, he wrote that "our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a matter of political fashion or economic or social theory but a direct command from God."

And on the campaign trail, from church to church, Kerry attacked Bush and religious conservatives. "When I look around in this country," he told one congregation, "I see a whole bunch of people who talk about faith, I see a whole bunch of people who put it out there, but I see an awful lot of deeds undone, I see a lot of work to be done in this country."

At the New Northside Baptist Church in St. Louis, Kerry preached, "The Scriptures say: 'It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds.' We look at what is happening in America today and we say: Where are the deeds?"


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.