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MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF
THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:

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Sponsored link.

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Quotations:

bullet"I am sick and tired of others constant criticizing our believed America. We voted for who we wanted! And incidentally, family values was the big winner." Marsha Bodary, Utica NY.
bullet"The irony that the further right the U.S. leans -- i.e. the more conservative, the more isolationist, the more certain that the Almighty is on their side, etc -- the more it resembles the so-called 'enemies' seems to be lost on the majority of Americans." Carla MacDonald, Salt Lake City, UT. 8

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The most important factor: How the U.S. Supreme Court will change:

For the past few years, there have been many very close decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the justices have voted 5 to 4. The two most justices who are arguably the most conservative, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have almost always voted together; some more liberal justices have regularly voted in opposition. According to the People for the American Way, (PFAW) "....three or four justices are expected to retire in the next four years." Candidate Senator Kerry said that, if elected, he would have appointed justices who supported abortion access. President Bush repeatedly said that he does not have an abortion "litmus test" in his selection of nominees for the court. However, he has cited Scalia and Thomas as his models when choosing his future appointments. They are unalterably opposed to abortion access. It is expected that he will nominate strict constructionist -- extreme conservative -- justices. After perhaps the most argumentative confirmation sessions in Senate history, they will be confirmed by the Senate, and will radically change the philosophy of the court. The balance in the court will experience a major shift to the right for decades to come. Many of the close decisions in the past may be revisited and overturned.

The Supreme Court has ruled on hundreds of cases over the past four decades on matters as diverse as abortion access, equal rights for gays and lesbians, keeping the state out of the bedrooms of the nation, and freedom of religious expression. One of the most significant was the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which guaranteed women the right to an abortion early in pregnancy. Although it is difficult to predict future changes to the culture, the court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas -- which legalized private, consensual same-sex activities among adults -- would have probably produced long-term changes in American culture that are similar in magnitude to Roe v. Wade. Both Lawrence v. Texas and Roe v. Wade will probably be reversed as additional conservative justices join the Supreme Court during President Bush's 2004-2008 term.

The Court is split along philosophical lines:

bulletMore conservative justices, such as Justices Scalia and Thomas, are often referred to as "strict constructionists." They tend to look upon the U.S. Constitution as a static, enduring document. It is to be interpreted literally in terms of the values and beliefs of the public and the authors when the document was written.
bulletMore liberal justices tend to look at the Constitution as a living document. They view it as evolving with society; new principles can be inferred from its wording which were not specifically stated in the original text.

In 1973, the liberal majority on the court determined that the Constitution inferred that a right of privacy exists for every citizen in the area of abortion. That is, governments cannot pass laws that excessively intrude into personal medical decisions. They determined in 1973 that women had a right to obtain a legal abortion if it is performed sufficiently early in pregnancy, or if it was necessary to preserve her health or life. In 2003, they revisited this privacy principle and decided that adults had the right to engage in private, consensual sexual activities, whether they be same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

The PFAW concluded before the election: "Voters may have different views on these specific issues, but it's clear that the next President will help determine the rights and freedoms of Americans for decades to come by his appointments to the Supreme Court. Urge your friends and neighbors to think carefully about the Supreme Court when they vote in November."

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The effect of religion on the 2004 presidential vote:

ReligionWriters.com had predicted four ways in which religion may be a determining factor in the 2004 elections for president:

bulletVoters have expressed concern about the religious identification and involvement of candidates.
bulletMany religious groups have been actively lobbying their members to register and to vote.
bulletThe Democratic and Republican campaign organizations have been aggressively wooing various faith groups.
bulletSeveral swing states include concentrations of voters of particular faiths.

Other developments include:

bulletConservative Protestant organizations: Many of these portrayed the presidential election in terms of a cultural war. The Center for Reclaiming America, for example, has identified five key fronts among current concerns over "morality and values:"
bullet"Religious liberties" which include:
bulletThe right of tax-exempt groups, like local congregations, to promote political candidates. IRS regulations currently prohibit this.
bulletOpposing the addition of sexual orientation as a protected class in hate-crime legislation. Religious conservatives seem to speak on this with a unanimous voice; they see such legislation as a threat to freedom of speech against gays and lesbians.
bulletThe right of parents to continue to use spanking as a method of disciplining their children.
bulletThe "sanctity of life," which means limitation or elimination of abortion access, and an end to physician assisted suicide.
bulletThe "homosexual agenda" which seeks employment and accommodation security, protection from hate-crimes, same-sex marriage, and the public acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality as normal and natural sexual orientations for a minority of adults.
bulletPromoting the teaching of creationism in the public school science classes in opposition to the theory of evolution.
bulletReligiously liberal groups: Some groups attempted to:
bulletRegister large numbers of Black and poor voters, who traditionally vote Democrat.
bulletRaise what they consider to be major moral issues:
bulletA reduction in poverty levels: The U.S. has a larger percentage of people in poverty than any other developed country in the world.
bulletUniversal health care: There are in excess of 40 million Americans without health insurance, and tens of millions more who are under-insured.
bulletRoman Catholic bishops and organizations: Some focused on Kerry's support on abortion access for women and civil unions or marriages for same-sex couples. The official stance of the church is to oppose both. Four bishops have indicated that they would refuse Kerry's participation in communion because of his pro-choice beliefs. Austin Ruse, head of Culture of Life Foundation, is one of a number of Roman Catholics who authored an anti-Kerry ad published in five battleground states in late 2004-OCT (PA, IA, NH, WI, FL). Ruse wrote: "Sen. Kerry says he is a believing and practicing Catholic yet he fundamentally not only rejects but he actively works to undermine one of the core teachings of the church." 3 Supporters of Kerry have pointed out that his beliefs on abortion access are reflected by a large percentage of Roman Catholic laity.
bulletThe main political parties:
bulletThe Democrats seem to have been promoting what it considers to be serious moral issues -- like poverty and health insurance -- in secular, rather than religious terms. This may have been a fatal error in judgment.
bulletThe Republicans promoted what it considered to be serious moral issues -- reducing abortion access, restricting or eliminating stem-cell research, prohibiting the marriage of committed same-sex couples -- in religious rather than secular terms. This may have struck a chord with Evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives and caused the vote to be tipped in favor of the Republicans.

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What motivated voters?:

The massive religious divide within the U.S. was evidenced by the vote for president. An Associated Press poll of 13,531 voters indicated that their largest single concern were "moral values:" probably reduction of access to abortion, prevention of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples, prohibition of research into medical cures and treatment using embryonic stem cells, not extending hate-crime protection to gays and lesbians, etc. The five highest priorities found were:

bullet22% moral values,
bullet20% economy,
bullet19% terrorism,
bullet15% the war in Iraq. 4

In an apparent reaction to the strong showing of "moral values," Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches (a group of mainline and liberal Christian denominations) said: "We need to work really hard at reclaiming some language...The religious right has successfully gotten out there shaping personal piety issues - civil unions, abortion - as almost the total content of 'moral values.' And yet you can't read the Old Testament without knowing God was concerned about the environment, war and peace, poverty. God doesn't want 45 million Americans without health care." 9

According to exit polls, 20% of the estimated 120 million voters defined themselves as Evangelical Christians. Of these, three out of four backed President Bush. 5

President Bush inherits a profoundly divided nation. Most North American newspapers demonstrated this division with a graphic showing which states and counties voted for the two main parties. Kerry/Democratic support is isolated to Hawaii and two strips of states, most of whom are heavily populated and urban:

bulletOne consists of the states which border Canada, from New England to Minnesota, plus Illinois and minus Ohio
bulletThe other consists of the three contiguous west coast states: Washington, Oregon, and California. A majority of voters in the entire middle of the country and the South voted Bush/Republican.

The presidential vote was divided along sexual, sexual orientation, racial, educational and other lines. According to exit poll interviews conducted by the Associated Press at randomly selected precincts across the US: 6

Factor Voted Republican Voted Democrat
Total vote 51.5% 48.5%
Men 55% 44%
Women 48% 51%
Gay or lesbian 23% 77%
Heterosexual 53% 46%
In a gun owning household 63% 36%
White 58% 41%
Black 11% 88%
Hispanic 44% 53%
Asian 44% 56%
Other 40% 54%
High school graduates 52% 47%
University graduates 52% 46%
Post-grad studies 44% 55%

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Ballot measures with a moral/ethical component:

Measures by state:

bulletAlaska: Two measures were rejected: the decriminalization of marijuana and the banning of bear baiting.
bulletArkansas: Same-sex marriage (SSM) banned
bulletCalifornia: Voters rejected a measure to require large businesses to provide health insurance to employees. Two measures approved:
bulletThree billion dollars in state funds for embryonic stem-cell research.
bulletRaise taxes on the very rich to help pay for mental health care.
bulletFlorida: Approved a measure to reduce privacy rights of women under 18 years of age. This will enable the legislature to pass a parental notification law for young women who seek an abortion.
bulletGeorgia: SSM banned.
bulletKentucky: SSM banned.
bulletMichigan: SSM banned.
bulletMississippi: SSM banned.
bulletMontana: Two measures were approved:
bulletSSM banned.
bulletThe medical use of marijuana.
bulletNorth Dakota: SSM banned.
bulletOhio: SSM banned.
bulletOklahoma: SSM banned
bulletOregon: SSM banned.
bulletUtah: SSM banned.

In addition, the voters of Cincinnati, OH, repealed a 1993 ban. The city can now pass bylaws which grant equal rights and protections for persons of all sexual orientations. 7

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Sponsored link:

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Reference:

  1. "Four more years, or 40 more years?," Newsletter, People For the American Way, 2004-SEP-30.
  2. "Local stories illuminate religion/politics tangle," ReligionLink, Religion Newswriters Association, 2004-AUG-24, at: http://www.religionwriters.com/
  3. Keith Peters, "Catholics Question Kerry's Faith," Family News in Focus, 2004-OCT-21, at: http://www.family.org/
  4. Haroon Siddiqui, "Kerry lost by running as Bush Lite," Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-04.
  5. Tim Harper, "Bush pledges to heal wounds," The Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-04, Page A1 & A16.
  6. "America votes," Associated Press/The Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-04, Page A7.
  7. "State-by-state look: 2004 ballot measures," Associated Press, 2004-NOV-03, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  8. Letters to the editor, the Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-04, Page A10.
  9. "Liberals Dismayed by 'Moral Values' Claims," EarthLink, 2004-NOV-08, at: http://start.earthlink.net/

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Site navigation:

Home page Religious information > Basic info > here

Home page > Morality > here

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Copyright © 2004 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-SEP-30
Latest update: 2006-OCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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