Sur­vey: Church­go­ers want can­di­dates to go, well, else­where

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Stephen Di­nan

Amer­i­cans have a mes­sage for po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates con­sid­er­ing cam­paign­ing in their churches over the next year — butt out.

A new Fox 5-The Wash­ing­ton Times-Ras­mussen Re­ports poll found that less than one in four of those sur­veyed said it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to cam­paign at their re­li­gious ser­vices, and a whop­ping 62 per­cent said it’s not right.

Seventy per­cent said they don’t want their priest, min­is­ter, rabbi or imam to “sug­gest” whom to vote for, ei­ther.

“There are lines that peo­ple feel you shouldn’t cross. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple might draw them at dif­fer­ent places, but they clearly ex­ist,” said Scott Ras­mussen, who con­ducted the sur­vey. He said that doesn’t mean vot­ers don’t want can­di­dates to show up and at­tend their ser­vices, but they also “don’t want to see a ser­mon or some­thing pre­sented as a ser­mon by a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.”

Re­li­gion has popped up re­peat­edly

in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, stoked by the pres­ence of a Mor­mon can­di­date and an or­dained Bap­tist preacher in the Repub­li­can field and ques­tions over the role of faith and gov­ern­ment in the Demo­cratic field.

On the Repub­li­can side, there also has been a con­test to win the back­ing of re­li­gious con­ser­va­tive lead­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani’s en­dorse­ment by tel­e­van­ge­list Pat Robert­son.

But the poll said that could hurt more than help — 29 per­cent said Mr. Robert­son’s en­dorse­ment made them less likely to sup­port Mr. Gi­u­liani, while only 6 per­cent said they now are more likely to sup­port him. That was con­sis­tent across all such de­mo­graphic cat­e­gories as age, party af­fil­i­a­tion and in­come.

Show­ing up at churches dur­ing cam­paign sea­son has be­come a rite of pas­sage, par­tic­u­larly for Demo­cratic can­di­dates. In 2004, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. John Kerry fre­quently could be found spend­ing Sun­day morn­ings in Oc­to­ber at ma- jor­ity-black churches in the key elec­toral states of Ohio or Florida.

It can cause trou­ble, though. Af­ter a Mi­ami church ap­pear­ance in Oc­to­ber of that year, at­tended by both the Rev. Jesse Jack­son and the Rev. Al Sharp­ton, the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice an­nounced an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into com­plaints that the ser­vice amounted to a cam­paign rally.

“Cer­tainly, some con­gre­ga­tions are more open than oth­ers, and there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween show­ing up at church and hav­ing a cam­paign event at church ser­vices,” Mr. Ras­mussen said.

Black vot­ers were less cer­tain of their op­po­si­tion to both cam­paign­ing at ser­vices and to re­li­gious lead­ers sug­gest­ing how to vote. Al­though 46 per­cent said cam­paign­ing was wrong, 31 per­cent said it was OK, and 22 per­cent wouldn’t rule it out. And only 55 per­cent of blacks said they don’t want clergy sug­gest­ing whom to vote for — 18 per­cent­age points less than whites.

The Rev. C. Wel­ton Gaddy, pres­i­dent of the lib­eral In­ter­faith Al­liance, said the re­sults show a de­sire for sep­a­rat­ing re­li­gion from pol­i­tics.

“Even in the midst of a highly com­pet­i­tive po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, peo­ple want to pro­tect the in­tegrity of re­li­gion and the sanc­tity of houses or wor­ship,” said Mr. Gaddy, whose group fights what it sees as in­creas­ing en­tan­gle­ment be­tween gov­ern­ment and re­li­gion.

His group’s own polling found 41.4 per­cent of adults sur­veyed thought re­li­gious lead­ers should have in­flu­ence on vot­ers, while 57.7 per­cent re­jected that.

“I think the Amer­i­can pub­lic is ready to say — and is say­ing — ‘Enough,’ “ Mr. Gaddy said. “We have a deep in­ter­est in know­ing about a can­di­date’s re­li­gion, but Amer­i­can vot­ers are aware that we are not elect­ing a pas­tor-in-chief, we are elect­ing a com­man­der-in-chief.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.