I cannot stand to see this “Democrats kicked God out of their platform and then booed Him at their convention” nonsense bandied about for even five more minutes. So can we lay it to rest right here?
Here is a fact: the 2008 Democratic platform contained a reference to God, as in “We need a government that…gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” The 2012 Democratic platform does not contain that line.
Here’s another fact: the 2012 Democratic platform dropped another sentence from the 2008 version. That sentence? “We will ensure that public funds are not used to proselytize or discriminate.” It refers to the Bush-era policy, which President Obama has continued, of allowing faith-based organizations to discriminate when hiring employees using federal funds. Most religious conservatives fiercely support that policy (although they do so now silently) on the grounds that it protects the freedom of religious institutions.
Fact: this second and actually substantive omission has not been mentioned by any of the conservatives gleefully accusing Democrats of banishing God. Nor was it reported by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who has been busy promoting his “exclusive” about the disappearance of the phrase “God-given.”
A few more inconvenient facts for Mitt Romney, who said the absence of “God-given” proved Democrats are “veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize” and Paul Ryan, who told Fox News that Democrats have “the onus and burden on them to explain why they did all this, these purges of God”:
—The Democratic National Convention opens and closes each day’s session with prayers, just like the Republican National Convention did. Tuesday night’s benediction was particularly noteworthy because the young evangelical activist who gave it offered a prayer for both Obama and Romney.
—The 2012 Democratic platform has a separate section on “Faith” that includes the lines, “We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires.”
—Sister Simone Campbell addressed the convention on Wednesday night and brought a lot of faith-talk with her. You might have switched channels then, especially when she said, “Paul Ryan says this budget is in keeping with the values of our shared faith. I disagree.”
—A host of Democratic speakers have proudly talked about their faith. Elizabeth Warren mentioned her years teaching Sunday school and quoted her favorite Scripture verse from Matthew 25. Nate Davis, director of veterans affairs at Xavier University led off his remarks with the declaration, “I’m not here tonight as a Democrat or a Republican, but as a man of Christian faith.” And Davis concluded his speech by telling veterans to “Believe in God and keep going forward.”
—Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado made a special plea to Americans “to respect the Christian family concerned about decaying moral values and crass commercialism” and “to respect the difficult decision of a single mother to bring a child into this world, because of her heartfelt beliefs.”
A final fact: the Democratic National Convention will come to a close Thursday night with a benediction offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has spent the past year pressing the partisan case that Obama is waging a war on religious freedom. That would be like Republicans inviting Sister Simone to speak at the RNC.
Now, I’m not surprised that Republicans and their allies in conservative media have pushed this bogus story. They were determined to attach some such storyline to the Democratic Convention and kept trying until one stuck. First it was a rumor that the DNC would include a two-hour Muslim prayer service, for which Democrats were busing in Muslims. (False.) Then conservatives charged that Democratic organizers had denied Cardinal Dolan’s “request” to pray at the convention. (Also false—no one turned down Dolan. Democrats announced his involvement one week before their convention took place, just as Republicans did with theirs.)
This is a fake, drummed-up controversy that has now unfortunately been fed by Democrats overreacting to media coverage and awkwardly adding in a “God-given” reference to their 2012 platform. That change, coupled with another one regarding the party’s position on Israel, was rushed through in a voice vote that led to some booing by delegates. Reporters on the convention floor say that delegates were upset by the way the vote was handled. But the headline “Democrats Boo God” is irresistibly juicy, and Republicans will do journalists the favor of reacting with shock and outrage all over again, thus giving the “story” new life. Oh, for the love of…