Political Faith

By: Koula Gianulias
By: Koula Gianulias

Local Democrats say Republicans are using religion to push their agenda. Now Democrats are fighting back on the issue of judicial nominees and their party's overall image when it comes to faith.
" What they're trying to say is that the presidents nominees aren't qualified because of faith," says Sandy Steele, a local Republican activist.
Chris Wicker, chairman of the Washoe County Democratic Party, doesn't agree.
"That was just one big fat lie," Wicker says. "They're being filibustered because of their extremist views on civil rights, on the environment."
A debate that's erupted in Washington over judicial nominees has led this group of local democrats to gather and talk about where the party stands on religion...at a time when faith and politics have become one in the same in the eyes of many Americans.
"We've seen elections decided, including recent presidential election, where a lot of people say ideology or religion meant more than the economy or the war," says Jim Richardson, a professor at the University of Nevada Reno who studies religion and goverment.
They all seem to agree that religion plays a crucial role in today's politics. But even in a room full of Democrats, opinions are all over the board. There are religious leaders who say they want to remind the country that many democratic values have religious roots. And then there are scholars who argue that church and state should always remain separate.
The question is, which voice will rise above the others as the party continues to define itself.
"A lot of the folks in that room are very religious," Richardson says. "They participate in church services every day, they just haven't worn it on their sleeves for the past few decades. I think they're waking up to the fact that religion is alive and well in today's world."
Possibly a sign that even more Democrats will embrace values typically associated with Republican politicians, who, like the President, are not afraid to say they put faith first.
"They're going to be answering to a higher power, rather than allow public opinion sway what they think, they're going to be thinking about what God tells them, or what their faith tells them," says Steele.
Tonight was obviously just a discussion. The role of religion in the democratic party will be further defined as the next election draws near.


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