Democrats putting other issues on faith agenda

For years, Republicans have been seen as the party of the religious because of the stands its members take on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The Democrats are trying to change that perception – by expanding the number of issues that are linked to religion and faith.

At a meeting with reporters Thursday morning, a group of Democratic senators laid out some examples. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) pointed to the farm bill as a faith-based issue because it deals with, among other things, feeding the hungry. And she said the G.I. Bill qualifies because it ensures America follows through on its “moral commitments.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) added climate change and a “responsible energy policy” because they involved “our moral responsibility as it relates to our world.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) pointed to children’s health insurance as a faith-based issue, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) noted the minimum wage. She said a higher wage might mean some Americans would only have to work two jobs instead of three – and thus have more “time to practice their faith.”

Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, said that Democrats had been “perceived” as “the secular party” for too long. “I think faith is vitally important to discourse in politics and government,” said Casey. “To deny that is to deny reality. Even as the country recognizes diversity and separation of church and state, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize that faith plays an important role in people’s views.”

While the principle of church-state separation is particularly important to many Jews, Cardin said he doesn’t think the party’s emphasis on faith alienates any Jews. “You can’t confuse the separation of church and state with the commitment toward principles that come out of our religious background,” he told JTA.

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