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Catholics drawn to new Democratic platform

An attendee of the Democratic National Convention holds up a shirt that says "Proud. Catholic. Democrat." The party recently revised its platform to include a mention of God, expected to increase Catholic support.
An attendee of the Democratic National Convention holds up a shirt that says "Proud. Catholic. Democrat." The party recently revised its platform to include a mention of God, expected to increase Catholic support.

CHARLOTTE — Although the Democratic Party scrambled to reintroduce the word “God” into its platform, the party’s efforts dealing with poverty and health have proven attractive to some religious voters, particularly Catholics.

Speakers at the Democratic National Convention attempted to align the party’s major policies, such as support for the poor and the middle class and the health care provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, with faith-based values such as compassion for those less fortunate. They also argued that the Republican ticket does not adequately represent these community-centric values.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization, spoke in the DNC lineup Wednesday, charging that the budgetary plan of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan is not representative of the beliefs and principles of Catholicism. She contrasted Ryan’s claim that the GOP budget reflects the principles of his Catholic faith with the reality of the budget, which she said would not alleviate the struggles of the lower and middle class.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are correct when they say that each individual should be responsible,” she said. “But their budget goes astray in not acknowledging that we are responsible not only for ourselves and our immediate families. Rather, our faith strongly affirms that we are all responsible for one another.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, Campbell added, because it would harm families living in poverty.

Campbell endorsed the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, for its inclusivity of the most struggling Americans, which she called “our responsibility.” She briefly mentioned abortion—one of the biggest conflicts between the Catholic faith and the Democratic platform—noting that despite the Democrats’ support of abortion rights, implementing Obamacare was “part of my pro-life stance and the right thing to do.”

In fact, there are several prominent anti-abortion Democrats, said Chris Pumpelly, communications and development director of Catholics United, a nonprofit social justice advocacy group. He said Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)—a fellow Catholic—is an example of a nationally relevant politician who has stayed true to his stance against abortion.

“Democrats take all types of people,” he said. “We’re working to reduce the need for abortion in America and stand for life in all situations.”

Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren also evoked Christianity in her speech Wednesday night. In order to practice Christian values, Americans must act in a familial and socially responsible manner, she said.

“I grew up in the Methodist Church and taught Sunday school,” Warren noted. “One of my favorite passages of scripture is, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ Matthew 25:40. The passage teaches about God in each of us, that we are bound to each other and called to act. Not to sit, not to wait, but to act—all of us together.”

At Democratic National Conventions prior to this year’s, the party platform has included language mentioning “God,” but Tuesday’s draft of the 2012 platform excluded this along with any language identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After conservative politicians and pundits criticized the platform draft, Los Angeles Mayor and DNC Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa took the podium and asked for delegates’ approval to reinsert these pieces into the platform in an unscripted moment Wednesday.

Despite nearly equal support and opposition in a series of three voice votes conducted by Villaraigosa, the language was included in the final draft of the 2012 platform. This inclusion should ensure support from Catholics who believe in religious principles of goodwill and inclusion, Pumpelly said.

“This says that the Republican party can no longer say they have a monopoly on the common good,” he said.

As for the lack of language identifying Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the original draft, some Democrats say the party regrets the exclusion.

“It was an unfortunate oversight,” Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker told The Chronicle.

Delegates have criticized the voice voting process, saying the nays were equally as loud as the yeas in Wednesday’s vote. This directly contradicts Villaraigosa’s assertion that those in favor of the amendment to the draft had the necessary two-thirds majority.

Including “God” in the platform may violate the principle of separation of church and state, said Noor Ul-Hasan, a Muslim delegate from Salt Lake City, Utah.

“There are people who don’t believe in God and you have to respect that as well,” Ul-Hasan said. “There was no discussion.... We were blindsided by it.”

Nicole Kyle contributed reporting.

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