Liberals Say Religious Voters Rejected GOP's 'Old, Narrow Agenda'

By Kate Monaghan | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Following the Democratic takeover of Congress, some liberal religious figures are attributing the change in leadership to what they see as a too narrow definition of faith issues on the part of the Republican Party.

"[Americans] want a broader agenda," said Jeff Carr of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical group concerned about social justice issues.

"They want to see our Congress and our president take on the really important big issues, the great moral debates in our country, like poverty, like climate change, like genocide in Darfur, [like] how do we create renewable energy sources in our country so we can take care of God's creation?" he said.

"There are so many other issues that I believe that we're going to continue to push," Carr said during a teleconference organized by Faith in Public Life, a communication resource for religious leaders and organizations.

"Is the God gap gone?" asked Katie Barge, the group's director of communication strategies. "It appears to be so.

"Religious voters showed up and voted on faith and values issues like integrity in government, the war in Iraq, and economic opportunity and not the religious right's old, narrow agenda," Barge said.

Willliam Donahue of the Catholic League, a Catholic civil rights organization, rejected the idea that values voters were more concerned about environmental and poverty issues than they were about other typical values voters' issues.

"It's absurd. There's no evidence at all that that's the case," Donahue told Cybercast News Service . "I don't know of a single Catholic or Protestant that I've ever met in my entire life who ever told me that one of the pressing issues of the day was global warming. So I don't know where they are, these people."

"I think that's nonsense. It definitely is not the case," agreed Janice Crouse, senior fellow at the conservative Concerned Women for America (CWA.)

"You can look to the data that shows more and more of the social conservatives have moved closer to the fiscal conservatives and have been quite upset about the economic overspending and all of the various ways that ... the government has become more moderate," Crouse said.

While Donahue agreed that the war in Iraq was an issue in Tuesday's election, he did not think that economic issues are what drew values voters to the polls.

"When you get to this point - now of course we've been in Iraq for a number of years - there's no apparent progress being made. I think that this trumped the interest in these other areas," he said.

"However, the fact that eight of nine states lost on gay marriage suggest that the values voters are still out there," added Donahue. "Anybody who thinks the budget is a moral document needs to get his head checked on."

According to Tony Campolo, a leader of the evangelical left and founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, the turnover in Congress is due to the Republican Party letting down the religious right.

"They had promised all kinds of action on abortion and nothing happened, and there was a disillusionment in the evangelical community," he said. "A lot of people stayed home. A lot of people perhaps didn't vote Republican, because they thought that political answer was not the answer on the abortion issue."

Campolo said this had affected the party's image.

"The Republican Party lost its credibility as the God party. The credibility for that claim was shattered over the last month and a half," Campolo said.

Crouse said rather than showing a shift away from conservative principles, the recent election showed the desire for more conservative values.

"This election was not a repudiation of conservative values," she said. "If you look at who was elected and who was not, most of the people who didn't make it were moderate Republicans. They were not the ones who've taken the strong determined stand."

Donahue agreed, concluding that a return to conservative values and a shift away from moderates will help the Republicans in 2008.

"The Republicans lost because they ran away from conservative principles, and they will lose again in '08 if they continue to run that way," he said.

"You can't be engaged in nation building and running up incredible deficits and spending like drunken sailors and expect that to be considered conservatism," Donohue added.

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