Report: Liberals Explain Double Standard on Religion in Politics

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - So, how do liberal groups explain the apparent double standard on religion in presidential campaigns - the fact that Republican conservatives are blasted for expressions of religious faith, while Democrats are not?

The issue has moved front and center this week, with Al Gore's selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate.

On Tuesday, when Gore formally introduced Lieberman, the Senator infused his remarks with numerous mentions of God and expressions of faith. George W. Bush frequently mentions his own faith, but his primary-season remark that Jesus has changed his heart prompted lots of criticism in some quarters.

The Washington Times talked with several liberal advocacy groups - most of which conceded a double standard. But many of those contacted by the newspaper argued that a double standard is legitimate, because Republicans preach an exclusionary faith, while the Democrats' doctrine is all-inclusive.

Some choice quotations from Friday's Washington Times article follow here:

"Bush's declarations have an air of exclusivity," said David Harris, deputy executive director for the National Jewish Democratic Council. "But Gore and Lieberman appear all-inclusive on faith, that all must be made to feel welcome." Harris said Bush and Lieberman are totally different. "The problem is [Mr. Bush] deemed Jesus Christ his 'political' philosopher, which will be guiding his political policy."

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State: "There's a bit of a double standard, but Republicans have a long history of seeking votes on a religious basis...Republicans have tended to do more God-talking, embracing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson."

Mark Pelavin, associate director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: "When Republicans talk about their faith, most know what that talk means...That's not as true for Democrats. The Christian right and the Christian Coalition have a policy agenda to change the Republican Party."

Eliot Mincberg, vice president of People for the American Way: "Many Republicans have supported the right to life and school prayer in the name of religion...When Republicans talk, people tend to hear that in an exclusionary way, and when Democrats talk, people tend to hear it in an inclusionary way."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he respected Mr. Bush's right to express his personal religious beliefs, but he said Bush's mention of Jesus as his political philosopher left out "Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus."