Political observers have forecasted religious affiliation to be the most decisive factor in determining the outcome of this year’s presidential election. Without question, a bulk of President Bush’s campaign has centered on the 50-million-strong evangelical Christian community, and with great results: polls show up to an 80 percent support for Bush among white conservative evangelicals.
With the apparent hope to garner the same success, the Democratic National Committee announced its appointment of the campaign’s first “senior advisor for religious outreach” on July 23, 2004. This time, however, the target is placed on Christians with more “mainline” or “liberal” beliefs and people of different faiths.
Brenda Bartella-Peterson, a minister of the liberal Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined the DNC to press the support among moderate religious voters for senator John Kerry.
“Brenda has dedicated her life to showing us all how religion and politics intersect with integrity,” DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “We are proud to have her join the DNC in order to spread John Kerry’s positive vision to people of all faiths.”
Accordingly, Brenda’s husband, John Lynner Peterson, is the communications director for the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance.
"Brenda will act as liaison to religious organizations and will encourage people to let their faith inform their participation in democracy," McAuliffe said.
While Bush’s faith-based initiatives and views against abortion, stem-cell research and homosexual marriage attracted the votes of evangelical Christians, many church-state-separatists and more liberal faith groups criticized the actions.
“There are folk who are no longer content to be bystanders, and for religious reason,” said the Rev. Albert Pennybacker, the CEO and chairman of the national committee at the liberal Clergy Leadership Network. “Real religion isn’t how often you pray but how deeply you care.”
On the Republican side, Lindsay Taylor said the Grand Old Party has “several different folks” who already reach out to people of faith – including those outside of the evangelical circle. Taylor also predicted Kerry’s campaign will make little difference among the people of faith.
"They are going to reject the Kerry?Edwards ticket because that is the most liberal presidential ticket ever,” she said. “They both voted for the war but then voted against funding for our troops, they voted against a ban for partial?birth abortion, they voted against tax relief. People are going to reject this liberal agenda.”