New findings on religion’s role in the midterms

November 18, 2010, 12:43 pm | Posted by

Public Religion Research Institute released a post-election poll yesterday, which follows up on their American Values Survey released earlier this fall. The data on racial attitudes in the Tea Party and shifts in public opinion on gay rights have already made a splash in the blogosphere, but what jumped out at me was a finding suggesting that the distinction often drawn between “kitchen table” elections and “values voter” elections is a false dichotomy:

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of voters said that compared to previous elections, their faith or religious values played the same role this year in how they decided to vote. Nearly equal numbers of voters said that faith played a larger role this year (6%) as said it played a smaller role (8%).

Even in an election dominated by economic concerns (47% said the economy was their top concern, compared to 19 percent who said health care was most important), the role of faith didn’t diminish. This suggests that religion isn’t a compartmentalized influence only pertaining to social issues.

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Thou shalt not steal

November 17, 2010, 10:49 am | Posted by

Every day in communities across the country, unscrupulous employers steal workers’ wages. It might not be a headline-grabbing problem, but ending the injustice of wage theft is a moral issue for many faith-based organizations. Interfaith Worker Justice, along with allied religious groups in over 30 cities, is mobilizing thousands of people of faith tomorrow for the National Day of Action Against Wage Theft to combat the problem. From a rally at the state capitol in Albany, New York, to a protest at a workplace in Cincinnati that steal workers’ wages, to a “Justice Bus” going to Houston businesses that commit wage theft, it’s a multifaceted, creative campaign.

For some background on the issue, here’s a video featuring Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo and grassroots advocates calling attention to the shocking scope of the issue:

Faith leaders played a central role in workers’ rights issues such as child labor laws long ago, and are doing likewise now in the fight to ensure that people get a full day’s pay for a hard day’s work. Today, several leaders and organizers of the National Day of Action are speaking on a press conference call detailing the exploitation of workers in their communities and describing what they’re doing to fight it. We’ll have audio of the call on FPL’s home page later today!

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Fox News Breaks Its Promise

November 15, 2010, 4:47 pm | Posted by

Dan blogged Friday about Glenn Beck launching anti-Semitic attacks against philanthropist George Soros, including intimating that the Holocaust survivor was a Nazi collaborator.

Simon Greer, CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice, went on Keith Olbermann’s program last night to talk about this issue. As Greer notes, he himself was attacked by Beck earlier in this summer for promoting the religious concept of the common good, an idea Beck claimed “leads to deathcamps.”

In a subsequent meeting with FoxNews leadership, Greer received an apology and assurance that the network understood his concern and had the utmost sensitivity towards the issue.

As Greer notes in the interview, this latest attack undermines that:

I believed at the time was that they were sincere in their commitments, but what we’ve seen this week shows that they were not…I actually believed for a minute that [Beck's] values were values and that he would stand by them and keep his word and this week…shows he will do anything to score political points.


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Beck hits a new low

November 12, 2010, 4:18 pm | Posted by

Glenn Beck’s attacks against George Soros this week were appalling. In a lengthy diatribe against the Jewish philanthropist (which also briefly mentioned FPL), Beck invoked numerous rhetorical staples of anti-Semitic ideology, portraying Soros as the “puppet master” fomenting the downfall of America. He even called Soros — a Holocaust survivor – an abettor of the Nazis’ genocide. Seriously. This happened. In America. In 2010. If FOX News continues to air Beck’s show, they are complicit in possibly the most rank demagoguery that has ever marred American television. Thus far, the network’s only comment has been to defend Beck. I hope sponsors are taking note. Advertising on Fox is tantamount to subsidizing hate. Below are some trenchant reactions to Beck’s anti-Semitic comments by Jewish leaders and media commentators…

Jewish Funds for Justice President and CEO Simon Greer:

Of all the new “Tea Party” leaders, Glenn Beck is one of the most vitriolic, and – with more than 800 hours of on-air time a year – the most visible. His portrayal of Soros today as the “Puppet Master,” as the special was called, evokes anti-Semitic stereotypes from the “devaluer of many currencies” to “advocate for one world government” from “anti-American” to “thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us.”

Beck’s words have consequences. They advance a world view that ultimately places Jews like Soros in the crosshairs, not unlike what we saw with Father Coughlin in the 1930s or the John Birch Society in the 1950s. Byron Williams, a Beck acolyte who recently engaged in a shoot-out with police on his way to kill “people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU,” shares his hero’s hatred of Soros and other “progressives.” Given the more than 40 percent of Jews self-identify as liberal, this hatred targets us.

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman:

Glenn Beck’s description of George Soros’ actions during the Holocaust is completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say – inaccurately – that there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that’s horrific.

Media Matters’ Simon Maloy:

I’ve been watching and critiquing cable news for years now, and I can’t recall an instance in which a cable news host has devoted one program, let alone a series of them, to the singular purpose of demonizing a private citizen. And I’m positive that no cable news host has ever trafficked so heavily and unapologetically in virulently anti-Jewish stereotypes.

The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg:

Soros, a billionaire financier and patron of liberal causes, has long been an object of hatred on the right. But Beck went beyond demonizing him; he cast him as the protagonist in an updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

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Spin, lies, and “the least among us”

November 11, 2010, 9:42 pm | Posted by

Sarah Palin’s most memorable contribution to the health care reform debate was her claim that the bill would create “death panels,” which the Pulitzer Prize-winning named “Lie of the Year” for 2009. Although reform passed nearly 8 months ago, the former half-term Governor of Alaska has decided to get back into health care demagoguery. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

Preaching a message of life, Palin — the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a leader in the Tea Party movement — told a crowd of about 800 people gathered at the Majestic Theatre that last week’s midterm elections were a mandate on Congress to repeal a healthcare bill that she believes includes federal funding for some abortions.

Since Election Day, we’ve noted several times that polling data does not back up the claim that the election results constitute a mandate to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Bolstering this case, an AP poll released today showed that 58% of Americans want the law to be expanded or left alone, compared to 39% who think it should be repealed. And we’ve repeatedly set the record straight about health care reform’s provisions regarding federal funding of abortion.

Not to be outdone, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appeared with Palin at the event, invoked Matthew 25:

“The federal government continues to undermine the laws,” he said. “The stakes, I don’t think they have ever been higher. … We’ve got to protest even louder and let them know we are fed up.

“In the final accounting, I believe God’s going to ask us what we did for the least among us.”

I haven’t been able to find the full text of Gov. Perry’s remarks yet, so I don’t want to take him out of context, but a governor who has advocated withdrawing from federal Medicaid, which provides access to needed medical care for millions of poor Texans, should be more mindful of how his positions affect the least among us.

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