Pew survey: 'Moral values' is still top for voters—if it's suggested as an option
The biggest debate after the U.S. presidential election has almost certainly been the influence "values voters" had on re-electing George Bush. (Here's today's roundup of op-ed pieces on the subject, here's the deluge from earlier this week.) Fortunately, today there's actual news on this subject, instead of the tiresome triumphalism vs. bigotry talking points.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press's quadrennial post-election survey found that moral values really was the top factor in deciding for whom to vote—and at even bigger numbers than those troublesome exit polls: 27 percent for moral values, 22 percent for Iraq, 21 percent for "economy/jobs", 14 percent for terrorism/security.

But here's the catch: Moral values only wins out when you ask voters to pick the issue that mattered most among that list (along with health care, education, and taxes). If you just ask, "What one issue mattered most to you in deciding how you voted for President?" the war in Iraq is the runaway winner, with 25 percent. Then it's economy/jobs (12%), moral values (9%) and terrorism/security (8%).

Even if you add in "honesty/integrity" (5%), abortion (3%), and "the candidate's religiosity/morals" (2%), you still don't compete with Iraq.

Bigger news: No one said that marriage or stem-cell research was the number-one issue that mattered in their voting. (The survey did allow for, but didn't ask for secondary responses on that question: 2% gave marriage as a second response, 1% gave stem-cell research).

"We did not see any indication that social conservative issues like abortion, gay rights, and stem-cell research were anywhere near as important as the economy and Iraq," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, told the Associated Press. "Moral values is a phrase that's very attractive to people."

Good news for the Democrats on that point, but bad news on another front: "moral values" pretty much means what religious conservatives have been saying it means—especially on the points of abortion and marriage. The poll press release summarizes:

The survey asked voters who were given the list of issues to describe, in their own words, "what comes to mind when you think about 'moral values'?" Among voters who chose moral values as most important from the list of seven issues, about half gave a response that mentioned a specific issue. More than four-in-ten (44%) defined the phrase specifically in terms of social issues, including abortion (28%), homosexuality and gay marriage (29%), or stem-cell research (4%). A few other issues also were mentioned, including poverty, economic inequality, and the like.
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So "values voters" pretty much do mean abortion and gay marriage after all. (This question, by the way, was open ended. There was no list.) The press release continues:

But the definition of moral values is not limited to policy references. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) who cited moral values as important explained their thinking in terms of the personal characteristics of the candidates, including honesty and integrity (cited by 9%). Almost one-in-five (18%) explicitly mentioned religion, Christianity, God, or the Bible. Another 17 percent answered in terms of traditional values, using such language as "family values," "right and wrong," or "the way people live their lives."
People who did not choose moral values from the list of issues were also asked what the term meant to them. The pattern of responses was quite different from those who said moral values were an important consideration. Fewer mentioned a specific issue, candidate quality, or general religious theme; more answered in general terms, and 12 percent explicitly protested the imposition of others' values on them, said the idea was being used as a "wedge" against Democrats, or otherwise expressed a negative reaction to the phrase.

Of those who didn't list "moral values" as their primary concern, 5 percent said "economic equality/helping the poor/health care" came to mind when they thought about the term. (It was 2 percent for those who picked moral issues as their top concern.)

To translate this into a gross generalization: If you're not voting mainly on the basis of moral values, you're more than twice as likely to be in the "here comes the Inquisition" camp than in the "poverty is a moral issue" camp. Which may mean that the poor aren't going to be a political priority in the near future. Helping the needy must come from a moral or religious basis, or it won't happen. There's little self-interest in helping the poor. But if folks are more interested in opposing "moral values" in politics than in emphasizing feeding the hungry as a moral value, pity Joe Homeless.

Unless … There may be a chance that Americans simply view social-justice issues like "economic equality/helping the poor/health care" as private concerns, not government concerns. Has Bush's message that "government cannot love, but it can support those who do" been embraced by both Right and Left? This might be a more comforting thought if personal giving to charitable organizations was going up by more than 0.6 percent annually.

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When religion news attacks
The tiny village of Knutby, Sweden, has a population of only 550. It's also the center of the country's biggest scandal right now: Pentecostal minister Helge Fossmo's shocking murder-by-proxy of his second wife. (He was tried, but not convicted, on charges of also murdering his first wife.) Last week, an appeals court upheld his conviction. It's a terrible, terrible tale that you can read all about here.

But Weblog would just like to note that many of Knutby's 550 residents are Weblog's relatives, and that Weblog has ties to this village going back to the 1200s. So, on behalf of "my people," I'd like to point out the town's many kind, non-murderous residents and its wonderful medieval church (now Lutheran) that have nothing whatsoever to do with these tragic incidents.

Thank you for your kind attention. (I'm not sure my family would have otherwise forgiven me for linking to this story.) Now for today's miscellaneous links:

Evangelicals & politics:

  • Evangelicals want faith rewarded | Christian leaders fear that influence on Bush, despite wide support, could be short-lived (Los Angeles Times)

  • Religious conservatives optimistic on next four years | No bigger part of the coalition that re-elected President Bush was religious conservatives. Its leaders say they are confident the president will deliver for them in a second term (All Things Considered, NPR)

  • After Bush win, evangelicals push agenda | Evangelical Christian activists in the United States plan to assert their political agenda after playing an important role in President Bush's re-election victory (Day to Day, NPR)

  • Bob Jones sees Bush win as 'reprieve' | Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist college that bears his name, has told President Bush he should use his electoral mandate to appoint conservative judges and approve legislation "defined by biblical norm" (Associated Press)

  • Document: Congratulatory letter to President George W. Bush from Dr. Bob Jones III (Bob Jones University)

  • Strategic balance | Overreaching after a victory can lead to embarrassing defeats (Joel Belz, World)

  • The faith factor | Today's right-leaning Christian churches represent a coldly Calvinist tradition in which even speaking in tongues, if it occurs at all, has been increasingly routinized and restricted to the pastor. What these churches have to offer, in addition to intangibles like eternal salvation, is concrete, material assistance. They have become an alternative welfare state, whose support rests not only on "faith" but also on the loyalty of the grateful recipients (Barbara Ehrenreich, The Nation)

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Moral values debate:

  • 'Moral values' myth | Ten years and another stunning Democratic defeat later, and liberals are at it again. The Angry White Male has been transmuted into the Bigoted Christian Redneck (Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post)

  • It is time to tone down the rhetoric | The Democratic leadership may be way out of touch with mainstream America, but that doesn't mean the GOP has the inside track on morality (Alicia Colon, New York Sun)

  • Voters have spoken on maintaining values | With a strong voice, the people established that they want to keep the moral values that have made the nation great and not those values that are destroying other nations (Carlos Velez, The Gainesville Times, Ga.)

  • Conviction and elections | Polls suggest "moral values" influenced presidential race, the question is how (The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.)

  • It's the morality stupid, isn't it? | It would appear then that we are on the verge of a golden age of morality, a new American Great Awakening, and we can all expect blessings from above to be showered down upon us, the righteous. Yeah, right. (Bill Ferguson, The Telegraph, Macon, Ga.)

Religion & politics:

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Supreme Court speculation:

  • Choice of Gonzales may blaze a trail for the high court | The choice of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general may be part of a strategy to bolster his credentials with conservatives (The New York Times)

  • Frist warns on filibusters over Bush nominees | Issuing a blunt warning to Democrats, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, said Thursday that the newly strengthened Republican majority would not allow filibusters to block action on judicial nominees in President Bush's second term. (The New York Times)

Marriage amendments:

Christians & Israel:

  • Christians concerned over 'disappearance' of communities here | The Christian world is increasingly afraid of the virtual disappearance of their communities in the Holy Land, Motti Levy, Christian and Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, said Wednesday (The Jerusalem Post)

  • Israeli at Vatican | Obed Ben-Hur, Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, swept through the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center near Catholic University yesterday with a kind word for Catholic-Jewish relations, even kinder words for the pope and a gibe against Catholic filmmaker Mel Gibson (The Washington Times)

Yasser Arafat:

  • Fundamentalist outreach | The Democrats have lost their favorite religionist (George Neumayr, The American Spectator)

  • Religious leaders' Arafat reactions vary | Upon Yasser Arafat's death, the Vatican and religious leaders worldwide issued heartfelt pleas for renewed peace efforts (Associated Press)

  • Vatican praises Arafat for Palestinian vision | "The Holy See joins the pain of the Palestinian people for the passing of President Yasser Arafat. He was a leader of great charisma who loved his people and tried to guide them towards national independence," said the statement by chief spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls (Reuters)

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Persecution & religious freedom:

  • Some Iraqi Christians feel threatened | Some Christians in Mosul feel say they are being subjected to threats that have escalated during Ramadan and that may be designed to drive them out of the country, create religious tensions, or at least make life difficult (Associated Press)

  • China cracks down on religious activities | State security agents arrested a prominent member of the unofficial Chinese Protestant church as part of a renewed crackdown on religious activities outside Communist Party control, an overseas activist group reported Friday (Associated Press)

  • Christian beheadings may be inspired by Middle East killings | The beheading of a Christian village leader in Central Sulawesi has prompted fears that a series of similar executions in Iraq may have served as a model (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Islam in the Netherlands:

  • Dutch parliament wants imam limits | The parliament on Friday asked the government to draft legislation compelling Dutch mosques to employ only imams who have studied Islamic religion in the Netherlands (Associated Press)

  • School targeted by Dutch arsonists | Arsonists set fire to a school and attempted to burn down two churches in the Netherlands, the latest in a series of attacks following the murder of a Dutch filmmaker by a suspected Muslim radical, police said Thursday (Associated Press)


  • Victims of hate crimes pray | A Mill Creek-area family joins church leaders in a prayer service after vandals target their car (The Daily Herald, Everett, Wa.)

  • Pastor short of cash, but robbers agree to take a check | Lacking cash, a Kansas City church pastor wrote checks for two men during an armed robbery Wednesday night. Since the checks were written to each robber by name, police think they know who the robbers are (The Kansas City Star)

  • Preacher's 'miracle baby' was trafficked | A baby who a self-styled archbishop claims was born by a miracle was smuggled into Britain by child traffickers, a judge has ruled (The Telegraph, London)

Hindu cleric charged with murder:

  • Top India cleric on murder charge | A prominent Hindu religious leader in India has been arrested over the killing of a temple official (BBC)

  • Jayendra Saraswathi: revered cleric | Jayendra Saraswathi, who has been charged with murdering a temple official, is one of Hinduism's holiest priests and a revered figure among worshippers in southern India (BBC)

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Spokane diocese bankruptcy:

  • Questions raised about bishops' succession | The Spokane Diocese's plan to file for bankruptcy by the end of the month could have implications for Roman Catholics far beyond Washington state (Associated Press)

  • Catholics seek way to protect parishes' assets | In the wake of the decision by the Spokane Roman Catholic Diocese to declare bankruptcy, local parishes are banding together to protect their assets and the money donated to them (The Seattle Times)

  • Bankruptcy plan divides diocese | Skylstad in line to head national bishops' conference as some call for his ouster (The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wa.)


  • Offer to delay 18 closings spurs hope, ire | Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's offer to delay the closings of 18 Catholic parishes sent pastors scrambling to decide whether more time would make any difference in their communities and irritated some people whose parishes have closed (The Boston Globe)

  • Priests may be assigned by regions | Archdiocese looking to day of more parishes than pastors (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  • Plans address priest shortage | Anticipating the possibility of a significant shortage of priests in upcoming years, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk began seeking reaction Thursday to two plans for dividing the 19-county archdiocese into 100 pastoral regions with at least one priest each (The Cincinnati Post)

  • Bishops conference faces twists in picking leader | When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets in the nation's capital next week, its delegates will elect a new president from a slate of 10 nominees including Cardinal Francis George (Chicago Tribune)

National Cathedral gets new dean:

  • Trinity Church rector headed to D.C. | Samuel T. Lloyd III leaving Copley Square to be dean of National Cathedral (The Boston Globe)

  • New dean named for National Cathedral | The Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Boston and a literary scholar specializing in the works of Flannery O'Connor and C.S. Lewis, will be the new dean of the Washington National Cathedral (The Washington Times)

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Missions & ministry:

Evolution & creation:

  • School unit mandates 'Intelligent Design' | When talk at the high school in Dover, Pennsylvania, turns to the origins of life, biology teachers have to make time for both Charles Darwin as well as his detractors (Associated Press)

  • Ga. evolution dispute embarrasses some | First, Georgia's education chief tried to take the word "evolution" out of the state's science curriculum. Now a suburban Atlanta county is in federal court over textbook stickers that call evolution "a theory, not a fact." Some here worry that Georgia is making itself look like a bunch of rubes or, worse, discrediting its own students (Associated Press)


  • Schools may limit 'backpack mail' | Montgomery case makes sending fliers home with kids a free-speech issue (The Baltimore Sun)

  • Get the church out of the state | The real history of this country is no longer taught. This is the direct result of various challenges to textbooks by Christian fundamentalists (Jamie LaRue, The Denver Post)

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  • Exhibit tells story of nuns in America | The story of nuns in America begins in 1694 with Lydia Longley, who as a child was carried off by Indians raiding her New England village (Associated Press)

  • Getty's purchase still in Britain | The British government extended for three more months its ban on the export of a rare illustrated manuscript of psalms, discovered earlier this year in the library at Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire (Los Angeles Times)

Life ethics:


  • Priest group puts political emphasis on values debate | The director of the national pro-life group Priests for Life is still touring the country (The Buffalo News, N.Y.)

  • Abortion war pits religion, medicine | At the centre of the bitter row was a case in which a well-known gynaecologist-obstetrician, Dr John Nyamu, has been charged with murder while procuring an abortion (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Clergy rally against abortion | Religious leaders yesterday warned the Government against legalising abortion, describing it as murder and a grave moral offence (The East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • PM pushes for options on abortion | The Prime Minister has called for more effective sex education and counselling as a means of preventing abortions as federal MPs push to discuss the issue next week when Parliament meets for the first time since the election (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Television & film:

  • Russia starts moral crusade against media | The Russian parliament has embarked upon a moral crusade to eradicate graphic scenes of sex and violence from the country's television screens, prompting fears of a return of Soviet-style censorship (The Independent, London)

  • What it's all about | Hollywood now handles abortion with breezy self-righteousness. It didn't use to. (Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal)

  • In the realm of the reel | A film festival that likes religiously themed movies? (William R. Mattox Jr., The Wall Street Journal)

  • The big question | In the intriguing and surprisingly witty docu, "The Big Question," the king of all queries is "What is God?" (Variety)


  • Hillsong farewells a lost sheep pioneer | Frank Houston, considered the father of Sydney's Pentecostal churches, began preaching to nine adults and five children and built a congregation of thousands that is still growing. He died Monday at age 82 (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • David Hope's triumph of faith | An intimate picture of the retiring Archbishop of York is out this week (The Yorkshire Post, England)

More articles of interest:

  • Gambling and God | It's an age old question. … is gambling a sin? Pastors and church members in eastern Iowa have differing opinions on what the Bible says about the issue (KWWL, Waterloo, Ia.)

  • Uganda heads list of world's forgotten tragedies | The kidnapping and torture of children by a Uganda religious sect was high on the list of a new United Nations appeal on Thursday for the world's forgotten tragedies (Reuters)

  • Material worlds | Philip Pullman has returned to fairy tales to carve a new story about goodness. The master craftsman tells Christina Patterson how to avoid 'moral woodworm' (The Independent, London)

  • Faith Inc. | When I attended the opening of a Chick-fil-A this fall in Evansville, Indiana as part of our Customers First package on exemplary service, I couldn't help but notice how much Christianity is a part of the culture (Chuck Salter, Fast Company)

  • Folk singer's faith | Buddy Miller makes no secret of his beliefs (The Kansas City Star)

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