According to the NY Times, southern Democrats are supporting teaching bible classes in public schools in Georgia and Alabama.
Southern Democrats have always tried to maintain a slight disconnect from the national party because of what is seen as its secular image. Many of these Democrats support prayer in school and tend to wear their religion (Christianity, of course) on their sleeves. They would like to see the national party get religion much more than it does. Howard Dean seems to be taking their side:
Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised that Democrats would do a better job talking about values to religious voters. "We have done it in a secular way, and we don't have to," he said, adding, "I think teaching the Bible as literature is a good thing."
Unfortunately, the Democrats probably look like Johnny-come-latelys since southern conservative Republicans have been supporting the idea of Bible study in the classroom for decades and have actually succeeded in getting it into some classrooms already.
The bible study in question is based on a new textbook, The Bible and Its Influence.
The NYT reports:
It was produced by the nonpartisan, ecumenical Bible Literacy Project and provides an assessment of the Bible's impact on history, literature and art that is academic and detached, if largely laudatory.
The NYT goes on:
In Georgia, the proposal marked a new course for the Democratic Party. The state's Democrats, including some sponsors of the bill, opposed a Republican proposal a few years ago to authorize the teaching of a different Bible course, which used a translation of the Scriptures as its text, calling it an inappropriate endorsement of religion. The sponsors say they are introducing their Bible measure now partly to pre-empt a potential Republican proposal seeking to display the Ten Commandments in schools...In Alabama, a deeply religious state where Democrats support prayer in the schools and a Democratic candidate for governor recently introduced her campaign with the hymn "Give Me That Old Time Religion..."
Notice how the Times says that Alabama is a deeply religious state. Now there is precise reporting. Is it a deeply religious Muslim state? Or a deeply religious Jewish state? Or perhaps it is a deeply religious Hindu state? Why can't the Times just say simply that it is a deeply religious Christian state?
And let's be clear about one thing -- the conservative Christian Republicans don't want to teach some kind of watered-down, "academic," and "detached" textbook on the bible, they want to teach the actual BIBLE in public schools. These Democrats don't even have the spine of their so-called Christian convictions.
Here's how the Times reports on the conservative Republican response to this Democratic conversion:
Christian conservatives, however, say they have been pushing public schools to offer courses on the Bible for decades, and Republicans in both Alabama and Georgia say some schools already offer such electives.
"Their proposal makes them modern-day pharisees," State Senator Eric Johnson of Georgia, the Republican leader from Savannah, said in a statement. "This is election-year pandering using voters' deepest beliefs as a tool."
Saying he found "a little irony" in the fact that the Democratic sponsors had voted against a Republican proposal for a Bible course six years ago, Mr. Johnson added, "It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn't use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course."
Betty Peters, a Republican on the Alabama school board who opposed the initiative in that state, also dismissed the initiative as "pandering." Democrats, she argued, had adopted a new strategy: "Let's just wrap ourselves in Jesus."
They have a point. The Democrats look utterly stupid and craven taking these positions. There simply is no way that the Democrats are going to take back power by trying to outplay the Republicans with the Christianity card. There are so many issues the Democrats need to concentrate on and this is not one of them.
At a time when the American people are losing their jobs, losing their pensions, losing their savings, going bankrupt, facing health care crises, working more and making less, being raped at the gas pump, facing increased foreclosures, having their privacy invaded, and finding themselves increasingly the victim of corporate extortion -- this is not the time to attempt to out-Jesus the Republicans.
It's one thing to reach out on economic, political and social issues, but it's quite another to try to convince evangelical Christians that Democrats Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Evan Bayh, Wesley Walker, and John Kerry are bible believers. They are not. There is a big difference between being a Christian and being a bible believer. Just ask the bible believers. Trying to hoodwink these people will never gain any votes at all for the Democrats.