Manufactured Outrage Over ‘Godless’ Democratic Platform [UPDATE]

This post has been updatedGod and Jerusalem Back in Democratic Platform

One of the sadly predictable lines of rhetoric at the Republican convention in Tampa was the assertion that the Obama administration is waging a war on religious liberty. Now GOP officials are taking things a step further, using the absence of the word “God” in the Democratic Party platform to suggest that Democrats are waging a war on the Almighty himself, not to mention his role in our nation’s founding.

What Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog aptly calls a “manufactured freak-out” includes expected blowhards like the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, but it also includes GOP chair Reince Priebus (“disgraceful”) and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who said that Democrats’ “purges of God” are “not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision.”

It sounds like Ryan has been reading the supremely misleading David Barton. The same goes for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who said in his GOP convention address that “faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.”

Of course, God is not actually named in the U.S. Constitution—and it wasn’t an oversight. Founders considered and rejected attempts to make the Constitution an explicitly Christian document. Instead they went with no religious test for public office and the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections. Benen writes:

If the Constitution doesn’t mention God, I think the political world can probably keep its apoplexy in check over the Democratic platform. Unless Republicans and news organizations are going to start condemning the Constitution, too, demanding an explanation for its secular nature, let’s relax a bit.

Indeed, the ballyhooed “purge” involves a revised section on economic opportunity, which no longer references individuals reaching their “God-given” potential. The Democratic platform does include an extensive section on faith, which praises government partnership with faith-based groups and says, “Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history. We know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly stronger and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires.”

God, it turns out, has already been quite welcome in Charlotte, from opening and closing prayers to references in several speakers’ remarks. But that is not enough for the word-counters at Fox News, who demand to know why the number of uses of “God” has dropped. In response, Sen. Dick Durbin took on the insinuation that the platform revision somehow proved that Democrats are anti-God:

Well, I can just basically tell you that if the narrative that is being presented on your station and through your channel and your network is that Democrats are godless people, they ought to know better, God is not a franchise of the Republican Party. Those of us who believe in God and those of us who have dedicated our lives to helping others in the name of God don’t want to take a second seat to anyone who is suggesting that one word out of the platform means the Democrats across America are godless.

UpdatePresumably trying to cut short critics’ focus on the absence of the word God in the party platform, and the lack of an assertion that Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel, Democratic Party officials pushed through platform amendments re-inserting language on God and Jerusalem from the 2008 platform. According to the Washington Post, convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa declared, over loud objections, that a voice vote had given the required two-thirds support to adopt the amendment.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.