Democrats Push God Back Into Their Platform After a Sloppy, Misguided Vote

Late Monday night, the Democratic Party released its platform. While it was great to see the inclusion of marriage equality, it was annoying to see how much faith was promoted:

Faith. 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. Faith-based organizations will always be critical allies in meeting the challenges that face our nation and our world — from domestic and global poverty, to climate change and human trafficking. People of faith and religious organizations do amazing work in communities across this country and the world, and we believe in lifting up and valuing that good work, and finding ways to support it where possible. We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non-profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.

But that’s not enough, it seems.

The Democrats have been slammed by many in their own party and (certainly) many in the GOP for not referring explicitly to God, something they did in 2008 when they mentioned the “God-given potential” of working people in the platform.

But good for them! They showed some backbone! Belief in God is a personal choice and there’s no reason to include reference to one faith or one system of belief in a platform designed to represent a large, far-from-monolithic party.

You knew it wasn’t going to last.

Just over an hour ago, the DNC haphazardly voted to change the platform to put God back in there:

The change, proposed by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland immediately after the convention was gaveled into order on Wednesday, required a two-thirds voice vote, but was declared as adopted after three voice votes which brought delegates to their feet, shouting their yeas and nays. Democratic sources told CNN prior to the vote that it was to take place by acclamation.

What a mess… watching the video, the yeas and nays are about even. Hardly a two-thirds majority. (Admittedly, most of the Nays are probably focused on the “Jerusalem” part more than the “God” bit.) Yet, Convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa — who seems to think the audience will easily approve the measure and is surprised when there’s vocal opposition to it — just goes ahead and approves the measure after the third vote… much to the chagrin of many in the crowd:

The new language about God will read like this:

We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God–given potential.

Just as it was with the word “faith,” the new platform implies that Democrats don’t consider atheists valued members of the party. It treats “God-given potential” as a fact instead of something we all just have to work hard to make the most of. (I also doubt it placates the religious members of the party who want a more direct reference to God but have to settle for a vague reference instead.)

It may have been a simple oversight when “God” was omitted, but it’s a mistake to put this language back in. For all the good graces the DNC earned for being so inclusive, their inability to stand up to pressure just caused them to put unnecessary, narrow language back into their platform.

***Update***: Buzzfeed has a great soundbyte from one of the delegates who voted “No”:

One dissenter, who said she hadn’t made it in to voice her “no,” said she opposed the inclusion of God.

“I think the best thing we could do is separate religion and politics,” said Barbara Herz, of Wyoming. “We should let every person make their own religious decisions and keep it out of the platform.”

***Update 2***: The Associated Press and other news outlets are reporting is reporting that the “God” and “Jerusalem” language was added at the behest of the President:




About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Brandon

    Boom! I’m not the only person in favor of Church/State separation in the great state of Wyoming… Good to know!

  • Pamaloniamccrary

    I’m not an atheist, but I know there is no god, and I don’t want god in my politics.

    • Conspirator

      What?  How can you not be an atheist if you know there is no god?  Do you know what the word atheist means? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609238798 Peter Eakin

        An ‘atheist’ by definition doesn’t “know” if there is or isn’t a deity or ‘god’. 
        As an atheist myself, I understand through science that our Universe didn’t need a ‘god’ to exist. I find it highly improbable that there is a ‘god’ but I do not “know”  there isn’t one.
        Might I ask how you “know” that there isn’t a God?

        • Conspirator

          You’re talking about agnostics.  They are the ones who don’t know.   By your definition no one could be an atheist, and that’s just being pedantic.  

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609238798 Peter Eakin

            I’m not trying to split hairs here. I think it’s a matter of humility. Please explain to the class how you, as an atheist, know that there isn’t a God?

            • Conspirator

              Well class, you are splitting hairs.  There is no god because there is no evidence for a god, no need for a god, and therefore no reason to believe in one.  Much like I know the moon isn’t made of cheese even though I haven’t been there to test that for myself, I also know there is no god.  

              And keep in mind I responded to someone that said he was not an atheist but knew there was no god.  That’s a logically inconsistent position.  But you just want to argue over semantics, not substance.  

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                Maybe we need a new label for people don’t believe in any gods but refuse to call themselves atheists:

                Neil deGrasee Tyson
                Lawrence Krauss
                Peter Boghossian

                • Agnostic

                  I thought those people are not so sure, but perhaps they just don’t want to be associated with the ‘new’ atheism.

        • Blacksheep

          Peter,
          Putting God aside, science has no idea how the universe came into being. It only explains how things moved along once it had matter, energy, laws of physics, etc. to work with…

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609238798 Peter Eakin

            I take it that you haven’t read Krauss?

            • Blacksheep

              I have not, but I will – what should I read? 

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609238798 Peter Eakin

                ‘A Universe From Nothing: Why there is Something Rather than Nothing’ – Krauss

                On being an atheist:I use Dawkins scale of Belief and Disbelief. 1 – 7,-On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist, Dawkins rates himself a 6: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”-Dawkins self-description sounds about right, so somewhere between 6 and 7.Not 7, because he understands the impossibilty of certain proof of a negative.He has since bumped it up to 6.9.There’s a reason why Chapter 3 in ‘The God Delusion’ is titled -”Why there is Almost Certainly no God”-It highlights Dawkins reverence for the reality of our Universe and shows true humility. I understand theists not getting that message. Yet it’s puzzling, judging from the comments here, why so-called ‘atheists’ don’t share the same humility.

          • Glasofruix

            It doesn’t have the explanation yet, that doesn’t mean it has to stop searching or to replace the yet unknown parts with some skyfairic mythology.

            • Blacksheep

              Absolutely – I agree whole heartedly. I was responding to Peter’s assertation that “I understand through science that our Universe didn’t need a ‘god’ to exist.”

              Science hasn’t gotten there yet. 

          • Agnostic

            Ah! But you know man are such arrogant creatures. Actually half the people who keep quoting science don’t even know the mathematical formulas that describes the larger universe and the quantum world. It is the identification with the intellectual aspect of science that elevates their standing in their own eyes. That’s why there is the tendency to run down others who don’t see the way they do as being less intellectual.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Half?  Very few people on this planet know the mathematical formulas that describe the ‘larger universe and the quantum world’.  Nor do we need to in order to have an appreciation and general understanding.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=700851737 Sam Kay

      If you know there is no god, how are you not an atheist?

    • Eawkw

      If you know there is no god, by definition, you are an atheist.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Probably using the hard/gnostic version of atheists to say “I’m not an atheist”.

      Lots of people who know there aren’t any gods don’t call themselves atheists.

    • Marco

      I am afraid that makes you an atheist whether you like it or not. But it’s OK. There is a lot of diversity among the people that call themselves “Atheist”. Some are liberal, some conservative. Some are loud and some are quiet.

      The reason why you don’t consider yourself an atheist is very likely because of the negative connotation the word has had historically. But that connotation was given to it by people of faith. By people that do believe a god exist. Don’t let them tell you who you are or you are not.

  • http://twitter.com/_7654_ _7654_

     That vote was nothing short of a farce. I am officially disgusted. :-(

    • Andrew Pang

      I can’t believe that a major political party in THE US cannot be secular at all. :(

    • Conspirator

      Yep, a complete joke.  But I loved the look on that guy’s face.  He was totally unprepared for any opposition.  

    • RobMcCune

      I second that.

    • Pseudonym

      You expected a major party’s national convention not to be a farce, perhaps?

  • Matthew Prorok

    I am very disappointed in my governor right now. Screw you, Ted Strickland, for proposing this change.   It’s obvious that Villaraigosa was just assuming that the measure would pass. He didn’t know what to do when people actually DISAGREED with putting God in the party platform. And after three votes, he basically said “Eh, who cares about voting, we’ll just pretend we got the result we wanted.”  Disgraceful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    We need a “Reason” party. 

    • Pseudonym

      I give it a month before it splits into “Reason” and “Reason+”.

      • Sindigo

        Ha!

  • GeraardSpergen

    I wonder how many of the NAYs objected to the God bits compared to the Jerusalem bits.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    {groan}

  • ortcutt

    I like to think that “God” here refers to Prometheus.  I’m glad the
    Democrats are giving the Titans the recognition they deserve. 

  • Reddwynge

    I am concerned about the DNP’s platform. It says good things about religion which are not true. Religion has been the cause of endless strife in America from the first European settlements, as well as the justification for genocide against Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans.  As a secular American, I do not believe I have any gods-given potential. But I have had a lifetime of freedom to explore things that interested me and to acquire expertise in skills I value. For this I thank my parents and the public education system.

  • RobMcCune

    Well it wouldn’t be a Democratic Party event without tiptoeing  to accommodate idiots who probably vote against them anyway. Watching the video I figured there was some pressure or fear of repercussions driving the repeat votes and the travesty that followed. Sad to hear this crap came from the president.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    This makes me angry.  This is why atheists and all secularists must get more politically active.  The continuation of the unconstitutional funding of faith based social infrastructure is being flat out denied to be so.  Secularists, agnostics, anti-theists, and atheists are being ignored, by the lesser of two evils.  This taxpayer funding of religion must end.  $71,000,000,000/year is not chicken feed it’s big time unconstitutional theft from secular infrastructure.

  • newavocation

    Want to see how this ends? Watch the movie Idiocracy.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    So much for even the faintest hint of diversity. Referring to a specific god (and come on, we all know it’s the biblical deity) leaves Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans etc. out in the cold, too.

    • Jimmy45689

      You’ll live cry baby. Go cause trouble over something else. 

      • RobMcCune

        You mean like getting mad at perfectly reasonable comments?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Crying?  Like what everyone was doing when *gasp* the faith statement wasn’t faithy enough?

      • Marco

        What the hell does this even mean? How’s this poster a cry baby? And given the choice, I’d take cry baby over being insane and posting nonsense.

        • TheKevinBates

          he’s just being a troll

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        I’m a “cry baby” because I don’t want my political party to assert the existence of a particular god? I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the Democratic Party to have a secular platform that doesn’t favor faith. They couldn’t even do that, and here they go promoting one god over all the others, ignoring everyone who isn’t a Western monotheist. Such blatant pandering is worthy of criticism. If that’s “causing trouble,” so be it.

    • Blacksheep

      I have friends who are Buddhist, Hindu, and pagan (one of my closest childhood friends was a radical faerie for years, now he’s studying to become a shaman) and I can assure you that all of them are 100% comfortable with referring to “God”
      I get that atheists may feel left out in the cold but from virtually all of my experience i don’t think the others you mentioned do. They all have very different ideas about God, but God in some form figures in to their view of things.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I used to consider myself a pagan, and although I didn’t actually believe in any of the supernatural part, I, and every pagan I knew, was annoyed by pervasive Christianity in society.  When we heard “God” we thought of the Abrahamic God, that had so many followers that thought we were devil worshipers.  “God” wasn’t a spiritual or religious word for me, it was a political word.

        YMMV.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Two of my closest friends are “symbolic Pagans” (their term) and they’re not fans of mixing religion and politics, either.

        • Blacksheep

          I can appreciate the annoyance.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Well, your friends must be different from my friends. I have friends who are Buddhist, Hindu, and Pagan, too. None of them are monotheists who worship the biblical deity. I mean, let’s be real here. The god in “God-given” is not some generic god. It’s a very specific god. And it sure as heck isn’t Vishnu or Aphrodite.

        • Blacksheep

          Right – my friends don’t worship the Biblical deity, either. But admitedly I like the common ground that reference to “God” brings to the dynamic. (Funny about monotheism, Muslims accuse Christians of being polytheist with our father, son, and holy ghost, and Hindu’s that I know explain that there is one God, and the various forms they worship are just incarnations).

          • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

            Ah, but you see it as common ground. But to people who don’t believe in your god, specifically referencing your god (and no other god) isn’t that at all. It’s one specific form of monotheism getting preferential treatment.

            Buddhists and Pagans don’t believe in your god. Buddhists often don’t believe in any god at all (though they often accept an assortment of other supernatural things) and Pagans are often polytheists. I know several who reject the biblical deity in favor of ancient deities, or no specific deity, but simply a “universal spirit” that has no name, number, or gender.

            My point is that”God-given” doesn’t include any of these people, and I don’t think it helps to pretend that using those words is inclusive of all the various deities that are worshipped in our country. It just looks like another example of religious privilege. You get to have your god, no one else gets to have theirs, and you pretend like your god is “common ground” that everyone can accept and relate to.

          • amycas

            I have another anecdote, that’s different from your anecdote…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

     So neither party can think they can win on their own merit? Need that all important G.O. D. endorsement. 

  • Christi99100

    Who was the woman who intervened before the chairman took the third vote?  He was ready to say, “well, I guess it didn’t pass.”  But she intervened and it was pretty clear from the video that she told him he needed to approve it.

    I listened to it on the radio and just heard her say, “you have to rule and let them do what they’re going to do,” which at the time just sounded like her telling him to make a damn decision.  Looking at the video, however, it is pretty clear she wants him to approve it–it had been decided long before they actually took it to the floor.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I wish the Democrats would show some backbone in this instance. They changed it because the GOP, particularly Ryan/Romney, thought it was just awful that they didn’t include god and it is just horrible not to decide in advance that the Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. 

    It irks me to no end that people support Israel solely without considering other factors and they support Israel mainly because the Jews need to control Jerusalem for the world to end. Kind of weird to base foreign policy on something that is supposed to end the world. 

    • Calvinius

      Jerusalem is already the capital of Israel*. A nation’s capital isn’t a matter of opinion. The capital is wherever that nation places its seat of government. But saying in an American political party’s platform that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is just as pointless as saying that Moscow is the capital of Russia.

      Note: East Jerusalem is not the same city as Jerusalem, and it’s not part of Israel. That’s entirely separate from the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

      And yes, the lack of backbone shown on this “issue” was sad.

      • Raising_Rlyeh

        Actually, most of the international community does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That is why all the embassies are in Tel Aviv. East Jerusalem was captured and is considered occupied territory, but there are those that want a unified Jerusalem no matter the cost. This is causing rifts since the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as their capital city. 

        But, yes the whole East Jerusalem thing is separate. 

        • Calvinius

          The location of a nation’s capital is an internal matter, though. As long as they don’t try to place their capital in territory they don’t legitimately possess sovereignty over (for example, if Israel were to try to move the Knesset building into East Jerusalem), it’s their own business.

          There’s no requirement for embassies to be located in a nation’s capital. They usually are, but that’s just a matter of convenience (since most of an embassy’s work involves dealing with the host country’s government). Since Israel is a small country, it’s not inconvenient to have the embassy in Tel Aviv instead, and that makes it an easy way to protest Israel’s illegal attempt to annex East Jerusalem into Jerusalem.

    • machintelligence

      But the democrats (at least those on the convention floor) did show considerable backbone. The honest response from the chairman, after the third vote, should have been “the motion fails for lack of a majority” (gavel down). “The next order of business…”

  • Akak907

    It is what it is.  You can’t honestly be surprised.  The lack of god and jerusalem in he platform gave Romeny and the GOP a huge means of attack in a country that is predominently christian.  You and I may call BS on it, but most of the country won’t.  The Obama camp made a political decision to win a poltical election.  It would be nice if everyone understood that church and state should always remain seperate and that you don’t need to pander to a god to win an election (or be good for that matter), but we’re decades from that in the USA.  All we can do is keep making inroads where possible and not let stuff like this completly discourage us when those who are our allies in many political issues make decisions like this.  Remember, even if you hate this, a vote for the Democrats is still a whole hell of a lot better than allowing the GOP to install Christian privledge and “morals” officially into our government.

    • Calvinius

      The lack of god and jerusalem in he platform gave Romeny and the GOP a huge means of attack in a country that is predominently christian.

      I don’t buy that for a second. The GOP could probably do that. They’re a good chance they still will do it. But it wouldn’t actually have any impact. The people who actually thought this was a problem? Let’s be real. They weren’t going to vote for Democrats anyway.

      • Akak907

        Other than th fact that I’ve seen numerous people who voted for Obama in 2008 but are bothered by the gay maraige thing, saying that they’re on the fence now since marraige should be “between one man and one woman.”  These are votes he can still win, but things like this will push them into the Romney camp.  He’s pushing hard with Christian and their percieved moral issues.  Does the decision lose a lot of voters?  No, I agree with you that most who think the original platform leaving out god was a bad thing are not likely to vote for Obama anyways.  But like it or not (and trust me, I’m as disgusted personally about this as you are), the possible lost votes from not doing this today outways the votes lost by doing it.  Those who are upset about this are stil voting for Obama…he’ll lose some votes I’m sure, but not as many as were on the fence about him and this would have allowed the GOP to push them into their camp.

    • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

       Why yes the 20% or less who watch FOX actually care about if god is in the platform because they believe in irrational religious tests in politics and the rest of the people won’t know about it or care about it.

      A GOP friend of mine was complaining about the god and Jerusalem issue then was saying that the Dems practiced “voting fraud” in trying to fix it….. *sigh*

      Personally I don’t care because the party platform doesn’t mean anything beyond the convention.

  • Marco

    What a clusterfuck. I can’t wait to see what the Young Turks have to say about this one.
    The only semi-positive aspect of it (and only in a very narrow sense that an Obama victory will be a better outcome than a romney one) The president gets credit for getting behind the change of language. That means, hopefully, less ammo in the hands of the lunatic fringe. We certainly would have preferred if Obama supported the opposite point of view, but realistically speaking it would have been a grave mistake come the election.

    It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to vomit. 

  • Gunstargreen

    I don’t even know if I’m voting this year. I’m just completely numb about US politics right now.

  • DougI

    Thank goodness, now I’m certain this will end all of the criticism by the Republicans since the Democratic party is a godly party and now Obama will win all these votes by Christian conservatives.

    If that happens then maybe there is a god.

  • Guest

    After listening to that a few times, I’m dissatisfied that they can actually say that was 2/3 in favor. When it CLEARLY was not. This is why I’m Independent. Republicans are typically too far right without any reason behind some of what they stand for (not all, but the loud ones typically touting their flag). And Democrats have no backbone. This Country was built for ALL, not for all those who believe in God. 

  • http://twitter.com/headphase Tim Brown

    Voting for either of the two major parties will not help athiests.  Vote Libertarian or Green.  A wasted vote is better than supporting the status quo.

    • TheKevinBates

      Except for in swing states, where a “wasted vote” may actually cost the lesser evil the state.

    • Randy

      Yes, that worked so well in 2000.

    • Gus Snarp

      I could not more fundamentally disagree. There are real issues that will be decided in the next four years on which everyone is so much better off with Obama in the White House than Romney that a protest vote is a very bad idea. 

      Think about the potential vacancies on the Supreme Court alone. If Romney appoints the next two justices instead of Obama we will be in serious trouble for a very long time.

  • Octoberfurst

     The Right is making a huge stink about this. They’re all ranting about the “Godless Democrats”. I get so tired of this religious BS.  Why does God have to be mentioned at all in either platform? There are actually people out there who keep count of things like “How many times was God mentioned?” Seriously, get a life! The only reason the Democrats were scrambling to do this was because the morons on the Religious Right were raising hell about it saying that the Democrats don’t love the baby Jesus.  I weep for this country sometimes.

  • Randy

    A disgrace!  You don’t get to re-vote over and over when you don’t get the answer you like.  And you don’t get to decide a close vote based on opinion.  That needed to go to ballots (or just be dropped, if actually voting is too much of a bother).

  • Ashley Will

    I’m glad to live in Wyoming just because of the highlighted quote: 
    “I think the best thing we could do is separate religion and politics,”
    said Barbara Herz, of Wyoming. “We should let every person make their
    own religious decisions and keep it out of the platform.” I already know of one person in my Wyoming Atheists Facebook group that has emailed her thanking her for speaking up for secular Wyomingites, and I will as well.

  • Gus Snarp

    The speeches at this convention have been so heartening, implying that the Democrats were finally going to show some backbone. And then they go and demonstrate that their backbone is made of jelly. At least the ones in positions of power. Apparently the rank and file delegates want something very different, and much more like what I’d like to see, than the power brokers. Unsurprising, really, but very disappointing. Especially with the apparent disregard for democratic principles. I’m still voting for Obama in November, but I’m going to continue to push for real change, and I’ll be damned if Strickland will get my primary vote for governor. Any other Dems in Ohio want to be governor? I’ll vote for anyone who’s not a minister or a conservative.

    • Agnostic

      Debt at 101.7% of GDP as at 30 June, and 131% of disposable income as at end of 2011, unemployment at 8.2% as at 30 June 2012. Nice going. Another four years of going downhill?

      • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

        May we have that in comparison to 2008 numbers? I thought not. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/agni.ashwin Agni Ashwin

    God is a Grand Old Democrat.

  • MeOnly

    whats wrong with keeping religion and government seperate? Pledge alliegiance to your flag at the beginning of school, without a united front, why live in America? we have too many negative people, too many people in politics trying to rule everyone else.. I live in America, home of the FREE, if you don’t like it, LEAVE!!  Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but we all don’t have to agree, voice it, write it, but don’t whine when lots of people can’t or don’t agree.. America, free speech, free thought.. Quit trying to get everyone to agree, not everyone will.. voice it, then let it go… its AMERICA, Home of the FREE!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Because it’s the land of the FREE!

      (and it’s the home of the BRAVE)
      :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/troy.boyle Troy Boyle

    Perhaps it was too much to hope for. 

  • Foster

    Democrats.  As a devout Catholic Christian with no interest in the atheistic agenda, I found watching that disgusting.  If you have to repeat the “voice count” three times, you should probably switch to written votes or admit you have no interest in the voice of the electorate, no?  Not that the Republicans are any better, it seems.  

    http://voxday.blogspot.com/2012/08/mitt-romney-chicago-republican.html

    • Obazervazi

      Can we please not cite Vox here. He’s kind of a lying sociopath.

  • Canary LeBlanc

     We need to include GOD in everything we do and undertake


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