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Carter: Religion, politics getting too cozy

SALT LAKE CITY -- For a man who evangelized foreign leaders and taught Sunday school while U.S. president, Jimmy Carter has some strong words for what he sees as an “excessive melding of religion and politics.”

And it began, he said, with the denomination he called home for more than seven decades: the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It’s now metastasized to other religions, where an actual affiliation between the denomination and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party is almost official,” Carter said during a stop here to promote his new book, White House Diary.

“There are pastors openly calling for members to vote a certain way,” the 86-year-old ex-president said. “That’s a serious breakdown in the principle of separation of church and state.”

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, left the Southern Baptists in 2000 after the denomination’s long shift toward conservative politics and new doctrinal statements that are, in Carter’s view, more creed-based and anti-woman. But the couple remain Baptists and worship at Maranatha Baptist Church when they are home in Plains, Ga.

Curran: How bishops challenge abortion laws is 'flawed'

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The approach currently taken by the U.S. bishops to changing the law on abortion -- giving it a preeminence above all other issues that Catholic voters might consider -- is flawed on four counts, argued Fr. Charles Curran during a lecture Oct. 28 in the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, where he teaches.

Curran, a controversial theologian who ran into trouble with church authorities earlier in his career for challenging church teaching on artificial birth control and other social issues, did not dispute church teaching about abortion in his talk. Instead he argued that various approaches to the law are acceptable under Catholic teaching.

Religion's role in politics provokes brewing backlash

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PBS broadcast a six-part documentary series earlier this month titled “God in America.” It comes from the award-winning producers of “American Experience” and “Frontline.” (Full episodes are available for free online at PBS.org.) A review of the series in Religion News Service called the show “an intense exploration of the complex dynamics that animate a nation that is both deeply religious yet without an official religion.”

Palin, at center of political stage, keeps mum on faith

Sarah Palin once pursued politics out of a religious sense of calling, and considered her choice as vice presidential candidate by 2008 GOP nominee John McCain part of “God’s plan.”

But now, as the midterm elections loom and Palin positions herself as the heroine of the Tea Party, Palin has become less vocal about the faith that propelled her onto the political scene.

“She’s not even talking much about her Christian faith as a whole, much less as a Pentecostal Christian,” says author Stephen Mansfield, who charts Palin’s journey through religion and politics in a new book.

As she stirs the Tea-Party pot at rallies across the country ahead of the midterm elections, the former Alaska governor occasionally refers to freedom as a “God-given right” or people with special needs and the elderly as “God’s gifts.” But her speeches tend to focus more on the economy and small-government populism than faith or social issues.

Mansfield, who has also parsed the faith of George W. Bush, President Obama, Winston Churchill and others, says Palin’s faith was nonetheless key to her swift political ascent.

The Pope or the Tea Party?

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COMMENTARY

It’s time to stand up for government’s essential role in serving the common good and challenge the anti-government fervor of Tea Party activists. If you’re looking for a bold champion of economic justice who rejects the movement’s infatuation with unfettered markets and hostility toward government, start with the spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics around the globe.

Election Central

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Over the past several weeks, NCR’s Distinctly Catholic blog has featured analyses of various midterm races around the country that, in one way or anther, are of interest to Catholic voters.

Each post looked at polling data, key issues, fundraising, and other important election dynamics.

Here, at Election Central, you will find links to each of those original posts. Look for each to be updated with new information as we get closer to election day. The analyses are organized by type of race: for Governor, House and Senate.

We've also provided links to other articles that look at the upcoming elections, from both the print edition of NCR and NCRonline.

Stay tuned for updates. Get informed on the issues. This midterm election will reshape the political landscape and NCR’s at Election Central is the place to find a distinctly Catholic view of that landscape.

Governor:

    Candidates talk God, country, jobs

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    RICHMOND, MO. -- In pursuit of a hotly contested rural western-central Missouri congressional seat, the candidates are in a race to out-patriotize, out-pray and out-job-create one another.

    Listen to 17-term Democratic incumbent Ike Skelton and you’ll hear all about the importance of saluting the flag and supporting our troops. Listen to Republican challenger Vicky Hartzler and you’ll hear all about praying to God and protecting the Constitution.

    CEO: Health care reform, sale of Catholic hospitals not linked

    WASHINGTON -- The head of a Catholic health system has denied reports that the decision to put three hospitals in northeastern Pennsylvania up for sale was a result of the health care reform bill passed in March.

    "Discussions about mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships have been conducted in our health care community for years -- long before the passage of the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act," said Kevin Cook, president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners, in an Oct. 10 statement. "Our decision announced last week was due to many factors."

    Cook said "the rationale for our initiative has been mischaracterized by certain politicized media outlets and severely distorted by some special-interest groups."

    Mercy Health Partners is comprised of Mercy Hospital in Scranton, Mercy Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke, Mercy Tyler Hospital in Tunkhannock and several outpatient facilities. It is part of Catholic Healthcare Partners, based in Cincinnati.

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