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Religion and Politics

WHEN a group of "social-gospel" Christians staged a sit-in in the Capital Rotunda a few weeks ago to protest Republican welfare-reform plans, we were reminded of the double standard on religion and politics these days.

Media commentators are quick to take offense at conservative or fundamentalist Christians opposing sex-education programs, protesting against abortion, or campaigning in favor of vouchers for parochial schools. The shout goes up decrying "church" attempts to "legislate morality" or "impose a religious agenda."

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Liberal Christians have deluged the news media and public officials in the last few weeks with screeds condemning the GOP, and usually Speaker Newt Gingrich by name, for reform proposals on welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid. We've yet to see any mainstream media complaints about liberal religious leaders sticking their noses into politics; no outcry about the Christian Left or the National Council of Churches trying to dictate policy.

The point here isn't that one group of Christians is correct and the other is wrong. We have friends in both camps, yet have differences with each. The point is that religious people of every stripe are going to get involved in public debate about controversial issues. Their views are heartfelt and worth hearing out. They don't deserve summary dismissal just because they are religious.

And all have an equal right to engage in legal political activity as they see fit.

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