December 12, 2019

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Religious leanings an undercurrent in politics

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/9/2015 (1538 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SO far, religion hasn't made much of an appearance in this election. But at least four things stand out.

First, there was the report of two-year-old tweets from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's senior aide Shawn Dearn.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

NDP leader Tom Mulcair (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

In one tweet, he directed profanity at Pope Benedict over the issue of gay marriage.

In a second tweet, he said: "Memo to CBC and all media. Stop calling the misogynist, homophobic, child-molesting Catholic Church a 'moral authority.' It's not."

Dearn, who is gay, quickly tweeted an apology, saying "some tweets that predated my current role were offensive and do not reflect my views."

Mulcair defended him. "He felt very bad about it, and I'm more than willing to move on from that," he said.

The episode prompted an anonymous tweeter to wonder why someone who urinated in "a customer's cup" — former Conservative candidate Jerry Bance — was immediately dropped by that party, while someone who urinated "on a whole religion" was given a pass.

Second, there was Michael Coren writing in the Toronto Star Sept. 8 that he will not be voting Conservative "because I am a Christian."

Coren, best known as a provocative conservative journalist — including a stint on the Sun News Network — gave four reasons why he won't vote Conservative: the party's positions on the environment; care for the poor and marginalized; the pursuit of peace; and personal integrity.

"There used to be a fashion for Christians to attach 'What Would Jesus Do?' stickers to the back of their cars," he wrote. "Not my sort of thing at all, but in that He repeatedly spoke up for the poor, criticized the wealthy, condemned the judgmental, welcomed the stranger and lauded the peacemaker, perhaps we have a few clues to the answer."

Third, there was a panel discussion on CBC Radio's The Current Sept. 11 about religion and the election. One of the panellists was Darrel Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.

Asked if there was a strong connection between religion and voting, Bricker said "core values as defined by religion find their way into every single issue... we find this in voting."

He noted while their surveys find certain groups will vote certain ways — Evangelical Christians are more likely to vote Conservative; Muslims are more likely to vote Liberal — the strongest indicator of whether people vote at all is if they attend worship services regularly.

"When we take a look at who actually turns up and votes, people who have more of a religious background and who are more likely to participate in their churches are more likely to participate in communities and in politics," he said.

People who dismiss religion and see voting as "more of a secular process are missing a key element," he added.

As for why we don't hear more about the role religion plays in voting, Bricker implicated the media.

"We have a pretty secular media; they don't necessarily bring it up," he said. "But when you take a look at the indicators of who participates in the political process, voters, religion is a pretty big marker for them."

Finally, there's the Syrian refugee crisis. Stephen Harper has been criticized for not showing enough compassion for those fleeing war and hardship in Syria and other countries.

But he knows his base: as an Angus Reid survey found, Canadians who support the Conservative party are less inclined than Liberal or NDP supporters to agree we should accept more refugees.

But the survey also showed support for that position in the Conservative party is not unanimous. The party's Christian supporters are at odds with other Conservatives on this issue.

While only 32 per cent of Conservative supporters think Canada should be more welcoming to refugees, 48 per cent of practising Christians who support the party — people whom Angus Reid defines as those who go to church regularly — think Canada should be more open and accepting.

The same survey showed 45 per cent of those who consider themselves practising Christians support the Conservatives, compared to 25 per cent for the NDP and 20 per cent for the Liberals.

There are still a few weeks left in this election; I wonder if religion will make any more significant appearances.

jdl562000@yahoo.com

John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

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