Faith and God in the Democratic Party platform

UPDATE: The Democrats have reacted to the criticism over leaving God out of their party platform and have added the original phrasing from their 2008 platform back in.

The Democrats this week unveiled their 2012 party platform, which quickly came under scrutiny when it was discovered that the word God did not appear anywhere in the text. To some, this is clearly a sign that the Democrats are taking a stand against religion.

In the 2008 version of the Democrats' platform, God appeared only once, in the statement: "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." The same sentiment is included in 2012, just with a different wording that refers to "talent and drive" without saying it is "God-given."

Among the critics of the omission was vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who never shies away from talking about his own Catholic faith. Ryan argued that not mentioning God is not in line with the vision of the founding fathers. "I guess you have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform," Ryan said in an interview with Fox News. "There sure is a lot of mention of government. I guess I would put the onus of the burden on them to answer why they did all the purges of God.”

"All the purges of God" isn't exactly how I'd describe changing the phrasing of one statement that wasn't even about religion. And as other commenters have noted, religion isn't exactly absent from the platform, even without God's name in there. In fact, there's a whole section on how important faith is in America.

"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," it says. "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. …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."

But ultimately, what each party says (or doesn't say) in its platform about religion isn't worth getting worked up over. The Democrats may talk big about working with faith communities, but they still failed to incorporate the views of pro-life Catholics who support them on other issues into their platform. The Republicans can brag that God shows up 10 times in their platform, but so do positions that fail to place a priority on protecting the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. 

How many times each party mentions God, faith, religion, or any other term doesn't make one party more friendly to religions than the other, nor does it guarantee that the party's policies and the actions of its leaders will match the values of people of faith. Both parties fall short in that regard, no matter how much lip service they may pay to religion.

About the author

Scott Alessi

Scott Alessi is a former managing editor of U.S. Catholic.