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Why Democratic platform uproar points to deeper challenge for party

Democrats restored the words 'God' and 'Jerusalem' to their platform Wednesday, saying the omission was an 'oversight.' But with a growing share of Democrats turning away from organized religion, 'God talk' can cause some tension.

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Religion talk – God talk – can create tensions within the Democratic coalition; some people respond positively, other people react very negatively, and I don’t know what [role] that tension might’ve played” in the phrases being removed from the plank, he adds.

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The move to rewrite the plank after its approval on Tuesday came after the widely read Drudge Report, a conservative news site, linked to a story pointing out how the party had excised the phrase “God-given rights” and had taken out language in the 2008 plank that referred to support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The revised sections now read as follows:

  • "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
  • "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."

Republicans, who are managing their own religious tensions between social conservatives and libertarians, quickly jumped on the slip up, hoping it would upstage the convention’s main speakers, including Bill Clinton, and drive home a campaign message that Democrats are out of touch with mainstream America.

“If booing God and his holy city is a part of the Democratic Convention happening in this universe, I’ll take the alternative universe Bill Clinton said the GOP lives in,” writes RedState blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson. “This is why Barack Obama stands a good chance of losing. It is the Democrats who have disconnected from America.”

For some religious Democrats, the whole incident seems an innocent, yet potentially damaging, mistake.

“I’m personally convinced that this was on nobody’s agenda – that what we’re looking at is an incredibly stupid happenstance,” says Stephen Schneck, the national co-chair of Catholics for Obama and a board member for Democrats for Life, who acknowledged that he, too, missed the change when he read the plank. “But I’ll acknowledge that the optics really stink, and it’s an opening for believing right-wingers to suggest that the Democratic Party is not friendly to religion, which I personally know is fundamentally false.”

If anything Mr. Schneck faults a “tightly held” plank-writing process that he himself witnessed. “It was very tough for pro-life Democrats, who are one-third of the party, to get someone on the platform committee to return our phone calls,” he says.

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