Kerry touts ‘values;’ religion adviser quits
By Allen Palmeri
August 17, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY —Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry continued to press his definition of “values” in a stump speech at the Missouri state capitol Aug. 5, the same day the Democratic National Committee released a statement acknowledging that the person hired as the new senior adviser for religious outreach had resigned after only 13 days on the job.
“The word ‘values’ has been cheapened by politics,” Kerry said. “Values spoken without actions taken are slogans. I think America is about values that are lived, not slogans. Values are choices that we make every single day in America. People get up, they go to work, raise their kids, live by the rules — those are the values that are lived. We have the right to expect that we stop talking about family values in America and start valuing families in the policies that we put in place.”
But the policies that Brenda Bartella Peterson might have put in place from her former position as religious adviser were precisely what concerned religious leaders like William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the largest Catholic civil rights group in the country.
Peterson, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), was forced to resign Aug. 4 because, as Donohue put it, her values did not line up with the 90 percent of Americans who support leaving the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Peterson was one of 32 clergy members to file an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Michael Newdow’s attempt to take “under God” out of the pledge, a bid that was rejected by the high court in June. The pledge, with “under God” left in, was recited at the Kerry rally.
In a DNC statement, Peterson said she resigned because “I feel it is no longer possible for me to do my job effectively.”
Democrats differ on how to properly apply their “values” to the pledge case. U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D.-N.C., is one of 225 representatives supporting the Pledge Protection Act of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R.-Missouri. McIntyre said he supports the bill, which would restrict federal judges from removing the words “under God” from the pledge, as “a matter of conviction.” He is a lay leader in the First Presbyterian Church of Lumberton, N.C.
“My first concern is to represent the values of the people who sent me there [to Washington, D.C.], and I believe that’s the philosophy of the Blue Dogs,” McIntyre said during the campaign stop in Missouri.
The congressman was referring to the “Blue Dog Democrats,” a coalition of 35 conservative and moderate Democrats who see themselves as a voice for common sense. On their website, the Blue Dogs cite political success in the 1998, 2000 and 2002 elections as proof that the public approves of their centrist, fiscally responsible message. The Blue Dogs even claim to be the muscle behind Kerry’s stump speech promise that he will balance the federal budget better than the Bush Administration has, McIntyre said.
“The Democratic Party has won all the liberal seats [in the House],” McIntyre said. “What’s left to win will be in the moderate to conservative districts. That’s where the Blue Dog Democrats come in.”
The man who introduced Kerry Aug. 5 in Jefferson City, Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, is a non-Blue Dog who is one of eight Democrats who have signed on to the Pledge Protection Act.
Skelton and McIntyre also are pro-life, as compared to the Democratic Party platform which states that abortion should be legal. McIntyre went so far as to say that politics in Washington, D.C. is his mission field. “Pray for me,” he said.
On the stump in Jefferson City, John Edwards, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, also set forth his definition of values.
“Where I come from, in rural North Carolina, we don’t judge somebody’s values based on how they use that word in a political ad,” Edwards said. “We look at what they’ve done in their life — what they’ve spent their life standing for, fighting for. Where I come from and where you come from, a man [Kerry] who loves this country enough to volunteer to serve it, to put his life on the line for his country, that’s a man who represents real American values.”
McIntyre said God is using the Blue Dog Democrats as a strong voice for fiscal common sense within the party. As for their influence on folks like Kerry, Edwards and Peterson, all of whom would appear to disagree with many of the Blue Dogs on how to best define the word “values,” McIntyre is determined to stick to the high road.
“I really don’t have any comment on where anybody else is,” the congressman said.