Family Feudin': The religious divide within the GOP

While Protestants make up the bulk of GOP voters and party activists, there are growing numbers of Catholics who vote for the GOP, not to mention the strong support from Mormons, which has much to do with Utah being one of the most Republican states in the nation.

There exists a usually-quiet divide among GOP ranks between evangelical Protestant Christian activists and non-Protestant Christians. Some of it is theologically based, as Catholics and Mormons and Evangelicals are about as far apart as any two groups can be while still calling themselves Christian. Some of it is political, as many Catholics are more politically moderate than evangelicals.

These tensions get drug into the political realm, often by attacks from evangelicals seeking to split hairs and attempt to drive away support for opponents. One such attempt to drag religion into the 2008 Presidential race was reported on by Lee Bandy of
The State, who writes about Saturday's stunt by Cyndi Mosteller, the chair of the Charleston County Republican Party, and long-time social conservative activist, in the middle of a visit to the state GOP's monthly executive committee meeting:

Romney, a possible Republican candidate for president in 2008, was in town to address the state executive committee.

Cyndi Mosteller, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, one of the largest GOP organizations in the state, came armed with a bunch of material — and questions — about the Mormon church.

The incident only underlines what could become an uncomfortable debate over Romney’s faith if he runs for the White House. The issue will be on the table in South Carolina’s early primary contest, where roughly 35 percent of GOP voters are evangelical Christians, many of whom view Mormonism with skepticism.

Welcome to the GOP's hidden family feud: Evangelicals versus non-Protestant Christians.

This divide is also pointed out in recent coverage over the immigation reform issue, in the Honolulu Advertiser and Boston Globe. The Honolulu Advertiser reports:

While Catholic bishops and many Republican politicians share opposition to abortion, they're often split over the specifics of immigration reform. Church leaders are challenging — and in some cases even vowing to defy — the tougher enforcement proposals by GOP lawmakers.

The issue highlights the roadblocks that the Catholic worldview creates for Republicans and Democrats. Catholics generally are conservative on personal issues such as marriage, but they tend to be liberal on social-justice issues, limiting the appeal of both major parties and leaving Catholics "politically homeless."
That's something to think about, for Republicans and Democrats alike: don't court the votes unless you want the voters.

Personally, I doubt the McCain campaign had anything to do with the attack by Mosteller, who was a McCain backer in 2000, and according to one person I talked to who there, had McCain materials at the meeting (take that report for what it's worth, but I take this person at his word). However, they should reconsider having the active support of loose cannons who drag religious differences into the political arena, as any campaign should.

How Romney's faith is attacked, or respected, will say a lot about how much the GOP base really welcomes non-Protestants into the fold. If the GOP really wants them on board, and is not just paying lip service to win their votes, then their Presidential candidates had better avoid incidents like the one that took place Saturday.

If you'd like to know what others think ... there's more discussion of this issue by Faith in the South, Laurin Line, and Palmetto Republican.

17 Response to "Family Feudin': The religious divide within the GOP"

  1. SC Conservative 25/9/06 01:47
    Great analysis and placement within the big picture. I wish more conservatives would see this and realize that religious differences are healthy and that anyone with similar views belongs under the same tent.
  2. Earl Capps 25/9/06 02:00
    I'm a Catholic, but was raised Southern Baptist (that's a bit of a story), so I see this myself.

    A lot of evangelicals think we're heathens on that ol' Bypass to Heck. Which is funny, because we don't think the same about them.

    Glad you enjoyed it - keep on coming back and posting comments. New thoughts and fresh faces are always welcome in my Blogland!
  3. Anonymous 25/9/06 02:49
    hey Earl...just testing something.
  4. west_rhino 25/9/06 09:16
    Earl, this is the same Cyndi that came in at the last minute from a whipering campaign to oppose Charlie Steinert for chair of the Charleston County party about three years ago. One has to wonder if she also has something against Jews too or if she's still just Roberta's attack Yorkie, yapping at the distraction de jour.

    Promethius now only rents in Charleston, Epimethius resides complacently there.
  5. Anonymous 25/9/06 13:38
    all you catholics, mormons ... and episcopelians too ... ya'll are gonna burn, and i'm brining the marshmallows!!!
  6. The Body Politic - Joshua Gross 25/9/06 15:59
    The funny thing to me...

    I've worked in the past with conservative Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, Mormons, a handful of mainline Protestants, (as well as some Buddhist monks), and always thought that, as long as we focused on the issues at hand that held us together we could get along quite nicely.

    There's plenty of disagreement within each of those segments along the lines of "conservative or liberal" while disagreeing on either theological, philosophical or political matters.

    I actually believe the Catholic/Evangelical/Mormon divisions are far smaller in many ways than the Conservative Catholic/Evangelical vs. liberal Episcopalian/mainline Protestant divides. As we begin to see shifts in political groups based in no small part to religious observance, I think you'll see those divides deepen, while some of the more "traditional" differences (i.e. Baptist vs. Catholic) will begin to disappear.

    Just my $.02
  7. Earl Capps 25/9/06 16:13
    Josh - usually there is really great cooperation, but I've seen more than one occasion where when we're not all working together, that the knives come out, usually wielded by conservative Protestants.

    Sometimes, it's by those who had no idea that I, of all people, was actually Catholic before they started running their mouths, and sometimes, by those who spout the usual nonsence - "you worship Mary", "you don't believe in the Bible", "how can you go to heaven if you're not born again" ... and so forth, and so forth.

    Not a lot ... but enough to make me wonder how welcome we really are.

    Not to mention that GOP activists want Catholics on board for their purposes, but I'll bet you anything they won't want to listen to Catholics who oppose the death penalty or who are moderate on social issues.

    Most of the time, it works well, but I have to wonder how much of that is "tool of the moment" thinking, and how much of it is based upon sincere respect and appreciation.
  8. SJ Reidhead 25/9/06 17:14

    This has been simmering under the surface in SC since the religious (Christian?) conservatives staged a coup and hijacked the party around 1993 or so. I faced it back in 1994 and 1995 when I was GOP County Chair in Oconee.

    I don't think it is a McCain-Romney thing - rather the arrogance of the "Christian" right finally coming to the surface.

    SJ Reidhead
    The Pink Flamingo
  9. Anonymous 25/9/06 20:54
    BTW Earl, tis also the Mosteller that drove our friend Stewart off to the Libertarian Party...
  10. kristin 25/9/06 21:02
    I think the bigger point is being missed: The Mormon faith will be an issue if Governor Romney is the Republican Party candidate for president. How he handles questions about the Mormon history and faith is important. Think back to the "freak factor" when Catholic JFK was running for president.

    There is a big difference between seeking to see the way a candidate handles "highly charged questions" and being intolerant of the candidate's faith.

    Anyone who thinks that there are "out of bounds" questions for Republican candidates is delusional. The press and Michael Moore's cadre of loonies certainly won't respect a conservative's faith.
  11. west_rhino 25/9/06 21:13
    Going back to the report of the frabduous Bandysnatch, Cindy Costa's comments are telling.

    Considering that The State is no particular friend of Charleston County Republicans, Hunley witch hunts in mind, I'm amused that they gave the Costa a mention.
  12. Earl Capps 26/9/06 00:25
    kristin - i have no doubt his faith will become an issue. in his 1994 Senate challenge to Ted Kennedy, his numbers were pulling close to even before the attacks began.

    but does that mean we have to do this to turn on our own, before the democrats do?

    a good test i always use ... substitute one word for another. in this case, instead of mormon, put baptist, methodist or presbyterian in its place. then try out what she did.

    does it feel the same to you?

    if you want to see catholics, mormons and others coming into the GOP, it would be nice if we weren't subjected to attacks by mosteller, along with many others, along the way.

    or maybe we should just be good "step and fetch" people ... sittin on da po'ch of the massa, 'til we be called to come in an' serve, cuz we ain't no good enough to be in de home of de massa.

    ... now if you think what she did put out the welcome mat to non-Protestant groups, go right ahead and think that.

    but the truth is that there are many evangelicals who want catholics, like myself, to deliver our votes on election day, but when it comes time for us to express viewpoints out of step with other Repubicans, they get uncomfortable with dissension and make our faith an issue.

    it sure beats discussing issues, doesn't it?
  13. Calhoun Fawls 26/9/06 06:13
    Politics in South Carolina, in both parties, has always had its bigots to contend with. They hide their bigotry behind legitimate policy issues, and now it seems they have moved to faith matters.

    I don't agree with the teachings of the Mormans. It is not for me. I question the validity of the Book of Morman on a religious basis.

    That said, I think a Morman can serve in office and serve well. I don't believe that being a Morman should disqualify someone from office.

    This sort of thing goes back to JFK in 1960. His Catholic roots had even some Democrats contending that he would be taking orders from the Pope.

    Religious bigotry is as old as the Republic, though it seems a bit stronger today.

    I have to wonder, would Thomas Jefferson, who was agnostic for most of his life, have a chance at elected office today? Would Benjamin Franklin, who did not attend church, be respected? Or what about Abraham Lincoln? Yes, Lincoln made many references to God as President and as a candidate for US Senate, but he did not attend church on a regular basis.

    Would someone be standing outside of Lincoln's campaign appearance with leaflets saying how he did not attend church every Sunday?

    This sort of thing also reminds me of a fellow I met one time who said Billy Graham was going to Hell. The South, especially the rural South, sure does create some interesting individuals when it comes to God. The more interesting of those folks are always looking for the Devil,and they seem to find him almost everywhere.
  14. Anonymous 26/9/06 09:52
    I am personally embarassed by my county party chariwoman's antics. Cyndi Campsen Mosteller's political involvement seems more oriented to keeping favor with National Parks Service regarding contracts for Spirit Line Cruises and maintaining near exclusivity for tours to Ft. Sumter.

    Try a Lexis-Nexis search for the dancing around the bidding process for the contracts, there seem to be some curious things there.

    As a county party chair, how often has she surfaced at either the Berkeley, Dorchester or Charleston breakfast meetings? How often do the Berkeley and Dorchester chairs miss their home auxillaries meetings?
  15. Moye 26/9/06 21:11
    The South does not have a lock on Religious nuts for Calhoun Fawls information but we do have some winners and one of them seems to be Cyndi M. I also hope that Kristin does not agree with what Cyndi did. As far as you Catholic's go Earl and you know I love you man what is going on with the Pope and the Muslim world. Did he not quote a Byzantine or something like that. Go Rudy.
  16. Moye 27/9/06 17:34
    Earl what do you think about this other one man feud that Rainey has with Ravenel. That dude ought to shut the he-- up. Everytime he writes something it makes people wonder what Sanford was doing appointing this guy to anything. You talk about someone in left field and in love with himself that has to be Rainey boy. He needs to stay in Colorado and he also needs to remember how he got his little recognition. It was not from being a public servant that is for sure. He would have problems winning as a Democrat in Williamsburg county with no opposition if you know what I mean.
  17. bjalder26 29/9/06 11:25
    As it turns out this attack seems to be part of a wisper campain put forth by the McCain camp. My guess is that it is out of despiration.

    While personal beliefs should be okay to ask about it is not okay to try and make people try and explain comments of religious leaders long past. Would we feel that it was okay to make a Baptist explain a church leader’s quote from the time of slavery or segregation? I wouldn’t feel good about it. To set the record straight though Joseph Smith, during the time of slavery, had an adopted (not legally) African American brother, said that the slaves should be freed, educated, and given equal rights, and was persecuted for his abolitionist beliefs. The LDS church has also never segregated its congregations which was popular among American churches at one time. These criticism against the LDS faith are carefully crafted and motivated by hate.

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