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Under pressure, Democrats restore `God’ to party platform

(RNS) The GOP blasted the Democrats for initially removing references to "God" from their national party platform, and for failing to endorse Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. By Lauren Markoe.

RNS photo courtesy

(RNS) Criticized by Republicans and some members of their own party, Democrats voted to restore the word “God” to the Democratic national platform late Wednesday (Sept. 5). The GOP had seized upon the omission as a failure of their opponents to appreciate the divine's place in American history.

Rev. Derrick Harkins, the DNCs' director of religious outreach, speaks during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Rev. Derrick Harkins, the DNCs’ director of religious outreach, speaks during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took to the airwaves early Wednesday to blast the change from the Democrats’ 2008 platform. “I guess I would just put the onus and the burden on them to explain why they did all this, these purges of God,” Ryan said on “Fox & Friends.”

Ryan also attacked the Democratic platform’s initial failure to affirm Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an issue important to some American Jews and conservative Christians. After a voice vote at the party's convention in Charlotte, language about God and endorsing Jerusalem as the capital was added.

God is mentioned 12 times in the 2012 GOP platform. The 2008 Democratic platform made one reference to God: the “God-given potential” of working people. The 2004 platform had numerous references to God.

The new language referencing God reads: “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.”

According to the Associated Press, a high-ranking Democratic official said President Obama personally intervened to encourage Democrats to add “God” and “Jerusalem” to the document.

Democrats had initially defended the lack of the divine in the platform by pointing to a section on faith.

“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,” the section reads in part. “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.”

Melanie N. Roussell, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said the platform “mentions ‘faith’ 11 times, ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ nine times, ‘church’ two times and `clergy' one time.”

The Democrats’ emphasis on “faith” as opposed to “God” will not likely to please many atheists, according to Hemant Mehta, chairman of Foundation Beyond Belief.

“The Democrats could have at least suggested that people without faith also care about progress and justice and that we support or volunteer with organizations that work toward those ends,” Mehta wrote on his “Friendly Atheist” blog. “Instead, they ignored us.”

On the initial cutting of “Jerusalem” from the platform, the Republican Jewish Coalition decried the omission of “critical pro-Israel language.”  But the National Jewish Democratic Council called it inconsequential. “Jewish Democrats know full well that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” said council president David A. Harris.