Beliefnet
In selecting Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate, Al Gore made a bold and unorthodox choice. How will evangelical Christians respond to Senator Lieberman?

They will be attracted to the serious and comprehensive nature of his religious faith. In this secular age in which we live, most evangelicals recognize in Mr. Lieberman's Orthodox Jewish faith the makings of a soul mate. As Senator Lieberman explained to journalists in front of his home, the day of Mr. Gore's announcement, "My faith is part of me. It's been at the center of who I've been all my life." ("USA Today," 8/8/2000) Anyone doubting that self-assessment would have been convinced of its accuracy by watching the Senator in action in downtown Nashville on Tuesday, August 8th, when Lieberman mentioned God nearly a dozen times in the first two minutes of his speech.

Lieberman's religiosity, however, may prove to be something of a double-edged sword for the Gore campaign. Having chosen an Orthodox Jew as his running mate, it will be very difficult for Vice President Gore or his surrogates in and out of the national media to question the propriety of evangelicals or Roman Catholics bringing their faith commitments to bear on the vexing public policy issues facing the nation. If it is permissible, and even desirable, for Senator Lieberman to bring his Judaism to bear on such issues, then it certainly should be kosher for evangelicals and Catholics to do so as well.

Nevertheless, Senator Lieberman's devotion to his religious practice makes him attractive to evangelicals, as do his views on several social issues that loom large on the evangelical moral radar screen. Lieberman has worked long and hard with evangelicals and others on issues of persecution of religious minorities overseas. He has joined with former Education Secretary and anti-drug czar William Bennett in offering the "Silver Sewer" awards to the worst offenders in the entertainment industry's gross pollution of society through the pimping of mindless violence and raunchy sex to our young people in particular and to our culture in general.

On a whole host of issues, from support of school vouchers and free trade to condemning immoral behavior by presidents and opposing racial preferences, Senator Lieberman has taken positions that strongly appeal to large numbers of evangelicals. After all, it was Lieberman who, two years ago next month, rose on the floor of the Senate and became the first prominent Democratic official to condemn President Clinton's behavior with Ms. Lewinsky. Many Americans agreed with the Senator then, and, if polls are to be believed, even more do now.

Few people in American public life have spoken more eloquently against group- and race-based preferences than Senator Lieberman. As chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, Lieberman held a news conference on August 5, 1995, and called for an end to such affirmative action programs: "The current system of group preferences has to end . . . They were only intended to be temporary, aimed at combating racism. But it's actually fueling division between the races."

There are serious problems with Lieberman as a choice for evangelical voters, however. According to Jesse Jackson, who discussed the issue with Lieberman the day his choice was announced, "He [Lieberman] supports affirmative action now." Additionally, the Senator's staff is trumpeting the fact that Lieberman has voted for many such preferences and had a 100% rating from the NAACP in the last Congress.

Until very recently, Senator Lieberman supported vouchers and school choice. In 1992, he was one of three Democratic Senators to vote for a federal pilot-voucher program. Now, however, he has dropped vouchers from his education proposals. At this point the question arises: Are we witnessing the gradual Clintonization of Senator Lieberman?

And there is one issue on which Senator Lieberman has been, and remains, relentlessly consistent--abortion. And this issue of unborn human life, not his Jewish faith, will prove an insurmountable stumbling block to significant evangelical support for Senator Lieberman's and Al Gore's candidacies. The majority of evangelicals would vote for a Jewish pro-life candidate over an evangelical pro-abortion one.

Senator Lieberman's record on the abortion issue is extreme by any standard. While maintaining that he is "personally opposed" to abortion, Senator Lieberman has voted, among other things, against the ban on partial-birth abortion and supported President Clinton's veto of the bill banning that barbaric procedure. At lease two-thirds of the American people support such a ban. The Senator has voted consistently to fund abortions with public money, and in 1993 he endorsed including abortion as part of the standard benefits package that every American would have been mandated to purchase under the Clinton health care plan. In 1996, Senator Lieberman was one of only 37 Senators who opposed an amendment to protect the rights of conscience of medical students who objected to being trained in methods of performing abortions (Coats Amendment, March 19, 1996).

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