Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Four horsemen of the apocalypse," Oct. 4, 2008

Religious test

Media scrutiny of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's religious beliefs, which amount to non-denominational evangelicalism, has latched onto the connection between the Alaska governor's church and the evangelistic organization Jews for Jesus. Mainstream publications have reported breathlessly in recent weeks that Wasilla Bible Church played host to the group and that Palin's pastor led the congregation in a prayer that Jews would turn to Jesus.

What effect, if any, might all this have on Jewish voters? Some supporters of Barack Obama are trying to paint Palin as far-right by association. In South Florida, for example, Rep. Robert Wexler has pointed out Palin's appearance at a 1999 event with Pat Buchanan, an unpopular face in some Jewish communities.

Democrats are trying to hold onto Jewish voters-more than 75 percent voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last four elections-in the face of concern about Obama's foreign policy beliefs, particularly in relation to Israel.

Shock absorbers

Web giant Google agreed to reverse a policy banning pro-life religious organizations from placing ads on its search engine after a court challenge from the Britain-based Christian Institute. The nonprofit Christian organization filed a lawsuit against Google earlier this year when the internet company refused to run an ad with the group's website and this text: "UK Abortion Law. Key views and news on abortion law from The Christian Institute."

Google officials told the group that it didn't permit ads for websites that contain "abortion and religion-related content." The company does allow ads with details about abortion clinics and pro-abortion groups.

The Christian Institute charged Google with religious discrimination, and the web company agreed to reverse its policy. Google spokesman Ben Novick said the ads must be "factual" and added another caveat: "They cannot link to websites which show graphic images that aim to shock people into changing their minds."

Challenge vindicated

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County will have to pay nearly $1 million to Teen Challenge after a Tennessee federal jury ruled that city officials discriminated against the religious-based ministry in its efforts to build a residential treatment facility for young adults suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. According to the jury's findings, Metro Nashville violated Teen Challenge's rights by revoking its earlier approval for the project and enacting an ordinance to block the ministry from building on the 13-acre property. "This jury verdict sends a powerful message that religious discrimination by government officials simply won't be tolerated," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Teen Challenge. The ministry, which already auctioned off the original property, now plans to look for a new location to build its facility.

Heating up

The radical concept of a presidential campaign with civility vanished with the coming of the fall. As our cover suggests, partisans began pushing the idea of election as apocalypse, with the stakes so high that Barack Obama even urged his followers to love their neighbors in a peculiar way: "I want you to argue with them and get in their face."

With the increased intensity comes a dramatic increase in cash. Obama shattered presidential fundraising records in August by raking in $66 million in a single month. By mid-September, Obama made another major haul: The candidate raised just under $10 million in a single night in Beverly Hills with a $28,500 per plate dinner and a $2,300 per person reception headlined by Barbra Streisand.

Despite Obama's sweeping hauls, Sen. John McCain was keeping up. After accepting $84 million in public funds on Sept. 1, McCain may no longer raise money directly for his campaign. But the well-financed Republican National Committee (RNC) is still raising funds and producing ads that tout McCain. Party operatives said the RNC would have $110 million cash on hand by the beginning of September.

The Democratic National Committee lagged far behind: The party reported $7.7 million cash on hand at the beginning of August. Meanwhile, Obama's campaign spent some $55 million a month over the summer. McCain's camp spent about $31 million in July.

Those numbers mean McCain may have more cash on hand at the beginning of the final stretch of the campaign. But Obama's operation is ramping up: The campaign aims to raise another $150 million by Nov. 4.

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