Bishops speak for 9% of Americans, 55% of House of Representatives
by John Russonello, Fri Nov 13, 2009 at 04:43:21 AM EST
(Cross-posted from Think it Through)Imagine a country in which a small group of religious zealots, run by old men in robes, has an iron grip on the country's political institutions despite a core following of only about nine percent of the people.
This small but powerful league tries to influence broader public opinion but fails. Nonetheless, it continues to be a force far beyond its numbers for policies that keep women from obtaining rights previously granted by the government, stop the advancement of anti-discrimination laws against gay people, and block other social and health reforms such as educating children about sexual health and distributing condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS and other diseases.
The mullahs in Tehran had better move over and make room for the Catholic Bishops in America.
Our Catholic Bishops represent such a small slice of Americans it is almost incomprehensible to understand why the members of Congress and other government officials buckle under their pressure.
American Catholics make up an important 26 percent of the electorate. But BRS' polls of Catholics repeatedly show that only about one in three say that they follow the views of the Bishops when they decide who to vote for, and fewer than one in three believe politicians who are Catholic have a religious obligation to vote on issues the way the Catholic Bishops recommend.
Do the math and it seems you can only conclude that the Catholic Bishops represent fewer than nine percent of Americans. Yet the Speaker of the House of Representatives is willing to give way on abortion healthcare services to her fellow women because of the Bishops' lobby. Last Saturday's vote in the House limiting abortion services in healthcare won with 64 Democrats and 176 Republicans. That is about 55% of House members, submitting to a group representing 9% of Americans.
Meanwhile, the city of Washington, we learned in Thursday's Washington Post, is being told by the Bishops lobby that if it wants the larger institution of Catholic services to continue to operate in the city, the government must circumvent its own laws against discrimination pertaining to gay people.
Where will it end? Where are the politicians who give speeches about freeing oppressed people in other parts of the world from religious zealots?
John Russonello is a partner with Belden Russonello & Stewart:Public Opinion Research and Strategic Communications in Washington, DC. He writes the blog "Think it Through."