As demographic shifts reshape America's religious and political landscape, it is hazardous for opinion writers to cling to partisan stereotypes on faith alone.
Such was the cautionary note at the heart of the breakout session moderated by E.J. Dionne, Washington Post syndicated columnist.
Moral passion rooted in faith is not limited to conservatives, Dionne said in introductory remarks that recalled the religiosity of Senator Joe Lieberman's Democratic pursuit of the vice presidency. "Holy Joe" campaigned in 2000 on the legitimacy of bringing religion into the political arena, Dionne said.
Changes in public attitudes and political discourse are as likely to swing a discussion from whether a candidate is too religious, to the notion that a candidate is not religious enough.
Consider the demographic revolution that makes forty-one million Latinos the largest minority in twenty-three states. The Latino electorate is twice the size of Asian-American and Jewish electorates, and second only to that of African-Americans.
Latinos are ninety-three percent Christian, with a steady seventy percent Catholic and twenty-three percent Protestant, the latter number larger than all the Jews, Muslims, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians in the United States.
Republicans imagine reaping votes among Latinos who tend to be morally and ethically conservative. Democrats might point to Latinos, who tend to be politically and economically liberal.
Instead, the trends defy traditional assumptions, according to Gaston Espinosa, assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies at Claremont McKenna College.
Latinos, who are forty percent of the membership of the Catholic Church in America, are transforming it. Yet Espinosa's research found steep membership declines among second and third generations. Latino Catholic identification is kept steady at seventy percent by immigration. Despite the Latino presence on church registers, only five percent of parish priests are Latino. …