Report Urges Focus on Religious Conservatives' Policy

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The political clout of religious conservatives has been overstated, and progressives should attack their specific policy proposals rather than their right to participate in the political arena, advises a new report by People for the American Way.

Most Americans "reject most of the specific policy solutions offered by the religious right," Arthur J. Kropp, the president of the Washington-based civil-liberties group, says in the report.

The report says most Americans are not drawn to the messages of religious conservatives, nor do they fear their influence. But neither are they drawn strongly to a progressive agenda.

"Ultimately, this is a fight to capture the political mainstream," says the report based on a survey of 1,000 Americans, titled "Winning Through Reason, Not Fear: Meeting the Challenge of the Religious Right."

Limited Appeal

Only three in 10 respondents said the increasing influence of conservative religious groups was a problem. And most respondents said they were not attracted to such groups.

On education issues, the survey found that some proposals favored by religious conservatives have broad appeal. More than half of respondents, for example, were more likely to support a political candidate who favors organized classroom prayer. However, seven in 10 respondents would support a candidate who favors comprehensive sex education.

Only one-third of respondents expressed a favorable opinion of a hypothetical school board candidate who favors: giving parents the power to remove textbooks, restoring religion to public schools, and teaching abstinence in sex education.

But eight out of 10 said they would support a hypothetical candidate whose top priority would be improving the academic performance of all children and establishing meaningful standards.

The report urges progressives to focus on conservative opposition to academic reforms such as outcomes-based education.

Mike Russell, a spokesman for the Christian Coalition, was skeptical of the report's call to focus on conservatives' policy issues.

"For years, they have been trying to demonize and marginalize people based on their faith," he said.

For information about ordering copies of the report, call or write People for the American Way, 2000 M St., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 467-4999.

Vol. 14, Issue 07

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