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Learning English - Words in the News
09 August, 2004 - Published 15:19 GMT
Religion and politics in the USA

In the United States, the Democratic Party's attempts to attract religious voters ahead of the November elections have had a significant setback. This report from Jane Little:

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The Republicans publicly court the powerful religious right while the Democrats have traditionally been deemed secular and even hostile to religion. It was to counter that image that first Mara Vanderslice and then the Reverend Brenda Bartella Peterson were appointed to act as advisors and reach out to religious voters.

America is a deeply devout country and there were complaints that the Kerry Campaign was ignoring its base. But Mara Vanderslice's profile sank after the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights accused her of far left politics including an active role in anti-globalisation rallies.

A fortnight ago the Reverend Peterson was appointed. But the Catholic League outed her as a signatory of a legal brief that supported taking the words "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance. That, said League President, William Donohue, meant she showed more concern for atheists than for the ninety percent of Americans who believe in God. He asked if the Democrats were "out of their minds" in appointing her.

She swiftly resigned citing the negative publicity. A spokesman for the Democrats said there would be another appointment soon. But the Kerry Campaign appears divided on religion. John Kerry recently spoke of his faith, but he's more awkward about it than the born again President Bush. The Democrats have been trying to steal the Republicans’ clothes on religion but they don't yet know how to wear them.

Jane Little, BBC

Listen to the words

here, to pay close attention to a group of people in order to get them to support you

deemed secular
not seen to be connected with or controlled by a church or religion

counter that image
if you counter an image you act in a way to change opinion about that image; here the image is the belief that the Democrats are ‘secular and even hostile to religion’

reach out to
appeal to

ignoring its base
not considering the main group of people who support the Democrats

reveal something about someone that they were keeping secret

out of their minds
here, a slang expression suggesting a group of people are mad

referring to

born again
a born again, also called born again Christian, is someone who has been converted to evangelical Christianity

steal the Republicans’ clothes
if you ‘steal someone’s clothes’ then you try to create a similar image to them to gain from their reputation

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