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DNC platform: Plenty for religious progressives to love

By Kimberly Winston/Religion News Service
On July 28, 2016

The 2016 Democratic National Convention party platform includes much that religious progressives from multiple faith backgrounds might like. Approved Monday, it calls for expanding LGBT rights, combating climate change and narrowing the income gap. Here are some of the hot-button social proposals:

Marriage

The platform explicitly states support for the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage. It also states opposition to state laws that would discriminate against LGBT people – a swipe at legislation that requires transgender people to use certain bathrooms and allows businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people on the grounds that to do so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs.

“We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate,” the platform states.

Abortion

Democrats state their support for a woman’s right to control her reproductive status in several parts of the platform. “We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion – regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” the platform states.

It goes beyond that, pledging to work to overturn the Hyde Amendment and the Helms Amendment, which restrict the use of federal funds for abortion, and to fight Republican-led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Notable is what’s missing from the party platform – a religious liberty exemption on abortion. By comparison, the 2012 DNC platform allowed physicians and other medical professionals to excuse themselves from performing or assisting in abortions if to do so would violate their religious beliefs.

Religious minorities

The platform promises that Muslims will not be barred from entering the United States, one of Donald Trump’s most controversial campaign promises.

“We reject attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States,” the platform states. “It is un-American and runs counter to the founding principles of this country.”

The platform calls out what it terms “Trump’s vilification of Muslims,” calling it a violation of “the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country. … The vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance.”

The rights and protection of Muslims and other religious minorities are also addressed in a section on values. “We are horrified by ISIS’ genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East,” it reads. “We will do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom of religion.”

The U.S. government’s relations with Native Americans takes up a couple of pages of the platform and includes an acknowledgment that “past injustices” have harmed their various cultures, including their religions. And it includes a promise to allow tribal religions to maintain and pass on traditional religious beliefs, “without fear of discrimination or suppression.”

Israel

Like the Republicans, the Democrats believe Israel has a right to exist and defend itself. The Democratic platform also holds that Palestinians have a right to a state and self-governance. As for Jerusalem, sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews, the platform states that it “is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

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