January 11th, 2011
05:53 PM ET
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
At a moment when many Americans are decrying the overheated tone of American politics, an influential evangelical voice said Tuesday he is folding a project he helped found to increase political civility.
Mark DeMoss said he is halting the initiative, called the Civility Project, due to lack of interest.
“After only three members of Congress agreed to sign this Civility Pledge last year I’ve decided to shut it down,” DeMoss told CNN by e-mail on Tuesday. He runs a public relations firm that represents Franklin Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ International and other major Christian figures and groups.
DeMoss announced that he is closing his project in a recent letter to the handful of politicians who signed the project’s pledge.
“I’m worried about where we’re headed as a country on the civility scale,” DeMoss said in the letter, dated January 3. “I’d be more worried if I were an elected representative at any level.”
DeMoss made clear he was referring to Americans’ growing apathy and frustration toward government, as opposed to concerns about violence toward politicians, like the shooting in which Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded Saturday.
A conservative Republican who helped introduce former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to leading evangelicals when the Romney, a Mormon, ran for president in 2008, DeMoss singled out political conservatives for criticism in his letter.
“Perhaps one of the most surprising results of this project has been the tone and language used by many of those posting comments on our website and following articles on various media websites about the project,” his letter said.
“Many of them could not be printed or spoken in public media due to vulgar language and vicious personal attacks,” the letter continued. “Sadly, a majority of these came from fellow conservatives.”
DeMoss launched the Civility Project in 2007 with Lanny Davis, a prominent Democrat who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton.
The two sent their civility pledge to every member of Congress and to every sitting governor, 585 public officials in all. DeMoss said he spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on the effort.
DeMoss’ letter last week was sent to the three elected officials who signed the civility pledge: U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut; Rep. Frank Wolfe, R-Virginia; and Rep. Sue Myrick, R-North Carolina.
“I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three members of Congress, and no governors, would agree to what I believe is a rather low bar,” DeMoss wrote in the letter.
The pledge ran 32-words:
1. I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
2. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
3. I will stand against incivility when I see it.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.