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January 11th, 2011
05:53 PM ET

Leading evangelical halts effort to increase political civility

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Politics

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. jack Matthews

    You sire epitomize the problem of incivility. You certainly don't have to agree with the statement made by others. However, you stoop to the gutter level of incivility when you turn your difference of opinion (yes, it is merely a difference of opinion and you should not ever presume that your opinion is always the right one) into personal namecalling: "You sire have the IQ of a slice of cheese." If you can't make that differentiation then well, you sir . . .

    September 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Elle

    Incivility makes news...civility does not. The media feeds this negativity. It would be great (and helpful) if civil messages got the coverage...not the trash. However it is easy to see with all the trashy 'reality' TV that the American public has to accept part of the blame along with the media.

    The manufactured sensationalism of each moment gets coverage while the facts are obscured by the flashes of anger or over-wraught emotions.

    One political philosophy wants to tell everyone how to live their lives, the other is trying to be all-inclusive and understanding to the point of annoyance. Anyone who chooses or tries to be a moderate is vilified by both sides. Our culture still suffers a distinct bipolar personality conflict.

    In any case, we as a country wobble not from extreme to extreme, but rather drunkenly from one influence to the other which gives us a somewhat moderate overall path. Do not think for one minute that it is easy to try and sway this path in any significant change of flow in less than two years no matter which political philosophy may be the primary influencing group. Anyone who thinks that things can or will change drastically in 6 months after some group has acquired more control is not paying attention to history.

    Many of us recognize in our employers the failure or slow behavior of 'leadership' by committee...why do we seem to expect anything different of our government which is the supreme manifestation of 'leadership by committee?'

    January 30, 2011 at 7:27 am |
  3. dan

    Incivility is just too much fun. Republicans eviscerate each other in "preseason politks" and then really get bloody when the players have been defined for an election. "Give me blood, before liberty or civility" and I'll give you America, unchanged since birth.

    January 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  4. ethicssage

    I blog about these issues at: http://bit.ly/9nmlk1.......................................................................................................................
    One June 22, 2010, Weber Shandwick, Powell Tate and KRC Research released new research that explores the state of civility in America. The survey asked 1,000 American adults to express their views about the tone and level of civility in government and traditional and social media. Here are some of the results: (1) two in three respondents believe civility is a major problem while three in four believe the problem has gotten worse; (2) three in four said the financial crisis and recession made the level of civility in America worse; (3) just one in four expect civility to improve while one in three think it will get worse; (4) not surprisingly, the government and politics were identified as having the least civil discourse and a majority characterized America’s high schools, talk radio, and Hollywood celebrities as uncivil.
    Civil discourse was an important value to our founding fathers. Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “There can be no high civility without a deep morality.”
    http://bit.ly/9nmlk1

    January 15, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  5. HookedonTruth

    Kimberly,
    Obama has completed a good majority of the things that he campaigned to do. Unemployment is at a 22 month low, combat troops have been withdrawn from Iraq since August 19th (two weeks ahead of President Barack Obama's 31 August deadline) and we have Healthcare reform. I hope that I am not construed as being uncivil, I am trying to pass along educated facts.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  6. Kimberly

    Obama sold us out because he did months of campaign speeches and then did nothing to make them happen. We are still at war with the wrong people, and innocents are dying on both sides. He preaches solar power but he had a chance to make it happen, but instead put into concrete. CONCRETE! He promised jobs and unemployment is just getting worse. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. He did what most politicians do today. They lie for the votes, and make quick fixes for their quarterly quotas. And the Civility Project does need to be taken seriously because it has become a massive problem. The people are suffering and nothing is being done. Now that someone has tried to do something about it, and everyone refused to take part in it, just shows us that they are what a lot of us are saying they are.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  7. mike

    i'm a liberal and an atheist. i am also saddened by the failure of this well-meaning man's efforts to return us to civility. nice try rev. keep trying. but have to admit 3 of 355 is awful. create a few more like you and we can turn the tide.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  8. Tzipora2

    I find it amazing that someone who works with/represents Franklin Graham would think his Civility Project would be taken seriously. He's aligned with one of the most narrow-minded, bigoted men pretending to be a man of faith. Both he and his father are anti-semetic and intolerant of Christians who so not adhere to the Grahams' brand of Christianity. I don't even want to talk about their stated views on Muslims and pagans! If you want to launch a civility project, begin by aligning yourself with those who are.

    January 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  9. Jo from Brooklyn

    Holy crap our government is so corrupted by greed and corporatism. They can't even sign their name to those 32 words.

    What are we going to do????

    January 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  10. Dave Harris

    Not only is civility not exciting, it's considered treasonous by the Republican party these days. When you believe that your opponants are the agents of the devil, you're not likely to be reasonable, or tolerate anyone who wants to be reasonable.

    January 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      You just perfectly described Democrats as well! Remember the "super Majority" just a short while ago? Remember the behavior of the dems towards the GOP? As much as it must pain you to hear..the Dems are just as guilty as well! In fact ALL of politics wears this hat!

      January 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  11. CRA

    This is the most disturbing article I've read today. Only three Congresspeople even want to be even associated with civility? Amazing.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Oy Vey Az

    What a shame ! There must not be any spendable profit to be made promoting civility. Otherwise the world would be bubbling over with it.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  13. PFREE

    If everyone who posted their opinions were required to post their home address, phone number and a recent photo I can guarantee that there would be a lot more civility. The ability to hide behind anonymity allows one to resort to the name calling, threats and demeaning attacks that they would never do in face to face situation.

    This is one of the primary reasons for the lack of civility today. And even when we do come out in person to express our views it is generally done in front of an audience that shares our beliefs.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Gary

      you are correct pfree Cuba,Venuzula and all European and south american countries have better health care systems...lol

      January 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  14. Blessings

    Thanks Mr.Moss for your hard work. Over the pass 2 years myself a dedicated born again christian has see an ugly sideto conservative reglious evangelist and people. I pray that God will speak their hearts through poeple like you. May you
    continue to reach out even on a one and one basis. I am afraid if this tone continues in
    America we will see Political unrest and civil war like what is taking place in much third World Countires. The Tucson shooting
    this week is a stark example of what to come if Politicians and Media like Fox don't down their lies andhates and just be civil.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  15. Rodney

    You could go to any junior high school, any fast food restaurant, any car wash or factory in America and ask for a pledge of civility. A majority of the people there would agree and at least make an effort.
    So why do we continue to put-up with politicians who spew hate, division, and immaturity? Most politicians (yes more than half) are not ethically up to the caliber of the average house painter or store clerk. As a group, they are a horrible example to children and young people in this country. Both parties try and drag us down to their level and tell us to hate our fellow American. We need to start seeing them for what they are, and reward only those who fit the term "leader".

    January 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  16. Aezel

    Lol what a surprise, Christians, claiming to be a force of peace in American life, have no interest in supporting an initiative from one of THEIR OWN LEADERS that seeks to quell hateful rhetoric. What a joke of a religion.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  17. dwayne

    Maybe it's time for christians to get out of the hate business. – Just maybe. Christians already represent one of the more hateful religions. Most christians don't even know their own 10 commandants.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  18. Bob

    I wouldn't sign this charter if I was a politician, solely because of the following...

    2. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.

    That's the most moronic thing I've ever heard. Let's say that there is a group of people who say "Psychology is responsible for the holocaust of jews in WW2." Do you say "Well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree..." or do you say "That is the most moronic thing I've ever heard in my life. You sir have the IQ of a slice of cheese."

    You don't have to respect people if they disagree with you. You have to respect them if they have a reasonable reason for taking a different position then you do.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.