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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. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    He didn't get enough media attention for his initiative to light a fire under the feet of the elected.
    I'm sure they want to "keep their options open" and insure that if they change their minds about being civil, no one can bring this up against them...
    UTTERLY PATHETIC!

    January 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  2. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    4. I will if they will.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  3. JB

    Perhaps it wasn't that politicians aren't interested in political civility. Perhaps they just didn't want to give this fundy loon the time of day. If only we all did the same.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  4. saganhill

    Any type of "pledge" goes against my morals. Its like going to work and being "trained" to be a "team player" even though for 40+ years of my life I have gotten along with 99.9% of all people I meet and help out when I can. Especially when it helps me make more money and a better living. I just dont get American sensabilities and methodology even though I am an American.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  5. George Risberg

    Although we may not all share in the religious beliefs of Mark DeMoss and his group, the notion of civility has significant religious/ethical values imbedded in it. Perhaps we could consider a very broad coalition of religious groups requesting that cogressmen develop and sign their own three principals of civility to live by as an example to the rest of society. They were able to read the consitution maybe they could go the next step and try to be civil.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  6. ARob

    I'm not surprised that the kind of people who contribute vile comments to article forums (such as this one) refuse to endorse a campaign of civility. First of all, changing their behavior would be tantamount to an admission of guilt. Second, the achievement of their goals is more important than acting like civilized human beings. Finally, hatred fuels the politics of the most outspoken political commentors, and hatred fuels itself and resists reason.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  7. Tim Riker

    It all intensified when President Obama was picking up in the polls as a presidential candidate. He was called a Muslim, a terrorist, and all of those hateful words. I wish Sarah Palin and the leaders would apologize so America can heal. It'll be better for everyone, including the Tea Party if she did.

    January 12, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  8. Mark skuerl

    Hey everyone needs to calm down, sit back, and take a bug sip of the TRUTH!!

    Head over to http://www.freedomlibertypatriots.com for your daily dose of TRUTH and get your friends and family geared up for the fight against the socialist fascist leftists!!!

    Let's go my brothers and sisters!!!

    January 12, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • saganhill

      Mark, Im not your brother. In your shallow gene pool, Im the one farthest from. Thats why Im not your brother. Even metaphoricly saying, Im not your brother, sister, Dad, whatever.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • pete

      are you joking? I'm assuming you are.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Q

      Seeing the "Religion/Science" header was funny. Your posts there made me simultaneously face palm and LOL. I especially liked the "... I don't need your fancy science...". Priceless.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  9. Observation

    Refraining from ad hominem attacks requires self control, respect, and a cogent, intellectual argument. Much more difficult exercise in self control than many of us can muster.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  10. chris

    w.g. U r so right. When we were attacked on 9 11, the right wingers screamed that no moderate muslims got on tv to say terrorism is wrong.Now where are the moderate republicans to say that the base of thier party is crazy an that there is no place in our goverment for such hate and lies ? You wont see that any time soon cause in my book tea party n republicans are the clearest evidence of hypocrites in history.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  11. K.S.

    All this civility is making me believe in the human race, NOT!

    I would venture to guess that there were more conservative disrespectful comments on his site because more conservatives view it. Just like I see loads of anti-Christian and anti-conservative comments here on CNN. I would expect if I went to Fox News, I would see loads of anti-left, anti-socialist comments. You can't use a skewed sample group to prove your point. It just goes to show that the reason there is no civility is because neither side wants to hear the other, they cling to weak evidence to d@mn the otherside. It is disappointing but a sad fact. Look at yourselves and ask yourself, is your comment respectful, on topic, and argue a point or does it simply attack people, lump large groups of people together, and sound crass?

    January 12, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • pete

      K.S
      That is why i get upset reading posts on the website. All people want to do is attack the other side, using langauge that just reinforces the other sides opinion about them. I'd like to have coversations about differences, but it usually disolves down to childish nonsense and bickering.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  12. Observation

    Interesting how quickly these comments have turned to vitriol and uncivility. Clearly our problem with each other is seated more deeply than we think.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  13. chris

    when will the right wingers realize that their policies are going to asure them a front row seat in hell? Ya know what they know religion is a scam thats why they use it to preach hate cause nothing is gonna happen to them after they give our riches to themselves n kill people on the other side of the world.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  14. W.G.

    Did all of you conservatives read this article ? He said most of the opposition to his project came from
    the right , the conservatives . This proves what I said is true , most conservatives and christians that vote
    for the teapartiers and other Nazi Like groups wouldn´t know Jesus if they tripped over him !

    January 12, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  15. Name*Chedar

    Oh yeah? Civility ? The biggest incivility is Joe Wilson of SC followed with Alito. Talking about civility? Those two are not. And they were both in Obama's State of the Union address. Chanting their mantra loudly "you lie" Congress should do something about it

    January 12, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  16. A Kickin` Donkey

    Nice idea but failure to sign up more than 3 speaks to poor leadership of the effort, not a poor concept.

    You`d expect "Christians" to embrace civility and put as much energy into it as was put into the anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-NRA fights that these evangelical, Christian, Conservatives have backed.

    Its time to pick a few highly public examples and call them out – shame them into being civil. Intimidate them into embracing civility. I can think of several opportunities ..."you lie" shouted at the President, Barton calling BP the victim, Palin`s targeting crosshairs, guns carried to town hall mtgs, Congressmen being spat upon during healthcare reform.

    Too bad not 1 GOP`er stood up to publically, forcefully, and repeatedly DENOUNCE such behavior. If he did, he could run for President.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Buzz

      Christians embrace civility? Good one.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  17. mirror

    But look at these comments. Politicians are just representing what we are.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  18. chris

    how can politics be civil when one party runs on pure hate, gays,imigrants and bend over backwards for the top 2%. It doesnt help that when they lose they just lie.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  19. Reality

    Another reason not to be associated with evangelicals:

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  20. anon239

    America has one of the worst medical/health systems in the world.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:08 am |
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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.