The Rushmore Report: The Secularization of America

Whatever your view of the role biblical Christianity played in the founding of America, intellectual honesty demands that one recognize that religion, religious values and specifically Christianity have all played a defining role in the development of American civilization. For example, you simply cannot understand the colonial American decision to seek independence from Great Britain without understanding the First Great Awakening. You cannot understand Abolitionism without coming to terms with the Second Great Awakening. The Laymen’s Prayer Revival of 1857-1858 played a strategic role in pre-Civil War religiosity in the urban areas of America – and on into post-Civil War America.

The temperance movement in America, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, and many other American reform movements all owe their respective origins and development to Christianity. Finally, the religious revival of the 1950s played a critically important role in defining America’s response to atheistic communism centered in the USSR and China. Whether one agrees with all of these various American developments or not, biblical Christianity was central in explaining each one of them. But there is growing evidence that that central role of biblical Christianity no longer exists in America. Is America becoming increasingly secular, with little or no religious influence in ethical, social, economic or political decision-making?

Most people who follow such things are familiar with the recent Pew Research Center’s study that indicated the growth of the religious preference called “none.” In the 1950s that number was about 2%; in the 1970s that number was about 7%; today it is about 20%! All regions of the nation indicate growth in the “nones,” but its growth is especially pronounced among whites, the young and among men. To be more specific, about 30% of this 20% (i.e., about 6% of the American public) consider themselves atheists or agnostics. The remaining consider themselves indifferent to religion. As the columnist Michael Gerson argues, “Though the nones are varied, and occasionally confused, their overall growth has been swift and unprecedented. This has occasioned scholarly disagreement over the causes. Clearly, the social stigma against being religiously unaffiliated has faded . . . the decline of religious conformity is itself a major social development, requiring some explanation.”

How do we explain this significant shift in America? One rather compelling theory centers on the religious right. This explanation is somewhat important because the increase of the “nones” correlates perfectly with the rise of the religious right. Some research seems to indicate that the “nones” view the religious right as only interested in money, rigorous rules and politics. Names such as Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell are not well accepted among the “nones.” But, as Gerson also shows, explaining the rise of the “nones” is much more complicated. For example, “declining trust in religious institutions since the 1990s has been accompanied by declining trust in most institutions (with the notable exception of the military). Confidence in government and big business has simultaneously fallen – and the public standing of both is lower than that of the church. Americans may be less affiliated with religious organizations because they have grown generally more individualistic and skeptical of authority.”

The same Pew study that identified the “rise of the nones” has also confirmed another important statistic – 58% of Americans still describe religion as “very important” in their lives. Similar statistics demonstrate that prayer plays an important role in 58% of American lives. Therefore, it would be difficult to argue that America is becoming more of a secular nation. What has changed quite poignantly is America’s commitment to institutional religious movements. Gerson quotes Luis Lugo of the Pew Center, who argues that “what we are seeing is not secularization but polarization.” Institutional religions have gained a large and growing body of critics. Gerson reports that this trend is specifically beneficial to cultural liberalism and the Democratic Party. For example, 70% of the “nones” voted for President Obama. On volatile issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and broader issues of sexuality, the “nones” are much more liberal. Indeed, “nones” are now the largest religious category in the Democratic coalition, comprising 24% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. (The other major block in the Democratic coalition are black Protestants – one of the most religious groups in America. Can the secular “nones” coexist with the very religious black Protestants?)

There are other major implications associated with the rise of the “nones.” Gerson shows that “religious conservatives remain the largest constituency within the Republican Party. So America is moving in the direction of having one secular party and one religious party, bringing polarization to a new level of intensity. This is movement in the direction of Europe, which has been cursed by the conflict between anticlerical parties and religious parties. For America, this could be a dangerous source of social division, with each side viewing the other as theocrats or pagans. There is no contempt like the contempt of the true believer or the militant skeptic.” Gerson maintains that the rise of the “nones” has other rather profound implications: Marriage is an important cultural institution and marriage is on the decline among the “nones.” The unaffiliated also donate less to charity and participate in fewer volunteer organizations. Hence, “individualism can easily become atomization.”

One final thought: This increasing polarization is spilling over into public policy and other areas of American life.

For example, as a result of President Obama’s Health Care law, the U.S. government has defined two classes of religious organizations, two kinds of religion and two degrees of religious freedom. Church, being inwardly oriented, gets an exemption – full protection for their convictions and practices. All other religious organizations, being outwardly oriented on service and not inwardly on worship, are not exercising pure religion, and thus merit only a lesser degree of religious freedom – an “accommodation.” This of course was at the center of the recent controversy over the contraceptive mandate under the health care law. Dan Busby of ECFA argues that “These deeply troubling contemporary trends are for laws and regulations themselves to be less accommodating of religion, and constitutional interpretive schemes to prioritize other values over religious freedom. If these trends continue, then fewer religion-accommodating rules will be allowed to stand, and then fewer court decisions will end up favorable to religious exercise by individuals or institutions.” In other words, due to this increased polarization, religious freedom and “free exercise” protections deeply rooted in the Constitution and in America’s history may be in jeopardy.

Consider a recent case at Johns Hopkins. The Inclusion Statement at the University reads that it is “committed to sharing values of diversity and inclusion . . . by recruiting and retaining a diverse group of students.” The University also has an Office of Institutional Equity and a “Diversity Leadership Council,” which defines “inclusion” as “active, thoughtful and ongoing engagement with each other.” However, the Hopkins’s Student Government Association (SGA) has denied Voice for Life (VFL) the statue of a recognized student group because its website includes images of aborted babies and because it engages in “sidewalk counseling” outside of abortion clinics. The SGA says that VFL is guilty of “harassment.” Columnist George Will correctly argues, “Suppose such SGA-recognized student groups as the Arab Students Organization, the Black Student Union, the Hopkins Feminists or the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance were to link their websites to provocative outside organizations or were to counsel persons not to patronized firms with policies those groups oppose. Would the SGA want to deny them recognition as student groups? Of course not.” Academic institutions are committed to diversity in every way but thought. Apparently at Johns Hopkins, it is impossible to have a reasoned debate on the ethics of abortion. One SGA member said that pro-life demonstrations make her feel “personally violated, targeted and attacked at a place where we previously felt safe and free to live our lives.” Academic institutions practice academic freedom, presumably, and students frequently encounter ideas they do not share. That is the whole point of developing critical thinking and is at the heart of academic freedom – in every area, apparently, except abortion. Those who hold deep religious convictions about the value of prenatal life have no voice at Johns Hopkins, apparently a prestigious institution of higher learning that values academic freedom and the free engagement of all ideas – except of course with those who hold to the infinite value of prenatal life. That is not academic freedom and that is not the free engagement of ideas. There is another word for that – hypocrisy!

About the Author

Michael Gerson writes for the Washington Post. He has served at the Center on Foreign Relations and as chief speech writer for President George W. Bush. He is considered a leading figure of the evangelical intelligentsia movement.

The Rushmore Report: Bachelorette Says Yes to God

Fans swooned when Brad Womack proposed to Emily Maynard on season 11 of The Bachelor, but that relationship ended in heartbreak. People rooted for Maynard, age 30, when she appeared on The Bachelorette, where she fell in love with Jef Holm, but that romance collapsed, too. Now, she has said “Yes” to God.

After all the reality TV drama, the Charlotte, North Carolina, resident says she has moved on to a peaceful chapter with her new husband, Tyler Johnson. She chronicles her life’s ups and downs in her new book, I Said Yes, and told Good Morning America that the book describes her commitment not just to Johnson, but to God.

In her book, Maynard opens up about some of the dark episodes in her life, including an apparent suicide attempt when she was 15 years old. She had been feeling lonely and depressed and had swallowed a bottle of pills, she revealed. “I had a bad day, and I just decided to take some pills. And I ended up in the hospital.”

She describes her actions as a “cry for help, a cry for attention.” A year after the suicide attempt, Maynard met NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick. The two got engaged when Maynard was 18, but the romance ended in tragedy when Hendrick was killed in a plane crash on October 24, 2004.

For years, Maynard said that her last words to Hendrick were “I love you,” but she confessed in the book that their last exchange was actually a fight. “We were mad at each other. And it didn’t end well,” she said, adding, “I had no idea that that would be the last time I would see him.”

Maynard discovered she was pregnant just days after Hendrick’s death. She named their daughter Ricki. “For days after the crash, I wish I’d die, too,” she confesses. She described Ricki’s birth as “kind of my light at the end of the tunnel. I just kept on looking forward to June 29th because that was the day I got a piece of Ricky back.”

After years of sadness, Maynard appeared on The Bachelor. She credits being on the show for putting a bounce back into her step. Still, she says she knew almost as soon as Womack proposed that it felt forced. “You see it on TV. And there’s this beautiful music playing. It just looks so romantic and warm. But when you’re actually in the moment, it’s not that way at all. It’s so quiet. And it’s actually quite awkward, which should have been warning sign number 5,000,” she said, laughing. “But I just chose to ignore it.”

She says things also felt wrong with Holm. Looking back, she says that she knew that relationship was doomed the moment Ricki joined her and Holm on camera after the proposal. “It’s just not a normal situation. You don’t get engaged to somebody and then say, ‘Oh, hey, Ricki, this is Jef. We – you know, we just got engaged,'” she said, adding, “It just didn’t feel right. Nothing about it felt right.”

Maynard was vilified on social media as the relationship fell apart. “I’ve never felt so lonely before in my life. I didn’t know who I could trust,” she said. That, she said, is when she became more private and began to look inward to her relationship with God. She met Johnson at church. Maynard says that he has never watched a single episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.

The two were married in 2014 and welcomed a son, Jennings, last year. She shares more happy news. “I am pregnant again,” she said. “We didn’t think it would happen so quickly, but we’re so grateful and just feel so blessed and excited.”

Maynard said she has no regrets about participating on the reality TV shows. She had fun and found the happy ending, which she never dreamed would be possible. “I would just be scared that, like, if I didn’t do the shows, maybe I wouldn’t have met Tyler and I wouldn’t be here. So I wouldn’t have changed anything,” she said.

Despite that, she said that “never in a million years” would she allow her daughter Ricki, now 10, to compete on the The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Maynard said she wouldn’t want her daughter to have her heart broken on national TV.

I Said Yes can be found in bookstores across America now.

The Rushmore Report: Can Democrats Retake the Senate in 2016?

It’s still too early to predict the Senate’s makeup in 2016, but it’s not too early to start thinking about who could land on the list of endangered senators. And in the 2016 cycle, it’s more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat. In 2016, the Republicans seem to have their backs to the wall, defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10. Just two Democratic seats – Harry Reid’s in Nevada and Michael Bennet’s in Colorado – are not solid.

Meanwhile, Republicans must defend seven incumbents that represent states carried by President Obama in 2008 and 2012: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. An eighth state Obama carried in 2008 but narrowly lost in 2012 – North Carolina, home to two-term Republican Richard Burr – also merits mention with these other states.

So long as Grassley runs for a seventh term – and he says that he will – it’s doubtful Democrats can credibly challenge him. But all seven of the other seats are vulnerable. It won’t be easy to dislodge the GOP so soon after the party has regained control – and collectively, the Democrats’ top targeted states are not nearly as blue as the top Republican targets were red in 2014. Obama won just 40.5 percent of the vote, on average, in 2012 in the seven Romney-state targets for Republicans in 2014; this was 10.5 points less Democratic than the nation as a whole. In 2012, the president claimed 51.9 percent of the vote, on average, in the seven Obama states targeted by Democrats in 2016; these states were only one point more Democratic than the nation as a whole.

But looking at the electoral map, most competitive races – the three toss-ups and the six leaners (two Democratic seats and four Republican ones) also take place in what should be among the most competitive presidential states. This is a recipe for Senate elections that are mainly tied to the presidential results.

About the Author

Larry Sabato is university professor of politics and Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, which publishes the online, free Crystal Ball politics newsletter every Thursday, and he is a contributing editor at Politico magazine. His most recent book is The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy.

The Rushmore Report: Three Reasons Trump Won’t Debate Cruz Anymore

Now that the GOP presidential race has become a two-man race between Donald Trump, aka Mr. Tough Guy, and Ted Cruz, Trump is showing his manly side by avoiding a debate with Cruz. Using the excuse of a speech at AIPAC, Trump suddenly cancelled his last debate on Fox News, which would have been moderated by Mrs. Tough Lady, Megyn Kelly.

So the debate was cancelled. Michael Clemente, Fox’s executive vice president for news, stated, “On February 20, the Republican National Committee announced that a GOP presidential primary debate would be held on March 21 in Salt Lake City. They offered that debate to Fox News Channel to host, provided there were enough candidates actively campaigning. This morning, Donald Trump pulled out. The debate is therefore cancelled.”

After the last CNN debate, Trump said he knew of more debates to come and he was okay with the idea. So here are three brief reasons why Mr. Tough Guy is dodging any debate with Ted Cruz:

1. He’d get creamed. As Chris Cillizza, of The Washington Post, pointed out, when Trump is answering questions, he “tends to avoid any policy details and has, on occasion, shown a remarkable lack of knowledge on issues.” Cruz, on the other hand, is a brilliant debater, whether he’s “running a kritik” or simply outclassing his opponents with his intelligence and debating skills. As Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico, “I saw it last night during the Fox Business News debate, when Sen. Ted Cruz again demonstrated that, in this political arena, he is simply better than anyone else. This is not a judgment about the merits, or even the intellectual honesty of his arguments. It is simply a judgment, based on some half a century of debate watching (and in an earlier life, debate-prepping), that Ted Cruz understands the format in a way his opponents do not. They are playing political checkers; he is playing political chess.”

2. Trump has everything to lose, and nothing to gain. He is well ahead in delegates, and a loss to Cruz in a debate would clearly show that he simply does not have the intellectual wherewithal to handle the demanding rigors of the presidency. Why debate when you can coast on your reputation and utter red meat to the masses without any substantive thought behind them?

3. Submitting to a debate with Cruz would indicate that Trump does not control his world, which would hugely disturb his followers. By refusing to debate, Trump looks as if he’s in control, not the media, which endears him to his supporters.

Of course, the real reason is door number 1: Trump is simply afraid that Cruz would make mincemeat out of him.

About the Author

Hank Berrien is a writer for The Daily Wire. He is currently covering the 2016 presidential campaign, and writes daily on behind-the-scenes stories that are dictating the course of the race.

The Rushmore Report: Yogi Berra’s Greatest Quotes

Yogi Berra’s contributions to baseball are incalculable. An 18-time All-Star, Berra appeared in 14 World Series and won 10 of them. But he is best-known for his clever expressions. In honor of Yogi’s recent passing, here are some of his greatest hits.

1. Always go to other people’s funerals, or they won’t come to yours.

2. Never answer an anonymous letter.

3. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

4. You can observe a lot by watching.

5. It’s like deja-vu all over again.

6. Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.

7. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

8. No one eats there anymore – it’s too crowded.

9. We made too many wrong mistakes.

10. You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

11. I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.

12. The future ain’t what it used to be.

13. It gets late earlier than it used to.

14.  Pair up in threes.

15. Why buy good luggage when you only use it when you travel?

16. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.

17. He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.

18. I don’t know if they were men or women – they had bags over their heads.

19. I’m lucky. Usually you have to be dead to have a museum.

20. I never said most of the things I said.

The Rushmore Report: A Christian Response to the Brussels Bombing

I am loathsome to be a government official in Brussels today. My heart is heavy for them, as what options could have prevented the bombing? What more could I possibly do if I’m in office at the Grand Place? Surely the circumstances demand a greater response from me and my peers; but what is it? These questions, and a myriad more, are being asked internally and externally, and I’d be heavy hearted in every possible way.

I tend to believe that the human race is intelligent collectively, and does have everyone’s best interest in mind in the best of circumstances. Yet, in moments of crisis, we can not rely on new systems to secure us, only those which we’ve already instituted, hoping they work.

What more can a society do to prevent mass attacks?

There is only so much that technology and manpower can do. In the face of violent attacks attempted against innocent life, it is up to sober-minded government leaders to do their best with what they have in the time they have to do it in. But this will never and can never be an all-sufficient method of bringing the shalom of God to the world.

The superior course of action is the responsibility of those who have insight into the redeeming methods native to the kingdom of God. Yes, I am loathsome to be a government man in these days, and I admire and support all those who are called, but my heart leaps to be a churchman. For here, I can spend my days actively pressing into the mark of God’s high call on my life: to bring his peace “which passes understanding” into the storms of people’s lives. Collectively, I believe that the world will be transformed, that systems will be healed as much as people, until “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and King.”

What is the world’s response to terrorism?

While I cannot speak for governments, though I am committed to and responsible for them operating with increasing integrity, I can speak for Christians. The Christian response must be one that leans into the opportunity of bringing the Good News of Jesus to broken people. But not as some fix-all soterian prescription that can be doled out by paper tracts. We need Christians, now more than ever, who are mature and fit for weathering life’s tragedies with the resolve of heavenly minded citizens. It is not a day to complain about the weather, about appliances breaking down, or relationships falling apart. Today must be a day that we value lost, perishing souls as an insufferable debt that we must redeem.

Today is a day that we do not wait for governments to offer solutions to responsibilities that are uniquely our own as Christians. We can no longer afford to abdicate responsibility to the corridors of legislation which only temporarily secure our peace of mind. We must exercise our evangelical roots in ever moving outward, and not by methods of invasion or intrusion, but through invitation, through actually being the greatest force for good and love on the planet.

Metal detectors, security details, and military efforts have prevented many deaths. But they can not cure the conditions within, nor can they completely deter the actions without. This is where the Church must continue to rise to her place in serving the world.

For every single act of terror, there are 100 acts of sacrificial love and kindness. The goal is not to shame our enemy, but to shame and expose evil conduct, both the violence of our enemy, and the violence within ourselves. Is the bomber with his finger on the trigger lamenting the 100 Christians who made his family dinner more than he is seething against the ideologies that stain his Qur’an? Perhaps the former would do much to relieve the latter.

I am not a government official, merely a churchman, but in this case, I believe that it is the Church that has the primary role in bringing the shalom of God to the nations. Let the government do what it is able to in so far as it has a responsibility to protect and defend human life. But even its best and most valiant efforts are inferior when compared to the supreme call of bringing God’s transformational kingdom way of living to the world.

Becoming lost in the minutia of politics, order, laws, even religious ideologies and collateral government atrocities, are all distractions from the supreme point: only Christians acting like King Jesus will ever accomplish what governments can dream of.

We must practice in the house of God what we need to export to the nations. We must get love for enemies right in the house first if we are ever to be expected to have traction in lands and cultures that are foreign to us. We must aggressively fight to dismiss the distractions of the enemy that would seek to get us wrapped up and engaged in superficial debate, and instead, plunge ahead into the depths of God which require us to be loving toward those who need it most: our enemies.

About the Author

Christopher Hopper is the associate pastor of New Life Christian Church and head of A&R for Sprig Music in Watertown, New York. He is the author of seven novels, eleven music albums, and helps fund church causes through business development.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith and Politics of Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth, whose real name was George Herman Ruth, Jr., was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He died of pneumonia and complications from throat cancer in New York City in 1948. Ruth was a Catholic. And not only did he attend Catholic school growing up, his parents actually signed custody of Ruth over to the Catholic missionaries at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore when he was seven years old. So Babe was quite literally raised by the Catholic Church.

Ruth spoke often about his childhood and his faith. He had a conversion of sorts. As a youngster, he was a delinquent – chewing tobacco, drinking, and swearing. He says he had no faith in God before he was sent to the Catholic school and that the biggest lesson he got from the experience there was learning that “God was Boss.”

As an adult, Ruth admits to straying from the church, but returning to the fold later in life. Ultimately, Ruth endorsed religious education, encouraging parents to bring their kids up in that tradition, and stressing that despite whatever pitfalls might befall a person throughout their life, a strong religious tradition will bring them back to the right path: “As far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as most kids go, once religion sinks in, it stays there – deep down.”

Ruth was so devout throughout his life that he and his first wife (also a Catholic) never divorced despite being separated for three years before her death – on account of the Catholic Church’s stance on divorce.

Politically, Ruth was a Democrat. We know that because he said so when Republican Warren G. Harding, running for president in 1920, asked for Ruth’s endorsement. Ruth replied, “Hell no, I’m a Democrat.” However, when Harding offered Ruth $4,100 (a tidy sum back then) to get behind him, Ruth took the offer. So he was a Republican for the right price. And that’s a rather good indication of the depth (or lack thereof) of Ruth’s political convictions.

Ruth did actively campaign for one presidential candidate, Democrat Al Smith, in 1928. He gave speeches, made appearances, and endorsed the candidate on the radio.

Beyond that, Ruth was, however inadvertently, party to at least one important political movement. In 1915, when the Suffrage movement was lobbying hard for the women’s vote, they offered to pay the Boston Red Sox players for each home run they hit at Fenway Park in a public relations scheme for their cause. The Sultan of Swat hit one home run in Boston that year, collected his money, and backhandedly endorsed the Suffrage movement.

That’s about the extent of the Great Bambino’s political involvement. One could argue that he was an American hero, a role model for the American Dream, proof positive that every poor kid in America, with talent and hard work, could grow up to be a legend. Ruth was instrumental in reinforcing that unique “American-ness” of baseball as well. In fact, he made it his mission:

“I won’t be happy until we have every boy in America between the ages of six and sixteen wearing a glove and swinging a bat.”

At that, he might have succeeded.

The Rushmore Report: Why Is Donald Trump Attacking This Lady?

In politics things happen fast. Monday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan came out hard against the rhetoric of Donald Trump, in what some have called his attempt “to save the GOP from Donald Trump” (Jon Ward, POLITICO). Tuesday, Ted Cruz won Utah while Trump won Arizona and Kasich finished behind a candidate who is no longer in the race. And Wednesday, Trump came out strong against the lady pictured here. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Mr. Trump threatened, via Twitter, to “spill the beans” on this woman. Her name? Heidi Cruz.

Here’s what happened. A super PAC, Make America Awesome, completely unrelated to the Cruz campaign, ran a picture of Melania Trump, Donald’s wife, from a British G.Q. publication several years ago. Apparently, Mrs. Trump was not wearing her Easter dress in the photo shoot. Blaming Cruz for the ad, Trump tweeted his threat against Heidi. In response, the senator tweeted, “Pic of your wife not from us. Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought. #classless.”

This week we have witnessed a horrible ISIS terrorist attack in Brussels, which killed 20 and injured 230. Our president has made an unprecedented trip to Cuba. While he has received ample criticism for his lack of public rebuke of their human rights positions (i.e., “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”), and while he probably should have come home to the Situation Room after the Brussels attack rather than taking in a baseball game with Mr. Castro, our president has made news. Also, this week saw Hillary Clinton continue her march toward the Democratic nomination for president.

There is a lot going on in the world. But if you googled Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, or Yahoo Wednesday afternoon, the lead article wasn’t about Obama, Castro, Brussels, or Tuesday’s primaries. It was about a billionaire threatening a woman – in public via Twitter.

It really makes me long for the political discourse of yesteryear. At least Richard Nixon never threatened anyone’s wife. We live in a crazy time. And by the time you read this, more insane things will have been said in and out of the political world. Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Jesus warned that things would get worse and worse before his return (Matthew 24, Mark 13).

So here we are. The frontrunner for the GOP nomination for president is threatening his opponent’s wife. And while millions of Americans are praying God will give us the leadership we need, it may be that instead, God is going to give us the leadership we deserve.

The Rushmore Report: Does Dow Jones Do Better Under Republican or Democratic Rule?

Has the stock market been better, on average, when a Republican or Democrat has been in office? Many investors assume that Republican presidents are better for the stock market. That’s not true. Before I get to the particulars, a disclaimer: This answer is not a political statement. By answering this question, I am merely conveying the cold, hard facts regarding stock price performance under both Republicans and Democrats. I endorse no political party and have no vested interest in the results.

To get the answer to this question, I turned to the respected Stock Trader’s Almanac by Yale and Jeffrey Hirsch. This book tracks and organizes historical facts about the stock market. Using the Dow Jones industrial average as the benchmark, Stock Trader’s Almanac shows a $10,000 investment compounded during Democratic presidencies since 1901 would be worth $279,705 after 48 years.

The same $10,000 investment during 56 Republican years would have been worth just $78,699. If you adjust for inflation, the value of a $10,000 investment under Democratic presidents is $33,426. The inflation-adjusted value under Republican presidents is $26,145.

Many factors affect these results besides the president’s party. The Republicans got a big lift during the Eisenbhower and Reagan years. Democrats Roosevelt and Truman benefited from the recovery that followed the 89% fall in the Dow during the Depression. The Democratic lead was solidified by the tremendous run-up in stocks during the Clinton administration.

If these types of statistics interest, I really suggest you pick up a copy of Stock Trader’s Almanac. The book contains hundreds of fascinating historical records spotting trends and patterns in the stock market.

In conclusion, the average annual growth in the Dow under Republican presidents has been 6.9 percent, and 13.3 percent under Democratic presidents.

About the Author

Matt Krantz is a nationally known financial journalist who specializes in investing topics. He serves as the markets and stocks reporter for USA Today, and writes a daily investing column called “Ask Matt,” in which he answers questions posed by his website audience. His books include Investment Banking for Dummies, Fundamental Analysis for Dummies, and Investing Online for Dummies.

The Rushmore Report: Atheist Sues Over Huge Cross at Texas Church

Lifelong atheist Patrick Greene has a huge problem with a giant cross under construction alongside Interstate 37 in Corpus Christi, Texas – a city whose name literally means “Body of Christ.” “It’s tacky as hell,” Mr. Greene told me. The 230-foot tall cross is being erected on property owned by Abundant Life Fellowship – paid for by donations.

Pastor Rick Milby said it will be the largest cross in the western hemisphere. So tall, in fact, that the church was required to install a lighted beacon on the top. Mr. Greene said the cross is a safety hazard and said it should not be seen from the highway. “I don’t think it should be within eyesight because it jeopardizes people’s safety on the road,” he said. So the San Antonio atheist filed a lawsuit.

But Mr. Greene did not file a lawsuit because he believes the cross is tacky. Nor did he file a lawsuit because of potential safety hazards. He filed the lawsuit because the mayor and other city leaders attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the cross.

“When I saw the mayor in her official position and the council in their official positions were attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a Christian symbol – that smacked right in the face of the Constitution of the State of Texas,” he said. And he also sued Pastor Milby.

He was accused of violating the law by inviting the mayor and the council members to the groundbreaking, the Caller-Times reports. “It’s ridiculous,” the pastor told me. “He’s attacking my rights and the rights of the mayor. The groundbreaking was on a Sunday and these are Christians and they have a right to their faith.”

Think about that for a moment – the atheist sued a preacher for building a cross on church property in a city named Body of Christ. “It’s shocking to me that we’ve gotten to a point in society where we have atheists suing pastors for crosses erected on church property,” attorney Jeremy Dys told me.

Dys is with First Liberty, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases. MIlby has since been dropped from the lawsuit. However, the mayor and council members are still facing litigation. “No matter what belief you have, this is the name of our city and it was my constitutional right to attend, and I will never regret being there for the wonderful moment,” Mayor Nelda Martinez told the Caller-Times.

Mr. Greene said he had no problem with the mayor attending the ceremony as a private citizen. But attending in her official capacity was a violation of her oath of office. Attorney Dys called that a load of hooey.

“You can’t ban people from going to a church,” he said. “This guy is trying to use the legal system to ban city council people from attending any type of church service. To get the court to admonish them for daring to go to a church service is just wrong.”

I reminded Mr. Greene that the church was building the cross on property they owned with money they collected. So what right did he have to tell them what they could or could not build? “Church property or not, the reverend showed incredibly poor judgment in putting it where everybody can see it – just because he wants to proselytize his faith and get converts,” he said.

It’s true there are plenty of signs along Interstate 37. So I don’t see the harm in adding one more – especially a sign that provides directions to the highway to Heaven.

About the Author

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is God Less America: Real Stories from the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.