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New DNC religion adviser resigns, opposed ‘under God’ in pledge

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Democratic Party’s new religion adviser has resigned after less than two weeks at the post.

Brenda Bartella Peterson, the Democrats’ senior adviser for religious outreach, announced Aug. 4 she was leaving the job because it was “no longer possible for me to do my job effectively,” Religion News Service reported.

Peterson resigned after the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights criticized her hiring in news releases on three consecutive days. In one of its releases, the Catholic League reported Peterson signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in support of an atheist’s attempt to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Michael Newdow of California did not have legal standing to represent his daughter in the case.

Less than two months before Peterson’s resignation, the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry cut off news media access to its new religious adviser, Mara Vanderslice, according to The Washington Times. The action came after the Catholic League reported Vanderslice had spoken at rallies by the militant homosexual organization ACT-UP and had participated in street protests against the International Monetary Fund at Seattle and Washington, D.C.

“Why are Kerry and the [Democratic National Committee] imploding on religion?” Catholic League President William Donohue asked after Peterson’s resignation. “Because too many of the elites running the show are devout secularists who put a premium on freedom from religion.

“Kerry and the DNC now have two strikes against them in their religious outreach efforts. Whether they strike out is up to them,” Donohue said in a written statement. “We’re certainly not dropping out of the game, and we’re certainly monitoring Bush and the [Republican National Committee] on this subject just as closely.”

DNC National Chairman Terry McAuliffe named Peterson to the position July 23, just prior to the Democratic National Convention. Her hiring reflected the DNC’s “commitment to reaching all peoples of faith … in this election year,” McAuliffe said at the time.

Peterson, an ordained Disciples of Christ minister, previously served as executive director of the Clergy Network for National Leadership Change. The network, which was founded late last year, is an interfaith group attempting to help choose a new president and Congress, according to its Internet site. On its website, the network criticizes some of President Bush’s policies, including his ban on federal funding for stem cell research that destroys human embryos.

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