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Mixed fortunes for US bishops in ballot questions responses

Voters in the United States approved measures defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in all 11 states where the issue was on Tuesday's ballot, but rejected Catholics leaders' positions against embryonic stem-cell research funding in California and efforts to tighten the use of government benefits by immigrants in Arizona.

Catholic News Service reports that in Florida, a church-backed proposal to require parental notification before a minor's abortion was approved by 65% of the voters, but a ballot question on expanding gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward counties - opposed by Catholic leaders - was considered too close to call early yesterday.

Voters in California, which led the nation with 16 of the nation's 162 initiatives in the 2004 elections, also turned down a proposal to limit the state's "three strikes" law to certain violent and/or serious felonies, which the California Catholic Conference had supported.

In Maine, a proposal to cap property taxes was soundly defeated by voters, with 37% in favor and 63% against. Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland had taken no position on the ballot measure, but reminded Catholics that "to place our own selfish interest above the needs of those less fortunate violates justice."

South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment permitting state-funded school transportation and food services for children who attend parochial and private schools, a long-standing practice in the state.

Meanwhile the victory of the incumbent President George Bush is expected to be viewed as a vindication of his efforts to appeal to voters from a religious perspective. The result is regarded as a strong victory for pro-life forces within the Church. But commentators suggest the result poses important questions for the US Bishops, some of whom implicitly endorsed President Bush.

Fr David Hollenbach, a Jesuit from Boston College, said the approach "is likely to produce a very strong backlash."

"People don't like to have a group of bishops throwing their weight around, with religious claims attached to a political point," he said. "I think those bishops are going to be proven to have made a bad mistake."

Ballot measures on same-sex marriage approved in 11 states (Catholic News Service 3/11/04)
2004 elections could signal changes for church in society (Catholic News Service 2/11/04)

Religion was key determinant in presidential race (Ekklesia 3/11/04)
Religion and the American Election (ABC Radio The Religion Report 3/11/04)

4 Nov 2004