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Latino voters split along religious lines, while most vote Democratic

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 12:25 a.m. MDT

Like the rest of the nation, Damore said, jobs is the top issue this year for Latino voters in Nevada, followed by immigration. Another issue where Latinos mirror the nation, the Pew Forum found, is same-sex marriage. For the first time since the Pew Hispanic Center began asking the question in its National Survey of Latinos, more Hispanics favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally (52 percent) than oppose same-sex marriage (34 percent).

But when religion is part of the equation, those numbers change. Among Hispanics overall, fewer support same-sex marriage among those who attend religious services regularly (40 percent) than among those who attend religious services less than once a week (60 percent).

"This same pattern is seen among Latino Catholics; six-in-ten Latino Catholics who attend religious services less than weekly support same-sex marriage, compared with 46 percent of weekly Mass-goers," the Pew study stated.

Among Latino evangelicals, opponents of same-sex marriage outnumber supporters among both regular church attenders and those who attend religious services less than once a week.

Changing minds

"I really admire the evangelicals," Christie said. "They are wonderful in their enthusiasm and openness, and they are not afraid to put themselves out there for ridicule."

Christie, who became involved in the Catholic Church's Respect Life campaign after she and her husband adopted a child from China about five years ago, said her fellow Latino Catholics can grasp the issue of religious freedom, but it takes some convincing that it is a political issue they will be deciding when they vote.

She explained that many Latinos come from countries where they faced religious persecution, but they have difficulty believing it can happen in the United States.

The church's hierarchy has come out against the Obama administration's mandate, under the Affordable Care Act, that religiously affiliated organizations like schools and hospitals must provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. Churches have sued the government claiming the mandate violates their right to practice religious beliefs that proscribe contraception.

But Christie gets considerable pushback when she addresses non-Catholic groups. "A lot of issues are conflated, and (voters) are drawn in by the left selling it as women's health issue. They have been successful selling it as a 'war on women,' " said Christie, who uses her medical credentials to argue the mandate is based on ideology, not science.

Christie and the TCA believe that with outreach and education on what they see as the Obama administration's growing threats to religious liberty, they can change Latino voters' minds. She will speak at the Stand up for Religious Freedom rally Saturday in Fort Lauderdale with Archbishop Thomas Winski. Her children will also be there handing out fliers.

"I think people can change because (the threat to religious liberty) is real and it's true," she said. "If you can speak to someone in a certain way and approach them in a certain way you will be able to peel the scales from their eyes, and once the scales are gone everyone has to see the issues the same way. I believe that."

email: mbrown@desnews.com

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