Survey: Alaskans less religious than most Americans

While Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's staunch evangelical conservatism may appeal to her party's Christian base, the Alaska governor's home state ranks among the nation's least religious.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Alaskans are less likely to believe in God, pray, or attend religious services than the national average, and most residents share a libertarian view that the government should be less involved in issues of morality.

Just 37 percent of Alaskans say religion is "very important" in their lives, compared to 56 percent of Americans nationwide. Only 22 percent of the state's respondents attend religious services at least once a week -- 17 points lower than the national average. Nearly half, 47 percent, of Alaskans say they "seldom" or "never" attend religious services.

Only residents of New Hampshire and Vermont (36 percent each) said religion was less important.

Pelosi counters Catholic bishops' criticisms on abortion

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has struck back against criticism from prominent Catholic prelates who accused the California congresswoman of misrepresenting church teachings about abortion.

"While Catholic teaching is clear that life begins at conception, many Catholics do not ascribe to that view," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.

Pelosi, the nation's highest-ranking Catholic elected official, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday (Aug. 24) that the question of when life begins is "an issue of controversy" within the church. Her comments drew rebukes from the archbishops of Denver, Washington and New York.

In a statement released Tuesday (Aug. 26), Cardinal Justin F. Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., both high-ranking officials in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Pelosi's argument was inaccurate.

"The church's moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development," Rigali and Lori said.

Evangelicals warn McCain on running mate choice

WASHINGTON -- Conservative evangelical leaders have warned that Sen. John McCain risks losing the election if he chooses a running mate who supports abortion rights.

A panel of prominent anti-abortion advocates, including former presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee, urged voters Aug. 15 to make an abortion and other "life issues" a priority this November.

"I believe that if Sen. McCain chooses a pro-abortion (running mate), he will give the election to Sen. Obama," said Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the Maryland-based High Impact Leadership Coalition. "It would be tantamount to political suicide."

Last week, McCain told The Weekly Standard that he would consider selecting a running mate, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who supports abortion rights.

Although Huckabee said that he would continue to support the Arizona senator regardless of the running mate, he acknowledged that unenthused evangelicals could potentially drive down voter turnout.