Howard Dean chose Easter Sunday as the day to extend an olive branch to the non-religious community. Better still, he disguised it as a message to Christians. How did he pull off this neat trick? By offering Easter wishes without mentioning Christ, the resurrection, or anything else you might find in the Bible:
Then, a week later, the DNC celebrated Easter with another statement from Dean, including his definition of the holiday. "Easter Sunday is a joyful celebration. The holiday represents peace, redemption and renewal, a theme which brings hope to people of all faiths."
Dean's Easter statement seems to bend over backwards not to mention Jesus and demonstrates either a misunderstanding of the evangelical community or a fear of alienating other voting blocs with religious talk.
"This press release, absent any reference to Jesus, without whom the Easter resurrection story is meaningless, is apparently a sad reflection of a 'lowest common denominator' religious outreach of the Democratic party," said Richard Cizik, Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, "Wake up and smell the Easter lillies! This kind of outreach will not pass the smell test of any evangelical."
Frankly, Webster's New World Dictionary, which is not regarded as a particularly spiritual or political source, has a better definition of Easter: "an annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus."
The DNC statement is striking, particularly since Democratic outreach to evangelicals is on-going (including Dean's speech at Eastern University just last week) and the importance Democratic strategists have put on using the right language to appeal to evangelicals. Democrats like to point to recent conservative evangelical leaders' attacks on Cizik as evidence that they are making progress, but based on Cizik's comments, evangelicals aren't moving en mass toward the Democratic Party anytime soon.
Dean and the DNC simply missed the target this Easter. The press release was astonishing because it's sole purpose was to acknowledge a religious holiday, yet it was painfully-worded to avoid being religious. If this press release was part of the Democratic Party's outreach to evangelicals, they probably would have been better off just skipping it altogether.
Can you picture the conversation over at the DNC?
"Hey wait - should we tell Dean he forgot to mention Jesus?"
"Better not - you know how strongly he feels about faith, religion, and bike paths."
Update: Philo notes in the comments that Howard Dean seems to have no problem understanding Passover; there's only one religion that ties him in knots.