I hate politics. I mean, I know a lot of people say that–especially around elections–but I really do. Maybe it’s that I feel so discouraged by the options. Maybe it’s that a faithful Catholic doesn’t really fit in either party. Maybe it’s that it’s so complicated and there’s so much grey area–as an apologist, I guess I just like questions that have reasonable, infallible answers.
I don’t generally talk politics. I’ll discuss issues, but all I’ll usually say about parties is that a faithful Catholic can’t be a platform Democrat or a platform Republican. I don’t even usually tell people who I voted for!
Needless to say, I really don’t want to write this post. But the Lord has put it on my heart, so here we have it.
First, let me say this: I’m not a Republican. If we’re talking basic party principles, I’m a Democrat. I believe in big government and federal programs to help the underprivileged.1 I honestly believe that Democratic ideals are more in line with Catholicism.
Ideals. The particular values that seem to define the party today–well, not so much. Obviously, there are plenty of social issues that I’m much more conservative on. But high taxes? Sure. Higher taxes on the rich? Absolutely. Gun control? You bet!2 Besides, as my mother always says, the Democratic party defines itself by the ideal that the state ought to intervene to protect the vulnerable: the poor, the criminal, you name it. The Democratic party, by all rights, ought to be the pro-life party.
And you know what? Even though the abortion issue is such a huge one, I’ve never been a single issue voter. I weigh it heavily, sure, but a (hypothetical) candidate who supports abortion but would enact programs that provide healthcare for pregnant women, offer tuition assistance for single moms, and furnish low income families with childcare? Well, that candidate could actually reduce the number of abortions significantly. It’s just not always black and white. Not to mention the fact that the abortion issue is less relevant to some offices. A governor of a state like Texas, for example, might not have much to do with abortion laws but has quite a lot to do with stays of execution. So why would I pick the anti-abortion candidate as a matter of course? It’s more complicated than that.
Instead, I tend to split my ticket and I generally agonize over the candidates’ websites. I was absolutely torn during the Bush-Kerry season and the last election wasn’t exactly easy.
This one? A piece of cake.
Now, I’m no fan of Mitt Romney. Sure, he can deliver a joke. And he kind of looks like a Ken doll, which is nice, I guess. But I’ll admit that he’s phony. And I’m sure he’s a liar, like all politicians, and that he’s changed his position based on what is politically expedient. I don’t like what he said about the famed “47%” and I don’t agree with most of his fiscal policies, from what I can tell.
But this election season, I haven’t had to bother agonizing over every little thing. Because to my mind (and to the mind of the Catholic bishops), Obama crossed the line.
When he came out with that sham compromise, I realized that I had to vote against him, whoever the opposition was (within reason, of course). A move like that–forcing the nation’s biggest and the world’s oldest Church to violate a teaching she’s held for 2,000 years and then smiling and telling us that if we close our eyes it’s like it’s not happening? Absolutely not. Obama’s complete disregard for religious liberty with the HHS mandate is appalling. If he’ll pull something like that in an election year, I can’t even imagine what he’d do in his final term. So my mind was made up in January: anybody but Obama.
I say this not as a Catholic but as an American. This nation was founded on the principle that the freedom to act according to one’s conscience and the freedom to live according to one’s religion are essential freedoms. My (mostly Protestant) ancestors came to this country for that very reason. That the President of the United States is now forcing religious institutions to act against their convictions is an outrage. The Founding Fathers would be disgusted.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America)
The President’s camp has been spinning the first amendment, using the language “freedom of worship” as opposed to “freedom of religion” or “religious liberty.” The implication is that the Constitution guarantees only that I may pray as I choose, not that I may live my faith. I’m permitted to be crazy and worship a cracker, it seems, as long as I only do it in church. Outside of church, I must do what I’m told.
But the traditional understanding has been that the free exercise of religion includes the freedom to live one’s faith, assuming that it does no harm to another. We don’t compel Jewish delis to sell bacon or Baptist reception halls to serve liquor. We don’t force Jehovah’s Witnesses to get blood transfusions or require Evangelical businesses to stay open on Sundays. Traditionally, individuals and organizations have been free to choose on such matters. I suppose that in this instance, I’m pro-choice.
As an American, I believe that people may be compelled to do what they don’t want to do but never what they feel they must not do. I don’t want to drive the speed limit or file taxes or get a new car when my clunker’s emissions are too bad, but I don’t find those things morally abhorrent. I do them with minimal whining and move on with my life. But I refuse to be morally complicit in evil,4 whatever the cost. In this case, the cost seems to be Romney. If I’m not voting for him, I’m essentially voting for Obama. And while Romney has some serious issues, I don’t think he’s advocating anything intrinsically evil.
Basically, I’m either voting for Romney or I’m accepting the violation of my religious liberty. It’s either him or the betrayal of my conscience. The choice seems clear to me.
I’m often accused of being a single-issue voter (by people who have no idea how I vote, what’s more), but this isn’t a single issue. Sure, it’s contraception and abortifacient drugs. But it’s also Obama betraying his supporters, lying to the public, trampling on consciences, and castrating the first amendment. To my mind, those are serious issues, and I don’t see that any of his policies are good enough to overshadow the evil of limiting our religious liberty and giving Catholic social services this ultimatum: do evil or close your doors.
I’ve seen a number of comments on Facebook recently to the extent that a Christian can’t rightly support a candidate who would cut social welfare programs, since Jesus told us to serve the poor. Now I agree that the state should have some role in this, but it’s Obama, with all his social programs, who’s really going to hurt the poor. If he’s re-elected and HHS is upheld by the Supreme Court, every Catholic school, hospital, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, adoption agency, and nursing home is going to have to shut down or go bankrupt.5 That’s 7,500 schools educating 2.3 million children, 230 universities educating 1 million students and employing 65,000 professors,6 and more than 600 hospitals caring for 1 in 6 patients in America.7 Exactly how would shutting them down help anybody at all? How would closing Catholic soup kitchens feed the hungry? How would bankrupting nuns help the immigrants they serve?
I can’t vote for a man who would require people to violate their consciences and drive them to financial ruin if they don’t. I can’t vote for a man with no respect for the First Amendment or the Catholic Church. I can’t vote for a man whose Catholic running mate8 made a blatantly false statement claiming that there is a conscience exemption. There is no exemption for Catholic institutions that aren’t parishes, convents, or monasteries. Do evil, shut down, or go bankrupt from the fines.9
So the issues I’m concerned about here are the right to life, women’s rights, chastity, service to the poor and marginalized, civil rights, personal integrity, political integrity, the integrity of the Constitution, and the freedom to believe and live as one’s conscience dictates. Seems pretty broad to me.
But what if I were a single-issue voter? Is there no single issue that’s important enough to eclipse all the others? What if I told you I was against Hitler because of his views on eugenics?10 Sure, I appreciate how he’s trying to rebuild the war-ravaged German state and rallying a disheartened nation, but I’m just not comfortable with his crimes against humanity. It’s okay to oppose Hitler for that one reason, right? Why couldn’t I vote against Obama simply because he’s the rallying point of a radically pro-abortion Democratic party? Why can’t I vote against a man simply because he supports genocide?11
This has nothing to do with restricting women’s access to birth control–we gave up that fight with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. We’re not claiming, as the rhetoric insists, that our religious freedom is being destroyed because we are “unable to force others to not use birth control.” Nobody is trying to restrict access to birth control. All we’re saying is that those whose religious convictions forbid them to encourage, fund, approve of, or participate in an action should not be forced to do so.
These aren’t federal insurance policies we’re talking here–these are governmental requirements on private policies. Those who are connected to these private institutions are there, at some level, by choice. This isn’t an attempt to limit the public’s ability to contracept, it’s a refusal to cooperate in such actions as regards the employees of Catholic institutions.
If you take a job at a Catholic institution, you have to deal with the fact that your employer won’t pay for your contraception. It’s part of the job. It’s illogical to appeal to the federal government to insist that you be allowed to serve bacon at a vegan restaurant; if you want to serve BLTs, get a different job. Those who work at McDonald’s have to accept the uniform; if you want to wear cutoffs and flip-flops, get a different job. Catholic organizations will not pay for your birth control; if you want your birth control funded by your employer, get a different job.
I realize that in this economy “get a different job” can sound heartless. But if your access to free contraception is so important to you that you’re willing to compel a 2,000-year-old institution to betray its convictions, it should be important enough to you that you’re willing to be unemployed or underemployed. I can see believing that your need for contraception to be legal trumps my personal beliefs, but to say that I should betray my God so you can get cheap meds for free? That’s unconscionable.
And you know what? Treating-my-body-like-it’s-broken, pregnancy-is-a-disease, wouldn’t-punish-them-with-a-pregnancy aside, even assuming that I were in favor of all these “women’s reproductive rights,” I still wouldn’t believe that Obama respected women. He claims to be working for women, but this “First Time” commercial is how he tries to get our votes? Honestly, I feel degraded. Why am I defined as a woman based on my sexual availability to men? Why, when trying to convince me intellectually, are you treating me like all I care about is boys and sex and people’s opinions? WHY IS EVERYBODY OKAY WITH THIS????12
I’ll have to hold my nose to vote for Romney, believe me. But a career politician who waffles on matters of prudential judgment is a whole different matter from a man who runs on a platform of intrinsic evils.13
I can’t tell you how to vote, and plenty of Catholics who are far more politically savvy than I have given you much to think over. But when every single bishop heading an American diocese has taken a stand against this president’s policies,14 I think it’s safe to say that this religious freedom issue is no small matter. Whether you’re Catholic or not, I’m begging you to consider seriously whether you want to live in an America where the president chooses to disregard the Constitution and is hailed as a champion of the downtrodden for doing it. It’s a slippery slope, my friends, whether you think this instance is wrong or not. I don’t want to be Chicken Little, but I think we’ve gotten to this point:
A vote for Barack Obama is a vote against freedom. Romney-Ryan 2012.
- Seriously, please don’t argue this with me. I hate politics and this isn’t the point. And yes, I believe in subsidiarity. I just don’t apply the principle the way some might. [↩]
- I’m not kidding. I don’t want to hear any of your arguments on these issues. I’ll never be a Democrat, barring some major platform renovations, so it doesn’t matter anyway. [↩]
- If you don’t know what the HHS mandate is, you really need to click that link. [↩]
- No, I’m not condemning you. The Church asserts that contraception is evil, not that those who contracept are evil. [↩]
- Not to mention the evidence that all his talking about reducing financial inequality ain’t going there…. [↩]
- Stats courtesy of the inestimably reputable wikipedia.com, but numbers are similar elsewhere. [↩]
- Check out those stats. [↩]
- No, I didn’t put Catholic in quotation marks. He hasn’t been excommunicated and it’s not my job to make those accusations. [↩]
- The Archdiocese of Washington estimates that it “could incur devastating penalties as high as nearly $145 million per year, simply for practicing our faith.” [↩]
- No, I’m not calling Obama Hitler. It’s an analogy. [↩]
- Even ignoring the racist implications of American abortion statistics, genocide is the systematic extermination of a particular group. 50 million inconvenient babies in 40 years. [↩]
- Anthony Esolen has an interesting take on what else this ad represents. Julie Borowski just thinks it’s ridiculous. [↩]
- I used this line on Facebook. The response I got was that you have to decide for yourself what is intrinsically evil. No! You don’t! THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!! [↩]
- And plenty of non-Catholics. [↩]