Holding My Nose and Voting for Mitt

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.

The Church doesn’t allow priests to hold public office. If only….

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 the HHS Mandate was passed, I told a friend, “Now I’ll just have to see if the Republican candidate is so bad that I have to write somebody in. Obama just lost my vote.”3

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.

Yup, this is my actual ballot. For some reason, I feel as though it should be illegal to post this online. It isn’t, is it? UPDATE: I called the Kansas Secretary of State’s office and they said not to worry about it. The law’s unclear in Kansas as it was written before social media but they assured me that they will not be prosecuting anybody.

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

See, Cardinal Dolan is laughing because they both make these claims but they’re not true–laughably so. Get it? If you’re not following Catholic Memes on Facebook, do that now. I’ll wait.

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.

  1. 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. []
  2. 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. []
  3. If you don’t know what the HHS mandate is, you really need to click that link. []
  4. No, I’m not condemning you. The Church asserts that contraception is evil, not that those who contracept are evil. []
  5. Not to mention the evidence that all his talking about reducing financial inequality ain’t going there…. []
  6. Stats courtesy of the inestimably reputable wikipedia.com, but numbers are similar elsewhere. []
  7. Check out those stats. []
  8. No, I didn’t put Catholic in quotation marks. He hasn’t been excommunicated and it’s not my job to make those accusations. []
  9. The Archdiocese of Washington estimates that it “could incur devastating penalties as high as nearly $145 million per year, simply for practicing our faith.” []
  10. No, I’m not calling Obama Hitler. It’s an analogy. []
  11. 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. []
  12. Anthony Esolen has an interesting take on what else this ad represents. Julie Borowski just thinks it’s ridiculous. []
  13. 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!! []
  14. And plenty of non-Catholics. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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17 Responses to Holding My Nose and Voting for Mitt

  1. Tina S. says:

    Meg – Honestly, I haven’t read through your post because it just arrived in my inbox and is very long, but I’m curious – did you look into Joe Schriner (voteforjoe.com)? I’ve just discovered him within the last few days and while I understand that voting for an independent candidate makes a bigger statement/difference in some states than others (read: swing states vs. say, Georgia) I think it sends an important message we are unhappy with the Republican and Democrat options, because they’re both nuts and full of crap (just my opinion).

    • Meg says:

      I did in the last election, and I agree that it’s a good statement to make when you’re positive your vote wouldn’t make the difference. In this case, I think the damage another four years of Obama could do (to the Catholic Church, religious liberty, civil rights, women’s rights, etc, etc) is so extreme that anyone whose vote might matter needs to vote for a candidate who could win. I remember liking Joe a lot in ’08, though!

  2. Leslie Martin Scott says:

    Meg, I’m not sure if you are aware of this but it is illegal to take photos of a ballot and to post them online. I don’t know the exact boundaries of this but I do know people have been prosecuted for this. I would take that photo down if I were you.

    • Meg says:

      Leslie, thanks for the warning! I called the Secretary of State’s office and they said it’s not a problem in Kansas but I really appreciate the heads-up.

  3. jean bean says:

    As a long time Catholic, I truly believe that neither candidate is right. If abortion is evil under all circumstances then they both are wrong. You cant vote who makes exceptions, killing is killing anyway you slice it. Although I believe it is an honor to vote, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for either. I won’t compromise my moral or ethical beliefs for anyone. God knows this. I have to live with myself.

  4. Melissa says:

    I have never been so proud to be your mom.

  5. cecilia says:

    thank you so much for writing this blog entry. when I watched the Mother Teresa video I could only think “what if Obama wins” and was moved to tears. I pray to the Holy Spirit that people’s ears and eyes are opened to the truth before they vote. God Bless!

  6. Matteo Masiello says:

    I think the whole contraception issue will be dealt with in the court and isn’t an affront to religious freedon. Gov. Romney is not as pro-life as he seems to be. He also doesn’t care about the least among us as he as made blatantly clear. If Cardinal Dolan was on the ballot, I wouldn’t vote for him and would not vote for anyone that a cardinal or bishop, or the Pope for that matter, would tell me to vote for. That is a greater affront to the freedom given to us by God. I’m voting for Obama because Romeny has failed to demonstrate his Christian character that I expected from him. Most Mormons I know have more character and virtue. I also think that we live in a sinful and broken world and morality cannot be black and white. I have heard many Catholics express the notion that the only issues that matter are abortion and same-sex marriage. What about war? Social justice? What about greed and lying and stealing on Wall Street? What about criminal obstruction by some Catholic bishops and cardinals, and I say the Pope himelf as Cardinal Ratzinger? These evils are okay and we should accept them? Presidents are not moral people, as none of us are. We can only “sin boldly” – which means we try to make the best choices of which there are ultimately none and depend on God’s grace. God has all ready saved us so we can only work to create the kingdom here on earth, which means allowing everyone to the table and not decide who is or who isn’t in. That is not our call and the church (including its leaders and which is not restricted to Catholics onlu) is not moral enough to make thoser decisions. In fact, God has all ready decided and in my hope, we’re all included and all saved no matter what our sins.

  7. Martin Kilmer says:

    Meg, I rescind my previous suggestion. Please write in Snoopy (or whoever). You don’t seem to have much appreciation of the depth of Mitt Romney’s depravity, as I read your blog. He appears to be immoral right across the political board (does that include the tax fraud? or is that ‘just private) – and will become MUCH more right-wing if given the power. Please do not do it.

  8. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    The only point I disagree with you on is: “But I’ll admit that he’s phony”. On what do you base your assertion? That he is a devout Mormon? That he has never accept a paycheck for any office he has ever held but donated them to charities? That he gives more to charitable causes each year than most of us give in a life time? That even on this campaign pilgrimage that he has spontaneously stopped to help people like with a flat tire, he helped a man tear out a tree stump in his from lawn neither of which was reported in the papers and no photo ops were involved.
    Yes, he is stiff and dresses like he’s still a missionary knocking on our doors for the LDS Church (how many of us “REAL CHRISTIANS) have taken two years out of our lives to do missionary work for what we say we believe?
    No, I may not agree with some, most or any of his positions but in my eyes and to my understanding he is a very good man and humanitarian. Got my vote.

    • Meg says:

      Not at all–the contradictory statements I’ve heard from him (and every other politician). Many were taken out of context, I’m sure, or showed merely that his opinion had changed, but others were pretty clear evidence of waffling. He’s certainly not the most consistent person on the planet, although I wouldn’t expect that from a presidential candidate. That’s great information, though–I’m glad to read it!

  9. Molly says:

    Thank you, Meg. You are obviously an intelligent and devout young woman. Your blog was amazing and gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own responsibility to protect our church.

  10. Amy says:

    Thanks for this post. I have always said that being a Catholic and being an American are very hard to reconcile together when the Church (at least my diocese) is telling you in no uncertain terms to vote one way but your conscience on so many other issues is telling you to go another. Now I know I am not the only one.

    I did vote for Obama because I know we will live to fight another day with the HHS Mandate and I could not in good conscience put someone I thought wanted to be President simply so he could say he was President in office.
    Amy recently posted…Fat TuesdayMy Profile

  11. Malik Maneafaiga says:

    Induced abortion has a long history and has been facilitated by various methods including herbal abortifacients, the use of sharpened tools, physical trauma, and other traditional methods. Contemporary medicine utilizes medications and surgical procedures to induce abortion. The legality, prevalence, cultural and religious status of abortion vary substantially around the world. Its legality can depend on specific conditions such as incest, rape, fetal defects, a high risk of disability, socioeconomic factors or the mother’s health being at risk. *'”‘

    Look at the most current article on our own web blog

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