Sunday, March 9, 2008

Religion in 2008 Campaigns

Recently Michael from NYU had the following to say about the role of Religion in the 2008 presidential campaigns. I concur with his analysis and add a perspective of my own below.

As an aside if you are a young man I would encourage you to check out the post just prior to this entitled Notes on becoming a young Catholic gentleman, It may prove helpful to you. Your comments as usual are always welcome and read.

Dear Eques,
I find it so fascinating how religion comes up in some form or another in each election, but this year, the manner in which the topic has been approached is so different from other years. This year, barely any emphasis was put on Clinton or McCain's religion, while Romney and Obama's religion has received full press coverage.
Romney is a Mormon and it is interesting how some people feel that his Mormonism would have a dire effect on his presidency. I felt bad for him because his religion does not comprise his entire character or completely control his policy decisions. The voters who looked at his religion as the only factor in voting for him were wrong I believe. They were being prejudiced and hateful. Who are they to say that Mormonism is a bad or wrong religion. After all, everyone remembers, just as the article mentions, that Kennedy was a Catholic, and at the time, many in the country were against having a Catholic as president. From history, we now know that a president is not going to make every decision based on religious affiliation.Religion plays a part in the decision making obviously because for most people, religion plays a very important part in their character. In no way though should a person be judged solely on their religion.
In a recent conversation I had on the topic of Obama, religion came up. Two things shocked me. The first is that this person I was having this conversation with believed 100% that Obama was a Muslim. I couldn't believe how someone could get their facts so wrong. Obama has said time and time again that he is not a Muslim and is in fact a member of the United Church of Christ. Why has Obama's religion been reported so wrongly? I am not sure I will ever understand this completely. This is one of those things that shocks me today. In the modern age, religion, whether it is Romney's or Obama's or anyone else's, should not be a reason to hold a prejudice against that person. religious intolerance seems to be the new racism, and it is only growing, not receding.
The second thing in this conversation that shocked me was that this person said they would never vote for Obama because he is a Muslim. This is not just this person's view though, many in the country hold this view, just as on the Republican side, voters used the same rationale to vote against Romney. Why would someone not vote for a person based solely on the fact that they are Muslim. This idea completely baffles me. Why does Islam have such a stigma attached to it in some people's minds?

On another note, I voted for Clinton in the primary. If you don't mind me asking, who did you vote for?


Eques Responds

Dear Michael,

I agree with your analysis completely. I also had a rather heated exchange with of all people Mr Grace who insisted that Obama was a Muslim. I could not convince him other wise. I believe that this information or disinformation actually originates form the blogosphere. The recent studies of media coverage show that the major networks had reported overwhelmingly favorable regarding Barrack Obama. NBC is reported to have covered Obama in a positive light 90% of the time. The other networks CBS and ABC were in the neighbor hood of 75-80% favorable reporting. The reporting regarding Mrs Clinton was just the opposite.

They have not reported him to be a Muslim but that “disinformation” has been all over the blogosphere and has come up on talk radio. Even though no news agency says said it is so, and have reported that he is a Christian, people still assume by his name that he is a Muslim. His middle name is Hussein, a Muslim name. His father was a Muslim. His mother was not. He was raised by his mom. He did attend, some report, a Muslim “hadras,” or school. However, he has claimed Christianity as his religion and he and his wife have belonged to the same church for many years.

One thing that hurts him still is that his pastor. He is known to have preached that America itself was at fault for the 9/11 attacks. The pastor has also given some kind of an award to Louis Farrakhan [] the head of the Nation of Islam, whose rhetoric has been extremely anti-American foreign policy. Obama is very close to his pastor. He is part of Mr. & Mrs Obama spiritual life as a pastor should be.

These men of course have a right to their opinion but some have used the relationship of Obama with his pastor to cast a negative light on him and claim him as some kind of closet Muslim. He is not a Muslim, nor is he in any way anti-American. He is just more liberal than Mrs. Clinton is in her foreign policy. I do not believe for a minute despite the oratory that any of the current presidential candidates would deliberately place our nation in security jeopardy. They see different ways of achieving security. I do believe that Mrs. Clinton would be better for national security than Mr. Obama would. McCain would be better than either in this regard.

I however, voted for Romney in the Massachusetts primary. I thought he was the Republican with the best chance to win the White House. I have always been a registered Republican since I was old enough to register and vote. I also voted for him because he was a Mormon. He was our governor in Massachusetts. He was not great but he was good. As a Catholic, I have a lot more in common with him than Mrs. Clinton.

Like you, I was upset because people did say they would not vote for him because he was a Mormon. In the early 1970’s I meet Mormon young men in Kentucky at Fort Knox during basic training as an Army Reserve Officer Candidate. They were very moral young men. Although university students as me, all but one was already married and that young man told me, how sad he was because he was not yet married. Most Mormons are expected to marry young. It is their way of curtailing sexual promiscuity so common among college men then and now. This was very important to their religious fidelity. They were very patriotic; this was significant because it was during the Viet Nam war. There were more Mormons in my company than any other religion. I was a faithful Catholic as a boy and college student when it was not fashionable to be so. My Catholicism and their Mormonism on many moral issues fit.

The best friend I made at the time however, who remains a friend to this day, was a Methodist form Alabama. He was a student at the Alabama University Law School. He like the Mormons was already married. I was committed in my heart to be a priest at the time, although I was attending Northeastern University and studying Criminal Justice. He was a Christian and Republican. In addition, he was a conservative thinker like me. We met over a copy of National Review magazine as we rode the bus from the Louisville, Kentucky airport to Fort Knox. National Review is conservative journal founded by William F. Buckley Jr. who has just passed on to his eternal reward. Buckley was a faithful Catholic and the founder of the modern conservative movement. He was an inspiration to me for some time and gave me the intelligent conservative thought that allowed me to pass through NU when drugs and sexual acting out was as common as candy at the corner store. My Alabama seat mate could not believe a Bostonian could be reading National Review. I explained that it was very natural for me because my grandfather and father were Republicans and Catholics, just as Buckley was. It all made sense to me. From that, moment on, to name drop, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and I were conservative Republican allies and friends. You may know that Jeff is one of two Republican U S Senators from Alabama. (A bit of vanity on part there, with apologies.)

The point is this Catholic (me) found alliances with a Southern Methodist, and Mormons at a time when the other Catholics in our company barracks were vocally hostile to their own faith and church. Therefore, I see no reason not to vote for or vote against any candidate based on his religion alone, unless that religion is openly hostile to my or my nation’s existence, and the candidate embraces that openly hostile religion. Given that proviso, even though the religion of the candidate informs every decision he/she makes whenever his conscience is involved, by definition a religiously informed conscience, I would rather vote for such a person. I would expect he/she would more likely implement consistently the policy and platform articulated during the campaign. This candidate would have meant what said and said what meant. Romney was for the most part like this. He did shade himself on the moderate side becoming elect-able as governor of ultra liberal Massachusetts. He did shade himself more conservative to run for the Republican nomination, but essentially, he was consistent with his stated beliefs. He sincerely labored to fulfill his campaign promises once elected Governor.

I remember first hand the Kennedy Vs Nixon election, my mom voted for Nixon, because she thought he was better qualified. Religion played no part in her decision. I was in 7th or 8th grade and did not think politically at the time, I wanted her to vote for Kennedy so that we could have our first Catholic President. In hindsight, Kennedy was not very Catholic, and although he had loads of charisma and was very intelligent, we really do not know if he was a great president. Mythology grew so rapidly around him post his assassination that the judgment of history is still not clear. Nixon was a competent president but a much-disliked even despised human being; this clouds our vision of him as well. However, my mother provided an important decision-making lesson. Religion is only one factor in judging suitability of a candidate for office. It is certainly not a reason for automatic dismissal that would contradict our great American tradition of religious liberty and tolerance. An ideal that even found its way into the declaration on religious liberty DIGNITATIS HUMANAE approved by the Bishops and Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. <>



No comments: