October 29, 2008

Electioneering in church

I just submitted the following for publication in the Galesburg Register-Mail:

Last week, in my parish bulletin, there was an insert entitled "Where do the candidates stand on key issues?" It's misleading and inaccurate in several places; for instance, it claims Obama opposed a bill "that would have provided protection for babies who survive abortions", but in fact such infants were already covered by existing law, and his votes against the relevant bill were for other reasons. Quotes on immigration and Iraq make it sound as if there were no differences between the two on these issues. And the clear slant of the flyer is pro-McCain: of the twelve "various issues" presented, six are about abortion, and the next page of the bulletin contains a full column that asserts that one's top priority "must" be "opposition to abortion" (as we also heard in the sermons of the day).

Is it illegal? Perhaps not, but it skates very close to the edge. If endorsing candidate X is electioneering, and illegal for churches and nonprofits, then surely mandating a singular focus on issue Y, while simultaneously handing out a piece of paper that says "only candidate X believes Y" is just as bad.

One priest in town reportedly went so far as to say that anyone voting for a pro-choice politician---for any reason---should not receive Communion. Threatening Obama voters with excommunication is both desperate and absurd, and mostly serves to make the church look like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican party. I'd be sure I'd misunderstood, except that similar reports are coming in from across the country. This is spiritual abuse, and it's worse than illegal: it's terribly unethical. It also undermines their position as spiritual leaders.

The worst part is, single-issue voting is dumb even if one issue is your top priority. So-called "pro-life" politicians have long understood that abortion is job security: all they have to do is say they are pro-life, and they get votes from single-issue voters. Why would they want to actually stop abortion? These politicians can claim to be pro-life, while failing to actually address abortion (much less any other life issue) in any way, and on other issues they are free to do anything at all since their voting base doesn't appear to care about anything else.

It is for this reason that the wise voter---liberal or conservative, Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise---will look at the entire candidate in making their decision. Single-issue voting is irresponsible, simplistic, and counterproductive, and no church should be in the business of encouraging it.

UPDATE: Printed in full today (30 Oct) under the title "Church and politics colliding in Galesburg". I've already gotten two voicemails at my work phone from Galesburg residents who specifically tracked down my number just to thank me for writing it; it seems to have struck a nerve. Some interesting online comments on the Register-Mail posting, too.

"What justifies the [Boumediene] decision is the practical necessity and importance of reassuring the citizens of the United States and the world at large that the United States had not given up the role it assumed after World War II as the chief proponent of the rule of law worldwide." --Noah Feldman, "When judges make foreign policy", NYT

Posted by blahedo at 2:42am on 29 Oct 2008
What bothers me most about this absolute stance is that I no longer believe them when they talk about believing that abortion is murder. That claim and their actions just don't add up. If there were a law that actually allowed factory murder of children, kind of like the safe haven law in Nebraska, only allowed drop off at an abattoir instead of a hospital, I'd like to think that sane people, and organizations of sane people would do more than craft and read pamphlets. I think that a sane response would be razing the abattoirs ( or better yet, not allowing them to be built) and taking the children dropped off at them and whisking them away into a juvenile witness protection program and placing them with a family who would love them and care for them.

I can believe that they believe abortion is wrong, but I do have trouble with the idea that it is more wrong than capital punishment, and supporting politicians who seem to go to war for sport and to fill the pockets of their cronies.

To me, this is about control and hatred of women, and I find it odious. Fortunately in a primary season, I usually have my choice of candidates who support choice in this, so I don't have to be a single issue voter on this issue, because it would be tempting to do so.

Every so often something happens in the news to remind me why. When in Des Moines they found a dead newborn and tried to get the medical records of all women who may have been pregnant in the area during the previous nine months. Never mind that this was near a major interstate, let's take this excuse to invade the privacy of all women in the area so we can peer over their medical histories and judge them.

Posted by lee at 6:35am on 29 Oct 2008
Good letter, man. Posted by Punditus Maximus at 1:51pm on 29 Oct 2008
A response in the R-M, and my response: write any further comments over on that post.

Comments closed.

Posted by blahedo at 12:53pm on 8 Nov 2008
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