Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Religion and elected office

When is it legitimate to be concerned about the religious beliefs of those running for office?

Religion has inserted itself into the electoral process in a number of ways. We all know the sorry state of affairs in 2004, when John Kerry was denied Communion. I also posted here previously about noted Catholic conservative Douglas Kmiec, who was denied Communion this year for the "sin" of supporting Obama! (Apparently he was since absolved.) Another Catholic pro-lifer has now come out for Obama. (Hat-tip, Franiam). Fortunately the deny-communion movement seems to be running out of steam, and we haven't heard more than a few murmers about Joe Biden.

Now, we have Sarah Palin, running for Vice President. As described in a recent LA Times article , Gov Palin is a follower of Assemblies of God, which is a conservative, pentacostalist denomination. She is rabidly anti-abortion, a young-earth creationist who won her mayoral election with the help of an activist Christianist campaign. She considers it "God's plan" to send troops to Iraq.Her Wasilla church runs an ex-gay program and Youtube is littered with disturbing videos from her pastor.

The Boston Globe comments on another story, that Wasilla under Palin was alone of towns in Alaska in charging rape victims for the "rape kits" used to collect evidence--some of which include the "morning after pill". The Globe asks,
Whether the fee-for-kits policy reflected Palin's budgetary zeal or her extreme view on abortion, voters deserve to know. As Alaska's governor in 2000, Tony Knowles, put it: "We would never bill the victim of a burglary for finger-printing and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence."

But in Wasilla they would, if the crime was rape.
Sarah Palin's religious views are completely incompatible with my political views. The thought of her establishing any sort of policy scares the beejeesus out of me. I do not find in her statements, policies, or objectives any evidence that she will provide a "big tent" of tolerance or accommodation, or that she will uphold the Constitution rather than her religious opinion.

So while in the general sense, I don't think that the religious faith of a candidate should matter, clearly in the specific example, it does. It must.

Update: The Human Rights Campaign, a mainstream gay rights group, went up to Alaska to talk about Sarah Palin and her religious views of GLBT folk. Check out this Youtube video.

Update 2 More video! JCF in the comments mentions Bill Maher's interview on the Daily show on 30 Sept, discussing his new film Religulous. You can watch Part 1 of the Daily Show piece here and watch Part 2 here.


JCF said...

We all know the sorry state of affairs in 2004, when John Kerry was denied Communion.

Was Kerry ever physically denied communion? (In the way that Kmiec was?) I hadn't heard that.


I hope that many of us saw Bill Maher on "The Daily Show" last night (I don't know if I'm going to have an opportunity to see his movie Religulous or not). I welcome the chance to discuss some of the issues he raised (particularly, his, um, "sacriligious" summation of Christianity).

I find Maher both humorous AND disturbing (in a good way). While he doesn't threaten my Christian faith, he DOES challenge me, to dig deeper and unpack more.

[Not to mention, that like every other Christianity-despiser, he's significantly influenced by the wingnuts' version of the religion. "God the Father sending the Son---which is also me!---on a suicide mission! {Ha-ha}" probably wouldn't seem quite so contemptible to Maher (et al), if not for the gay-bashers, and abortionist-shooters, and Crusaders, y'know?]

Hint-hint: get the Daily Show video (which I can't watch on dial-up, cuz it's f-ing streaming, Argh!), and create a new thread, F-O-J mods?

susan s. said...

It's on Huludotcom, but I am deficient in the embeding department.

dr.primrose said...

An interesting church-and-gay-related case arising in Orange County, California (hi, IT!) was decided by the California Court of Appeal yesterday -- Gunn v. Mariners Church, Inc.

The court summarizes the case as follows:

"Robert Gunn appeals from a judgment in favor of Mariners Church, Inc., in his action for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the trial court granted Mariners Church’s motion for summary judgment. Mariners Church terminated Gunn from his position as worship director upon discovering he was homosexual. Afterwards, the senior pastor announced to the ongregation the church terminated Gunn from his pastoral position because he had admitted to acts the
church considered to be a sin. Gunn concedes Mariners Church’s actions were religiously motivated and in furtherance of its established church policy regarding termination of ministerial leaders in the church. Nonetheless, he contends the ministerial exception does not apply to preclude court intervention in this dispute. We disagree and affirm the judgment."
(p. 2)

The "ministerial exception" is a court doctrine saying that, under the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment, a court will not second-guess a church's decision-making concerning clergy employment where the decision-making is connected with the church's beliefs and doctrines (which is virtually always the case). As a result, the clergy-person has no claim against the church for such things as invasion or privacy or defamation where the church's claimed wrongful statements are connected with the decision-making process.

I bring this case to folks' attention because it's this kind of judicial deference to ecclesiastical decision-making that will NOT force churches to do marriages for same-sex couples if Proposition 8 does not pass. The claim that Proposition 8 must pass for that reason is just a flat-out lie.

JCF said...

If the guy has a case, it wasn't in the termination, but in the announcement "to the congregation the church terminated Gunn from his pastoral position because he had admitted to acts the church considered to be a sin." Why do the "Bahble believin'" have to be such, well, *ssholes? >:-/


Of "Ann, Eileen, IT, Padre Mickey and David", surely ONE of you can do an embed? (of The Daily Show)


Off-topic: I completed FOUR job applications today! Yay me! :-D

David G. said...

I just posted about this, I'm disgusted with these so~called conservative christians trying to make the U.S. into a Theocracy!!

There are MANY who are just waiting for the time to BUST'EM LOOSE on the organizers.

Many in the U.S. are not Happy with these goings on .... PERIOD.

David G. said...

Oh shit, I might as well say it, You should be ashamed of yourselves, Gossiping, because that is what it is!!

Gossiping about you're leadership!!

You don't truly know that Sarah Palin is the ANTI-Christ!!

You don't truly know that Barrack Obama, is the ANTI-christ, the Fundies Claim????

GET A FREAKIN' GRIP, ...people!!

Quit BITCHIN' and get a LIFE!!!

Марко said...

McCain looks like death warmed over. How would you like it if Sarah "Apocalypse-Now" Palin suddenly had possession of America's missile launch codes and our nuclear arsenal under her irrational control? That frightens me. I wouldn't leave that woman in charge of a lemonade stand. The fact that she is a governor amazes me. The possibility that she could be president appalls me. God help us!

Anonymous said...

From the Katie Couric interview:
Katie Couric: Thomas Jefferson wrote about the First Amendment, building a wall of separation between church and state. Why do you think that's so important?

Sarah Palin: His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on people. And Thomas Jefferson also said never underestimate the wisdom of the people. And the wisdom of the people, I think in this issue is that people have the right and the ability and the desire to express their own religious views, be it a very personal level, which is why I choose to express my faith, or in a more public forum.

And the wisdom of the people, thankfully, engrained in the foundation of our country, is so extremely important. And Thomas Jefferson wanted to protect that.

There are words, her lips are moving, but beyond that, I can't say...


(JCF, we can link to youtube or the daily show for their stream, but actually pulling the video and loading it intact on this site, which I think is what you are asking, is (a) a pain in the tail and (b) uses up a monstrous amount of space and bandwidth probably exceeding our allotment.)

Fred Preuss said...

I look forward to "Religulous". Say what you will about Maher, but he at least insults all religions, including the ones with active and heavily armed lobbies.
He has mentioned the 'mainline' churches-he said talking about them would be like gossiping about Sunny von Bulow's love life.
I look forward to the first all-atheist/agnostic ticket.

Anonymous said...

You will wait a long time, fred. The American public hates atheists even more than it hates homosexuals.

JCF, what Ann did--we can do that, but it's streaming, not loaded here. Is that what you want?

rick allen said...

I saw a little bit of Maher on John Stewart's program last night. I wasn't exactly paying too much attention--you know how it is when you're working on things with the TV droning on in the background--but I thought at the end of the interview I heard him deny self-identifying as an atheist, that he didn't know for sure whether there's a God, but he's only asking questions, which he apparently thinks someone has previously put out of bounds.

Which struck me as disingenuous. Look, I love a polemic as much as anybody, especially if it's funny, and Maher is nothing if not very, very funny. But if I make a film about, say, how stupid it is to support John McCain, how stupid his supporters are, how stupid his VP pick is, and how crazy his policy positions are, and how he's too old, and too corrupt, and too entrenched, and if, in the course of promoting my film, somebody asks me, "So, who are you voting for for president?" wouldn't you think it a little odd if I said, "Gee, I don't really know for sure"?

(But I stand to be corrected if I heard wrongly.)

JCF said...

JCF, what Ann did--we can do that, but it's streaming, not loaded here. Is that what you want?

Yup. I saw Maher on The Daily Show, the night it was shown. I just want the embed, for everyone (everyone w/ DSL, that is! :-X) who didn't see it then, to be able to---in order to talk about it.

Rick, Maher is an agnostic. He's against fundamentalist certainty, of BOTH theists and atheists! (Which I totally respect---though of course, as an Episcopalian, I'm a theist. Just an "of course I could be wrong" kind of theist ;-/)

IT said...

Actually, Rick, I think it's perfectly possible to point out how ridiculous some believers are without saying ANYTHING about the subject of their belief. I think that's the point, isn't it?

RELIGION is not GOD. Most of the time religion doesn't even live up to its own stated ethics, wallowing in internal inconsistancy. Disdaining religion needn't mean one disdains God.

Says IT, who IS an atheist.

PS: JCF i posted a link to the Daily Show vids.

klady said...

Curious to know what you all think of this latest by Bill Maher here.

klady said...

And, I meant to point out something quite different, as well - a legal aid organization that claims to support RELIGIOUS rights has come in to support the Alaska legislators who are trying to STOP the legislative inquiry into Troopergate, the "Liberty Legal Institute." See reports at Immoral Minority

Grandmère Mimi said...

The HRC video is excellent.

As for Maher, sometimes I like what he does, sometimes I don't. He's hardly my favorite comedian, but I would not spend much time arguing that he should do something different from what he does.

He paints with a broad brush about Christianity. It's easy to ridicule almost anything, but he is, after all, a comedian. That's what he does. I wouldn't waste time saying, "Hey, Bill, you're not talking about me," because I believe he already knows that.

I have not seen the movie, but if Maher is questioning the certainties that some folks live with (sometimes so precariously) then I'm with him. What does Maher mean by "really believe"? Palin really believes, but he's not sure about Obama.