27 February 2012

Religion, Public Service, and Voting


When John F. Kennedy ran for the Presidency, there was great concern about him being a Catholic. Conspiracy theories abounded that he might secretly be governing the country as a puppet of the Pope. Such concerns are again being heard in the current Presidential race about the Republican candidate Senator Rick Santorum. The Senator is not only a Catholic, he is outspoken about his Faith and the fact that it governs his life. He says, in effect, his Faith comes first, and this would be seen in his Presidency if he won the election. How refreshing in this age of ever-increasing secularism. Yet, this raises the question in many people's minds as to whether or not a person has any business being in office if he puts his Faith first and, according to his religious beliefs, he must always act in accordance with Church doctrine. A large segment of the population, include many Christians, believe that a person's religious beliefs have no place in their decision process as a public official. The trouble is, can we really expect or demand that public officials violate their conscience simply because they are public officials? Must they lay aside their religious beliefs and obligations when they take the oath of office? Does the oath of office as a public official supersede their duty to God?

Let us consider a hypothetical scenario. Imagine that the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments to repeal Roe v. Wade, thereby effectively rendering abortion illegal. Can we expect the Catholic Justices to vote any way other than for the abolishment of abortion? Can we expect them to rule by some means other than the Church doctrine that governs their conscience? Of course not, if they are to be truly Catholic. Really, this applies to all Christian Justices on the Court. They have the power to stop the murder of approximately 1.5 million children per year. Their Christian Faith says this is wrong. Why should they not stop it merely for the sake of being able to say that their Church's doctrine did not enter into their decision? To ask them to lay aside their Faith because they sit on the Supreme Court bench is wrong in the extreme. Furthermore, in such a case as this hypothetical example, a Justice who was fully aware that abortion is wrong in the eyes of God, but ignored the teachings of his Faith would take on the guilt for the murder of all those innocent children, for those were murders that he could have stopped.

Many politicians, judges, and officials say they voted a certain way or rendering a certain decision or did a certain thing because they thought it was the right thing to do. Some might question the veracity of those statements, believing instead that the politicians, judges, and officials who said that were acting in reality in their own best interest or taking the politically expedient position. Yet, for the sake of argument, let us take them at their word. After all, we should all hope and desire that our government officials would always strive to do the right thing. Why, then, should it be acceptable for a politician or an official to state that his decision or position was taken because he believed it to be the right thing, but it would not be acceptable for him to state that the reason he believes it to be the right thing is because that is what the doctrine of the Faith teaches him? Why would it be acceptable for a politician to say he voted a certain way because he believed it to be the right thing, and that his belief came from some general sense of morality, yet it would not be acceptable for him to state that this morality came from the doctrine of the Faith? That amounts to nothing more than discrimination against people of strong faith in public office. Indeed, strictly interpreted, those who believe a person's faith should have no bearing on decisions in their efforts to do the right thing would deny public office to any person of strong faith.

This is not to say that those in public office should impose their religious beliefs on others. Yet, not imposing one's own views on others does not mean that one should or must violate one's own conscience or beliefs in rendering decisions and carrying out the duties of public office. Everyone in public office is internally governed by something, whether it be the Christian Faith, political expediency, personal interest, secularism, or something else entirely. Why are all other guiding principles accepted, but not the Christian Faith? Even corruption, personal interest, and political expediency are acknowledged as an inherent facet of the government to be tolerated, but not liked. Why, then, are many people afraid of a public official who is a person of Faith, openly and unapologetically stating that the Faith governs his moral compass for the benefit of the public?

The simple truth is that the Faith is contrary to the ways of the world. The world loves that which is of itself and hates all that which is not of itself. Those who are unapologetically Catholic in all that they do, including public office, will naturally find opposition from society if that society has become secular and of this world. Remember that it was not too long ago that public officials regularly and openly about the Christian Faith. Sadly, things have changed. Christian blasphemy laws remain on the books in several States, though they are no longer enforceable as Supreme Court interpretation of the First Amendment struck them down. School prayer, once a common thing, is being challenged time and time again. Christianity is being marginalized in favor of not only secularism, but Islam and all the societal problems it brings. Abortion is legal. The government is trying to force religious institutions to violate their consciences. The list goes on and on. Though we in the United States were once a strongly Judeo-Christian nation, there is absolutely no denying that we have effectively descended into secularism.

There is a philosophy out there that says that an official who commits adultery is considered by many to be unworthy and unqualified to be a public official. The logic goes that if said official cannot remain faithful to the promises made to his spouse and to his duties required by that promise, he cannot hold the public trust. Yet, a public official who violates his promises made to God and ignores his duties required by those promises in favor of purely secular duties is somehow considered to be the ideal public official. This simply does not make sense. A promise to God is of more value than a promise to a spouse. A duty to God is of more importance than a duty to a spouse. Therefore, how can anyone who claims to be a Christian consider a public official who fails in a duty to his spouse to be unworthy, yet consider a public official who fails in his duty to God to be ideal?

One is either a Christian or not. There is no middle ground, as I have remarked on numerous occasions. One either strives to fulfill one's Christian duty, or one does not. Anyone who places his perceived duty as a public official, or a corporate officer, or anything else above his duty as a Christian is not in reality a Christian. In all truth, we as a Christian nation should desire public officials who do not violate their sacred duties, but instead let the doctrine of the Faith guide them, as it is intended to do, in fulfilling their duties as public officials.

The First Amendment establishment clause was intended to prevent the government from imposing religious beliefs on the people. Yet, it never was intended to require public officials to suppress their religious duties upon taking public office, for that itself would be an imposition of government control over religious beliefs. A public official's duty is first to God and then to the public. Anyone who claims they want a public official who has the best interests of the populace and the nation at heart must necessarily want a candidate who understands his duty is first to God, for no law may be just without God. It is time that we have a new generation of statesmen, judges, and public officials who understand that their duty truly is to God first above all things, and in so doing, they best serve the public.