I've been seeing more and more promoting of candidates for president as the election gets closer in religious circles including my Catholic church. I object to the religious right or the Catholic church promoting one candidate over another on the basis of the candidates moral beliefs to the exclusion of the candidates qualifications to deal with the problems facing America
As far as I am concerned every church in the US should have it's tax exemption revoked if it advocates a political position on the election of a president or others to public office. In America there is a constitutional separation of church and state whether church leaders like it or not. When churches violate their tax code privileges by taking a political stand on candidates for office they should be treated like any other taxable business. No tax exempt religious group has the legal right in the United States to advocate either way regarding the election of political leaders.
This is not a religious election, it is a political election. This is the United States whose citizens include atheists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, anarchists and a huge variety of people with conflicting and different moral beliefs. No political leader elected to office should be elected in the hopes of passing laws which favor one religious group moral beliefs in conflict with the moral views of the rest of the citizens. We live in a pluralistic society where millions of citizens have differing religious or moral views but all are Americans.
This country was founded in large part by people who left England to escape a church state. In England only one religion was allowed and any other religious beliefs persecuted. The people who came to this country wanted freedom of religious belief and opposed any state church. Freedom of religious belief is a key part of the United States constitution. In America, one religious group should not try to elect political leaders whose religious beliefs agree with theirs so that laws can be passed imposing those views over everyone else. Would we Christians would object to a Hindu or Muslim administration controlling the country and imposing religious laws on us. Why? Because in America we are entitled to leaders who govern all of the citizens fairly irrespective of different moral viewpoints.
We Christians would object if Jews were able to coerce their members into voting to elect political leaders to pass laws imposing their moral views on all other Americans. We would be outraged if the Muslims did the same. We would scream about freedom of religion and how wrong it is for one religious group to elect people to pass laws that only agree with their religious views.
It is the good of the country that is involved in the election of political leaders and not to impose religious beliefs on everyone else. That kind of thinking violates the whole concept of freedom of religion in America, but it is the underlying goal of Christian religions when they try to control voting in order to pass laws that impose their moral viewpoints over the rest of the citizens moral viewpoints.
It is un American for the Christian churches to attempt to intimidate their members to vote only for politicians who have their moral belief. It is also very wrong to vote into office unqualified political leaders merely because they agree with the moral teachings of one religious group on such issues as abortion or same sex marriage when America faces a crisis in the economy and a war that is driving us into economic ruin. American has many important issues such as medical care, education, employment and the like. We should elect the best qualified persons to deal with these issues and not on the basis of religious beliefs.
What about If we approach this matter from scripture? Can't we look to Christ himself for a model? I've heard people say "how would Christ vote in this election?" and my reaction is: we already know. I think He would have seen the distinction between religious beliefs and government. When asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar he was faced with a political dilemma: A large number of Jewish leaders believed it was immoral to pay taxes to the occupying Romans. They believed it was seriously morally wrong to do so, just as conservative Christians and the Catholic church think abortion and same sex marriage is morally wrong. They thought the conflict between the moral wrong and the occupying government dictate was so great that Christ would be trapped by his answer. So did Jesus adopt a moral stance? No, he said "render unto Caesar's what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's" He did not dictate to the Jews what political action to take because there is a difference between religious beliefs and civil authority. There is a difference between church and state. And what about Paul's teachings about civil authority? He says in Romans 13 "everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." Paul did not preach mixing religion and politics nor did he preach a religious state like the one the Christians seem to want in America.
If the conservative religious and Catholic church is right, we would only elect politicians whose views conform to their moral beliefs. Why? so these leaders will adopt laws that will impose those beliefs on all of the rest of the citizens of America who don't agree. That is not an America I want nor is it the America founded by our forefathers. Church leaders have the right to indicate what they believe is morally right and wrong, but they do not have the right to carry that view forward and impose it on political candidates in America or the right to dictate how Americans must vote. That kind of mixture of religion and politics is wrong in this country.
We have freedom of conscience in religion. We also live in America and not in Iran or Afghanistan or countries where religious beliefs are required and to not follow them can result in punishment by death. We are not obligated to vote for political leaders on the basis of their religious beliefs and we should not want an America where the goal of voting is to elect political leaders who will pass laws imposing their religious beliefs on all of the rest of Americans whether they be Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Christians.
Those are my views. They are not popular with many of my fellow Catholics, but I think America and our constitutional rights come before any particular relgious groups interests. I hope we vote for the best qualified persons to govern this country and the crisis we face rather than for religious beliefs they may adopt.