Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

What Do Biden and Palin REALLY Believe? Questions for Tonight’s Debate

How can a candidate proclaim a faith which teaches about all aspects of life but tell us that those teachings will not shape their approach to governing the rest of us, who may not share that faith? If they genuinely believe, how do they bracket those beliefs when it comes to making public policy? And if they do bracket those beliefs, what does it mean to genuinely believe?
My questions for both Senator Biden and Governor Palin focus on how they balance religious traditions that would dictate every area of life, which each of their faiths would, and their obligation to respect people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Too often that balance is either a function of politicians claiming to believe more deeply than they really do, or of their harboring a genuine desire to see their personal beliefs drive public policy. The first is disingenuous and the second is dangerous. Can these candidates avoids the pitfall of either position?
Questions for the candidates:
What is the greatest threat we face as a nation right now, and how do your religious beliefs help you to address that threat?
On whose side is God in the Iraq war? And if you rely on Lincoln’s response that we should pray to be on God’s side, please explain what it means to “be on God’s side”.
How do you justify enforcing laws which violate your personal beliefs, such as abortion, or would you prefer to see the laws mirror your beliefs? And if you would not, why not?
Do you think people are better off if they believe in God?
Does religion have any proper place in American public life? And if it does, how does that not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause?

  • Ruvain

    These questions are a terrible idea. Religion should stay out of politics. The fact that the right wing interjects dogma into politics is destructive to political debate.
    If you want to ask any questions about religion and public policy, they should be about the pernicious effects that religious dogma has on government.
    Religious bigotry hampers our military preparedness when we are engaged in two wars by preventing hundreds of thousands of Gay men from serving in the Armed Forces. The generals in Afghanistan say we need thousands more troops ASAP and the Bush Administration is spending millions of dollars to kick thousands of Gay men out of the military. Bush has already kicked out more than 4 times as many Gay men as the generals say are desperately need in Afghanistan.
    Different religions have different views on viability and Roe v Wade. Yet religious dogmatists demand that their religion’s view that life begins at conception be adopted by the law. Roe v Wade balances two unalienable rights: Life v Liberty. There is no room for religious dogma in the civil courts.
    The suggestion that anyone would ask an candidate how her/his religion would influence her/his political decisions is a horrible idea. The point of the Separation of Church and State is to keep religion OUT OF POLITICS. Electing a candidate is not a referendum on whose religion we like the most!

  • eastcoastlady

    I’m with Ruvain on this one. Asking the types of questions suggested above only enforces the idea that religion should play an active role in politics.
    I’m much more interested in direct questions regarding how the candidates would handle specific issues, and perhaps having them address their interpretation of the establishment clause, to help ensure that religion and politics will (and should) be kept separate. These people’s jobs would be to uphold the Constitution – not to subvert it. The Law of the Land is the guide – not a particular version of the Christian Bible.

  • Scott

    I agree with both Ruvain and eastcoastlady, and I add that eastcoastlady is more concise.

  • Marian H. Neudel

    When both these candidates were sworn in to their current offices, they put their hands on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. They didn’t put their hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

  • Rev. David Hicks

    As a Christian pastor, I agree with the previous comments, strange as that may seem to some. I, for one, reject the so called “Christian Right”‘s attempt to set up a theocracy here. We are a divierse religious and cultural society and for any group, even my own, to set ourselves up as the arbitors of law is to fail to protect “liberty for all.” I do give my fellows in that camp the right to believe as they do, and to voice and vote their opinions; I do not, and will not, give them the right to say that theirs is the only way to God or that their belief is the only truth. I will urge the people in my congregation to vote, however I will never tell them how. Religion is a private matter until we get to the point at which the Nazi’s began to seize power and only then, when the evil is plain to all religious people, should the church stand in vocal and actual opposition to the state.

  • chaim baruch-chaim

    I’ll join my voice with those of Ruvain, eastcoastlady, Scott, Marian, and Rev. Hicks. No good can come either to religion or to the State by injecting these questions into the political debate.
    In a democratic republic, we elect officials to represent us in particular AND the US in general, not to represent themselves and their cronies. If a politician cannot sublimate his or her personal beliefs and the narrow interests of his or her in-group to the greater good of serving constituents in particular AND the nation in general, he or she has chosen a line of work that is incompatible with his or her personality.
    I wish the proclaimed faiths of so many elected officials were sincere, personal faiths that they lived by instead of the political battering ram they sometimes are used as or the puffery and lies even more often used either to lull the gullible into complacency or to falsely advertise who they are and why they intend to do something or other.
    Any time religion comes to the fore in politics, it’s a pretty safe bet that what will result is going to be bad for the State, bad for the people, and at least as bad for religion.
    And none of this is to imply I think people should shut up about religion. It just has no possibility of doing good in the politician’s sphere of activity.

  • Jeremiah Price

    I personally thought the questions Rabbi Brad postulated were very important questions. There is a certain thought going around which is ridiculous – separate politics and religion? Does no one see that if you do that then political thought becomes the religion? The very basis of politics is religion because it embraces the belief that there is a difference between right and wrong. The real question is which person is more capable of finding a path which provides agreed-upon rights to all classes of people with all beliefs.
    Rabbi Brad – you were doing fine until your last sentence – the constitution did not include within it a clause to create a state of government without religion – it limited politicians from mandating religion through politics. The drive to remove G-d from all things governmental is just such a political meddling. What is needed are wise individuals who remain strong in their personal beliefs who are able and willing to govern by the set of rules laid down by the a convocation of people comprised of all religions and those who choose to have none at all. Some can do that – many can’t. The purpose of an election is to separate out those who can from those who can’t – and that is why the answers to questions such as Rabbi Brad asks are essential information. At least as essential as knowing their answers to specific issues, because it will provide insight into their ability to govern rightly as decided by all peoples.
    One final question for those “keep it completely separate” individuals – if there is to be no consideration of religion within government, what protection do we have that we will continue to be allowed to have the right to worship as we choose? What keeps one religion from becoming dominant over another if the question cannot be considered or determined politically? This is a slippier slope than most because people become emotionally involved and fail to look at the endgame.

  • chaim baruch-chaim

    I agree that the questions and discussions around them are important but believe the discussion is not properly part of the political process but is, rather, religious, cultural, and personal.
    You wrote: “…if there is to be no consideration of religion within government, what protection do we have that we will continue to be allowed to have the right to worship as we choose? What keeps one religion from becoming dominant over another if the question cannot be considered or determined politically?”
    It is important to distinguish between individuals and groups. Individuals properly have rights. Groups do not. Even the right of assembly is not a group right but an individual right exercised simultaneously by multiple individuals. Thinking of rights in this way allows for protection of the minority even of one against the tyranny of the majority.
    In ONE sense, I wouldn’t care if the entire country except for me were of the same religion, with me being the only non-member of that religion, so long as the government protected my right and each person’s right not to be ruled by that religion or any other and not to be forced to join or to remain within the ranks of that religion or any other.
    I already live in a country where the dominant religion is not mine. I don’t have a problem with that. But I do require that “they” keep their religion off my body, to borrow synecdochical phraseology from feminism.

  • Jeremiah Price

    I so much appreciate your answer and your view. I believe our views are much the same on this, however I was rushed and didn’t elucidate my thoughts as well as I should. The view you exposite is the proper one if all people were honest and fair and respected others. My comment was based on the incidences where they are not.
    It is the controls by government that either allow fairness or disallow it – religion left uncontrolled has resulted in groups taking advantage of each other and even killing each other in the name of G-d. Freedom of religion exists in this country because that is mandated – I don’t think for a minute that if there weren’t those controls that all people would be left to worship as they choose.
    Always in the name of G-d some group enforces their way over others and the strongest begin to become the religion of choice to the detriment of all others. Our country was established by people to guarantee that right amongst others – to separate government and religion also will remove the guarantee of that right. While it may persist for a while, ultimately some groups will become more “accepted” than others and who is to prevent that from happening?
    Already we have the religion of atheism working within the government to suppress all mention of G-d and calling that “freedom”. Already Islamic groups are allowed time for their customary prayers in places where we are not allowed that freedom. Already the historical precepts of God which have been passed down through the ages cannot be displayed along with other historical documents even though they form the basis of law.
    The endgame is the same as the beginning – designed to force the real G-d into an inferior position and raise the standard of the false god higher than His. This is equality and freedom of religion? We will have equality and freedom of religion only to the degree it is guaranteed and enforced by the political laws of the country within which we reside – it is impossible to separate the two and maintain that freedom in a fallen world – the one thing almost all religions agree upon that we live in.
    Thank you for your thoughts and debate!
    G-d Bless!

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