Does he or doesn't he?

COMMENTARY Civil Society

Does he or doesn't he?

Oct 22, 2004 3 min read

Senator Kerry is trying to make the practice of faith an issue in the presidential election.


But if you listen to what he says, it's extremely difficult to figure out exactly what is and isn't an acceptable application of one's faith in the public square. Quite frankly, his message on faith and policy sounds like gobbledygook.


So..... does he, or doesn't he?


Does Senator Kerry believe that an elected official's faith and moral values should influence his or her public policy decisions?


Consider Kerry's recent comments on a mid-West campaign swing that included stops at many churches along the way:


"I see deeds and I see a whole lot of things that when you add them up, make you wonder about the public words and values versus the public deeds and works that show the values."


Now, I'm not entirely certain what he was trying to say, but that statement doesn't exactly jibe with what he said about faith and values in the last presidential debate…or does it?


When the moderator asked Senator Kerry, "The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman's right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem cell research. What is your reaction to that?


What was Kerry's response? Well, you can read it for yourself but you still might not know what he believes.


(I've add a few editorial comments of my own in italics):


"I respect their views. I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views, but I disagree with them, as do many. I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me (I thought he just said he disagrees with the Catholic article of faith that abortion is wrong) is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith.  


"I believe that choice is a woman's choice. (Sounds like a personal article of faith.....or is it just a belief?) It's between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that. Now, I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. (Sounds to me like a transfer of his belief in choice...or am I missing something?)


The Senator went on to say, "My faith affects everything I do, in truth...And I think everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people." (Huh?)


"That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith. (I thought his point is that it is wrong to legislate your articles of faith... or, did he say that everything he does in public life has to be guided by his faith?)


Kerry concluded, "But I know this, that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told all of us that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to --I think that's the test of public service." (But wouldn't how we interpret God's will be our articles of faith? And I thought he said that it is wrong to legislate or transfer those beliefs ....or did he? Do you know?)




The Washington Post reported on Monday, October 18 that in an interview with Kerry during the Democratic primaries Kerry spoke about how, "Bush was blurring the lines between church and state in dangerous ways" and that Kerry "appeared hesitant to discuss religion." Yet, lately Kerry has been hitting churches throughout the mid-West with the fervor of an old-fashioned southern evangelist holding camp meetings.


Why the sudden interest in and inclusion of faith and religious "talk" in his speeches? 


The Post article explains one possibility, "...some friends say that Kerry also has gained a deeper appreciation of how voters in many of the battleground states seek candidates of faith..."


Could it really be all about how to get the most votes? Is that why Kerry's remarks are so hard to follow…because he's speaking out of both sides of his mouth? 


Say it ain't so. 

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation.

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