Over at Religion Clause there is discussion of a very heated exchange between Kentucky State Attorney General Jack Conway and Libertarian/Republican candidate for Senate Ron Paul, over the nature of Paul’s religious belief.
Conway fired the first shot in this campaign commercial (click to view). IMHO, pretty low on the scum scale for reprehensible campaign tactics, especially the closing line, “Why are so many questions being asked about Rand Paul?” Uh… because you just asked them, perhaps??
Paul replied, indignantly faithfully, in his own commercial (click to view). He’s got good writers. He pulls on many Christian heart-strings/themes in this ad. Paul “holds Christ in his heart;” has a wife and kids (straight, married); accuses opponent of “bearing false witness” (commandment allusions, always good.)
Then, in a debate on October 17, both sides furthered their positions. In what could be viewed as a rhetorical master-stroke, Paul recalls the Army/McCarthy hearings, asking Conway, “Have you no decency? Have you no shame?”
Both sides are completely wrong, and their responses speak to the desperate need for an alternative approach to these injections of faith in the election process. Each man is attacking the other’s faith, but no one is attacking the injection of faith into the process.
There are two critical problems to address here:
1) What is an effective approach to the Conway’s of the world who inject “faith” as a legitimate campaign question… a de-facto religious test, designed explicitly to ask people to base their votes on the degree to which a candidate is “one of us?” Certainly a candidate doing this is not the same as the federal government having a “religious test” for office, but it has the same effect. What tactic can successfully rebut this shameless injection of religion into politics?
2) On the other hand, Paul asserts that anyone who ridicules another’s faith is completely beyond the pale. This, too, needs to be successfully rebutted. There is no reason whatsoever why, if a person is injecting their faith into the defense of their candidacy, or as a justification for it, that critics should not be able to rail on them about the intermingling of “faith” and politics OR call them to account for specifics of how that faith might influence their legislation.
Two of my key assumptions about what one “should” or “should not” do in a campaign have been violated:
1. Don’t bring faith/religion into politics, because as an elected representative you must serve in a secular government, legislating for the faith-neutral rights of ALL citizens.
2. Don’t assert that certain topics are off limits for discussion simply because they relate to your faith, ESPECIALLY if you feel it is acceptable to bring your faith into your campaign as a positive support for your candidacy. You must take the good with the bad. Do not call, as Paul did, anyone who questions another man’s faith a practitioner of gutter politics.
How can we effectively rebut the religious trump card asserted by paul in this debate excerpt?
Beyond the candidates, how can we STOP idiot moderators from asking, as if it were a legitimate question, “Let’s be clear… do you think he’s a Good Christian?” See 1:19 mark in this link.
If we take this specific case as microcosm, and look back at the “Compassion Forum” held during the Obama campaign in 2008 (among other instances), we can see there is a larger pattern in elections across the U.S. to inject a religious test during the campaign process. For our democracy, and for individual candidates, I ask you to come up with the most effective rebuttal you can. Let’s help eliminate religious tests from the campaign trail.
How would you reply to someone who questioned your fitness for office because of your non-belief (or belief in a minority God)?
How would you most effectively call an opponent on the carpet who begins to use his faith as support for his candidacy?
How would you reply to the moderator’s inappropriate question?