Kay Aler-Maida: Religion and Politics

voteRELIGION AND POLITICS

I just love presidential campaigns. Months and months of drama. Best of all (IMHO) is the intersection of religion and politics. Fascinating.

There is the BBC News report about the formation of an Amish Pac dedicated to getting the Amish, who have never seen a Trump tweet, to vote for Trump. Amish generally don’t vote preferring to “leave it up to God.” However, they live in substantial numbers in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. So, I guess God is getting a helping hand.

Here’s a riddle: What do Donald Trump, Tim Kaine, and Pope Francis have in common?

Answer: all three were educated by Jesuits.

Catholics represent about one-fifth of the voters. Generally, 40 percent goes to each party, leaving 20 percent up for grabs. They are heavily concentrated in, oh-oh, the mid-west swing states.

So it has become almost a requirement to have a Catholic running mate. Obama & Joe Biden, Romney & Paul Ryan, Clinton & Tim Kaine (a Pope Francis Catholic) and Donald Trump & Mike Pence (an Evangelical Catholic.)

Be that as it may, let us remember the wise words of Richard Nixon – “The Vice President can’t help you . . . he can only hurt you.” And he would have known.

How are the campaigns doing religion-wise?

During the pope’s visit last February, Trump called him “disgraceful” and a “political pawn” of Mexico. Pope Francis responded, “A person, who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

However, James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, would disagree. He has assured gatherings of Evangelicals that Trump has accepted a “relationship with Christ” and is now “a baby Christian” implying that Trump would grow in this faith.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson is warning about Clinton’s connection with Lucifer. Clinton wrote her 1969 Wellesley undergraduate thesis on Saul Alinsky. Carson pointed out that the dedication in Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals acknowledges Lucifer as the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Carson asks, “Can you vote for someone whose role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?” Could be a case of better the devil you know . . . ?

While Trump is dealing with a “Gender Gap,” Clinton is dealing with the “God Gap” – where regular worshipers more often vote for Republican candidates.

In this week’s news, it appears that Mormons, with a history of being an oft-maligned religion and with a commitment to welcoming refugees, are put off by Trump’s stance on Muslims and immigration. Their ambivalence is putting the strongly Republican Southwest into play.

See, I said it was fascinating.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Code limits the political activities of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches. They can talk about issues but can’t endorse candidates if they wish to retain their tax-exempt status.

A recent Pew Center survey shows that some clergy have been speaking out about at least one or more social or political issues – conservatives on religious liberty & abortion; liberals on immigration & environment; more divided on homosexuality & economic inequality.

The provision of the tax code that prohibits endorsing political candidates was added in something called the (Lyndon) Johnson Amendment. This year’s Republican platform calls for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment as it limits free speech.

Maybe. Is it really a very big step from opinion on issues to opinion on candidates?

On the other hand, candidate yard signs in front of a congregation might not be supportive of congregational harmony.

Which would you prefer?