For more than a year now, we've had countless Catholic and Christian groups advising their followers about who they should vote for for president. Now that the election is on our doorstep, the advice has turned to threats as church leaders around the country are declaring it a sin to vote for John Kerry, largely because he is opposite the church's teachings on The Big Three: abortion rights, stem-cell research and gay marriage.
For instance, about a month ago, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis said Catholics would have to “confess that sin” if they voted for Kerry. Last week, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Colorado said, “If you vote [for John Kerry] you are cooperating in evil.” There was Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs who ordered his diocese to deny communion to anyone who voted for politicians who supported any or all of The Big Three. And there was Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who said that if you vote against the church in these matters (read: “You had better vote for Bush) that you will “jeopardize your salvation.”
The Democrats are incensed. Some are saying the church is bullying voters. Others say the church is using fear tactics to push its conservative agenda upon the country. And a group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State is demanding an IRS investigation into illegal electioneering by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, saying that Bishop Sheridan crossed the line with that “jeopardize your salvation” business.
I couldn't disagree more.
This is not a separation of church and state issue. This is a First Amendment issue. The church is a group. And with respect to free speech, groups are awarded the same rights as individuals. There is nothing in the Constitution that's says you can't organize a group and make one of the rules of that group be that members had to vote a certain way to join.
If I want to, I can start a new religion today and call it The First Adventist Church of Latter Day Bushhaters and the only rule we have is that you absolutely must not vote to re-elect President George Bush lest you be doomed to an eternity in Hell, baby-sitting the unruly offspring of Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen.
The fact that I probably won't convert enough people to my religion to influence a presidential election has no bearing. You can't blame the Catholic Church for being organized and enormous enough to affect the outcome of an election. That's what groups do. They organize for change. And if any group had a reason to want change in this country, it'd be a religious one.
I mean, if I believed there was an invisible man in the sky called God, and that God was this all-good being, except for the times he was mad-in which case, he would shower us with locusts and plague and hurricanes and suitcase bombs-you're damn straight I'd be doing everything I could to get a Christian in office.
If I believed in God and that God believes the best way to protect his interests is to wage pre-emptive Armageddon against the infidels; if I believed in God and believed that homos a-marrying was the reason for our culture's moral decline; if I believed in God and that God would rather protect globules of cell matter than save actual, already-living human beings; if I believed in God and that God would, as Bush said, “put an invisible force-field of protection around the country”; if I believed in God and that God takes sides in wars and the side he takes is the side that prays the most, and goes to church, and eats little white wafers, and walks around with vacuous stares saying things like, “Praise Jesus,” you better believe I would do everything I could to ensure that some God-fearing, homo-hating, reproductive-rights-opposing, stem-cell-not-researching, bomb-dropping, people-executing, rootin-tootin sumbitch from Texas got elected. And if anybody bitched at me, like them so-called Americans United for Separation of Church and What Have You, I'd tell them, “Yo, hey! How is my saying ‘Voting for John Kerry will jeopardize your salvation' any different than you saying, ‘If you vote for Bush, the ice caps will melt and the oceans will rise and we'll all be really fucking dead'?”
It's not religion's job to stay out of government. It's religion's job to weasel its way into government-to stick its nose as far up the ass of Joe Politic as possible, to seep in through whatever nick, crack, tear or pore they can find and deliver upon them The Word. That's the job of religion. And they do a damn good job of it. All the more reason government remembers its job, which is to keep religion as fucking far the fuck away from government as humanly fucking possible. B
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