Saturday, March 10, 2012

Yes, political candidates' religious beliefs DO matter...

Campaigning for the 2012 elections are now in full swing.  Right now, the big news is all about who's gonna be the Republican candidate.  At this point, the contest is between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.  I don't consider myself a Republican or a Democrat.  I usually just vote my conscience, though I do often tend to swing Republican.  This year, I will not be voting Republican because I don't care for any of the candidates.  Oddly enough, the older I get, the more left swinging I seem to be.

I don't like candidates who are too into their religion.  Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are both really into their religions.  And being good members of their respective churches, they are expected to do what their church leaders say.  They will be expected to back laws and policies that support their church's positions.  Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, does not drink alcohol, tea, or coffee, nor does he smoke.  But part of his job as president would be to develop relations in other countries.  He would not be able to bond with his counterparts worldwide over a toast.  Of course, one thing I have noticed among famous Mormons is that the church's rules don't seem to apply to them.  How many times have I seen Marie Osmond or Gladys Knight wearing clothing that would never hide temple garments?  Famous male Mormons are not necessarily expected to go on missions.  None of the singing Osmond brothers served missions, though their eldest brothers, both of whom are deaf, did.  So maybe the church would ease up on Mitt... and give him some slack when it comes to the rules, even if it's not fair to everyone else who is expected to follow the rules.

Rick Santorum scares me, not because he's Catholic, but because he has some really radical right wing ideas.  As a woman, I worry about his influence on laws that pertain to women's health and reproductive rights.  Rick Santorum famously stated that rape victims who get pregnant should see the developing child as a "gift" from God.  I get what he's saying.  He's a religious man who believes that abortion is wrong, no matter the circumstances.  Personally, while I am pro-choice, I happen to agree that if we're going to outlaw abortion because it's morally wrong, then it should be morally wrong in all circumstances, not just the ones involving rape or incest.  But, here's the thing.  I don't believe in forcing women to be pregnant, especially if rape or incest is involved in their pregnancies.  Because of my feelings about a woman's right to control what happens to her own body, I can't get onboard with allowing abortion only in certain situations.  The way I see it, it's an all or nothing issue.  So I won't be voting for Santorum.

It annoys me when the people who support these religious candidates whine about religious bigotry.  Not gonna vote for Mitt because he's a Mormon?  You're just a closed minded bigot.  But consider this.  Most of the folks who whine about bias against Mitt's Mormon beliefs would never dream of voting for a Muslim or an atheist or even a Jew.  If I were ever confronted by a Mormon telling me I'm a bigot for dismissing Mitt because of his religious beliefs, I would ask them if they would consider voting for a Satan worshipper, or a Wiccan, or a Pagan, or an atheist.  It's my guess that they would tell me that the situation isn't the same... maybe because they don't believe their Wiccan, Pagan, Satanic, or atheist beliefs are legitimate.  But my response is that the same could be said about their Mormon beliefs.  Mormons are trying very hard to be seen as "normal", "mainstream", and "acceptable".  But a lot of Mormons don't even know their church's history.  They've been discouraged from ever reading or studying anything that criticizes their beliefs.  Consequently, it comes as a shock to them when they learn that until the not to distant year of 1978, blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood.  They may not have ever learned that their prophet, Brigham Young, said that people in interracial marriages would die on the spot.  They explain that later prophets had further light and knowledge, so everyone should just forget about the racist things Brigham Young said, even though he was considered a mouthpiece of God.

I also have a problem with the fact that the LDS church actually tells its members how to vote.  Consider the whole Proposition 8 situation in California.  The LDS church has a problem with gay people getting married to each other.  What do they do?  They send a letter to all of their members, urging them to use their time, talents, and money to support Proposition 8.  Mitt Romney, as a faithful member of the LDS church, would be expected to do the same as all the other members, would he not?  Granted, the LDS church is not the only institution to pull this kind of stuff, but given that one of the LDS church's most prominent members is running for president, I think this tactic bears scrutiny.

Besides all of that, I think that people try to shame others for using their heads.  We've become so politically correct in this country that it's taboo to ever openly criticize or scrutinize a person's religious beliefs.  And yet, we can inwardly discriminate all we want.  You can't tell me that there aren't people out there who would vote for Mitt or Rick simply because of their religious beliefs.  You can't tell me that there aren't people out there who won't vote for Obama simply because he is a black man.  It's just wrong to be honest about those reasons for voting or not voting.  The truth is, everybody is bigoted to some extent.  It's hypocritical and disingenuous to shame people for being honest about their biases.      

People are going to vote for the person they think is the right person for the job.  And everyone has the right to decide who they think is the right person, without being harassed for their reasons.  I won't be voting for Romney or Santorum because of their religious beliefs because I fear their beliefs might turn into public policies that affect my life.  I don't care what people believe, as long as their beliefs don't affect me personally.  Based on what I've seen and experienced over the years, it's too likely that Mitt or Rick might encroach on my personal liberties.  I could be wrong and I have no plans to renounce my citizenship if either man wins.  But I'm not going to help either of them win with my vote.

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